by Thayne Cockrum, Communications Director
Last Thursday night’s event began with a row of olive trees. The event location was on a renovated event site on the Hoxseys’ property, the owners of Bonded Winery No. 9 and our host for the evening. Heading down Yountville Cross Road, Kendall Hoxsey, the compliance guru of the winery and one of our speakers for the evening, explained we were to look for a row of olive trees that bordered the driveway.  I was so distracted by the scenery around me, I nearly missed the row of massive olive trees. Beautiful location.

As everyone arrived, we sipped on wines of the Napa Wine Co. paired with appetizers designed by WWS Sommelier Barbara Paige. Elizabeth Rose Sauvignon Blanc paired with goat cheese tapenade and Napa Wine Co. Zinfandel paired with olive tapenade and chocolate truffles. As we got closer to the time to launch the speaker’s panel, our hosts broke out a Napa Wine Co. Cabernet Sauvignon – a delicious surprise.

Raffle prizes for the evening were all about size – Magnums! Duckhorn donated two magnums and Chalk Hill donated a magnum plus a private tasting for four. Ellen Reich Luchtel, owner of Fortunati Vineyards and our newest board member, also donated one of her wines. Needless to say, our scholarship fund got a remarkable start for the year thanks to our raffle donors and ticket buyers.

Ann Reynolds, Kendall Hoxsey and Mike Falasco

Now for the minefields: Our first speaker, Kendall Hoxsey, explained the ins and outs of her job and the difficulty it entails. Kendall stated that Bonded Winery No. 9 has over 100 DBAs. My head hurts just thinking about that. The label approvals alone would be enough to send me over the edge – Kendall you have our utmost respect.

Which brings us to our next speaker, Ann Reynolds, Napa Valley College Winery Compliance Instructor and Principal of Wine Compliance Alliance.  Ann gave us the bad news that many positions at the TTB are retiring and due to budget cuts, the feds aren’t replacing them. This equates to longer wait times for label, permits, and licensing approvals. A fascinating tip  regarding the rejection of a label, Ann suggests you resubmit the same label as it is likely it will cross someone else’s desk who has no issues with your label submission. She especially encourages this for rejected labels that are similar to one’s already approved.  On a positive note, the TTB now houses all of your paperwork related to your TTB permit online. No longer will you search through your file cabinet to locate those elusive forms you need when satisfying compliance requirements; now they’re just a mouse click away.

On the regulatory side, wine label terms are under an extended comment period by the TTB. Terms like “estate grown,” “estate bottled,” “proprietor’s blend,” and others are being analyzed to determine if any regulatory action should take place. Many terms we see on wine labels contain little back bone, meaning they aren’t beholden to a specific definition and can mean a variety of things.

Our last speaker was Mike Falasco, Director of CA State Relations at the Wine Institute. Little did I know that the Wine Institute was established after Prohibition to protect the wine industry, driven by with a purpose of never seeing it go out of business again.  Moreover, any winery in any state may participate. The Institute lobbies state and federal government to keep the wine world humming along. Mike explained the latest bill they’re challenged with defeating that serves to make life very tough on wine producers and also explained the benefits of the passing of Prop 26 i.e., that no city of county can impose a fee/tax on wine in CA. He also gave us the skinny on the new grocery store tasting law that’s new for 2011:

  • Tastings are limited to  1-oz pours with three samples maximum per person.
  • The grocery store hosting the wine sampling must hold an #82 or #86 permit.
  • Only producers can take advantage of the new store pouring law. Virtual wineries (1720s) cannot participate.

For the first time in our chapter history, we tweeted from the event: @WWSNapaSonoma. Being new to tweeting, I was nervous about any faux pas of twitter etiquette. We gained new followers over the weekend, so I’m guessing we did okay for our first “live” event tweeting experience.

All in all, a great event where I learned quite a bit and we dipped our toe in the Twitter pond. Stay tuned for more tweets from our future events. The next one is coming up mid April where we’ll celebrate 21 years of Women for WineSense with a panel of the great female wine industry leaders of our region. Check back soon for our April event details or check out our Twitter and FB pages as details emerge.