Friday, April 23, 2010

Direct Shipping Update - Urgent Challenges Coming Before Congress

A letter to our membership:

In an effort to turn back the clock on the direct shipment of wine to consumers, a bill has been introduced in Congress recently that would, in effect, overturn the 2005 “Granholm v. Heald” U.S. Supreme Court decision that helped pave the way for wineries to ship wine directly to many more consumers around the country.

H.R. 5034, crafted by the National Beer Wholesalers Association would make it practically impossible to bring legal action against states’ wine shipping laws that violate the Constitution’s Commerce Clause by prohibiting wine shipment from out of state, while permitting their own in-state wineries to ship direct. The end result would be a return to discriminatory wine shipping laws within the states, creating economic hardship for wineries that consider direct shipment an important sales channel and greatly restricting choice among wine consumers nationwide.

The NVV believes that consumers in all 50 states should have the ability to directly purchase fine wine. Many medium to small wineries have very limited distribution and garner little attention from the large distributors. These wineries survive by selling wine through mailing lists, wine clubs, and over the internet.

Napa Valley Vintners agree that the existing three-tier system should be augmented, not eliminated, and should provide controls and regulations necessary to respect local laws, avoid underage access and provide provisions to make tax payments. It is not the intent of any winery to sell alcohol to minors or to avoid payment of local, state or federal taxes on their wines.

What the NVV is doing:

The NVV has been deeply engaged in the Direct Shipping issue for more than a dozen years. After several years of championing the cause through its own programs, the NVV formed Free the Grapes! and spun it off as a separate organization in 1998. Free the Grapes! was created so that there would be a complementary consumer advocacy side to direct shipping legislative and legal efforts. Since the creation of Free the Grapes! the NVV has donated nearly $400,000 in direct cash contributions to the organization.

In the years prior to the formation the Free the Grapes! the NVV provided support to the cause through in-kind contributions and continues such efforts to this day. These efforts included urging member wineries to donate funds, providing timely and relevant information to members, grassroots lobbying, and public awareness programs.

Additionally, starting in 2008, NVV has been a main financial sponsor of the Direct to Consumer Symposium, the wine industry's premier summit on direct marketing and sales.

How you can help:

Contact Your Customers
As a Napa Valley vintner, your congressman, Mike Thompson, is already fighting on your behalf. However, it is important that Members of Congress from all across the country hear from consumers as to why H.R. 5034 is bad for them. Use your consumer e-mail database and Facebook page to encourage them to visit where they may personalize a letter to their congressional representatives. To view Free the Grapes! sample language for a letter to congress click here.

Go Viral
Add your comments to the hundreds on the STOP HR 5034 Facebook site.

Follow the Law
The NVV encourages all members to follow the letter of the law at all times. For a state by state update on direct shipping, visit More information may also be obtained at

Thank Mike Thompson
Congressman Mike Thompson, as always, is in the corner of the wine industry. Congressman Thompson, along with fellow Wine Caucus Co-Chairman George Radanovich, testified on behalf of the wine industry at last month’s House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on this issue. Additionally, the two members discouraged their colleagues in Congress from signing onto the legislation, pointing out that it would, “Devastate California’s and other state’s wine industries, stunt economic growth, and harm consumers by allowing discriminatory law.”


Rich Reader said...

Thanks for illuminating the wine industry position and the risks that we all face, as well as the critical impacts on consumers.

At the same time, let's clean up the grammar of the message. Spelling checkers do not guarantee clarity. Change "wineries that consider direct shipment and important sales channel" to read "wineries that consider direct shipment an important sales channel".

We at the #NapaValleyTweetup will continue to get the message out to our membership, clients, friends, and families, and support the petition against HR.5034 as well as newly proposed unjust increases to alcohol taxes in California.

Napa Valley Vintners said...

Rich - Thank you for your comment and sharp eye. The good news is that US Representative Mike Thompson believes this bill is not going anywhere fast ( but that doesn't change the fact that we in the wine industry need Washington to hear our message loud and clear.

None said...

The link to the suggested wording for a letter to Congress is broken. Please fix; I definitely want to fight this bill.

Napa Valley Vintners said...

Should be working now! It will bring you to a Word Doc with more information.

Anonymous said...
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sperryr said...

Today, at its blog, The Legal Pulse, Washington Legal Foundation (WLF), a nonprofit public interest law and policy center, posted a commentary on the CARE Act and its ramifications for interstate commerce and regulation of the multi-billion dollar alcohol industry:
For more information about WLF, please visit our institutional website at Thanks very much for you time, and we hope you enjoy the commentary.