Napa Valley Vintners Files Petition for Reconsideration with California Court of Appeal in Bronco vs. State of California
Vintners Are Prepared to Petition State Supreme Court
1/14/2003 - Napa, California, - After careful consideration, the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) filed a Petition for Rehearing with the California Court of Appeal on January 3, 2003, in the Bronco vs. State of California case. The NVV was joined by the State of California's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control in the petition.
On December 18, 2002, the California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District in Sacramento, CA issued its decision in the case of Bronco vs. The State of California - to which the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) was a party. The court invalidated the state labeling law (which the NVV sponsored and was signed by Governor Davis in September of 2000) on the ground that it is preempted by federal regulation. The NVV's decision to petition the court comes as a result of this ruling.
"We disagree with the Court's ruling on preemption," said Richard Mendelson, counsel for the NVV. "There are many examples of state alcoholic beverage labeling laws which supplement federal regulations. Vintners regularly comply with both. In addition, the state law is fully consistent with the fundamental purpose of federal law - which is to prohibit labels that mislead the consumer," he added.
In the summary of reasons for requesting a rehearing, the petition states that federal law and regulations expressly authorize and invite wine-producing states to enact and enforce their own production and labeling laws and that, in this case, there is no direct conflict between federal and state regulations because the winery can and must comply with them both. The petition concludes that "since the federal scheme accommodates and envisons that wine-producing states will impose additional production and labeling requirements, California did not undermine federal interests when it responded to local conditions and concerns specific to Napa wines." (To view the petition, go to www.napavintners.com/news/rehearpetition.pdf.)
The Court of Appeals will rule on the request for rehearing by January 17, 2003. Should the Court deny the request, the NVV Board of Directors has already unanimously voted to petition the California State Supreme Court to review the lower court's ruling.
"By relying exclusively upon an expanded interpretation of federal preemption to overturn state law, the California Court of Appeal did not take the opportunity to evaluate the critical importance of authenticity in wine labeling," commented Tom Shelton, president, Joseph Phelps Vineyards on behalf of the NVV. "The extraordinary regional character of our wines has earned an international recognition that is reflected in the value of every constituent brand and vineyard. In my opinion, the core issues of this case have not been heard; and therefore, the Appellate Court decision should be reversed," he said.
Shelton went on to say that wine history is littered with examples of important appellations whose reputations have been diminished or ruined by those seeking unearned advantage in the marketplace. "This is a defining moment in a long struggle to protect the integrity of the name, Napa Valley. Our organization is fully resolved to meet the challenge ahead and see this process through," he concluded.
Eliminating consumer confusion remains the impetus behind the NVV's legislative and legal strategy and it will continue to be so with respect to all future Napa Valley wine labeling issues.
The NVV continues to stand on one simple premise - a wine label should not suggest the grapes come from Napa Valley unless they really do.