ATF Rejects Proposed California Coast AVA

Federal agency says the large appellation was not geographically unified and industry opposition was overwhelming.
Aug 8, 2002

The final nail in the coffin for the proposed California Coast American Viticultural Area came on Wednesday, as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms formally denied the petition to create the appellation, a move that even supporters had expected for more than a year.

"The proposed California Coast viticultural area is not a unified geographical area with viticultural features that distinguish it from surrounding areas," the ATF said in its ruling. "The petitioned boundary lines do not reflect the public's understanding of the 'California Coast' name or meet linguistic, geographic or definition standards for viticultural areas."

The ATF, which regulates wine labels and official wine appellations, said that opposition to the proposal was overwhelming. Of the 477 responses received during the public comment period, "97 percent opposed the petition."

The 22,000-square-mile California Coast AVA would have encompassed 68 existing AVAs and extended from Mendocino County to the Mexican border, making it second only to the 30,000-square-mile Ohio River Valley as the country's largest appellation.

"We're just very disappointed," said Pete Downs, vice president of government affairs for Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates, which along with Robert Mondavi Winery and 14 other wineries and growers sponsored the petition.

Supporters said the idea behind the California Coast AVA was to distinguish wines made only from grapes grown in the cooler coastal regions from other wines that carry the broad California designation, which often rely on grapes from the warmer Central Valley. But many in the wine industry saw it as a marketing ploy that would have benefited only a few companies.

Opponents included the Wine Institute trade group of California wineries, the Napa Valley Vintners Association, leading grower associations and wineries such as Niebaum-Coppola, Ridge, Dalla Valle, Kenwood and Jordan.

The idea of a California Coast AVA was first proposed to the ATF in 1997, but the most recent petition was filed in March 2000. By April 2001, supporters conceded that opposition was too strong and the proposal was essentially dead.

# # #

Read past news articles on this subject:

  • April 23, 2001
    California Wineries' Battle Over Coastal AVA Draws Near an End

  • Oct. 9, 2000
    ATF Reconsiders Establishing New California Coast Appellation
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