TTB Approves San Luis Obispo Coast (SLO Coast) Viticultural Area

Last week was an exciting week for producers and consumers of California Central Coast wine. On Wednesday, March 9, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (the “TTB”) published a final rule establishing a new “San Luis Obispo Coast,” or “SLO Coast,” American Viticultural Area (“AVA”).

The SLO Coast AVA (identified in orange below) spans approximately 408,505 acres in San Luis Obispo County and is home to over 50 wineries and an estimated 78 commercial vineyards covering approximately 3,942 acres. It lies entirely within the multi-county Central Coast AVA and fully encompasses the established Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande Valley AVAs.

Map of “San Luis Obispo Coast” or “SLO Coast” AVA. Image: TTB.

Located along the westernmost portion of the Central Coast AVA, the SLO Coast AVA is a region of coastal terraces, foothills, and small valleys along the Pacific Coast. Its westward orientation provides more marine fog and cool marine air compared to other regions of the Central Coast AVA, using the powerhouse of the Pacific Ocean to moderate temperatures and foster optimal vineyard conditions for growing early-to-mid-season grape varietals such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Aaron Wines in Paso Robles, CA falls within the boundaries of the new SLO Coast AVA and has planted 90% of its 4,000 planted acres within 6 miles of the Pacific Ocean. Winemaker Aaron Jackson is thrilled by the important addition of the SLO Coast AVA to the “few truly coastal AVAs” in the state of California. Brian Talley of Talley Vineyards in Arroyo Grande, CA shares Mr. Jackson’s sentiments, adding that the approval of the SLO Coast AVA will “drive awareness of the coastal part of San Luis Obispo County as a world class winegrowing region.”

The establishment of the SLO Coast AVA formally recognizes the unique topography, climate, and soils of the area and offers winemakers more diversity and flexibility in marketing their wines to consumers.

Effective April 9, 2022, vintners will be able to label bottles with “San Luis Obispo Coast,” “SLO Coast,” and “Central Coast” as appellations of origin if at least 85% of the wine is derived from grapes grown within the boundaries of the SLO Coast AVA and the wine otherwise meets the statutory requirements of 27 CFR 4.25(e)(3). Vintners producing wine from grapes grown in the Edna Valley or Arroyo Grande Valley AVAs can also continue to label bottles with “Edna Valley” or “Arroyo Grande Valley” as appellations of origin for their wines.

Dickenson, Peatman & Fogarty has represented a number of AVA petitioners before the TTB, including the SLO Coast petitioners. For more information on AVA petitions and labeling compliance, please contact Carol Kingery Ritter or John Trinidad.

Monterey County Wines Subject to New Conjunctive Labeling Requirements

Are you planning on bottling and labeling any wines with the name of a Monterey County AVA in the new year?  Then you’ll need to comply with a new conjunctive labeling requirement.  See Cal. Business and Professions Code Sec. 25247.

In 2015, the state legislature passed a law requiring wine labeled with the name of an AVA that is entirely within Monterey County to also include a “Monterey County” designation. This includes the Arroyo Seco, Carmel Valley, and Santa Lucia Highlands AVAs.  The law applies to wines bottled on or after January 1, 2019.

The law does not apply to AVAs that straddle Monterey County and  any other county.  For example, the Chalone AVA bridges Monterey County and Benito County, so a wine labeled with the Chalone AVA is not covered by Sec. 25247.

There is one other exception to the conjunctive labeling requirement:  wines labeled with the Monterey AVA.  This is where things get a little confusing.  Under federal law, a wine can carry the name of a county as an appellation of wine origin.  AVAs are also considered appellations, but in order to carry the name of an AVA, a higher percentage of the grapes must come from that AVA.  In both cases, the wine must be fully finished in the state in which the county or AVA is located (assuming the AVA is entirely within one state).

Federal regulations recognize both a “Monterey County” appellation, as well as a Monterey AVA.  The Monterey AVA is located in Monterey County, but does not cover all of Monterey County (see map below).  Any wine that is labeled with the Monterey AVA is exempt from the California conjunctive labeling requirement found in Cal. Business and Professions Code Sec. 25247.

Monterey County AVAs

For more information regarding conjunctive labeling or wine labeling regulations, please contact John Trinidad.

New Paso AVAs Available for Use in November

In early 2006, the Paso Robles AVA Committee (PRAVAC) began an organized outreach effort to growers and vintners across the Paso Robles wine country and kicked off the formal process of gathering historical and scientific evidence that would support the further definition of the distinctive wine regions within the Paso Robles AVA.  For many PRAVAC members, the desire arose much earlier to educate the public about the unique areas within the Paso Robles AVA and how these distinctive qualities in each area impact the wine produced in the region.  In May 2007, the PRAVAC filed eleven petitions with the TTB to establish eleven separate AVAs within the approximately 612,000 acre Paso Robles AVA.

On Thursday, October 9, 2014, the TTB will publish the Final Rule establishing the 11 new AVAs within the Paso Robles AVA.  These new viticultural areas include Adelaida District, Creston District, El Pomar District, Paso Robles Estrella District, Paso Robles Geneseo District, Paso Robles Highlands District, Paso Robles Willow Creek District, San Juan Creek, San Miguel District, Santa Margarita Ranch, and Templeton Gap District.

The effective date for all 11 AVAs will be November 10, 2014 at which time producers of qualifying Paso Robles wine can apply to TTB for COLAs with one of the new AVA names.  The new AVAs can be used on wine of any vintage as long as it is not already bottled and labeled.

DPF has been proud to represent the PRAVAC through this process and sends its congratulations to all of the PRAVAC members and supporters.

For additional information regarding AVA petitions, please contact Carol Ritter at [email protected]


TTB Proposes New Oregon AVA, Cites Wine Blogs as Support

Winegrowers vying to become the 18th American Viticultural Area in Oregon have reached an important milestone. On February 26, 2014, a new notice of proposed rulemaking was published in the Federal Register, soliciting comments regarding the proposed “The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater” AVA. The comment period is open until April 28, 2014, and comments can be submitted online.

New OR AVA Map


The proposed 4.9 square mile AVA is located just south of the Oregon/Washington border, in the southern part of the Walla Walla AVA, which in turn is nested in the Columbia Valley AVA. If TTB approves the new AVA, Washington wineries sourcing grapes from there will have to have their wines “finished” in Oregon in order to use the AVA name on their label pursuant to 27 CFR 4.25(e).

Wine blogs may end up playing a role in petitioner’s efforts to secure an AVA. Petitioners must submit evidence that the proposed AVA name is “currently and directly associated with an area in which viticulture exists.” The notice of proposed rulemaking cited two wine blogs (Washington Wine Report and Wine Peeps) that have referred to the area as “the rocks” in the section discussing “Name Evidence.” The petition submitted in support of the new AVA can be found through this link.

Dickenson, Peatman & Fogarty has represented a number of AVA petitioners before the TTB. For more information on AVA petitions, please contact Carol Kingery Ritter at [email protected] or John Trinidad at [email protected].

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 [email protected]
Copyright Dickenson Peatman & Fogarty at

Proposed Naches Heights AVA an Exception to Recent TTB Stated AVA Policy

On May 24, 2011, TTB published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposing to establish the Naches Heights American Viticultural Area (AVA) in Yakima County, Washington.  The Naches Heights AVA would be located within the Columbia Valley AVA.  TTB is asking for comments on the NPRM on or before July 25, 2011.  The proposed AVA is notable for its relatively limited viticultural production within the proposed area.  Recently, TTB has taken the position that the ratio of planted and planned vineyard acreage to the total acreage of the viticultural area is an important factor in TTB’s evaluation of an AVA petition.  The higher the ratio, the greater the chance of success of the petition through TTB’s vetting process.  The proposed Naches Heights viticultural area has 105 acres of commercial vineyards producing or expected to be in production soon.  The entire area encompasses 13,254 acres.  With only 0.79% of the total proposed area committed to viticulture, Naches Heights stands out as an exception to TTB’s recently stated policies.

For more information or assistance on AVA formation, contact Carol Kingrey Ritter at [email protected]

Copyright Dickenson Peatman & Fogarty at

TTB Proposed Rulemaking Published for Coombsville AVA in Napa Valley

On May 24, 2011, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) published the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposing to establish the Coombsville viticultural area within Napa County and the North Coast and Napa Valley AVAs.  TTB is accepting comments on the NPRM until July 25, 2011.  Comments may be submitted online, by mail or in person as specifically provided in the NPRM. 
The proposed Coombsville AVA very closely resembles the previously proposed, and ultimately rejected, Tulocay AVA.  The proposed Coombsville AVA is 11,075 acres as opposed to the previously proposed Tulocay AVA with 11,200 acres.  The reduced size keeps the proposed Coombsville viticultural area within Napa County and the Napa Valley AVA.  After receiving and reviewing public comment on the NPRM proposing to establish the Tulocay AVA, TTB found that “Tulocay” was not the correct geographic name for the viticultural area.  TTB went on to suggest that “Coombsville” or “Coombsville District” might be appropriate names for the area.  As a result, Thomas Farella of Farella-Park Vineyards submitted the Coombsville petition to TTB that is the subject of the current NPRM. 
In addition to seeking general comments in response to the proposal to establish the Coombsville viticultural area, TTB is seeking comments on specific issues raised in the petition and the NPRM, including the sufficiency and accuracy of the name, boundary, climate and soils evidence and, given the proposed Coombsville viticultural area’s location within the existing Napa Valley and North Coast viticultural areas, TTB is seeking comments on whether the evidence submitted in the petition regarding the distinguishing features of the proposed viticultural area sufficiently differentiates the proposed viticultural area from those existing viticultural areas.  To this end, TTB is also interested in comments regarding whether the geographic features of the proposed viticultural area are so distinguishable from the surrounding Napa Valley and North Coast viticultural areas that the proposed Coombsville viticultural area should no longer be part of those viticultural areas.  To review the NPRM go to the following link:
For additional information or assistance on AVA matters contact Carol Kingrey Ritter at [email protected]
Copyright Dickenson Peatman & Fogarty at

West Sonoma Coast: Investing in Marketing over AVA Recognition

Vintners and growers from the far western coastal areas of the Sonoma Coast AVA have recently launched a marketing program to promote the “WestSonomaCoast” area.  The group has determined, at least for now, that the politics and bureaucracy surrounding the AVA formation process do not best serve the group’s goal of distinguishing the far west coastal properties and wines from the larger and Sonoma Coast AVA.  Although these marketing efforts may, in the future, strengthen the name, boundary and scientific evidence will be needed to support a new AVA petition.  Thus, this group appears to be testing the theory that a geographically oriented marketing program can build brand equity to an equal or greater degree than forming a new AVA and using that AVA name on the label of each qualifying bottle of wine.  Of course without any legal recognition of an AVA or a certification mark, one wonders how the group will be able to claim control of the West Sonoma Coast name.
For more information or assistance on the filing of applications for recognition of AVAs contact Carol Kingery Ritter at [email protected].
Copyright Dickenson Peatman & Fogarty at

TTB Issues Final Rule on New Procedures for Recognizing AVAs

On January 20, 2011, TTB published the long awaited Final Rule on its controversial Notice No. 78, which proposed substantial changes to the AVA petitioning and formation process.  Notice No. 78 was published on November 20, 2007; the same day that the agency published Notice No. 77, proposing to establish the Calistoga AVA. 

Perhaps the two most controversial topics addressed in Notice No. 78 were proposed changes to the “grandfather” rules that address conflicts between brand names and AVA names and TTB’s stated concern over nested AVAs.  In the Final Rule, TTB backed off its proposal to create new “grandfather” rules stating that it was persuaded by opposing comments that stressed the potential for the proposed scheme to mislead consumers.  On the subject of nested AVAs, or AVAs within AVAs, TTB left the door open to the possibility that a petition to establish a new AVA entirely within or overlapping an existing AVA may result in the new AVA being excluded from the larger area.

Procedurally, the Final Rule greatly expands the petition evidence requirements and procedures for submitting and processing AVA petitions.  TTB emphasized that its new procedural rules do not impose new standards but “represent a codification of longstanding administrative authority and practice and address a need for greater transparency.” 

For information on DP&F’s services related to AVA formation and expansion contact Richard Mendelson at [email protected]
Copyright Dickenson Peatman & Fogarty at

Changes to Boundary of Santa Maria Valley AVA Effective on January 28, 2011

On December 29, 2010, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) approved the expansion of the Santa Maria Valley AVA in California’s San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties by approximately 19,000 acres.  The expansion comes along the AVA’s current Southern border in Santa Barbara County.  Proponents of the AVA indicated that the expansion was necessary to include vineyards near the Southwest portion of the AVA that were not contemplated when the AVA was first recognized in 1981.  The effective date of the new boundary is January 28, 2011.

To see the new boundaries of the Santa Maria Valley AVA, follow the below link to the Federal Register announcing TTB’s recognition of the expansion:

For information on DP&F’s services related to AVA formation and expansion contact Richard Mendelson at [email protected]

Copyright Dickenson Peatman & Fogarty at