Thompson Vineyard in the new Alisos Canyon AVA. | Credit: Dovecote Ranch

A bit warmer than the Santa Maria Valley, a bit cooler than Ballard Canyon, and with sandy soils that allow coveted own-rooted grapevines to thrive, Alisos Canyon is the newest American Viticultural Area, or AVA, in the United States. Located southeast of Los Alamos along Alisos Canyon between Highway 101 and Foxen Canyon Road, the nearly 5,800-acre wine-grape growing appellation, which features more than 340 acres of grapes on nine ranches, was finally approved by the federal government on August 25.

That was almost six years after Noah Rowles began working on the appellation, soon after he purchased Thompson Vineyard in 2014. He was encouraged to do so by veteran farmer Jeff Newton of Coastal Vineyard Care Associates, and he quickly started collecting data about the area, which is a popular place to grow syrah, grenache, grenache blanc, and other grapes originally from France’s Rhône Valley. Those are the stars at Thompson and Watch Hill vineyards, but Alisos Canyon is also home to other grapes that can thrive in the wind-cooled climate, such as gamay noir and albarino, both grown at Martian Ranch, or graciano, grown at Manfred Krankl’s The Third Twin Vineyard, which goes into the Sine Qua Non wines.

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Rowles, who also founded his own label called Dovecote, teamed up with appellation creation master Wes Hagen, who was also behind the creation of the Sta. Rita Hills, Happy Canyon, and Los Olivos District AVAs.

He handled the paperwork and submitted the application almost three years ago. With this latest appellation approved, Hagen believes he may be the only winemaker to have shepherded so many wine-growing regions into existence.

“I’m pretty sure I’m the only American winemaker who has produced more than one AVA petition, start to finish, and I’ve done four in Santa Barbara County,” said Hagen. “It’s been a good run helping define the future of Santa Barbara wine, and I’m not sure I’m done yet!”

Rowles is happy but mostly relieved that this finally happened. “They share common traits and a common soul,” said Rowles of what ties these vineyards together. “You’re going to experience something similar when you open an Alisos Canyon AVA wine.”

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