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Saturday, April 18, 2015
by Cyril Penn | April 18, 2015 | 9:00 AM

When the “Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015” was introduced in the Senate last Thursday, the Distilled Spirits Council released a statement of support, calling it “key to opening foreign markets to American spirits products.”

“This bill sends a signal to the rest of the world that the United States is serious about concluding important trade negotiations,” Distilled Spirits Council President and CEO Peter H. Cressy said. Cressy emphasized that expanding exports has become increasingly important to the U.S. distilled spirits industry. “The ability of the U.S. to conclude high standard, comprehensive and trade liberalizing agreements will help to ensure the long term success for the industry. It is crucial that Congress pass TPA legislation without delay.”

Discus members, large and small, export their products to more than 130 countries.

Wine Institute supports the legislation too.

U.S. free trade agreements have helped California wine exports grow from $98 million in 1989 to nearly $1.5 billion in 2014.

“Congress and the President now need to quickly enact the bill in order to conclude Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement negotiations between the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim nations, including Japan,” Wine Institute Vice President and International Trade Counsel Tom LaFaille said via email.

Most ag groups support the new TPA legislation

The average person has probably never even heard of TPP. In a nutshell, the Obama administration has been negotiating a major deal with Japan and other Pacific countries, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, expected to remove tariffs on U.S.-made goods exported to several Asian countries and the EU. Negotiations have been going on behind the scenes for six years. The legislation introduced this week is potentially big news because if enacted, it would make it easier for U.S. trade negotiators to finalize the agreement.

Congress would abandon its constitutional trade authority, giving it to the president.

(Legislation to “fast track” trade agreements failed last year).

It makes sense that associations representing wine and spirits producers support free trade in general and it stands to reason that they’d back the fast track legislation in particular. It would be odd if they didn’t. I get it.

But Oh Boy, … this trade deal is sounding like something else. …

Personally, I think TPP sounds super scary.

Special privileges and protections making it easier for corporations to offshore jobs are bad for Americans, who will make less. That’s an obvious downside.

But it gets worse.

TPP has been negotiated secretly - it's classified - though lobbyists get to see it - and we’ve learned some details about what’s in it only because draft chapters were posted to Wikileaks.

TTP would give corporations the right to drag the US. Government into investor-state corporate tribunals – extrajudicial tribunes where panels of corporate attorneys would be empowered to rule on a claims against the U.S. government by foreign corporations wanting compensation for any domestic laws deemed a violation of the agreement. Corporations would be compensated for any lost future profits resulting from having to meet U.S. laws. TPP would undermine Internet freedom (part of SOPA is in it); give pharmaceutical companies extended monopolies that would increase medicine prices; undermine banking regulations; and could undo energy policies needed to combat the climate crisis, (the administration says TTP is good for the enviornment).

Some say these concerns are overblown. Others are calling TPP a corporate Trojan horse and threat to democracy itself.

Friday, April 17, 2015
by Curtis Phillips | April 17, 2015 | 3:48 AM

Although I'm a Davis grad myself, I've always been fond of Fresno State's TailGate Red. Fresno State Department of Viticulture and Enology is looking for a new winemaker for the 10,000 case Fresno State Winery. Fresno State was the first University to have a commercial bonded winery on their campus. More information about the position may be found here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015
April 15, 2015 | 4:12 PM

Wine Business Monthly's April 2015 digital edition is now available. You can view it within your web browser or download it as a PDF.

Inside April 2015 you will find:

-Coolest Products at Unified

-Winemakers Discuss How to Define Wine Quality

-The Importance of Cover Crops for Vineyard Health

-Bottled Up: Demand and Price Up But Ports Slowing Delivery

Click here to subscribe to the print edition

Monday, April 13, 2015
April 13, 2015 | 6:47 AM

In this video Dr. Andy Walker talks about a recent planting of PD-resistant vines along the Napa River, how they might be used and when they may be available to growers.

PD/GWSS Referendum Ballots went out the week of April 6.

More info at

Wednesday, April 8, 2015
April 8, 2015 | 2:29 PM

An IWSR study commissioned by Vinexpo 2015 found that the United States was the only market among the top 10 wine-drinking countries to show growth over the previous year. However, projections for the future paint a brighter picture: wine consumption is expected to reach epic heights by 2018, with about 32.78 billion bottles consumed across the globe each year. So how much wine is that? 

For more information on the study, click here.


Thursday, April 2, 2015
April 2, 2015 | 11:28 AM

Well, I'll admit that when I first saw this news release a few moments ago I wondered if it was an April Fools prank, but no, this is serious stuff - and it's actually pretty big news ... this just in ...

Beringer Launches Category-Changing Method of Consumer Sampling with Taste Station Program

NAPA, Calif., April 2, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- This month Beringer unveils an industry-leading innovation that allows consumers to preview wine in stores without even taking a sip. Launching now as a test in Kroger stores in twenty states, shoppers in wine aisles will be able to sample three varietals of Beringer commercial wines through a taste station experience that allows them to try a new wine or varietal in a matter of seconds. The Beringer taste station, mounted on the wine shelf for easy use, dispenses single servings via a 'flavor strip' that allows consumer trial at any hour of the day. Beringer has created flavor strips for three of its most popular wines – Chardonnay which is currently seeing 26% growth, its best-selling White Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon.¹

In a category that can be challenging to navigate and boasts astounding variety, the Beringer taste strips offer wine shoppers a way to try a new brand or varietal before committing to the purchase. The result of a year-long campaign to innovate in a very competitive set, the taste stations represent a new chapter in consumer sampling and wine education in-store. "We are tremendously proud of the research that has gone into what we know will be a category-changing addition," said Tammy Ackerman, Senior Brand Manager for Beringer. "This is the type of innovation you would expect from a significant brand such as Beringer, which is currently growing at 6% thus outpacing the category and our competitors."²

For retailers, the value of converting casual shoppers in a crowded wine aisle to engaged consumers sampling Beringer wines at any moment is unparalleled, as 94% of women running households say sampling gives them a better idea of a product than advertising.³ Easy to use and installed on shelves, the strips are mounted on a small piece of plastic with each strip being individually wrapped as well as non-alcoholic. The taste stations are also equipped with cutouts for the discarded packaging so as not to generate any clutter in-store. Additionally, Beringer has partnered with News America Marketing to install and manage the taste stations allowing retailers to offer their customers this exciting innovation without maintenance requirements. By not using valuable floor space and offering eye-level engagement and education with wine shoppers, the taste stations promise to be another valuable touch point for Beringer and retailers. The company anticipates the program will be adopted by multiple retailers in the coming months. For video with more details about the Beringer taste station please visit

¹ Source: Nielsen FDL Eq % Chg YA 52wks ending 2/28/15
² Source: same as above
³ Source: Sampling Measures Up, Dorothy Spencer

About Beringer Vineyards
The longest continually operating winery in California, Beringer has been Napa Valley's benchmark producer since its establishment in 1876. An acclaimed portfolio of wines are crafted from Napa's finest appellations and Beringer's exceptional collection of vineyards. The historic estate in St. Helena offers a tradition of hospitality that defines the Napa Valley.

Media Contact:
Elizabeth Hooker, Director of Public Relations, # 707-294-7117

Video -

Tuesday, March 24, 2015
March 24, 2015 | 7:00 AM

Employees at J Vineyards and Winery were told yesterday that E&J Gallo is purchasing the winery, according to multiple industry sources.

Second generation vintner Judy Jordan founded what is now called J Vineyards & Winery in 1986, purchasing the former Piper Sonoma winemaking facility south of Healdsburg in 1996.

The deal does not include Jordan Vineyards and Winery, for which there is seperate ownership. Some customers may still think Jordan makes J sparkling wine, but that hasn't been the case since the 1980s. John and Judy Jordan have always run the wineres seperately and the ownership is separate.

"I'm not selling, I’m having too much fun, I like doing this too much” Jordan Winery CEO John Jordon told

We will have more information as it becomes available.

Thursday, March 19, 2015
by Cyril Penn | March 19, 2015 | 10:37 AM

We received this news release this morning from a public relations firm representing BeverageGrades. This is a developing story. (the release reminds me of this news release we recieved last month). Marketing 101? Create the Problem? Sell the Solution?

See this morning's coverage from CBS


CONTACT: Jordan Blakesley
B Public Relations
(303) 658-0605


DENVER – March 19, 2015 – Following today’s “CBS This Morning” broadcast, consumers learned some of their favorite wines are contaminated with arsenic in levels above regulatory standards. CBS News Correspondent Carter Evans interviewed Kevin Hicks, CEO of alcoholic beverage testing company BeverageGrades, who explained that the independent lab recently discovered levels of arsenic above the EPA accepted drinking water threshold of 10 parts per billion in nearly 23 percent of the more than 1,300 wines it has tested so far.

As consumers continue to demand greater transparency about what they put in their bodies, demonstrated in the expansive growth of organic brands, non-GMO products and natural grocery stores, BeverageGrades offers alcoholic beverage retailers a tool for screening their offerings to ensure the quality of their supply chain. A number of the wines named in the class action complaint filed today in California (explored by “CBS This Morning”) are private label or control brands offered exclusively in certain retail locations. BeverageGrades believes that retailers need a screening and certification model that allows them to assure their customers of the purity of all of the alcoholic beverages they sell, and particularly their control or private label brands.

According to the “CBS This Morning” report, a spokesperson for Trader Joe’s said, "The concerns raised in your inquiry are serious and are being treated as such. We are investigating the matter with several of our wine producing suppliers." Trader Joe’s is the exclusive retailer for Charles Shaw wines, or “Two Buck Chuck.” Two Buck Chuck White Zinfandel is named in the suit.

BeverageGrades provides comprehensive health and nutritional information for alcoholic beverages via testing in its independent, state-of-the-art lab, using methodology developed by the American Organization of Analytical Chemists. BeverageGrades offers two health panels for screening products for the presence of contaminants in levels that exceed regulatory standards; these include heavy metals in one panel, and pesticides in in the other. The company offers an A+ BeverageGrades Certification to specific products that fall below certain regulatory thresholds in panels of heavy metals and pesticides.

BeverageGrades also offers a nutrition panel measuring quantities of calories, sugar, carbohydrates, antioxidants, sulfites, vitamins, gluten and many flavor compounds in alcoholic beverages. This panel is designed to help consumers identify beverages they love with low calories, sulfites or sugars, as well as beverages high in antioxidants or histamines, among other results.

“Not only do consumers care about calories and sugar, they want to know that the alcoholic beverages they purchase do not contain levels of heavy metals or pesticides that exceed regulatory standards,” Hicks says. “Our BeverageGrades A+ Certification provides consumers with the assurance they are seeking.”

As the regulatory framework evolves, Hicks believes that more states are likely to move in the direction of California’s Proposition 65, which requires California businesses to notify consumers when there are significant amounts of harmful chemicals in the products they sell, so consumers may make informed purchasing decisions.

“Our goal is to be the beverage industry’s top resource for analytical product information, so producers are able to remain in compliance with regulatory provisions, and maintain consumer trust.”

Prior to launching BeverageGrades, Hicks founded HealthGrades, pioneering the practice of providing consumers with accurate, objective information – in this case, about the performance of hospitals, clinics and physicians. Today HealthGrades is the most visited healthcare website online.

About BeverageGrades®
BeverageGrades® aspires to be a leading resource for health and nutritional information as it relates to alcoholic beverages. BeverageGrades works with retailers and producers to assure consumers regarding the purity of the alcoholic beverages they purchase by screening products prior to bottling against the BeverageGrades heavy metal and pesticide panels. Additionally, BeverageGrades offers a nutrition panel that analyzes alcoholic beverages for other components of interest for consumers, such as sugars, sulfates and calories. By providing consumers with nutritional data, as well as third party alcoholic beverage certification, BeverageGrades adds value throughout the supply chain, from producers, to retailers, to consumers. For more information, visit

March 19, 2015 | 9:27 AM

We received a statement from Wine Institute, folllowing the CBS news coverage of a proposed class action lawsuit claiming wines have high levels of arsenic.

March 19, 2015

As the association of 1,000 California wineries, Wine Institute is very concerned with the health and safety of consumers who enjoy wine.

We have learned of possible litigation alleging that certain wines pose a risk to consumers because they contain trace amounts of arsenic. Although we are not privy to the contents of the litigation, we believe this allegation is false and misleading and that all wines being sold in the U.S marketplace are safe.

Arsenic is prevalent in the natural environment in air, soil and water, and in food. As an agricultural product, wines from throughout the world contain trace amounts of arsenic as do juices, vegetables, grains and other alcohol beverages. There is no research that shows that the amounts found in wine pose a health risk to consumers.

The U.S. Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), the agency that regulates wine, beer and spirits, monitors wines for compounds, including arsenic, as part of its testing program. While there are no established limits in the U.S., several countries, including the European Union, have established limits of 100 parts per billion or higher for wine. California wine exports are tested by these governments and are below the established limits.

We are concerned that the irresponsible publicity campaign by the litigating party could scare the public into thinking that wine is not safe to consume which is patently untrue. We will continue to keep consumers, the media and industry informed.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015
March 11, 2015 | 1:30 PM

If you’re a grape buyer judged on how well you’re able to meet demands for your wine company and you think supply is tight, that you might be disappointed and not get what you need, or that prices are going up in the next couple years, you’re going to want to lock in today’s prices with a longer-term contract. On the other hand, if you think there’s plenty of supply or that you might be able to obtain grapes at lower prices going forward, you’re going to keep your contracts shorter.

Wineries increasingly entered into long-term contracts for grapes during the last three years, but the trend has now reversed itself in 2015, with a growing number turning to contracts of less than two years or opting for the spot market, according to survey results to be released tomorrow during the Central Coast Insights event.

“Our feeling is it’s a result of three big harvests and an ample bulk wine supply,” said Silverado Group chairman David Freed, who will present the findings. “Why tie it up in a long-term contract if you’re not overly concerned about getting adequate supply? People seem to be more comfortable.”

Increasing Production, Not Retail Pricing
Sixty percent of survey respondents said they are planning to increase production while 20 percent of the group expect production to increase by more than 10 percent—a sign that 2014 and 2015 were sizable harvests.

But half of the wineries said they have no plans to raise prices in 2015, and those that said they did are planning modest price increases—a sign that margins continue to see pressure.

“I think it’s a truism that the wineries are not really able to raise suggested retail prices. As a grower I can tell you that grape prices continue to ratchet up,” Freed said, “whereas the bottle prices of wine are not.”

Revenues Up

With more grapes produced and wine moving through the system, nearly one out of four wineries surveyed said that revenue increased by more than ten percent between 2013 and 2014.


The survey also asked wineries what they plan to use capital on. Vineyard redevelopment ranked first, followed by barrel storage capacity, visitor centers, and fermentation capacity.

There was a softball question of note for the bankers too. Asked, why they are “happy” with their lenders, respondents cited rates, credit availability, and length of loans most highly.

“We’ve come a long way in terms of educating lenders and getting them comfortable with our industry," Freed said. "Probably a third of the attendees (during Central Coast Insights) are banks, or from private equity, etc.”

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