Upriver from the other Carmel, the one on the ocean that once had Clint Eastwood as a mayor is Carmel Valley. Located in Monterey County,, southeast of that more famous Carmel is found in the Santa Lucia Range north of the Ventana Wilderness. The appellation was created in 1982 after a petition from David Armanasco of Durney Vineyard (now Heller Estate). The Carmel River which runs through the valley was discovered in 1603 by Sebastian Vizcaino and was cited as the justification for using the name “Carmel”.
The area has been home to viticulture since the late 1960s when Durney Vineyard was established. The defining qualities cited by the petitioner includes soil and climate. The climate of the valley is characterized by Growing Degree Days of 2317 placing it in the Amerine-Winkler scale as a Region I, cool climate growing area. Most of the surrounding regions are warmer using the same scale. The exception is the nearby Salinas Valley with 2148 GDD which is also a Region I growing area. While slightly cooler than Carmel Valley it is lower in elevation allowing for more fog from the oceanfront to enter the valley. Another result of that higher elevation is a higher level of rainfall.
Soil is the other defining characteristic of the AVA. The petition for the AVA lists ten separate soil types in the area which to the uninformed may seem less that definitive. The soils are largely loams which are mixtures of sand, silt and clay. The soils also have another factor that separates them from soils in the other nearby appellations. They are all found on hillsides with slopes (in a mathematical sense) over 30% making them quite steep. As a result runoff and erosion potentials are high and the soils are well to excessively well drained. There are only 300 acres planted with vines, and those vines sit at an elevation above 1,000 feet on hillside terraces.
In a little over thirty years, Carmel Valley has grown from one winery to twelve, not including those wineries that source fruit from the region. Carmel Valley is best known for its production of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot, and Syrah.
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