[Federal Register Volume 83, Number 126 (Friday, June 29, 2018)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 30535-30538]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2018-14035]


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

DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY

Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau

27 CFR Part 9

[Docket No. TTB-2016-0012; T.D. TTB-151; Ref: Notice No. 166]
RIN 1513-AC33


Establishment of the Dahlonega Plateau Viticultural Area

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

ACTION: Final rule; Treasury decision.

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

SUMMARY: The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) establishes 
the approximately 133-square mile Dahlonega Plateau viticultural area 
in portions of Lumpkin and White counties in Georgia. The Dahlonega 
Plateau viticultural area is not located within any other 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.

DATES: This final rule is effective July 30, 2018.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dana Register, Regulations and Rulings 
Division, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, 1310 G Street NW, 
Box 12, Washington, DC 20005; phone 202-453-1039, ext. 022.

[[Page 30536]]


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 laws.
    Part 4 of the TTB regulations (27 CFR part 4) authorizes the 
establishment of definitive viticultural areas and regulates 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 
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 AVA 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 AVA 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 the Vineyard 
and Winery Operators of the Dahlonega Region of Northern Georgia. The 
petitioner is proposing the establishment of the ``Dahlonega Plateau'' 
AVA in portions of Lumpkin and White counties in Georgia.
    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 proposed Dahlonega Plateau AVA covers approximately 133 square 
miles and is not located within any other AVA. The petition notes that, 
at present, there are 7 wineries and 8 commercial vineyards covering a 
total of approximately 110 acres distributed throughout the proposed 
AVA. In the next few years, the proposed AVA would likely be expanded 
by an additional 12 acres of vineyards. 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 final rule comes 
from the petition for the proposed Dahlonega Plateau AVA and its 
supporting exhibits.

Topography

    According to the petition, the distinctive topography of the 
proposed AVA is due to the underlying geology, 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 an average 
elevation of approximately 1,554 feet above sea level. The resulting 
broad, rounded hilltops separated by wide valleys have moderate slope 
angles and adequate sunlight for the cultivation of vineyards.
    By contrast, the petition states that the topography of the regions 
surrounding the proposed AVA are less suitable for vineyards. The Blue 
Ridge Mountains and Hightower Ridges to the north, east, and southeast 
of the proposed AVA generally have higher elevations and narrow valleys 
that are often shadowed by the surrounding steep, high slopes. The 
steep, high slopes allow less light to reach any vineyard planted on 
the valley floors, when compared to vineyards planted in the proposed 
AVA. 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, the cool air draining from higher elevations eventually 
settles and pools and would increase the risk of frost damage in any 
vineyard planted there.

Climate

    The petition for the proposed Dahlonega Plateau AVA provided 
climate information including length of the growing season, growing 
degree day accumulations, and precipitation amounts from within the 
proposed AVA and the surrounding regions.

Length of Growing Season

    According to the petition, the proposed Dahlonega Plateau AVA has a 
mean growing season length of 195 days. Over 60 percent of the terrain

[[Page 30537]]

within the proposed AVA has a growing season length in the range of 190 
to 200 days. The petition cited a publication by the College of 
Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University in conjunction with 
the Institute for the Application of Geospatial Technology,\1\ which 
states that sites with growing seasons between 190 and 200 days are 
``not limited by growing season'' because most grape varietals will be 
able to ripen within 200 days, while sites with growing seasons shorter 
than 160 days are not recommended for vineyards because most grape 
varietals would not have time to ripen fully. Based on this guidance, 
the petition proposes that the 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.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ A.N. Lakso & T.E. Martinson, ``The Basics of Vineyard Site 
Evaluation and Selection'' (2014), available at http://arcserver2.iagt.org/vll/downloads/BasicSiteEvaluation-2015.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The petition also provided the growing season lengths for the areas 
surrounding the proposed AVA. The regions to the north and northeast 
each have a mean growing season of 164 days. Regions to the west and 
south, have growing seasons of 201 and 203 to 205 days, respectively. 
The proposed AVA has a higher percentage of terrain with a growing 
season length between 190 and 200 days than all surrounding areas 
except the Hightower Ridges to the east, where approximately 76 percent 
of the terrain is within this range of growing season lengths.

Growing Degree Days

    The petition noted 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 further stated 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.
    The petition presented growing degree days (GDD) data using the 
Winkler zone scale \2\ 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 data showed that 
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. The petition indicated, 
that regions classified as Zones III or IV, such as the proposed AVA, 
are suitable for growing a diverse range of late-ripening grape 
varietals.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \2\ A.J. Winkler et al., General Viticulture 60-71 (2nd. Ed. 
1974).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Precipitation

    According to the petition, the rising elevations of the proposed 
Dahlonega Plateau 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 in the proposed AVA. Annual rainfall 
amounts within the proposed AVA are approximately 62 inches per year 
and 17 inches during the winter months. The regions to the north and 
east generally receive more rainfall annually and during winter than 
the proposed AVA, and the regions to the south and west generally 
receive less. The petition stated that the proposed AVA receives 
adequate annual rainfall amounts, which make vineyard irrigation seldom 
necessary. Furthermore, the petition provides data collected from the 
proposed AVA and surrounding regions showing that the low winter 
rainfall amounts within the proposed AVA are relevant to viticulture 
because, when compared to the data from the surrounding regions, low 
levels of rain in winter in the proposed AVA reduce the possibility of 
a delayed bud break and subsequent later harvest.

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Comments Received

    TTB published Notice No. 166 in the Federal Register on December 2, 
2016 (81 FR 86980), proposing to establish the Dahlonega Plateau AVA. 
In the notice, TTB summarized the evidence from the petition regarding 
the name, boundary, and distinguishing features for the proposed AVA. 
The notice also compared the distinguishing features of the proposed 
AVA to the surrounding areas. For a detailed description of the 
evidence relating to the name, boundary, and distinguishing features of 
the proposed AVA, and for a detailed comparison of the distinguishing 
features of the proposed AVA to the surrounding areas, see Notice No. 
166 and the petition for the proposed AVA, which are posted in Docket 
No. TTB-2016-0012 at http://www.regulations.gov. In Notice No. 166, TTB 
solicited comments on whether it should establish the proposed 
viticultural area, and also asked for comments on the accuracy of the 
name, boundary, and other required information submitted in support of 
the petition. The comment period closed on January 31, 2017.
    In response to Notice No. 166, TTB received one comment, which 
supported the proposed AVA. The commenter stated that the Dahlonega 
plateau is a ``gorgeous mountain region'' that has ``unique wine-
growing characteristics'' that qualify it as an AVA.

TTB Determination

    After careful review of the petition and the comment received in 
response to Notice No. 166, TTB finds that the evidence provided by the 
petitioner supports the establishment of the Dahlonega Plateau AVA. 
Accordingly, under the authority of the FAA Act, section 1111(d) of the 
Homeland Security Act of 2002, and parts 4 and 9 of the TTB 
regulations, TTB establishes the ``Dahlonega Plateau'' AVA in Lumpkin 
and Whites counties of Georgia, effective 30 days from the publication 
date of this document.

Boundary Description

    See the narrative description of the boundary of the Dahlonega AVA 
in the regulatory text published at the end of this final rule.

Maps

    The petitioner provided the required maps, and they are listed 
below in the 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 or with a 
brand name that includes 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 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 27 CFR 4.39(i)(2) for details.

[[Page 30538]]

    With the establishment of this AVA, its name, ``Dahlonega 
Plateau,'' will be recognized as a name of viticultural significance 
under Sec.  4.39(i)(3) of the TTB regulations. The text of the 
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, will have to 
ensure that the product is eligible to use the AVA name as an 
appellation of origin. The establishment of the Dahlonega Plateau AVA 
will not affect any existing AVA. The establishment of the Dahlonega 
Plateau AVA will allow vintners to use ``Dahlonega Plateau'' as an 
appellation of origin for wines made primarily from grapes grown within 
the Dahlonega Plateau AVA if the wines meet the eligibility 
requirements for the appellation.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    TTB certifies that this regulation will not have a significant 
economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The 
regulation imposes no new reporting, recordkeeping, or other 
administrative requirement. Any benefit derived from the use of an AVA 
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 final 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

    Dana Register of the Regulations and Rulings Division drafted this 
final rule.

List of Subjects in 27 CFR Part 9

    Wine.

The Regulatory Amendment

    For the reasons discussed in the preamble, TTB amends 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.  9.263 to read as follows:


Sec.  9.263  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:
    (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; photo revised 1973; photo inspected 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 into 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; then
    (15) Proceed southwest in a straight line approximately 2.73 miles, 
crossing into 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 into 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.

    Signed: March 6, 2018.
John J. Manfreda,
Administrator.
    Approved: June 25, 2018.
Timothy E. Skud,
Deputy Assistant Secretary (Tax, Trade, and Tariff Policy).
[FR Doc. 2018-14035 Filed 6-28-18; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4810-31-P