Barbera goes Solo in new Nizza DOCG

Nizza map via:

Nizza map via:

Today we have a guest post from Mark Rashap, CWE…

It’s time for Nizza Barbera to take its rightful place in center stage!

Effective as of the 2014 harvest, the consortium that oversees wine laws for Asti and the Monferrato Hills in Piedmont promoted Nizza Monferrato and 18 surrounding villages (comuni) from a mere subzone of the Barbera d’Asti DOCG to a DOCG of their own: the autonomous Nizza DOCG.  This promotion deserves particular attention from the wine community because it highlights the evolution of many European wine appellations, as well as Italy’s insistence to snub its nose at the EU’s DOP.

The most obvious marker of the Nizza DOCG is that all the grapes must be grown within a delineated geographic zone, which was already established, along with Tinella and Colli Astiani, as a subzone of Barbera d’Asti DOCG Superiore    The new DOCG gets a bit particular, however, as every vineyard destined for the Nizza DOCG must be registered with the Consortium and tout particular soils and exposures.  Vines must be entirely estate, planted on the slopes of hills facing south-east to south-west. The required density is at least 4,000 vines per hectare, and harvest must be done entirely by hand.   This limits the total vineyard acreage of the DOCG to 250 ha (620 acres) – roughly the total area of Chateau Margaux.

In the winery, there are additional controls in place to ensure quality and to differentiate the Nizza DOCG from the greater Barbera d’Asti DOCG.  Perhaps most importantly, Nizza must be 100% Barbera compared to the 90% for Barbera d’Asti.  Yields are capped at 3.1 tons per acre, and there is a minimum ageing of 18 months (6 in barrel) before the wine is released to market.  Finally, there is an organoleptic and laboratory analysis to make sure the finished wine has met the standards put forth by the Consortium. An interesting facet of this analysis that the minimum requirement of 26 g/L “dry extract.”



If you don’t place importance on minutiae, then the take-home is that Piedmont is dedicated to making some serious Barbera. Furthermore, it adds to the modern trend that “controlled” regions in Europe are tightening their quality standards, and promoting sub-regions to higher categories when – perhaps – their neighbors have suffered from over-production or unscrupulous producers.  Other examples of this trend include Chianti Classico’s addition of the Gran Selezione category of quality, and the breakup of the Coteaux de Languedoc into individual AOC’s (blog post to come).

In the case of Nizza, if the year or producer’s bounty is not up to par, then the wine can be de-classified to Barbera d’Asti DOCG, Monferrato Rosso DOC, Piemonte Barbera DOC, or Piemonte Rosso DOC, thus allowing the image of Nizza to stay intact.

We also must be amused by Italy’s complete rejection of the EU’s Denominazione di Origene Protetta terminology because there is no means of distinguishing between the DOC and DOCG tiers.  As we know, with the re-organization of the EU’s agricultural standards, it was left open for individual producer-countries the two systems of nomenclature. Italy was thus allowed to continue to apply for new DOCGs – as is apparent with Nizza – the newest, and the 74th.  Perhaps…Tinella and Colli Astiani will be next?

For more information:

2015 SWE Scholarship Winners!

Congratulations to the 2015 Winners of the Society of Wine Educators’ scholarship for hospitality students!   

These six deserving culinary/hospitality students will receive the opportunity to take the CSW exam (and in one case, the CSS as well) and be provided with the following benefits:  A one-year membership to SWE, The CSW Study Guide, the CSW Workbook, one year of access to the online Wine Academy, the opportunity to take our online prep class, and the opportunity to take the CSW/CSS Certification Exam.

Dana Bergen Pic2Dana Bergen of the University of South Carolina (Nominated by Sandy Strick): During a twelve year accounting career, Dana utilized the hospitality industry as her creative outlet by leading several planning committees for company social functions, moonlighting with a catering company, and even owning her own personal chef business. When her husband was transferred from Atlanta, Georgia to Columbia, South Carolina, she took the opportunity to change careers by studying for a master’s degree in International Hospitality and Tourism Management from the University of South Carolina.  Dr. Sandy Strick, her wine professor and mentor, inspired her to explore the world of wine in many ways.  As a part of her academic wine education, she achieved Introductory Sommelier, and participated in the 2012 Banfi Scholastic Wine Tour in Tuscany, Italy. Dana feels honored to be one of the lucky recipients of the 2015 CSW Scholarship and wants to express her gratitude to all who continue to inspire her.



Mariah (Ellie) Skinner of the University of South Carolina (Nominated by Sandy Strick): Ellie Skinner was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. She is currently a senior at the University of South Carolina and will be graduating in August 2015 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality Management. In the fall of 2013, Ellie took a specialty course covering the wines of Napa Valley. This class sparked her interest, and led her to enroll in two more wine courses; including the “Specialty in Sonoma Wines” and the “Advanced Wine Course.” This summer, Ellie is interning at Wente Vineyards in Livermore, California. She looks forward to beginning her studies for the Certified Specialist of Wine Exam, and learning about the business side of the wine industry during her internship with Wente.


DanaHeadshotDana Warnecke of Purdue University (Nominated by Richard Ghiselli): Dana Warnecke is currently a senior in the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Purdue University. Post-graduation, she plans on further developing her knowledge of the hospitality industry through participating in a hotel management training program.  She is most passionate about traveling, food & beverage operations, and event anagement. Dana is very excited to build her wine industry knowledge and looks forward to learning how the world of wine impacts the hospitality industry as a whole.


MOrganMorgan Charde of the University of Delaware (Nominated by Robert Nelson): Morgan Charde is a 2015 graduate of the University of Delaware’s Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management department. Upon taking Dr. Robert Nelson’s Beverage Management class, she found a passion for  wine studies. She has spent the past year working to teach a Wine Seminar Series and lead an Educational Wine Dinner at the University’s student-run restaurant. Morgan  has also spent time traveling to different vineyards around the country and over the summer visited Italian vineyards with the Banfi Vintners Scholarship Trip. This August she will be attending the Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone Campus in Napa in pursuit of a certificate in Wine and Beverage Studies. Outside of her wine studies, she enjoys the culinary arts, watching “Law and Order,” and spending time with her family and dog in her hometown of Syracuse, New York.

Alexandrea 1Alexandrea Innes of Johnson & Wales University (Nominated by Ed Korry): Alexandrea Innes is finishing up her academic career at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island where she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Culinary Arts and Food Service Management as well as the Sommelier minor. Alexandrea is currently working in the Tasting Room at Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyards as well as at Bottles Fine Wine in Providence. This year, she received the Kopf Student Achievement award and will be going on a trip sponsored by Kobrand to wineries in California, France, and Italy. Alexandrea would like to express her gratitude for the many opportunities that have opened up due to her education with the Society of Wine Educators.  

Michelle MonetMichelle Malott of California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Nominated by Dr. Margie Jones): Michelle Malott is a 2015 graduate of Collins College of Hospitality Management at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. After taking the “Wines, Beers and Spirits” course and completing the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Introductory Course, she found a passion for the beverage industry. Michelle was Dr. Margie Jones’ student assistant her senior year.  As a student assistant, she had the opportunity to help select wine and beers for the classes and create learning materials for her peers. In an independent study course she had the unique opportunity to create a tutorial on wine and food pairing as well as etiquette that was used to train the students enrolled in the college’s Restaurant at Kellogg Ranch.  This experience only furthered her interest in the educational segment of the beverage industry.  Michelle plans to pursue a Masters Degree in Enology and Viticulture. Michelle’s other interests include exploring the world through culture, language, taste and the study of yoga. She looks forward to completing the Certified Wine Specialist exam and appreciates this special opportunity.



Big Controversy over Little Rocks at the TTB



Today we have a guest blog from Brenda Audino, CWE, who brings us up-to-date on the latest controversy at the TTB!

This is a follow-up to the blog “Oregon, Washington, and the AVA Shuffle: It’s Complicated”.  As noted, the newly created appellation “The Rocks of Milton-Freewater” created some controversy. The controversy is not about the validity of the appellation itself – just about everyone agrees that “The Rocks” is a unique region. The controversy arises in who amongst the wineries will ultimately be able to use this new AVA on their wine labels.

Here is a refresher regarding the Rocks of Milton-Freewater AVA: it is a sub-AVA nested within the larger multi-state Walla Walla Valley AVA, which is also nested within the much larger multi-state Columbia Valley AVA.  The Rocks of Milton-Freewater AVA resides solely within the borders of Oregon, while the larger multi-state AVAs are predominately in Washington State while crossing over the border into Oregon.  The controversy with this new AVA is that since it is entirely within the borders of Oregon, wineries must also be in Oregon in order to use the AVA on a wine label.  Most wineries who call the Walla Walla AVA home are located in the state of Washington.  This means that even if the winery owns vineyards or sources fruit in The Rocks of Milton-Freewater they will not able to utilize that The Rocks of Milton-Freewater AVA on their labels

The comments received by the TTB during the “open comment” period concerning this inability to use The Rocks of Milton-Freewater AVA were deemed valid by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and worthy of consideration.  This means that the TTB acknowledges that the current regulations would require wine that is fully finished in Washington and made primarily from grapes grown within The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater AVA to be labeled with the less specific “Walla Walla Valley” or “Columbia Valley” or “Oregon” appellations of origin.

USDA Map of The Rocks District


On February 9, 2015 the TTB created a new proposed rule to address these specific concerns that were raised regarding this new AVA.  This new proposed rule is titled “Use of American Viticulture Area Names as Appellations of Origin on Wine Labels”.

The TTB proposes to amend its regulations to permit the use of American Viticulture area names as appellation of origin on labels for wines that would otherwise quality for the use of the AVA name except the wines have been fully finished in the state adjacent to the state in which the viticultural area is located rather than the state in which the labeled viticultural area is located.

The TTB goes on to note that the purpose of an AVA is to provide consumers with additional information on wines they may purchase by allowing vintners to describe more accurately the origin of the grapes used in the wine.

The TTB does not believe this new ruling will cause consumer confusion since multi-state AVAs allow the wine to be finished in either state.  They believe consumers are aware that appellation of origin is a statement of the origin of grapes used to make the wine and it would not be confusing or misleading if a single state AVA were finished in an adjacent state.

I don’t know if the TTB had any idea of the amount of comments this “fix” to the AVA system would generate, but this proposal opened up an entire flood of opposing views.

During the comment phase there were a total of 41 submissions. Out of these 41 comments there were 16 “For”, 18 “Opposed”, 6 “recommended a change to the proposal” and 1 “suggested an extension of the comment period”.

The “For” comments ranged from “providing consumers better knowledge of the origin of grapes”, “fair competition and accurately reflect origin of wines”, “increase business opportunities”, “where grapes are grown is more important than where wine is finished” and “grape shortages in adjacent states”.



The “Opposed” comments ranged from “confusion for consumers”, “support for local economy”, “the term ‘adjacent state’ is too broad, “undermines state labeling laws”, “large business will transport more grapes to take advantage of AVA names” and “creates deceptive labeling”.

The comments that “recommended a change to the proposal” felt that the following wording on the proposal –“wines have been fully finished in the state adjacent to the state in which the viticultural area is located rather than the state in which the labeled viticultural area is located” – is too broad and encompassing.  This, the commenter believes, has the potential to dilute current AVA status by transporting grapes across long distances.  They recommended a change to the proposal to include “Wines finished in either state of a multi-state AVA can utilize any Sub-AVA that is nested within this multi-state AVA.”  This would enable the wineries of Washington to utilize The Rocks of Milton-Freewater AVA, but not Willamette Valley AVA.  This in effect would narrow the scope and alleviate many of the concerns raised by the commenters.

Unfortunately, I don’t have an end to this story.  The comment period is now closed and the final ruling by TTB won’t be released until April 2016.  For now though, if you want to find a wine from The Rocks of Milton-Freewater, you will need to search for an Oregon winery.

Post authored by Brenda Audino, CWE. After a long career as a wine buyer with Twin Liquors in Austin, Texas, Brenda has recently moved to Napa, California (lucky!) where she runs the Spirited Grape wine consultancy business. Brenda is a long-time member of SWE and has attended many conferences – be sure to say “hi” at this year’s conference in NOLA!

Are you interested in being a guest blogger or a guest SWEbinar presenter for SWE?  Click here for more information 

One More for the Rhône

Vineyards in Cairanne - photo by Samuel Lavoie via Wikimedia Commons

Vineyards in Cairanne – photo by Samuel Lavoie via Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this month, the INAO approved a new AOC in the southern Rhône, to be known as AOC Cairanne. Winemakers are expected to be able to use the designation starting with the 2015 vintage.

Carianne was formerly one of the 18 or so villages that were entitled to append the name of their village onto the Côtes du Rhône-Villages designation. The region is known for red, white, and rosé wines produced from the typical blend of southern Rhône varieties (min. 50% Grenache + min. 20% combined Syrah/ Mourvèdre for reds and rosés;  min. 80% any blend of Grenache blanc, Clairette, Marsanne, Roussanne, Bourboulenc, or Viognier for the whites.)

The new AOC regulations will require hand harvesting and sorting either in the vineyard or the winery, and a organics-level maximum level of added sulfites. The new designation is yet to be approved by the EU, however, no obvious obstacles are expected.

Tour de Blog 2015

Tour de blog 2014 aWelcome to the Tour de Blog 2015! 

We’ve been busy adding lots of resources here at Wine, Wit, and Wisdom, and thought we’d let you know about some of them.  Hopefully, you will find some of these helpful in your studies, or with the classes you are teaching!

Wine and Spirits Maps! If you are studying for the CSW, CSS, CWE, CSE, or planning on teaching a class, SWE’s wine and spirits maps are available on-line.  This makes for very convenient studying from your mobile device, or as a printable resource. All of our maps are available as web pages, jpegs and pdfs. Whether you are looking for the wine maps from the 2015 CSW Study Guide, wine maps from the 2014 CSW Study Guide, or the spirits maps and diagrams from the 2015 CSS Study Guide, we have it all here for you! (Please note, we are happy to consider copyright permission for current members of SWE who wish to use our maps and diagrams for teaching purposes, or for publication in newsletters or websites – please email the home office for more information.)

Tour de blog 2015 dWine and Spirits World Updates! Fountaingrove, Pignoletto, Nizza, the Rocks…If you are trying to keep up with the ever-changing world of wine and spirits, we have a great resource for you! Not only do we try to post blog articles about the latest changes in the wine and spirits world, we also keep a running record of all the changes that have gone into effect (or that are rumored to be enacted soon) on our “Study Guides Update” pages.  If you are interested in keeping up with the world of wine, click here for our CSW Update page. If you are interested in the latest changes in the world of distilled spirits, click here for our CSS Update page.

SWE Conference Abstracts: If you missed our 2014 Conference in Seattle, or even if you attended and would like to refresh your memory, you can find recaps of many of the conference presentations at our 2014 Conference recap page. Many of our presenters were gracious enough to provide us with their power point presentations or handouts, and you can access them here.

Wine and Spirits Links! The SWE Blog provides one of the most comprehensive lists of links to quality wine and spirits websites available on the internet.  For instance, did you know that a database called “E-Bacchus” lists every AOP/PGI wine in the European Union? And its daddy database, the European Union’s department of Agricultural and Rural Development lists every AOP and PGI-designated agricultural product, from tour de blog 2015 bWalnuts from Périgord, Lavender Oil from Haute-Provence, and Chickens from Bresse (not to mention all the cheeses).  Whether you are researching Fitou or Fino, Madeira or Modena, you’ll find useful links on our site. Click here for our wine links page. If you are more interested in Plymouth gin or Polish Vodka, click here for our spirits links page.

The complete SWEbinar calendar! Our SWEbinar series is going strong! We have monthly offerings on all types of exam-related wine and spirits offerings and a great group of presenters. We also offer our popular “Insider’s Guide to the CSW Exam” and “Insider’s Guide to the CSS Exam” on a monthly basis. If you are in the process of studying for one of these exams, or even just thinking about it, you’ll want to tune it. Click here for information on the current month’s SWEbinars, and click here for the complete annual calendar.

Online Prep Classes: If you are interested in attending an online prep class for the CSS or the CSW, you’ll find detailed information on the class format, as well as contact information to sign up for a class, on our Online Prep Class Information Page.

Tour de blog 2105Workbook Answer Keys: If you are using a CSW Workbook, you can conveniently download the answer key here. Just be sure to download the correct version!

Guest Bloggers and Guest Presenters: We are always looking for guest bloggers, as well as guest presenters for our SWEbinar series. If you’d like more information, please click here!

Detailed Information on Pearson Vue Testing Centers: If you are confused about how to sign up for a Pearson Vue Exam, just click here for detailed instructions. If you’d like to read a first-hand account of a satisfied (and successful) exam candidate who took their exam at Pearson, just click here!

Contact information for the SWE Home Office! If you need to speak with a customer service representative, need help navigating the catalog, or have a question for our educational and certification team, just click here for contact information.

It’s our goal to become your trusted source of wine and spirits news and knowledge…if there is anything else you would like to see us tackled here on the blog, just let us know!



Oregon, Washington, and the AVA Shuffle: It’s Complicated.

It's complicatedWinemakers in Oregon rejoiced on February 6, 2015, when the TTB finally approved the The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater AVA in Umatilla County, Oregon.  The Rocks, as you may recall, is a tiny area located entirely within the large, dual-state (Oregon/Washington) Walla Walla Valley AVA – however, it resides 100% within the state of Oregon.

During the public comment period for the approval of the AVA, it became clear that most of the wineries that grow grapes within the new AVA are actually located across the state line in Walla Walla, Washington – which makes sense, as Walla Walla is only about 10 miles away.

Keep in mind that The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater AVA is a single-state AVA, located entirely in Oregon. Here’s where it gets interesting:  under current TTB labeling requirements, even if 100% of the grapes in a particular wine are grown in The Rocks District, if the wine is produced at a winery located just ten miles away but in Washington State, the wine will not be allowed to use The Rocks District AVA as its region of origin. This is due to the current law that states that in order use an AVA as a wine’s appellation of origin, the wine must  “be fully manufactured and finished within the State containing the named region.”

The TTB – bless their hearts – have determined that this is indeed a problem.  Several commenters stated that it makes no sense that they could truck their grapes 200 miles away to a winery facility in Oregon and use The Rocks AVA, but if they truck their grapes 10 miles north to their winery in Walla Walla, they cannot.  In response, the TTB “determined that the concerns raised in the comments have merit.”

Therefore, the  TTB has proposed an amendment to its regulations in order to allow wines to be labeled with a single-State AVA name as an appellation of origin if the wine was fully finished either within the State in which the AVA is located or within an adjacent State.

This proposed rule is now up for public comment, and will remain so until April 10. At that point, the proposed rule will – or will not – move forward to the next stage! The outcome is yet to be seen, and as we know – it’s complicated.

You can read the details of the proposed change on the TTB website

Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, your blog administrator

Are you interested in being a guest blogger or a guest SWEbinar presenter for SWE?  Click here for more information!

Welcome to the World, Fountaingrove District AVA!

Figure 16-13 Sonoma County

One more AVA for Sonoma County!

Last Wednesday – on February 18, 2015 –  the TTB issued a final ruling authorizing the Fountaingrove District Viticultural Area in Sonoma County. The new AVA covers 38,000 acres, of which 500 acres are currently planted to vines.

The AVA is located northeast of the city of Santa Rosa. The name “Fountaingrove” was proven to have a historical connection to the region – although not because it is currently the name of a housing district in the area. It turns out that, in the late 1800s, northern California was something of a haven for religious and utopian experimentation. As such, a gentleman named Thomas Lake Harris, who called himself the leader of the “Brotherhood of the New Life,” established a utopian community in Sonoma County, and named it Fountaingrove. The community thrived for a while, largely due to the success of the Fountain Grove Winery, but was exposed as “scandalous” in 1891, when Alzire Chevallier, a journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle, secretly joined the group and then wrote a scathing article about the group’s “practices.”

As for the new version of the Fountaingrove District – that of Sonoma County’s newest AVA – it stretches somewhat from the Russian River Valley in the west, through Chalk Hill and to the border between Napa and Sonoma. As soon as an official map is released, we’ll update our CSW maps as well.

Welcome to the world, Fountaingrove District AVA!

You can read the pertinent details on the TTB website.

Are you interested in being a guest blogger or a guest SWEbinar presenter for SWE?  Click here for more information!



Following the Rocks: The Making of an AVA

Rocks NewIt seems that new AVAs are popping up all over – from the 11 new AVAs within Paso Robles late last year, to wines being produced using the latest when did that happen AVA.  It led me to wonder: Just what is the process to create a new AVA?

To start my research, I did a quick read of the “Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) American Viticultural Area (AVA) Manual for Petitioners.” Trust me on this – its heavy on the legalese so I read it – so you don’t have to!

Here are the basics:

The Law: The Federal Alcohol Administration Act (FAA Act) authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to prescribe regulations for the labeling of wine, distilled spirits, and malt beverages.  The FAA Act provides that any such regulations should, among other things, prohibit consumer deception and the use of misleading statements on labels and provide the consumer with adequate information as to the identity and quality of the label product.  This includes the regulations pertaining to the establishment of American Viticultural Areas (AVA) and the use of AVA names on wine labels.

The Definition: As defined by the TTB, an AVA is a distinct grape-growing region having distinguishing features, a name, and a delineated boundary established by the TTB.  The use of an AVA name on a label allows vintners and consumers to attribute a given quality, reputation, or other characteristic of a wine made from grapes grown in a certain area to its geographical origin.

The Steps: Anyone can petition for a new AVA, but there are specific steps and criteria involved.

  • Name Evidence – the proposed name must directly relate to the proposed AVA location, but avoid conflict from similar geographical locations or existing brand names.
  • Boundary Evidence – explain why the boundary of the proposed AVA is drawn the way it is.
  • Distinguishing Features – explain the distinguishing features of the proposed AVA that supports the name and boundary of the AVA.
  • If the proposed AVA is located within an existing AVA, the proposed AVA must identify attributes that are consistent with the existing AVA, but also explain how the proposed AVA is distinct from the existing AVA to warrant recognition as a separate AVA.

The Petition: Once the TTB receives the petition they determine if it meets all the above requirements as well as sufficient evidence to authorize a new AVA. The petition is then published and the public is invited to comment on the proposed AVA.  This period of comment usually lasts about 60 days.  Once closed the TTB takes these comments into consideration prior to the final ruling.

Oregon updated Feb 2015The AVA petitioning and rulemaking process frequently takes multiple years to complete.

So now that we have covered the basics, I wanted to take a closer look at a proposed AVA , The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater and follow its process.

Proposed AVA “The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater”

First a review of the official “Petition to establish The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater.”

The Proposal: The proposed establishment of The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater AVA was first posted on February 26, 2014.  This new proposed AVA encompasses 3770 acres that feature very rocky soils.  The area currently contains approximately 250 acres of vineyards and three wineries.

The Evidence: The Name evidence is covered with “The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater” that locally refers to the cobblestone rich vineyard soils of the Walla Walla River alluvial fan known as “The Rocks.” I found it interesting that not only were publications submitted as evidence, but also numerous internet sources.

The Boundary evidence was devised to enclose the central part of the Walla Walla River alluvial fan that features this unique basalt cobblestone soil.  Within the proposed AVA boundary, the cobblestones appear readily at the surface whereas areas outside the proposed AVA boundary the soil is typically silt loam without cobblestones.

The Distinguishing feature must be the rockiness of the soils.  It is stated that 97% of the ground within the AVA boundary are fist-sized, river-smoothed basalt cobblestones.  These stones stretch down several hundred feet and are so heavy and densely packed that crowbars are needed to plant vines.  Back in 2009 when I was in Walla Walla there was great excitement by the winemakers about the quality of fruit they were getting from “The Rocks”.  The official petition states that the area has been famous for the fruitfulness of it’s stony soils for over 100 years.  Syrah is the star of this new AVA with bold, earthy aromas locally referred to as “The Rocks funk.”  The wines are savory and meaty with additional notes of olive, floral, and mineral.

Since this proposed AVA resides within Walla Walla Valley AVA, the author of the petition had a delicate balance of showing the uniqueness of this proposed AVA while still maintaining its rightful place within the existing AVA.

RocksThe Twist: One aspect of this proposed AVA that stood out; is that it is solely located in Oregon, while Walla Walla Valley AVA is located primarily in Washington with some cross over into Oregon.  This aspect also brought about the most public comments during the AVA petition process.  Since this sub-AVA does not cross the Washington state border only wineries with an Oregon production facility will be able to use “The Rocks” on their labels, even if the winery is located within the larger Walla Walla Valley AVA.

The petition names 19 wine producers that have vineyards within the proposed AVA although only three of these producers have winery facilities within the proposed AVA.  I anticipate more wineries will establish facilities here due to the AVA requirements.

The Verdict: At last the Final Verdict!  The TTB has given the proposed “The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater” AVA approval.  The AVA lies entirely within the Oregon portion of Walla Walla Valley AVA which, in turn, lies within the Columbia Valley AVA.  The TTB filed the ruling on February 6, 2015 and will publish this approval in the Federal Register on February 9. 2015.  The new AVA will become effective 30 days from the published date.  I predict we will soon see some exciting wines using the “The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater AVA” on their label!

Post authored by Brenda Audino, CWE. After a long career as a wine buyer with Twin Liquors in Austin, Texas, Brenda has recently moved to Napa, California (lucky!) where she runs the Spirited Grape wine consultancy business. Brenda is a long-time member of SWE and has attended many conferences – be sure to say “hi” at this year’s conference in NOLA!

Are you interested in being a guest blogger or a guest SWEbinar presenter for SWE?  Click here for more information!

Its Official! The Rocks of Milton-Freewater is (almost) an AVA!

USDA map of the Rocks of Milton-Freewater AVA

USDA map of the Rocks of Milton-Freewater AVA

After a long and winding road to approval, the TTB just today voted to approved Oregon’s 18th AVA, the 3,770-acre “Rocks District of Milton–Freewater” American Viticultural Area.

Located in Umatilla County, Oregon, the new AVA is entirely within the existing Walla Walla Valley AVA, which straddles the Oregon-Washington State border and is, in turn, located entirely within the Columbia Valley AVA.   Known for its rocky soil, the new AVA is located where the Walla Walla River flows out of the foothills of the Blue Mountains on its way to the Walla Walla Valley.

The AVA, which includes part of the town of Milton-Freewater, is located entirely within the state of Oregon – which means that many of the wineries that currently use the grapes of the area are located in Washington State and therefore, according to current laws, might not be able to use the AVA on their labels. How this shakes out is yet to be seen. 

The TTB will publish its final ruling on Monday, February 9th, with the rule (and the AVA) becoming effective on March 11, 2015. To read the final ruling, click here.

Stay tuned for more information!

Announcing the 2015 CSW Study Guide and Workbook!

CSW 2015Welcome to 2015! Our 2015 edition of the CSW Study Guide and Workbook is currently at the printer and should start shipping by the end of January.

As you may know, 2014 saw many changes in the world of wine, and we have captured this new information in 2015 edition of the Study Guide. Some of these updates include: Austria’s ninth DAC, the new sub-appellations of Paso Robles, new AVAs in Lake County, the Moon Mountain AVA in Sonoma, changes in South Africa’s Wine of Origin designations, and new terminology used by the VDP (to name but a few)! In addition, we have re-designed our wine maps to be more user-friendly, updated, and colorful.

CSW Exams: CSW Exams based on the 2015 edition of the CSW Study Guide are already available at Pearson Vue Testing Centers as of January 5, 2015. If you are studying from the previous (2014) edition of the Study Guide, have no fear – you have been assigned a Pearson Vue Test Authorization Code based on the edition of the Study Guide you were issued; and may take a Pearson Vue test based on the “old” version through the end of Rhone Valley2015. Paper-and-pencil versions of the CSW from now through April 1 of 2015 will be “transitional” exam based on material that is covered in both the 2014 2015 editions. As of May 2, 2015 all paper-and-pencil CSW Exams will be based solely on the 2015 Study Guide.

eBook:  The 2015 edition of the CSW Study Guide will be available as an eBook on and iTunes by March 1, 2015.

Online Prep Course: The CSW Online Prep Course scheduled to begin in May of 2015 will feature the 2015 edition of the CSW Study Guide and Workbook. The aim of the prep course is to get attendees “as prepared as humanly possible” for a successful sitting of the CSW Exam. Online prep courses are available, free-of-charge, to Professional members of SWE who have a valid CSW Exam attendance credit.

Study Guides, Exams, and workbooks may be ordered via SWE’s website.

If you have any qustions, please contact Jane Nickles, our Director of Education and Certification at: