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'Sonoma County' is About to Appear on a Lot More Wine Labels

A state law passed in 2010 now requires wine labels to include the words "Sonoma County" if they also are labeled with an American Viticultural Area in Sonoma County.

A wine label that already includes "Sonoma County." Courtesy Flickr user jeromeseillier. Licensed under Creative Commons: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeromeseillier/7999910846/
A wine label that already includes "Sonoma County." Courtesy Flickr user jeromeseillier. Licensed under Creative Commons: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeromeseillier/7999910846/
Someone ordering a Dry Creek Valley zinfandel from a New York restaurant might not know that wine came from Sonoma County, but she's about to.

Winemakers who label their bottles with local American Viticultural Areas like Alexander Valley, Chalk Hill, North Coast and Russian River Valley will now also have to include "Sonoma County" on those bottles.

The requirement was passed into state law in 2010, but didn't go into effect until Jan. 1, 2014.

Supporters of the 2010 law–AB 1798, also called "conjunctive labeling"–said it will help promote the region and distinguish it from its Napa Valley neighbors.

"In this increasingly competitive wine market, building awareness for Sonoma County and the wine regions within the county is critical to Sonoma County grape growers and the wineries they supply," a 2010 press release quoted Nick Frey, president of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, as saying.

But some vintners opposed the law, saying it lumped small, area-specific brands in with huge, generic ones.

"Mandatory conjunctive labeling has the potential to elevate the image of a few large producers of mid-value, mass-produced wines at the expense of many smaller producers of high-value, hand-crafted wines," Scott Rich of Talisman Wines told Decanter.com in 2013.

AB 1798, which passed both houses of the state legislature unanimously, was co-authored by five area lawmakers. It only applies to Sonoma County, but similar requirements already exist for Napa Valley, Lodi and Paso Robles wines.

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