Friday, March 18, 2011

HR 1161 introduced in Congress: Wholesalers continue to try to protect their monopoly at the expense of wineries and consumers

The intra-industry battle between producers of wine, beer and spirits and wholesalers that distribute many of those products was reignited yesterday with the introduction of HR 1161 in the US House of Representatives. The bill is once again dubbed the “CARE act.”

Similar to legislation put forth by the wholesalers last year (HR 5034), the new bill, sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R- UT), addresses state-based alcohol regulation and strengthens states’ control of alcohol sales, almost certainly jeopardizing consumers’ rights to directly purchase and receive wine. HR 1161 would open the door for states to enact anti-competitive laws that may discriminate against wine consumers and their right to purchase wine products.

Congressman Mike Thompson strongly condemned the new bill today.

“The federal government has no business picking winners and losers in the wine, beer, and distilled spirits industry,” Thompson said. “Yet the Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act would do just that by banning the direct shipment of wine and other forms of alcohol in the US. The impact of this bill would be devastating for brewers, vintners, distillers, importers, and consumers across our country.

“Specifically, this bill would allow states to replace federal standards with their own, making it harder for out-of-state producers in California and elsewhere to comply with other states’ laws. Wholesaler interest groups, the CARE Act’s biggest supporters, are lobbying aggressively to unravel the existing regulatory structure. If successful, they stand to monopolize the alcohol market at the expense of other industry members and American consumers.

“I will not allow this discriminatory bill to go unchallenged. Existing state and federal regulations have created a fair and competitive marketplace for wine and other alcoholic beverages. Nothing has changed. That’s why I am prepared to fight to protect our wineries, our businesses, our local economy, and our consumers’ right to purchase these beverages.”

In a collective statement released yesterday, associations representing wine, beer and spirits producers, including Wine Institute, concurred: “We urge Congress not to unravel a successful regulatory structure to the detriment of consumers, the industry and the federal interest in a fair, competitive and orderly marketplace for alcohol beverages."

The Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) believes that consumers in all 50 states should have the ability to directly purchase and receive fine wine. Many medium to small wineries have very limited distribution and garner little attention from the large distributors, especially now as distributor consolidation is severely impacting the three-tier system. These wineries survive by selling wine through mailing lists, wine clubs, and over the internet.

NVV agrees 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.

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 $400,000 in direct cash contributions to the organization.

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. Funds generated by the symposium benefit Free the Grapes! as well as the Coalition for Free Trade, the organization responsible for the legal aspects of Direct Shipping.

How you can help:

Contact Your Customers!

Congressman Thompson is already fighting on our behalf. However, it is important that Members of Congress from all across the country hear from your customers (their constituents) as to why HR 1161 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.

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

Thursday, March 17, 2011

European Grapevine Moth - Steps toward eradication in 2011

In September of 2009, the European Grapevine Moth (EGVM) was discovered in Napa County. Native to Italy, the pest is one of the most disruptive to grapevines, multiplying three times within a single growing season and producing larvae that feed on grape clusters. The first year it was discovered in Napa the moth destroyed an entire vineyard in Oakville, leading to widespread concern about future crop damage in the Napa Valley.

Harnessing the urgency of the situation, Dave Whitmer, Napa County’s Agricultural Commissioner, and Monica Cooper, Napa County’s Farm Advisor, along with Napa Valley Vintners, Napa Valley Grapegrowers, Napa County’s Farm Bureau and local environmental groups, coordinated a county-wide effort to control the moth during the 2010 growing season that included over 5,000 traps, a quarantine during harvest, spray applications of ovicide and larvicide, and pheromone mating disruption. As a result of these efforts, vineyard crop damage was greatly reduced in 2010, turning what was largely seen as a potentially catastrophic threat to Napa vineyards into a success story in pest and environmental management.

While significant progress was made in 2010 in quarantining and reducing EGVM populations, experts agree that continued vigilance in combating the moth in 2011 is key to completely eradicating the moth in the Napa Valley.

For the 2011 growing season, it is recommended that all grape growers within 500 meters of a moth trapped in 2010 treat the first two generations with ovicide and/or larvicide and put up Isomate pheromone mating disruption twist-ties in their vineyards. The county will again set traps throughout the Napa Valley to asses the location and volume of the moths throughout the season and quarantines during harvest are recommended.

Home winemakers also play an important role in eradicating the moth and complying with EGVM standards. For example, as EGVM can be spread via green waste, any residue from home winemaking should be double bagged and placed in a trash can and should not be added to compost piles. To comply with the quarantine, home winemakers who use custom grape facilities for their wines should use facilities within their quarantine area. More information for Napa homeowners can be found here.

Questions or want to be on the County’s mailing list for further updates? Contact Napa County EGVM Grower Liaison Martin Mochizuki.

Follow updates on Kick the Moth Out! on Facebook

Additional Resources

EGVM Management – County of Napa
EGVM Management – UC Davis Cooperative Extension
Presentation on 2010 EGVM Management efforts

(Photo Credit: Kick The Moth Out! Facebook Page)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Shafer Vineyards at Premiere Napa Valley

Get a look at Shafer's participation in this year's Premiere Napa Valley mid-winter barrel auction for the wine trade.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The 2011 Vintage Begins: Pruning at Fantesca

Pruning is one of those milestone events in the year. It is a low stress event since the vines are dormant and there is a large window of opportunity to get the work done. I am amazed at the skill and speed of the workers who know how to make the precise cuts that will yield just the right number of shoots all pointed in the correct manner. This is critical to the health of the vineyard and the quality of the wine.

Welcome to 2011! We will keep you posted on the vintage's progress, but you won't be able to taste it until September of 2014!

Duane Hoff