Battle of the Brands

Wineries Argue over the Right to the Name Santa Barbara

Pierre Lafond founded Santa Barbara Winery in 1962. The Santa Barbara Wine Company, one of the most recent labels created by Fosters Wine Estates (38.7 million cases sold globally annually), has just released its first vintage, 2008 pinot noirs and chardonnays. The folks at Santa Barbara Winery aren’t pleased. Bruce McGuire, their winemaker since 1981, says, “I don’t know where Santa Barbara Wine Company is [located]. Basically it’s a phantom winery using the name of Santa Barbara as a marketing tool.” Carrie Reed, PR manager for the Santa Barbara Wine Company, admits the wine is made in Paso Robles, but also wrote in an email, “While Fosters Wine Estates has owned, farmed, and made wines from vineyards in Santa Barbara County continuously for more than 20 years, this brand is an expression of the excellence of our Santa Barbara County vineyards, and we’re excited about its future.” No doubt this is one struggle the lawyers will have to slug out. McGuire claims, “It’s confusing, it’s brand infringement—we have consumers, actually wholesale accounts, who think this is our wine.” Reed counters, “The labels look very different and as with many geographic places/locations, there are already numerous iterations of the words ‘Santa Barbara’ included in wine brand names.”

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