Alternative group forms to promote Oregon wine industry

Members earlier this year opposed wine legislation they viewed as “anti-competitive.”

Associated Press

EUGENE, Ore. — Wine businesses unhappy with the Oregon Wine Association have created a second trade group.

The new coalition of Oregon wine industry stakeholders on Friday announced they had formed the Oregon Wine Council, the Eugene Register-Guard reported .

Members earlier this year opposed wine legislation they viewed as “anti-competitive.” The new group said it represents the interests of the entire state.

“We formed the OWC because a majority of large, taxpaying wine growers as well as many of small producers around the state don’t have a say in how their tax money is spent,” said Sam Tannahill, OWC board member and founder of A to Z Wineworks in Newberg, in a press release. “We haven’t been represented. Our goal with the OWC is to change that.”

Members of the older organization said it’s already a statewide organization for growers and producers.

“The argument that somehow the OWA is a group of selfish people from one area of the state is patently false,” said board member Justin King, the national sales manager for King Estate Winery in Eugene. “We have reps from all over the state, from southern Oregon, more than a few, in fact.”

The southern Oregon wine industry has a different business profile than the Willamette Valley, King said. The valley has a large mix of wineries and wine grape growers. In southern Oregon, there are many more vineyards than wineries, he said, and growers want to be able to sell their grapes widely.

A bill in the Legislature contributed to the split. The measure sought to more strictly enforce standards for labeling wines as from a certain region.

Standards say a certain percentage of grapes have to come from a region referenced on a label. For example, an in- or out-of-state winery buying some grapes from southern Oregon regions, but labeling its wines from the Willamette Valley AVA, could include no more than 5% of that southern Oregon fruit in its wine. The standards already exist but enforcement by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission would have been ramped up the legislation, which did not pass.

The measure created divisions with Oregon regions that primarily sell grapes.

The bill was sponsored by the OWA and those who disagreed said the group did not take their interests into account.

Both groups said they seek to unify the Oregon wine industry.

King said the wine association has reached out to the new group with the intent of working together.

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