Leona Valley AVA Application Considered
Antelope Valley association hopes five appellations will be approved
Lancaster is the commercial center of the Antelope Valley, located about 50 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles; the area is considered "high desert," influenced more by the continental air mass than the Pacific Ocean; with annual precipitation from 9-16 inches, 210-300 frost-free, sunny days, and an average of 4,060 growing degree-days.
Grapegrowing in the proposed Leona Valley designation started in the early 1900s, according to the petition, and the 13.4-square-mile Leona Valley floor now has about 20 acres of commercial winegrape vineyards at the Leona Valley Winery and an acre of Pinot Noir grapes owned by Donato Vineyards; Donato is developing another 10 acres of winegrapes, and plans to start producing wine this year.
The current petition encompasses only the Leona Valley floor, which lies above the San Andreas Fault; plentiful groundwater is available for drip irrigation, and the diverse soils are deep and moderately drained.
According to AVWA press contact Allen Quinton, who is also assistant winemaker and handles marketing for Antelope Valley Winery, the new association is working together to secure AVAs for Antelope Valley High Desert, Agua Dulce and Juniper Hills, all in Los Angeles County; and Tehachapi-Cummings Valley in neighboring Kern County, in addition to the pending Leona Valley application.
Leona Valley Winery wines
Since the entire area currently houses only five commercial wineries (with two more in the works) and about 33 vineyards, it was vital that everyone was on the same page for the process of defining individual areas and preparing the various applications. A co-op winery is also envisioned.
Aware of local squabbles that have hindered applications from better known viticultural areas, "We wanted to head this off at the pass. We have limited resources," Quinton acknowledges. "We wanted to make sure we are helping instead of hurting each other. We see each other once a month. Communication is going on, and we are all doing this together, right out of the box."
Quinton says that there have been no sightings of glassy-winged sharpshooters or symptoms of Pierce's disease. "The climate is bone dry," he says. "We could not have any rot if we wanted to." Smog from the L.A. basin blows pollution in only rarely, and the frequent Southern California wildfires have not threatened the area in recent years. Its proximity to the huge Southern California consumer base, and its still-rural atmosphere, make Antelope Valley a natural for agri-tourism. "You can see Joshua trees next to grapevines," Quinton comments, an intriguing juxtaposition by any standard.
To read the Leona Valley proposal, visit ttb.gov/wine/. Written comments will be accepted until Jan. 22.