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Wine Industry

Geographer, Patrick L. Shabram, has over two decades of experience consulting to and performing geographic research in the wine industry, working extensively in such well-known viticultural areas as the Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley, Sonoma Valley, and other California viticulture areas. While Mr. Shabram also has more than 25 years experience as a geographer working in education and retail location analysis, and has authored two books on professional baseball stadiums, he is best known for his authoritative work in California viticulture, establishing his reputation as an expert within the wine industry. He has consulted to growers, winemakers, lawyers, and trade associations, and has been hired to submit several petitions to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau related to the establishment of or modifications to existing American Viticultural Areas. Patrick Shabram has done research in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, Shasta, Sonoma, Stanislaus, and Tehama counties and has advised professionals in Hockley County, Texas and the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

Interested in establishing a new AVA or petitioning for a change to an existing AVA? Here are a few things to know first about my services.

  1. Our analysis might not agree with your desired outcome. Our analyses are objective and founded in science. Over the years, I’ve developed a reputation as an expert on viticultural areas. I will not say or write anything that runs counter to my research and/or previous understanding.
  2. About a third of my wine related projects have included a petition to the TTB that I have prepared. I am, however, selective in the petitions I write. If my research does not support a new AVA (or a change to an existing AVA), I don’t believe enough background information has been obtained, or for any other reason I don't believe the petition will be successful, I will respectfully recommend against a petition and turn down any request to prepare it.
  3. Getting an analysis to support your petition or a petition that I’ve prepared might not be as expensive as you think…but it will likely take a lot longer than you expect. While I work to be efficient with a mindset for staying on budget, working with the TTB requires a process, and that process takes years, not months. At a minimum, expect two and half years from the start of the project to any Treasury Decision. More likely, this process will take three to four years, most of which will be waiting for the petition to work its way through the process within the TTB.

To learn more about the process, please feel free to give us a call.

Following are brief descriptions of two projects conducted in the wine industry:

Fort Ross-Seaview - In the highlands above the historic Fort Ross exist a number of thriving, yet relatively unknown vineyards. Located above the infamous coastal fog, these vineyards experience a unique, relatively cool growing environment. Unlike many other "cool" viticultural areas, which experience morning and evening coastal fog, these vineyards experience full daytime solar radiation. Despite the unique microclimate, the growers of Fort Ross-Seaview did not have a unique viticultural designation outside the much larger Sonoma Coast AVA. All agreed that a petition for a more defined appellation specific to their growing area should be presented to the TTB.

In preparation for petitioning this area as a unique American Viticultural Area, Patrick Shabram conducted a geographical survey of the area, noting topography, microclimatic variations, and soils to qualify local growers assertions that the area is unique from the rest of the Sonoma Coast AVA. A report was prepared outlining the unique characteristics. Additionally, recommendations of boundaries for the proposed AVA where described and presented in a map that was a part of this report. Finally, to expedite the petition process, Patrick Shabram prepared and submitted this petition. A final rulemaking was issued in Treasury Decision TTB-98 creating the Fort Ross-Seaview AVA in 2011.

As the reputation of extreme Sonoma coastal viticulture grows in reputation, Mr. Shabram's work in Fort Ross-Seaview has been quoted in numerous newspaper and magazine articles, books, and blogs on the area.

A Review of AVA Expansions - After conducting a review of the eastern boundary of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA, Mr. Shabram recommended the boundaries of the AVA be expanded to the east to include areas with similar climate, topography, and soil. A number of original petitioners to the Sta. Rita Hills AVA objected on the concern that one expansion to the AVA would result in widespread efforts to further expand the AVA. While the basis for such concerns were unfounded based on Mr. Shabram's research, it did beg the question of how common expansion to AVA's were. Having petitioned for one expansion to the Alexander Valley AVA and having his work referenced on another, Mr. Shabram suspected that modifications to AVA boundaries were not as common as generally believed. As such, a report was commissioned reviewing every Treasury Decision that resulted in a modification to an AVA boundary. The results of that study are available here.

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