SALEM, Hours. (AP) – Pinot noir is one of the most sophisticated grapes, but with good care produces amazing wine. Officials in Oregon and the United States government agency are just as intimidated by claims made by California wineries that they are making Oregon Pinot.
Copper Cane, in the Napa Valley, California, sells more pinot noir made from Oregon grapes than anyone else and often at a lower price. It has some Oregon winemakers who call the California version of a less elevated product, seeing red.
Now both the Tobacco and Tobacco Tax Office and the Oregon Office for Alcohol have decided that the name Cane Copper is not correctly referenced for the Oregon wine regions. The case recalls France's most successful effort to produce only sparkling wine in its Champagne region called by that name.
There is a multi-billion dollar industry and Oregon's reputation for fine pinot noir production in its cold, rainy climate, according to state prosecutor David Gomberg and winemaker Jim Bernau, who sharply criticized copper.
"There is also prestige and marketing," Gomberg said.
Grapes for Pinot Noir from the copper leg are grown in three wine regions of Oregon and are transported in dry ice to California. Jim Blumling, Vice President of Operation Copper Cane, acknowledged that the best-selling Elouan Pinot Noir winery is more prominent than the typical Oregon version because the grapes are later picked with a higher sugar content.
"It helps to supply a more concentrated juice in fruit," Blumling said.
Bernau, the founder of the Willamette Valley of Turner vineyards in Oregon, said copper denomination Cane misleadingly suggests that his wines come from officially designated wine regions of Oregon or AVA.
"Copper Cane will take something of value, which is not theirs and deep discounts," said Bernau. "They can not use Oregon AVA unless the wine is produced in AVA."
Federal and state regulatory authorities have agreed in their resolutions this month that there is a problem because Copper Cane labels concern the Wrigley Valley regions of Willamette, Rogue Valley and Umpqua Valley. If the wine label claims or indicates that it comes from a certain AVA, the Oregon Wine Board must be 95 percent of the grapes.
Federal TTB has told Copper Cane that it has to release seven of its brands, said spokesman Tom Hogue.
The Oregon Distillery Control Commission found last week that Copper Cane had committed seven violations and was trying to cancel its ability to sell in Oregon, said commission spokesman Matthew VanSickle. The breach focuses on misapplication of the AVA designation and "misleading labeling claims".
One of Oregon's main chains of food stores, Fred Meyer, is already accepting Cane Elouan Pinot Noir and Willametter Journal from the shelves.
Gomberg wants the federal government to stop changing copper from selling Elouan wine in the next 49 countries.
"Copper Cane claims they simply deal with the" fantasy "of marketing," said Gomberg. "But the state of Oregon has found that they have crossed the border from fantasy to fraudulent."
Owner Blumling and Honeycomb Joe Wagner will meet with Oregon Liquor Control Commission Executive Steven Marks on Wednesday to try to solve the problem, said Blumling.
The company has already presented TTB with new brands that do not mention Oregon's wine-growing areas and say only that the grapes come from Oregon's premium vineyards, said Blumling. These labels were approved by the TTB, he said.
Copper Cane hopes the new labels will also satisfy the Oregon Commission.
Previous labels have been used for years until Gomberg and Bernau have complained, they say, California winemakers. They think it's supposed to win the competition. Last year, 120,000 Elouan wines – more than 1.4 million bottles – were sold nationwide, Blumling said.
"We are obviously attacked," Wagner said. "What a disappointment, it's for financial gain."
In the November 19th statement, Gomberg said Elouan Pinot Noir and The Willametter Journal "look and feel like they have an ingredient" called Mega Purple, often used in California to make the wines darker and stronger. Blumling called him "slander" and denied that such an additive was used.
He said the growing national popularity of Elouan, which increases by 50 percent a year, will increase consumer awareness and increase overall demand for Oregon Pinot Noir.
"We expect all ships to rise," Blumling said.
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