Bronco Loss Considered Consumer Victory
5/26/2005 - St. Helena, CA - Napa Valley Vintners celebrate a major victory today as the California Court of Appeal unanimously ruled to uphold a labeling law requiring any wine with the word "Napa" on the label to contain Napa wine in the bottle.
In a 75-page decision against the Bronco Wine Company, the court confirmed the state's right to protect wine consumers from misleading brands; stating that the law does not bar Bronco from using its brand -- only from using its brand in a deceptive way.
"Our mission is basic, but important: if it says Napa on the label, it better be Napa in the bottle," said Linda Reiff, executive director of the Napa Valley Vintners. "It's been a long haul, but this decision is confirmation we're on the right path. Three times in a row the courts have supported truth in labeling and protected consumers. "
Today's announcement marks another significant victory for Napa Valley Vintners in their lengthy legal dispute with the wine conglomerate. Bronco filed the case in 2000 following passage of a California state law sponsored by Senator Wesley Chesbro and then Assemblywoman Patricia Wiggins that would prohibit the use of brand names with the word Napa (or any federally recognized viticultural region within Napa County) if the wine in the bottle did not meet minimum federal labeling requirements.
In the initial case before the California Court of Appeal, three justices sided with Bronco regarding one specific issue -- federal preemption. The NVV and the State appealed that ruling to the California Supreme Court which overturned the lower court decision and ruled unanimously that the state law was not preempted by federal law. Bronco appealed this decision to the high court, and in March of 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case, clearing the way for oral argument in the lower court on the remaining three issues of free speech, interstate commerce, and takings.
Noted Constitutional Law expert Kathleen Sullivan made arguments on behalf of the vintners in April, and the State of California requested that the California Court of Appeal rule on all the remaining issues simultaneously.
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The Napa Valley Vintners is a professional nonprofit trade organization. Its 270 member vintners are committed to the future of Napa Valley through the preservation and enhancement of its land, wine and community.
To read the official Court opinion visit http://www.napavintners.com/legal/Appeals_Court_ruling_5.26.05.pdf
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