U.S. Commercial Service Provides Services for U.S. Businesses Expanding Abroad:

Expanding your wine business into international markets is an exciting, but intimidating undertaking.  Domestic companies are likely unfamiliar with legal and regulatory issues associated with exporting, and need help navigating customs requirements and even finding local partners.  The U.S. Commercial Service, a division of the United States Department of Commerce, provides services (many of which are free) [Read more...]

Court Restores Water Control Board’s Right to Limit Russian River Water Use:

On June 16th, a San Francisco appellate court ruled that the California State Water Resources Control Board (the “Board”) may prohibit grape growers in the Russian River Valley from “using water in an unreasonable manner,” overturning a previous decision by a Mendocino County judge that the Board lacked authority to restrict long time users of river water.

 The case stems from an incident in April 2008, [Read more...]

TTB Reconsiders Position on Use of “Estate Bottled” after Sale of Winery:

 Recently, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (“TTB”) issued a private letter ruling which provides guidance of the use of an “Estate Bottled” claim on a wine label following the sale of the bottling winery.

 Previously, TTB took the position that the new proprietor could not use the “Estate Bottled” designation because technically it would not have “controlled” all stages of the winemaking process prior to the purchase.  [Read more...]


According to a recent bank report by Silicon Valley Bank’s wine division, the owners of more than 10 percent of the wineries on the West Coast are hoping to sell within the next five years, which would put more than 500 wineries on the market.  The report concludes that nearly 15 percent of wineries in Napa County and 13 percent of wineries in Sonoma County are likely to be offered for sale. 

Acquiring or selling a winery is [Read more...]


When the issue of non-payment arises, some growers may not realize that they hold a lien in the fruit they delivered to a winery and any subsequent wine produced from that fruit under California Food & Agriculture Code §§ 55631 et seq.  This is commonly referred to as the “Producer’s Lien.” 

In the landmark case of Frazier Nuts, Inc. v. American Ag Credit, a California court [Read more...]


Growers in the “Petaluma Gap” region of Sonoma County have decided to petition the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (“TTB”) for their own American Viticulture Area or “AVA.”  Located near the town of Petaluma, this region is known for its production of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.   

AVA’s are defined as “delimited grape growing regions distinguished by [Read more...]

TTB Suspends Wine Growler Ruling:

On April 25th, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (“TTB”), suspended a ruling entitled “Bottling Taxpaid Wine in Growlers or Similar Containers for Consumption Off of the Premises,” which was summarized in last month’s edition of Wine Trio.  The ruling held that businesses that fill wine growlers must qualify as “taxpaid wine bottling houses,” properly label their growlers, keep certain records, and comply with other regulations. [Read more...]

Vineyard Designations and Trademarks:

Just as certain geographic regions (Napa, Sonoma) have become famous for producing grapes and wine of superior quality, the same is true of specific vineyards (Mondavi’s “To Kalon,” for example).  With the increased notoriety and goodwill associated with particular vineyards, vineyard owners are seeking protection for these famous names, which can be accomplished through trademark registration.  [Read more...]

17/20 v. 02 – What is the difference?

When starting a new wine business, one of the vintner’s primary concerns is how they are going to market and sell the finished product.  When choosing a wine business model, it is important to recognize that the various California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (“ABC”) licenses come with different rights and privileges.  The two most common ABC licenses obtained by wine businesses are the Type 17/20 wholesale/retail license and the Type 02 winegrower license. [Read more...]

Proposed Bill Would Significantly Affect Farm Labor Contractors

A bill currently before the California State Legislature will, if passed, significantly modify the requirements for obtaining and maintaining a Farm Labor Contractor’s License. 

 Among other things, SB 1087 would: (i) prevent any person who, within the preceding 3 years, has been found to have committed sexual harassment of an employee from obtaining a license; [Read more...]


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