AMERICAN CANYON — Someday bottles of pinot noir, chardonnay and other wine varietals may have “American Canyon” on the label if officials heed the recommendation of marketing consultant Terry Hall.
Petitioning for a new American Viticultural Area (AVA), or appellation, was one of Hall’s suggestions during a presentation to the American Canyon Tourism Improvement District Committee last week.
An AVA was part of Hall’s outlined strategy for putting “heads in beds” in American Canyon hotels after the committee agreed to award his business, TH/ink, a $5,000 contract to develop a three-year marketing plan.
In a presentation, Hall, the former director of communications for the Napa Valley Vintners trade association, characterized American Canyon as “a visitor destination ... in its infancy.”
Hall and associate Catherine Boire outlined the strengths and weaknesses of AmCan as a destination and proposed a way forward, beginning with creating “a culture of pro-tourism management.”
American Canyon has a choice, Hall said, of being grouped with a region that gets no visitor dollars or linked to one that pulls in millions.
Creating an American Canyon appellation — Napa County currently has 16 winegrowing regions — would “enhance viewshed, preserve land and help develop the character and uniqueness of American Canyon,” Hall said.
Recently officials from the tourism committee and American Canyon Chamber of Commerce visited six wineries in Carneros — the Napa County AVA nearest to the city — in an attempt to forge new regional relationships. Hall said AmCan is a great home base for exploring the Carneros.
While there are vineyards in American Canyon — the Jaeger family’s Clarke Ranch Vineyard and a Hess Collection vineyard — the city has no wineries.
Grapes from American Canyon are currently allowed to carry the more comprehensive “Napa Valley” appellation.
“We really are the production end of the wine industry,” said Vice Mayor Mark Joseph, a committee member, referring to warehousing and transportation businesses that make up the bulk of the industry’s presence in the south county. Since the departure of Cartlidge & Browne several years ago, the city’s closest tasting room is Jamieson Ranch Winery at Kirkland Ranch Road and Highway 12.
Bill Leigon, president of Jamieson Ranch, who in a phone interview said he has been talking to city officials about a closer relationship, believes his winery could further establish American Canyon as the entrance to the Napa Valley.
“We could be instrumental in forming American Canyon’s identity,” said Leigon. “I think (an AVA) would be an excellent idea. I would be all for it.”
Leigon is confident an American Canyon appellation would live up to the high expectations of the Napa Valley brand.
“We solidly believe in American Canyon as the gateway of the Napa Valley. We think we can do chardonnay and pinot noir as good as anybody,” Leigon said.
At a recent reception at City Hall, Jeff Jaeger, managing partner for Jaeger Vineyards, praised American Canyon’s climate and soil for growing chardonnay and other wine grapes. The Jaeger website describes the 80-acre American Canyon property as “a gem of a secret,” with 80 percent planted to chardonnay and 18 percent pinot noir.
“The cooler, breezier climate and the rolling hills provide well-drained soils and the stress needed (to both the vines and the farming team) to get magical results,” according to the website.
Among Hall’s other suggestions the development of the city’s open space and wetlands recreational opportunities, the encouragement of full-service restaurants and the creation “statement of arrival” signage and landscaping that lets visitors know they have entered wine country.
American Canyon joined the county and its four other municipalities to form the Tourism Improvement District in 2010 when the City Council approved a 2 percent fee on hotel rooms to be used in a countywide effort to attract more visitors to the valley. The city controls .25 percent of the fee, with the rest going to broader marketing efforts.