Agreement Reached in Litigation Over ‘Napa’ Wines
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
A vintner agreed to only market wines with a “Napa” brand name if three-quarters of the grapes used for the product were grown in the region, putting an end to a long-running legal battle waged by the company, state officials said Friday.
Bronco Wine Co., based in Central California, had challenged a state law passed in 2000 requiring that wine that has Napa or a related name on the label must be made from at least 75 percent grapes grown there. The company won in the Third District Court of Appeal, but the California Supreme Court reversed in Bronco Wine Company v. Jolly (2004) 33 Cal. 4th 943 and the U.S. Supreme Court recently denied review.
The state high court rejected Bronco’s argument that federal law permitting use of regional appellations, as long as the label correctly states where the grapes come from, took precedence over the Legislature’s effort to protect the image and marketability of wines made from Napa grapes.
Under the settlement, Bronco—which now uses 75 percent Napa grapes for the Napa Creek and Rutherford brands—will drop its remaining challenges to the law, which were based on the Commerce Clause and the First Amendment, in exchange for the right to sell a limited quantity of its non-qualifying wines through Sept. 29 of this year, officials said.
Bronco, based in Central California, sells wines under several labels, including Charles Shaw, better known as “Two Buck Chuck” because it sells for $1.99 in California. The litigation revolved around three other Bronco brands, Napa Ridge, Napa Creek Winery and Rutherford Vintners.
“This has been a long legal battle, but the settlement implementing the California Supreme Court’s decision levels the playing field for all California vintners,” state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control director Jerry Jolly said in a statement.
“It also helps consumers by setting strict labeling standards so that the public can have confidence in the wine that it is buying,” he said.
Company officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
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