Bill could threaten wineries, microbreweries

August 10, 2010 7:23:43 PM PDT
A bill in Congress right now could threaten direct interstate wine sales and make it especially tough for smaller wineries. But wine and beer wholesalers insist that is not what the bill would do.

While California wineries enjoy the summer crowds, many owners are worried the Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act, a bill in Congress which ensures that states retain control of alcohol laws.

California's smaller wineries and microbreweries think the proposal opens the door to prohibiting shipments of wine or beer to out-of-state consumers and forces them to use wholesalers if they want their products sold beyond state borders. A wholesaler, though, might not want to represent a business that does not make him a lot of money.

"You have these small mom and pop producers across the United States, these artisan wineries like ourselves, making fine wine in small batches, and we would be cut out of that," Sattui Winery President Tom Davies said.

Being cut out could mean fewer choices and higher prices for consumers. And for California's small alcohol producers, they would lose a chunk of their business.

Shipping is key to many of California's smaller wineries. According to marketing and research firm Wines and Vines, California accounted for 75 percent of all wines shipped directly to consumers in the last year.

But the National Beer Wholesalers Association denies its bill is anything more than state rights.

In a statement it said, "The CARE Act is not about direct shipping ? reiterates that the 21st Amendment puts alcohol regulation in the hands of state legislatures like Sacramento - and not in federal courthouses."

California wineries are suspicious and have been since the highest court said it was acceptable to directly sell to consumers, something 37 states do so.

"Since they've lost the Supreme Court about six years ago, I'm sure they've been thinking of ways, 'OK, how can we get this power back?'" Davies said.

Tourists ABC7 spoke with want the freedom to be able to order California wines when they get home.

"I will definitely order; I have several vineyards that we've been to that have been just spectacular, in fact, we've had to take pictures and notes," tourist Sandy Kling said.

"In order to get it, we have to have it shipped directly to us, so it would be very disappointing if Congress passed this bill," tourist Ginger Schwartz said.

Both sides are ramping up their political donations this election season.


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