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Beringer Launches New Million-Case Label

Jeff Morgan
Posted: July 26, 1999

Beringer Vineyards in Napa Valley is launching a new label called Beringer Founders' Estate, priced in the $10-and-under range. The million-case brand -- which will consist of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc -- will be available nationally by November, though some of the wines have been available in selected markets since last year.

Although Beringer is best known as one of Napa Valley's top varietal producers, the Founders' Estate brand is made with few or no grapes from Napa Valley. Much of the wine comes from grapes grown in the coastal regions of California, while a portion of it was purchased in bulk from other producers and blended into the finished product. All the wines therefore carry the broad California appellation.

A preview sample of Beringer Founders' Estate Merlot California 1997 (85, $9) was quite good. But some other Napa Valley producers -- sensitive about using their famed appellation's reputation to promote wines not made from Napa grapes -- may not find the winery's choice of brand name palatable. According to Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms regulations, designated estate-bottled wines must be made entirely from grapes grown in the appellation in which a winery is located.

Nonetheless, "The label is fully BATF-approved," said Beringer vice president of winery communications Tor Kenward, who explained that as a trademarked brand the word "estate" is appropriate and legal.

Beringer has taken a similar approach with its Napa Ridge label, which uses very few Napa Valley grapes despite the implied Napa Valley origin. But the Beringer Founders' Estate brand doesn't obviously refer to Napa; consumers would need to know that Beringer Vineyards is located in Napa Valley in order to make the connection.

To learn more about the debate over the Napa Valley name:

  • April 19, 1999
    Unfiltered, Unfined: Napa's Name Down the Drain?

  • May 25, 1999
    Vintner Group Seeks to Protect Napa Valley's Name

  • June 21, 1999
    Unfiltered, Unfined: A Stopgap Proposal

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