Fair Play AVA
What is the meaning of an AVA? The process begins with an lengthy application where one has to make the case, citing geography, soils, climate, winegrape growing history and current winegrape growing activities, are so unique that special status listed in the Federal Registry and allowed to put on the bottle's wine label is justified. Well some AVAs are so large with such a diversity of all of the above that one has to wonder what's the point. But Fair Play is the ultimate and correct use of the term AVA.
Small in comparison to most AVAs, Fair Play's 36 square miles is located atop a giant granite monolith between the 2,000 and 3,000 foot elevation. Totally within the Cosumnes River's three forks the planted and plantable acreage is found on the ridges between the river canyons. The soils are mainly Shaver series which are coarse sandy loams made from the weathered Granodiorite below. Unique is the depth of these mountain soils averaging 60 inches but in some places up to 10 feet.
With 40 inches of annual rainfall and deep soils, the oldtimers of the Gold Rush era dry-farmed their vineyards. Nowadays that is possible, some do it, but most supplement with what little bit of water their lucky to have in their hardrock wells. The growing season at this elevation is a bit shorter than that of Amador's Shenandoah Valley or Calaveras County and the grapes' flavor profiles reflect this difference. No where are the similarities more consistent than within this little AVA called Fair Play.
There's a couple of interesting slogans associated with Fair Play: "Once there were mines, now its fine wines" and "Wines with an Altitude".
Fair Play's oldest winery Fitzpatrick's opened in 1980 followed by three more during the 1980s. Another 4 wineries were added during the 1990s but since then the explosion of wineries is headed toward 30 which, I believe makes Fair Play the most populated wineries per capita anywhere in the world.
Your trip to the Sierra Foothills would not be complete without a visit to Fair Play and once you get here you'll realize you have not allotted enough time to take it all in.
Fair Play Wineries