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Gallo’s Proposed Boundaries For Expanded Russian River Valley AVA Violate Federal Regulations

E&J Gallo’s proposed boundaries for an expanded Russian River Valley AVA violate federal regulations, according to a Wine Industry Insight investigation based on TTB documents, on-site topological examinations, Google Street Views, U.S. Geological Survey maps and numerous other documents and sources.

Arbitrary boundary violates federal regs. (click to see full-size)

Arbitrary boundary violates federal regulations. Image location is point 22 to 23 on map and TTB description. (Click to see full-sized photo in new window.)

Regulations issued by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) require petitioners for new or expanded American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) to describe, specifically the features that make it distinctive and, “in what way these features affect viticulture and how they are distinguished viticulturally from features associated with adjacent areas outside the proposed AVA boundary.” [Emphasis added.]

The TTB regulations note several factors that petitioners must specifically address in noting differences to justify a given boundary, among them: climate, geology, soils and physical features like topography and watersheds.

Southern Boundary Is Arbitrary, Violates TTB Regulations

As Wine Industry Insight noted on December 16, the TTB’s current method of describing a proposed boundary is confusing, counter-intuitive and lacks sufficient information to properly interpret the boundary and its rationale.

Map of Gallos proposed southern boundary shows arbitrary boundaries (click to see full-sized photo)

Map shows arbitrary boundaries. (Click to see full-sized photo.)

Without an on-site inspection, the jagged, sawtooth of Gallo’s proposed boundary could appear legitimate to a TTB examiner in Washington, D.C. The fact that the easternmost boundary coincides with Gallo’s Two-Rock Ranch Vineyard might simply appear to mark a distinctive change in the physical characteristics of the land as required by TTB regulations.

However, the first photo at the top of this article shows that this easternmost boundary is arbitrary, the land outside is indistinguishable from that inside except for the fact that it is not owned by E&J Gallo.

Arbitrary And Improper Boundary Lines Abound

On-site inspections, especially of the southern boundary of the proposed expansion, proves that much of the southern boundary does not conform to TTB regulations requiring differences between land inside the boundary and that outside. Innumerable cases exist like the one in the photo below:

Arbitrary boundary violates federal regs. Image location is point 16 to 17 on map and TTB description. (click to see full-sized photo in new window)

Arbitrary boundary violates federal regs. Image location is point 16 to 17 on map and TTB description. (Click to see full-sized photo in new window.)

“Ridgeline Rationale” Flawed, Inaccurate

Part of Gallo’s rational (page 4 of this document) in their petition, states that “the new boundary, instead continues generally to follow the ridge that defines the Russian River Watershed on its southern flank.”

The actual topological path of the ridge, in orange in this map, does not coincide with the boundary asserted by Gallo. (click for full-sized map)

The actual topological path of the ridge, in orange in this map, does not coincide with the boundary asserted by Gallo. (Click for full-sized map.)

However, an examination of the topo map shows that the ridgeline has not been followed consistently. Following the ridge by going from peak to peak (orange line on map) that defines the Russian River watershed could result in the boundary running through the Two Rock Ranch Vineyard.

In fact, a map from the North Coast Integrated Water Management Plan indicates an even northerly line (yellow line on map) through Gallo’s Two Rock Ranch vineyard.

TTB Procedures, Resources Limit Scrutiny

TTB documents state that its responsibilities in the AVA rulemaking process include the requirement to “Review the petition for completeness, accuracy, relevance and appropriateness with regulatory requirements….”

However, this oversight is limited by TTB resources and the lack of in-house experts in such areas as viticulture, geology, climatology, topography and related fields. For data relating to these issues, the TTB relies primarily on the accuracy of information submitted by petitioners.

TTB spokesman Art Resnick added that, “One of the reasons for soliciting comments is to hear from any parties that might have information different from or contrary to what may be contained in the original petition.”

As pertains to this article, Resnick said by email, “Because the Russian River Valley AVA expansion is currently in rulemaking it would be inappropriate for us to comment at this time.  You may be assured that we will consider your comments as part of the record in reaching our final determination.”

Comments on information contained in this article have also been solicited from E&J Gallo and will be added when received.

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Comments

8 Responses to Gallo’s Proposed Boundaries For Expanded Russian River Valley AVA Violate Federal Regulations

  1. Great blog! Please consider adding an RSS feed to the site.

  2. admin

    Thanks … I’ll add the feed today.

  3. ANON

    6 of the last 7 posts on Gallo’s AVA expansion. One wonder’s if your blog was created to bash Gallo…?

    Phil
    (I do not work, nor have I ever, for Gallo)

  4. admin

    Phil, it happens to be a fairly big story with a LOT of detail and much to comprehend and explain.

    I suppose you might have leveled the same charge re: Copia when I began this. But, nope. WII was not created to bash anyone. Facts are facts and should stand on their own.

    If I have gotten something wrong, then I would be happy to correct that.

  5. admin

    Phil, you ought to read the posts better. Three of the posts that you think are slamming Gallo are actually talking about how the TTB’s process itself is flawed.

    That is not Gallo’s fault.

  6. Robert

    I, on the other hand, am reading all this wondering what is wrong with a little Gallo bashing. The Walmart of winemaking can take a little heat from it’s neighbors and peers. The purpose of AVA’s, in the first place, are not to make homoginized bulk wine and destroy the reputation of a region and it’s other growers by selling the Wine off with a generic discount. We need to be making our AVA’s small not larger

    Being an East Coaster I am not afraid to say the truth about the big 3 of winemaking. Only in California do people have any respect for Gallo, Mondavi and the Jackson Family Estates. They are the vampires of the Wine Industry and are hated by the wine world east of the rocky mountains.

    Producers over a certain size should not be allowed to use AVA’s on their labels. Now there’s a great new TTB law

    Robert
    Downtown Sonoma

  7. Pingback: Russan River AVA Expansion Could Increase Gallo Revenues $3 million Per Year | Wine Industry Insight

  8. Pingback: Is Bigger Better? The Expansion of the Russian River Valley AVA | Wine Tonite!

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