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Proposed Rule

Proposed Expansion of the Santa Maria Valley Viticultural Area (2008R-287P)

Action

Notice Of Proposed Rulemaking.

Summary

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau proposes to expand the Santa Maria Valley viticultural area in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties, California, by 18,790 acres. We designate viticultural areas to allow vintners to better describe the origin of their wines and to allow consumers to better identify wines they may purchase. We invite comments on this proposed change to our regulations.

Unified Agenda

Expansion of the Santa Maria Valley Viticultural Area

4 actions from March 4th, 2010 to January 28th, 2011

  • March 4th, 2010
  • May 3rd, 2010
    • NPRM Comment Period End
  • December 29th, 2010
  • January 28th, 2011
    • Final Rule Effective
 

Table of Contents Back to Top

DATES: Back to Top

We must receive your comments on or before May 3, 2010.

ADDRESSES: Back to Top

You may send comments on this notice to one of the following addresses:

  • http://www.regulations.gov (via the online comment form for this notice as posted within Docket No. TTB-2010-0001 at “Regulations.gov,” the Federal e-rulemaking portal);
  • Director, Regulations and Rulings Division, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, P.O. Box 14412, Washington, DC 20044-4412; or
  • Hand delivery/courier in lieu of mail: Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, 1310 G Street, NW., Suite 200-E, Washington, DC 20005.

See the Public Participation section of this notice for specific instructions and requirements for submitting comments, and for information on how to request a public hearing.

You may view copies of this notice, selected supporting materials, and any comments we receive about this proposal at http://www.regulations.gov within Docket No. TTB-2010-0001. A direct link to this docket is posted on the TTB Web site at http://www.ttb.gov/wine/wine_rulemaking.shtml under Notice No. 103. You also may view copies of this notice, all related petitions, maps or other supporting materials, and any comments we receive about this proposal by appointment at the TTB Information Resource Center, 1310 G Street, NW., Washington, DC 20220. Please call 202-453-2270 to make an appointment.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Back to Top

N.A. Sutton, Regulations and Rulings Division, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, 925 Lakeville St., No. 158, Petaluma, CA 94952; telephone 415-271-1254.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Back to Top

Background on Viticultural Areas Back to Top

TTB Authority

Section 105(e) of the Federal Alcohol Administration Act (FAA Act), 27 U.S.C. 205(e), authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to prescribe regulations for the labeling of wine, distilled spirits, and malt beverages. The FAA Act requires that these regulations, among other things, prohibit consumer deception and the use of misleading statements on labels, and ensure that labels provide the consumer with adequate information as to the identity and quality of the product. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) administers the regulations promulgated under the FAA Act.

Part 4 of the TTB regulations (27 CFR part 4) allows the establishment of definitive viticultural areas and the use of their names as appellations of origin on wine labels and in wine advertisements. Part 9 of the TTB regulations (27 CFR part 9) contains the list of approved viticultural areas.

Definition

Section 4.25(e)(1)(i) of the TTB regulations (27 CFR 4.25(e)(1)(i)) defines a viticultural area for American wine as a delimited grape-growing region distinguishable by geographical features, the boundaries of which have been recognized and defined in part 9 of the regulations. These designations allow vintners and consumers to attribute a given quality, reputation, or other characteristic of a wine made from grapes grown in an area to its geographic origin. The establishment of viticultural areas allows vintners to describe more accurately the origin of their wines to consumers and helps consumers to identify wines they may purchase. Establishment of a viticultural area is neither an approval nor an endorsement by TTB of the wine produced in that area.

Requirements

Section 4.25(e)(2) of the TTB regulations outlines the procedure for proposing an American viticultural area and provides that any interested party may petition TTB to establish a grape-growing region as a viticultural area. Petitioners may use the same procedure to request changes involving existing viticultural areas. Section 9.3(b) of the TTB regulations requires the petition to include—

  • Evidence that the proposed viticultural area is locally and/or nationally known by the name specified in the petition;
  • Historical or current evidence that supports setting the boundary of the proposed viticultural area as the petition specifies;
  • Evidence relating to the geographical features, such as climate, soils, elevation, and physical features, that distinguish the proposed viticultural area from surrounding areas;
  • A description of the specific boundary of the proposed viticultural area, based on features found on United States Geological Survey (USGS) maps; and
  • A copy of the appropriate USGS map(s) with the proposed viticultural area's boundary prominently marked.

Santa Maria Valley Expansion Petition Back to Top

Background

On August 5, 1981, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), our predecessor agency, published T.D. ATF-89 in the Federal Register (46 FR 39811), establishing the Santa Maria Valley viticultural area (27 CFR 9.28). TTB notes that the Santa Maria Valley viticultural area lies entirely within the Central Coast viticultural area (27 CFR 9.75) and covers 97,483 acres in southern San Luis Obispo County and northern Santa Barbara County, California. In the Geographical Evidence section, T.D. ATF-89 stated that prevailing ocean winds blow west to east, into and through the Santa Maria Valley. The winds create a climate where air temperatures are comparatively cooler in summer and winter, but warmer in fall, than the surrounding areas.

In March 2006, Sara Schorske of Compliance Service of America, Inc., on behalf of a group of local winery and vineyard owners, submitted a petition proposing an expansion of the southern and western boundaries of the current Santa Maria Valley viticultural area. The petition presented evidence and documentation in recognition of the geographical name of the proposed southern expansion area and in support of the similarities of its climate, soils, terrain, and watershed with those of the current viticultural area. The petition also documented significant commercial viticulture to the south of the current southern boundary line. However, TTB returned the March 2006 petition to expand the Santa Maria Valley viticultural area with a letter recommending that the petitioner delete the western expansion portion, about which sufficient justification was not presented.

Ms. Schorske then submitted the current petition, under consideration in this notice, which requests only a southern expansion (consisting of 18,700 acres) of the existing Santa Maria Valley viticultural area. The proposed expansion area lies in northern Santa Barbara County, according to the written boundary description and accompanying USGS maps, and also is within the Central Coast viticultural area. The proposed expansion area includes 9 vineyards, 255 acres of commercial viticulture, and 60 to 200 acres under viticultural development, according to the petition.

Name Evidence

The current petition explains that the original petition supporting the establishment of the Santa Maria Valley viticultural area in 1981 documented the “Santa Maria Valley” name for the geographical area. Hence, T.D. ATF-89, in establishing the Santa Maria Valley viticultural area, determined that the most appropriate name for the geographical area was Santa Maria Valley.

The current petition states that the proposed southern expansion of the Santa Maria Valley viticultural area generally follows the watershed boundary line between the Santa Maria Valley to the north and the Los Alamos Valley to the south. The current petition relies on the Santa Maria River watershed for name recognition of the expansion area.

Boundary Evidence

The current southern boundary line of the Santa Maria Valley viticultural area follows Foxen Canyon Road and Clark Avenue, at Sisquoc, 4.2 miles inside the southern perimeter of the Santa Maria River watershed, according to the current written boundary description and the accompanying USGS maps. On the south side of the Santa Maria Valley watershed, the creeks drain northward to lower elevations, through the valley, into the Santa Maria River, as shown on the USGS Foxen Canyon, Sisquoc, and Orcutt maps. Computer-generated watershed maps show that the proposed expansion of the southern boundary line conforms to the Santa Maria River watershed, according to the petition.

The boundary line of the proposed southern expansion of the Santa Maria Valley viticultural area, going clockwise, starts at the southeast corner of the current viticultural area boundary and travels generally in a straight line west-northwest over the Solomon Hills to its intersection with U.S. Route 101, according to the written boundary description and accompanying USGS maps. Following U.S. 101, the proposed boundary line continues north to Clark Avenue in Orcutt, rejoining the current boundary line of the Santa Maria Valley viticultural area.

Distinguishing Features

Santa Maria Valley Viticultural Area as Established by T.D. ATF-89

TTB notes that in establishing the Santa Maria Valley viticultural area, T.D. ATF-89 cited terrain, soils, and climate as distinguishing features.

Terrain: According to T.D. ATF-89, the boundary line of the Santa Maria Valley viticultural area surrounds the Santa Maria Valley floor, adjacent canyons, and sloping terraces. Elevations vary from a low of 200 feet at the Santa Maria River to a high of 3,200 feet at Tepusquet Peak. As shown on the USGS Foxen Canyon map, a westward projection of the San Rafael Mountains, peaking at 1,801 feet in elevation, extends approximately 4 miles into the southeast portion of the current Santa Maria Valley viticultural area. According to the USGS maps, the current southern boundary line varies from 600 to 1,000 feet in elevation. Vineyards within the original viticultural area were planted between elevations of 300 feet on the valley floor and 800 feet on the slopes of the rolling hillsides.

Soils and Climate: According to T.D. ATF-89, the soils of the Santa Maria Valley viticultural area are well drained, fertile, and range in texture from sandy loam to clay loam. Of climatic importance to the viticultural area, as compared to the surrounding regions, are the prevailing, cooling, marine-influenced ocean winds.

Current Petition To Expand the Santa Maria Valley Viticultural Area

Terrain: The petition states that the geography of the proposed southern expansion of the Santa Maria Valley viticultural area is similar to that inside the current southern boundary line. The valley lies generally along an east-southeast axis, and is approximately 16 miles long within the existing viticultural area and the proposed expansion area, as shown on “Locations of Weather Stations and Selected Vineyards and Wineries” (map, undated), which the petitioner created and submitted with the petition. In the southern expansion area, gently rolling hills give way to a more rugged terrain of canyons and steep slopes, as shown on the USGS Foxen Canyon and Sisquoc maps. Elevations in the southern expansion area vary between approximately 440 feet near Sisquoc to 1,360 feet at the southeast corner of the current Santa Maria Valley viticultural area, and are comparable to those in areas on or surrounding the Santa Maria Valley floor.

The petition includes a table, shown below, with the elevations of commercial vineyards in the southern portion of the current Santa Maria Valley viticultural area and in the proposed southern expansion area. Elevations of vineyards within the southern portion of the current Santa Maria Valley viticultural area range from 600 to 950 feet; similarly, those of vineyards in the proposed southern expansion area range from 600 to 930 feet.

Vineyard Location Approximate elevation in feet
Rancho Ontiveros Within the AVA 650
Solomon Hills Within the AVA 700
Good Child Within the AVA 750-800
Riverbench Within the AVA 950
Rancho Sisquoc Within the AVA 600-750
Foxen Within the AVA 720
Addamo Estate Within the proposed expansion 760-840
Solomon Hills Within the proposed expansion 640-840
Casa Torres Within the proposed expansion 720-800
Le Bon Climate Within the proposed expansion 600
Lucas Lewellan Within the proposed expansion 700
Foxen Within the proposed expansion 800-900
Rancho Real Within the proposed expansion 650-930
Murphy Within the proposed expansion 750-880

Climate: The petition explains that the Santa Maria Valley has a “maritime fringe” climate (“The Climate of Southern California,” by Harry P. Bailey, University of California Press, 1966). The maritime fringe climate derives from the Pacific Ocean, causing foggy and windy conditions in the Santa Maria Valley. In contrast, some other inland, high-elevation areas nearby have either less or no marine influence.

The petition states that during the summer growing season, the marine air moves onshore, passing through low-elevation passes in the Coast Range, inland to the Santa Maria Valley. (T.D. ATF-89 describes the Santa Maria Valley as a “natural funnel-shaped” valley.) Temperatures remain consistent throughout the gentle west-to-east rise in elevations of the Santa Maria Valley. The petition states that the cooling wind and fog encounter little resistance in any direction until they meet the Sierra Madre Mountains on the north side of the valley and the Solomon Hills on the south side, where the valley terminates. The boundary of the proposed southern expansion extends to the Solomon Hills, where the petition asserts that the cooling wind and fog encounter resistance.

The petition includes a map that shows the broad, westerly opening between these mountains and hills and how they would funnel the cooling wind and fog in an east-southeast direction, into the valley. T.D. ATF-89 states that “* * * the prevailing winds from the ocean [cause] the valley to have a generally cooler summer, warmer fall, and cooler winter than surrounding areas.”

The current petition provides data from two weather stations, one within the established Santa Maria Valley viticultural area and one within the proposed expansion area. Both stations are nestled along foothills, slightly above the valley floor. A graph in the petition presents heat accumulation data recorded in 2004 at the two stations.

The graph shows that growing season totals for 2004 in the current viticultural area and in the proposed expansion area were both just less than 3,000 degree days. (As a measurement of heat accumulation during the growing season, 1 degree day accumulates for each degree Fahrenheit that a day's mean temperature is above 50 degrees, the minimum temperature required for grapevine growth. See pages 61-64 of “General Viticulture,” Albert J. Winkler, University of California Press, 1975.)

Soils: According to the petition, the current Santa Maria Valley viticultural area consists of a wide variety of soils without a single dominant soil type. The petition provides a table listing the soil map units in the current Santa Maria Valley viticultural area and in the proposed expansion area. The table is divided into four general areas. Three areas are within the current Santa Maria Valley viticultural area: (1) Valley floor, (2) hills (the Solomon Hills), and (3) mountains (the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains, northeast of the Santa Maria River). The fourth is the proposed southern expansion area.

As shown in the table, the soils are mainly sand, sandy loam, and loam on the valley floor, but are mixed sandy loam, clay loam, shaly loam, and silt loam on mountains. However, without exception, the soils that are in the proposed expansion area are also in the existing Santa Maria Valley viticultural area. In both the proposed expansion area and on hills in the current viticultural area, the soils are sand, sandy loam, clay loam, and shaly clay loam, but are mostly loam and shaly loam.

TTB Determination Back to Top

TTB concludes that the petition to expand the Santa Maria Valley American viticultural area merits consideration and public comment, as invited in this notice.

Boundary Description

See the narrative boundary description incorporating the petitioned-for viticultural area expansion in the proposed regulatory text amendments published at the end of this notice.

Maps

The petitioner provided the required maps, and we list them below in the proposed regulatory text amendment.

Impact on Current Wine Labels Back to Top

The proposed expansion of the Santa Maria Valley viticultural area will not affect currently approved wine labels. The approval of this proposed expansion may allow additional vintners to use “Santa Maria Valley” as an appellation of origin on their wine labels. Part 4 of the TTB regulations prohibits any label reference on a wine that indicates or implies an origin other than the wine's true place of origin. For a wine to be labeled with a viticultural area name or with a brand name that includes a viticultural area name or other term identified as viticulturally significant in part 9 of the TTB regulations, at least 85 percent of the wine must be derived from grapes grown within the area represented by that name or other term, and the wine must meet the other conditions listed in 27 CFR 4.25(e)(3). Different rules apply if a wine has a brand name containing a viticultural area name or other viticulturally significant term that was used as a brand name on a label approved before July 7, 1986. See 27 CFR 4.39(i)(2) for details.

Public Participation Back to Top

Comments Invited

We invite comments from interested members of the public on whether we should expand the Santa Maria Valley viticultural area as described above. We are especially interested in comments concerning the similarity of the proposed expansion area to the current Santa Maria Valley viticultural area, the geographical features that distinguish the viticultural features of the proposed expansion area from the area beyond it to the south, and the use of the Santa Maria River watershed to justify the proposed expansion of the southern boundary line. Please support your comments with specific information about the proposed expansion area's name, proposed boundaries, or distinguishing features.

Submitting Comments

You may submit comments on this notice by using one of the following three methods:

  • Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: You may send comments via the online comment form posted with this notice in Docket No. TTB-2010-0001 on “Regulations.gov,” the Federal e-rulemaking portal, at http://www.regulations.gov. A direct link to that docket is available under Notice No. 103 on the TTB Web site at http://www.ttb.gov/wine/wine_rulemaking.shtml. Supplemental files may be attached to comments submitted via Regulations.gov. For complete instructions on how to use Regulations.gov, visit the site and click on “User Guide” under “How to Use this Site.”
  • U.S. Mail: You may send comments via postal mail to the Director, Regulations and Rulings Division, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, P.O. Box 14412, Washington, DC 20044-4412.
  • Hand Delivery/Courier: You may hand-carry your comments or have them hand-carried to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, 1310 G Street, NW., Suite 200-E, Washington, DC 20005.

Please submit your comments by the closing date shown above in this notice. Your comments must reference Notice No. 103 and include your name and mailing address. Your comments also must be made in English, be legible, and be written in language acceptable for public disclosure. We do not acknowledge receipt of comments, and we consider all comments as originals.

If you are commenting on behalf of an association, business, or other entity, your comment must include the entity's name as well as your name and position title. If you comment via http://www.regulations.gov, please enter the entity's name in the “Organization” blank of the comment form. If you comment via mail, please submit your entity's comment on letterhead.

You may also write to the Administrator before the comment closing date to ask for a public hearing. The Administrator reserves the right to determine whether to hold a public hearing.

Confidentiality

All submitted comments and attachments are part of the public record and subject to disclosure. Do not enclose any material in your comments that you consider to be confidential or inappropriate for public disclosure.

Public Disclosure

On the Federal e-rulemaking portal, Regulations.gov, we will post, and you may view, copies of this notice, selected supporting materials, and any electronic or mailed comments we receive about this proposal. A direct link to the Regulations.gov docket containing this notice and the posted comments received on it is available on the TTB Web site at http://www.ttb.gov/wine/wine_rulemaking.shtml under Notice No. 103. You may also reach the docket containing this notice and the posted comments received on it through the Regulations.gov search page at http://www.regulations.gov.

All posted comments will display the commenter's name, organization (if any), city, and State, and, in the case of mailed comments, all address information, including e-mail addresses. We may omit voluminous attachments or material that we consider unsuitable for posting.

You also may view copies of this notice, all related petitions, maps and other supporting materials, and any electronic or mailed comments we receive about this proposal by appointment at the TTB Information Resource Center, 1310 G Street, NW., Washington, DC 20220. You may also obtain copies at 20 cents per 8.5 x 11-inch page. Contact our information specialist at the above address or by telephone at 202-453-2270 to schedule an appointment or to request copies of comments or other materials.

Regulatory Flexibility Act Back to Top

We certify that this proposed regulation, if adopted, would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The proposed regulation imposes no new reporting, recordkeeping, or other administrative requirement. Any benefit derived from the use of a viticultural area name would be the result of a proprietor's efforts and consumer acceptance of wines from that area. Therefore, no regulatory flexibility analysis is required.

Executive Order 12866 Back to Top

This proposed rule is not a significant regulatory action as defined by Executive Order 12866. Therefore, it requires no regulatory assessment.

Drafting Information Back to Top

N.A. Sutton of the Regulations and Rulings Division drafted this notice.

List of Subjects in 27 CFR Part 9 Back to Top

Proposed Regulatory Amendment Back to Top

For the reasons discussed in the preamble, we propose to amend 27 CFR, chapter I, part 9, as follows:

begin regulatory text

PART 9—AMERICAN VITICULTURAL AREAS Back to Top

1. The authority citation for part 9 continues to read as follows:

Authority:

27 U.S.C. 205.

Subpart C—Approved American Viticultural Areas Back to Top

2. Section 9.28 is revised to read as follows:

§ 9.28 Santa Maria Valley.

(a) Name. The name of the viticultural area described in this section is “Santa Maria Valley”. For purposes of part 4 of this chapter, “Santa Maria Valley” is a term of viticultural significance.

(b) Approved maps. The six United States Geological Survey maps used to determine the boundary of the Santa Maria Valley viticultural area are titled:

(1) Orcutt Quadrangle, California-Santa Barbara Co., 7.5 minute series, 1959, photorevised 1967 and 1974, photoinspected 1978;

(2) Santa Maria Quadrangle, California, 7.5 minute series, 1959, photorevised 1982;

(3) “San Luis Obispo”, N.I. 10-3, series V 502, scale 1: 250,000;

(4) “Santa Maria”, N.I. 10-6, 9, series V 502, scale 1: 250,000;

(5) Foxen Canyon Quadrangle, California-Santa Barbara Co., 7.5-minute series, 1995; and

(6) Sisquoc Quadrangle, California-Santa Barbara Co., 7.5 minute series, 1959, photoinspected 1974.

(c) Boundary. The Santa Maria Valley viticultural area is located in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties, California. The boundary is as follows:

(1) The point of beginning is on the Orcutt quadrangle map at the intersection of U.S. Route 101 and Clark Avenue, section 18 north boundary line, T9N/R33W, then proceed generally north along U.S. Route 101 approximately 10 miles onto the Santa Maria quadrangle map to its intersection with State Route 166 (east), T10N/R34W; then

(2) Proceed generally northeast along State Route 166 (east) onto the San Luis Obispo N.I. 10-3 map to its intersection with the section line southwest of Chimney Canyon, T11N/R32W; then

(3) Proceed south in a straight line onto the Santa Maria N.I. 10-6 map to the 3,015-foot summit of Los Coches Mountain; then

(4) Proceed southeast in a straight line onto the Foxen Canyon quadrangle map to the 2,822-foot summit of Bone Mountain, T9N/R32W; then

(5) Proceed south-southwest in a straight line approximately 6 miles to the line's intersection with secondary highways Foxen Canyon Road and Alisos Canyon Road, T8N/R32W; then

(6) Proceed west-northwest in a straight line approximately 6 miles onto the Sisquoc quadrangle map to the Gato Ridge Oil Field and the section 4 southeast corner, T8N/R32W; then

(7) Proceed west-northwest in a straight line approximately 6.2 miles, crossing over the Solomon Hills, to its intersection with U.S. Route 101 and a private, unnamed light-duty road that meanders east into the Cat Canyon Oil Field, T9N/R33W; then

(8) Proceed north 3.75 miles along U.S. Route 101 onto the Orcutt quadrangle map and return to the point of beginning.

Signed: February 5, 2010.

John J. Manfreda,

Administrator.

end regulatory text

[FR Doc. 2010-4569 Filed 3-3-10; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4810-31-P

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