[Federal Register Volume 65, Number 155 (Thursday, August 10, 2000)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 48953-48956]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 00-20340]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms

27 CFR Part 9

[Notice No. 901]
RIN 1512-AA07


Proposal To Establish a River Junction Viticultural Area (98R-
192P)

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

ACTION: Notice of proposed rulemaking.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) is 
considering the establishment of a viticultural area located in 
southern San Joaquin County, California, to be known as ``River 
Junction.'' This proposed viticultural area is the result of a petition 
filed by Mr. Ronald W. McManis. ATF believes that the establishment of 
viticultural areas and the subsequent use of viticultural area names as 
appellations of origin in wine labeling and advertising allow wineries 
to designate the specific areas where the grapes used to make the wine 
were grown and enable consumers to better identify the wines they 
purchase.

DATES: Written comments must be received by Ocotber 10, 2000.

ADDRESSES: Send comments to: Chief, Regulations Division, Bureau of 
Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, P.O. Box 50221, Washington, DC 20091-
0221; ATTN: Notice No. 901. For additional information on submitting 
comments, see the Public Participation section.
    A copy of the petition, the proposed regulations, the appropriate 
maps, and any written comments in response to this notice of proposed 
rulemaking will be available for public inspection during normal 
business hours at: ATF Reference Library, Office of Liaison and Public 
Information, Room 6480, 650 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 
20226.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Tim DeVanney, Regulations Division, 
650 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20226; Telephone (202) 
927-8196.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    On August 23, 1978, ATF published Treasury Decision ATF-53 (43 FR 
37672, 54624) revising regulations in 27 CFR part 4. These regulations 
allow the establishment of definite American viticultural areas. The 
regulations also allow the name of an approved viticultural area to be 
used as an appellation of origin in the labeling and advertising of 
wine.
    On October 2, 1979, ATF published Treasury Decision ATF-60 (44 FR 
56692), which added a new part 9 to 27 CFR, providing for the listing 
of approved American viticultural areas. Section 4.25a(e)(1), Title 27, 
Code of Federal Regulations, defines an American viticultural area as a 
delimited grape-growing region distinguishable by geographical 
features, the boundaries of which have been delineated in subpart C of 
part 9. Section 4.25a(e)(2) outlines the procedure for proposing an 
American viticultural area. Any interested person may petition ATF to 
establish a grape-growing region as a viticultural area. The petition 
should include:
    (a) Evidence that the name of the proposed viticultural area is 
locally and/or nationally known as referring to the area specified in 
the petition;
    (b) Historical or current evidence that the boundaries of the 
viticultural area are as specified in the petition;
    (c) Evidence relating to the geographical features (climate, soil, 
elevation, physical features, etc.) which distinguish the viticultural 
features of the proposed area from surrounding areas;
    (d) 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
    (e) A copy of the appropriate U.S.G.S. map(s) with the boundaries 
prominently marked.

Petition

    ATF has received a petition from Mr. Ronald W. McManis, proposing 
to establish a new viticultural area in southern San Joaquin County, 
California, to be known as ``River Junction.'' The proposed 
viticultural area is located at the western edge of San Joaquin Valley 
(also known as the Central Valley) and the southernmost edge of the 
Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. It contains approximately 1,300 
contiguous acres, of which 740 are currently planted to vineyards. 
Present agricultural use of the area is primarily 700 acres of 
Chardonnay grapes. An additional 40 acres are planted to Cabernet 
Sauvignon grapes.

Evidence That the Name River Junction Is Locally or Nationally 
Known

    According to the petitioner, the origin of the name, ``River 
Junction,'' refers to the junction of the Stanislaus River with

[[Page 48954]]

the San Joaquin River. Mr. McManis states, ``The name is in prominent 
use within the proposed viticultural area, undoubtedly because of the 
significant prehistoric, historic, and ongoing influence of the rivers' 
confluence on the immediate area.'' The petitioner owns a vineyard in 
the proposed viticultural area. The property, purchased in the early 
1990's, was previously known as ``River Junction Vineyards.'' The 
petitioner submitted a vineyard block map of his ranch which shows the 
historical ownership of the vineyards by the designation ``R'' for 
``River Junction Vineyards.'' These vineyards are located within the 
proposed viticultural area.
    The name ``River Junction'' is also used for River Junction 
Reclamation District No. 2064, a State of California Special District 
dating from at least 1925. River Junction Reclamation District includes 
Bret Harte Gardens subdivision, filed October 11, 1922. Since this 
subdivision assumes reclamation within the District, it seems likely 
that ``River Junction,'' as a District name, dates at least to 1922. 
The name is also used for River Junction Farms subdivision no. 2 within 
the River Junction Reclamation District.

Historical or Current Evidence That the Boundaries of the Proposed 
Viticultural Area Are Specified in the Petition

    The petitioner states that the proposed viticultural area is 
bounded on the north by an old river terrace shelf delineated by 
Division Road; on the northwest by a drainage boundary enhanced and 
delineated by Airport Way; on the west and south by the San Joaquin 
River; and on the south and east by the Stanislaus River.
    According to the petitioner, following the Federal Swampland Act of 
1850, reclamation of wetlands was begun. The petitioner states that a 
portion of the proposed area was designated as a State Reclamation 
District, River Junction Reclamation District No. 2064, and that the 
proposed River Junction viticultural area ``* * * occupies the southern 
one-third of the California State Reclamation District No. 2064 and is 
the same as River Junction Farms Subdivision No. 2, except that it does 
not include 195 acres at the northeast corner of that subdivision.''
    As indicated, the petitioner owns a vineyard in the proposed 
viticultural area. Most of the property, purchased in the early 1990's, 
was previously known as River Junction Vineyards and is located within 
the northwest and southwest boundaries of the proposed viticultural 
area, west of Two Rivers Road.

Evidence Relating to the Geographical Features

Topography

    The petitioner has supplied the following topographical evidence to 
show that the proposed area is distinct from surrounding areas:
    (a) South, east and west boundaries. The proposed River Junction 
viticultural area is bounded on the west by relatively steep slopes and 
the San Joaquin River, and is bounded on the south and east by gentle, 
nearly flat topography and the Stanislaus River. The proposed area is 
locally unique in terms of topography: Its gentle, persistent southwest 
slope and higher boundaries form a shallow, slightly tilted bowl about 
18 to 25 feet in elevation at the center. Original natural boundaries 
to the west, south and east have been exaggerated by engineered, 
permanent levees that range from about 35 to 42 feet in elevation. 
Geographical analyses, provided by the petitioner, show a transect 
through the proposed River Junction viticultural area and illustrate 
the elevation differences that distinguish it.
    (b) Northern boundary. The northern boundary of the proposed area 
is an abrupt, natural elevation change at about the 29 foot contour, 
delineated by Division Road. Physical evidence indicates that Division 
Road was placed on the upper side of a pre-existing natural river 
terrace boundary. The topographic change marked by the road exactly 
follows geologic and soil type boundaries extending from the east to 
the center of section 7 on the Ripon, CA quadrangle map T3S/R7E and 
westward to Airport Way. The natural extension of ``Red Bridge Slough'' 
to the northwest is further evidence that this boundary is a natural 
river terrace.
    (c) Northwest boundary. The northwest boundary of the proposed 
River Junction viticultural area is delineated by Airport Way, a subtle 
natural high that is exaggerated by the raised roadbed. Elevation 
ranges from about 29 to 35 feet. Available geologic and historic 
evidence strongly supports the conclusion that, like Division Road, 
Airport Way follows a natural topographic high. The U.S.G.S. maps 
submitted by the petitioner show two separate sloughs draining from the 
Airport Way/Division Road intersection. An unnamed slough on the 
U.S.G.S. Ripon, CA quadrangle map drains southeast through the proposed 
River Junction viticultural area, while the other slough, called ``Red 
Bridge Slough'' on the U.S.G.S. Vernalis, CA quadrangle map, flows in 
the opposite direction. A 1925 Reclamation District Map (``southern 
part'') provided by the petitioner also shows the two sloughs. These 
two sloughs coincide with occurrences of Merritt soils, which fan out 
to the northwest and southeast of the Airport Way/Division Road 
intersection. This provides further evidence that the intersection of 
Airport Way and Division Road has historically sat on naturally higher 
topography from which the soils accumulated downhill in two directions.

Soil

    The petitioner provided the following evidence regarding the soil 
composition of the proposed River Junction viticultural area:
    (a) Formation and distribution of local soils. The proposed River 
Junction viticultural area contains soils that are generally grouped as 
alluvial, and which formed on the geologic parent material of recent 
river channel deposits that are exposed in, and partly define, the 
proposed area. Soils that formed on the stream channel deposits and 
derived from these deposits, are similar to one another in nature, and 
are characteristic of the parent sedimentary deposits. These soils are 
identified as ``recent alluvial floodplains soils'' and ``delta and 
floodplains soils'' in the U.S. Department of Agriculture soils reports 
for San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.
    Where the Stanislaus River joins the San Joaquin River, bounding 
topography is steeper to the west and flatter to the east, thus 
restricting the westward limits of soils. West of the San Joaquin 
River, northeast facing slopes limit alluvial soils to an area only 
about \1/2\ mile or less in width. These soils, primarily Merritt-
Columbia-Dello series and Dospalos-Bolfar complex, are bounded on the 
west by basin soils of the Willows-Pescadero series and terrace soils 
of the Capay series. Conversely, east of the San Joaquin River, flatter 
topography has allowed alluvial soils to accumulate to a width of 1 to 
1\1/2\ miles.
    South of the Stanislaus River there are mostly Columbia-Temple 
series soils, bounded by basin soils of the Waukena-Fresno association, 
and alluvial fan soils of the Modesto-Chualar group that extend 
eastward.
    North of the Stanislaus River, elevation is slightly higher than to 
the south, and topography is nearly flat but includes subtle northwest-
facing and more strongly expressed southwest-facing slopes. Here the 
alluvial soils reach 1\1/2\ miles in width and are composed of Merritt-
Grangeville-Columbia series with lesser amounts of Dello and Egbert 
soils. They are bounded to the east by terrace soil

[[Page 48955]]

groups, primarily of the Delhi-Veritas-Tinnin series.
    (b) Unique soil composition of proposed area. The proposed River 
Junction viticultural area is a mix of soils that differs from the 
surrounding areas. Among the total soils, nearly one-half are sandy 
types, and about one-fourth of the total is fine sandy loam of the 
Grangeville series. Soil types include about 25 percent Grangeville 
fine sandy loam; about 50 percent Merritt silty clay loam; nearly 25 
percent Columbia fine sandy loams; and less than 1 percent Veritas 
silty clay loam. None of the surrounding areas has nearly as high a 
ratio between sandy loam to clay loam soils. Grangeville sandy loam is 
unusual in this part of the southern delta. The single other local 
occurrence of Grangeville sandy loam soil is west of the San Joaquin 
River, 1\1/2\ miles northwest, and is less than 11 acres in area.
    The petitioner states that Grangeville and Columbia series are 
formed in alluviums derived from granitic rock sources and the Merritt 
series is formed in alluviums from mixed rock sources. The Grangeville, 
Merritt, and Columbia series of soils are characterized as ``prime 
farmland.'' These soils are all very deep, less well drained, and have 
moderate to high water capacity. Permeability ranges from moderately 
slow in the Merritt series to rapid in the Columbia and Grangeville 
series. They occupy nearly flat areas at low elevation and are 
occasionally flooded. They are exceedingly fertile soils that are 
capable of supporting wine grapes, almonds, tomatoes, sugar beets, 
wheat and other crops. Grapes have been grown on Columbia soils, but 
apparently, in San Joaquin County at least, have not been previously 
grown on bottomlands with Grangeville and Merritt.
    Soil samples collected on-site at the proposed viticultural area 
during October 1997 include one sample from each of the dominant units. 
According to the petitioner, brief low-power microscopic analysis from 
each of these samples indicated similar texture and composition. All 
samples contained abundant angular quartz grains and mica flakes, 
indicating granitic origin. These soils are mineralogically young and 
should be expected to be very high in available minerals.
    (c) Comparisons with surrounding areas. The petitioner states that 
the proposed River Junction viticultural area is clearly distinct from 
all potentially comparable adjacent local tracts, including the Red 
Bridge Slough, Walthall Slough, and Northeast areas.
    As would be expected of deposits formed along rivers, downstream 
alluvial soils have a wider distribution than does their parent 
alluvial substrate, due to stream transport, while upstream the derived 
soils are less widely distributed than the underlying stream channel 
deposits.
    In the proposed River Junction viticultural area, derived alluvial 
soils strictly overlap but do not extend beyond their parent recent 
river deposits. The strict relationship between the channel deposits 
and their derived soils in the proposed area results in a strikingly 
distinct northern boundary.
    The location of these soil changes corresponds to the location of a 
strongly expressed terrace (distinct change in elevation) which angles 
northwest from the Stanislaus River near its mouth. Its upper side is 
nearly exactly followed by Division Road. This terrace probably marks 
the highest flood stage in historically recent times and suggests that 
soils in the area are probably derived from Stanislaus River alluvium. 
This would explain the distinctively high granitic content of these 
soils as compared with the surrounding area.
    The petitioner states that, in the Red Bridge Slough area (north of 
the proposed area's boundary following Airport Way), overlap of 
alluvial soils with parent channel deposits is less exact and the soils 
are restricted to the west of the Slough. This tract has a slight 
northwest slope and, based on field observation, is wetter than the 
proposed River Junction viticultural area. It has no strongly expressed 
northern or eastern boundaries, and thus would have less temperature 
extremes than the proposed area due to the absence of topographic 
enclosure.
    The Red Bridge Slough area also has different soils than the 
proposed River Junction viticultural area. It contains about 35 percent 
Columbia loam. At its center it includes 10 percent Egbert silty clay 
loam. No Grangeville sands are present. As indicated above, the tract 
is part of River Junction Reclamation District No. 2064, recorded as 
River Junction Farms subdivision no. 3 in 1925. Durham Ferry State 
Recreation Area occupies about 20 percent of the tract, and the 
remaining part is essentially flat at 20-25 feet elevation.
    Southeast of Walthall Slough, located north of the Red Bridge 
Slough area, the relationship between channel deposits and derived 
soils is obscure. Here the soils occupy a larger expanse than do the 
underlying stream deposits. They include nearly 40 percent Columbia 
soils and about 20 percent Dello clay loam. No Grangeville sands are 
present. Topographically, this area is essentially flat to slightly 
northwest sloping. In terms of soils and the microclimate that would be 
inferred from the flat and open topography, it is completely different 
from the proposed viticultural area.
    To the northeast, recent river alluvium still underlies the soils 
but soils in this area include about 20 percent Veritas and Manteca 
series. No Grangeville sands are present. Otherwise, the Merritt and 
Columbia soils percentages are comparable to the proposed River 
Junction viticultural area. However, this area is higher and flatter, 
averaging about 30-35 feet elevation, and has no distinct topographic 
boundaries. Therefore, it undoubtedly has less temperature extremes 
than the proposed viticultural area. This area comprises about 195 
acres of the original River Junction Farms subdivision no. 2.

Climate

    The proposed River Junction viticultural area is shown on a 
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta map (``Base Map Source--Department of 
Water Resources'') submitted by the petitioner. The proposed 
viticultural area appears within the boundaries of the aforementioned 
delta, at the southeasternmost tip. The petitioner claims that the 
southernmost edge of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is more 
modified by inland weather patterns than other parts of the Delta. This 
part of the Delta experiences more extreme high and low temperatures, 
although still receiving maritime influence. The proposed River 
Junction viticultural area is at the boundary between coastal and 
continental weather influence. It is subject to little rainfall (10 to 
11 inches per year) and at its southernmost part lies within the rain 
shadow of the coast ranges to the west. This is the driest part of the 
Delta and can be considered as arid to semiarid with coastal influence.
    The petitioner states that, as would be expected of a topographical 
depression, the local microclimate of the proposed River Junction 
viticultural area is singular. The proposed viticultural area is 
distinctively cooler than the immediate surrounding area (Modesto, 
Stockton, Tracy Carbona, Tracy Pumping Plant, and Rivercrest 
Vineyards). Temperature data from 1995 and 1996 were recorded by a 
weather station located near the center of the proposed River Junction 
viticultural area, at Rivercrest Vineyards. The monthly-averaged data, 
provided by the petitioner, show that minimum temperatures are 
consistently slightly cooler than elsewhere in the region, especially 
in summer. Average high

[[Page 48956]]

temperatures are similar to Antioch and Lodi, which are significantly 
closer to the Suisun and San Francisco Bays and would be expected to 
experience more coastal cooling. According to the petitioner, average 
low temperatures are generally the coolest among Tracy Carbona and 
Tracy Pumping Plant. Significantly, minimum August temperatures are 2 
to 5 degrees cooler than Tracy, Stockton, and Modesto.
    Grapes grown here are also subject to seasonally later frosts as 
pointed out by an unpublished agricultural analysis by Cook and Lider 
dated 1972, submitted by the petitioner.

Public Participation--Written Comments

    ATF requests comments from all interested persons. ATF specifically 
requests comments on the clarity of the proposed rule and how it may be 
made easier to understand. All 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, but assurance of 
consideration cannot be given except as to comments received on or 
before the closing date.
    ATF will not recognize any material in comments as confidential. 
Comments may be disclosed to the public. Any material that a respondent 
considers to be confidential or inappropriate for disclosure to the 
public should not be included in the comment. The name of any person 
submitting a comment is not exempt from disclosure.
    Comments may be submitted by facsimile transmission to (202) 927-
8525, provided the comments: (1) Are legible; (2) reference this notice 
number; (3) are 8\1/2\"  x  11" in size; (4) contain a legible written 
signature; and (4) are three pages or less in length. Comments sent by 
FAX in excess of three pages will not be accepted. Receipt of FAX 
transmittals will not be acknowledged. Facsimile transmitted comments 
will be treated as originals.
    Comments may be submitted by e-mail by sending the comments to: 
nprm@atfhq.atf.treas.gov. E-mail comments must: (1) Contain your name, 
mailing address, and e-mail address; (2) reference this notice number 
(in the heading/subject line); (3) appear legible when printed on not 
more than three pages 8\1/2\"  x  11" in size. Receipt of e-mail will 
not be acknowledged. E-mail comments will be treated as originals.
    E-mail comments may also be submitted 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/alcohol/rules/rules.htm.

Executive Order 12866

    It has been determined that this proposed regulation is not a 
significant regulatory action as defined by Executive Order 12866. 
Accordingly, this proposal is not subject to the analysis required by 
this Executive Order.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    It is hereby certified that this proposed regulation will not have 
a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. The establishment of a viticultural area is neither an 
endorsement nor 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 the region.
    Accordingly, a regulatory flexibility analysis is not required 
because the proposal, if promulgated as a final rule, is not expected 
(1) to have significant secondary, or incidental effects on a 
substantial number of small entities; or (2) to impose, or otherwise 
cause a significant increase in the reporting, recordkeeping, or other 
compliance burdens on a substantial number of small entities.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    The provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 
3507(j)) and its implementing regulations, 5 CFR part 1320, do not 
apply to this notice of proposed rulemaking because no requirement to 
collect information is proposed.

Drafting Information

    The principal author of this document is Tim DeVanney, Regulations 
Division, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

List of Subjects in 27 CFR Part 9

    Administrative practice and procedure, Consumer protection, 
Viticultural areas, Wine.

Authority and Issuance

    Title 27, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 9, American 
Viticultural Areas, is 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.
    Par. 2. Part 9 is amended by adding Sec. 9.164 to subpart C as 
follows:


Sec. 9.164  River Junction.

    (a) Name. The name of the viticultural area described in this 
section is ``River Junction.''
    (b) Approved maps. The appropriate maps for determining the 
boundaries of the River Junction viticultural area are the following 
two 1:24,000 Scale U.S.G.S. topographical maps. They are titled:
    (1) Ripon, CA 1969, photorevised 1980;
    (2) Vernalis, CA 1969, photorevised 1980;
    (c) Boundaries. The River Junction viticultural area is located in 
southern San Joaquin County, California. The boundaries are as follows:
    (1) Beginning on the Vernalis, CA quadrangle map at the 
intersection of the secondary highway Airport Way and the San Joaquin 
River levee, near Benchmark 35 in T3S/R6E;
    (2) Then in a southeasterly direction, follow the levee along the 
San Joaquin River onto the Ripon, CA quadrangle map;
    (3) Then in a northerly direction around Sturgeon Bend in section 
18 T3S/R7E;
    (4) Then continuing in a generally southeasterly, then 
northeasterly direction along the levee adjoining the Stanislaus River 
through sections 19, 20 and 17 to the point where the levee intersects 
sections 17 and 8;
    (5) Then continuing in a northerly direction along the levee in 
section 8 for approximately 1,000 feet;
    (6) Then in a straight line in a northwesterly direction for 
approximately 100 feet to the intersection with Division Road;
    (7) Then in a southwesterly, then northwesterly direction along 
Division Road through sections 8, 17, 18 and 7 to the intersection with 
the secondary highway Airport Way;
    (8) Then in a southwesterly direction along Airport Way onto the 
Vernalis quadrangle map to the starting point at the intersection of 
Airport Way and the San Joaquin River levee T3S/R6E.

    Dated: July 21, 2000.
Bradley A. Buckles,
Director.
[FR Doc. 00-20340 Filed 8-9-00; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4810-31-P