By Lisa Rowlands

In a part of Southern California most famous for the Edwards Air Force Base (home to numerous ‘firsts’ in the fields of aeronautical / astronautical engineering), Antelope Valley covers an area of one-hundred-and-seventy-thousand hectares in the counties of Los Angeles and Kern, making it one of the state’s largest AVAs. However, only a tiny fraction of its land is under vine, with viticultural activity mostly restricted to the south and west of the appellation as the northern parts are simply too warm and too dry for agriculture of any kind. In fact, viticulture would probably not be possible here at all were it not for the benefit of altitude, moderating extremes and facilitating the stark contrast between day and night-time temperatures which gives the grapes their distinct freshness.

Like other areas within the Southern Californian sub-zone, the origins of viticulture in Antelope Valley date back to the 1800s. However, after initial growth in the industry due in no small part to the increase in population, Prohibition brought progress to an abrupt halt. And after its repeal in 1933, vines were not replanted here until 1981, with official AVA status coming some thirty years later.

Nowadays, Antelope Valley remains a little known wine region whose unusually long name draws interest and intrigue from within the wine world and beyond. It is currently home to a small number of boutique cellars which produce wines principally from the Syrah, Zinfandel, Sangiovese and Tempranillo grapes, whilst experiments with other varieties are ongoing to determine how they perform in this hot, dry terroir. With a location around one hundred kilometres from Los Angeles, and with the added attractions of a unique scenic landscape, an abundance of native flora, and a variety of museums including the Flight Test Museum at Edwards AFB - which houses amongst many other exhibits, an SR71 Blackbird!, it seems likely that future growth in the industry will be tied to the emergence of wine tourism in the valley.