By the numbers
320Acreage Under Vine (Acres)
130Acreage Under Vine (Hectares)
Established in 1995, the Cucamonga Valley AVA lies within San Bernardino County, about 64 km (40 miles) east of Los Angeles. Fontana is the largest town wholly within the AVA, which is sandwiched between Ontario on the west and San Bernardino on the east. It’s bounded by the San Gabriel Mountains on the north. The nearby Jurupa Mountains and Santa Ana River form the AVA’s southern boundary.
The AVA slopes down from 607 m (2,000 feet) in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains to 170 m (560 feet) in the south. This southern-facing exposure increases available sunlight as compared to a flat region or one which slopes down to the north.
Granitic alluvium washed down this slope from the San Gabriel Range makes up the majority of Cucamonga AVA soils. In the primary growing areas it is extremely well-drained.
The climate is Winkler Region IV, with a Köppen classification of hot-summer Mediterranean. The hot growing season dictates robust black grapes. Accordingly, no white wine grapes are grown within San Bernardino County. Zinfandel is the most widely planted variety by far, representing 82% of all planted acreage. Most of that harvest is made into sweet, fortified wines.
Modern viticultural techniques and technology have made growing wine grapes in cool, foggy areas less problematic than was traditionally the case over the many preceding centuries of grape cultivation. So it was that due to its climate that Cucamonga Valley was among the most productive and reliable regions during the first 100 years of commercial wine production in California.
The fortified style of Cucamonga Valley wines, with their rich, sweet, and heady character, was much in vogue among consumers of the day. Such wines are also less susceptible to bacterial issues and more likely to taste good, regardless of uneven grape quality. Fortified wines are also less sensitive to poor storage and travel. Moreover, at that time such wines were often considered, and marketed as “medicinal.”
Improvements in viticulture and vinification, along with consumers’ growing preference for dry wines, began to make Cucamonga Valley a less important source for grapes in the post-WWII era.