What’s in a Name? The Founding of the Upper Hudson AVA



Upper Hudson Vineyard

What’s an AVA?

Probably your first question is ‘what the heck is the Upper Hudson AVA?’  An AVA or American Viticultural Area is ‘a designated wine grape-growing region in the United States distinguishable by geographic features, with boundaries defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) of the United States Department of the Treasury. An AVA outlines a region that is distinct from the surrounding areas for growing grapes.’ (see more) The distinction could be temperature, soil type, rain fall, sunshine or a combination of factors.

When we submitted our first petition to the TTB for an AVA, I have to confess that we were a bit intimidated.  The process of getting an AVA in place requires submitting a written petition to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) that the Bureau deems fit for review. We were fortunate to work with some wonderful people at the TTB who helped guide us through the process.

The great news is that as of July 30, 2015 the TTB, and I love the way they word this,  has “Accepted as Perfected” our petition for the Upper Hudson AVA. (see list of current perfected petitions here). It is now a pending petition and it will still take several months for the rule-making process. In the end, the petition will be published in the Code of Federal regulations and create the internationally recognized grape-growing region of the Upper Hudson AVA.

Offering a Sense of Place for Upper Hudson Wine

Having a vineyard in Upstate NY is hard work. We get one shot per year at making a product that people can enjoy. We must contend with frosts, disease, insects, and whatever the weather throws as us to consistently produce a good wine.

What the Upper Hudson AVA means locally is that all of the vineyards within the geographical boundaries of the AVA will be able to put distinct terms, such as Estate Bottled or the name of the viticultural area “Upper Hudson” on the label. Estate Bottled means that 100% of the wine came from grapes grown on land owned or controlled by the winery within the AVA. Viticultural Area “Upper Hudson” on the bottle label means that 85% of the wine was produced from grapes grown in the named area. In both cases the winery must crush and ferment the grapes and finish, age and bottle the wine in a continuous process on their premise and the winery and vineyards must be in the same viticultural area.

Every wine maker craves recognition for their hard work and an AVA is one of the primary routes to distinction from other brands.  The name distinction of ‘Upper Hudson’ on our labels is a huge benefit to those vineyards that are producing some really great wines in Upstate New York. Wine enthusiasts who want a truly local product can be assured that they are drinking local wine when they start to see Upper Hudson on the label. Our hard earned grapes will now have a ‘sense of place’ with the Upper Hudson distinction.

First Step in the Creation of an Upper Hudson Wine Region

Getting an AVA in place is the single most important step taken for the development of vineyards and wine making in our region. Consumers want the authenticity that only an American Viticultural Area can provide. A wine with ‘Upper Hudson’ on the label is proof of wine made from local grapes, not from the Finger Lakes, not Long Island. just genuine local wine.  We will finally be on the map – literally.

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