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Umpqua winegrowers and makers react to Copper Cane labeling dispute

Grape growers and winemakers in the Umpqua Valley are split on how to react to a recent trade dispute involving the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and California winemaker Copper Cane.

The dispute involves federal labeling regulations and could affect the entire Oregon wine industry.

Copper Cane was accused of mislabeling in September for buying grapes in Oregon, producing wine with them in California and labeling the Elouan and Willametter Journal wines as coming from specific American Viticultural Areas.

Although the Umpqua Valley only grows nine percent of the wine produced in Oregon, Cody Parker from Melrose Vineyards near Roseburg said Copper Cane effectively expanded the name of the viticultural areas.

“We need as much wine and fruit to leave the area as possible and to promote the area,” Parker said. “Which no other brand has done that for the Umpqua Valley on a national level as Copper Cane.”

Parker sells some of his fruit to Copper Cane and is concerned the company might abandon Oregon if the OLCC puts up too much of a fight. However, Copper Cane owner Joe Wagner told The Oregonian he just wanted to advertise where the grapes were grown and is working to meet state and federal requests.

The OLCC told Wagner that only wines “finished” in Oregon can claim specific wine regions, which is similar to how Champagne is only grown and produced in the region in France of the same name. The OLCC is seeking to revoke Copper Cane’s ability to sell in Oregon.

“Copper Cane is buying fruit and supporting a large amount of acreage,” Parker said. “We’re all part of the Oregon wine industry to varying degrees. When our wine can’t be marketed within our own state ... it ultimately affects all of our business.”

According to the Oregon Vineyard and Winery Report published by the Oregon Wine Board, Oregon-grown grapes produced 3.6 million cases of wine. The Elouan label from Copper Cane, which makes five types of wine, sold 120,000 cases. Th wine is advertised as coming from the Willamette, Umpqua and Rogue valleys.

Terry Brandborg owns Brandborg Vineyard and Winery in Elkton. He said that meeting state and federal labeling regulations was necessary for all companies and not meeting those could lead to false advertising.

“If it’s properly labeled as Oregon, every time you see ‘Oregon’ on a shelf I think it makes a little recognition in the consumer’s consciousness,” Brandborg said. “If they enjoy the wine, they will go look for Oregon again. But when it’s false advertising and false labeling, I don’t think it serves the purpose of brand ‘Oregon.’”

In a letter to the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, state politicians argued that Copper Cane “has the appearance of willfully causing confusion as to the geographic origin of the wine and is a misuse of Oregon geographic terms.”

The bureau has since asked Copper Cane to remove all of the previously approved labels and make new ones that do not point to specific American Viticultural Areas, but the state as a whole. The company has voluntarily complied and already submitted new labels to the bureau, according to an AP report.

Charles Becker owns the small Becker Vineyard and said he didn’t see it affecting his business, but that it could be good for Oregon wine.

“It’s nice that the feds leveled the playing field because what they were doing was not right,” Becker said. “I don’t think the general consumer is even going to think about it. It’s certainly not going to diminish our ranking, that’s for sure.”

Nice restrooms, low fees priorities for Umpqua Dunes RV Park campers

The local people who plan to camp at Douglas County’s newest RV park at the coast want new bathrooms and higher amp electrical service, but they also want camping there to remain inexpensive.

That was some of the feedback Douglas County Parks Director Rocky Houston received Thursday from a small group that gathered for an open house about the Umpqua Dunes RV Park at the Douglas County Courthouse in Roseburg.

The park, formerly known as the Discovery Point RV Park, was purchased by the county in March. County officials hope it will be a revenue generator to pay not only for itself but for improvements and services at other county parks.

The park is primarily used by off-highway vehicle enthusiasts visiting the Oregon Dunes, and Houston said the state has identified Winchester Bay, where the RV park is located, as the number one place in the state that OHV tourists visit.

Houston explained the campground has been used as a recreational site since the 1920s, so maintenance and improvements are needed there, including to the sewer and water lines, and that a few of the facility’s cabins needed to be removed.

He also presented three conceptual drawings of potential redevelopment plans. All would expand the space around individual RV campgrounds.

The plans differ in the number of two-bedroom cabins included, whether a group camping area is included, and whether either one or two retail stores are included.

Houston said the county’s goal is to narrow down the options to a final draft development plan based on the community’s input and to bring that back to the community in February or March along with a cost estimate.

He said he doesn’t have an estimate now of what the cost will be.

This was the second of two open houses the Parks Department has hosted about the RV park, and it also sought feedback through a survey of previous campers.

Participants Thursday placed dot stickers next to the items they preferred on a list of potential priorities. Right away, items like a new restroom and shower building, 50 amp electrical service and RV sites larger than 60 feet emerged as favorites. That was consistent with the feedback from the surveys.

Diana Larson placed a dot next to clean and well-maintained restrooms.

“Restrooms are always a big one. It’s kind of a barometer for any establishment how clean their restrooms are,” she said.

During a question-and-answer session, several issues were raised about the project.

Tim Moyer and D.J. Moyer said they were worried the camping fee would increase to the point that local OHVers would be forced to look to other locations like Coos Bay to camp.

“Looking at these layouts it seems to me that we’re setting up more for a resort style, with (the county) now owning Half Moon Bay, Windy Cove A, Windy Cove B and Umpqua Dunes, and my fear is now we’re going to start pricing local families and (others) out of the park,” Tim Moyer said.

“We want to keep it affordable for Douglas County working families,” D.J. Moyer said.

Houston said the county would try to balance its need to maintain a self-sufficient Parks Department with the need to keep camping affordable.

Alyssa McConnel said instead of offering a retail store onsite, it would be better to direct campers to existing businesses in town, and to create pedestrian pathways or other transportation to encourage campers to patronize local businesses.

Jon Mitchell/The News-Review  

catching some waves

A man takes advantage of the receeding tide to do some fishing Sunday on Umpqua Beach near Winchester Bay. Weather this past weekend featured temperatures in the low 60s without rain, but rain has fallen across Douglas County throughout the past week.