Appellation America Discontinues Editorial Content

Best of Appellation wine evaluation program will continue

by Kate Lavin
Appellation America
Napa, Calif. -- Tom Welch, CEO of Appellation America, today confirmed to Wines & Vines that the 6-year-old site promoting regional diversity in wine will cease assigning new editorial content. The site's U.S. office will close its doors this summer, he said.

While its headquarters in Chester, Nova Scotia, will remain open, the move represents a large shift for Appellation America, formerly an online magazine. Appellation America will continue as an archive site, as will its unique database, which includes information such as who produces what winegrape varieties and where.

"We are downsizing things to a minimum, given the economy and the lack of revenue," Welch said. "The revenue model never has worked correctly…but it was the best source of information."

Managing editor Michael Lasky contacted writers for the site to tell them that Appellation America would no longer be assigning new content, and he would be leaving the post he has held since 2006.

Senior editor Alan Goldfarb told Wines & Vines that "There is additional editorial content -- features -- that still haven't been posted. Those will be posted over the next couple of weeks."

Lasky on July 6 posted an announcement that access to the Appellation America site would move to a subscription-only model. Prices were quoted at $4.95 per month or $49.95 per year. Because access to the database already required a subscription, that aspect will not change.

"People who signed up for a year will be offered a refund, or they will go to a monthly subscription," Welch said.

Keeping up with BOA
The Best-of-Appellation program, Appellation America's third-party evaluation initiative, will continue under the direction of Clark Smith, Welch said. BOA was created to evaluate wines against others from the same variety and region. New York wines, for example, should be judged against other New York wines--not bottles from Washington state. BOA recently honored Tabor Home Vineyards and Winery of Baldwin, Iowa, as one example of regional excellence for producing a top-notch Seyval Blanc.

"We establish a signature of one particular grape variety and what it should taste like in a particular appellation. We measure wine against that signature, and it is unique," Welch said, adding that the program adheres to more of a laboratory approach than opinion-based judging. BOA has "only been going for a year, and already we established 'Blue Book' profiles for a huge number, and we're still putting more together."

Goldfarb said that highlighting regional differences in wines is where Appellation America really shone. "I thought it was years ahead of the curve, and I'd like to think that we helped facilitate the discussions about AVAs and terroir, which a lot of people are talking about now," he said. "We're just beginning to scratch the surface with that, and it's too bad that we didn't get to explore it for a longer period of time."
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