Northwest senators urge decision on new Lewis-Clark Valley AVA

By:  Vicki Hillhouse
Source: Walla Walla Union-Bulletin

Wine ages. But an application for an American Viticultural Area designation?

A request to establish the Lewis-Clark Valley as an AVA is taking unusually long to process, according to a pair of U.S. senators asking for progress on it.

The AVA as proposed includes parts of Asotin, Garfield and Whitman counties in Washington, plus Nez Percé, Clearwater, Latah and Lewis counties in Idaho. It covers 30,000 acres. About 81 are made up of vineyards. The designation recognizes a wine grape-growing and production region for its own geography and climate.

The cutoff point for bottling is approaching, and producers need to know if the AVA will be approved.

Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) are urging the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to move quickly on approval of the AVA, according to an announcement this morning.

According to the announcement, AVA designations in the past have typically taken seven months to process. But this one has been sitting with the TTB for 358 days.

The longer it’s drawn out, the more risk for stakeholders, the senators say. They want action to “provide clarity and certainty for grape growers, wine producers and community stakeholders throughout the covered regions in Washington and Idaho,” their letter says.

“The potential economic impact of the AVA could provide a great boost to the local economy, in addition to shinning a light on the high quality wines coming from this region,” said Idaho Wine Commission Executive Director Moya Dolsby in a prepared statement.

She and Washington State Wine Commission President Steve Warner were united in their praise of Cantwell and Crapo.

“The Lewis-Clark Valley AVA will be Washington state’s 14th AVA and is important to the continued strong growth of the Washington State wine industry,” Warner said in a statement.

The Lewis-Clark Valley Wine Alliance has worked with stakeholders since 2009 and the TTB for the AVA designation.