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The California Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld a state law requiring that wine with “Napa” on its label be made mostly from Napa grapes. “Napa vintners are extremely happy that the brand name that has taken so much hard work and passion to build up over 150 years can now be protected against a knockoff industry and fake Napa wine,” said Kathleen Sullivan, one of the attorneys who argued the case for the Napa Valley Vintners association. The ruling was a disappointment to Bronco Wine Co., the major Central California producer, which had challenged the state law. The case involves a state law passed in 2000 requiring that if a wine has Napa on the label, the wine must be made from at least 75 percent grapes grown in Napa County. Napa vintners say selling non-Napa wines under the Napa label weakens their product’s value. Napa grapes are highly prized, with cabernet sauvignon grapes commanding nearly $4,000 per ton compared to the statewide red wine grape average of about $600 a ton. Bronco, makers of the popular Two Buck Chuck, had argued the law could not trump federal regulations which also have the 75 percent requirement but exempt brands established before 1986. The state law closed that loophole. Bronco has three brands made from non-Napa grapes — Napa Ridge, Napa Creek Winery and Rutherford Vintners. Bronco officials say their labels aren’t deceptive since grape origins are written on the label, albeit in smaller print. Bronco might ask the California Supreme Court to review the ruling, Bronco attorney Peter M. Brody said. The state Supreme Court upheld California’s labeling law last year. Bronco appealed to the Supreme Court, but the high court declined to intervene. In its suit, Bronco argued that the law impinges its free speech rights, hinders interstate commerce and is unconstitutional because it deprives the company of income without compensation. The appellate court rejected those arguments. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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