The Theft of Equity in Napa Valley
I’m every bit as strident as Representative Thompson, Bo Barrett of Montelena and others in Napa Valley when it comes to the idea that American Viticultural Area designations we see on labels really should have integrity! If the wine label’s appellation says "Oakville" or "Anderson Valley" then the grapes that went into the wine damn well should have come from Oakville or Anderson Valley.
Toward that end, there is a move to designate the area in and around the town of Calistoga in Northern Napa Valley as an American Viticultural Area. If approved, when a winery puts "Calistoga" on its label, the consumer will know the grapes for that wine were grown in the well-delineated region identified by law as the Calistoga Viticultural Area (whatever that might imply beyond the obvious is up for debate).
However, in a nice piece of reporting by the St. Helena Star, we are reminded that there are an awful lot of folks who in creating this new AVA, have no problem effectively destroying a couple wineries that have been using the term "Calistoga" in the their brand name…WELL BEFORE there was any hint of a Calistoga Viticultural Area. This is wrong.
"Calistoga Cellars owner Roger Louer of St. Helena has been using the
Calistoga brand for years and contends he would lose millions of
dollars if he is forced to give up the label. He also sees no point in
using Calistoga grapes since he owns vineyards in St. Helena and
throughout the Napa Valley."
The contention among those that have little concern about the wineries that, up until now, have been building a business called Calistoga Cellars and Calistoga Estate is that with the new AVA coming these wineries should not be allow to use this brand unless all the grapes they use in their wines come from Calistoga based vineyards. But no one every suggested this was a requirement when they founded their winery or when they applied for label approvals. Still, the strident don’t seem to care about this unfair backdating of the laws.
"[CA Rep. Mike] Thompson said [John] Manfreda (head of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB)) once suggested that Calistoga Cellars and
Calistoga Estates might be allowed to print a “disclaimer” on its
bottles, exposing the fact that the wine did not come from Calistoga.
said that wouldn’t solve the problem of false labeling because
consumers who buy wine
in restaurants off wine lists, see it
advertised, read wine reviews and catalogs and use the Internet, would
draw the conclusion the wine is from Calistoga."
With all due respect to Representative Thompson, only those who don’t understand Americas AVA system would conclude this. All labels must carry a federally approved AVA on their label saying where the grapes came from. The label might read, "2005 Calistoga Cellars, Russian River Valley, Pinot Noir".
The bottom line here is that many in Napa Valley and their representative in Congress want to take away what was legally given to these Calistoga wineries. They have and still do have the right to have the "Calistoga Cellars or Estate brands. They were approved. The labels themselves were federally approved. And now, after the fact, the creation of a new Calistoga AVA means they can no longer use the brand names they’ve built or they have to completely change their entire business model.
The sensible, the neighborly, the right thing to do is to make an exception for "Calistoga Brands" that were in existence before the application for a Calistoga AVA was submitted. Or, someone should be monetarily compensating these winery owners using now legally using "Calistoga" in their brand name for the theft of equity that is being suggested.