NVV has assumed the duty of preserving the Napa Valley name for those who have earned the right to put it on their labels.
The Napa Valley Vintners has worked diligently for nearly 70 years to create and promote the Napa Valley appellation. The words Napa Valley represent much more than a name. These words define an official appellation, and as such the NVV has assumed the duty of preserving it for those who have earned the right to put it on their labels, and protecting it from those who would pirate it for their deceptive purposes.
Our goal is simple: a wine label should not suggest the grapes come from Napa unless they really do. Eliminating consumer confusion is one of the strongest reasons for this concern over misleading labels. In fact, we commissioned an independent, scientific, national consumer poll (by the Field Research Group) that determined the majority of the respondents found it confusing if a brand name says "Napa" but the wine does not have grapes from Napa Valley.
In 2000 the NVV successfully sponsored state legislation that requires any brand using the name Napa, or any of the names of appellations wholly contained within Napa County, to qualify at minimum for the Napa County appellation of origin. The regulation is a natural adjunct to the state law enacted in 1990 that requires Napa Valley to be used on the label in conjunction with any of the appellations wholly contained within Napa Valley.
In late 2000, Bronco Wine Company filed a lawsuit challenging the new state law. The procedural rules in California provide that a party with a strong interest in a matter before the courts can intervene and become a party to the lawsuit. After the hard-won battle to get the legislation signed into law, the Napa Valley Vintners Board of Directors decided to intervene in the court case to allow it to take part in the defense of the statute.
The case made its way through the California court system, with the State Supreme Court ultimately upholding the Napa Name Law in 2005. Bronco appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which did not hear the case. The law was upheld, becoming a major victory not only for Napa Valley, but also for wine consumers.
While the Napa Name Law was making its way through the courts, we began working proactively with other famous wine regions that were also concerned with their names being misused. In 2005 in Napa, the NVV was joined by representatives from Champagne, Porto, Jerez, as well as Washington, including the Walla Walla Valley, and Oregon to sign the first ever Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place and Origin. The declaration ties quality wine production to its place of origin, further stating that those place names need to be respected and protected. Since 2005, many other famous wine regions have signed onto the Declaration, including: Burgundy; Chablis; Chianti Classico; Long Island; Paso Robles; Rioja; Sonoma; Tokaj; Victoria and Western Australia; and Willamette Valley, OR.
In recent years the NVV has joined forces with other organizations that share the common belief that place names need to be respected, including the Organization for an International Geographical Indications Network (OriGIn) and the American Origin Products Association.
In response to infringements upon the Napa name internationally, the NVV has worked directly with governmental agencies from around the world to protect the Napa brand. Napa Valley was the first non-European Union product of any kind to receive Geographical Indication (GI) Protection in the EU in 2007. In 2012, the NVV was the first wine region in the world to receive GI status in mainland China. Other countries that have extended official name protection to Napa Valley include Brazil, India, Thailand, New Zealand, Canada and Norway.