Being a third-generation Californian with roots there dating from 1851, with a forebear who was a pioneer winemaker, the conductor of Metro Notes will maintain a militant neutrality in this story. The news is that the federal government has proposed assigning the name "Shenandoah Valley" as the exclusive label for wine from grapes grown in the Shenandoah region of Virginia and West Virginia.

Let's back up. In California's Amador County, not too far from Sacramento, is a valley called Shenandoah, named by Virginia '49ers who went there in quest of gold. In recent years, it has become a growing area for premium wine grapes. So, by happenstance, has Virginia and West Virginia's Shenandoah Valley become an emerging wine-producing region.

Even more recently, geographic labeling has become important in wine selling. So a while back the emerging winegrowers of Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, noting that their California counterparts had co-opted the Shenandoah designation, filed a petition to recapture the name for Virginia and West Virginia. Hearings were held both in the East and West.

That brings us back to the news. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has now proposed officially that a 12-county area of Virginia and West Virginia be exclusively designated, for wine-producing purposes, as the Shenandoah Valley. Only wine produced in those counties could be so labeled.

The counties involved are Frederick, Clarke, Warren, Shenandoah, Page, Rockingham, Augusta, Rockbridge, Botetourt and Amherst in Virginia and Berkeley and Jefferson in West Virginia. Dot Koester of the federal agency said there are 16 commercial vineyards and three wineries in the area.

It'll take 6 to 10 weeks to make the decision, Koester said. Meanwhile, boss, please excuse as the writer, fearing a scarcity, goes around the corner to buy a case of California Shenandoah Vineyards 1978 Amador County cabernet sauvignon. It's marked down from $10.29 to $8.19 a bottle.