Map showing St. Helena wine district and its sub regions

Understanding AVA: Regions, Appellations and Sub-Appellations

It is easy to say European wine labels are confusing for Americans, but just how easy are our labels?  Not completely easy to be honest.  We all respect Napa (even if it isn’t our favorite to drink), but with the respect of the Napa namesake, are we talking about Napa County or Napa Valley?  A wine can come from Napa County and contain fruit from Napa Valley, but also contain juice from a much larger area of the county, not just the valley (the valley actually makes up only about 1/3 of the county’s full area).  And the rules for the wine are totally different between the County and the Valley as we have gone over in previous installments of the Understanding AVA series.

We have compiled a list of sorts to help you visualize all of this that will come in handy when shopping in your wine aisle, so we recommend bookmarking this post to refer back to when browsing and reading the labels.

We are starting with the largest listed areas and working to the smallest for reference.

Our State, Region, County, and AVA labeling tree:

State Designation:

100% grapes must come from anywhere within the state.

  • California

Wine Regions:

75% of the juice must 100% come from the labeled region, grapes can come from any counties within the region lines to be listed by region. *Indicates a recognized AVA as well, so 85% instead of 75% applies to labels bearing this namesake.

  • North Coast*
  • Central Valley
  • Sierra Foothills*
  • Central Coast*
  • South Coast*
  • Klamath Mountains/Far North

County Designation:

75% of the juice must 100% come from the labeled county, all counties can be listed on labels as long as this is adhered too, not all counties grow grapes however, some names you will highly recognize, others not so much.

  • Alameda County
  • Alpine County
  • Amador County
  • Butte County
  • Calaveras County
  • Colusa County
  • Contra Costa County
  • Del Norte County
  • El Dorado County
  • Fresno County
  • Glenn County
  • Humboldt County
  • Imperial County
  • Inyo County
  • Kern County
  • Kings County
  • Lake County
  • Lassen County
  • Los Angeles County
  • Madera County
  • Marin County
  • Mariposa County
  • Mendocino County
  • Merced County
  • Modoc County
  • Mono County
  • Monterey County
  • Napa County
  • Nevada County
  • Orange County
  • Placer County
  • Plumas County
  • Riverside County
  • Sacramento County
  • San Benito County
  • San Bernardino County
  • San Diego County
  • San Francisco
  • San Joaquin County
  • San Luis Obispo County
  • San Mateo County
  • Santa Barbara County
  • Santa Clara County
  • Santa Cruz County
  • Shasta County
  • Sierra County
  • Siskiyou County
  • Solano County
  • Sonoma County
  • Stanislaus County
  • Sutter County
  • Tehama County
  • Trinity County
  • Tulare County
  • Tuolumne County
  • Ventura County
  • Yolo County
  • Yuba County


85% of the juice must 100% come from the labeled AVA.  Some of these are sub-appellates to a parent AVA or split between two parent AVAs; Russian River Valley AVA is sub to Sonoma Coast AVA and fully contained within the Sonoma Coast AVA, Los Carneros AVA is sub to Napa Valley AVA and Sonoma Coast AVA straddling both regions. Broken down by Wine Regions – listed earlier in this post.

North Coast

  • Alexander Valley AVA
  • Anderson Valley AVA
  • Atlas Peak AVA
  • Bennett Valley AVA
  • Benmore Valley AVA
  • Big Valley District AVA
  • Calistoga AVA
  • Chalk Hill AVA
  • Chiles Valley AVA
  • Clear Lake AVA
  • Cole Ranch AVA
  • Coombsville AVA
  • Covelo AVA
  • Diamond Mountain District AVA
  • Dos Rios AVA
  • Dry Creek Valley AVA
  • Fort Ross-Seaview AVA
  • Fountaingrove District AVA
  • Green Valley of Russian River Valley AVA
  • Guenoc Valley AVA
  • High Valley AVA
  • Howell Mountain AVA
  • Kelsey Bench AVA
  • Knights Valley AVA
  • Los Carneros AVA
  • McDowell Valley AVA
  • Mendocino AVA
  • Mendocino Ridge AVA
  • Moon Mountain District AVA
  • Mt. Veeder AVA
  • Napa Valley AVA
  • North Coast AVA
  • Northern Sonoma AVA
  • Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley AVA
  • Oakville AVA
  • Petaluma Gap AVA
  • Pine Mountain-Cloverdale AVA
  • Potter Valley AVA
  • Red Hills Lake County AVA
  • Redwood Valley AVA
  • Rockpile AVA
  • Russian River Valley AVA
  • Rutherford AVA
  • Solano County Green Valley AVA
  • Sonoma Coast AVA
  • Sonoma Mountain AVA
  • Sonoma Valley AVA
  • Spring Mountain District AVA
  • St. Helena AVA
  • Stags Leap District AVA
  • Suisun Valley AVA
  • Wild Horse Valley AVA
  • Yorkville Highlands AVA
  • Yountville AVA

Central Valley

  • Alta Mesa AVA
  • Borden Ranch AVA
  • Capay Valley AVA
  • Clarksburg AVA
  • Clements Hills AVA
  • Cosumnes River AVA
  • Diablo Grande AVA
  • Dunnigan Hills AVA
  • Jahant AVA
  • Lodi AVA
  • Madera AVA
  • Merritt Island AVA
  • Mokelumne River AVA
  • River Junction AVA
  • Salado Creek AVA
  • Sloughhouse AVA
  • Tracy Hills AVA

Sierra Foothills

  • California Shenandoah Valley AVA
  • El Dorado AVA
  • Fair Play AVA
  • Fiddletown AVA
  • North Yuba AVA
  • Sierra Foothills AVA

Central Coast

  • Arroyo Grande Valley AVA
  • Arroyo Seco AVA
  • Ballard Canyon AVA
  • Ben Lomond Mountain AVA
  • Carmel Valley AVA
  • Central Coast AVA
  • Chalone AVA
  • Cienega Valley AVA
  • Edna Valley AVA
  • Hames Valley AVA
  • Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA
  • Lamorinda AVA
  • Lime Kiln Valley AVA
  • Livermore Valley AVA
  • Monterey AVA
  • Mt. Harlan AVA
  • Pacheco Pass AVA
  • Paicines AVA
  • Paso Robles AVA
  • San Antonio Valley AVA
  • San Benito AVA
  • San Bernabe AVA
  • San Francisco Bay AVA
  • San Lucas AVA
  • San Ysidro District AVA
  • Santa Clara Valley AVA
  • Santa Cruz Mountains AVA
  • Santa Lucia Highlands AVA
  • Santa Maria Valley AVA
  • Sta. Rita Hills AVA
  • Santa Ynez Valley AVA
  • York Mountain AVA

South Coast

  • Antelope Valley of the California High Desert AVA
  • Cucamonga Valley AVA
  • Leona Valley AVA
  • Malibu-Newton Canyon AVA
  • Malibu Coast AVA
  • Ramona Valley AVA
  • Saddle Rock-Malibu AVA
  • San Pasqual Valley AVA
  • Sierra Pelona Valley AVA
  • South Coast AVA
  • Temecula Valley AVA

Klamath Mountains/Far North

  • Manton Valley AVA
  • Seiad Valley AVA
  • Trinity Lakes AVA
  • Willow Creek AVA



Understanding AVA Series:

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