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Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America to American Wine Consumers: “HEY, F*CK YOU GUYS!” (The Case Against HR 1161)

Vinted on April 4, 2011 under commentary, wine news, wine shipping

I’ve officially had it with the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America and their unparalleled ability to continually flip the legislative bird to U.S. taxpayers and American wine consumers.

Their latest ploy has been the introduction of HR 1161 – called, strangely enough, the “CARE” act (for Community Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act of 2011″) but what I’d more accurately describe as the “SYFBWETBORA” act (for “Screwing You From Behind Without Even The Benefit Of a Reach-Around act of 2011″) – is, simply put, a colossal waste of legislative and taxpayer time and energy that could be spent on things slightly more important, such as reducing our national debt, helping to end starvation, fixing healthcare, or…

It’s tough to put into words how asinine this legislation really is, but I will try… for the impatient, I would describe HR 1161 as being the kind of legislation I would expect to be written by severely retarded monkeys, in so much as it promises to deliver a similar amount of potential “benefit” for U.S. consumers and taxpayers.

HR 1161 would basically amount to “exempting state alcohol laws from review under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.”  Which would mean that state laws governing alcohol distribution – no matter how potentially unconstitutional, anti-consumer, pro-monopoly they are currently – couldn’t be challenged in court.

How bad is that?  It’s bad enough that the National Association of Attorneys General have sent letters indicating that they do not support the bill.  Basically, the case for HR 1161 being unconstitutional seems to be quite strong – which strongly suggests that a lot of time is being wasted in drafting, promoting, fighting, and discussing it, because it’s (probably… hopefully!) unlikely to pass.

As a commercial body, the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America asking to be protected from Constitutional commerce law is sort of like the U.S. Military asking to be exempted from ever having any of its members be tried for war crimes under any circumstances – we don’t expect that kind of behavior, but the threat of legislation and subsequent legal action at least is a deterrent.

If you want to learn (much) more about how bad HR 1161 really is, check out the on-going coverage of the details over at Tom Wark’s Fermentation blog.  What I will leave you with is this: the only logical conclusion I’ve been able to come to when thinking about why on our wine-lovin’-Earth any member of the U.S. legislative system would be in support of HR 1161 is that they are firmly entrenched in the pockets of the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America.

And we know what we should do with politicians who are too firmly entrenched in the pockets of any big business group:

VOTE THEM OUT.

You can get started by joining up the movement against HR 1161 on Facebook, and by writing your legislative reps to let them know that you’ll be voting for their resignations if they support the bill.

Cheers!

Robert Parker And California: A Cautionary Tale

Vinted on February 15, 2011 under California wine, commentary, wine news

The topic is old news now, and while revisiting it runs the risk of sounding a late-to-the-party bell with overtones of “me, too!,” I do think I can offer you something new on the latest (and largest) piece of wine biz news.

I’m speaking of the news last week of uber-wine-critic Robert Parker passing on tasting/reviewing responsibilities for California wine to Antonio Galloni at The Wine Advocate. There have already been several takes on the news in blogosphere, with my faves coming from W. Blake Gray and Jeff Lefevere (both of whom do a stellar job of covering the big and small of the wine industry and provide thoughtful commentary on the potential ripple effects).

When the news broke, I was in Portugal where the Parker news wasn’t even news, presumably because The Wine Advocate doesn’t pay much attention to Portuguese table wines (or so it might be argued by the Portuguese table wine industry, anyway). So I was totally unaware of the announcement from Parker, or the ensuing coverage in the wine media, until I returned at the close of that work week.

Now, what’s to be said about Parker no longer covering CA wines that hasn’t already been said?

Well, as most of you out there will recall, I interviewed Parker not too long ago, and while that hardly qualifies as having a window into his soul, it might be just enough access to have formulated a different – and more cautionary – viewpoint into his recent decision…

Read the rest of this stuff »

The Vintage From Hell? More Dispatches From The Vineyard

Vinted on November 15, 2010 under California wine, wine news

Remember how the Northern California 2010 vintage was kind of “difficult?”

Oh, right, it’s impossible to avoid that news lately… not that I’m complaining, mind you (it’s better to have a bit too much wine coverage than too little!), nor am I trying to minimize or make light of the plight and hardship faced by those in N. CA whose grapes didn’t fare the strange growing season well.

Further developments on the harvest have been trickling into my (poor, overworked and overburdened) e-mail Inbox,and one note in particular regarding the 2010 vintage situation caught my eye: that at Hidden Ridge, whose wines, you may remember, I quite enjoy.

The title of the email was “Sonoma County’s Hidden Ridge Vineyard Will Not Harvest This Year Due to Inconsistent Growing Season” which I suppose just about sums it up, but here’s an excerpt from the dispatch for the curious:

Hidden Ridge Vineyard Proprietors Casidy Ward and Lynn Hofacket, along with Winemaking Team Marco DiGiulio and Timothy Milos, today announced that they will not harvest any fruit from the Hidden Ridge Vineyard in 2010 season because of this year’s inconsistent growing season…  This year’s late season, followed by recent rains in Northern California, resulted in fruit that was not up to Ward and Hofacket’s standards for their vineyard’s eponymous wine label. While it was difficult decision to go without a 2010 vintage wine for Hidden Ridge Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, which retails for $40, the choice is in keeping with the proprietors’ commitment to produce only the best wines possible from their vineyard.”

This got me wondering… since Hidden Ridge recently took the bold (but successful) maneuver of reducing their prices (without impacting quality one iota), are they in a good position to weather (sorry…) the financial storm of not producing a 2010 bottling? Given the limping state of the economy, is anyone?

I, for one, sure hope so.

But there’s a more insidious side to this crazy vintage coin.  Actually, there’s three other sides (this is a very oddly-shaped coin):

  1. It’s a chilling indicator of the areas that didn’t fare well over the past growing season in Northern CA.
  2. It’s an obnoxiously powerful reminder from Mother Nature that she still rules the roost, and when she wants to take her ball and go home, well, dammit, she’s just gonna take her f*cking ball and go the f*ck home.
  3. It’s a timely warning to us consumers that while it’s very likely that there will be other N. CA producers who come to similar conclusions as HR about the state of their fruit, they just might decide to bottle it anyway

In the immortal words of Mr. Mike Brady, “Caveat emptor…”

Cheers!

Napa’s Wild Weather Summer: Dispatches from the Vineyard

Vinted on September 29, 2010 under California wine, wine news

“Strange year!”

That’s the (apt) summary that winemaker and grower Steve Matthiasson gave me when I asked him how things were looking in Napa as they approached harvest of what has been one of the craziest growing seasons in recent memory.

There’s been much speculation in the wine press as to the impact that the bizarre Summer weather patterns would have on the quality of the fruit that will shortly be going into Napa’s wines, so I reached out to Steve for an update, because he’s probably the most passionate person I know when it comes to making great wine and growing great fruit in the Valley (since he does both, and does them both very well).  A somewhat narrow view, arguably, but I’ll take a dispatch from the field over speculation, any day.

The short version of the Napa 2010 story is that it’s not all gloom-and-doom, but it does seem to be a case of feast-or-famine and a potential study in extremes.

While some varieties in particular, and some pockets of the Valley in general, are taking a nasty hit, others have fared pretty well – and some growers may actually be onto fruit that could result in extremely high-quality wines, despite the atypical weather…

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