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Oregon Winegrowers Association Requests Stronger Action on Copper Cane from TTB

by Kerana Todorov
January 07, 2019

The controversy about Copper Cane's labeling practices is expected to continue in 2019.

In December, the Oregon Winegrowers Association sent a second letter to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau seeking “stronger” action against the California winery and requesting “enforcement of federal wine labeling and advertising laws.”  

The letter was sent to TTB’s trade investigations divisions, according to the trade association.

Representatives for the Oregon Winegrowers Association and The Oregon Wine Board, a group that also represents the Oregon wine industry, on Friday stressed they only want wineries to follow state and federal laws. They want to protect Oregon’s 19 American Viticultural Areas and the other AVAs nationwide.

“We’re not trying to run (Copper Cane) out of business,” stressed Tom Danowski, chief executive officer of Oregon Winegrowers Association.

Joe Wagner has stated to news organizations that the wines are made with Oregon fruit in California.

In the letter, the Oregon Winegrowers Association requested the TTB conduct a product integrity audit of Copper Cane’s Elouan and Willametter wines to make sure the grapes are 100 percent Oregon fruit, according to Sally Murdoch, communcations manager for The Oregon Wine Board.

The TTB, which is closed during the partial government shutdown, so far has ordered the surrender of seven labels but is allowing the sale of the bottles already produced – more than 72,000 cases of wine. The Oregon wine industry representatives want the TTB to reconsider that decision, noting that’s more wine than most Oregon wineries produce in one year. “In the scope of the typically small producer Oregon wine industry, such sales can drown out Oregon wineries that follow the strict Oregon wine production, grape content, and labeling rules,” Murdoch wrote.

A “tremendous” volume of wine can be sold under improper labels, “which harms the value of Oregon wine as a whole,” according to Murdoch.

The Oregon Winegrowers Association also asked the TTB to review additional Copper Cane labels to make sure they adhere to AVA rules, according to the trade associations. Copper Cane’s 2018 label for “The Willametter Journal” shows text on the label that does not meet TTB’s requirements, according to the wine industry representatives.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission in November recommended Copper Cane lose its license to distribute or sell wine in the state of Oregon, citing multiple alleged labeling violations. Copper Cane is expected to appear before an administrative law judge to appeal the recommendation. A hearing has not yet been set, according to OLCC.

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