Proposed Establishment of the White Bluffs Viticultural Area, 31723-31728 [2020-10920]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 102 / Wednesday, May 27, 2020 / Proposed Rules Executive Order 12866. Therefore, no regulatory assessment is required. Drafting Information Karen A. Thornton of the Regulations and Rulings Division drafted this document. List of Subjects in 27 CFR Part 9 Wine. Proposed Regulatory Amendment For the reasons discussed in the preamble, we propose to amend title 27, chapter I, part 9, Code of Federal Regulations, as follows: Signed: March 31, 2020. Mary G. Ryan, Acting Administrator. Approved: May 13, 2020. Timothy E. Skud, Deputy Assistant Secretary (Tax, Trade, and Tariff Policy). PART 9—AMERICAN VITICULTURAL AREAS 1. The authority citation for part 9 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 27 U.S.C. 205. Subpart C—Approved American Viticultural Areas ■ [FR Doc. 2020–10921 Filed 5–26–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4810–31–P 2. Add § 9.llto read as follows: § 9.ll jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS (4) Proceed southeasterly (downstream) along Chapman Creek, crossing over the Dot map and onto the Sundale map, to the intersection of Chapman Creek with its southernmost tributary; then (5) Proceed due east in a straight line to the creek running through Old Lady Canyon; then (6) Proceed southerly along the creek to its intersection with the northern shoreline of the Columbia River; then (7) Proceed westerly along the northern shoreline of the Columbia River, returning to the beginning point. DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY The Burn of Columbia Valley. (a) Name. The name of the viticultural area described in this section is ‘‘The Burn of Columbia Valley’’. For purposes of part 4 of this chapter, ‘‘The Burn of Columbia Valley’’ is a term of viticultural significance. (b) Approved maps. The four United States Geological Survey (USGS) 1:24,000 scale topographic maps used to determine the boundary of The Burn of Columbia Valley viticultural area are titled: (1) Sundale NW, OR–WA, 2017; (2) Goodnoe Hills, WA, 2017; (3) Dot, WA, 2017; and (4) Sundale, WA–OR, 2017. (c) Boundary. The Burn of Columbia Valley viticultural area is located in Klickitat County in Washington. The boundary of The Burn of Columbia Valley viticultural area is as described below: (1) The beginning point is on the Sundale NW map, at the intersection of the Columbia River and the east shore of Paterson Slough. From the beginning point, proceed northerly along the east shore of Paterson Slough to its junction with Rock Creek, and continuing northeasterly along Rock Creek to its intersection with the boundary of the Yakima Nation Trust Land; then (2) Proceed south, then east, then generally northeasterly along the boundary of the Yakima Nation Trust Land, crossing onto the Goodnoe Hills map, to the intersection of the Trust Land boundary with Kelley Road; then (3) Proceed north in a straight line to the intersection with the main channel of Chapman Creek; then VerDate Sep<11>2014 21:02 May 26, 2020 Jkt 250001 Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau 27 CFR Part 9 [Docket No. TTB–2020–0004; Notice No. 189] RIN 1513–AC57 Proposed Establishment of the White Bluffs Viticultural Area Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, Treasury. ACTION: Notice of proposed rulemaking. AGENCY: The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) proposes to establish the 93,738-acre ‘‘White Bluffs’’ viticultural area in Franklin County, Washington. The proposed AVA is located entirely within the existing Columbia Valley AVA. TTB designates viticultural areas to allow vintners to better describe the origin of their wines and to allow consumers to better identify wines they may purchase. TTB invites comments on these proposals. DATES: TTB must receive your comments on or before July 27, 2020. ADDRESSES: You may electronically submit comments to TTB on this proposal, and view copies of this document, its supporting materials, and any comments TTB receives on it within Docket No. TTB–2020–0004 as posted on Regulations.gov (https:// www.regulations.gov), the Federal erulemaking portal. Please see the ‘‘Public Participation’’ section of this SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 31723 document below for full details on how to comment on this proposal via Regulations.gov, U.S. mail, or hand delivery, and for full details on how to view or obtain copies of this document, its supporting materials, and any comments related to this proposal. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Karen A. Thornton, Regulations and Rulings Division, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, 1310 G Street NW, Box 12, Washington, DC 20005; phone 202–453–1039, ext. 175. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background on Viticultural Areas TTB Authority Section 105(e) of the Federal Alcohol Administration Act (FAA Act), 27 U.S.C. 205(e), authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to prescribe regulations for the labeling of wine, distilled spirits, and malt beverages. The FAA Act provides that these regulations should, among other things, prohibit consumer deception and the use of misleading statements on labels, and ensure that labels provide the consumer with adequate information as to the identity and quality of the product. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) administers the FAA Act pursuant to section 1111(d) of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, codified at 6 U.S.C. 531(d). The Secretary has delegated various authorities through Treasury Order 120– 01, dated December 10, 2013 (superseding Treasury Order 120–01, dated January 24, 2003), to the TTB Administrator to perform the functions and duties in the administration and enforcement of these provisions. Part 4 of the TTB regulations (27 CFR part 4) authorizes TTB to establish definitive viticultural areas and regulate the use of their names as appellations of origin on wine labels and in wine advertisements. Part 9 of the TTB regulations (27 CFR part 9) sets forth standards for the preparation and submission of petitions for the establishment or modification of American viticultural areas (AVAs) and lists the approved AVAs. Definition Section 4.25(e)(1)(i) of the TTB regulations (27 CFR 4.25(e)(1)(i)) defines a viticultural area for American wine as a delimited grape-growing region having distinguishing features, as described in part 9 of the regulations, and a name and a delineated boundary, as established in part 9 of the regulations. These designations allow vintners and consumers to attribute a given quality, reputation, or other characteristic of a E:\FR\FM\27MYP1.SGM 27MYP1 31724 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 102 / Wednesday, May 27, 2020 / Proposed Rules wine made from grapes grown in an area to its geographic origin. The establishment of AVAs allows vintners to describe more accurately the origin of their wines to consumers and helps consumers to identify wines they may purchase. Establishment of an AVA is neither an approval nor an endorsement by TTB of the wine produced in that area. Requirements Section 4.25(e)(2) of the TTB regulations (27 CFR 4.25(e)(2)) outlines the procedure for proposing an AVA and provides that any interested party may petition TTB to establish a grapegrowing region as an AVA. Section 9.12 of the TTB regulations (27 CFR 9.12) prescribes standards for petitions for the establishment or modification of AVAs. Petitions to establish an AVA must include the following: • Evidence that the area within the proposed AVA boundary is nationally or locally known by the AVA name specified in the petition; • An explanation of the basis for defining the boundary of the proposed AVA; • A narrative description of the features of the proposed AVA that affect viticulture, such as climate, geology, soils, physical features, and elevation, that make the proposed AVA distinctive and distinguish it from adjacent areas outside the proposed AVA boundary; • The appropriate United States Geological Survey (USGS) map(s) showing the location of the proposed AVA, with the boundary of the proposed AVA clearly drawn thereon; • An explanation showing the proposed AVA is sufficiently distinct from an existing AVA so as to warrant separate recognition, if the proposed AVA is to be established within, or overlapping, an existing AVA; and • A detailed narrative description of the proposed AVA boundary based on USGS map markings. jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Petition To Establish the White Bluffs AVA TTB received a petition from Kevin Pogue, a college geology professor, proposing to establish the ‘‘White Bluffs’’ AVA. The petition was submitted on behalf of local vineyard owners and winemakers. The proposed AVA is located in Franklin County, Washington, and is entirely within the existing Columbia Valley AVA (27 CFR 9.74). Within the 93,738-acre proposed AVA, there are 9 commercial vineyards, covering a total of approximately 1,127 acres, along with 1 winery. The distinguishing features of the proposed VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:25 May 26, 2020 Jkt 250001 White Bluffs AVA are its topography, geology, soils, and climate. Proposed White Bluffs AVA Name Evidence The proposed White Bluffs AVA takes its name from a steep escarpment that lies along the eastern bank of the Columbia River and forms the western boundary of the proposed AVA. An early reference to the region can be found in an 1893 U.S. Geological Survey bulletin, which states, ‘‘The White bluffs [sic] afford favorable ground for collecting fossil bones * * *.’’ 1 A 1917 geological bulletin titled ‘‘Age of the strata referred to as Ellensburg formation in the White Bluffs of the Columbia River’’ notes, ‘‘The White Bluffs follow the river closely from a point ten or twelve miles north of Pasco to the northwestward for about thirty miles.’’ 2 A more recent geological publication states, ‘‘The White Bluffs line the north and east sides of the Columbia River for about 30 miles along the Hanford Reach near Richland.’’ 3 The petition also included examples of use of the term ‘‘White Bluffs’’ by businesses and organizations within or serving the proposed AVA. For example, the White Bluffs Quilt Museum, which is in Richland, Washington, describes itself as ‘‘a Regional Textile Arts Center, serving the Tri-Cities and the Mid-Columbia Basin,’’ which includes the region of the proposed AVA. Claar Cellars Winery, which is located within the proposed AVA, has a vineyard called White Bluffs Vineyard. The website of the Washington State Wine Commission states that both the White Bluffs Vineyard and Claar Cellars Winery are located ‘‘north of Pasco, WA in the White Bluffs area of the Columbia Valley Appellation.’’ 4 Finally, the petition notes that an endangered plant that grows primarily within and around the proposed AVA is named the White Bluffs bladderpod.5 Boundary Evidence The proposed White Bluffs AVA is located in the central portion of the 1 Russell, I.C., A geological reconnaissance in central Washington: U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin, p. 108 (1893). 2 Merriam, J.C., and Buwalda, J.P., Age of the strata referred to as Ellensburg formation in the White Bluffs of the Columbia River: University of California Publications Bulletin of the Department of Geology, v. 10, p. 255–266 (1917). 3 Bjornstad, B., On the trail of the Ice Age floods, a geological guide to the Mid-Columbia Basin: Keokee Books, Sandpoint, ID, p.308 (2006). 4 https://www.washingtonwine.org/vineyards/ white-bluffs-vineyard. 5 https://ecos.fws.gov/ecp0/profile/speciesProfile? sld=5390. PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 established Columbia Valley AVA along the eastern bank of the Columbia River and is shaped roughly like a mitten with the ‘‘thumb’’ pointing east. The proposed boundaries encompass a plateau upon which the proposed AVA is located. The northern, eastern, and southern boundaries each primarily follow elevation contours that approximate the escarpments that form the edges of the plateau. The western boundary separates the proposed AVA from the Hanford Reach National Monument and is formed by the east bank of the Columbia River and the boundary of the monument. Distinguishing Features According to the petition, the distinguishing features of the proposed White Bluffs AVA are its topography, geology, soils, and climate. Topography The proposed White Bluffs AVA is located on a broad plateau that rises, on average, 200 feet above the surrounding landscape. The Ringold and Koontz coulees divide the plateau into two distinct areas that are capped by flat surfaces known as Columbia Flat and Owens Flat. The surface of the plateau is described as being ‘‘remarkably even, excepting where interrupted by occasional drainage courses that have cut below its level.’’ 6 Elevations within the proposed AVA range from 700 feet in the coulees to approximately 1,200 feet in the northeastern section. The majority of the proposed AVA has elevations between 800 and 1,000 feet. By contrast, the surrounding regions are generally characterized by lower elevations. To the immediate north, the elevations drop slightly along the Wahluke Slope Habitat Management Area before rising into the Saddle Mountains. To the east, elevations slope downward into the Esquatzel Coulee. To the south, elevations descend into the Pasco Basin. To the west, elevations slope down to the Columbia River. According to the petition, the topography of the proposed AVA has an effect on viticulture. The plateau’s escarpments provide gently sloping vineyard sites with a southern component. Sites with a southern aspect absorb more solar energy per unit area than other sites, which helps warm the soil and promote an earlier onset of bud break, flowering, veraison, and harvest. Additionally, vineyards planted on the plateau are above colder air that pools 6 Merriam, J.C., and Buwalda, J.P., 1917, Age of the strata referred to as Ellensburg formation in the White Bluffs of the Columbia River: University of California Publications Bulletin of the Department of Geology, v. 10, p. 255–266. E:\FR\FM\27MYP1.SGM 27MYP1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 102 / Wednesday, May 27, 2020 / Proposed Rules on the floor of the surrounding lower elevations at night. Vineyards above the pooling cold air have a longer growing season and are at less risk of damage from late spring and early fall frost and freeze events. Geology The proposed White Bluffs AVA is underlain by a thick layer of sedimentary rocks called the Ringold Formation. The sediments that comprise the Ringold Formation were deposited in lakes and rivers between 8.5 and 3.4 million years ago. The upper part of the Ringold Formation contains an erosionresistant mineralized layer commonly referred to as caliche. This layer reaches depths of at least 15 feet and limits root penetration and soil water holding capacity. As a result, areas with thick layers of caliche routinely undergo deep ripping with bulldozers to break up the caliche before vineyards can be planted. The Ringold Formation overlies Columbia River basalt. The underlying rock formations of the regions surrounding the proposed White Bluffs AVA also consist of Columbia River basalt. However, the Ringold Formation is generally much thinner or entirely absent in the surrounding regions, leaving the Columbia River basalt exposed. Unlike vines planted in the proposed AVA, vines planted in the surrounding region are able to encounter the basalt bedrock and are therefore exposed to a suite of very different minerals, including olivine and plagioclase feldspar. Soils The soils of the proposed White Bluffs AVA are developed in wind-deposited silt and fine sand overlying sediment deposited by ice-age floods, which in turn overlies the Ringold Formation. Most of the ice-age flood sediment deposited within the proposed AVA is a mixture of silt and sand that settled out of suspension in glacial Lake Lewis. The maximum elevation of Lake Lewis was approximately 1,250 feet, and thus the entire proposed AVA was submerged. The thickness of the flood sediment gradually increases with decreasing elevation, since there were multiple ice-age floods of varying intensity and lower elevations were flooded more frequently. Thus, the soil depths of the regions surrounding the proposed AVA are likely to be thicker 31725 due to their lower elevations. Additionally, the soils surrounding the proposed AVA are much more likely to consist of coarse-grained gravel rather than fine sand and silt, since they were deposited by fast-flowing flood currents instead of by wind. Because of the thinness of the soils of the proposed AVA, the roots of grapevines are able to reach the Ringold Formation, which has a high clay content. High clay content allows the soils to release water more slowly than sandier soils, allowing vines to be less stressed during dry conditions. Climate According to the petition, the cooler nighttime air flows away from the upper surface of the plateau of the proposed White Bluffs AVA and into the surrounding lower elevations. As a result, the proposed AVA has a longer growing season, which is characterized by an earlier last-frost date and later first-frost date than the surrounding regions. The following table summarizes the climate data provided in the petition. Data was not available for the region to the west, within the Hanford Reach National Monument. TABLE—CLIMATE DATA OF THE PROPOSED AVA AND SURROUNDING REGIONS 7 Weather station (direction from proposed AVA) Average last-frost date Average first-frost date Pasco North (within) .............................................................. KWAELTOP3 (within) ............................................................ Radar Hill (north) ................................................................... Basin City (north) ................................................................... Connell Bench (northeast) ..................................................... Mesa SE (east) ...................................................................... Juniper (southeast) ................................................................ Tri-Cities (south) .................................................................... March 21 ............................... March 15 ............................... April 15 .................................. April 4 .................................... May 2 ..................................... April 26 .................................. April 19 .................................. April 17 .................................. November 8 ........................... November 16 ......................... October 29 ............................. October 28 ............................. October 15 ............................. October 14 ............................. October 17 ............................. October 25 ............................. jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS The petition illustrates that the early last-frost dates mean that the proposed White Bluffs AVA is less prone to spring frosts that can damage the vines after bud break than the surrounding regions. Additionally, a later first-frost date means that the proposed AVA is less likely to experience fall frosts that halt the ripening process and delay harvest. Summary of Distinguishing Features The proposed White Bluffs AVA is located on a large plateau that rises, on average, 200 feet above the surrounding regions. The geology is characterized by a thick layer of clay, silt, sand, and gravel called the Ringold Formation, 7 Data from Pasco, Pasco North, Radar Hill, Juniper, Mesa SE, Connell Bench, Basin City, and Tri-Cities weather stations were collected from 2008–2016. Data from the KWAELTOP3 station was only available from 2014–2016. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:25 May 26, 2020 Jkt 250001 which overlies Columbia River basalt. Soils in the proposed AVA are comprised of thin layers of winddeposited silt and fine sand overlying sediment deposited by ice-age floods. The proposed AVA has a long growing season of between 229 and 246 days, with an average last-frost date in midMarch and an average first-frost date in early-to-mid November. By contrast, the surrounding regions are at lower elevations than the proposed AVA. As a result, the soils are thicker and are likely to have more coarse-grained gravel because those regions were more frequently covered by ice-age flooding. The geology of the surrounding regions features Columbia River basalt, but the Ringold Formation is either significantly thinner than within the proposed AVA or it is PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Average growing season length in days 229 246 196 204 164 169 181 191 entirely absent. Finally, the surrounding regions have significantly shorter growing seasons, with later last-frost dates and earlier first-frost dates. Comparison of the Proposed White Bluffs AVA to the Existing Columbia Valley AVA T.D. ATF–190, published in the Federal Register on November 13, 1984 (49 FR 44895), established the Columbia Valley AVA. It describes the Columbia Valley AVA as a large, treeless basin surrounding the Yakima, Snake, and Columbia Rivers. Growing season lengths within the Columbia Valley AVA are over 150 days, and annual precipitation amounts are less than 15 inches. Elevations within the Columbia Valley AVA are below 2,000 feet. The proposed White Bluffs AVA shares some of the general viticultural E:\FR\FM\27MYP1.SGM 27MYP1 31726 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 102 / Wednesday, May 27, 2020 / Proposed Rules features of the larger Columbia Valley AVA. For instance, the proposed AVA has elevations below 2,000 feet and both have geologies that consist of Columbia River basalt. The petition states that the proposed AVA also has annual precipitation amounts of less than 15 inches, although no data was provided to support this claim. The proposed AVA, however, also has characteristics that distinguish it from the larger Columbia Valley AVA. Most notably, the proposed AVA is an elevated plateau, rather than a broad plain. Although the elevations within the proposed AVA are within the range of elevations found within the Columbia Valley AVA, the proposed AVA’s elevations are significantly higher than those of the immediately surrounding regions. Finally, due to the higher elevations, soil depths within the proposed White Bluffs AVA are shallower than the soil depths found within the majority of the Columbia Valley AVA, which was more frequently inundated by ice-age floods. TTB Determination TTB concludes that the petition to establish the 93,738-acre ‘‘White Bluffs’’ AVA merits consideration and public comment, as invited in this document. Boundary Description See the narrative boundary descriptions of the petitioned-for AVA in the proposed regulatory text published at the end of this document. jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Maps The petitioner provided the required maps, and they are listed below in the proposed regulatory text. You may also view the proposed White Bluffs AVA boundary on the AVA Map Explorer on the TTB website, at https://www.ttb.gov/ wine/ava-map-explorer. Impact on Current Wine Labels Part 4 of the TTB regulations prohibits any label reference on a wine that indicates or implies an origin other than the wine’s true place of origin. For a wine to be labeled with an AVA name or with a brand name that includes an AVA name, at least 85 percent of the wine must be derived from grapes grown within the area represented by that name, and the wine must meet the other conditions listed in 27 CFR 4.25(e)(3). If the wine is not eligible for labeling with an AVA name and that name appears in the brand name, then the label is not in compliance and the bottler must change the brand name and obtain approval of a new label. Similarly, if the AVA name appears in another reference on the label in a VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:25 May 26, 2020 Jkt 250001 misleading manner, the bottler would have to obtain approval of a new label. Different rules apply if a wine has a brand name containing an AVA name that was used as a brand name on a label approved before July 7, 1986. See 27 CFR 4.39(i)(2) for details. If TTB establishes this proposed AVA, its name, ‘‘White Bluffs,’’ will be recognized as a name of viticultural significance under § 4.39(i)(3) of the TTB regulations (27 CFR 4.39(i)(3)). The text of the proposed regulation clarifies this point. Consequently, wine bottlers using ‘‘White Bluffs’’ in a brand name, including a trademark, or in another label reference as to the origin of the wine, would have to ensure that the product is eligible to use the AVA name as an appellation of origin if this proposed rule is adopted as a final rule. If approved, the establishment of the proposed White Bluffs AVA would allow vintners to use ‘‘White Bluffs’’ or ‘‘Columbia Valley’’ as appellations of origin for wines made from grapes grown within the proposed AVA, if the wines meet the eligibility requirements for the appellation. Public Participation Comments Invited TTB invites comments from interested members of the public on whether TTB should establish the proposed White Bluffs AVA. TTB is interested in receiving comments on the sufficiency and accuracy of the name, boundary, topography, and other required information submitted in support of the AVA petition. In addition, because the proposed White Bluffs AVA would be within the existing Columbia Valley AVA, TTB is interested in comments on whether the evidence submitted in the petition regarding the distinguishing features of the proposed AVA sufficiently differentiates it from the existing AVA. TTB is also interested in comments on whether the geographic features of the proposed AVA are so distinguishable from the Columbia Valley AVA that the proposed White Bluffs AVA should not be part of the established AVA. Please provide any available specific information in support of your comments. Because of the potential impact of the establishment of the proposed White Bluffs AVA on wine labels that include the term ‘‘White Bluffs’’ as discussed above under Impact on Current Wine Labels, TTB is particularly interested in comments regarding whether there will be a conflict between the proposed area names and currently used brand names. If a commenter believes that a conflict will arise, the comment should describe PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 the nature of that conflict, including any anticipated negative economic impact that approval of the proposed AVA will have on an existing viticultural enterprise. TTB is also interested in receiving suggestions for ways to avoid conflicts, for example, by adopting a modified or different name for the proposed AVA. Submitting Comments You may submit comments on this proposal by using one of the following three methods: • Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: You may send comments via the online comment form posted with this document within Docket No. TTB– 2020–0004 on ‘‘Regulations.gov,’’ the Federal e-rulemaking portal, at https:// www.regulations.gov. A direct link to that docket is available under Notice No. 189 on the TTB website at https:// www.ttb.gov/wine/winerulemaking.shtml. Supplemental files may be attached to comments submitted via Regulations.gov. For complete instructions on how to use Regulations.gov, visit the site and click on the ‘‘Help’’ tab at the top of the page. • U.S. Mail: You may send comments via postal mail to the Director, Regulations and Rulings Division, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, 1310 G Street, NW, Box 12, Washington, DC 20005. • Hand Delivery/Courier: You may hand-carry your comments or have them hand-carried to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, 1310 G Street NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20005. Please submit your comments by the closing date shown above in this document. Your comments must reference Notice No. 189 and include your name and mailing address. Your comments also must be made in English, be legible, and be written in language acceptable for public disclosure. We do not acknowledge receipt of comments, and we consider all comments as originals. Your comment must clearly state if you are commenting on your own behalf or on behalf of an organization, business, or other entity. If you are commenting on behalf of an organization, business, or other entity, your comment must include the entity’s name as well as your name and position title. If you comment via Regulations.gov, please enter the entity’s name in the ‘‘Organization’’ blank of the online comment form. If you comment via postal mail, please submit your entity’s comment on letterhead. E:\FR\FM\27MYP1.SGM 27MYP1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 102 / Wednesday, May 27, 2020 / Proposed Rules You may also write to the Administrator before the comment closing date to ask for a public hearing. The Administrator reserves the right to determine whether to hold a public hearing. Confidentiality All submitted comments and attachments are part of the public record and subject to disclosure. Do not enclose any material in your comments that you consider to be confidential or inappropriate for public disclosure. jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Public Disclosure TTB will post, and you may view, copies of this document, selected supporting materials, and any online or mailed comments received about this proposal within Docket No. TTB–2020– 0004 on the Federal e-rulemaking portal, Regulations.gov, at https:// www.regulations.gov. A direct link to that docket is available on the TTB website at https://www.ttb.gov/wine/ wine-rulemaking.shtml under Notice No. 189. You may also reach the relevant docket through the Regulations.gov search page at https:// www.regulations.gov. For instructions on how to use Regulations.gov, visit the site and click on the ‘‘Help’’ tab. All posted comments will display the commenter’s name, organization (if any), city, and State, and, in the case of mailed comments, all address information, including email addresses. TTB may omit voluminous attachments or material that it considers unsuitable for posting. You also may view copies of this document, all related petitions, maps and other supporting materials, and any electronic or mailed comments we receive about this proposal by appointment at the TTB Information Resource Center, 1310 G Street NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20005. You may also obtain copies at 20 cents per 8.5- x 11-inch page. Contact TTB’s Regulations and Rulings Division at the above address, by email at https:// www.ttb.gov/webforms/contact_ RRD.shtm, or by telephone at 202–453– 1039, ext. 175, to schedule an appointment or to request copies of comments or other materials. Regulatory Flexibility Act TTB certifies that this proposed regulation, if adopted, would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The proposed regulation imposes no new reporting, recordkeeping, or other administrative requirement. Any benefit derived from the use of a viticultural area name would be the result of a VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:16 May 26, 2020 Jkt 250001 proprietor’s efforts and consumer acceptance of wines from that area. Therefore, no regulatory flexibility analysis is required. Executive Order 12866 This proposed rule is not a significant regulatory action as defined by Executive Order 12866. Therefore, it requires no regulatory assessment. Drafting Information Karen A. Thornton of the Regulations and Rulings Division drafted this document. List of Subjects in 27 CFR Part 9 Wine. Proposed Regulatory Amendment For the reasons discussed in the preamble, we propose to amend title 27, chapter I, part 9, Code of Federal Regulations, as follows: PART 9—AMERICAN VITICULTURAL AREAS 1. The authority citation for part 9 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 27 U.S.C. 205. Subpart C—Approved American Viticultural Areas ■ 2. Add § 9.ll to read as follows: § 9.__ White Bluffs. (a) Name. The name of the viticultural area described in this section is ‘‘White Bluffs’’. For purposes of part 4 of this chapter, ‘‘White Bluffs’’ is a term of viticultural significance. (b) Approved maps. The 10 United States Geological Survey (USGS) 1:24,000 scale topographic maps used to determine the boundary of the viticultural area are titled: (1) Hanford, NE, Washington, 1986; (2) Mesa West, Washington, 1986; (3) Wooded Island, Washington, 1992; (4) Matthews Corner, Washington, 1992; (5) Basin City, Washington, 1986; (6) Eltopia, Washington, 1992; (7) Eagle Lakes, Washington, 1986; (8) Savage Island, Washington, 1986; (9) Richland, Washington, 1992; and (10) Columbia Point, Washington, 1992. (c) Boundary. The White Bluffs viticultural area is located in Franklin County in Washington. The boundary of the White Bluffs viticultural area is as described below: (1) The beginning point is on the Richland map at the intersection of Columbia River Road and an unnamed secondary highway known locally as Sagemoor Road. From the beginning PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 31727 point, proceed north along Columbia River Road, crossing onto the Wooded Island map, to the Potholes Canal; then (2) Proceed west along the Potholes Canal for 150 feet to its intersection with the shoreline of the Columbia River; then (3) Proceed north along the Columbia River shoreline, crossing onto the Savage Island map, to the intersection of the shoreline with the Wahluke Slope Habitat Management boundary on Ringold Flat; then (4) Proceed east, then generally northwesterly, along the Wahluke Slope Habitat Management boundary to its intersection with the 950-foot elevation contour along the western boundary of section 16, T13N/R29E; then (5) Proceed easterly, then generally northeasterly, along the 950-foot elevation contour, passing over the Hanford NE map and onto the Eagle Lakes map, to the intersection of the elevation contour with an unimproved road in the southeast corner of section 32, T14N/T29E; then (6) Proceed east along the unimproved road for 100 feet to its intersection with an unnamed light-duty improved road known locally as Albany Road; then (7) Proceed south along Albany Road, crossing onto the Basin City map, to the road’s intersection with an unnamed improved light-duty road known locally as Basin Hill Road along the southern boundary of section 21, T13N/R29E; then (8) Proceed south in a straight line for 2 miles to an improved light-duty road known locally as W. Klamath Road; then (9) Proceed east along W. Klamath Road, crossing onto the Mesa West map, to the road’s intersection with another improved light-duty road known locally as Drummond Road; then (10) Proceed north along Drummond Road for 0.75 mile to its intersection with a railroad; then (11) Proceed easterly along the railroad to its intersection with an improved light-duty road known locally as Langford Road in the northeastern corner of section 4, T12N/R30E; then (12) Proceed south along Langford Road for 0.5 mile to its intersection with the 800-foot elevation contour; then (13) Proceed southwesterly along the 800-foot elevation contour, crossing onto the Eltopia map, to the contour’s intersection with Eltopia West Road; then (14) Proceed east along Eltopia West Road to its intersection with the 700foot elevation contour; then (15) Proceed southerly, then northerly along the 700-foot elevation contour, circling Jackass Mountain, to the E:\FR\FM\27MYP1.SGM 27MYP1 31728 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 102 / Wednesday, May 27, 2020 / Proposed Rules contour’s intersection with Dogwood Road; then (16) Proceed west along Dogwood Road for 1.1 mile, crossing onto the Matthews Corner map, to the road’s intersection with the 750-foot elevation contour; then (17) Proceed southwesterly along the 750-foot elevation contour to its intersection with Taylor Flats Road; then (18) Proceed south along Taylor Flats Road, crossing onto the Columbia Point map, to the road’s intersection with Birch Road; then (19) Proceed west along Birch Road for 1 mile to its intersection with Alder Road; then (20) Proceed south along Alder Road for 0.7 mile to its intersection with the 550-foot elevation contour; then (21) Proceed westerly along the 550foot elevation contour to its intersection with Sagemoor Road; then (22) Proceed westerly along Sagemoor Road for 0.7 mile, crossing onto the Richland map and returning to the beginning point. Signed: March 4, 2020. Mary G. Ryan, Acting Administrator. Approved: May 13, 2020. Timothy E. Skud, Deputy Assistant Secretary (Tax, Trade, and Tariff Policy). [FR Doc. 2020–10920 Filed 5–26–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4810–31–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE United States Patent and Trademark Office 37 CFR Part 42 [Docket No. PTO–P–2019–0024] RIN 0651–AD40 PTAB Rules of Practice for Instituting on All Challenged Patent Claims and All Grounds and Eliminating the Presumption at Institution Favoring Petitioner as to Testimonial Evidence United States Patent and Trademark Office, Department of Commerce. ACTION: Notice of proposed rulemaking. jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS AGENCY: The United States Patent and Trademark Office (‘‘USPTO’’ or ‘‘Office’’) proposes changes to the rules of practice for instituting review on all challenged claims or none in inter partes review (‘‘IPR’’), post-grant review (‘‘PGR’’), and the transitional program for covered business method patents SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:25 May 26, 2020 Jkt 250001 (‘‘CBM’’) proceedings before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (‘‘PTAB’’ or ‘‘Board’’) in accordance with SAS Institute Inc. v. Iancu (‘‘SAS’’). Consistent with SAS, the Office also proposes changes to the rules of practice for instituting a review on all grounds of unpatentability for the challenged claims that are asserted in a petition. Additionally, the Office proposes changes to the rules to conform to the current standard practice of providing sur-replies to principal briefs and providing that a patent owner response and reply may respond to a decision on institution. The Office further proposes a change to eliminate the presumption that a genuine issue of material fact created by the patent owner’s testimonial evidence filed with a preliminary response will be viewed in the light most favorable to the petitioner for purposes of deciding whether to institute a review. DATES: Comment Deadline Date: The Office solicits comments from the public on this proposed rulemaking. Written comments must be received on or before June 26, 2020 to ensure consideration. ADDRESSES: Comments should be sent by email addressed to: PTABNPRM2020@uspto.gov. Comments may also be sent via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http:// www.regulations.gov. See the Federal eRulemaking Portal website for additional instructions on providing comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. All comments submitted directly to the USPTO or provided on the Federal eRulemaking Portal should include the docket number (PTO–P– 2019–0024). Comments may also be submitted by postal mail addressed to: Mail Stop Patent Board, Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, P.O. Box 1450, Alexandria, VA 22313– 1450, marked to the attention of Michael Tierney, Vice Chief Administrative Patent Judge. Although comments may be submitted by postal mail, the Office prefers to receive comments by email to more easily share all comments with the public. The Office prefers the comments to be submitted in plain text but also accepts comments submitted in searchable ADOBE® portable document format (PDF) or MICROSOFT WORD® format. Comments not submitted electronically should be submitted on paper in a format that accommodates digital scanning into ADOBE® PDF. The comments will be available for public inspection at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, located in Madison East, PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Ninth Floor, 600 Dulany Street, Alexandria, Virginia. Comments also will be available for viewing via the Office’s website, https://go.usa.gov/ xXXFW, and on the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Because comments will be made available for public inspection, information that the submitter does not desire to be made public, such as an address or phone number, should not be included. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Michael Tierney, Vice Chief Administrative Patent Judge, by telephone at (571) 272–9797. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Executive Summary Purpose: The proposed rules would amend the rules of practice for IPR, PGR, and CBM proceedings that implemented provisions of the LeahySmith America Invents Act (‘‘AIA’’) providing for trials before the Office. The U.S. Supreme Court held in SAS that a decision to institute an IPR under 35 U.S.C. 314 may not institute on fewer than all claims challenged in a petition. See SAS Institute Inc. v. Iancu, 138 S. Ct. 1348 (2018). The Court held that the Office only has the discretion to institute on all of the claims challenged in the petition or to deny the petition. Previously, the Board exercised discretion to institute an IPR, PGR, or CBM on all or some of the challenged claims and on all or some of the grounds of unpatentability asserted in a petition. For example, the Board exercised discretion to authorize a review to proceed on only those claims and grounds for which the required threshold had been met, thus narrowing the issues for efficiency in conducting a proceeding. In light of SAS, the Office provided guidance that, if the Board institutes a trial under 35 U.S.C. 314 or 324, the Board will institute on all claims and all grounds included in a petition of an IPR, PGR, or CBM. To implement this practice in the regulation, the first proposed change would amend the rules of practice for instituting an IPR, PGR, or CBM to require institution on all challenged claims (and all of the grounds) presented in a petition or on none. Under the amended rule, in all pending IPR, PGR, and CBM proceedings before the Office, the Board would either institute review on all of the challenged claims and grounds of unpatentability presented in the petition or deny the petition. The second proposed change would amend the rules of practice to conform the rules to certain standard practices before the PTAB in IPR, PGR, and CBM E:\FR\FM\27MYP1.SGM 27MYP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 102 (Wednesday, May 27, 2020)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 31723-31728]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-10920]


-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY

Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau

27 CFR Part 9

[Docket No. TTB-2020-0004; Notice No. 189]
RIN 1513-AC57


Proposed Establishment of the White Bluffs Viticultural Area

AGENCY: Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, Treasury.

ACTION: Notice of proposed rulemaking.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) proposes to 
establish the 93,738-acre ``White Bluffs'' viticultural area in 
Franklin County, Washington. The proposed AVA is located entirely 
within the existing Columbia Valley AVA. TTB designates viticultural 
areas to allow vintners to better describe the origin of their wines 
and to allow consumers to better identify wines they may purchase. TTB 
invites comments on these proposals.

DATES: TTB must receive your comments on or before July 27, 2020.

ADDRESSES: You may electronically submit comments to TTB on this 
proposal, and view copies of this document, its supporting materials, 
and any comments TTB receives on it within Docket No. TTB-2020-0004 as 
posted on Regulations.gov (https://www.regulations.gov), the Federal e-
rulemaking portal. Please see the ``Public Participation'' section of 
this document below for full details on how to comment on this proposal 
via Regulations.gov, U.S. mail, or hand delivery, and for full details 
on how to view or obtain copies of this document, its supporting 
materials, and any comments related to this proposal.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Karen A. Thornton, Regulations and 
Rulings Division, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, 1310 G 
Street NW, Box 12, Washington, DC 20005; phone 202-453-1039, ext. 175.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background on Viticultural Areas

TTB Authority

    Section 105(e) of the Federal Alcohol Administration Act (FAA Act), 
27 U.S.C. 205(e), authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to prescribe 
regulations for the labeling of wine, distilled spirits, and malt 
beverages. The FAA Act provides that these regulations should, among 
other things, prohibit consumer deception and the use of misleading 
statements on labels, and ensure that labels provide the consumer with 
adequate information as to the identity and quality of the product. The 
Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) administers the FAA Act 
pursuant to section 1111(d) of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, 
codified at 6 U.S.C. 531(d). The Secretary has delegated various 
authorities through Treasury Order 120-01, dated December 10, 2013 
(superseding Treasury Order 120-01, dated January 24, 2003), to the TTB 
Administrator to perform the functions and duties in the administration 
and enforcement of these provisions.
    Part 4 of the TTB regulations (27 CFR part 4) authorizes TTB to 
establish definitive viticultural areas and regulate the use of their 
names as appellations of origin on wine labels and in wine 
advertisements. Part 9 of the TTB regulations (27 CFR part 9) sets 
forth standards for the preparation and submission of petitions for the 
establishment or modification of American viticultural areas (AVAs) and 
lists the approved AVAs.

Definition

    Section 4.25(e)(1)(i) of the TTB regulations (27 CFR 4.25(e)(1)(i)) 
defines a viticultural area for American wine as a delimited grape-
growing region having distinguishing features, as described in part 9 
of the regulations, and a name and a delineated boundary, as 
established in part 9 of the regulations. These designations allow 
vintners and consumers to attribute a given quality, reputation, or 
other characteristic of a

[[Page 31724]]

wine made from grapes grown in an area to its geographic origin. The 
establishment of AVAs allows vintners to describe more accurately the 
origin of their wines to consumers and helps consumers to identify 
wines they may purchase. Establishment of an AVA is neither an approval 
nor an endorsement by TTB of the wine produced in that area.

Requirements

    Section 4.25(e)(2) of the TTB regulations (27 CFR 4.25(e)(2)) 
outlines the procedure for proposing an AVA and provides that any 
interested party may petition TTB to establish a grape-growing region 
as an AVA. Section 9.12 of the TTB regulations (27 CFR 9.12) prescribes 
standards for petitions for the establishment or modification of AVAs. 
Petitions to establish an AVA must include the following:
     Evidence that the area within the proposed AVA boundary is 
nationally or locally known by the AVA name specified in the petition;
     An explanation of the basis for defining the boundary of 
the proposed AVA;
     A narrative description of the features of the proposed 
AVA that affect viticulture, such as climate, geology, soils, physical 
features, and elevation, that make the proposed AVA distinctive and 
distinguish it from adjacent areas outside the proposed AVA boundary;
     The appropriate United States Geological Survey (USGS) 
map(s) showing the location of the proposed AVA, with the boundary of 
the proposed AVA clearly drawn thereon;
     An explanation showing the proposed AVA is sufficiently 
distinct from an existing AVA so as to warrant separate recognition, if 
the proposed AVA is to be established within, or overlapping, an 
existing AVA; and
     A detailed narrative description of the proposed AVA 
boundary based on USGS map markings.

Petition To Establish the White Bluffs AVA

    TTB received a petition from Kevin Pogue, a college geology 
professor, proposing to establish the ``White Bluffs'' AVA. The 
petition was submitted on behalf of local vineyard owners and 
winemakers. The proposed AVA is located in Franklin County, Washington, 
and is entirely within the existing Columbia Valley AVA (27 CFR 9.74). 
Within the 93,738-acre proposed AVA, there are 9 commercial vineyards, 
covering a total of approximately 1,127 acres, along with 1 winery. The 
distinguishing features of the proposed White Bluffs AVA are its 
topography, geology, soils, and climate.

Proposed White Bluffs AVA

Name Evidence

    The proposed White Bluffs AVA takes its name from a steep 
escarpment that lies along the eastern bank of the Columbia River and 
forms the western boundary of the proposed AVA. An early reference to 
the region can be found in an 1893 U.S. Geological Survey bulletin, 
which states, ``The White bluffs [sic] afford favorable ground for 
collecting fossil bones * * *.'' \1\ A 1917 geological bulletin titled 
``Age of the strata referred to as Ellensburg formation in the White 
Bluffs of the Columbia River'' notes, ``The White Bluffs follow the 
river closely from a point ten or twelve miles north of Pasco to the 
northwestward for about thirty miles.'' \2\ A more recent geological 
publication states, ``The White Bluffs line the north and east sides of 
the Columbia River for about 30 miles along the Hanford Reach near 
Richland.'' \3\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ Russell, I.C., A geological reconnaissance in central 
Washington: U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin, p. 108 (1893).
    \2\ Merriam, J.C., and Buwalda, J.P., Age of the strata referred 
to as Ellensburg formation in the White Bluffs of the Columbia 
River: University of California Publications Bulletin of the 
Department of Geology, v. 10, p. 255-266 (1917).
    \3\ Bjornstad, B., On the trail of the Ice Age floods, a 
geological guide to the Mid-Columbia Basin: Keokee Books, Sandpoint, 
ID, p.308 (2006).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The petition also included examples of use of the term ``White 
Bluffs'' by businesses and organizations within or serving the proposed 
AVA. For example, the White Bluffs Quilt Museum, which is in Richland, 
Washington, describes itself as ``a Regional Textile Arts Center, 
serving the Tri-Cities and the Mid-Columbia Basin,'' which includes the 
region of the proposed AVA. Claar Cellars Winery, which is located 
within the proposed AVA, has a vineyard called White Bluffs Vineyard. 
The website of the Washington State Wine Commission states that both 
the White Bluffs Vineyard and Claar Cellars Winery are located ``north 
of Pasco, WA in the White Bluffs area of the Columbia Valley 
Appellation.'' \4\ Finally, the petition notes that an endangered plant 
that grows primarily within and around the proposed AVA is named the 
White Bluffs bladderpod.\5\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \4\ https://www.washingtonwine.org/vineyards/white-bluffs-vineyard.
    \5\ https://ecos.fws.gov/ecp0/profile/speciesProfile?sld=5390.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Boundary Evidence

    The proposed White Bluffs AVA is located in the central portion of 
the established Columbia Valley AVA along the eastern bank of the 
Columbia River and is shaped roughly like a mitten with the ``thumb'' 
pointing east. The proposed boundaries encompass a plateau upon which 
the proposed AVA is located. The northern, eastern, and southern 
boundaries each primarily follow elevation contours that approximate 
the escarpments that form the edges of the plateau. The western 
boundary separates the proposed AVA from the Hanford Reach National 
Monument and is formed by the east bank of the Columbia River and the 
boundary of the monument.

Distinguishing Features

    According to the petition, the distinguishing features of the 
proposed White Bluffs AVA are its topography, geology, soils, and 
climate.
Topography
    The proposed White Bluffs AVA is located on a broad plateau that 
rises, on average, 200 feet above the surrounding landscape. The 
Ringold and Koontz coulees divide the plateau into two distinct areas 
that are capped by flat surfaces known as Columbia Flat and Owens Flat. 
The surface of the plateau is described as being ``remarkably even, 
excepting where interrupted by occasional drainage courses that have 
cut below its level.'' \6\ Elevations within the proposed AVA range 
from 700 feet in the coulees to approximately 1,200 feet in the 
northeastern section. The majority of the proposed AVA has elevations 
between 800 and 1,000 feet.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \6\ Merriam, J.C., and Buwalda, J.P., 1917, Age of the strata 
referred to as Ellensburg formation in the White Bluffs of the 
Columbia River: University of California Publications Bulletin of 
the Department of Geology, v. 10, p. 255-266.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    By contrast, the surrounding regions are generally characterized by 
lower elevations. To the immediate north, the elevations drop slightly 
along the Wahluke Slope Habitat Management Area before rising into the 
Saddle Mountains. To the east, elevations slope downward into the 
Esquatzel Coulee. To the south, elevations descend into the Pasco 
Basin. To the west, elevations slope down to the Columbia River.
    According to the petition, the topography of the proposed AVA has 
an effect on viticulture. The plateau's escarpments provide gently 
sloping vineyard sites with a southern component. Sites with a southern 
aspect absorb more solar energy per unit area than other sites, which 
helps warm the soil and promote an earlier onset of bud break, 
flowering, veraison, and harvest. Additionally, vineyards planted on 
the plateau are above colder air that pools

[[Page 31725]]

on the floor of the surrounding lower elevations at night. Vineyards 
above the pooling cold air have a longer growing season and are at less 
risk of damage from late spring and early fall frost and freeze events.
Geology
    The proposed White Bluffs AVA is underlain by a thick layer of 
sedimentary rocks called the Ringold Formation. The sediments that 
comprise the Ringold Formation were deposited in lakes and rivers 
between 8.5 and 3.4 million years ago. The upper part of the Ringold 
Formation contains an erosion-resistant mineralized layer commonly 
referred to as caliche. This layer reaches depths of at least 15 feet 
and limits root penetration and soil water holding capacity. As a 
result, areas with thick layers of caliche routinely undergo deep 
ripping with bulldozers to break up the caliche before vineyards can be 
planted. The Ringold Formation overlies Columbia River basalt.
    The underlying rock formations of the regions surrounding the 
proposed White Bluffs AVA also consist of Columbia River basalt. 
However, the Ringold Formation is generally much thinner or entirely 
absent in the surrounding regions, leaving the Columbia River basalt 
exposed. Unlike vines planted in the proposed AVA, vines planted in the 
surrounding region are able to encounter the basalt bedrock and are 
therefore exposed to a suite of very different minerals, including 
olivine and plagioclase feldspar.
Soils
    The soils of the proposed White Bluffs AVA are developed in wind-
deposited silt and fine sand overlying sediment deposited by ice-age 
floods, which in turn overlies the Ringold Formation. Most of the ice-
age flood sediment deposited within the proposed AVA is a mixture of 
silt and sand that settled out of suspension in glacial Lake Lewis. The 
maximum elevation of Lake Lewis was approximately 1,250 feet, and thus 
the entire proposed AVA was submerged. The thickness of the flood 
sediment gradually increases with decreasing elevation, since there 
were multiple ice-age floods of varying intensity and lower elevations 
were flooded more frequently. Thus, the soil depths of the regions 
surrounding the proposed AVA are likely to be thicker due to their 
lower elevations. Additionally, the soils surrounding the proposed AVA 
are much more likely to consist of coarse-grained gravel rather than 
fine sand and silt, since they were deposited by fast-flowing flood 
currents instead of by wind.
    Because of the thinness of the soils of the proposed AVA, the roots 
of grapevines are able to reach the Ringold Formation, which has a high 
clay content. High clay content allows the soils to release water more 
slowly than sandier soils, allowing vines to be less stressed during 
dry conditions.
Climate
    According to the petition, the cooler nighttime air flows away from 
the upper surface of the plateau of the proposed White Bluffs AVA and 
into the surrounding lower elevations. As a result, the proposed AVA 
has a longer growing season, which is characterized by an earlier last-
frost date and later first-frost date than the surrounding regions. The 
following table summarizes the climate data provided in the petition. 
Data was not available for the region to the west, within the Hanford 
Reach National Monument.

                        Table--Climate Data of the Proposed AVA and Surrounding Regions 7
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                Average growing
    Weather station (direction from       Average last-frost date    Average first-frost date   season length in
             proposed AVA)                                                                            days
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Pasco North (within)...................  March 21.................  November 8...............                229
KWAELTOP3 (within).....................  March 15.................  November 16..............                246
Radar Hill (north).....................  April 15.................  October 29...............                196
Basin City (north).....................  April 4..................  October 28...............                204
Connell Bench (northeast)..............  May 2....................  October 15...............                164
Mesa SE (east).........................  April 26.................  October 14...............                169
Juniper (southeast)....................  April 19.................  October 17...............                181
Tri-Cities (south).....................  April 17.................  October 25...............                191
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The petition illustrates that the early last-frost dates mean that 
the proposed White Bluffs AVA is less prone to spring frosts that can 
damage the vines after bud break than the surrounding regions. 
Additionally, a later first-frost date means that the proposed AVA is 
less likely to experience fall frosts that halt the ripening process 
and delay harvest.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \7\ Data from Pasco, Pasco North, Radar Hill, Juniper, Mesa SE, 
Connell Bench, Basin City, and Tri-Cities weather stations were 
collected from 2008-2016. Data from the KWAELTOP3 station was only 
available from 2014-2016.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Summary of Distinguishing Features

    The proposed White Bluffs AVA is located on a large plateau that 
rises, on average, 200 feet above the surrounding regions. The geology 
is characterized by a thick layer of clay, silt, sand, and gravel 
called the Ringold Formation, which overlies Columbia River basalt. 
Soils in the proposed AVA are comprised of thin layers of wind-
deposited silt and fine sand overlying sediment deposited by ice-age 
floods. The proposed AVA has a long growing season of between 229 and 
246 days, with an average last-frost date in mid-March and an average 
first-frost date in early-to-mid November.
    By contrast, the surrounding regions are at lower elevations than 
the proposed AVA. As a result, the soils are thicker and are likely to 
have more coarse-grained gravel because those regions were more 
frequently covered by ice-age flooding. The geology of the surrounding 
regions features Columbia River basalt, but the Ringold Formation is 
either significantly thinner than within the proposed AVA or it is 
entirely absent. Finally, the surrounding regions have significantly 
shorter growing seasons, with later last-frost dates and earlier first-
frost dates.

Comparison of the Proposed White Bluffs AVA to the Existing Columbia 
Valley AVA

    T.D. ATF-190, published in the Federal Register on November 13, 
1984 (49 FR 44895), established the Columbia Valley AVA. It describes 
the Columbia Valley AVA as a large, treeless basin surrounding the 
Yakima, Snake, and Columbia Rivers. Growing season lengths within the 
Columbia Valley AVA are over 150 days, and annual precipitation amounts 
are less than 15 inches. Elevations within the Columbia Valley AVA are 
below 2,000 feet.
    The proposed White Bluffs AVA shares some of the general 
viticultural

[[Page 31726]]

features of the larger Columbia Valley AVA. For instance, the proposed 
AVA has elevations below 2,000 feet and both have geologies that 
consist of Columbia River basalt. The petition states that the proposed 
AVA also has annual precipitation amounts of less than 15 inches, 
although no data was provided to support this claim.
    The proposed AVA, however, also has characteristics that 
distinguish it from the larger Columbia Valley AVA. Most notably, the 
proposed AVA is an elevated plateau, rather than a broad plain. 
Although the elevations within the proposed AVA are within the range of 
elevations found within the Columbia Valley AVA, the proposed AVA's 
elevations are significantly higher than those of the immediately 
surrounding regions. Finally, due to the higher elevations, soil depths 
within the proposed White Bluffs AVA are shallower than the soil depths 
found within the majority of the Columbia Valley AVA, which was more 
frequently inundated by ice-age floods.

TTB Determination

    TTB concludes that the petition to establish the 93,738-acre 
``White Bluffs'' AVA merits consideration and public comment, as 
invited in this document.

Boundary Description

    See the narrative boundary descriptions of the petitioned-for AVA 
in the proposed regulatory text published at the end of this document.

Maps

    The petitioner provided the required maps, and they are listed 
below in the proposed regulatory text. You may also view the proposed 
White Bluffs AVA boundary on the AVA Map Explorer on the TTB website, 
at https://www.ttb.gov/wine/ava-map-explorer.

Impact on Current Wine Labels

    Part 4 of the TTB regulations prohibits any label reference on a 
wine that indicates or implies an origin other than the wine's true 
place of origin. For a wine to be labeled with an AVA name or with a 
brand name that includes an AVA name, at least 85 percent of the wine 
must be derived from grapes grown within the area represented by that 
name, and the wine must meet the other conditions listed in 27 CFR 
4.25(e)(3). If the wine is not eligible for labeling with an AVA name 
and that name appears in the brand name, then the label is not in 
compliance and the bottler must change the brand name and obtain 
approval of a new label. Similarly, if the AVA name appears in another 
reference on the label in a misleading manner, the bottler would have 
to obtain approval of a new label. Different rules apply if a wine has 
a brand name containing an AVA name that was used as a brand name on a 
label approved before July 7, 1986. See 27 CFR 4.39(i)(2) for details.
    If TTB establishes this proposed AVA, its name, ``White Bluffs,'' 
will be recognized as a name of viticultural significance under Sec.  
4.39(i)(3) of the TTB regulations (27 CFR 4.39(i)(3)). The text of the 
proposed regulation clarifies this point. Consequently, wine bottlers 
using ``White Bluffs'' in a brand name, including a trademark, or in 
another label reference as to the origin of the wine, would have to 
ensure that the product is eligible to use the AVA name as an 
appellation of origin if this proposed rule is adopted as a final rule. 
If approved, the establishment of the proposed White Bluffs AVA would 
allow vintners to use ``White Bluffs'' or ``Columbia Valley'' as 
appellations of origin for wines made from grapes grown within the 
proposed AVA, if the wines meet the eligibility requirements for the 
appellation.

Public Participation

Comments Invited

    TTB invites comments from interested members of the public on 
whether TTB should establish the proposed White Bluffs AVA. TTB is 
interested in receiving comments on the sufficiency and accuracy of the 
name, boundary, topography, and other required information submitted in 
support of the AVA petition. In addition, because the proposed White 
Bluffs AVA would be within the existing Columbia Valley AVA, TTB is 
interested in comments on whether the evidence submitted in the 
petition regarding the distinguishing features of the proposed AVA 
sufficiently differentiates it from the existing AVA. TTB is also 
interested in comments on whether the geographic features of the 
proposed AVA are so distinguishable from the Columbia Valley AVA that 
the proposed White Bluffs AVA should not be part of the established 
AVA. Please provide any available specific information in support of 
your comments.
    Because of the potential impact of the establishment of the 
proposed White Bluffs AVA on wine labels that include the term ``White 
Bluffs'' as discussed above under Impact on Current Wine Labels, TTB is 
particularly interested in comments regarding whether there will be a 
conflict between the proposed area names and currently used brand 
names. If a commenter believes that a conflict will arise, the comment 
should describe the nature of that conflict, including any anticipated 
negative economic impact that approval of the proposed AVA will have on 
an existing viticultural enterprise. TTB is also interested in 
receiving suggestions for ways to avoid conflicts, for example, by 
adopting a modified or different name for the proposed AVA.

Submitting Comments

    You may submit comments on this proposal by using one of the 
following three methods:
     Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: You may send comments via the 
online comment form posted with this document within Docket No. TTB-
2020-0004 on ``Regulations.gov,'' the Federal e-rulemaking portal, at 
https://www.regulations.gov. A direct link to that docket is available 
under Notice No. 189 on the TTB website at https://www.ttb.gov/wine/wine-rulemaking.shtml. Supplemental files may be attached to comments 
submitted via Regulations.gov. For complete instructions on how to use 
Regulations.gov, visit the site and click on the ``Help'' tab at the 
top of the page.
     U.S. Mail: You may send comments via postal mail to the 
Director, Regulations and Rulings Division, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and 
Trade Bureau, 1310 G Street, NW, Box 12, Washington, DC 20005.
     Hand Delivery/Courier: You may hand-carry your comments or 
have them hand-carried to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, 
1310 G Street NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20005.
    Please submit your comments by the closing date shown above in this 
document. Your comments must reference Notice No. 189 and include your 
name and mailing address. Your comments also must be made in English, 
be legible, and be written in language acceptable for public 
disclosure. We do not acknowledge receipt of comments, and we consider 
all comments as originals.
    Your comment must clearly state if you are commenting on your own 
behalf or on behalf of an organization, business, or other entity. If 
you are commenting on behalf of an organization, business, or other 
entity, your comment must include the entity's name as well as your 
name and position title. If you comment via Regulations.gov, please 
enter the entity's name in the ``Organization'' blank of the online 
comment form. If you comment via postal mail, please submit your 
entity's comment on letterhead.

[[Page 31727]]

    You may also write to the Administrator before the comment closing 
date to ask for a public hearing. The Administrator reserves the right 
to determine whether to hold a public hearing.

Confidentiality

    All submitted comments and attachments are part of the public 
record and subject to disclosure. Do not enclose any material in your 
comments that you consider to be confidential or inappropriate for 
public disclosure.

Public Disclosure

    TTB will post, and you may view, copies of this document, selected 
supporting materials, and any online or mailed comments received about 
this proposal within Docket No. TTB-2020-0004 on the Federal e-
rulemaking portal, Regulations.gov, at https://www.regulations.gov. A 
direct link to that docket is available on the TTB website at https://www.ttb.gov/wine/wine-rulemaking.shtml under Notice No. 189. You may 
also reach the relevant docket through the Regulations.gov search page 
at https://www.regulations.gov. For instructions on how to use 
Regulations.gov, visit the site and click on the ``Help'' tab.
    All posted comments will display the commenter's name, organization 
(if any), city, and State, and, in the case of mailed comments, all 
address information, including email addresses. TTB may omit voluminous 
attachments or material that it considers unsuitable for posting.
    You also may view copies of this document, all related petitions, 
maps and other supporting materials, and any electronic or mailed 
comments we receive about this proposal by appointment at the TTB 
Information Resource Center, 1310 G Street NW, Suite 400, Washington, 
DC 20005. You may also obtain copies at 20 cents per 8.5- x 11-inch 
page. Contact TTB's Regulations and Rulings Division at the above 
address, by email at https://www.ttb.gov/webforms/contact_RRD.shtm, or 
by telephone at 202-453-1039, ext. 175, to schedule an appointment or 
to request copies of comments or other materials.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    TTB certifies that this proposed regulation, if adopted, would not 
have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. The proposed regulation imposes no new reporting, 
recordkeeping, or other administrative requirement. Any benefit derived 
from the use of a viticultural area name would be the result of a 
proprietor's efforts and consumer acceptance of wines from that area. 
Therefore, no regulatory flexibility analysis is required.

Executive Order 12866

    This proposed rule is not a significant regulatory action as 
defined by Executive Order 12866. Therefore, it requires no regulatory 
assessment.

Drafting Information

    Karen A. Thornton of the Regulations and Rulings Division drafted 
this document.

List of Subjects in 27 CFR Part 9

    Wine.

Proposed Regulatory Amendment

    For the reasons discussed in the preamble, we propose to amend 
title 27, chapter I, part 9, Code of Federal Regulations, as follows:

PART 9--AMERICAN VITICULTURAL AREAS

0
1. The authority citation for part 9 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  27 U.S.C. 205.

Subpart C--Approved American Viticultural Areas

0
2. Add Sec.  9.__ to read as follows:


Sec.  9.__   White Bluffs.

    (a) Name. The name of the viticultural area described in this 
section is ``White Bluffs''. For purposes of part 4 of this chapter, 
``White Bluffs'' is a term of viticultural significance.
    (b) Approved maps. The 10 United States Geological Survey (USGS) 
1:24,000 scale topographic maps used to determine the boundary of the 
viticultural area are titled:
    (1) Hanford, NE, Washington, 1986;
    (2) Mesa West, Washington, 1986;
    (3) Wooded Island, Washington, 1992;
    (4) Matthews Corner, Washington, 1992;
    (5) Basin City, Washington, 1986;
    (6) Eltopia, Washington, 1992;
    (7) Eagle Lakes, Washington, 1986;
    (8) Savage Island, Washington, 1986;
    (9) Richland, Washington, 1992; and
    (10) Columbia Point, Washington, 1992.
    (c) Boundary. The White Bluffs viticultural area is located in 
Franklin County in Washington. The boundary of the White Bluffs 
viticultural area is as described below:
    (1) The beginning point is on the Richland map at the intersection 
of Columbia River Road and an unnamed secondary highway known locally 
as Sagemoor Road. From the beginning point, proceed north along 
Columbia River Road, crossing onto the Wooded Island map, to the 
Potholes Canal; then
    (2) Proceed west along the Potholes Canal for 150 feet to its 
intersection with the shoreline of the Columbia River; then
    (3) Proceed north along the Columbia River shoreline, crossing onto 
the Savage Island map, to the intersection of the shoreline with the 
Wahluke Slope Habitat Management boundary on Ringold Flat; then
    (4) Proceed east, then generally northwesterly, along the Wahluke 
Slope Habitat Management boundary to its intersection with the 950-foot 
elevation contour along the western boundary of section 16, T13N/R29E; 
then
    (5) Proceed easterly, then generally northeasterly, along the 950-
foot elevation contour, passing over the Hanford NE map and onto the 
Eagle Lakes map, to the intersection of the elevation contour with an 
unimproved road in the southeast corner of section 32, T14N/T29E; then
    (6) Proceed east along the unimproved road for 100 feet to its 
intersection with an unnamed light-duty improved road known locally as 
Albany Road; then
    (7) Proceed south along Albany Road, crossing onto the Basin City 
map, to the road's intersection with an unnamed improved light-duty 
road known locally as Basin Hill Road along the southern boundary of 
section 21, T13N/R29E; then
    (8) Proceed south in a straight line for 2 miles to an improved 
light-duty road known locally as W. Klamath Road; then
    (9) Proceed east along W. Klamath Road, crossing onto the Mesa West 
map, to the road's intersection with another improved light-duty road 
known locally as Drummond Road; then
    (10) Proceed north along Drummond Road for 0.75 mile to its 
intersection with a railroad; then
    (11) Proceed easterly along the railroad to its intersection with 
an improved light-duty road known locally as Langford Road in the 
northeastern corner of section 4, T12N/R30E; then
    (12) Proceed south along Langford Road for 0.5 mile to its 
intersection with the 800-foot elevation contour; then
    (13) Proceed southwesterly along the 800-foot elevation contour, 
crossing onto the Eltopia map, to the contour's intersection with 
Eltopia West Road; then
    (14) Proceed east along Eltopia West Road to its intersection with 
the 700-foot elevation contour; then
    (15) Proceed southerly, then northerly along the 700-foot elevation 
contour, circling Jackass Mountain, to the

[[Page 31728]]

contour's intersection with Dogwood Road; then
    (16) Proceed west along Dogwood Road for 1.1 mile, crossing onto 
the Matthews Corner map, to the road's intersection with the 750-foot 
elevation contour; then
    (17) Proceed southwesterly along the 750-foot elevation contour to 
its intersection with Taylor Flats Road; then
    (18) Proceed south along Taylor Flats Road, crossing onto the 
Columbia Point map, to the road's intersection with Birch Road; then
    (19) Proceed west along Birch Road for 1 mile to its intersection 
with Alder Road; then
    (20) Proceed south along Alder Road for 0.7 mile to its 
intersection with the 550-foot elevation contour; then
    (21) Proceed westerly along the 550-foot elevation contour to its 
intersection with Sagemoor Road; then
    (22) Proceed westerly along Sagemoor Road for 0.7 mile, crossing 
onto the Richland map and returning to the beginning point.

    Signed: March 4, 2020.
Mary G. Ryan,
Acting Administrator.

    Approved: May 13, 2020.
Timothy E. Skud,
Deputy Assistant Secretary (Tax, Trade, and Tariff Policy).
[FR Doc. 2020-10920 Filed 5-26-20; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4810-31-P