UC Davis DataLab’s own (and newly appointed board member of OSGeo) Dr. Michele Tobias continues her contributions to the viticulture community with a new chapter in the upcoming Routledge Handbook of Wine and Culture! Titled “Wine, Culture, & Environment: A Study of the Sierra (Nevada) Foothills American Viticultural Area” was co-authored with Dr. Colleen C. Myles from Texas State.

The book chapter brought together qualitative interview data, quantitative geospatial data, and federal documents to help understand the social and geographical drivers of forming one of the largest American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in the United States. This project draws on another project by Dr. Tobias, Digitizing American Viticultural Areas (Github), which recently completed its database of all US AVAs. Community contributions are encouraged for the next stage of the project, collecting historical AVA boundaries! See how you can contribute here.

You can read the abstract of her chapter below, and look forward to the publication coming out soon!

Land(scape) claims can be made through legal mechanisms, such as the purchase of private property or through institutional definition and maintenance, or through cultural ones, like such as processes of purposeful identity making or through targeted place marketing. The creation and use of geographic designations, like such as Appellation d’Origine Controlée (AOC) in France, the Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) in Italy, and American Viticultural Area (AVAs) in the United States, are one apparatus applied toward such multi-faceted ends. Theoretically, such geographic designations support both environmental and cultural claims, insofar as they lend both legal and cultural credence to grape growers and winemakers in a particular region. However, not all appellations are created equal. This chapter uncovers the variety of environmental features underpinning the Sierra Foothills AVA, located in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. Environmental analysis is used to assess the qualitative cultural claims made by Sierra Nevada winemaker/winegrowers that the seven-county AVA loses value due to its large size and attendant lack of ecological specificity. Data from interviews with regional stakeholders are paired with environmental data such as elevation, temperature, rainfall, and soils to evaluate the viability of the Sierra Nevada Foothills AVA in comparison to other, co-located AVAs. Thus, this investigation explores several key themes related to wine country function and identity vis a vis the construction and maintenance of the Sierra Nevada Foothills AVA.

Chapter Abstract