SOURCE: The Meritage Association

January 07, 2008 12:00 ET

What's in a Name? M-E-R-I-T-A-G-E Spells Success!

Association Celebrates 20th Anniversary in 2008; Now Has More Than 200 Members

PETALUMA, CA--(Marketwire - January 7, 2008) - The Meritage Association, which will kick off a year-long observance of its 20th Anniversary this week, reached a new milestone in December when Revolution Winery in Ashburn, VA, signed on as the group's 200th member. The Association also welcomed its first members from Massachusetts (Red Oak Winery from Middleton, MA) and Arizona (Jerome Winery from Jerome, AZ) in 2007.

"I think it's fitting that our 200th member is Revolution Winery," said Julie Weinstock, Meritage Association chairman. "Because when we started 20 years ago, Meritage truly was a revolutionary idea in the wine industry."

The term Meritage was coined and the association founded in 1988 by a group of American vintners unhappy with varietal labeling regulations. Advanced by its members' determined efforts over the past two decades, Meritage has been rewarded with growing recognition by consumers, trade and media as a better way to communicate the exceptional artistry of blended wines. In the last two years alone, membership has increased 35% and the organization now has members in 20 U.S. states and five countries -- Argentina, Australia, Canada, Israel and Mexico.

"Our membership can be proud of the work we've accomplished," said Weinstock. "Meritage has become entrenched in wine lexicon, providing winemakers, retailers and consumers with a universal method of recognizing and describing complex, handcrafted blended wines of elegance and distinction."

Founding vintner Mitch Cosentino, whose 1986 Meritage "The Poet," a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot was the first red Meritage wine released in the United States, agreed. "Meritage is now a recognized category of top-tier wines and I'm proud to have been a part of the process," Cosentino said.

Under the combined leadership of former Association president Michaela Rodeno, CEO of St.Supery Winery, and Julie Weinstock, General Manager of Adobe Road Winery, who has led the Association since 2006, an emphasis on consumer and trade education begun in 1999 heightened interest in Meritage wines. Over the last decade, the Association has created a website (www.meritagewine.org), partnered with wine education groups like Women for Winesense, and increased donor participation in high profile wine-related charity events such as the Napa Valley Wine Auction, the High Museum Atlanta and WBGH Boston. In addition, the group has sponsored educational conferences and consumer tastings bringing together winemakers, media and trade throughout the U.S. In 2003, the Association gained the recognition of the European wine community when twelve Meritage wines were included in tastings at VinItaly, and again in 2006, when Meritage wines were invited to participate in a tasting of Bordeaux-styled wines organized by Italian journalists in Vicenza, Italy.

The Association plans to work closely with its members throughout this anniversary year, providing Meritage focused educational materials and tools that can be modified to enhance each winery's promotional and marketing efforts. Association Chair Weinstock stated emphatically, "We want to do everything we can to create opportunities for members to broaden consumer awareness of Meritage -- providing recognition for the Association as well as for these exceptional wines."

About the Meritage Association

In 1985, limitations imposed by U.S. federal regulations restricted the wording used on labels of wines containing less than 75% of a single grape variety to "table wine." Regulations also rejected use of the descriptor "Bordeaux-blend," commonly used by winemakers to describe the blending of grape varieties originally planted in France's Bordeaux winegrowing region. Additionally, some vintners had become unhappy with the designation "reserve," believing the word had lost its original luster due to marketing overuse.

With seemingly no way for American vintners to satisfactorily and legally describe the artisinal winemaking method of blending on their labels, a group of two dozen winemakers came together in 1987 to find a solution. Led by vintners Agustin Huneeus, Mitch Cosentino and Julie Garvey, they decided to create a new name to help identify premium quality, handcrafted, blended wines made in the Bordeaux tradition. A national contest provided the word "Meritage," a blend of the word merit (for quality) and heritage (for the Bordeaux tradition of blending wines); and in 1988, the Meritage Association was founded. As Huneeus remarked, "I knew 'Meritage' was a great opportunity because we needed a denomination; Bordeaux-blend is a misnomer -- our grapes are not grown in Bordeaux and the wines are not produced there."

Meritage® is a registered trademark of the Meritage Association. For more information, go to www.meritagewine.org.

Contact Information

  • For more information, contact:
    Jane Hodges Young
    Labrador Communications
    707-837-2735
    Email Contact