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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Insight into TTB's Approach to AVAs: The Inwood Valley AVA

Since the establishment of the Augusta AVA in 1980, ATF, and now TTB, has varied its approach to executing its legislatively delegated task of establishing American Viticultural Areas (AVAs).  In early 2011, TTB amended the AVA rules entirely.  With the recognition of the Inwood Valley AVA, effective as of October 15, 2012, we gain insight into TTB’s process and priorities when reviewing petitions to form new AVAs.

As originally conceived and petitioned to TTB, the Inwood Valley AVA was to be a 32,647 acre viticultural area with 60 acres of vines planted in 4 vineyards.  TTB pushed an amendment prior to publishing the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), which reduced the acreage to 28,298 acres and used distinctive soil types to reform the boundaries.  TTB sought to remove areas not containing viticultural activities from the AVA.  TTB received four comments to the NPRM- 3 supported the formation of the new AVA and 1 opposed the name “Inwood Valley” on the ground that labels with the “Inwood” name would be unable to add the word “Valley” to a future label without satisfying the 85% grape source requirement.  Because no existing labels would be impacted by forming the AVA, TTB dismissed the objection. 

After the comment period closed, TTB received a comment from a vineyard owner just outside the proposed AVA boundary who wanted to be included.  TTB found that a “slight modification to the boundary to include the vineyard at issue is consistent with the distinguishing features evidence submitted….” As a result, Inwood Valley AVA, as established, is a 28,441 acre viticultural area with 62.5 acres planted to wine grape vines or 0.2% of the AVA planted for viticulture.  Although in response to a supportive comment to the NPRM, TTB noted that “Whether or not, and to what extent, there is any economic benefit from the approval of a viticultural area is not a factor that TTB considers in determining whether or not to approve a petition for a viticultural area,” it seems clear that TTB does consider whether the formation of an AVA will disenfranchise wine industry participants.  The Federal Register excerpt for the establishment of the Inwood Valley AVA may be found at the following link:


For more information or assistance on petitions for establishment of AVAs contact Carol Kingery Ritter at ckritter@dpf-law.com

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