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Proposed Rule

Proposed Establishment of the Snipes Mountain Viticultural Area (2007R-300P)

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Start Preamble

AGENCY:

Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, Treasury.

ACTION:

Notice of proposed rulemaking.

SUMMARY:

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau proposes to establish the 4,145-acre “Snipes Mountain” viticultural area in Yakima County, Washington. 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 addition to our regulations.

DATES:

We must receive written comments on or before June 27, 2008.

ADDRESSES:

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-2008-0003 on Regulations.gov, the Federal e-rulemaking portal); or
  • Director, Regulations and Rulings Division, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, P.O. Box 14412, Washington, DC 20044-4412.

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. A direct link to the appropriate Regulations.gov docket is available under Notice No. 82 on the TTB Web site at http://www.ttb.gov/​wine/​wine_​rulemaking.shtml. 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. To make an appointment, call 202-927-2400.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

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.

End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background on Viticultural Areas

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 provides that these regulations should, 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 Start Printed Page 22884distinguishable 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. 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 geographic 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.

Snipes Mountain Petition

Mr. Todd Newhouse, of the Upland Winery in Outlook, Washington, submitted a petition proposing the establishment of the Snipes Mountain viticultural area on behalf of the grape growers in the Snipes Mountain area. The proposed viticultural area covers 4,145 acres, and currently has 535 acres of commercial vineyards. According to USGS maps that the petitioner provided, Snipes Mountain lies north of the Yakima River, between the towns of Granger and Sunnyside in Yakima County, Washington. [TTB notes that the proposed viticultural area lies entirely within the Yakima Valley viticultural area (27 CFR 9.69), which includes portions of Yakima and Benton Counties in central Washington, and also entirely within the larger Columbia Valley viticultural area (27 CFR 9.74), which includes portions of central Washington and north-central Oregon.] According to the petitioner, the principal distinguishing features of the proposed viticultural area are Snipes Mountain itself, a singular landform rising from the floor of the Yakima Valley, and its comparatively unique, rocky soils. The proposed viticultural area also includes Harrison Hill, east of Snipes Mountain. Harrison Hill has similar soils, and its topography is contiguous with the elevation lines of Snipes Mountain.

Name Evidence

The petition explains that in the late 1850s, Ben Snipes built a house at the base of a mountain, which later became known as Snipes Mountain, and developed an expansive cattle operation (see also “The Pacific Northwesterner,” Fall 1959, reprinted as Essay 7265 on http://www.HistoryLink.org). Since the early 1900s, the Snipes Mountain Irrigation District has provided water to the region. According to the USGS Sunnyside quadrangle map, the main water canal, the Snipes Mountain Lateral, lies to the north of Snipes Mountain. The USGS Granger and Sunnyside quadrangle maps identify Snipes Mountain as an elevated landform between the Yakima River to the south and a single railroad line and Interstate 82 to the north.

Boundary Evidence

The petitioner states that growers began establishing vineyards on Snipes Mountain and adjacent Harrison Hill between 1914 and 1917 (see “The Wine Project: Washington State's Winemaking History” by R. Irvine and W. Clore, Sketch Publications, 1997). The second oldest cabernet sauvignon vines in Washington State have been growing for some 40 years in vineyards on Harrison Hill. These vines have been producing award-winning wines for 15 years. On Snipes Mountain, the Upland Winery, which operated from 1934 to 1972, is being reestablished as a historic winery. Within the current 535 acres of vineyards in the proposed viticultural area, a total of 25 varietals are grown.

According to the provided written boundary description and USGS maps, the elevation of the proposed Snipes Mountain viticultural area boundary line designating the lower end of the AVA runs from 750 to 820 feet around the base of the mountain, and the AVA continues up the mountain and encompasses its peak. The USGS maps show that the proposed viticultural area is on elevated terrain, and comprises vineyards, orchards, roads, trails, a reservoir, intermittent streams, gravel pits, buildings, and a winery. The proposed viticultural area is surrounded by the generally flat Yakima Valley terrain that, in areas, dips to approximately 700 feet in elevation. Two sections of the Yakima River with elevations of 670 feet flow adjacent to the southwest portion of the proposed AVA boundary line. The petitioner notes that at elevations below the 750-foot contour line the valley is flatter and has places, such as ponds and other cold air sinks, which are unsuitable for viticulture.

According to the written boundary description and USGS maps, Harrison Hill borders Snipes Mountain in the eastern portion of the proposed Snipes Mountain viticultural area. According to the petitioner, the soils on Harrison Hill are similar to the dominant soils in the rest of the proposed viticultural area.

The petitioner explains that the 132 acres on the south-facing slopes of Harrison Hill are suitable for successful viticulture and claims that the vineyards on Harrison Hill “are the most important acres we grow.”

Distinguishing Features

According to the petitioner, the distinguishing features of the proposed Snipes Mountain viticultural area include an elevated topography that is steep in places and a geologic history that contrasts with that of the surrounding Yakima Valley area. According to USGS and digital maps provided with the petition, Snipes Mountain stands alone in the center of the wide Yakima Valley like the crown of a brimmed hat. The petitioner notes that the Snipes Mountain region comprises the Ellensburg Formation. This formation consists of alluvial outwash, the parent material of the unique soils in the Snipes Mountain region.

Topography

The petitioner describes Snipes Mountain and adjacent Harrison Hill as rising visibly from the Yakima Valley floor. The USGS Sunnyside and Granger maps show that the 1,301-foot pinnacle of Snipes Mountain contrasts with the 680- to 780-foot elevations of the surrounding valley floor. The petitioner notes that about a third of the Yakima Valley viticultural area is level, and cites the digital elevation maps of the Yakima Valley and Snipes Mountain from Washington State 10m Digital Elevation Model data.

The petitioner explains that the north side slopes of Snipes Mountain gradually increase in elevation but the Start Printed Page 22885south side slopes are steeper. As shown on USGS maps, the south side slopes increase from 850 to 1,200 feet in elevation over a short distance. According to the petitioner, these steeper slopes are suited to viticulture because they have good air drainage, which helps to prevent spring and fall frost damage to the plants in the vineyards.

Geology and Soils

According to the Washington Division of Geology and Earth Resources, the geology of central Washington consists mainly of a volcanic basalt mantle 10 to 15 million years old (“Late Cenozoic Structure and Stratigraphy of South-Central Washington,” by S.P. Reidel, N.P. Campbell, K.R. Fecht, and K.A. Lindsey, Bulletin 80, pp. 159-180, 1994). Further study shows that subsequent alluvial events covered portions of the Yakima Valley, creating the Ellensburg Formation (“Sedimentology of proximal volcaniclastics dispersed across an active foldbelt: Ellensburg formation (late Miocene), central Washington,” by G.A. Smith, Sedimentology 35: 953-997, 1988). The Ellensburg Formation consists of a conglomerate of round, river-washed rocks and coarse sediment; tectonic uplift created Snipes Mountain (Reidel et al.).

The petitioner describes the soils in the proposed viticultural area based on the Soil Survey of the Yakima County Area, Washington (U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service, 1985). The petitioner also provides a table that compares soil series in the established Yakima Valley viticultural area with those in the proposed Snipes Mountain viticultural area. The comparison is based on parent material, and shows the soils that resulted from differing geological events in each region. The petitioner explains that almost all soils on Snipes Mountain were deposited by an ancient flood and are now in a dry environment. The soils are older, have more rock fragments, and are drier than the soils elsewhere in the Yakima Valley region.

One third of the soils in the Yakima Valley viticultural area formed in alluvium and 30 percent of the soils formed in loess over lacustrine deposits. In contrast, within the proposed Snipes Mountain viticultural area only 3.32 percent of the soils are alluvial soils. These soils are of small extent because tectonic uplift exposed the southwest face of Snipes Mountain, lifting it above the influence of additional alluvial deposits. Warden soils formed in loess over lacustrine deposits, and these soils cover 53 percent of the proposed Snipes Mountain viticultural area. Typically, these soils are on the north- and northeast-facing slopes, in positions where the parent material was in place prior to tectonic uplift. The Harwood-Burke-Wiehl soils comprise 13.6 percent of the soils in the proposed viticultural area, compared to less than 1 percent of the entire Yakima Valley viticultural area.

On Snipes Mountain 82 percent of the soils are classified as Aridisols. Aridisols are low in organic matter and are in generally dry areas. In the Yakima Valley 47 percent of the soils are classified as Aridisols, but 43 percent are classified as Mollisols. Mollisols have a deep, dark surface horizon with a high content of organic matter. Typically, they are low lying and near ground water that supplies moisture to plants, which ultimately increase the accumulation of organic matter.

According to the petitioner, vineyards on the south-facing slopes of Harrison Hill have produced highly valued grapes. The soils on Harrison Hill and Snipes Mountain are similar. The steeper, south-facing slopes of Snipes Mountain provide excellent air drainage to protect the grapevines, making them less susceptible to spring and fall frost damage.

TTB Determination

TTB concludes that this petition to establish the 4,145-acre Snipes Mountain viticultural area merits consideration and public comment, as invited in this notice.

Boundary Description

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

Maps

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

Impact on Current 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. If we establish this proposed viticultural area, its name, “Snipes Mountain,” will be recognized as a name of viticultural significance under 27 CFR 4.39(i)(3). Consequently, wine bottlers using “Snipes Mountain” in a brand name, including a trademark, or in another label reference as to the origin of the wine, will have to ensure that the product is eligible to use the viticultural area's name as an appellation of origin. On the other hand, we do not believe that any single part of the proposed viticultural area name standing alone, such as “Snipes” would have viticultural significance if the new area is established. Accordingly, the proposed part 9 regulatory text set forth in this document specifies only the full “Snipes Mountain” name as a term of viticultural significance for purposes of part 4 of the TTB regulations.

For a wine to be eligible to use a viticultural area name or other term of viticultural significance as an appellation of origin or in a brand name, at least 85 percent of the wine must be derived from grapes grown within the area represented by that name or term, and the wine must meet the other conditions listed in 27 CFR 4.25(e)(3). If the wine is not eligible to use the viticultural area name as an appellation of origin and that name or other term of viticultural significance appears in the brand name, then the label is not in compliance and the bottler must change the brand name and obtain approval of a new label. Similarly, if the viticultural area name or other term of viticultural significance appears in another reference on the label in a misleading manner, the bottler would have to obtain approval of a new label. Accordingly, if a previously approved label uses the name “Snipes Mountain” for a wine that does not meet the 85 percent standard, the previously approved label will be subject to revocation, upon the effective date of the approval of the Snipes Mountain viticultural area.

Different rules apply if a wine has a brand name containing a viticultural area name or other term of viticultural significance 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

Comments Invited

We invite comments from interested members of the public on whether we should establish the proposed viticultural area. We are also interested in receiving comments on the sufficiency and accuracy of the name, boundary, climatic, and other required information submitted in support of the petition. The easternmost portion of the proposed boundary line includes the south side of the adjacent Harrison Hill, which the petitioner describes as having important vineyards. We are especially interested in receiving any comments on the appropriateness of our including the southern part of Harrison Hill in the proposed Snipes Mountain viticultural area. We are also particularly interested Start Printed Page 22886in any comments on whether the evidence regarding name and distinguishing geographical features is sufficient to warrant the establishment of this new viticultural area within the existing Yakima Valley and Columbia Valley viticultural areas. Please provide any available specific information in support of your comments.

Because of the potential impact of the establishment of the proposed Snipes Mountain viticultural area on wine labels that include the words “Snipes Mountain” as discussed above under Impact on Current Wine Labels, we are particularly interested in comments regarding whether there will be a conflict between the proposed area name and currently used brand names. If a commenter believes that a conflict will arise, the comment should describe the nature of that conflict, including any negative economic impact that approval of the proposed viticultural area will have on an existing viticultural enterprise. We are also interested in receiving suggestions for ways to avoid any conflicts, for example by adopting a modified or different name for the viticultural area.

Although TTB believes that only the full “Snipes Mountain” name should be considered to have viticultural significance upon establishment of the proposed new viticultural area, we also invite comments from those who believe that “Snipes” standing alone would have viticultural significance upon establishment of the area. Comments in this regard should include documentation or other information supporting the conclusion that use of “Snipes” on a wine label could cause consumers and vintners to attribute to the wine in question the quality, reputation, or other characteristic of wine made from grapes grown in the proposed Snipes Mountain viticultural area.

Submitting Comments

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

  • Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: You may send comments via the online comment form posted with this notice within Docket No. TTB-2008-0003 on “Regulations.gov,” the Federal e-rulemaking portal, at http://www.regulations.gov. A direct link to that docket is available under Notice No. 82 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.”
  • Mail: You may send written comments to the Director, Regulations and Rulings Division, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, P.O. Box 14412, Washington, DC 20044-4412.

Please submit your comments by the closing date shown above in this notice. Your comments must reference Notice No. 82 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

We will post, and you may view, copies of this notice, selected supporting materials, and any online or mailed comments we receive about this proposal within Docket No. TTB-2008-0003 on the Federal e-rulemaking portal, Regulations.gov, at http://www.regulations.gov. A direct link to this docket is available on the TTB Web site at http://www.ttb.gov/​wine/​wine_​rulemaking.shtml under Notice No. 82. You may also reach the relevant docket through the Regulations.gov search page at http://www.regulations.gov. For instructions on how to use Regulations.gov, visit the site and click on “User Guide” under “How to Use this Site.”

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 202-927-2400 to schedule an appointment or to request copies of comments or other materials.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

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

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

Drafting Information

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

Start List of Subjects

List of Subjects in 27 CFR Part 9

End List of Subjects

Proposed Regulatory Amendment

For the reasons discussed in the preamble, we propose to amend title 27, chapter I, part 9, Code of Federal Regulations, as follows:

Start Part

PART 9—AMERICAN VITICULTURAL AREAS

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

Start Authority

Authority: 27 U.S.C. 205.

End Authority

Subpart C—Approved American Viticultural Areas

2. Amend subpart C by adding § 9._ to read as follows:

Snipes Mountain.

(a) Name. The name of the viticultural area described in this section is “Snipes Mountain”. For purposes of part 4 of this chapter, “Snipes Mountain” is a term of viticultural significance. Start Printed Page 22887

(b) Approved maps. The two United Stages Geological Survey 1:24,000 scale topographic maps used to determine the boundary of the Snipes Mountain viticultural area are titled:

(1) Sunnyside, Wash., 1965, photorevised 1978; and

(2) Granger, Wash., 1965.

(c) Boundary. The Snipes Mountain viticultural area is located in Yakima County, Washington. The boundary of the Snipes Mountain viticultural area is as described below:

(1) The beginning point is on the Sunnyside map at the intersection of the section 34 east boundary line and the Pipeline, between Alexander Road and South Hill Road, to the southwest of Sunnyside, T10N, R22E. From the beginning point, proceed straight south along the section 34 east boundary line, less than 0.1 mile, to its intersection with the 750-foot elevation line, T10N, R22E; then

(2) Proceed along the 750-foot elevation line first southeast, then generally west to its intersection with the section 31 west boundary line and the Union Pacific single railroad track along the west border of the map, T10N, R22E; then

(3) Proceed along the Union Pacific railroad line generally west-northwest (which closely follows the 760-foot elevation line) crossing onto the Granger map and continue to its intersection with the section 27 east boundary line, immediately northeast of BM 768, T10N, R21E; then

(4) Proceed straight south along the section 27 east boundary line less than 0.1 mile to its intersection with the 760-foot elevation line, T10N, R21E; then

(5) Proceed northwest along the meandering 760-foot elevation line to its intersection with the section 27 north boundary line, T10N, R21E; then

(6) Proceed straight north in a line approximately 0.1 mile to its intersection with the 820-foot elevation line, southeast of the claypits, section 22, T10N, R21E; then

(7) Proceed along the meandering 820-foot elevation line first northwest then east-southeast before reaching Granger, and then continuing eastward to its intersection with Nass Road, section 26, T10N, R21E; then

(8) Proceed generally east along the meandering 820-foot elevation line, crossing onto the Sunnyside map and continuing generally eastward to its intersection with section 34 north boundary line, T10N, R22E; then

(9) Proceed straight east along the north boundary line of sections 34 and 35 to its intersection with the 820-foot elevation line, T10N, R22E; then

(10) Proceed southwest along the 820-foot elevation to its intersection with the section 34 east boundary line, T10N, R22E; then

(11) Proceed straight south along the section 34 east boundary line 0.3 mile to the point of beginning.

Start Signature

Signed: March 24, 2008.

John J. Manfreda,

Administrator.

End Signature End Part End Supplemental Information

[FR Doc. E8-9172 Filed 4-25-08; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4810-31-P