ATF

Sample Block


Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

[Federal Register: September 11, 1998 (Volume 63, Number 176)]

[Proposed Rules]

[Page 48658-48661]

From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

[DOCID:fr11se98-32]

 

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DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY

 

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms

 

27 CFR Part 9

 

[Notice No. 866]

RIN 1512-AA07

 

 

Proposal To Establish a Santa Rita Hills Viticultural Area (98R-

129 P)

 

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

Treasury.

 

ACTION: Notice of proposed rulemaking.

 

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SUMMARY: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) has received

a petition proposing the establishment of a viticultural area located

in Santa Barbara County, California, to be known as ``Santa Rita

Hills.'' The proposed area occupies more than 48 square miles. The

proposal constitutes a petition from viticulturists and vintners of the

proposed area under the direction of J. Richard Sanford (Sanford

Winery), Bryan Babcock (Babcock Vineyards and Winery), and Wesley D.

Hagen (Vineyard Manager of Clos Pepe Vineyards).

 

DATES: Written comments must be received by December 10, 1998.

 

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to: Chief, Regulations Division,

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, P.O. Box 50221, Washington, DC

20091-0221 (Attn: Notice No. 866). Copies of the petition, the proposed

regulation, the appropriate maps, and written comments received will be

available for public inspection during normal business hours at: ATF

Public Reading Room, Office of Public Affairs and Disclosure, Room

6480, 650 Massachusetts Avenue, NW., Washington, DC.

 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Marsha D. Baker, Regulations Division,

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, 650 Massachusetts Avenue, NW.,

Washington, DC. 20226 (202) 927-8230.

 

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 definitive 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.

 

[[Page 48659]]

 

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,

CFR, defines an American Viticultural Area (AVA) as a delimited grape-

growing region distinguishable by geographical features, the boundaries

of which have been recognized and defined in subpart C of part 9.

Section 4.25a(e)(2) outlines the procedure for proposing an AVA. 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 (or copies) of the appropriate U.S.G.S. map(s) with the

boundaries prominently marked.

 

Petition

 

ATF received a petition from J. Richard Sanford (Sanford Winery)

which was drafted by Wesley D. Hagen (Vineyard Manager of Clos Pepe

Vineyards), on behalf of viticulturists and vintners working in Santa

Barbara County, California. The petition proposes to establish a

viticultural area surrounded by but separate from the Western Santa

Ynez Valley AVA of California to be known as ``Santa Rita Hills.''

According to the petitioner, the proposed boundary encloses an

estimated area slightly greater than forty-eight (48) square miles and

contains approximately 500 acres of planted varietal winegrapes. The

petition also states that currently two (2) wineries and seventeen (17)

vineyards exist within the proposed Santa Rita Hills area. Two

additional vineyards are in the works.

 

Evidence of Name

 

The petitioner provided evidence that the name ``Santa Rita'' is

locally known as referring to the area specified in the petition. In

the exhibits and maps furnished with the petition, there are numerous

references to the area.

The Land Records of Santa Barbara County from the U.S.G.S.

furnished by the petitioner show the Santa Rita area dating back to

1845. According to this information, Santa Rita was established as a

recognized political and geographical region when a land grant for

Santa Rita was made to Jose Ramon Malo from Spanish governor Pio Pico

on April 12, 1845. The title was accredited to Jose Ramon Malo on June

25, 1875 by President Ulysses S. Grant as confirmed in the U.S. Patent

Book ``A.'' (Pertinent pages are shown as exhibits to the petition.)

The patent issued included 13,316 acres within the boundary of the

Santa Rita Land Grant.

Evidence submitted with the petition to support the use of the name

``Santa Rita Hills'' as an AVA includes:

(a) The U.S.G.S. Lompoc, Lompoc Hills, Los Alamos, and Santa Rosa.

Hills Quadrangle maps used to show the boundaries of the proposed area

use the name ``Santa Rita Hills'' to identify the area.

(b) The U.S.G.S. Water-Resources Investigations Report 970-4056

(Evaluation of Ground Water Flow and Solute Transport in the Lompoc

Area, Santa Barbara County, California) discusses the ``Santa Rita

Upland Basin.'' The report indicates that ``Santa Rita'' is a

recognized geological, geographical, and hydrological appellation in

Santa Barbara County, California.

(c) An excerpt, ``From the Missions to Prohibition'', in the

publication Aged in Oak: The Story of the Santa Barbara County Wine

Industry (1998), provided by the petitioner shows the vineyards and

wineries in Santa Barbara County prior to 1900 to include the name

``Santa Rita.''

(d) The text provided by the petitioner from History of Santa

Barbara County (1939) states, ``Following the secularization of the

Mission La Purisima, the rest of the valley was broken up into seven

great ranchos granted to private owners. They were Santa Rosa, Santa

Rita, Salsipuedes, La Purisima, Mission Vieja, Lompoc and a portion of

the Jesus Maria.'' (Italics added for emphasis.)

 

Evidence of Boundaries

 

Per the submission of the petitioner, the proposed ``Santa Rita

Hills'' AVA is located in Northern Santa Barbara County, California,

east of Lompoc (U.S. Highway 1) and west of Buellton (U.S. Highway

101). The petitioner stated that a committee of viticulturists,

consultants and vintners with formal geological, geographic and

agricultural education selected specific hilltops in the Purisima Hills

to the north and the Santa Rosa Hills to the south which isolate the

area to serve as the boundaries.

Precise boundaries can be found on the five (5) U.S.G.S. Quadrangle

maps (7.5 minute series originally dated 1959) submitted with the

petition. On these maps, the Santa Rita Hills are the dominant central

feature of the proposed AVA with its transverse (east/west) maritime

throat stretching from Lompoc to a few miles west of the Buellton

Flats. The Santa Rosa Hills to the south and the Purisima Hills to the

north isolate the proposed area geographically and climatically.

Again, the U.S.G.S. Water-Resources Investigations Report 970-4056

describes the Santa Rita Upland Basin as being ``in hydrologic

continuity with the Lompoc Plain, Lompoc Upland and Buellton Upland

basins, but separated from the Santa Ynez River alluvium by non-water-

bearing rocks.'' It goes on to state, ``[a]n ongoing U.S.G.S. study

treats the Santa Rita Valley as a separate unit * * *'' and ``* * * the

eastern surface drainage divide between Santa Rita and Lompoc basins

was used as a ground-water divide by the U.S.G.S.''

 

Climate

 

According to the petitioner, the climatic features of the proposed

viticultural area and thus the varietals grown therein, set it apart

from the Santa Ynez Valley AVA, which borders the proposed area.

According to the petitioner, the Santa Ynez Valley area east of U.S.

Highway 101 is characterized by higher temperatures than the proposed

``Santa Rita Hills'' AVA to the west, which has a cool climate and is

thus more conducive to growing ``Region One'' cool-climate winegrape

varietals. By contrast, the eastern area of the Santa Ynez Valley, a

``Region Two'' growing area, provides a warmer climate and is well

known for the production of varietal winegrapes such as Cabernet

Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Mourvedre, and

other varietals that require a significantly higher temperature (degree

days) for adequate ripening. The proposed ``Santa Rita Hills'' AVA to

the west of U.S. Highway 101 is better known for varietals such as

Chardonnay and Pinot Noir which are the predominant winegrapes there.

The petitioner states, ``It is much more difficult to gain a balance of

high ripeness to strong acid content in cool-climate varietals grown in

the eastern Santa Ynez Valley * * * the proposed Santa Rita Hills AVA

will correctly identify and distinguish a unique cool-

 

[[Page 48660]]

 

climate wine production area of Santa Barbara County, California.''

In a 1991 article from Expansion and Experimentation submitted by

the petitioner to substantiate this claim, viticulturist Jeff Newton

states, ``The best Chardonnays and Pinots come from the cooler areas

west of U.S. [Highway] 101 closer to the sea, and the best Sauvignon

Blanc and reds like Cabernet come from the warmer region to the east.''

The petitioner also submitted other articles highlighting the area's

notoriety for producing ``top-rated'' Chardonnays and ``sumptuous''

Pinot Noirs and proclaiming it to be ``probably the greatest grape-

growing area anywhere in the United States, particularly when it comes

to great Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.''

In addition, the petitioner provided copies of a comparative study

of the University of California weather station records, records of the

National Weather Service, the Western Regional Climate Center, the

National Climatic Data Center, and those of the CIRUS Weather Station

system accessed in Santa Ynez and Cachuma Lake (which is located within

the eastern boundary of the Santa Ynez Valley AVA). The petitioner

states that, according to this study, ambient temperature and

evapotranspiration rates during veraison and ripening are disparate for

two adjacent viticultural locales. The petitioner's analysis of the

study indicates that the average post-veraison ripening temperature is

14.7 deg.F hotter within the Santa Ynez Valley AVA than in the proposed

``Santa Rita Hills'' AVA to the west. Similarly, the petitioner

estimates the heating degree day differential (with the base of

50 deg.F) between the two areas to be 61 heat degree days, indicating

an annual 92 heating degree days in the western Lompoc boundary and an

annual 153 heating degree days in the eastern Cachuma Lake boundary.

These temperature differences, according to the petitioner, are the

result of a unique set of topographical, geological and climatic

influences, particularly coastal in origin. According to the

petitioner, the proposed ``Santa Rita Hills'' AVA is situated within

the clearly defined east/west transverse maritime throat, and thus is

susceptible to the ocean's cooling influence. This enables diurnal

ocean breezes direct access to the coastal valleys between the Purisima

Hills and the Santa Rosa Hills, which house the proposed AVA. The

petitioner goes on to state that this coastal influence is not nearly

as pronounced in the Santa Ynez Valley east of U.S. Highway 101 and the

Buellton Flats. In addition, the petitioner asserts that the proximity

of the proposed AVA to the coastal fog from the Pacific Ocean fills the

hills and valleys of the proposed ``Santa Rita Hills'' AVA in the late

night and early morning hours. This intensifies the cool-climate

influence on varietal winegrape production between the geological

boundaries of the Purisima Hills and the Santa Rosa Hills.

 

Soil

 

The petitioner states that the soils of the Santa Rita Hills are

broken down from an array of geological parent material, with the most

common types being loams, sandy loams, silt loams, and clay loams.

These soils are based on large percentages of dune sand, marine

deposits, recent alluvium, riverwash, and terrace deposits, which are

shown on maps provided in the exhibits of the petition. According to

the petitioner, soil samples collected from selected sites within the

proposed ``Santa Rita Hills'' AVA and the adjacent Santa Ynez Valley

AVA show a distinct difference resulting from a high percentage of

alluvial and marine sand within the proposed area. While the soil

samples from the proposed ``Santa Rita Hills'' AVA show higher

percentages of sand, silt and sandy loams, the soil samples from the

eastern Santa Ynez Valley show a higher percentage of gravelly and clay

loams, according to the petitioner.

The petitioner also included soil analysis test results from

several vineyards in the proposed ``Santa Rita Hills'' AVA conducted by

various labs in the area to support the distinct soil data claims.

 

Topography

 

The topography of the proposed ``Santa Rita Hills'' AVA is distinct

and isolated from the rest of the Pacific Coast, the Central Coast, and

the Santa Ynez Valley east of U.S. Highway 101 and the Buellton Flats,

according to the petitioner. The proposed AVA is demarcated by the

east-west ranges of the Purisima Hills on the north and the Santa Rosa

Hills on the south, framing Santa Rita Hills. When surveying the land

within the proposed boundaries to determine what locales would be the

outer ``edges,'' the petitioner states the following was taken into

account: viticultural viability (primarily hillside and alluvial basin

plantings) and the coastal influence suitable for cool-climate still

winegrape production. The petitioner goes on to state that ``The actual

topography of the proposed Santa Rita Hills AVA is an oak studded,

hill-laden maritime throat that runs east to west, a few miles east of

Lompoc to a few miles west of Buellton Flats. The coastal influence

enters from the west, through Lompoc, and abruptly loses its influence

at the proposed eastern boundary as demarcated on the enclosed U.S.G.S.

maps. Elevations within the proposed boundary range from near sea-level

to ridge-line 1800 feet above sea level.''

 

Proposed Boundary

 

The boundary of the proposed ``Santa Rita Hills'' AVA may be found

on the five (5>


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