[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 232 (Friday, December 2, 2016)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 86980-86987]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-28839]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY

Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau

27 CFR Part 9

[Docket No. TTB-2016-0012; Notice No. 166]
RIN 1513-AC33


Proposed Establishment of the Dahlonega Plateau Viticultural Area

AGENCY: Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, Treasury.

ACTION: Notice of proposed rulemaking.

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SUMMARY: The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) proposes to

[[Page 86981]]

establish the 133-square mile ``Dahlonega Plateau'' viticultural area 
in portions of Lumpkin and White Counties, Georgia. The proposed 
viticultural area does not lie within or contain any established 
viticultural area. TTB designates viticultural areas to allow vintners 
to better describe the origin of their wines and to allow consumers to 
better identify wines they may purchase. TTB invites comments on this 
proposed addition to its regulations.

DATES: Comments must be received by January 31, 2017.

ADDRESSES: Please send your comments on this notice to one of the 
following addresses:
     Internet: http://www.regulations.gov (via the online 
comment form for this notice as posted within Docket No. TTB-2016-0012 
at ``Regulations.gov,'' the Federal e-rulemaking portal);
     U.S. Mail: Director, Regulations and Rulings Division, 
Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, 1310 G Street NW., Box 12, 
Washington, DC 20005; or
     Hand delivery/courier in lieu of mail: Alcohol and Tobacco 
Tax and Trade Bureau, 1310 G Street NW., Suite 400, 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 or view or obtain copies 
of the petition and supporting materials.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Karen A. Thornton, Regulations and 
Rulings Division, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, 1310 G St. 
NW., Box 12, Washington, DC 20005; phone 202-453-1039, ext. 175.

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 FAA Act 
pursuant to section 1111(d) of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, 
codified at 6 U.S.C. 531(d). The Secretary has delegated various 
authorities through Treasury Department Order 120-01, dated December 
10, 2013, (superseding Treasury Order 120-01, dated January 24, 2003), 
to the TTB Administrator to perform the functions and duties in the 
administration and enforcement of these provisions.
    Part 4 of the TTB regulations (27 CFR part 4) authorizes TTB to 
establish definitive viticultural areas and regulate 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) sets 
forth standards for the preparation and submission of petitions for the 
establishment or modification of American viticultural areas (AVAs) and 
lists the approved AVAs.

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 having distinguishing features, as described in part 9 
of the regulations, and a name and a delineated boundary, as 
established 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 the 
wine's geographic origin. The establishment of AVAs allows vintners to 
describe more accurately the origin of their wines to consumers and 
helps consumers to identify wines they may purchase. Establishment of 
an AVA 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 (27 CFR 4.25(e)(2)) 
outlines the procedure for proposing an AVA and provides that any 
interested party may petition TTB to establish a grape-growing region 
as an AVA. Section 9.12 of the TTB regulations (27 CFR 9.12) prescribes 
the standards for petitions for the establishment or modification of 
AVAs. Petitions to establish an AVA must include the following:
     Evidence that the area within the proposed AVA boundary is 
nationally or locally known by the viticultural area name specified in 
the petition;
     An explanation of the basis for defining the boundary of 
the proposed AVA;
     A narrative description of the features of the proposed 
AVA affecting viticulture, such as climate, geology, soils, physical 
features, and elevation, that make the proposed AVA distinctive and 
distinguish it from adjacent areas outside the proposed boundary;
     The appropriate United States Geological Survey (USGS) 
map(s) showing the location of the proposed AVA, with the boundary of 
the proposed AVA clearly drawn thereon; and
     A detailed narrative description of the proposed AVA 
boundary based on USGS map markings.

Dahlonega Plateau Petition

    TTB received a petition from Amy Booker, President of the 
Dahlonega-Lumpkin Chamber & Visitors Bureau, on behalf of local 
vineyard and winery owners, proposing to establish the ``Dahlonega 
Plateau'' AVA. The proposed AVA is located in portions of Lumpkin and 
White Counties, in Georgia. The proposed AVA encompasses approximately 
133 square miles. Seven wineries and 8 commercial vineyards covering a 
total of approximately 110 acres are distributed throughout the 
proposed AVA. The petition notes that there are an additional 12 acres 
of vineyards planned for planting within the proposed AVA in the next 
few years.
    According to the petition, the distinguishing features of the 
proposed Dahlonega Plateau AVA are its topography and climate. Unless 
otherwise noted, all information and data pertaining to the proposed 
AVA contained in this document are from the petition for the proposed 
Dahlonega Plateau AVA and its supporting exhibits.

Name Evidence

    The proposed Dahlonega Plateau AVA derives its name from a long, 
narrow, northeast-southwest trending plateau in the northern foothills 
of the Georgia Piedmont known as the Dahlonega Plateau. The plateau 
covers most of Lumpkin, Dawson, White, Pickens, and Cherokee Counties. 
However, the proposed AVA is limited to the northeastern portion of the 
plateau, in Lumpkin and White Counties, due to a lack of viticulture in 
the southwestern region of the plateau, as well topographical and 
climatic differences.
    The town of Dahlonega, which is located within the proposed AVA, 
derived its name from the Cherokee word ``dalonige,'' which means 
``yellow'' or ``golden,'' due to the presence of gold in the region. 
The town was named in 1837, and the geological feature derives its 
name, in part, from the name of the town. The petition states that the 
first written reference to the plateau was in a 1911 scientific paper 
by geologist L.C. Glenn, who

[[Page 86982]]

noted, ``In the Chestatee basin about [the town of] Dahlonega the 
upland is an old, well-dissected plateau * * *.'' \1\ The petition 
lists several other professional papers and books, both historical and 
contemporary, which describe a geological feature known as the 
``Dahlonega Plateau.'' These sources are listed in the ``References'' 
section of the petition. Additionally, an excerpt from a contemporary 
travel guide describes the region of the proposed AVA as follows: ``In 
the northeastern section of the Piedmont lies the Dahlonega Plateau, a 
deeply eroded region of steep, forested hills and narrow valleys * * 
*.'' \2\ An online travel site states, ``A broad, high plain shadowed 
by some of Georgia's highest mountains, the Dahlonega Plateau offers 
near perfect growing conditions [for wine grapes].'' \3\ Finally, the 
petition includes a 1976 map of the physiographic regions of Georgia, 
from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, which includes a 
region titled ``Dahlonega Uplands/Dahlonega Plateau.''
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    \1\ Glenn, L.C., 1911, Denudation and Erosion in the Southern 
Appalachian Region and in the Monongahela Basin: U.S. Geological 
Survey, Prof. Paper 72.
    \2\ Howard, Blair. Georgia Travel Adventures. West Palm Beach, 
FL: Hunter Publishing, Inc., 2011.
    \3\ http://www.offbeattravel.com/dahlonega-georgia.html.
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Boundary Evidence

    The northern and northeastern boundaries of the proposed Dahlonega 
Plateau AVA follow the 1,800-foot elevation contour and separate the 
proposed AVA from the higher, steeper slopes of the Blue Ridge 
Mountains. The proposed eastern and southeastern boundaries follow a 
series of straight lines drawn between roads and elevation points 
marked on the USGS maps which separate the proposed AVA from the 
physiographic features known as the Hightower Ridges and the Central 
Uplands. The proposed southwestern and western boundaries also follow a 
series of straight lines drawn between roads and elevation points on 
the USGS maps in order to separate the proposed AVA from the 
southwestern portion of the plateau, which has a different topography 
and climate.

Distinguishing Features

    The distinguishing features of the proposed Dahlonega Plateau AVA 
are its topography and climate.
Topography
    The topography of the proposed AVA is characterized by broad, 
rounded hilltops separated by wide valleys. According to the petition, 
the distinctive topography is due to the underlying geology of the 
proposed AVA, which is comprised of layers of rocks that weather 
uniformly and are moderately resistant to erosion. Over time, wind and 
water have gradually worn down the underlying rocks and formed a gently 
rolling landscape with moderate elevations that are lower than the 
elevations to the north and east and higher than the elevations to the 
south and west.
    By contrast, the geology of Blue Ridge Mountains to the north and 
northeast of the proposed AVA is comprised of rocks that are 
structurally higher and more erosion-resistant than those of the 
proposed AVA. Because the rocks do not erode as easily, the Blue Ridge 
Mountains generally have higher elevations than are found within the 
proposed Dahlonega Plateau AVA. Additionally, the peaks within the Blue 
Ridge Mountains are more rugged and the slopes are steeper because the 
surfaces have not been as softened or rounded by erosion as the 
hilltops of the proposed AVA.
    To the immediate east and southeast of the proposed AVA are the 
Hightower Ridges. The geology of these ridges is characterized by 
strongly-layered, alternating zones of weak rocks and more resistant 
rocks. These alternating zones have a strong northeast-southwest 
orientation. Because these layers erode at different rates, the 
resulting topography has a ``washboard'' appearance, with steep, 
parallel ridges (formed from the more resistant layers) separated by 
narrow valleys (formed from the less resistant layers). Compared to the 
proposed AVA, the valleys generally have lower minimum elevations and 
the ridges generally have higher maximum elevations. Farther south and 
running parallel to the Hightower Ridges is the Central Uplands region. 
The topography of this region is similar to that of the proposed AVA, 
with broad valleys and rolling hills, but with a wider range of 
elevations.
    To the west and southwest of the proposed AVA, in the southwestern 
portion of the geological feature known as the Dahlonega Plateau, the 
underlying geology is comprised of rocks that are less erosion-
resistant and structurally lower than the rocks in the northeastern 
portion of the plateau, which are within the proposed AVA. Because the 
rocks are more susceptible to erosion, the topography of the 
southwestern portion of the plateau is generally flatter and lower than 
within the proposed AVA.
    The following table shows the minimum, maximum, and mean elevations 
for the proposed Dahlonega Plateau AVA and the surrounding areas, which 
were described in the petition.\4\
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    \4\ Figure 7 of the petition shows the location of the 
comparison regions in relation to the proposed AVA.

                                             Table 1--Elevations \5\
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                                                                               Elevations  (in feet)
                       Region (direction)                        -----------------------------------------------
                                                                      Minimum         Maximum          Mean
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Proposed AVA....................................................         1,141.7         2,345.8         1,554.2
Blue Ridge Mountains (north)....................................         1,651.7         4,460.2         2,455.4
Blue Ridge Mountains (northeast)................................         1,441.1         4,418.8         2,449.6
Hightower Ridges (east).........................................         1,317.1         2,386.4         1,565.2
Central Uplands (east)..........................................         1,088.2         3,164.5         1,446.5
Hightower Ridges (southeast)....................................         1,053.3         2,180.8         1,315.0
Central Uplands (southeast).....................................         1,069.5         2,584.4         1,256.8
Southwestern Dahlonega Plateau (west)...........................           858.6         2,033.2         1,386.3
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The topography of the proposed Dahlonega Plateau AVA and the 
surrounding regions has an effect on viticulture. Because the hills 
within the proposed AVA are gently sloped and have moderate elevations, 
the floors of

[[Page 86983]]

the intervening valleys are not highly shadowed and receive adequate 
sunlight for vineyards. The hillsides within the proposed AVA are also 
suitable for vineyards because they are not so steep as to make 
mechanical cultivation difficult or dangerous. The petition also states 
that the proposed AVA's location between higher and lower elevations 
allows cool nighttime air draining from the higher elevations of the 
Blue Ridge Mountains to flow through the proposed AVA and into the 
lower elevations to the south and west. As a result, vineyards within 
the proposed AVA benefit from cool nighttime temperatures but do not 
have a high risk of frost because the cool air does not settle.
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    \5\ This information is also presented as a map in Figure 8 of 
the petition.
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    By contrast, the petition states that the topography of the regions 
surrounding the proposed AVA is less suitable for vineyards. Within the 
Blue Ridge Mountains and Hightower Ridges to the north, east, and 
southeast of the proposed AVA, the narrow valleys are often shadowed by 
the surrounding steep, high slopes, meaning less light would reach any 
vineyard planted on the valley floors. The steepness of the slopes 
would also make mechanical cultivation of any vineyard planted on the 
sides of the mountains impractical. In the lower elevations of the 
regions to the south and west of the proposed AVA, cool air draining 
from higher elevations eventually settles and pools and would increase 
the risk of frost damage in any vineyard planted there.
Climate
    Topography, and more specifically elevation, also affects the 
climate of the proposed Dahlonega Plateau AVA and the surrounding 
regions. The petition included information on the length of the growing 
season, growing degree day accumulations, and precipitation amounts 
within the proposed AVA and the surrounding regions. According to the 
petition, the proposed AVA's location between higher elevations to the 
north, east, and southeast and lower elevations to the southwest and 
west create climatic conditions that are ideal for growing grape 
varietals such as Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and 
Merlot.
    Length of Growing Season: The petition states that the length of 
the growing season within the proposed Dahlonega Plateau AVA provides 
ample time for most Vitis vinifera (V. vinifera) varietals of grapes to 
ripen. The petition included the average minimum, maximum, and mean 
length of the growing season within the proposed AVA and the 
surrounding areas. Because the growing season length within a given 
region may fluctuate based on the range of elevations within that 
region, the petition also listed the percentage of terrain within each 
region that is within a given range of growing season length. The 
growing season data is shown in the following tables.

                             Table 2--Length of Growing Season (Days) 1981-2010 \6\
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                       Region (direction)                             Minimum         Maximum          Mean
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Proposed AVA....................................................             167             209             195
Blue Ridge Mountains (north)....................................              94             192             164
Blue Ridge Mountains (northeast)................................              95             199             164
Hightower Ridges (east).........................................             166             203             195
Central Uplands (east)..........................................             139             211             199
Hightower Ridges (southeast)....................................             173             212             203
Central Uplands (southeast).....................................             159             211             205
Southwestern Dahlonega Plateau (west)...........................             178             219             201
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


                                     Table 3--Percentage of Terrain Within Given Range of Growing Season Length \7\
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                               Growing season length
                   Region (direction)                    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                             <160 days     160-170 days    170-180 days    180-190 days    190-200 days      >200 days
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Proposed AVA............................................  ..............            0.02            0.33           19.40           60.82           19.43
Blue Ridge Mountains (north)............................           39.86           21.45           23.96           14.69            0.04  ..............
Blue Ridge Mountains (northeast)........................           44.04           16.90           14.32           16.39            8.35  ..............
Hightower Ridges (east).................................  ..............            0.05            1.00           11.79           76.50           10.66
Central Uplands (east)..................................            0.25            0.40            1.07            5.02           44.62           48.63
Hightower Ridges (southeast)............................  ..............  ..............            0.04            0.45           22.91           76.60
Central Uplands (southeast).............................  ..............            0.07            0.49            1.40            9.84           88.19
Southwestern Dahlonega Plateau (west)...................  ..............  ..............            0.01            6.80           42.74           50.45
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    The data in Table 2 shows that the mean growing season length is 
shorter in regions with high elevations and longer in regions with 
lower elevations. The proposed Dahlonega Plateau AVA, with its moderate 
elevations, has a mean growing season length that is longer than the 
regions to the north and northeast, which have higher elevations, and 
is shorter than the regions to the south and west, which have lower 
elevations.
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    \6\ Growing season length calculated using 1981-2010 climate 
normals. Locations of weather stations are shown in Figure 15 of the 
petition. ``Growing season'' is defined as the number of days 
between the last 28 degree F day of the spring and the first 
occurrence of that temperature in the fall. Plant tissue freezes at 
28 degrees F. This information is also presented as a map in Figure 
17 of the petition.
    \7\ This information is also presented as a map in Figure 17 of 
the petition.
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    Table 3 shows that over 60 percent of the terrain within the 
proposed AVA has a growing season length of 190 to 200 days, which is a 
higher percentage of terrain with that length of a growing season than 
any of the surrounding regions except the Hightower Ridges region to 
the east. The petition states that guidelines for selecting vineyard 
sites based on growing season lengths, published by the College of 
Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University in conjunction with 
the Institute for the Application of Geospatial Technology,\8\ do not 
recommend planting vineyards in regions with growing seasons shorter

[[Page 86984]]

than 160 days because most grape varietals will not have time to ripen 
fully. Sites with growing seasons of between 180 and 190 days are 
described as ``good,'' while sites with growing seasons between 190 and 
200 days are ``not limited by growing season.'' Sites with growing 
seasons of over 200 days are considered suitable for growing varietals 
that need a long time to mature. Based on this guidance, vineyard 
owners can plant many different grape varietals in the majority of the 
proposed AVA without the fear of having too short of a growing season 
for the grapes to ripen.
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    \8\ http://arcserver2.iagt.org/vll/downloads/BasicSiteEvaluation-2015.pdf.
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    Growing Degree Days: The petition notes that although growing 
season length is important because it reflects the number of frost-free 
days, the temperatures that are reached during that frost-free period 
are just as important to viticulture. The petition states that grape 
vines do not grow and fruit does not mature when temperatures are below 
50 degrees Fahrenheit (F). Therefore, a region that has a 180-day 
frost-free growing season would still be unsuitable for viticulture if 
temperatures seldom or never rise above 50 degrees F.
    Growing degree day (GDD) accumulations are a way of describing the 
frequency that temperatures within a region exceed 50 degrees F during 
the growing season.\9\ The Winkler zone scale ranges from the very cool 
Zone I, for regions accumulating 2,500 or fewer GDDs in a growing 
season, to the very warm Zone V, for regions accumulating over 4,000 
GDDs. The petition included the information in the following table 
which shows the percentage of the proposed AVA and the surrounding 
areas that can be categorized into each of the five Winkler zones.\10\
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    \9\ In the Winkler climate classification system, annual heat 
accumulation during the growing season, measured in annual GDDs, 
defines climatic regions. One GDD accumulates for each degree 
Fahrenheit that a day's mean temperature is above 50 degrees F, the 
minimum temperature required for grapevine growth. See Albert J. 
Winkler, General Viticulture (Berkeley: University of California 
Press, 1974), pages 61-64.
    \10\ The growing degree day data for the proposed AVA and the 
surrounding regions was calculated using the PRISM Climate Group's 
1981-2010 climate normals. The Parameter Elevation Regression on 
Independent Slopes Model (PRISM) climate data mapping system 
combined climate normals gathered from weather stations, along with 
other factors such as elevation, longitude, slope angles, and solar 
aspect to estimate the general climate patterns for the proposed AVA 
and the surrounding regions. Climate normals are only calculated 
every 10 years, using 30 years of data, and at the time the petition 
was submitted, the most recent climate normals available were from 
the period of 1981-2010. (PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State 
University, http://prism.oregonstate.edu, created 4 February 2004).

                          Table 4--Percentage of Terrain Within Each Winkler Zone \11\
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       Region (direction)             Zone I          Zone II        Zone III         Zone IV         Zone V
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                 Cooler to warmer
                                 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Proposed AVA....................  ..............  ..............            0.16           98.84  ..............
Blue Ridge Mountains (north)....  ..............            0.76           90.91            8.33  ..............
Blue Ridge Mountains (northeast)            0.20            5.83           83.94           10.03  ..............
Hightower Ridges (east).........  ..............  ..............            9.02           90.98  ..............
Central Uplands (east)..........  ..............  ..............            2.35           97.65  ..............
South:
    Hightower Ridges (southeast)  ..............  ..............            0.05           90.12            9.83
    Central Uplands (southeast).  ..............  ..............            0.50           41.46           58.04
    Southwestern Dahlonega        ..............  ..............  ..............           68.39           31.61
     Plateau (west).............
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    The data in the table shows that all of the terrain within the 
proposed Dahlonega Plateau AVA is classified in the intermediate ranges 
of the Winkler scale (Zones III and IV). The proposed AVA has a higher 
percentage of terrain within Zone IV than any of the surrounding 
regions and lacks any terrain in the very cool Zone I, the cool Zone 
II, or the very warm Zone V. According to the petition, regions 
classified as Zones III or IV, such as the proposed AVA, are suitable 
for growing a diverse range of late-ripening varietals of V. vinifera, 
including Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Regions that are categorized 
as Zones I and II have temperatures that are too low to ripen the 
varietals grown within the proposed AVA and are more suitable for 
growing cold-hardy French-American hybrid varietals and early ripening 
V. vinifera varietals such as Riesling and Pinot Noir. Finally, the 
petition states that regions categorized as the very warm Zone V are 
best suited for growing long-season varietals of wine grapes that 
tolerate the high heat, such as Muscadine, and for growing table 
grapes.
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    \11\ This information is also presented as a map in Figure 19 of 
the petition.
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    Precipitation: According to the petition, the rising elevations of 
the proposed AVA and the regions to the north and east cause the 
moisture-laden winds travelling inland from the Gulf of Mexico and 
Atlantic Ocean to drop their rain. Areas with higher elevations 
typically receive more annual rainfall than regions with lower 
elevations. The petition included information on the mean annual, 
growing season, and winter precipitation amounts for the proposed 
Dahlonega Plateau AVA and the surrounding regions. The following table 
is derived from information included in the petition. All data was 
gathered from 1981-2010 climate normals.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \12\ This information is also presented as a map in Figure 20 of 
the petition.

                                                           Table 5--Mean Precipitation Amounts
                                                                    [In inches] \12\
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                     Annual                     Growing season (April-October)           Winter (December-February)
         Region (direction)         --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                       Minimum      Maximum        Mean       Minimum      Maximum        Mean       Minimum      Maximum        Mean
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Proposed AVA.......................        60.36        69.94        62.34        34.42        38.40        34.09        16.39        19.65        17.40
Blue Ridge Mountains (north).......        59.48        80.73        68.10        32.19        44.52        37.59        15.63        22.43        18.80

[[Page 86985]]

 
Blue Ridge Mountains (northeast)...        65.31        79.74        70.00        36.41        46.53        39.81        16.92        20.04        18.53
Hightower Ridges (east)............        61.86        68.96        64.97        34.07        38.86        36.29        17.10        18.30        17.52
Central Uplands (east).............        57.03        68.25        60.78        31.52        38.45        33.74        15.50        18.23        16.54
Hightower Ridges (southeast).......        56.81        62.66        59.59        31.06        34.61        32.46        15.70        17.35        16.65
Central Uplands (southeast)........        53.87        62.85        67.14        29.39        34.73        31.30        14.91        17.35        15.86
Southwestern Dahlonega Plateau             52.91        65.08        58.77        28.93        35.87        32.20        14.49        18.00        16.27
 (west)............................
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The data in the table shows that annual rainfall amounts within the 
proposed AVA are in the intermediate range. The regions to the north 
and east generally receive more rainfall annually than the proposed 
AVA, and the regions to the south and west generally receive less. The 
petition states that vineyard irrigation within the proposed AVA is 
seldom necessary because the average annual amount of rainfall within 
the proposed AVA is sufficient for the adequate hydration of 
grapevines.
    Finally, the petition states that the amount of rainfall a region 
receives during the winter months has an effect on viticulture. 
Excessive precipitation during the winter months can delay bud break 
and/or pruning in vineyards, which can lead to a late harvest and a 
higher probability of fruit remaining on the vine when damaging fall 
frosts occur. Delayed bud break is less likely within the proposed AVA 
than in the higher elevations to the north and east because the 
proposed AVA has lower winter rainfall amounts. However, the 
possibility of delayed bud break within the proposed AVA is higher than 
within the lower elevations of the regions to the south and west, 
because those regions typically receive less winter precipitation.
Summary of Distinguishing Features
    In summary, the evidence provided in the petition indicates that 
the viticulturally significant geographic features of the proposed 
Dahlonega Plateau AVA distinguish it from the surrounding regions in 
each direction. With respect to topography, the proposed AVA is 
characterized by broad, rounded hilltops, wide valleys, gentle slopes, 
and moderate elevations. By contrast, the regions to the north and 
northeast of the proposed AVA, within the Blue Ridge Mountains, feature 
high elevations and steep, rugged slopes. To the east and southeast of 
the proposed AVA, within the Hightower Ridges, the topography has a 
``washboard'' appearance, with high, steep ridges separated by narrow 
valleys. To the west and southwest of the proposed AVA, the topography 
is generally flatter and elevations are lower.
    Temperatures within the proposed Dahlonega Plateau are suitable for 
growing most V. vinifera varietals of grapes. The mean growing season 
length within the proposed AVA is longer than within the regions to the 
north and northeast and shorter than within the regions to the south 
and west. With respect to GDDs, the proposed AVA is classified in the 
intermediate Winkler Zones III and IV, with the majority of the 
proposed AVA classified as Zone IV. The regions to the north and 
northeast of the proposed AVA are primarily classified as Zone III and 
also contain areas classified as Zones I and II. The regions to the 
southeast and west have areas that are classified as the very warm Zone 
V.
    Finally, precipitation amounts within the proposed AVA provide 
sufficient hydration for grapevines, making irrigation seldom 
necessary. The regions to the north and east of the proposed AVA 
generally receive more rainfall, and regions to the south and west 
generally receive less.

TTB Determination

    TTB concludes that the petition to establish the Dahlonega Plateau 
viticultural area merits consideration and public comment, as invited 
in this notice of proposed rulemaking.

Boundary Description

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

Maps

    The petitioner provided the required maps, and they are listed 
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. For a wine to be labeled with an AVA name, at least 85 
percent of the wine must be derived from grapes grown within the area 
represented by that name, and the wine must meet the other conditions 
listed in Sec.  4.25(e)(3) of the TTB regulations (27 CFR 4.25(e)(3)). 
If the wine is not eligible for labeling with an AVA name and that name 
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 AVA name appears in another reference on the label in 
a misleading manner, the bottler would have to obtain approval of a new 
label. Different rules apply if a wine has a brand name containing an 
AVA name that was used as a brand name on a label approved before July 
7, 1986. See Sec.  4.39(i)(2) of the TTB regulations (27 CFR 
4.39(i)(2)) for details.
    If TTB establishes this proposed viticultural area, its name, 
``Dahlonega Plateau,'' will be recognized as a name of viticultural 
significance under Sec.  4.39(i)(3) of the TTB regulations (27 CFR 
4.39(i)(3)). The text of the proposed regulation clarifies this point. 
Consequently, wine bottlers using the name ``Dahlonega Plateau'' in a 
brand name, including a trademark, or in another label reference as to 
the origin of the wine, would have to ensure that the product is 
eligible to use the viticultural name as an appellation of origin if 
this proposed rule is adopted as a final rule. TTB is not proposing to 
designate the term ``Dahlonega,'' standing alone, as a term of 
viticultural significance if the AVA is established, in order to avoid 
potentially affecting a current label holder.

Public Participation

Comments Invited

    TTB invites comments from interested members of the public on 
whether it should establish the proposed viticultural area. TTB is also 
interested in receiving comments on the

[[Page 86986]]

sufficiency and accuracy of the name, boundary, soils, climate, and 
other required information submitted in support of the petition. Please 
provide any available specific information in support of your comments.
    Because of the potential impact of the establishment of the 
proposed Dahlonega Plateau AVA on wine labels that include the term 
``Dahlonega Plateau'' as discussed above under Impact on Current Wine 
Labels, TTB is 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 
anticipated negative economic impact that approval of the proposed 
viticultural area will have on an existing viticultural enterprise. TTB 
is also interested in receiving suggestions for ways to avoid 
conflicts, for example, by adopting a modified or different name for 
the viticultural area.

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 within Docket No. TTB-2016-
0012 on ``Regulations.gov,'' the Federal e-rulemaking portal, at http://www.regulations.gov. A direct link to that docket is available under 
Notice No. 166 on the TTB Web site at https://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 the ``Help'' tab.
     U.S. Mail: You may send comments via postal mail to the 
Director, Regulations and Rulings Division, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and 
Trade Bureau, 1310 G Street NW., Box 12, Washington, DC 20005.
     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 400, Washington, DC 20005.
    Please submit your comments by the closing date shown above in this 
notice. Your comments must reference Notice No. 166 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. TTB does not acknowledge receipt of comments, and TTB 
considers all comments as originals.
    In your comment, please clearly indicate if you are commenting on 
your own behalf or on behalf of an association, business, or other 
entity. If you are commenting on behalf of an entity, your comment must 
include the entity's name, as well as your name and position title. If 
you comment via Regulations.gov, please enter the entity's name in the 
``Organization'' blank of the online comment form. If you comment via 
postal mail or hand delivery/courier, 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

    TTB will post, and you may view, copies of this notice, selected 
supporting materials, and any online or mailed comments received about 
this proposal within Docket No. TTB-2016-0012 on the Federal e-
rulemaking portal, Regulations.gov, at http://www.regulations.gov. A 
direct link to that docket is available on the TTB Web site at https://www.ttb.gov/wine/wine-rulemaking.shtml under Notice No. 166. You may 
also reach the relevant docket through the Regulations.gov search page 
at http://www.regulations.gov. For information on how to use 
Regulations.gov, click on the site's ``Help'' tab.
    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 email addresses. TTB may omit voluminous 
attachments or material that the Bureau considers unsuitable for 
posting.
    You may also view copies of this notice, all related petitions, 
maps and other supporting materials, and any electronic or mailed 
comments that TTB receives about this proposal by appointment at the 
TTB Information Resource Center, 1310 G Street NW., Washington, DC 
20005. You may also obtain copies at 20 cents per 8.5- x 11-inch page. 
Please note that TTB is unable to provide copies of USGS maps or other 
similarly-sized documents that may be included as part of the AVA 
petition. Contact TTB's information specialist at the above address or 
by telephone at 202-453-2265 to schedule an appointment or to request 
copies of comments or other materials.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    TTB certifies 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

    It has been determined that this proposed rule is not a significant 
regulatory action as defined by Executive Order 12866 of September 30, 
1993. Therefore, no regulatory assessment is required.

Drafting Information

    Karen A. Thornton of the Regulations and Rulings Division drafted 
this proposed rule.

List of Subjects in 27 CFR Part 9

    Wine.

Proposed Regulatory Amendment

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

PART 9--AMERICAN VITICULTURAL AREAS

0
1. The authority citation for part 9 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  27 U.S.C. 205.

Subpart C--Approved American Viticultural Areas

0
2. Subpart C is amended by adding Sec.  9.__ to read as follows:


Sec.  9.__  Dahlonega Plateau.

    (a) Name. The name of the viticultural area described in this 
section is ``Dahlonega Plateau''. For purposes of part 4 of this 
chapter, ``Dahlonega Plateau'' is a term of viticultural significance.
    (b) Approved maps. The 9 United States Geological Survey (USGS) 
1:24,000 scale topographic maps used to determine the boundary of the 
Dahlonega Plateau viticultural area are titled:

[[Page 86987]]

    (1) Dawsonville, GA, 1997;
    (2) Campbell Mountain, GA, 2014;
    (3) Nimblewill, GA, 1997;
    (4) Noontootla, GA, 1988;
    (5) Suches, GA, 1988;
    (6) Neels Gap, GA, 1988;
    (7) Dahlonega, GA, 1951;
    (8) Cowrock, GA, 1988; and
    (9) Cleveland, GA, 1951; photorevised 1973; photoinspected 1981.
    (c) Boundary. The Dahlonega Plateau viticultural area is located in 
Lumpkin and White Counties, Georgia. The boundary of the Dahlonega 
Plateau viticultural area is as described below:
    (1) The beginning point is found on the Dawsonville map at the 
marked 1,412-foot elevation point at the intersection of an unnamed 
light-duty road known locally as Castleberry Bridge Road and an 
unimproved road known locally as McDuffie River Road.
    (2) From the beginning point, proceed north-northeast in a straight 
line approximately 0.89 mile to the marked 1,453-foot elevation point; 
then
    (3) Proceed northwest in a straight line approximately 1.94 miles, 
crossing onto the Campbell Mountain map, to the intersection of 
Arrendale Road and Windy Oaks Road; then
    (4) Proceed northwest in a straight line approximately 0.77 mile to 
the intersection of the 1,400-foot elevation contour and Dennson 
Branch; then
    (5) Proceed northwest in a straight line approximately 0.79 mile to 
the intersection of the 1,360-foot elevation contour and Mill Creek; 
then
    (6) Proceed northwest in a straight line approximately 0.48 mile to 
the intersection of the 1,500-foot elevation contour and Sheep Wallow 
Road; then
    (7) Proceed northwest in a straight line approximately 1.74 miles 
to the intersection of State Route 52 and the Chattahoochee National 
Forest boundary; then
    (8) Proceed northwest in a straight line approximately 1.89 miles, 
crossing onto the Nimblewill map and then crossing over the marked 
1,749-foot elevation point along an unnamed light-duty road known 
locally as Nimblewill Church Road, to the line's intersection with the 
1,800-foot elevation contour; then
    (9) Proceed generally east-northeast along the 1,800-foot elevation 
contour approximately 170.72 miles (straight-line distance between 
points is approximately 20.43 miles), crossing over the Noontootla, 
Suches, Neels Gap, and Dahlonega maps and onto the Cowrock map, to the 
intersection of the 1,800-foot elevation contour with Tom White Branch; 
then
    (10) Proceed southeast along Tom White Branch approximately 0.73 
mile to the 1,600-foot elevation contour; then
    (11) Proceed southeast in a straight line approximately 1.10 miles 
to the intersection of Cathey Creek and the secondary highway marked 
Alt. 75; then
    (12) Proceed southwest in a straight line approximately 3.77 miles, 
crossing onto the Cleveland map, to the intersection of two unnamed 
light-duty roads known locally as Dockery Road and Town Creek Road; 
then
    (13) Proceed south in a straight line approximately 0.58 mile to 
the marked 1,774-foot elevation point; then
    (14) Proceed southwest in a straight line approximately 0.60 mile 
to the 1,623-foot benchmark (BM); then
    (15) Proceed southwest in a straight line approximately 2.73 miles, 
crossing onto the Dahlonega map, to the 1,562-foot benchmark; then
    (16) Proceed southwest in a straight line approximately 3.46 miles 
to the marked 1,480-foot elevation point near the Mt. Sinai Church; 
then
    (17) Proceed southwest in a straight line approximately 2.13 miles 
to the summit of Crown Mountain; then
    (18) Proceed west in a straight line approximately 1.28 miles, 
crossing onto the Campbell Mountain map, to the intersection of the 
1,160-foot elevation contour and Cane Creek; then
    (19) Proceed southwest in a straight line approximately 1.61 miles 
to the intersection of the 1,300-foot elevation contour and Camp Creek; 
then
    (20) Proceed southwest in a straight line approximately 2.02 miles, 
crossing onto the Dawsonville map, to the intersection of the 1,200-
foot elevation contour with the Etowah River; then
    (21) Proceed southwest in a straight line approximately 1.29 miles 
to the beginning point.

     November 22, 2016.
John J. Manfreda,
Administrator.
[FR Doc. 2016-28839 Filed 12-1-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4810-31-P