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Wine Wars


Craig Camp
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It does not matter that Dugan is leaving WSWA, they will find someone just like her to take her place. The policies pursued by the WSWA were not those of Dugan, who is an empty shell of a person with no ethics, creed or morals and who will take on whatever role and support any position they pay her the most for and that's it. Her positions at WSWA were not fueled by her own beliefs, but those who paid the bills. Dugan will be replaced by another mercenary and things will go on as before at WSWA.

It's Southern, Charmer's, Glazer's and the rest of the club that pushs the buttons at WSWA, not flunkies like Dugan.

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You are entirely correct, I did ask! And you have made some very good suggestions. I particularly like the idea of an 800 customer service desk. It would be a gracious way for the WSWA to dialogue directly with consumers, retailers, and wineries.

I would like to address one point you made, particularly because so many people have phrased this the same way--that wineries are pursuing direct shipping in order to "increase their profit margins." As pointed out in the Washington Post article I cited, of the 4,000 wineries in the U.S., most are very small--under 5,000 cases. These wineries need direct shipping privileges in order to have a profit margin at all.

You see, until the last few years, there were hardly any boutique wine distributors. Nearly all were national firms, or extremely powerful regional firms. They pretty much stick with larger production and/or famous brand names. Small wineries often cannot get representation at all. And as Duggan herself admitted in the quote from Wine Business Monthly, the WSWA doesn't even have smaller, boutique distributors in its membership!

I don't think you need to worry about brands disappearing from the shelves. As direct shipping horizons expand, nationally distributed wineries will not pull out of wholesale/retail markets. Direct shipping requires a lot of time, physical labor and paperwork, or the cost of outsourcing. Sure, there's a higher profit margin in direct retail sales, although what many people don't consider when observing these numbers is that many wineries offer generous case and wine club discounts. What's really important to wineries is that we know every order is going directly to a consumer who really appreciates the product.

Direct shipments to consumers also lack "market presence." Wineries need those cushy restaurant placements and high end retailers--that's what attracts new customers and (non-review) media attention. The truth is, it's customers as much as wineries that are driving the direct shipment movement. We're tired of saying "no," to our customers, and they're tired of hearing it.

I agree with you on all your comments wholeheartedly. The underage argument was a really dumb stance. The tax collection argument was better, until the states with simple reporting and collection requirements piped up that there really isn't a problem. The WSWA's traditional negativity, self-absorbed interests and self-congratulatory praise is holding its members back from progress.

I'd like to see a CEO that will focus on the positive. Wholesalers and distributors have untapped potential---hundreds, even thousands of products, that they have not looked at or bothered to carry. The new CEO should strive to make wholesalers relevant in a new market. The CEO should ask, what can we do to facilitate this exchange? Not, what can we do to prevent it.

If I were CEO, I would look closely at the resentment that has built up between wine producers and wine wholesalers and eliminate the cause. I would open a dialogue with the Wine Institute and find out ways to turn that organization into an ally. I would welcome small distributorships, perhaps offer them reduced fees. I would encourage principals from some of the hot little distributorships to speak to the members about sales rep training and service issues. I would sponsor seminars about boutique wine productions and how to effectively move these products into the marketplace. (Many dist's consider small lots a pain because they're only available for a short time each year, but look at all the potential sales they are missing.)

I also really like Mark's idea of establishing a help desk for consumers. What better way to increase relevancy than by establishing friendly contact with the end users?

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Mary Baker

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It's Southern, Charmer's, Glazer's and the rest of the club that pushs the buttons at WSWA, not flunkies like Dugan.

True, but let's just pretend for a minute. :raz:

Mary, I know these guys and there is no hope. Only the force of court orders will make them back down. This has nothing to do with wine as it is spirits that make the big money. Compared to vodka, chardonnay is nothing. Here's my take on it. I think you and Tom are being too optimistic and that the departure of Duggan will have no positive impact for the wine industry. I believe she only left because of more money and a bigger industry.

Let's see she's done tobacco, alcohol and now on to raping our forests. She's gonna have a lot of explaining to do in the next life.

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You are entirely correct, I did ask!  And you have made some very good suggestions.  I particularly like the idea of an 800 customer service desk.  It would be a gracious way for the WSWA to dialogue directly with consumers, retailers, and wineries.

I would like to address one point you made, particularly because so many people have phrased this the same way--that wineries are pursuing direct shipping in order to "increase their profit margins."  As pointed out in the Washington Post article I cited, of the 4,000 wineries in the U.S., most are very small--under 5,000 cases.  These wineries need direct shipping privileges in order to have a profit margin at all.

You see, until the last few years, there were hardly any boutique wine distributors.  Nearly all were national firms, or extremely powerful regional firms.  They pretty much stick with larger production and/or famous brand names.  Small wineries often cannot get representation at all.  And as Duggan herself admitted in the quote from Wine Business Monthly, the WSWA doesn't even have smaller, boutique distributors in its membership!

I don't think you need to worry about brands disappearing from the shelves.  As  direct shipping horizons expand, nationally distributed wineries will not pull out of wholesale/retail markets.  Direct shipping requires a lot of time, physical labor and paperwork, or the cost of outsourcing. Sure, there's a higher profit margin in direct retail sales, although what many people don't consider when observing these numbers is that many wineries offer generous case and wine club discounts.  What's really important to wineries is that we know every order is going directly to a consumer who really appreciates the product.

Direct shipments to consumers also lack "market presence."  Wineries need those cushy restaurant placements and high end retailers--that's what attracts new customers and (non-review) media attention.  The truth is, it's customers as much as wineries that are driving the direct shipment movement.  We're tired of saying "no," to our customers, and they're tired of hearing it. 

I agree with you on all your comments wholeheartedly.  The underage argument was a really dumb stance.  The tax collection argument was better, until the states with simple reporting and collection requirements piped up that there really isn't a problem.  The WSWA's traditional negativity, self-absorbed interests and self-congratulatory praise is holding its members back from progress.

I'd like to see a CEO that will focus on the positive.  Wholesalers and distributors have untapped potential---hundreds, even thousands of products, that they have not looked at or bothered to carry.  The new CEO should strive to make wholesalers relevant in a new market.  The CEO should ask, what can we do to facilitate this exchange?  Not, what can we do to prevent it.

If I were CEO, I would look closely at the resentment that has built up between wine producers and wine wholesalers and eliminate the cause.  I would open a dialogue with the Wine Institute and find out ways to turn that organization into an ally.  I would welcome small distributorships, perhaps offer them reduced fees.  I would encourage principals from some of the hot little distributorships to speak to the members about sales rep training and service issues.  I would sponsor seminars about boutique wine productions and how to effectively move these products into the marketplace.  (Many dist's consider small lots a pain because they're only available for a short time each year, but look at all the potential sales they are missing.) 

I also really like Mark's idea of establishing a help desk for consumers.  What better way to increase relevancy than by establishing friendly contact with the end users?

Sorry for the delay in responding, I don't often visit here, though I do know a few of the regulars.

I suggested that winery organizations like Family Winemakers, not WSWA, establish an 800 number that customers can call to deal with shipping problems and corked/cooked bottles, and have that office farm out the info to the appropriate winery member. I deal with just one person at my local wine shop, why should I be forced to deal with dozens of faceless wineries? If you want my business, you make it easy for ME, not for YOU, to do business with you!

A big case in point here is shipping, which due to the above has become a new business (dare I say it, an added tier?). Shipping charges have escalated to such an obscene level that it's insane for me, or anyone else, to even consider buying under-$20 wines directly from a winery -- UNLESS the winery is looking out for its customers and is handling shipping themselves. But I know it's easier to just have a shipping company stop at the winery, pick up lots of boxes and a list of orders, and have them take care of everything. And charge whatever they want, because many wineries today allow the shipping company to bill the customer directly.

I just checked, and NOT ONE of the wineries whose mailing lists I receive currently offers a case discount. Some did in the past, but not today. And I know that they insist their wines be sold locally only to restaurants, if they sell anything locally at all. These wines HAVE disappeared from store shelves. It's interesting, though, that I can go to stores in nearby states and find the wines...those states do not allow shipping but mine does. Yes, interesting.

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That's very sad to hear. Especially since Chicago is such an enthusiast market for wine.

It's true that shipping prices are obscene. It costs us $18 to ship a 37# case of wine to a California address, and that does not include the cost of the shipper--it's exactly what UPS charges us. Out of state addresses consistently cost about $30 a case. (I recently did a zip-by-zip comparison across the U.S.) Fed Ex 2-Day Air runs about $60 a case, after our 40% Wine Institute discount! That's $5 a bottle for shipping. Insane, but there it is. And this is without time, labor, and packaging. (Wineries pricing their offerings at $20 or less cannot afford to absorb these costs--unless they are producing at least 40,000 cases.)

In regards to wine placement in Chicago, there is one puzzling aspect to all this. Once a wine is sold to a distributor, the distributor owns the wine, and the distributor decides where the wine is sold, not the winery. The wine no longer belongs to the winery.

The winery has no say in where the wines are sold. So I'm just guessing, but it sounds as though there are some lazy sales reps handling your favorite wines in your area. Restaurant wine lists tend to be relatively static--they're only tweaked occasionally, so once a sales rep gets placement on a wine list, he's golden for a long time. The restaurant is guaranteed to reorder regularly. Retailers however, can be high maintenance in a sales rep's point of view. They have a given amount of floor space, and they will frequently change up their offerings to reflect weather, holidays, traffic, critic scores, and consumer trends. They require more 'salesmanship.' So if your favorite wines are selling well but limited in availability, odds are very high that the wholesale reps are simply gravitating to the easiest customers.

Some wineries do request more restaurant placement, and may make that a condition of doing business with a distributor. Generally, however, wineries with national distribution shoot for a 30/30/30 balance between restaurant, retail, and direct sales. It would be a little easier to guess if we knew which wines you are referring to. If you are willing to mention a few names, perhaps other members can let us know if those wines are available at retail in their locales.

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Mary, maybe I should get you in touch with some "boutique" distributors in the Chicago area and let them tell you what wineries put them through. You know it's illegal and I know it's illegal, but there are a growing number of wineries who demand that their wines be sold on-premise exclusively, and demand depletion reports as evidence. And if something is sold elsewhere, a winery will move to a new distributor (which is very easy to do in Illinois).

I have had many discussions with a couple winery owners in Santa Rosa about this topic. It's their belief that since Illinois is a reciprocal state, consumers should buy from them directly. They do not demand on-premise-only sales in non-reciprocal states, so I can go to, say, Michigan and find their wines on store shelves.

I guess what I'm leading to is, in many ways a person like Juanita Duggan was a blessing to wineries because she knew nothing about the industry, and quite frankly didn't care. Consider how much damage someone at WSWA could do if they focused their efforts on some of the stuff I've been mentioning!

Seems to me this is also a good time for groups like Family Winemakers to start policing their own and developing a "code of ethics" that member wineries must follow when dealing with phone/mail customers. When you have wineries like Blankiet, Sloan, and Pride that charge $40-$50 to ship THREE BOTTLES, then something is wrong...

Mark

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Mary, maybe I should get you in touch with some "boutique" distributors in the Chicago area and let them tell you what wineries put them through. You know it's illegal and I know it's illegal, but there are a growing number of wineries who demand that their wines be sold on-premise exclusively, and demand depletion reports as evidence. And if something is sold elsewhere, a winery will move to a new distributor (which is very easy to do in Illinois).

It's not illegal for a winery to state a preference, and to move to a sales associate that they feel has a better understanding of their business model. It's a little prima donna, but not illegal.

"On premise," "depletion reports . . . " You sound pretty familiar with winery sales-speak. For those of you not in the business, a depletion report is a report on where a winery's product has been sold (depletion of inventory). Some distributors gladly share them, some consider them a pain in the ass. Depends on their business model.

I have had many discussions with a couple winery owners in Santa Rosa about this topic. It's their belief that since Illinois is a reciprocal state, consumers should buy from them directly. They do not demand on-premise-only sales in non-reciprocal states, so I can go to, say, Michigan and find their wines on store shelves.

And these wineries stand behind their practices? And they would be . . . ?

I guess what I'm leading to is, in many ways a person like Juanita Duggan was a blessing to wineries because she knew nothing about the industry, and quite frankly didn't care. Consider how much damage someone at WSWA could do if they focused their efforts on some of the stuff I've been mentioning!

You sound a little sour about the bad press on Juanita.

When you have wineries like Blankiet, Sloan, and Pride that charge $40-$50 to ship THREE BOTTLES, then something is wrong...

I agree, particularly with their prices.

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but there are a growing number of wineries who demand that their wines be sold on-premise exclusively

You have to be kidding me. This is hardly a "new" thing, in fact, you can trace this back over twenty years. Sonoma Cutrer was one of the first to take this approach, but that was decades ago. Few small wineries take this now old fashioned approach, although some hyper-marketing wineries pushed by big national companies may follow this now silly strategy. Please put me in touch with "boutique" distirbutors in Chicago, most of which I know personally and I sell my wines to one of them now, without one word about on and off premise splits.

I have had many discussions with a couple winery owners in Santa Rosa about this topic. It's their belief that since Illinois is a reciprocal state

Everybody in the "biz" knows that there is no longer such thing as a reciprocal state. The new court rulings killed that concept and wine producers are out there scrambling to get registered in the former reciprocal states. You are a bit behind on your regulations here. Please tell us who the producers are in Santa Rosa are that want to blow off distributors all together and sell direct. I know many of them and would like to chat with them about this clearly silly concept - unless you produce a few hundred cases a year.

When you have wineries like Blankiet, Sloan, and Pride that charge $40-$50 to ship THREE BOTTLES, then something is wrong...

Nothing is wrong with the wineries here, if you have a beef you better yell at UPS. Part of the "problem" is also these top producers insist you ship their wines 2nd day air or better. That costs more, but I'm sure most of their customers would agree with this policy instead of getting cooked wines that sat in some warehouse or truck.

Most of your complaints are from times gone by, take a few moments to catch up with the industry before you make such blanket condemnations.

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Forgive me but often people within an industry often have difficulty seeing the forrest for the trees.

As I see it--this is all about "big" and "small."

First, this country thrives on an advocacy system. The WSWA is in existence to be an advocate for wholesalers and to protect their interests. as is usual in these organizations, it is the big guys who call the shots and have the most influence on the industry. So what else is new?

Ms Duggan serves at the pleasure of the wholesalers who hired her. Questioning her morals is a bit naive. As any good attorney, she was an advocate for her clients.

In the production and distribution of wine there are several entities: Wine Makers (wineries), distributors, retailers (shops, restaurants) and finally consumers.

All these have their own special interests and all have organizations set up to represent those interests.

There is one very important entity and that is the government. In theory it is the government that should balance the interests of all these entities fostering a system of production and distribution that works for all parties. (all parties vote).

The problem is, all things are not equal. Additionally, the government itself has become its own vested interest in that it derives profits (via taxes) from the system.

It is now more than just an arbiter, it is part of the system. In places like Pennsylvania, it has usurped the system completely taking over the physical distribution and sales.

Small entities, wineries, will always have a hill to climb. We have three tier distribution of wine and spirits--we have the internet. We have laws.

If a small producer has a good product then with some resourcefulness and smart marketing strategies, they should be able to get their product to enough consumers to make a profit.

Entrepreneurs will always be able to work the system. Small distributors will emerge to provide services larger distributors can't or won't.

There is far too much whining--

I can't believe that an industry where over a thousand wineries exist in the state of California alone and one that has seen people like Kermit Lynch and Neal Rosenthal and small distributors (Village Imports, House of Burgundy etc) and so many others find ways to bring interesting wines to the public can not continue to evolve and grow.

If there is one over riding entity that can stifle this growth it is the government--federal and state. It is arcane laws and prohibitive rules and regulations and most of all taxes--sapping buying power from consumers, and punishing entrepreneurs.

Focusing on small problems--the internet, boutique wineries and distributors, shipping charges, customer complaints about corked wine, who has influence over as trade group etc etc etc, is to lose sight of the big picture and big problems.

So, the WSWA shouldn't be expected to become something it is not. I do believe that the industry needs more visionaries who see beyond the trees and can help guide all entities toward a better future.

Edited by JohnL (log)
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...drink my breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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  • 6 months later...

I just became aware of this delicious essay by our own Craig Camp on the annual WSWA convention:

The new product show is always a highlight of this event and it never, never features wine. For example, I remember the Jell-o shot years where one company hired “models” dressed as nurses in a porno movie to hand feed their new brand of Jell-o shots to conventioneers within inches of their well exposed breasts. Another famed booth offered “Black Death Vodka” in a stand featuring a real Indy Car, well associating drinking Vodka and driving at high speeds.

It is this orgy of sleaze and money, powered by spirits not wine, that drives the WSWA and it mass market distributor members who could give a sh*t about wine except for the fact that their giant spirit suppliers force them to sell it.

Sad, sleazy, and so unfortunately true.

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I am still perplexed. What exactly do you folks want?

From a consumer standpoint in most major urban areas there are more wines from more places available than ever before. On retailer shelves.

There is a huge amount of wine available from producers large and small.

I readily admit that allowing anyone to sell wine to anyone old enough anywhere in the US via the internet or any other means is a good thing.

Any retailer anywhere in the US should be able to buy at wholesale any wine from anyone anywhere in a free and open marketplace.

Who, without some vested interest,

otherwise, is against a free and open marketplace?

Here's the reality though. (at least as I see it)

The current system sucks--agreed but those who want to--can find a way around or within it.

If a retailer wants to get hold of some wine from a small producer, most wholesalers will get the wine for them.

If a consumer wants a wine not available locally they can find a way to get it.

Small wineries can find ways to ship wines to problem states.

There is an opportunity for small independent importers and wholesalers to step in.

They are. Small independent wine makers need to find them. these folks need to find each other! A little anecdote. A producer like Compass Box enters a declining over loaded category like Scotch Whiskey finds a small independent wholesaler importer who in turn finds some enthusiastic retailers and-- wallah! A great success.

Yes, the ideal situation would be that free and open marketplace. But I see no widespread movement by consumers to speak up for it. Basically, the average consumer has more choices in wine than they can deal with over a lifetime--not having access to every wine from every producer is not a critical issue to them. Factor in the kinds of response one gets from people living in the most restrictive states like Pennsylvania.

Even here, check the threads out! people actually will argue that things are fine in PA and maybe they are even better off with the state running the wine business. There is even little outrage over the 17% Johnstown flood tax they pay on each bottle of wine.

So--I believe that the situation will get better. Too many wills finding ways--and eventually the internet and state regulations will become more favorable to all.

But the current state of affairs is just not so dire to that many people to warrant the the outrage expressed by these rants over a trade organization.

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I am still perplexed. What exactly do you folks want?

We want:

* To be respected for producing a fine product

* To have the freedom to deliver our products to discerning customers who request our wines

* Not to be reviled as black marketeers and youth corruptors by the very people who are charged with promoting our product

If a retailer wants to get hold of some wine from a small producer, most wholesalers will get the wine for them.

No, they won't. They only have room for a static amount of wine in their portfolio and they will not go to the trouble of ordering minute (1-5 case) quantities of wine from a producer outside their portfolio. Wines ordered by distributors are shipped in pallets of 56 cases. The shipping costs for small orders can equal the cost of the wines themselves.

If a consumer wants a wine not available locally they can find a way to get it.

No, they can't--if they live in a state the winery is not legally able to ship to.

Small wineries can find ways to ship wines to problem states.

No, we can't. Unless we are willing to face fines of $10,000 and the loss of our license.

But I see no widespread movement by consumers to speak up for it.

Where are you looking? There is a huge movement toward open commerce in the wine industry.

Basically, the average consumer has more choices in wine than they can deal with over a lifetime--not having access to every wine from every producer is not a critical issue to them.

Small, artisanal wineries do not generally target the "average" consumer. Wines are typically purchased by wine consumers looking for particular styles, producers, varietals, and regions.

So--I believe that the situation will get better. Too many wills finding ways--and eventually the internet and state regulations will become more favorable to all.

But the current state of affairs is just not so dire to that many people to warrant the the outrage expressed by these rants over a trade organization.

Some of your points are excellent, John. The tide is changing. But the WSWA is not a "trade organization." It is a monopoly that insults and reviles the smallest players in its own empire, the Cinderallas of the liquor industry, for merely wanting to join the ball.

From Juanita Duggan's published address at the last WSWA convention, she accuses small family-owned wineries of wanting to:

"legitimize the growing black market in illegal alcohol sales, sell direct to consumers, pocket outrageous profits and avoid state taxes."

And this is a segment of her own "trade association" clientele.

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Mary

Thanks for the thoughtful and informative response!

--the fact that historically wine has been lumped in with liquor is really at the root of the problem. The WSWA is really functioning to protect its self interests (read financial) not really those of wine makers. The lack of "respect" while lamentable is understandable.

--I know of retailers who have "arranged" to get wines from small producers--large wholesalers will "step in" and handle the wines making the transaction "kosher."

--Wine makers also have used a warehouse or wholesaler operation--I get Beaux Freres wines for eg by having the winery ship to an intermediary. I don't like paying extra but I can get the wines--if I want them.

--any "movement" on the part of consumers is modest at best. The average consumer just does not care enough. Most of the press and the clamor is from the wine makers not consumers. Again, look at the worst states. There is little concern being expressed by people in these states. The court cases are not being brought by consumers or consumer groups for the most part--they are being brought by local wineries. (some consumer interest and participation comes after the issues get the publicity generated by the court cases).

--I think that maybe small producers should band together and try to work with other consumer and trade groups (maybe they already have) rather than expect the WSWA to be more sympathetic.

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--I know of retailers who have "arranged" to get wines from small producers--large wholesalers will "step in" and handle the wines making the transaction "kosher."

Yes, it does happen, but rarely. Again, because of shipping, consolidation, and inventory issues. Plus, it is SO easy for a little order like this to get lost in transit across the US. It happens, but yin/yang, sometimes successfully, sometimes tragically. Many wineries (ours included) will not take the risk.

--I think that maybe small producers should band together and try to work with other consumer and trade groups (maybe they already have) rather than expect the WSWA to be more sympathetic.

Yes, the Wine Institute and Free the Grapes are spearheading the free shipping movement. The executive director of the Wine Institute is Bobby Koch, President G.W. Bush's brother-in-law. In addition to being a very personable guy, his staff is making great strides in lobbying for the small family winery, and they maintain the most comprehensive database of online shipping regulations, with direct links to each state's requirements and forms.

But, as in all good conversations, your statement sparked a thought . . .

Why does the WSWA bill themselves as the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America if their interests are clearly antagonistic toward wine producers? How many of America's 4,000 wineries (most of whom are small, family-owned affairs) do their members represent? Is it even 50%? 25%?

Why use our product to headline their name, while reviling us as corruptors of youth? Why use Wine as the first word in their association title, and not even feature wine at their annual convention? Are we supposed to lend some remote veneer of sophistication to their Jello shots served by strippers in nurse's uniforms?

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--I know of retailers who have "arranged" to get wines from small producers--large wholesalers will "step in" and handle the wines making the transaction "kosher."

Yes, it does happen, but rarely. Again, because of shipping, consolidation, and inventory issues. Plus, it is SO easy for a little order like this to get lost in transit across the US. It happens, but yin/yang, sometimes successfully, sometimes tragically. Many wineries (ours included) will not take the risk.

--I think that maybe small producers should band together and try to work with other consumer and trade groups (maybe they already have) rather than expect the WSWA to be more sympathetic.

Yes, the Wine Institute and Free the Grapes are spearheading the free shipping movement. The executive director of the Wine Institute is Bobby Koch, President G.W. Bush's brother-in-law. In addition to being a very personable guy, his staff is making great strides in lobbying for the small family winery, and they maintain the most comprehensive database of online shipping regulations, with direct links to each state's requirements and forms.

But, as in all good conversations, your statement sparked a thought . . .

Why does the WSWA bill themselves as the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America if their interests are clearly antagonistic toward wine producers? How many of America's 4,000 wineries (most of whom are small, family-owned affairs) do their members represent? Is it even 50%? 25%?

Why use our product to headline their name, while reviling us as corruptors of youth? Why use Wine as the first word in their association title, and not even feature wine at their annual convention? Are we supposed to lend some remote veneer of sophistication to their Jello shots served by strippers in nurse's uniforms?

It's really about alcohol Mary.

Unfortunately, all alcoholic beverages are lumped together. The same complaints are heard from the small brewers who either are "handled" by a Bud distributor or a Miller distributor and rarely get the attention the quality of their products deserves.

The states control alcohol sales and distribution--fine we are a republic--but at some point what the states do begins to conflict with interstate commerce and the rights of small businesses to make a living and the rights to access the marketplace. Tgus the supreme court.

I do agree that small (and large) wineries need to find common ground and realize that being lumped ion with spirits is not to their long term benefit.

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  • 3 weeks later...

In this week's news, two excellent opinion pieces . . .

In Indiana, the Tribune Star speaks up:

One recent casualty in this war was Rockville-based Terre Vin Winery, said the winery’s owner, David Gahimer. Gahimer closed Terre Vin at the end of 2006. New legislation passed in Indianapolis last year was “almost 100 percent” of the reason the winery closed, Gahimer said.

The Indiana Legislature “cost us 42 accounts in one day,” Gahimer said of a law passed last year that prohibited small wineries from skipping wholesalers and selling directly to retailers.

“The final [law] was not good for the industry,” Gahimer said. “We cut our losses and quit.”

“That [ATC decision] cost Oliver [Winery in Bloomington] a quarter-of-a-million dollars and two employees’ jobs that day,” Gahimer said.

And in Minnesota, the Free Press says:

Public opinion surveys show Minnesotans want the option of buying wine in grocery stores by a margin of more than 2-1.

The liquor-store industry brings out the same arguments they’ve used before to block competition from grocery stores, but the fears they project ring hollow.

They argue that more minors will be able to purchase alcohol if it’s sold in grocery stores. But grocers, who already sell tobacco products, are accustomed to checking IDs. Grocers produce FBI crime statistics showing that states with the lowest per capita youth liquor violations are generally states that sell wine in grocery stores.

And while liquor stores are correct in saying their business will be reduced by wine in grocery stores, experience from states that allow grocery-store sales don’t show a dramatic reduction in liquor stores’ business. Besides, protecting one group’s monopoly on sales should not be a consideration in the debate.

As more and more states are beginning to fight these laws, the arguments seem to be getting shorter and clearer.

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Mary Baker

Solid Communications

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