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Rep. David Gomberg and Willamette Valley Vineyards Laud Wine Labeling Decision

TTB Rules that Elouan and Willametter wine labels are deceptive and must change

SALEM, Ore., Nov. 21, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Rep. David Gomberg (D-Otis) and Willamette Valley Vineyards' Founder Jim Bernau are lauding a decision made last week by the Federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) that requires labeling changes be made to wines produced in California but labeled as Oregon wines.

Rep. David Gomberg. Photo by Michael Alberty, The Oregonian.

"The verdict is in – Elouan and The Willametter wines are deceptively labeled," Gomberg said. "The rapid response from the TTB is appreciated and they have more to do."

The TTB has required producer Joe Wagner of Copper Cane to surrender nine federally approved labels.

Gomberg, the chair of the Oregon House Economic Development and Trade Committee, has led the legislative effort for truth in labeling Oregon wine since he discovered a California winery portraying their wines as being from Oregon's prized, federally designated growing regions. He also worked with wine industry leaders, including Jim Bernau, Founder/CEO of Willamette Valley Vineyards, to access damages done to winegrowers in Southern Oregon whose contracts were cancelled by Copper Cane in late September.

In a release issued on November 19th, Gomberg said "this is consumer fraud, pure and simple, and I am glad the federal agency has caught it."

He also cautioned retailers and restaurants from selling these wines as they could expose resellers to violations of state Unlawful Trade Practice laws.

Gomberg is questioning the "use-up" of current labeled wine the TTB is allowing. A "use-up" allows the offender to sell what they have already bottled and labeled.

"While I applaud the TTB for taking action against these deceptive labels, they should reverse their decision allowing nearly 900,000 more wine bottles be sold into the market," Gomberg added.

"Oregon's valuable American Viticultural Designations will continue to be denigrated for at least three years given the number of bottles they are allowing to be sold," he explained. "That's more than the annual production of 15 typical Oregon wineries producing 5,000-6,000 cases annually."

Gomberg argued the TTB does not owe Joe Wagner a "use-up" allowance as the federal label reviewers were misled in previously approving Wagner's applications.

Further, Gomberg is questioning if these wines can legally advertise they are Oregon wines.  "Elouan and The Willametter Journal look and taste like they have an additive in them that is legal to use in California but not in Oregon wines."

Often referred to in the wine trade as Lodi Pinots, mass produced Pinot Noirs in California are often dyed with an additive called Mega Purple, concentrated from a grape variety called Rubired, making them appear darker in color and thicker in taste. Gomberg fears this illegal additive could give wine consumers a false impression of the delicate, award-winning style of cool climate Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley AVA.

"I am hoping we learn something soon from the product integrity audits the TTB is conducting at the various plants that manufacture these wines," Gomberg stated, "If these wines have any California grape additives, they should be recalled and Oregon removed from their labels."

Gomberg will ask the Oregon Legislature to take up the issue in January if the TTB is unable to resolve the issues by then. He has filed a consumer complaint with Oregon Department of Justice and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission for state action against this fraudulent behavior.

Links to additional sources on Gomberg's statements may be found below:

The Oregonian
"Feds shut down controversial Elouan wine labels" 
https://www.oregonlive.com/wine/index.ssf/2018/11/feds_lower_boom_on_controversi.html

Mail Tribune 
"Feds tell California winery it can't use Oregon on its labels" 
http://mailtribune.com/news/top-stories/feds-tell-california-winery-it-cant-use-oregon-on-its-labels

Portland Business Journal
"Oregon wine industry scores labeling victory over Napa Valley nemesis" 
https://www.bizjournals.com/portland/news/2018/11/20/oregon-wine-industry-scores-labeling-victory-over.html

 

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