- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 25, 2007

An international pact designed to protect truth in wine labeling nearly doubled its membership last week.

The wine regions of Sonoma County and Paso Robles in California; Chianti Classico, Italy; Tokaj, Hungary; and Victoria and Western Australia, Australia, signed on to the joint declaration.

The agreement was put together in 2005 by the Center for Wine Origins, a D.C. campaign financed by the European Union and wine organizations representing Champagne, France, and Port, Portugal. Its goal is to educate consumers on where their wine comes from. They want a bottle of wine with a “Napa Valley” label to actually contain Napa Valley grapes.

“It’s all geared toward guaranteeing the consumers what they see on the label is what they get in the bottle,” Peter McCrea, president of the board of directors of Napa Valley Vintners, said at a press conference last week.

Original members include wine groups representing the regions of Napa Valley, Calif.; Oregon; Washington state; Walla Walla (Wash.) Valley; Champagne, France; Porto, Portugal; and Jerez, Spain.

The 27-member European Union protects nearly all regional names, called “geographical indication,” meaning it won’t let a bottle of sparkling wine made outside of Champagne into the European Union with a “Champagne” label. The European Union just extended geographical indication status to Napa Valley wines.

The United States does not have a similar system. But the wine coalition is making strides in protecting wine labels in the United States. In 2005, the California Supreme Court ruled that a wine labeled “Napa Ridge” was required to use Napa Valley grapes or get rid of the label. Last year, California passed a law requiring a bottle of wine with a “Sonoma” label contain at least 75 percent wine made from Sonoma County grapes.

The wine regions also have been involved in educating Congress on the importance of place in wine labeling, with hopes of legislation or trade agreements protecting labels.

Best restaurant nominees named

The Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington last week named its annual “Rammy” award finalists, acknowledging the best restaurants and chefs in the region.

Finalists for New Restaurant of the Year include: Blue Duck Tavern, PS 7’s, Rasika, BLT Steak and Farrah Olivia. Chef of the Year nominees include Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve; Yannick Cam of Le Paradou; RJ Cooper of Vidalia; Robert Wiedmaier of Marcel’s and Eric Ziebold of CityZen. Restaurant Eve and Farrah Olivia are in Alexandria; the other restaurants are in the District.

Other categories recognize fine and informal dining restaurant, restaurant employee, pastry chef, wine and beverage program, restaurant manager and rising culinary star. The winners will be announced in June.

In other news …

• InterContinental Hotels Group plans to convert Rockville’s Atrium Court Hotel, at Route 270 and Shady Grove Road, to a Crowne Plaza hotel. The hotel group plans to spend $6 million renovating the hotel before it reopens this summer. The Rockville location is significant for the Atlanta company because it was there that it opened its first Crowne Plaza hotel in 1983.

• Retail & Hospitality appears Mondays. Send news to Jen Haberkorn at [email protected] or 202/636-4836.

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