Oregon pinot noirs targeted by ‘deceptive’ marketing

Oregon pinot noirs targeted by ‘deceptive’ marketing

wine pinot noir california_1537831493261.jpg.jpgCopyright 2018 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Wines produced at the Adelsheim Vineyard in Newberg, November 2016 (KOIN) [ +  – ]

Oregon pinot noir grapes_184219

This Sept. 20, 2014 photo shows pinot noir grapes on a vine at the Willamette Valley Vineyards in Turner, Ore. (AP Photo/Molly Hottle) [ +  – ]

TURNER, Ore. (KOIN) — It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears — plus just the right conditions and grape varieties — for Oregon to make a name for itself as a state that produces some of the best pinot noir anywhere in the world.

So when winemakers found out a California company is making false links to the state’s viticulture areas for their own wines they started fighting back.
Tom Danowski, chief executive officer of the Oregon Winegrowers Association, urged lawmakers Monday to protect Oregon’s $5.6 billion wine industry from false claims. Rep. David Gomberg said he noticed this was becoming a problem when he saw wine that was vinted and bottled in California being labeled as Oregon pinot noir.

One product, made by Elouan winery in California, is called Oregon Coast pinot noir, when that variety of grape is not grown on the coast, Gomberg pointed out.

“We spent 50 years growing this Oregon wine food industry. There’s 769 winemakers in Oregon who worked their hearts out with their families to grow this industry,” said Jim Bernau, the founder and CEO of Willamette Valley Vineyards. “And now we have this opportunist who is deceptively taking advantage of the geographic equities in the market.

He’s leading the charge against a California company called Copper Cane, owned by Joe Wagner, which oversees Elouan.

“Because of this very clever strategy, believe it or not, the Number One selling Oregon-labeled pinot noir in the nation, through the Nielsen scan data, is a wine that is made in California,” Bernau told KOIN 6 News. He’s referring to pinot noirs that sell for more than $17 a bottle.

“The reason why this is illegal is because you can’t take grapes from Champagne, France, ship them to California, make the wine and call it champagne,” he said. “For the same reason you can’t take grapes from the Willamette Valley, ship them to California and call them Willamette Valley pinot noir.”

Copper Cane is buying Oregon grapes, trucking them to California and marketing it as an Oregon pinot noir from the Willamette Valley, Bernau said. And that doesn’t set well with him.

photoCopyright 2018 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

“It’s a great danger to have our treasured and prized AVAs (American Viticultural Area) misused through deception to sell a wine made in California,” he said. “It’s deceptive. We’ve gone to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and the Oregon legislature and asked for their help to stop it.”

The OLCC sent Copper Cane a letter, Bernau said, telling them they have until September 28 to provide winemaking records for all their wines.

KOIN 6 News also reached out to Copper Cane for comment and has not heard back at this time.

“Oregon has achieved amazing prominence throughout the world. Just in this 50 years, Oregon sits on top of the world’s wine industry in terms of quality and price.,” he told KOIN 6 News. “This is the most serious threat that our Oregon wine industry has faced since its founding in over 50 years.”

KOIN 6 News will keep following this story.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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