SALEM, Oregon — The Oregon Senate easily passed three bills Wednesday protecting the brand identity of Oregon pinot noir wines and the specific regions in which grapes are grown for that wine.
The issue arose last summer when California-based Copper Cane LLC started describing their pinot noir wine" as from three viticultural areas in Oregon. They agreed to rebrand their their Elouan and Willametter Journal wines.
But that's not how things are done in Oregon.
If a wine label claims or implies it's from an American Viticultural Area (AVA) within Oregon, 95 percent of the grapes must be from that appellation of origin, according to the Oregon Wine Board.
“You can’t tell people they can’t make crappy wine," David Adelsheim, founder of his namesake vineyard. "There are only certain things you can do, but one of the things we can do was to put into law these very high standards that in essence are what got us this recognition around the world.”
The bills passed Wednesday, and likely to get approval by the House, put an end to fudging on labels.
Senate Bill 829 "prohibits use of American viticultural area on wine label in manner resembling a brand." A public hearing last month on the bill prompted just about every major Oregon winemaker to submit testimony.
In speaking on the floor before the vote, Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton, compared the situation to Kona coffee from the Big Island of Hawaii. State laws strictly control the brand. Other coffee-growing regions and countries cannot grow beans and call it Kona coffee.
"Pinot noir is our Kona coffee," he said.