Gary Galleron, owner of Galleron Signature Wines in Napa Valley and former winemaker at Whitehall Lane, has filed a trademark infringement suit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco against Irwin Steiger, owner of Napa winery Galleron Laine.
Galleron, the third generation of a California winegrowing family, has worked in the industry since 1976, when he began at Chateau Montelena. He has also spent time at Grgich Hills, Grace Family, S. Anderson and Seavey in Napa Valley.
From 1993 to 1997, Galleron was winemaker for Whitehall Lane, a top Rutherford Cabernet producer, until he left to concentrate on his own label, also based in Rutherford. The first release, a 1993 Cabernet Sauvignon, came out in 1996; other bottlings include small quantities of Riesling, Chardonnay and Merlot.
Steiger and his wife, Jan Laine Steiger (daughter of singer Frankie Laine), founded their winery in November 1994, according to Jeffrey Nunn, COO of Galleron Laine. "We live on Galleron Street," said Jan Steiger. "If we lived on Smith Street, we'd call the wine 'Smith Laine.' We've been living and working here for five years. We meant no disrespect to [the Gallerons], but they should have copyrighted their name years ago."
Galleron said he filed the suit because he believes that Steiger's Galleron Laine brand can confuse consumers and trades upon his family's reputation. "We asked them to stop," he said. "It is astounding to us that newcomers to the Napa Valley would take the Galleron name without any regard for my family name or its history."
Nunn said that neither he nor the Steigers had heard of Gary Galleron before December 1998. "If he'd just come to us to talk about it, we might have changed," said Nunn. "To be honest, we're kind of disgusted with the name Galleron, but we'll be damned if we give an inch."
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