Gallo on RRV expansion: “Look at the facts”
Back in September I blogged that Gallo was asking the Feds to approve a 14,044-acre expansion of the Russian River Valley AVA. I noted also that local opposition to the proposal was vehement. The Tax & Trade Bureau (TTB) has extended the public comment period until Dec. 20, but the idea continues to draw widespread criticism. I recently spoke with Jim Collins, Gallo’s director of coastal winegrowing.
WE: Where is the area you want expanded?
JC: South of the Russian River Valley. It would include Cotati and part of the Petaluma Gap, depending on how it’s defined.
image courtesy of Appellation America
WE: What does Gallo have planted there?
JC: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and some Pinot Gris.
WE: To what appellation is the area now entitled?
JC: Sonoma County and Sonoma Coast.
WE: Why not just call it Sonoma Coast?
JC: Well, it’s part of the Russian River Valley. The soils are the same as over by our Laguna Vineyard, near Graton, and the climate is the same.
WE: Rod Berglund, from Joseph Swan, told the TTB, “The area that they wish to have included is, in no way, part of what has been defined as The Russian River Valley.”
JC: I think Rod’s a great guy, but if you look at the facts, it is. The climate data, the soil, it’s all the same as Russian River Valley.
WE: Berglund also says an expansion will create consumer confusion.
JC: I don’t agree.
WE: And Merry Edwards says this is a slippery slope that will lead to further expansions that eventually “will destroy the integrity of the Russian River Valley brand.”
JC: Again, I go back to the facts of soil and climate, especially in the context of the last expansion [of Russian River Valley], in 2005. This area was left out and it needs to be put in.
WE: Is it conceivable that the Russian River Valley AVA is too big? That instead of expanding it, it should be broken into smaller sub-appellations?
JC: That’s a good question that we could take up at another time.
WE: Are there any other areas that are not included in Russian River Valley which you think should be?
JC: I can’t think of any.
WE: So is this the last time Gallo will ask for an expansion of the valley?
JC: Well, I couldn’t answer that with 100 percent clarity.
WE: What happens when the public comment period is over?
JC: TTB takes it back internally, mulls it over, and makes their decision.
WE: If they reject the expansion, can you appeal?
JC: I’m not an expert on that. I imagine there is. But it’s hard to argue against the facts. And there are quite a few people who agree with us. You can be confident there will be letters [of support] coming in to TTB.