Key changes in the final document creating the Calistoga Viticulture Area are expected to heavily influence controversial provisions on “grandfathered” geographically linked brand names and "nested" American Viticultural Area names on labels in pending rulemaking on establishment of AVAs.
On Dec. 1, the Treasury Department's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved Proposed Rulemaking Notice No. 77, creating the Calistoga appellation effective Jan. 7.
However, Proposed Rulemaking Notice No. 78, which largely deals broadly with grandfathered brands and so-called sub-appellations, is still being considered, according to a bureau spokesman. He declined to elaborate.
The Calistoga document included the grandfathering allowance in other AVAs – July 1986 – rather than the March 31, 2005 threshold proposed in Notice 77 when it was released in November 2007. Brand names on labels approved before July 1986 and containing the name of the AVA would be allowed as long as at least 85 percent of the grapes that go into the wine come from the appellation, among other rules.
The later grandfathering date in Notice 77 would favorably impact the Calistoga Cellars and Calistoga Estate brands, launched in 1998 and 2005, respectively. The winery supported the later grandfather period in Notice 77.
Notice 78 would have a “rolling grandfather” period, in which brand names similar to those of proposed AVAs would be allowed if the labels were approved five years before the petition was filed, was in market use for at least three years and contained 85 percent grapes from the appellations listed on the label.
In the final Calistoga document, the bureau went back to the July 1986 grandfather period for AVAs. In the establishment document, bureau administrator John Manfreda noted that the application for a certificate of label approval states, “This certificate does not constitute trademark protection.”
Under the document, Calistoga Cellars and Calistoga Estate will have until January 2013 to meet the requirements.
“We were able to say that '77' may only be about Calistoga, but it sets a precedent for '78' because if the integrity of wine labels and appellations matters, you should care about both issues,” said Rex Stults, director of industry relations for the Napa Valley Vintners.
The association supports protection of AVA names according to the 1986 threshold and opposes the bureau’s assertion in Notice 78 that labels citing origins in a sub-appellation may not be able to mention the encompassing appellation, such as “Calistoga” and “Napa Valley.”
Foster's Wine Estates plans to relocate the tasting room for the 100,000-case-a-year Souverain brand from the Healdsburg Plaza to its Asti winemaking facility by the end of January.
"We think it will give a better guest experience to be around the people who make it and around the grapes that go into it and the winemaking process from which it comes," said spokesman Ed Matovcik.
The Souverain tasting room has been at 208B Center St. on the plaza since November 2007, following the sale of the Geyserville chateau to The Coppola Companies. The first crush for the brand in Asti was in 2006.
Foster's reopened the century-old tasting room at the Asti winery a year ago for the Cellar No. 8 brand.