AVA Lesson: Firestone 2008 Discoveries Chardonnay California

The “California” appellation (aka AVA) on a bottle can be a good thing… but it can also mean “cheap swill” lurks inside the bottle. Placing the name of the state on the label indicates the grapes were sourced from several vineyards all over California and they winery can’t list a smaller AVA, or “geographical indication” in government parlance.

For instance, if a winery prints the “Sonoma Valley” AVA on the label, 85% of the grapes contained in the bottle must come from that region, or the winery could face serious fines (although how they enforce that, I cannot imagine). Same goes for the smaller appellations nested within Sonoma, like Russian River Valley or Dry Creek Valley. But, if they can’t muster enough fruit from the Russian River, they can still put Sonoma Valley on the label since its the mother ship AVA. (Confused? Read more)

The highest level AVA in California is the state’s name. Same goes for other states around our grape-growing nation. It’s a flexible AVA and consumers aren’t normally put off by it. Some wineries use this tactic to combine say, great grapes from Santa Barbara down south with those from Russian River in the North Coast. But then, a winery can also use the appellation to cobble a mishmash of unremarkable fruit lurking around the state.

Who knows what the Firestone folks did to form this rather mediocre chardonnay…

Firestone Vineyard, made a household name when the hotty Adam Firestone signed up for television’s The Bachelor , is located in central California in Paso Robles (the winery sold to Foley Wine Group in 2007, so they also have facilities in Santa Ynez). Their website doesn’t indicate where this chardonnay’s grapes originated (making them suspect) and I’m not enthused enough to find out from the public relations person. I’m simply hoping the other Firestone wines they sent might be better.

Although the wine made an attempt at some middling peach and lemon, it fell flat like a drunk co-ed at a kegger. A scent and taste of chemicals also assaulted my senses. Hell, I’m the girl always looking for a good wine deal but even for $10, I expect something better than a rush of alcohol to the head. They will have to step up their game to compete in this economy, where consumers demand more… and get it. Sw=2. $10. 2 stars.

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