Wine region granted federal recognition
By Michael Doyle
WASHINGTON - Meet the nation's newest wine region, the not-quite-rolling Tracy Hills spanning 39,200 acres in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.
Wine-wise, it's a modest place. There are only a few vineyards in the designated region southwest of the city of Tracy, and no tasting room.
Tracy Hills is still distinct enough, though, to win federal recognition last week as a viticultural area. It's also illustrative enough to provide an object lesson for winemakers elsewhere who may be contemplating viticultural areas of their own.
``Have lots of money,'' Tulip Hill Winery grower Jeff Brown said Thursday, ``and lots of time.''
Brown is the brains behind the new region, and he knows the bureaucratic ins and outs whereof he speaks. First discussions about securing federal approval for the Tracy Hills viticultural area began around 2000. The formal application was filed about two years ago with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
When granted, viticultural area status permits wineries to list the region on labels.
Brown's application wasn't controversial, unlike some viticultural area proposals. Nearly 500 people and organizations once commented on an unsuccessful proposal for a 22,000-square-mile ``California Coast'' viticultural area. The Tracy Hills proposal, by contrast, drew only one speaker from the public, and he was favorably disposed.
FROM TTB: The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau proposes to establish the 39,200-acre Tracy Hills viticultural area in San Joaquin and Stanislaus Counties, California, approximately 55 miles east-southeast of San Francisco. The sloping hillside topography includes streams and alluvial fans and plains. The distinguishing climatic features of the proposed area include limited rainfall and persistent winds, along with sparse fog, frost, and dew.
Since Thomas Jefferson first tried to cultivate European vinifera in Virginia, the state has been a decided piece of American wine country. Over the years better knowledge, equipment and materials have all contributed to an advancing wine industry, but the more recent decade or two has brought out the real potential that can be found.
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