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 Amazon.com 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: jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org

 

SWE’s App now available for Android Users!

AndroidDo you have an Android device? Do you have our new App?

The Society of Wine Educators is delighted to announce that its wildly popular app, SWE Wine and Spirits Quiz, is now available for Android devices! And its free!

Click here to download the App for Android!

This free download offers a series of fun, educational quizzes from 5 major categories:Red (red wines, red grapes, and red wine-producing regions), Yellow (white wines, white grapes, and white wine-producing regions), Spirits (distilled spirits, vermouth, distillation and cocktails), Sparkling (sparkling wines and rosés), and Dessert (dessert wines and fortified wines.) As an added bonus, all of the questions in levels 1 – 5 are taken from the CSS and CSW Study Guides; everything in levels 6 – 10 are “CSS/CSW and beyond.”  Click here to download the App for Android!

If you are an iphone or ipad user…Click here to download the App for IOS!

Click here to return to the SWE Homepage.

The Bartender’s Handshake

Fig 10-7 different brands of fernetThe beverage world abounds with spirit amari (bittered spirits), which may be classified as aperitifs, which are generally served in diluted forms as cocktails to stimulate the appetite, or as digestifs, which are often served in more concentrated forms to enhance digestion after a meal.

These amari contain botanicals with carminative properties intended to lessen gastric discomfort after rich meals. Just ask a bartender, a wine student, or a serious foodie you will hear them tell you its true: they work! Botanicals known for their carminative properties include angelica, aniseed, basil, caraway, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, ginger, hops, nutmeg, parsley, and sage.

One of the most popular Spirit amari is Fernet Branca. Fernet Branca was invented in Milan in 1845 by Bernardino Branca. It soon became famous worldwide and led to the founding of the Fratelli Branca Distillery.

Archives of the Boston Public Library

Archives of the Boston Public Library

Fernet has recently become quite popular in the United States as both a beverage and a hangover cure, but its popularity long precedes the craft cocktail scene. So popular is it among industry professionals that a shot of Fernet Branca has been called the “bartender’s handshake.”

In Prohibition-era San Francisco, fernet was legally consumed on the grounds of being “medicinal.” San Franciscans still drink it—over 30% of the fernet consumed throughout the entire United States is consumed in San Francisco.

Argentina consumes more fernet than any other nation. The beverage’s popularity is reflected in the fact that a leading  Cuarteto (an upbeat, popular dance-hall music genre) song is “Fernet con Cola.” 

The secret recipe for Fernet Branca is reportedly known by only one person, Niccolò Branca, the current president of the Fratelli Branca Distillery. It is said that Niccolò personally measures out the flavorings for each production run.

Fernet ValleyThe Branca brand, while definitely one of the better-known, is not the only producer of fernet. Fernet is actually a type of herbal-based bitter that is made by other producers, as well. Many Italian companies, including Luxardo, Cinzano, and Martini & Rossi, produce fernet. Fernet is produced internationally, as well, such as in Mexico, where the popular Fernet-Vallet is made.

Each brand of fernet has its own secret combination of herbs and botanicals. However, a good fernet is likely to include myrrh and saffron, both known for their “disgestivo” and antioxidant properties. Other ingredients rumored to be included are linden, galangal, peppermint oil, sage, bay leaves, gentian root, St. John’s wort, rhubarb, chamomile, cardamom, aloe, and bitter orange.

Fernet Branca, as well as other versions of Italian spirit armai, French spirit amer, and various types of vermouth, quinquina, and americano that will be covered in the new 2015 edition of the Certified Specialist of Spirits study guide…to be released in January, 2015!

Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CSS, CWE – your SWE Blog Administrator: jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org

Click here to return to the SWE Homepage.

A New Future for Austrian Sparkling Wines!

Austrian sparkling WineLast year – in a very big way – Austria began to take steps to improve the quality and reputation of its sparkling wines.

One of the first actions was to establish an Austrian Sparkling Wine Committee, who set about to formulate some new standards for Austria’s Sparkling wines.

Last week, October 22 was celebrated as the first ever “Austrian Sparkling Wine Day.” As part of the celebrations, the Sparkling Wine Committee introduced a new three-tier quality pyramid for Austrian wines. The levels are as follows:

Top Tier (Level 3):

  • Grapes from a single designated wine region
  • Austrian Sparkling Wine Pyramid via the Austrian Wine website (see link below)
    Austrian Sparkling Wine Pyramid via the Austrian Wine website (see link below)

    Traditional method production

  • Minimum of 30 months aging on the lees
  • May be no sweeter than “brut”
  • Must be hand picked
  • Must use whole-bunch pressing
  • Designation of village/vineyard site allowed
  • May be white or rosé

 

Middle Tier (Level 2):

  • Grapes from a single designated Federal State
  • Traditional method production
  • Minimum of 18 months aging on the lees
  • May be no sweeter than “brut” Must be hand picked
  • Must use whole-bunch pressing
  • No designation of village or vineyard site allowed
  • May be white or rosé

 

Basic Tier (Level 1):

Vienna at Night
Vienna at Night

 

  • Grapes may be from anywhere in Austria, but must be 100% Austrian fruit
  • Must be produced in Austria
  • May be any level of sweetness
  • May be produced using any method approved for the production of sparkling wines
  • Minimum of 9 months aging on the lees
  • May be any color – red, white, or rosé
  • May not list a vineyard designation or specific designation of origin

The Austrian Sparkling Wine Pyramid has not been approved into law as of yet. The Austrian Wine Marketing Board hopes to achieve this approval sometime in 2015.

For more information, see the website of Austrian Wine!  

And Then There Were 12: Paso Robles Gets 11 Sub-appellations

Map via PasoWine.com

Map via PasoWine.com

In a week of AVA-shuffling galore, the TTB announced today via the Federal Register that 11 new AVAS, all of them sub-regions of the Paso Robles AVA, have been approved. The AVAs will be “official” one month from today, on November 10th, 2014.

The petition for the 11 sub-regions was originally filed in 2007. The petition turned out to be the longest and most detailed proposal ever filed with the TTB, due to the scale of the proposal and the depth of the information need to support each individual AVA.

A close inspection of the climate data surrounding each new AVA shows the diversity of the region – average annual rainfall ranges from 11 to 29 inches, elevations range from 600 to 2,400 feet above sea level, and climate regions II to IV are represented.

The 11 new AVAs, all sub-appellations of the Paso Robles AVA, are as follows:

  • El Pomar District – Climate Region II, 740-1,600 feet in elevation, average of 15 inches rainfall.
  • At the Justin Winery in Paso Robles

    At the Justin Winery in Paso Robles

    Paso Robles Willow Creek District - Climate Region II, 950 – 1,900 feet in elevation, average of 24-30 inches rainfall.

  • Santa Margarita Ranch – Climate Region II, 900 – 1,400 feet in elevation, average of 29 inches rainfall.
  • Templeton Gap District - Climate Region II, 700 – 1,800 feet in elevation, average of 20 inches rainfall.
  • Adelaida District – Climate Region II-III, 900 – 2,200 feet in elevation, average of 26 inches rainfall.
  • Creston District – Climate Region III, 1,100 – 2,000 feet in elevation, average of 11.5 inches of rainfall.
  • Paso Robles Estrella District – Climate Region III, 745 – 1,800 feet in elevation, average of 14 inches of rainfall.
  • San Miguel District – Climate Region III, 580 – 1,600 feet in elevation, average of 11 inches of rainfall.
  • San Juan Creek – Climate Region III-IV, 980 – 1,600 feet in elevation, average of 10 inches of rainfall.
  • Paso Robles Geneseo District – Climate Region III-IV, 740 – 1,300 feet in elevation, average of 13 inches of rainfall.
  • Paso Robles Highlands District – Climate Region IV, 1,600 – 2,086 feet in elevation, average 12 inches of rainfall.

Map of Paso Robles and sub-appellations, climate data via PasoWine.com

Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CSS, CWE – your SWE Blog Administrator

Click here to return to the SWE Homepage.

A New AVA in Mendocino County!

Map of the proposed (now approved) Eagle Peak Mendocino County AVA, from the TTB's original docket (see link below)

Map of the proposed (now approved) Eagle Peak Mendocino County AVA, from the TTB’s original docket (see link below)

Not even one day old….today – October 9, 2014 – the Federal Register published a new rule establishing the 21,000 acre Eagle Peak Mendocino County AVA.

This new AVA, which will become “official” one month from today, is located entirely within the North Coast AVA – it is not, however, located within the Mendocino AVA, nor is it a subregion of the Mendocino AVA.

The Eagle Peak Mendocino County AVA is located adjacent to, and to the west of the eastern “wing” of the Mendocino AVA. As a matter of fact, the Mendocino AVA and one of its subregions, the Redwood Valley AVA, both had their boundaries moved. Each had its acreage reduced by about 1,500 acres. This was to eliminate any overlaps, and because the TTB was convinced that the area in question has more in common, terroir-wise (and especially climate-wise) with the newly-approved area than it has with its former parents.

Here are a few more things you might want to know about the Eagle Peak Mendocino County AVA:

  • The name of the AVA was approved as “Eagle Peak Mendocino County” as opposed to just “Eagle Peak” for good reason: while a 2,700-foot high mountain known as “Eagle Peak” is indeed a major feature of the region, there just so happen to be 47 other mountains in the US that are named “Eagle Peak.”
  • mendocino-fogAnother reason the long version of the name was required for approval is that there was some concern that an AVA named “Eagle Peak” might confuse consumers, and/or might infringe upon the “Eagle Peak Merlot” brand produced by Fetzer Vineyards.
  • The new AVA is located 125 miles north of San Francisco. The nearest city in this mountainous region is Ukiah; the AVA is situated about 10 miles north and slightly to the west of Ukiah.
  • There are currently at least five commercial vineyards operating in the area, with a total of just over 115 acres of vines.
  • The region’s many streams feed into the headwaters of the Russian River, which flows through Mendocino and Sonoma Counties on its journey to the Pacific Ocean.
  • Soils are shallow and composed of mainly sandstone and shale.
  • The typical climate conditions of the area include: marine fog and breezes, cool temperatures in the spring, warm-to-hot summers and gusty winds.

For more information, including all of the details on the Federal docket, click here.

For a shortcut to the map submitted with the application, click here.

Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CSS, CWE – your SWE Blog Administrator

Click here to return to the SWE Homepage.

 

Wine Education Goes Mobile with SWE’s New App!

SWE App World Wine MastermindHave you seen our new App?

The Society of Wine Educators is delighted to announce the creation of its new app, SWE Wine and Spirits Quiz, for iOS devices, which will further the message of the Society by providing entertaining and educational wine and spirits quizzes. And its free!

Click here to download the App!

The app was unveiled on August 14th during the “Hipster Happy Hour” cocktail party at SWE’s Annual Conference, taking place this year in Seattle, WA. Jane Nickles, SWE’s Director of Education, and the developers of the app made a lively presentation after which attendees were able to download it to their iPhones and iPads.

App SWEThis free download offers a series of fun, educational quizzes from 5 major categories:Red (red wines, red grapes, and red wine-producing regions), Yellow (white wines, white grapes, and white wine-producing regions), Spirits (distilled spirits, vermouth, distillation and cocktails), Sparkling (sparkling wines and rosés), and Dessert (dessert wines and fortified wines.) As an added bonus, all of the questions in levels 1 – 5 are taken from the CSS and CSW Study Guides; everything in levels 6 – 10 are “CSS/CSW and beyond.”  Click here to download the App!

Click here to return to the SWE Homepage.