[Federal Register Volume 65, Number 98 (Friday, May 19, 2000)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 31853-31856]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 00-12662]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms

27 CFR Part 9

[Notice No. 897]
RIN 1512-AA07


Red Mountain Viticultural Area (99R-367P)

AGENCY: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), Treasury.

ACTION: Notice of proposed rulemaking.

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SUMMARY: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) has received 
a petition proposing to establish a viticultural area within the State 
of Washington to be called ``Red Mountain.'' The proposed viticultural 
area is within Benton County and entirely within the existing Yakima 
Valley viticultural area as described in the regulations. Mr. Lorne 
Jacobson of Hedges Cellars submitted the petition. Mr. Jacobson 
believes that ``Red Mountain'' is a widely known name for the 
petitioned area, that the area is well defined, and that the area is 
distinguished from other areas by its soil and climate.

DATES: Send your comments on or before July 18, 2000.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to: Chief, Regulations Division, 
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, P.O. Box 50221, Washington, DC 
20091-0221 (Attn: Notice No. 897).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jennifer Berry, Regulations Division, 
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, 650 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, 
Washington, DC 20226, (202) 927-8210.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

1. Background on Viticultural Areas

What Is ATF's Authority To Establish a Viticultural Area?

    ATF published Treasury Decision ATF-53 (43 FR 37672, 54624) on 
August 23, 1978. This decision revised the regulations in 27 CFR part 
4, Labeling and Advertising of Wine, to allow the establishment of 
definitive viticultural areas. The regulations allow the name of an 
approved viticultural area to be used as an appellation of origin on 
wine labels and in wine advertisements. On October 2, 1979, ATF 
published Treasury Decision ATF-60 (44 FR 56692) which added 27 CFR 
part 9, American Viticultural Areas, for the listing of approved 
American viticultural areas, the names of which may be used as 
appellations of origin.

What Is the Definition of an American Viticultural Area?

    An American viticultural area is a delimited grape-growing region 
distinguishable by geographic features. Viticultural features such as 
soil, climate, elevation, topography, etc., distinguish it from 
surrounding areas.

What Is Required To Establish a Viticultural Area?

    Any interested person may petition ATF to establish a grape-growing 
region as a viticultural area. The petition should include:
     Evidence that the name of the proposed viticultural area 
is locally and/or nationally known as referring to the area specified 
in the petition;
     Historical or current evidence that the boundaries of the 
viticultural area are as specified in the petition;
     Evidence relating to the geographical characteristics 
(climate, soil, elevation, physical features, etc.) which distinguish 
the viticultural features of the proposed area from surrounding areas;
     A description of the specific boundaries of the 
viticultural area, based on features which can be found on United 
States Geological Survey (U.S.G.S.) maps of the largest applicable 
scale; and
     A copy (or copies) of the appropriate U.S.G.S. map(s) with 
the boundaries prominently marked.

2. Red Mountain Petition

    ATF has received a petition proposing to establish a viticultural 
area within the State of Washington to be known as ``Red Mountain.'' 
The petitioner is Mr. Lorne Jacobson of Hedges Cellars. The proposed 
viticultural area is entirely within the existing Yakima Valley

[[Page 31854]]

viticultural area described in 27 CFR 9.69. According to Mr. Jacobson, 
Red Mountain has a distinct identity that sets it apart from the rest 
of the Yakima Valley viticultural area. He reports that grapes grown on 
Red Mountain are known for their quality and are highly sought after by 
Washington State winemakers.
    The proposed area encompasses approximately 3,400 acres, of which 
approximately 600 acres are planted to vineyards. The petitioner 
estimates the proposed area can accommodate 2,700 acres of grape 
plantings.

What Name Evidence Has Been Provided?

    The petitioner has submitted as evidence of name recognition 
several newspaper and magazine articles referencing Red Mountain as a 
wine producing area. These publications include: The Seattle Post-
Intelligencer; the Globe and Mail, (Toronto); Wine Access (Canada); 
Decanter (UK); and Wine (UK). Other sources cited by the petitioner as 
referring to the wines of Red Mountain include: Decanter Magazine Guide 
to Oregon, Washington State and Idaho (Third Edition, 1996); Touring 
the Washington Wine Country, published by the Washington Wine 
Commission (1997 edition); and Connoisseur's Guide to California (July 
1997 edition).
    Several of these references describe the geographic and climatic 
conditions of Red Mountain as particularly suited to grape growing. 
Examples include:
     Decanter Magazine Guide to Oregon, Washington State and 
Idaho (Third Edition, 1996): ``The Red Mountain region, at the 
confluence of the Columbia, Snake and Yakima rivers, is a relatively 
warm area, and vineyards on upper slopes, again with south facing 
aspects, are yielding superior wine. * * *. Evidence is mounting to 
indicate that Red Mountain may be one of the genuine special vineyard 
sites.''
     Wine Access, November 1998: ``Although most of Eastern 
Washington's vineyards bask in a hot, dry climate, Klipsun [an area 
vineyard] sits between a gap in the Rattlesnake and Red Mountains in 
the lower Yakima Valley that is regularly blessed with slightly cooler 
air that filters through the gap from Canada. This, along with its 
stingy soils best described as sandy, silty loam, and silty loam over 
gravel, helps to explain the elegant, concentrated nature of the 
Klipsun fruit.''
     Touring the Washington Wine Country, by the Washington 
Wine Commission (1997 edition): ``Many of the award-winning Cabernet 
Sauvignons that emerged from Washington's first quarter-century of fine 
winemaking used a percentage of their fruit from the vineyards sloping 
down from Red Mountain toward the Yakima River just above Benton City 
near Richland. This site offers good air drainage and light soils that 
encourage grape vines to seek nutrients via deep roots. Irrigated 
vineyards allow the grape growers to control vine vigor and to ease the 
vines into dormancy before winter.''

What Boundary Evidence Has Been Provided?

    The petitioner has submitted as boundary evidence one U.S.G.S. map 
titled ``Benton City, Washington'' (1974) on which Red Mountain is 
prominently labeled. The proposed viticultural area starts on the 
ridgeline of Red Mountain and then sweeps down in a triangle toward the 
southwest, encompassing the southern slope of the mountain down to an 
elevation of 560 feet. The petitioner notes that there is a small 
vineyard site on the eastern bank of the Yakima River, due west of the 
proposed boundaries. He states that this valley floor site has 
different growing conditions than those on the higher elevations of Red 
Mountain. There are currently 13 vineyards on Red Mountain, all on the 
southwestern slope and within the proposed boundaries. The oldest of 
these vineyards was planted in 1975. According to the petitioner, these 
boundaries contain a grape growing area with a distinctive character 
based on soil, topography and climate.

What Evidence Relating to Geographical Features Has Been Provided?

    The petitioner asserts that geographical and climatic features of 
Red Mountain distinguish it from the surrounding Yakima Valley 
viticultural area.
     Soil: The petitioner states that Red Mountain's soil 
associations (landscapes with distinctive proportional patterns of 
soils) are unique in the Yakima Valley viticultural area. In support of 
this statement, the petitioner has submitted soil survey maps issued by 
the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Soil Conservation Service for the 
Yakima County and Benton County areas. Using these maps, the petitioner 
compared the soil associations for Red Mountain and other grape growing 
areas in the Yakima Valley viticultural area.
    According to the Benton County area soil survey maps, the dominant 
soil association of Red Mountain is Warden-Shano. A more specific 
analysis reveals that the following soils are present within the 
Warden-Shano association: Warden silt loam, Hezel loamy fine sand, 
Scooteney silt loam, and Kiona very stony silt loam. The petitioner 
compared this data with soil data for Gleed, Buena, and Sunnyside, 
other grape growing areas in Washington State within the Yakima Valley 
viticultural area. The soil associations of these areas are composed of 
Weirman-Ashue, Harwood-Gorst-Selah, Ritzville-Starbuck, Cowiche-Roza, 
Warden Esquatzel, and Quincy-Hezel. Thus, argues the petitioner, Red 
Mountain has a soil association which sets it apart from the rest of 
the Yakima Valley viticultural area.
     Climate: According to the petitioner, temperatures on Red 
Mountain tend to be hotter during the growing season than those in 
other areas of the Yakima Valley viticultural area.
    To support this contention, the petitioner submitted temperature 
data gathered from weather stations in the Washington Public 
Agriculture Weather System administered by Washington State University. 
He compared data from the weather stations of Benton City, Sunnyside, 
Buena, and Gleed, all located in the Yakima Valley viticultural area. 
The Benton City station is located on Red Mountain within the proposed 
viticultural area. A comparison of average annual air temperatures for 
the years 1995 through 1999 shows that the Benton City station 
consistently had the warmest temperatures. The average temperature 
difference between Benton City and Gleed, the coolest site, ranged from 
3.92 to 5.61 degrees.
    The petitioner states that the difference of only a few degrees 
over the course of a growing season can produce dramatic results on the 
enological characteristics of wine. He further states that Red Mountain 
is typically the first grape growing area in Washington State to 
harvest grapes because of its warmer temperatures. According to the 
petitioner, the warmer temperatures also help to produce fully mature, 
ripe grapes with exceptional balance that differ substantially in 
quality from those of other growing areas in the state.
     Topography: Existing vineyards in the proposed 
viticultural area lie on the southwest-facing slope of Red Mountain. 
Elevation ranges of these vineyards are from approximately 600 to 1,000 
feet. The petitioner notes that there is an immense gap separating the 
northwest end of Red Mountain from the southeast extremity of nearby 
Rattlesnake Ridge. He states that cooler, continental air masses flow 
south from Canada through this gap. In addition, the Yakima River flows 
north around Red Mountain before joining the Columbia River, creating 
an air drainage

[[Page 31855]]

system. The petitioner further states that these characteristics, along 
with the predominate southwest facing slope of Red Mountain, serve to 
flush the warm daytime air off the face of Red Mountain and replace it 
with a cooler air mass. According to the petitioner, the resulting 
growing environment yields grapes that are both high in sugar (due to 
warmer daytime temperatures) and high in acid (due to lower evening 
temperatures).

3. Public Participation

Who May Comment on This Notice?

    ATF requests comments from all interested persons. In addition, ATF 
specifically requests comments on the clarity of this proposed rule and 
how it may be made easier to understand. Comments received on or before 
the closing date will be carefully considered. Comments received after 
that date will be given the same consideration if it is practical to do 
so. However, assurance of consideration can only be given to comments 
received on or before the closing date.

Can I Review Comments Received?

    Copies of the petition, the proposed regulations, the appropriate 
map, and any written comments received will be available for public 
inspection during normal business hours at the ATF Reading Room, Office 
of Liaison and Public Information, Room 6480, 650 Massachusetts Avenue, 
NW, Washington, DC, 20226.

Will ATF Keep My Comments Confidential?

    ATF cannot recognize any material in comments as confidential. All 
comments and materials may be disclosed to the public. If you consider 
your material to be confidential or inappropriate for disclosure to the 
public, you should not include it in the comments. We may also disclose 
the name of any person who submits a comment.

How Do I Send Facsimile Comments?

    You may submit comments of not more than three pages by facsimile 
transmission to (202) 927-8525. Facsimile comments must:
     Be legible.
     Reference this notice number.
     Be 8\1/2\" x 11" in size.
     Contain a legible written signature.
     Be not more than three pages.
    We will not acknowledge receipt of facsimile transmissions. We will 
treat facsimile transmissions as originals.

How Do I Send Electronic Mail (E-mail) Comments?

    You may submit comments by e-mail by sending the comments to 
nprm@atfhq.atf.treas.gov. You must follow these instructions. E-mail 
comments must:
     Contain your name, mailing address, and e-mail address.
     Reference this notice number.
     Be legible when printed on not more than three pages 8\1/
2\" x 11" in size.
    We will not acknowledge receipt of e-mail. We will treat e-mail as 
originals.

How Do I Send Comments to the ATF Internet Web Site?

    You may also submit comments using the comment form provided with 
the online copy of the proposed rule on the ATF Internet web site at 
http://www.atf.treas.gov/core/regulations/rules.htm.

Can I Request a Public Hearing?

    If you desire the opportunity to comment orally at a public hearing 
on this proposed regulation, you must submit your request in writing to 
the Director within the 60-day comment period. The Director reserves 
the right to determine, in light of all circumstances, whether a public 
hearing will be held.

4. Regulatory Analyses and Notices

Does the Paperwork Reduction Act Apply to This Proposed Rule?

    The provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, 44 U.S.C. 
Chapter 35, and its implementing regulations, 5 CFR part 1320, do not 
apply to this notice because no requirement to collect information is 
proposed.

How Does the Regulatory Flexibility Act Apply to This Proposed Rule?

    These proposed regulations will not have a significant economic 
impact on a substantial number of small entities. The establishment of 
a viticultural area is neither an endorsement or approval by ATF of the 
quality of wine produced in the area, but rather an identification of 
an area that is distinct from surrounding areas. ATF believes that the 
establishment of viticultural areas merely allows wineries to more 
accurately describe the origin of their wines to consumers, and helps 
consumers identify the wines they purchase. Thus, any benefit derived 
from the use of a viticultural area name is the result of the 
proprietor's own efforts and consumer acceptance of wines from that 
area.
    No new requirements are proposed. Accordingly, a regulatory 
flexibility analysis is not required.

Is This a Significant Regulatory Action as Defined by Executive Order 
12866?

    It has been determined that this proposed regulation is not a 
significant regulatory action as defined by Executive Order 12866. 
Therefore, a regulatory assessment is not required.
    Drafting Information: The principal author of this document is 
Jennifer Berry, Regulations Division, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and 
Firearms.

List of Subjects in 27 CFR Part 9

    Administrative practices and procedures, Consumer protection, 
Viticultural areas, Wine.

Authority and Issuance

    Accordingly, for the reasons set out in the preamble, Title 27, 
Code of Federal Regulations, part 9, American Viticultural Areas, is 
proposed to be amended as follows:

PART 9--AMERICAN VITICULTURAL AREAS

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

    Authority: 27 U.S.C. 205

Subpart C--Approved American Viticultural Areas

    Par. 2. Subpart C is amended by adding Sec. 9.167 to read as 
follows:
* * * * *


Sec. 9.167  Red Mountain.

    (a) Name. The name of the viticultural area described in this 
section is ``Red Mountain.''
    (b) Approved Maps. The appropriate map for determining the 
boundaries of the Red Mountain viticultural area is one U.S.G.S. map 
titled ``Benton City, Washington'' 7.5 minute series (topographic), 
(1974).
    (c) Boundaries. The Red Mountain viticultural area is located 
within Benton County, Washington, entirely within the existing Yakima 
Valley viticultural area. The boundaries are as follows:
    (1) The northwest boundary beginning on this map at the 
intersection of the 560-foot elevation level and the aqueduct found 
northwest of the center of section 32.
    (2) Then following the aqueduct east to its endpoint at an 
elevation of approximately 650-feet, again in section 32.
    (3) From this point in a straight line southeast to the 1173-foot 
peak, located southeast of the center of section 32.
    (4) From this peak southeast in a straight-line across the lower 
southwest corner of section 33 to the 1253-foot

[[Page 31856]]

peak located due north of the center of section 4.
    (5) Then in a straight-line southeast to the 1410-foot peak located 
in the southwest corner of section 3.
    (6) From this peak in a straight-line southeast to the border of 
Sections 10 and 11 where the power-line crosses these two sections. 
This intersection is northeast of the center of section 10 and 
northwest of the center of section 11.
    (7) From this point in a straight line southeast to the 600-foot 
elevation line where this intersections State Highway 224 southwest of 
the center of section 11.
    (8) From this point southwest, following the north side of State 
Highway 224, through section 10, through the southeast corner of 
section 9, through the northwest corner of section 16, through section 
17 to where the 560-foot elevation level intercepts State Highway 224 
southwest of the center of section 17 just east of Demoss Road.
    (9) From this 560-foot elevation point, running north along this 
elevation line through section 17, through section 8, through section 5 
and through section 32 until meeting the beginning point at the 
aqueduct in section 32.

    Signed: May 11, 2000.
Bradley A. Buckles,
Director.
[FR Doc. 00-12662 Filed 5-18-00; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4810-31-P