CALISTOGA -- After six years of consideration, the federal government approved the Calistoga Viticultural Area, barring use of brands with Calistoga in the name after a certain point and requiring 85 percent Calistoga grapes for wines mentioning that name on the label.
"This announcement is a testament to the decades of hard work Napa Valley grape growers and winemakers have put into making their wines the envy of the world," said Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, this afternoon about the decision by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
The bureau set the notice for publication in the Federal Register tomorrow. It takes effect in early January. Brands approved after July 1986 -- a "grandfathering" threshold set years ago for Napa Valley names -- but before Dec. 4 of this year will have a three years to remove the Calistoga name from the brand or increase the proportion of Calistoga grapes for use of the name elsewhere on the label, according to the document.
The decision primarily affects the Calistoga Cellars and Calistoga Estate brands.
"Bo" Barrett of Chateau Montelana in Calistoga filed the appellation petition in 2003, pointing to a number of publications stretching back to 1881 mentioning Calistoga as a distinct viticultural area.
The bureau proposed a Calistoga appellation in 2005. Calistoga Partners LP, doing business as Calistoga Cellars, and Chateau Calistoga LLC, which makes the Calistoga Estate brand, opposed it. Calistoga Cellars started making wine in 1998. Chateau Calistoga acquired its location in 2005 and started making wine from Napa Valley grapes at Adler Fels winery in Santa Rosa.
Napa Valley Vintners and other wine-related groups backed the appellation, asserting that the bureau neglected its own policy by approving brands with Napa Valley place names. A second round of proposed rulemaking on Calistoga application was released two years ago but languished amid a freeze in rulemaking during the transition from the Bush administration to the Obama administration, according to Napa Valley Vintners spokesman Terry Hall.
"We're glad the TTB went back to the standard they had for 20-odd years and got back on board," he said.