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Thursday Thorns
Celebrating The Coombsville AVA

By Charles Olken

Students of vinous geography will ask themselves, “Why didn’t it happen years ago?” Indeed, this whole AVA thing is riddled with inconsistency, and finally one of the absent pieces has been added.

So, congratulations to the folks who have finally put Coombsville on the map. As Coombsville grower Tom Farella said so aptly, “When people look at it on the map, they will wonder why it wasn’t there all the time”. And he will get no argument from me. The wine maps are missing all kinds of pieces and Coombsville is one of them.

But, even while we celebrate this useful addition to the AVA coverage of the Napa Valley, it is useful to take a step back and ask ourselves, and indeed, to ask the wineries and growers in Coombsville what just happened here.

To be sure, the spot on the map east of Napa City, with its rolling terrain and occasional plantings does fit comfortably on the wine maps. And, if the two dozen or so wineries located there are not household names, nevertheless, they are just a bike ride away east of Napa City and occupy terrain that is essentially separate from other areas that fall under the Napa Valley rubric.

No one criticized the proposed AVA during its hearing period, and perhaps that is because we have become used to the benefits of defining small areas as well as accepting of the failings of the existing system. And in this case, one has to be careful with Coombsville as well. It is certainly a cool growing area with sites that are often on a par with the Carneros district. Yet, the Coombsville AVA includes hillsides that rise up nearly 2,000 feet. With such wide variations in elevation and exposure, Coombsville can grow anything from Pinot Noir to Cabernet Sauvignon to Syrah. And while we can expect some consistency from the AVA because most of its vines are on a broad plain east of Napa, there are going to inconsistencies as well.

I am tempted to blame these inconsistencies on the framers of the AVA, but, frankly, the AVA system gets the credit for allowing places like Coombsville to finally show up on wine maps while also allowing inconsistencies in expectations and thus undermining at least part of the intent and potential value of the AVA system itself.

Still, today is a day for celebration. I have enjoyed my visits to the Coombsville area and appreciate that one will not find a hotel or fancy restaurant or tour bus in the area. Coombsville reminds of what wine country used to be. In that, we can be thankful. But not to worry. The fancy destinations are nearby for all, including me, who need our fixes of fancy. So, welcome Coombsville. As your name shows up more and more on wine labels, we will get to know you better and to take your measure more completely.


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Coombsville AVA
by tom farella
Posted on:12/15/2011 2:18:17 PM

Thank you, Charles, for your nice comments about our inclusion to the Napa Valley wine map. 

I have to disagree with the analogy to Carneros, however.  Alsmost nothing is shared between the two regions except compass coordinates.  In the effort to present the petition, the soil, climate, aspect, daily temperature swings were consistently inconsistent with Carneros and our other neighboring sub-AVAs, Oak Knoll and Wild horse Valley.  The TTB made sure that we didn't gloss these details and, thankfully, it was easy to make our case.

We love Carneros but are concerned that these analogies will be taken up without investigation. The legacy in Coombsville is mostly with Cabernet, Carneros mostly with Chardonnay and Pinot.  Obviously, there is some overlap, but the differences emerge preetty fast in the analysis.

Respectfully, Tom Farella

Coombsville and Carneros
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:12/15/2011 3:33:49 PM


Thanks for checking in. My comparison was meant as a look at the heat accumulation days which, if I read the chart correclty on the Coombsville websire, shows Coombsville to be next chilliest to Carneros. I also have tasted some very good Pinot from Coombsville courtesy of the Westwood winery.

You are right to point out, however, that Coombsville is noted for Cab far more than for PN.

by Dave Pramuk
Posted on:12/16/2011 3:45:10 PM

Being overlooked in the Coombsville Appellation announcement is the historic R.W. Moore Vineyard on Hagen Rd. It was planted in 1905. The vineyard's grapes produce single vineyard wines by Mike and Molly Hendry Wine Co.  and Biale.

Dave Pramuk


Robert Biale Vineyards

Coombsville AVA
by Mary Rocca
Posted on:12/18/2011 2:24:08 PM


Thanks for the nice article on the new  Coombsville AVA.   We have a ten acre vineyard. the  Collinetta Vineyard (Italian for little hill, as it's on a knoll) located in the new Coombsville AVA.  It is primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, and we make a vineyard designate Cab which is so distinct from our Yountville Cab.  

I would also like to thank all those that have worked to make this happen.

Mary Rocca

proprietor, Rocca Family Vineyards

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