Growers in Lake County, California are working together to submit petitions for two new AVAs to the U.S. Tax and Trade Bureau for the Big Valley and Kelsey Bench growing regions.

The TTB defines an American Viticultural Area as a designated winegrape growing region in the United States distinguishable by geographic features, with specific and clearly-defined boundaries. The purpose behind AVAs is to identify the unique growing characteristics in a certain area, including weather, soil, history and microclimates – at least 85% of grapes for a wine bearing an AVA on their label must come from that region. The AVA system has been in place since the 1980s, and had recognized more than 200 regions as of the beginning of 2011.

The proposed Big Valley AVA encompasses all of the region with the same name on the shores of Clear Lake. Kelsey Bench AVA would track the eastern boundary of Red Hills AVA and encompass much of the area between there and the proposed Big Valley AVA. The TTB will scrutinize the applications to assure that the regions define unique wine growing areas. Growers, wineries, and the Lake County Winegrape Commission all pooled resources to research the history, soil, and weather do assure the proper boundaries were drawn. Industry members in the county believe the recognition of these AVAs is long over due; the original vineyards planted in Lake County were all in the Big Valley and Kelsey Bench area.

Once the petitions are submitted and reviewed, there will be a period for public comment. If the petition, review, and comments support establishment of the AVA, the TTB will issue a new rule that amends their regulations to define the new AVAs. More information on the process can be found on the TTB website.


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