One of ten American Viticultural Areas in Mendocino County, California; Covelo AVA is certainly the most unique. Established in 2006, its motto according to founder Ralph Jens Carter is to promote organic and sustainable growing in the area. An area with a distinctive continental climate, the mostly rugged and secluded terrain of the Covelo AVA rests in the northernmost part of the county. Covelo AVA is composed of Round and Williams Valleys and their flattened low lying foothills in a crescent shaped basin. Only 90 minutes from Ukiah, home to the only naturally carbonated hot springs in North America (Vichy Springs), Covelo offers beautiful vistas and laid back rural recreation. Located off State Highway 162, it includes such notable areas as Coyote Rock, and Jamison and Dingman Ridges.
Currently, less than two of it’s 4,563 acres are cultivated and producing fruit in this expansive region. It has a significantly short growing season, shorter than any other California AVA. It’s exceptional climate has large fluctuations in diurnal temperature and an altitude of 1,398 ft above sea level. This unique terroir has the potential to produce fruit with high acid and sugar contents. Extremely hot and arid summers and very cold winters that bring snow, while shortening the growing season and potentially damaging vines offer some protection from phylloxera, a disease which can decimate whole vineyards.
Deep fertile loam soil in the Covelo AVA make up for it’s short growing season as it provides the nutrients necessary for the vines to mature faster than other California region. This means that Covelo vines require more rigorous daily maintenance than other vineyards. Covelo vintners must reduce their crop and train their vines using pruning and defoliating techniques, allowing them to produce higher quality fruits.
A unique and small region, it’s particular terroir has high potential that is yet to be appreciated and it’s potential vintages yet to be discovered. Petitioned for AVA status by passionate home vintner and wine-lover Ralph Jens Carter, he took it upon himself to develop this remote AVA in an environmentally conscious way. When it was provided AVA status there was some concern as to what varieties would thrive in such an area, but Carter has, through trial-and-error, found nine varieties of grapes that have done well. He continues to experiment with the singular environment the Covelo AVA enjoys to unlock it’s hidden potential and develop it into a meaningful addition to the beloved Californian AVAs.