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Larner Vineyard and Winery

Michael Larner
November 1, 2016 | Michael Larner

American Viticultural Area

n. An American Viticultural Area (AVA) is a delimited wine grape-growing region having distinguishing features.  The main AVA petitioning elements include; (1) Evidence that the name is locally or nationally known as referring to the area, (2) Historical or current evidence that the boundaries are legitimate with boundary descriptions accompanying USGS maps, and (3) Evidence that the growing conditions such as climate, soil, elevation, and physical features are distinctive. This designation allows consumers to attribute a given quality, reputation, or other characteristic of a wine made from grapes grown in an area to its geographic origin.

In the spring of 2010, my geology background was tapped as president of the Ballard Canyon Winegrower’s Alliance, representing seventeen of the local estate vineyards, all unified in proving that our region was of distinguished caliber. Through obtaining geologic maps, historic soils surveys, rock and soil samples, etc.… I began to formulate the groundwork for our uniqueness. Within six months a clear border of land defined by topographic features, with overlays of soil, climate, and vineyard positioning was complete and filed. The evidence was compelling, the idea of creating an AVA named Ballard Canyon was in order, and thus began the long paperwork trail with the Tobacco Trade Bureau (TTB) of proving our need to become our own designated region. After two years of submissions and reviews, all of the estates on Ballard Canyon received the good news in the middle of the 2013 harvest that we had been approved, and Ballard Canyon AVA was born.

However getting our region recognized for its pedigree was simply not enough, many of us felt compelled that we needed to tell the story of Ballard Canyon through its bottlings. Therefore I proposed an aspect of co-branding not yet seen in the continental United States, but has been carried out effectively in other world regions, like Barolo or Chateauneuf du Pape. Ultimately we came up with the concept of having a custom molded burgundy bottle with the words “Ballard Canyon” embossed in its shoulders. To ensure that this resonated with the market, we decided that the custom bottle was only to be used by Ballard Canyon wineries producing wines from their own estate and we further decided that it would be best to use this bottle for the most commonly planted grape varietal in our region, Syrah.

In your shipment you will find the culmination of four years worth of geologic studies, red tape, and passion all bottled. The 2012 Estate Syrah is the first wine from all of Ballard Canyon AVA to adorn this special custom molded bottle. As a founder it represents a piece of our legacy. Syrah from this vintage forth, whether estate, reserve, or dedication, will be housed in this one of a kind bottle to enforce the true definition of an American Viticulral Area.


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