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dotKEEPING UP WITH COMPETITIONSdot

Dear Jerry,

Since you know everything there is to know about the wine industry, maybe you can provide some information to those of us who are relative newcomers.

One of the hardest challenges in establishing this new winery is finding out where all the wine competitions are and how one gets hold of an entry form.

Your terrific magazine publishes the results of dozens of competitions, but it's too late for us by then. There is no question that medals, be they gold, silver or bronze, help sell wine in our tasting room. We've received 5 in the past year, but only knew of 6 competitions to enter.

We would love to add to our collection of ribbons and medals as they definitely help our credibility with new customers. Is there any resource available to help narrow our search?

Thanks for your help and thanks so much for being the oftentimes lone voice of reason in a world spinning on conflicting political correctness!

Penny Pompei Villa Pompei Vineyards Santa Rosa, California

Dear Penny....

Thanks for the nice words. I don't know of a resource that lists all the competitions, their dates and so on, plus some of them change dates from year to year depending on availability of venue and so on.

You're right that The Wine Trader is just about the only consumer media to publicize wine competitions in general, and as a result a number of the competitions publish small ads announcing their upcoming dates and inviting wineries to contact them for entry forms. So make sure to always check the "Competition Clearinghouse" section of The Wine Trader.

When you see published results or awards books made available, order them because they also usually include entry information, or at least the address of the event, allowing you to contact the competition to make sure you're included the next year.

And the book "California Wine Winners" which comes out each fall (see page 75 for order form) and is in effect a computer summary of winning wines from the top nine competitions, usually publishes information on how to contact those particular shows. And if you belong to any of the winery trade associations (Family Winemakers, AVA, Wine Institute), they may have competition lists.

Another good idea is to agree with several neighboring small wineries to notify each other every time an entry form comes in. The chances all of you will be missed is very slim, and it will keep any one of you from overlooking an important show, the invitation for which was lost in the mail or tossed by an unknowing employee.

Please keep reading The Wine Trader.

J.D.M.

dotSTOGIES & WINEdot

Dear Mr. Mead,

Has the wine industry gone completely crazy? Here we are trying to convince people that the moderate consumption of wine is good for you and now stores, distributors, and even wineries are pairing wine with cigars. Moderate consumption of wine is good for you. Cigars are tobacco and cause cancer! Just because we are regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms doesn't mean we have to market them all together. What is the next step? Going to the wine store to pick up a .357 magnum?

The sight of a man or woman fondling this combination phallic symbol and pacifier really turns me off. I will no longer buy The Wine Spectator because they are the worst offenders in encouraging this association. I also noticed in a supermarket that they were displaying cigars in the wine section. I am going to inform any store where I see this that I will no longer shop there. I understand that there are wineries that are selling cigars. I will no longer buy their wine.

I work in the wine industry and I certainly hope that these people see the harm they are doing and stop it.

Sincerely,
Don Holinsworth
Napa, California

Dear Mr. Holinsworth,

I agree with you totally that marketing cigars along with wine is stupid. It is a negative association in every way and will come back to haunt us all at some point or other. And I am as personally offended by the stinky ropes as are you...even though I was a tobacco/ cigarette addict for more than 35 years. It was always my opinion that cigars were a miserable nicotine delivery system and other than feeding an addiction I can think of no valid purpose in smoking.

On the other hand, my libertarian principles insist that I defend the right of anyone to smoke anything they like, for women to look like obscene parodies of porn stars when they have one of those big things in their mouths, and for humans to ingest, inhale or get their carcinogens any other way they choose.

Further, The Wine Trader would accept cigarette or cigar advertising if it were offered (highly unlikely because of our editorial position), because of our strong belief in the constitutional rights of legal products to advertise. In fact, we've had several queries re cigar advertising, but they're always followed by questions as to how we support cigar advertising with editorial. We tell the truth, of course, and no cigar ads have ever shown up...which should tell you something about the purity of editorial policies at some other publications. At least we can't imagine any reason other than editorial/advertising trade-offs for running stories on cigars in wine magazines.

I cringe every time I read about another Chardonnay and Cigar Tasting, and I'm embarrassed for wineries and establishments participating in this fad that must eventually fall into disfavor and ultimately disgrace.

T.W.C.

dotWINE COUNTERACTS SMOKE?dot

Dear Jerry,

Refer Wine Trader Vol. R, No. 3, Health & Social Issues Report.

I believe one of the most important aspects of enjoying wine is the absence of the smokers. There is a direct correlation between wine drinkers and the smoking habit.

I belong to the AWS, which is attended at their annual convention by approximately 600 wine lovers. At the breaks you will only find 10 or 12 persons taking a cigarette "break." This is even more evident at our chapter meetings, where we have no smokers out of about 30 members.

On the other hand, almost 80% of beer drinkers smoke. Check your local bar sometime.

Is it that wine drinkers are more health conscious, better educated, older and smarter? Or does wine mysteriously cease the need for a smoke?

Yours truly,
Dick Naylor
Naylor Wine Cellars
Stewartstown, Pennsylvania
P.S. Winemakers don't smoke either!

Dear Dick,

I agree that wine drinkers seem to have a lower percentage of smokers, but can't agree with much else you propose. Re beer drinkers, most wine drinkers I know also drink beer, so there goes that theory.

And I don't know which winemakers you're coming in contact with, but several very famous California names use one form of tobacco or another, the late great Andre Tchelistcheff was a smoker for most of his nine decades, and trying to taste with European vintners is often difficult because they're tapping barrels with a cigarette hanging from their lips.

And as a reformed addict myself, I can tell you honestly that I cannot tell a significant difference in my palate. Tasting notes as a non-smoker, when compared to notes on the same wine from the smoking days, show almost identical descriptors.

If wine did lessen the need for tobacco it would make for one hell of an ad campaign. It would sell more wine than The French Paradox...but of course ATF wouldn't let us tell anyone. Maybe you're on the right track after all...if we can get the rumor started, it won't really matter whether it's true or not.

By the way, did you hear the one about wine increasing both sexual desire and ability to perform?

J.D.M.

dotLOVES US, HATES CIGARSdot

Dear Jerry,

Well, it's renewal time again. This time I am renewing for three years. Your Wine Trader is always eagerly expected and enjoyed cover to cover. It is getting better and better (just like our wines).

Keep up your humorous and poignant writing and, please, no cigar articles!

Stay well, because my next subscription may be for five years!

Bruno Welz
General Manager
Chateau de Leu Winery
Suisun, California

Dear Bruno,

You can start writing that check for five years...I have vowed not to leave a drop of wine for my kids or grandkids and not to go til the last cork is pulled. Based on the current size of my cellar, the old Curmudgeon will be bitching and complaining well into the 21st century.

J.D.M.

dotCONSUMER REACTS TO FLORIDA FELONYdot

Dear Jerry,

Like you, I am very upset with Florida's action protecting their wholesale distributors. Free trade is one of the foundation blocks of this great nation. Any effort on the part of government to block the freedom of people and business to trade as they see fit is an attack on all of us.

We must send a message to Florida's people that what their bureaucrats have done to the people of these United States can not be condoned, and action must be maintained until they mend their ways. To who should one write to explain the evil they have done?

I think Florida O.J. should be a target. Please publish people to write in Florida, the O.J. association, and call grocery stores who should not carry Florida products.

John Anderson
Santa Rosa, California

Dear John,

As you have probably read elsewhere in this issue, there have been some new developments in Florida, such as the court decision, some legislators vowing to change the legislation next session due to the damage that's being done to Florida charities and festivals that are being boycotted by California wineries, and so on. But the felony ban on interstate shipping remains on the books and the pressure should not be lessened until it's gone. And it should be noted that it appears the wholesalers plan on appealing the ruling that called the shipping ban unconstitutional.

So, writing to: Governor Lawton Chiles, Executive Office of the Governor, The Capitol, Tallahassee, FL 32399, is a good idea.

And it wouldn't be a bad idea to also write to the Attorney General Robert A. Butterworth as well. He appears to be partial to the Constitution and actually proposed legislation similar to Louisiana's, but the wholesalers' clout with the legislature saw it go down in flames and the felony law passed in its place. A few letters of encouragement to Butterworth couldn't hurt, plus it's rumored he may be the next Governor.

T.W.C.

dotAPPALLED BY SHIPPING BANSdot

Jerry:

I am appalled, just appalled. But surprised? No. I am referring to the practice of Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky to prohibit sales by out-of-state wine sources to their residents. This is somewhat similar to the practice of states like California and New York when they actively pursued former residents for the taxes on retirement income, known as the Source Tax. This was finally declared unlawful and prohibited by law just a few years ago. In addition, it is even more surprising for these States, given the influx of retirees into a location like Florida; everyone is aware that some wine every day is health enhancing! I tend to believe that these States are seeking sales and excise taxes on out-of-state purchases. If a Florida resident were to drive from Meridian, Miss. with two cases of wine in the trunk of his car, would the FHP throw him in jail? Can't you imagine the hay that the various media would make of that? How about all of those underemployed attorneys out there? This could be better entertainment than the O.J fiasco.

Jerry, although there are some fairly comprehensive wine shops here, I drive into California every few months to pick up a few cases of the particular wines that I favor, some of which are available only at the various wineries. I think that it's important to add that I originally found out about these products from their ads in TWT. I couldn't have known about them otherwise, and therefore The Wine Trader is providing a very important Public Service. Sort of like an enhancement to the public's Right to Pleasant Survival.

Regards,
Lou Garner
Las Vegas, Nevada

Dear Lou,

Thanks for your comments, though I have to disagree on a couple of points. While taxes are a part of it, these felony laws are more often driven by a different kind of greed, that of maintaining the liquor monopolies of the wholesalers, and to a lesser degree that of the retailers which are too lazy to compete in a free market system.

Would Florida bust people for transporting wine from Mississippi? Well, I can't say for sure, and I can't imagine the possibility of Mississippi having anything that someone would want that Florida didn't have...but I know that wasn't your point. You were suggesting how ridiculous it would be for a state to arrest its own citizens for bringing in a few bottles of wine from a neighboring state. But guess what?!

Iowa and Pennsylvania, among others, have had alcohol cops sit outside liquor stores in neighboring states watching for people with Iowa or Penn plates, as the case might be, to enter and make a purchase. They would then follow them home across the state line and stop them as soon as they had committed their act of "bootlegging."

Iowa didn't have to do this anymore after the state ended its system of state-owned liquor stores and opened wine up to free trade...there was no longer motivation to shop elsewhere. And I understand that Pennsylvania has at least temporarily stopped the practice because it is politically sensitive at the moment what with the state store system under political and consumer attack.

But there are other such instances... New York has arrested people and confiscated licensed beverages coming in from New Jersey and it is technically illegal to transport wine into Nevada... and get this!, it is also illegal to transport California wine purchased in Nevada back into California!

And you thought Prohibition ended in 1934.

Thanks for mentioning that you discovered many wines in the pages of The Wine Trader...would you please write a letter to that effect to all our advertisers and potential advertisers? Oh! I guess you just did.

J.D.M.

dotINTERSTATE SHIPPING NOT A BIG DEAL?dot

Dear Jerry,

I do agree with your position on the shipping of wine from one state to another, from winery to consumer, and on the hassles that have arisen under Section 2 of the twenty first amendment to the Constitution.

First, a couple of general observations. Initially, when this matter is finally resolved in favor of such interstate shipment of wines (as I think it will be), I predict that it won't seem nearly as important as it does now, that it won't be the perceived bonanza for wineries that we now think it will be, nor will it make available a whole raft of rare wines not available under the current system. I think we will look at it as more of a minor blip on the radar screen of wine enjoyment.

Then, when the smoke finally clears, I predict that there may be a downside most people haven't thought of: what does the customer do when that shipment of wine from a far state is lost in transit or turns out to be spoiled, or bottles are broken? Certainly, there will be remedies, but will those remedies be as effective or as inexpensive as returning a spoiled bottle to the local retailer and getting a reasonable adjustment from the shop where you normally do business, as is now the case?

So, what we're contending for here is a principle, a bedrock principle, as you have recognized.

In contending for the principle and to keep things in perspective, let's consider the reason for section 2 of amendment 21. It's purpose was a trade off. Without it, the 21st amendment likely wouldn't have been ratified. The choice then was, Do you want prohibition to continue, with an almost total lack of wine enjoyment throughout the country, or would you prefer that prohibition cease but with a price tag attached: the inclusion of section 2? Would anyone who makes or enjoys fine wine have found the trade-off onerous?

People who object to section 2, on the basis of principle or for other reasons, have a remedy at hand: they can work to get section 2 repealed. Section 2 was put in by amending the Constitution; it can be taken out in the same manner. If that's too much effort, then maybe we're not talking principle after all.

If the amendment remedy is not workable or otherwise not desirable, another may be: get the courts involved in a case proper for their consideration and urge interpretations of section 2 that would favor interstate shipment of wine from winery to consumer. This could include narrow interpretation of "transportation," "importation," "use," and "delivery" as used in that section. A valid argument could be made on the question of, Is wine an "intoxicating liquor" which is covered by section 2? There seems to be a universal belief that "wine" and "intoxicating liquor" are synonymous, at least within the meaning of the amendment. No doubt, the 18th amendment was enforced under that interpretation but if the point were argued today, would a modern day court hold that wine is an "intoxicating liquor?" Is it a liquor at all, in any accepted sense, or are the two things entirely separate, with wine excluded from section 2?

Further arguments could be made for favorable interpretations under constitutional provisions for freedom of speech and regulation of interstate commerce, either or both of which may be at such variance with section 2 as to require court interpretation (possibly agreeing with our own interpretation).

Certainly, the whole thing is a pain and assuredly the hassle is probably undeserved but, ultimately, all this process of to-ing and fro-ing has a name. It's called democracy and, although we may get totally annoyed at the way it works, it is working.

Be glad.

Best regards,
Ken Forrester
Little Rock, Arkansas

Dear Ken,

I'll take major exception to one thing you say, and minor exception to a few others.

I think you underestimate the importance and power of free trade in licensed beverages between the states. It goes far beyond ordering a few small brands and hard-to-get wines from tiny boutique wineries. The biggest beneficiaries will be many of the same wholesalers and retailers who are currently raising roadblocks to free enterprise.

The biggest interstate business of all (Internet sales and wine clubs included) will be in the gift giving business. If every liquor store and wine shop in America doesn't offer to ship your wine gifts for Christmas, the Jewish Holidays, Father's Day, Mother's Day, everyone's birthday, anniversary and more, then they deserve to be run out of business by the competition. Why, wine might put candy, flowers and ugly ties out of business when it comes to gift giving. Wouldn't you rather send a family member a good bottle of bubbly or table wine than a box of candy? Healthier, too!

The second section to which you refer is the one dealing with "transportation." Not only because it is at odds with the commerce clauses, but because Congress' intent at the time was to allow the states to block all shipment (to remain "dry"), not selectively permit or ban transportation, I am convinced that the courts will rule in favor of free trade.

This principle of "original intent" works against your proposal to go after the definition of "intoxicating liquor." While you and I could pose a delightful argument as to modern semantics, the fact is that in 1933 it was all-inclusive for beverages containing alcohol, save for cider.

Certainly, the basic constitution and its commerce clauses is, and always has been, our strongest suit, as was demonstrated by the Florida Circuit ruling as reported on elsewhere in this issue.

Democracy? Yeah, if buying legislators and legislatures to pass obviously unconstitutional laws that serve only a small monopoly is your definition...forcing hardship and great legal expense on small business while denying consumers their right to the marketplace...then I guess we're seeing democracy at its purest.

Forgive my cynicism. I know it's the best system there can be...unless you want to make me Czar by decree.

T.W.C. (The Wine Czar?)

dotPOLITITIANS MAKE BLOOD BOILdot

Dear Jerry,

I just received my copy of the Wine Trader and read it cover to cover. Another great issue with a LOT of useful information! Most of it makes my blood boil at the politicians but then why should I/we expect snakes and rats to act against their nature?

You on the other hand, shame just a little. The TWC column applauded the new law for registering wineries and having them pay the sales tax, etc. While a great idea in theory, a pain in the ass for the wineries. NO other business, as you have pointed out in the past, has to collect sales tax for other states. I wish you would have mentioned that. However I did find that comment in the Letters column so I can only bitch a little. This whole issue seems to be based more on "religion" than fact.

My perspective on this whole issue has changed over time due to WT and being in the industry. I work in Chalone's the tasting room one weekend a month. I took the job because I enjoy wine and learning about it. Working in a tasting room has been wonderful as well as an education. (I now bore strangers rather than my wife!)

Based on everything I've read so far I don't think the real solution is registering the wineries. I think the real issue is the Supreme Court. I wish someone in the industry would take on the states and file a class suit. I, as an individual would contribute money to that cause. I can't imagine that the wineries themselves would not kick some money into a fund. After all it is the wineries that would benefit. (But we ARE talking money and logic which lets some out right away.)

Well all that said, Jerry please keep up the good work. I enjoy the WT and the information it brings. And if you have the time come down to Chalone, crush is on for another couple weeks. Michael says the '97 PN will exceed the '90 which was the best PN I've tasted, ever.

Regards,
Brian J. Dent
Monterey, California

Dear Brian,

As I have noted in answer to another letter, I agree in principle that wineries should not have to register or pay taxes on interstate shipments. I have been preaching the commerce clauses of the U.S. Constitution for 20 years longer than anyone. But I am already seen as too radical and cynical and idealistic... and negative about everything, and most of the industry was so excited by the Louisiana Compromise, that I just sat back and sort of let it ride. But when you and other faithful readers question me on the principle of the thing, I'm forced to state my true position....which is...when it comes to interstate shipping, wine should be treated like any and every other agricultural product. But also note that I was the first to propose interstate reciprocity as a means to some interstate commerce while waiting for the industry to get off its duff and take the issue to court. So compromise is sometimes better than no action at all.

As I also mentioned to another correspondent, there's already a place to send that money you volunteered...send money immediately or contact for further information: Coalition for Free Trade in Licensed Beverages, 244 California St., #300, San Francisco, CA 94111 (415) 362-1215 or E-mail: mail@beveragelaw.com

J.D.M.

dotEND 3-TIER MONOPOLYdot

Dear Mr. Mead,

Why do we have this continuing avalanche of meaningless words about Direct Shipment of Wine? They wander everywhere but never address the two basic problems.

1. The 3 tier distribution system simply cannot handle the situation. I might buy three cases a year from out of state wineries for direct shipment to my home. There may be ten of us locally who might do the same thing-but not the same wineries and not the same states. No local retailer or distributor is crazy enough to handle one case a year from thirty wineries in fifteen different states and never will be.

2. Consumers can buy anything under the sun except wine for direct shipment from any place in the country. All the laws imaginable will not stop this because it is the right of the customer to do so. Wine hobbyists are the same as everyone else.

Let's stop the stupid arguments and fix the problem.

Marshall C. Harrold
Dayton, Ohio

Dear Mr. Harrold,

You have pretty much boiled the situation down to its essence. There will always be, and there should always be, wholesalers (the middle tier), but you're right that they cannot do everything, which is one more reason they should not be granted their existing monopoly on all sales in their region of influence.

The courts will almost certainly straighten all this out over time (as in the recent Florida decision), but that takes time. Here's hoping that more wholesalers will see the writing on the wall and support legislation like the "Louisiana Compromise" that will assure their state some tax money and licensing fees. The way it's going, they may end up with unconstitutional restrictions on interstate sales thrown out and no state involvement of any kind on interstate sales.

J.D.M.

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Latest Update: December 10, 1997