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Thursday, Mar. 05, 2009

Washington state House unanimously passes wine labeling bill

OLYMPIA -- The state House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill Wednesday that would require anyone using the Washington wine label to use grapes grown in the state.

The bill was introduced by former Rep. Dan Newhouse before he was tapped by Gov. Chris Gregoire to become director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

Newhouse was sworn in for the job Tuesday. But while still representing the 15th District, the Sunnyside Republican said he wanted consumers to know that if they bought a Washington wine, they were getting a quality product.

Current law allows wines with a state label to have 75 percent of grapes grown in the state; or 85 percent if the wine labels itself as being from an American Viticulture Area, such as Red Mountain. Newhouse's proposal would raise that requirement to 95 percent.

Newhouse said he hadn't heard of any winemakers using inferior grapes from other states and passing them off as Washington-grown, he said. It just helps to brand Washington wines when they're being marketed outside the states.

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.