The Napa Valley Vintner Association-sponsored legislation, AB 683, goes before the Senate Appropriations Committee Monday at 8:15 a.m., State Capitol, room 4203, in Sacramento.

AB 683 is the result of a three-year effort designed to protect the Napa Valley name.

"Unfortunately, because of a loophole in labeling laws, it is currently legal for some winemakers to make it look as though non-Napa wines come from our small region," says Jack Stuart, president, Napa Valley Vintners Association (NVVA).

This issue dates back to 1986. In that year, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) revised its rule for the use of "geographic" brand names in an effort to make wine labeling more accurate. However, labels that existed as of July 7, 1986 - the date the new ATF rules took effect - were exempt. A number of of these "grandfathered" brand names were sold to wineries outside the Napa region after the 1986 rule change.

For three years NVVA has been working with the BATF, the wine industry and consumer groups to change this confusing quirk in the law. When Wine Institute discussions failed to develop a consensus, NVVA proposed state legislation, AB 683, that would require any brand using the name Napa, or any of the names of appellations wholly contained within Napa County, contain at least 75 percent of grapes grown in Napa County. The Wine Institute has voted to take a neutral position on the bill.

The Family Winemakers of California, the California Retailers Association, the Napa County Board of Supervisors, the Napa Valley Grape Growers Association and Napa County Farm Bureau support this legislation. The bill, which only affects Napa County vintners, enjoys the overwhelming support of Napa County wineries.

Earlier this year, the Napa Valley Vintners Association (NVVA) commissioned an independent scientific national poll by the Sacramento-based research firm Tootelian & Associates. The results of the poll showed:

  • 99 percent of those polled thought a wine called "Napa Valley Caves" would, indeed, be from Napa Valley;

  • 81 percent said it was confusing if the brand name says "Napa" but the grapes do not come from Napa Valley;

  • 91 percent said it is deceptive to use a geographic region known for wine in a brand name if the grapes come from another region;

  • 82 percent said the brand name is important when buying a bottle of wine.

The message from consumers is simple: A wine label should not suggest the grapes come from Napa unless they really do.

"NVVA and its vintner members have worked diligently for half a century to create, promote and protect the Napa Valley appellation, and this legislation will help strengthen that tradition. More importantly, this legislation protects consumers, who expect Napa-labeled bottles to have Napa Valley wine," says Stuart.