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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Do wine appellations ever overlap?

—Larry A., Brookhaven, Ga.

Dear Larry,

Sometimes! Keep in mind that an appellation is simply a defined area in which wine grapes are grown. Appellations, or American Viticultural Areas (AVA), as they're known here the U.S., can be as small as a single vineyard or as large as an entire country. The spirit of an appellation is to identify unique, distinctive regions for growing wine. But sometimes new ones crop up where existing regions had already been identified.

The most common way they overlap is when one appellation might lie within another, broader appellation. For example, the United States region contains the California region, which contains the Napa County region, which contains the Napa Valley region, which is further subdivided into 16 subregions like the Oakville and Stags Leap District AVAs.

There are a couple other examples of overlap. One that comes to mind is one of the newer appellations in Sonoma: Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak is not only located within the North Coast viticultural area, but it also overlaps the northern tip of Alexander Valley and the Northern Sonoma viticultural areas.

—Dr. Vinny

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