The recent notice of the proposed new AVA “The Rocks” in northeast Oregon has kicked off a round of questions about what Northwest wineries may use as an appellation of origin on their labels when grapes are grown in multi-state AVAs such as the Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley, Columbia Gorge, Snake River Valley, or the newly proposed “The Rocks” AVA. What all of these viticultural areas, except The Rocks, have in common is boundaries that cross state lines.
The use of AVA references on wine labels trigger specific requirements per federal regulations that sometimes can be confusing. First, it is important to remember that American Viticultural Areas are delimited grape-growing regions having distinguishing features which have been accepted and approved by TTB by name and a delineated boundary as established and published in federal regulations. In other words, there are unique features about the AVA that transcend political boundaries.
So…what are the three requirements for use of an AVA as an appellation of origin on a wine label?
First, the named appellation must have been approved by TTB and published in 27 CFR Part 9.
Next, not less than 85 percent of the wine is derived from grapes grown within the boundaries of the named viticultural area. Finally, in the case of American wine, it has been fully finished within the State, or one of the States, within which the labeled viticultural area is located (except for cellar treatment pursuant to §4.22(c), and blending which does not result in an alteration of class and type under §4.22(b)).
This last condition can get a little tricky so here is some clarification: