Richard Mendelson is an internationally-recognized expert on vineyard and wine law and related land use, intellectual property, business and administrative law issues. Over the past three decades, Richard has handled legal matters involving almost every aspect of the wine business, including liquor licensing, environmental challenges to vineyard development, grape purchase agreements, winery use permits, representation of winery clients before the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and federal Alcohol & Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, state and federal label approvals, distributor appointments and terminations, and import-export contracts. Richard has a special expertise in geographical indications and has been responsible for obtaining recognition for some of the most well-known American Viticultural Areas. He assisted the California legislature with the drafting of legislation to protect the world-famous Napa Valley geographical indication. Subsequently, he successfully defended that law on behalf of the Napa Valley Vintners in the case of Bronco v. Jolly, which he argued before the California Supreme Court.
Richard’s background in the wine industry began as a graduate student at Magdalen College, Oxford, which houses one of Europe’s largest wine cellars. In 1977, he completed the Higher Certificate course offered by the London Wine and Spirit Education Trust. He then moved to France to work as the assistant to the Export Director of Bouchard Aîné et Fils, a Burgundy wine shipper (1978-79).
During and after law school, Richard worked in the legal department of Wine Institute, California’s wine trade association. After three years of civil litigation practice in San Francisco (1983-86) and one year as an international trade consultant, he moved to Napa to pursue his representation of the vineyard and wine industry.
Richard presently directs the Program on Wine Law and Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, where he teaches a full semester Wine Law course. He has lectured extensively on vineyard and wine law as part of the vineyard and wine law degree programs of the University of Aix-Marseille and the University of Bordeaux in France. He teaches the law section of the Sonoma State University Wine Executive MBA program and the Davis School of Management Wine Executive Program. Richard also is chair of the annual Continuing Education of the Bar Wine Law Forum. He is a founding member of the International Wine Law Association, headquartered in Paris, and served as its president from 1992 to 1995. Richard is the of author of two books on wine law, From Demon to Darling: A Legal History of Wine in America (UC Press 2009) and Wine in America: Law and Policy (Wolters Kluwer 2011).
Richard is a member of Hospitaliers de Pomerol, a Bordeaux honorary wine society. He is a grower and wine proprietor himself, producing Mendelson Pinot Gris and Muscat Canelli Dessert Wines and Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir. He also is a metal sculptor and the author of Spirit in Metal (Val de Grâce 2011).
- J.D., Stanford University (1982)
- M.A., Oxford University (1977)
- B.A., Harvard University (Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa, 1975)
Writings and Presentations
- Chairperson, Impact Napa, sponsored by the North Bay Business Journal, 2012 to present. Conduct interviews of major wine industry figures – Margrit Mondavi (2014), Agustin Huneeus (2015), Warren Winiarski (2016), Roger Trinchero (2017), Christian Moueix (2018), Linda Reiff (2019), and Mayor Jill Techel (2021) – and moderate panels and presentations on key industry issues.
- Co-author and editor, Wine in America: Law and Policy, a law school textbook (Wolters Kluwer 2011, second edition forthcoming in 2023).
- Co-author, “Wine Law in the United States,” with Scott Gerien and John Trinidad, in Georgopoulos, Theodore, ed., Global Wine Law (Helbing Lichtenhahn Verlag 2021).
- Author, “Administrative Controls in the Wine Sector: The United States,” in Georgopoulos, Theodore, ed., Administrative Controls in the Wine Sector (Mare & Martin 2021).
- Co-author, “Recent Challenges to the U.S. Wine Appellation System,” with John Trinidad, in Juban, Yann, ed., The Vine, the Wine and the Law – from Local to Global (Mare & Martin 2020).
- Author, Appellation Napa Valley: Building and Protecting an American Treasure (Val de Grâce 2016).
- Author, From Demon to Darling: A Legal History of Wine in America (University of California Press 2009).
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