You're going to be seeing a lot more wine labeled Sonoma County over the next few years. Back in late-August the California State legislature approved AB 1798 requiring that wines from the 13 American Viticultural Areas) AVAs in Sonoma County also include that designation on their label. The bill was signed into law by Arnold Schwarzenegger in late September. While a handful of wineries like Alexander Valley's Chateau Souverain already list "Sonoma County" on their labels (see photo), many producers only list the most specific AVA.
Nick Frey, president of the Sonoma County Wine Grape Commission told Wines & Vines: "In this increasingly competitive wine market, building awareness for Sonoma County and the wine regions within the county is critical to Sonoma County grapegrowers and the wineries they supply. AB1798 will ensure that consumers recognize every bottle of wine produced from Sonoma County grapes." Similar conjunctive labeling laws went into effect in Napa Valley in 1989, in Paso Robles in 2007 and Lodi in 2008. Proponents of the new law argue that it will help educate consumers about the wines of Sonoma County along with helping to promote the greater region. But the bill does have its detractors. Tom Wark of Fermentation Daily doesn't believe that the new law tells consumers anything of value about the wine in the bottle, writing, "Why is it important for someone making 'Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir' or 'Sonoma Valley Zinfandel' to help promote 'Sonoma County', a designation that has no ability to define the quality or character of the wines in my Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir or my Sonoma Valley Zinfandel?" Other critics point to the additional costs wineries will incur by redesigning their labels and resubmitting them to the TTB. And yet others from AVAs that already have "Sonoma" in their names point to the redundancy and possible confusion caused by having Sonoma listed twice on their label.
Wines from the following AVAs will be affected: Alexander Valley, Bennett Valley, Chalk Hill, Dry Creek Valley, Green Valley, Knights Valley, Los Carneros, Northern Sonoma, Rockpile, Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma Valley and Sonoma Mountain.
What do you think?