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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

[Federal Register: April 7, 1998 (Volume 63, Number 66)]
[Rules and Regulations]               
[Page 16902-16905]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access []



Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms

27 CFR Part 9

[T.D. ATF-397; RE: Notice No. 854]
RIN 1512-AA07

Establishment of the Yorkville Highlands Viticultural Area and 
Realignment of the Southern Boundary of the Mendocino Viticultural Area 

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

ACTION: Final rule, Treasury decision.


SUMMARY: This final rule establishes a viticultural area located in 
Mendocino County, California, to be known as ``Yorkville Highlands,'' 
and extends the southern boundary of the Mendocino Viticultural Area to 
coincide with the boundary of Yorkville Highlands. These actions are 
the result of a petition filed by Mr. William J.A. Weir for the 
Yorkville Highlands Appellation Committee and a related petition filed 
by Ms. Bernadette A. Byrne, Executive Director of the Mendocino 
Winegrowers Alliance.
    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.

EFFECTIVE DATE: June 8, 1998.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Marjorie D. Ruhf, Regulations Branch, 
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, 650 Massachusetts Avenue, NW., 
Washington, DC 20226 (202-927-8230).



    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 
    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 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.


    ATF received a petition from Mr. William J.A. Weir of Weir 
Vineyards for the Yorkville Highlands Appellation Committee 
(``Yorkville Highlands petition''). The petition was signed by Mr. 
Larry W. Martz of Martz Vineyards, Inc., Mr. Frank Souzao of Souzao 
Cellars, Mr. Michael J. Page, of Mountain House Vineyard, Mr. Robert A. 
Vidmar of Vidmar Vineyard, and Mr. Edward D. Wallo, of Yorkville 
Vineyards. The petitioners represent both wineries and growers within 
the area. The area includes historic vineyards dating from 1914 as well 
as newly established vineyards. ATF also received a related petition 
from Ms. Bernadette A. Byrne, Executive Director of the Mendocino 
Winegrowers Alliance (``Mendocino petition''), requesting that the 
southern boundary of the previously approved Mendocino Viticultural 
Area be extended to coincide with the requested southern boundary in 
the Yorkville Highlands petition. The Mendocino Viticultural Area was 
established pursuant to T.D. ATF-178 on June 15, 1984 (49 FR 24711). 
The Mendocino petition incorporated the Yorkville Highlands petition by 
reference and stated that the proposed Yorkville Highlands southern 
boundary was appropriate for the Mendocino viticultural area as well.
    These two proposals result in the Yorkville Highlands area being 
entirely within the Mendocino area. Both areas are entirely within 
Mendocino County, California. The Yorkville Highlands area consists of 
approximately 40,000 acres, of which approximately 70 are devoted to 
viticulture. There are seven growers and two wine producers within the 
area now, with two new growers planning vineyards and some existing 
growers planning to plant more vineyards. The expansion of the 
Mendocino viticultural area adds approximately 10,000 acres to that 

[[Page 16903]]

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

    In response to Mr. Weir's and Ms. Byrne's petition, ATF published a 
notice of proposed rulemaking, Notice No. 854, in the Federal Register 
on July 25, 1997 (62 FR 39984), proposing the establishment of the 
Yorkville Highlands viticultural area and the extension of the southern 
boundary of the Mendocino viticultural area. The notice requested 
comments from all interested persons by September 23, 1997. ATF 
received no comments concerning these proposals.

Evidence of Name

    The Yorkville Highlands petitioners supplied the following evidence 
that the name of the proposed new area is locally and/or nationally 
known as referring to the area specified in the petition:
    (a) A brochure published by the Mendocino Winegrowers Alliance 
entitled ``Mendocino. Real Farmers, Real Wine. On California's Redwood 
Coast'' which lists ``Yorkville Highlands'' among the County's wine 
growing areas. In the brochure, the area is described as extending 
northwest from the Mendocino--Sonoma County border along Route 128, a 
description which fits the area proposed for designation.
    (b) A map of ``Mendocino Wine Country'' published in ``Steppin'' 
Out, California's Wine Country Magazine,'' volume XIII, issue 27, which 
includes the ``Yorkville Highlands'' area. Again, the area outlined on 
the map coincides with the boundaries requested by the petitioner.

Evidence of Boundaries

    The Yorkville Highlands area is defined primarily by reference to 
the Sonoma--Mendocino county line and by straight lines drawn between 
benchmarks, mountain peaks, and other features found on the U.S.G.S. 
    The area is within the North Coast viticultural area. It is also 
entirely within the Mendocino viticultural area which is expanded by 
this final rule. The Yorkville Highlands area is bounded on the 
northwest by the Anderson Valley viticultural area, and surrounded by 
other viticultural areas less than five miles away. McDowell Valley 
lies to the northeast, Alexander Valley and Northern Sonoma lie to the 
southeast and south, and the newly established Mendocino Ridge 
viticultural area lies to the southwest.

Geographical Features

    The Yorkville Highlands area, including the area added herein to 
the previously approved Mendocino viticultural area, shares 
characteristics of topography, soil composition and climate which 
distinguish the viticultural area from the surrounding areas. For an 
overview of the geographical features which set the area apart, Mr. 
Mark Welch, President of the Mendocino County Farm Bureau, Mr. Glenn 
McGourty, Viticultural Farm Advisor & County Director, University of 
California Cooperative Extension, and Mr. Steve Williams, of A.V.V.S. 
wrote letters describing the area.
    Mr. Welch stated that he believes the viticultural area reflects a 
unique and outstanding grape growing locale. He went on to say:

    The soils of the area are different from adjacent, recognized 
districts like the Anderson Valley, and the distinct micro climate 
offers warmer days, cool afternoon breezes and a substantial growing 
season for a low to mid region II.

    Similarly, Mr. McGourty stated that the soils and climate of the 
viticultural area are ``significantly different from surrounding grape 
growing areas, being high elevation and in an area where the coastal 
Douglas Fir forests meet the oak woodland forests more typical of 
interior Mendocino County.''
    Mr. Williams stated he has been building and managing vineyards in 
the area for more than ten years. He notes that the Yorkville Highlands 
viticultural area is different viticulturally from both the Anderson 
Valley viticultural area and the Hopland area of the Mendocino 
viticultural area. He gave the following details:

    The climate of the * * * area has days warmer than Anderson 
Valley but cooler than Hopland. The nights are cooler than both 
Anderson Valley and Hopland. This means many grape varieties can be 
grown in this area but will have a long ripening period which will 
greatly enhance fruit flavors and quality.
    In regards to soil the area also differs from [Anderson Valley] 
or Hopland. The * * * soils are thinner then [sic] Hopland but more 
fertile and varied than [Anderson Valley].
    The following evidence was considered in establishing this area:


    The Yorkville Highlands viticultural area lies generally along the 
headwaters of Dry Creek and Rancheria Creek. The vineyards in the 
Yorkville Highlands viticultural area are almost entirely above 800 
feet in elevation. The area is ``a continuous string of high benches 
and land troughs bordered by even higher ridges with Highway 128 
running down the middle.'' The U.S.G.S. topographic maps show the area 
is a valley, with Highway 128 and the Rancheria and Dry Creeks running 
along the northwest-southeast axis. This center line of the area is the 
lowest part, at approximately 800 feet, and the highest, in the area 
near the northern boundary, is over 3,000 feet.


    The soils in the Yorkville Highlands viticultural area are rocky 
hill soils characterized by gravel and old brittle rock. These 
generally thin soils found on the high benches and land troughs of the 
proposed area stand in stark contrast to the generally very loamy clay 
soils found in the valleys and bottom lands dominating the neighboring 
approved viticultural areas. Soil types mapped by the U.S. Soil 
Conservation Service include: Bearwallow, Hellman, Cole Loam, Henneke, 
Montara, Hopland Loam, Squawrock, Witherell, Yorkville and Boontling. 
Only one or two of these soil types are found in common with a 
neighboring viticultural area.


    The climate in the Yorkville Highlands viticultural area is 
influenced by marine air well over 50 percent of the time. The 
petitioner described the climate as follows: ``Almost every morning 
during the growing season, the moist marine fog is found on the high 
bench lands and land troughs which comprise the proposed viticulture 
area and connect the cooler Anderson Valley with the much warmer 
Alexander Valley. The trees on these bench lands are draped with the 
moss from this ocean air invasion and cooler climatic condition.''
    Unofficial heat summation data collected at the Weir Vineyards 
within the area reflects a four year average of 3,060, compared to 
approximately 2,500 in Boonville and Philo to the northwest of the 
viticultural area and 3,650 reported by the University of California 
Agricultural Extension Service in Cloverdale, to the southeast.
    Average annual rainfall within the Yorkville Highlands area from 
1961 through 1990, as measured by the Department of Water Resources, 
Eureka Flood Center at the Yorkville Station, was 50.55 inches. The 
Anderson Valley, to the northwest, receives an average of only 40.7 
inches of rain per year.

Revised Mendocino Boundary

    ATF is also revising the southern boundary of the Mendocino 
viticultural area, as proposed by both the Mendocino Winegrowers 
Alliance and the Yorkville Highlands petitioners. Prior to this 
revision, the southern boundary of Mendocino ran through the middle of 
the Yorkville Highlands area, leaving a large triangular portion of the

[[Page 16904]]

new area outside of Mendocino while the remainder of the new area was 
within Mendocino.
    Mr. Bruce E. Bearden, Farm Advisor, Emeritus, University of 
California Cooperative Exchange, stated that the original Mendocino 
viticultural area boundary arbitrarily excludes some of the regions 
naturally associated with existing vineyards. Mr. Bearden further 
states that the revised boundary would reunite the related soils and 
climates of the area.


    The revised boundary of the Mendocino viticultural area is 
described in amended Sec. 9.93. In addition, there is a typographical 
error in 27 CFR 9.93(c)(11), which we corrected as part of this 
    The boundary of the Yorkville Highlands viticultural area may be 
found on six United States Geological Survey (U.S.G.S.) maps with a 
scale of 1:24000. The boundary is described in Sec. 9.159.


    ATF does not wish to give the impression by approving the Yorkville 
Highlands viticultural area or by approving the amended boundary of the 
Mendocino viticultural area that it is approving or endorsing the 
quality of wine from these area. ATF is approving the areas as being 
distinct from surrounding areas, not better than other areas. By 
approving these areas, ATF will allow wine producers to claim a 
distinction on labels and advertisements as to origin of the grapes. 
Any commercial advantage gained can only come from consumer acceptance 
of wines from Yorkville Highlands or Mendocino.

Executive Order 12866

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

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    It is hereby certified that this regulation will not have a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. 
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 a particular area. No new recordkeeping or reporting requirements 
are imposed. Accordingly, a regulatory flexibility analysis is not 

Paperwork Reduction Act

    The provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 
3507) and its implementing regulations, 5 CFR Part 1320, do not apply 
to this final rule because no requirement to collect information is 
    Drafting Information. The principal author of this document is 
Marjorie D. Ruhf, Regulations Branch, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and 

List of Subjects in 27 CFR Part 9

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

Authority and Issuance

    Title 27, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 9, American 
Viticultural Areas, is amended as follows:


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

    Authority: 27 U.S.C. 205.

    Par. 2. Section 9.93 is amended by revising paragraph (c)(11), by 
removing paragraphs (c)(17) and (c)(18), and by adding new paragraph 
(c)(17), (c)(18) and (c)(19) to read as follows:

Sec. 9.93  Mendocino.

* * * * *
    (c) Boundaries.  * * *
    (11) Thence in a straight line in a northwest direction to the 
junction of Baily Gulch and the South Branch, North Fork of the Navarro 
River, located in Section 8, T.15N., R.15W.;
* * * *
    (17) Thence continuing in a straight line in a southerly direction 
to the southwest corner of Section 5, T. 12 N., R. 13 W., and the 
Mendocino County/Sonoma County line;
    (18) Thence continuing in a straight line in a southeasterly 
direction to the intersection of the southwest corner of Section 32, T. 
12 N., R. 11 W., and the Mendocino County/Sonoma County line;
    (19) Thence following the Mendocino County/Sonoma County line in an 
easterly, northerly, and then an easterly direction to the beginning 
    Par. 3. A new Sec. 9.159 is added to subpart C to read as follows:

Sec. 9.159  Yorkville Highlands.

    (a) Name. The name of the viticultural area described in this 
section is ``Yorkville Highlands.''
    (b) Approved maps. The appropriate maps for determining the 
boundary of the Yorkville Highlands viticultural area are the following 
six U.S.G.S. topographical maps (7.5 minute series, 1:24000 scale):
    (1) ``Gube Mountain, Calif.,'' provisional edition 1991.
    (2) ``Big Foot Mountain, Calif.,'' provisional edition 1991.
    (3) ``Cloverdale, Calif.,'' 1960, photoinspected 1975.
    (4) ``Ornbaun Valley Quadrangle, Calif.,'' provisional edition, 
    (5) ``Yorkville, Calif.,'' provisional edition, 1991.
    (6) ``Hopland, Calif.,'' 1960, photoinspected 1975.
    (c) Boundary. The Yorkville Highlands viticultural area is located 
in Mendocino County, California. The boundary is as follows:
    (1) The beginning point is Benchmark 680, located in Section 30, T. 
12 N., R. 13 W., on the Ornbaum Valley quadrangle map;
    (2) From the beginning point, the boundary proceeds in a straight 
line in a northeasterly direction to a point intersecting the North 
Fork of Robinson Creek and the Section 20, T. 13 N., R. 13 W.;
    (3) The boundary then proceeds in a straight line in a 
southeasterly direction to the summit of Sanel Mountain, located at the 
southeast corner of Section 30, T. 13 N., R. 12 W., on the Yorkville 
quadrangle map;
    (4) The boundary then proceeds in a straight line in a 
southeasterly direction until it reaches the southeast corner of 
Section 15, T. 12 N., R 11 W., on the Hopland quadrangle map;
    (5) The boundary then proceeds south, following the eastern 
boundaries of Sections 22 and 27, T. 12 N., R 11 W., until it reaches 
the Mendocino-Sonoma County line on the Cloverdale quadrangle map;
    (6) The boundary then follows the Mendocino-Sonoma county line 
west, south and west until it reaches the southwest corner of Section 
32, T. 12 N., R. 11 W.;
    (7) The boundary then diverges from the county line and proceeds in 
a northwesterly direction, traversing the Big Foot Mountain quadrangle 
map, until it reaches the southwest corner of Section 5, T. 12 N., R. 
13 W. on the Ornbaun Valley quadrangle map;
    (8) The boundary proceeds in a straight line in a northerly 
direction until it reaches the beginning point at Benchmark 680.

[[Page 16905]]

    Dated: January 28, 1998.
John W. Magaw,

    Approved: March 13, 1998.
John P. Simpson,
Deputy Assistant Secretary (Regulatory, Tariff and Trade Enforcement).
[FR Doc. 98-8990 Filed 4-6-98; 8:45 am]