Two Napa Valley wineries are at odds again over a wine label. Last week, Shafer Vineyards filed a lawsuit against Young Ridge for the second time, claiming the lesser-known winery's label is too similar to the label on Shafer's flagship wine, the Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select.
Shafer filed a similar suit four years ago, but in February 2000 the two wineries agreed to a settlement, which called for Young Ridge to redesign its label and specified that Shafer see the new label before release.
Hillside Select, first released with the 1983 vintage, has a black and gray rectangular label that is outlined in gold. Shafer argued that Young Ridge's original label had a very similar design and color scheme.
As part of the 2000 court settlement, Shafer's attorney, Henry Bunsow, said his clients were shown a label design that satisfied their objections. However, he said, the labels that actually entered the market are similar to Young Ridge's original label, except that the new label has a rounded hourglass shape.
"They never showed us the new label, which we would have objected to," Bunsow said. "Basically, they took their old label and squeezed it in the middle."
Leroy Young, owner of Young Ridge, could not be reached for comment. The winery, which had its first release with the 1995 vintage, makes about 300 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon from 2 acres planted on the hills above the city of Napa. The 2001 Cabernet retails for $45.
Shafer was founded in 1979 by John Shafer, and the winery's Hillside Select is consistently among California's best Cabernets. The winery produced 2,200 cases of its current release, the 1999. It scored 97 points on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale and retails for $150.
While the first lawsuit ended in a settlement, Bunsow declined to say what the future might bring. "We'll let the courts take care of it. Shafer is not a litigious company," he said. "They've done this because they have no alternative with this guy."
The two sides will meet in court sometime in March.
Read about the previous lawsuit:
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