Archive for the ‘Wine News’ Category

States weigh lowering drinking age

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

I know, I know, I still have older posts I promised to finish soon, but as a kid who once possessed a fake ID how exciting is this news???

So the news comes from a USA today report that talks about some states (Kentucky, Wisconsin and South Carolina) that want to lower the drinking age for military personnel. On the one hand if they can fight in a war then they should be able to drink, right? On the other hand what are we saying, non-military don’t deserve a drink like those in the military do? Or are those who did not enlist less mature? Seems strange.

Missouri wants to lower it for everyone over 18. At least that makes sense to me.

Then you have South Dakota that says 19 & 20 year olds can buy low alcohol beer.

And the one that makes NO sense is Minnesota where they are pushing to allow 18+ to buy alcohol in bars but not in stores. Yeah, because the bartenders will really keep the kids drinking in control. HELLO – what about DRUNK DRIVING???!!! If they buy it in a liquor store at least they will be drinking at home and shouldn’t have to drive anywhere before passing out.

America…what a country….

Happy drinking all you young-ins…


The BATTLE for direct shipping rages on

Monday, January 28th, 2008

I’m catching up on emails as I attempt to recover from a very busy Israel trip. While I recently posted about and their “sting operation” to turn in retailers who are supposedly illegally shipping wine I just came across a very HEATED & interesting interview conducted by one of my most trusted wine industry sources, Megan Haverkorn of Wine & Spirits Daily.

This interview conducted by Megan on January 11th with an advocate from both sides of the shipping argument (which I will paste below to simplify finding it) allows both sides to present their arguments. While I am all for de-regulating state to state shipment of wine from retailers (as is often the case for wineries) it seems that the battle for this deregulation will be heated and vehemently contested. An interesting read for anyone who is hoping to (legally) sell wines online…

Friday, January 11, 2008

Three Tier Battles – A Talk with Tom Wark and Craig Wolf

There has been a lot of back and forth between online retailers and wine wholesalers in the past week, so we sat down with Tom Wark, executive director of the Specialty Wine Retailers Association (SWRA) and Craig Wolf, ceo of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) separately to get to the bottom of the issue. Both trade groups say they are working for the greater good. But the SWRA claims wholesalers are only out for the money, while the wholesalers claim their concerns are for minors and for state-based regulation.

WINE & SPIRITS DAILY: Why have the SWRA gone through the effort of investigating distributor political contributions in every state?

TOM WARK: Wholesalers have every right to contribute obscene amounts of money to politicians across the country. But when those contributions are accompanied in nearly every state by anti-consumer and pro-wholesaler laws, it’s time to take stock of exactly what’s behind those laws. That’s what the “Wholesale Protection” report does.

The enormous contributions tell me that the wholesalers understand that a great deal is at stake and they are willing to spend what it takes to protect a regulatory scheme that functions to keep them awash in cash. In nearly every state law there exists a mandate that wholesalers get a kickback on nearly every bottle of wine that consumers eventually consume. This is what wholesalers are protecting by spending $50 million on campaign donations.

CRAIG WOLF: Everybody in this business should be, if they are not, involved in the political process…We know the SWRA is involved in political donations and we know they’re funding lawsuits to the tune of millions of dollars. They’re spending money in the way they deem fit for their agenda and so are the wholesalers who are putting up money to support candidates and elected officials who understand the importance of an accountable licensed system and protecting it. That is the American way. To try and vilify wholesalers in that way I think is absurd.

If you look at the report, they mix in beer wholesalers’ money with ours and try to attribute all the $50 million to wine and spirits wholesalers.

Second of all, we lobby on any number of items that are important to our members beyond simple issues of direct shipping or threats to the three tier system. Unlike us, the SWRA has one specific goal in mind: deregulation of the system. Our money is not only to protect a very important system, but to protect our employees and their jobs, which are in the score of thousands in the country. We also, like every other industry, lobby in the areas of health care, workplace safety, employee benefits, etc.

WSD: I understand your contention, Tom, that is playing a tattle tale, but shouldn’t all online retailers be playing by the same rules?

TOM: Yes. And that’s why I was very pleased to read the CEO of saying that an open market for wine is best for the consumer, for the wine industry and for My hope is that will join the effort by other retailers to create exactly these kinds of markets. But if they choose not to fight these pro-consumer, pro-industry battles by educating their customers and contributing to the effort, I at least hope they’ll say “thank you” to those retailers and consumers who did fight the battle on’s behalf when the laws are changed.

WSD: In the past, the SWRA has argued that online retailers follow state laws and therefore should be allowed to ship directly to consumers. Has’s “sting operation” hurt the SWRA’s argument that retailers are lawful and should ship direct?

TOM: I’ve yet to meet any wine consumer that believes markets should be closed to out-of-state retailers so that wholesalers can make more money. And by reading the various comments across the Internet and elsewhere on this issue by consumers, I think it’s pretty clear that the only thing that has resulted from this episode is that consumers have been made further aware of the anti-consumer laws that have been put in place to protect wholesalers. So, no. This doesn’t hurt our argument. It helps it. We are simply asking for the right to ship wine in exactly the same way that most states allow wineries to ship.

CRAIG: Wholesalers read the wine blogs. We know what’s going on with the wine blog websites. If they think that when they make these statements about acting with impunity and violating the law and that nobody is going to find out about it, they’re wrong. What’s most shocking about all these conversations we’re seeing by Tom Wark and other retailers on these blogs is that they’re more concerned with not getting caught violating the law then they are with trying to effect change legally. We have no problem if they want to go into the legislatures to fight these battles…but what they’re advocating for is to have their illegal conduct go unreported and unaccountable. They’re not upset with the fact that their own members may be violating the law and jeopardizing their licenses. No, they’re upset about the fact that they got caught.

Say what you want about’s business model and their viability. The fact is they’re trying to operate legally and change the system. We don’t agree with trying to ship direct – we disagree with that – but we think they’re going about it the right way. And we’re happy to debate and any other retailer about whether direct shipping is or is not a bad policy. But we’re not out their vilifying people.

I guarantee you the wholesalers will make these statements by Tom Wark and the other retailers out there about their lack of concern for illegal sales available to every regulator in this country.

They can’t engage in illegal conduct just because they don’t like the way the system is.

WSD: It seems like the SWRA has really stepped up its activity and PR in the last year. Is that because the organization smells success?

TOM: Everyone smells success on the issue of retailer-to-consumer shipping. All one has to do is listen to the arguments that wholesalers advance in opposition to it and you realize that they do too. Direct shipping will increase minors’ consumption of alcohol? Come on. The Supreme Court and the Federal Trade commission as well as nearly every alcohol regulator in America know that’s absurd. Then when you hear wholesalers argue that the Granholm v. Heald Supreme Court decision only applied to retailers you further realize that there is a certain desperation…eventually it will be made clear that the principles explained in Granholm apply to wineries and retailers alike.

That said, in the last year we’ve stepped up our efforts to educate consumers, retailers, lawmakers and media. That hasn’t been too hard to do when you have states like Illinois passing anti-consumer laws in the face of massive consumer opposition. We will continue to expose the protectionist arguments for what they are, continue educating and continue to stand up for consumers.

CRAIG: Look, welcome to the battle. Their advocacy for direct shipping is just the next in the chain of things we’ve been dealing with all along with direct shipping. We’re happy to have this debate at the state and federal level. But that is where the debates should occur. Not in the courts. And certainly not by condoning illegal conduct. We’re not out to vilify retailers or wineries. We understand they have a different perspective on things. We think they’re incorrect, we think their policies are misguided. But we’re not out to vilify them.

WSD: Tom, since presumably all of your retailers are buying their wine from licensed wholesalers, why do you think wholesalers are so against you?

TOM: Wholesalers don’t have to pick and choose their battles because they are so flush with cash as a result of the protectionist laws that exist everywhere. As a result they play a zero sum game where they oppose even the most benign and reasonable pro-consumer laws. Any effort that in any way alters the state mandated, anti-consumer three tier system is opposed. Think about this: A retailer selling and shipping a bottle of wine to a consumer in another state is exactly the same kind of transaction as a winery selling and shipping a bottle of wine to consumer in another state. Exactly the same. Yet the wholesaler are willing to argue that it is so fundamentally different in some way that it must be stopped. That’s just Fantasyland thinking. But, the wholesalers can AFFORD to think that way and advance that argument because there is no restriction on what they can spend to advance that argument. In the end, as always, the consumer looses to the Fantasyland Faction.

CRAIG: If wholesalers were simply interested in the bottom line, we would be advocating for more direct shipping by retailers. After all, every bottle sold by a retailer ultimately came from a wholesaler. But wholesalers don’t believe in commerce at any cost. And as can be seen from the investigation, the cost to the states is in lost revenue, lack of accountability and open disdain and disregard for their laws.

WSD: It seems like people in the wine industry are mainly bothered by the way went about “tricking” its competition. What bothers you and other SWRA members the most about the situation, Tom?

TOM: I can’t speak for the various members of SWRA. But what bothers me is that says one thing and does another. If really believe what they say they’d be sending e-mails to their customers in every state where retailer-to-consumer shipping is illegal; they’d be cutting checks just like other retailers to support the legal efforts to overturn the laws that prohibit wine lovers from getting the wines they want. They’d not be letting others do the heavy lifting while they play a game of Wine Cop that has no effect on their long term profitability and does not benefit the American wine consumer.

CRAIG: I think it’s wrong for the SWRA to vilify others who are simply pointing out that illegal conduct is occurring and should stop. Tom Wark is supposed to represent legally licensed retailers – and those retailers have an obligation to sell product legally. What kind of message does it send that he is more concerned about his members getting caught than he is about complying with the law?

Going GREEN with your wine drinking

Friday, January 11th, 2008

I arrived in Israel a little more than 36 hours ago and I’ve already begun to run around the country to meet with my wonderful friends in the wine business out here. I’ll be heading into the Judean Hills region today but I wanted to put together a real quick post before leaving.

A recently really an interesting piece written by Dr Vino ( AKA Tyler Colman that I found in the NYT published on Dec 30, 2007 called Red, White or Green?

In the article Colman discusses the “carbon footprint” of a bottle of wine or as he explains it the “amount of carbon dioxide (that) is emitted in its production and transportation”. While I will not get into the politics or personal preference for saving the environment, I do want to quote some interesting facts Colman points out.

  • A Napa Valley wine can emit 2.6 pounds of carbon dioxide on its journey from growing the grapes, making the wine and transport to San Francisco
  • The same bottle making the truck trip to Connecticut (or elsewhere on the east coast, say New York City) would emit 5.7 pounds of carbon dioxide in total.
  • Holding the growing method, winery practices and bottle size constant, it is more carbon-efficient for people in Connecticut to drink a bottle of wine from Bordeaux than from Sonoma. The short truck route on both ends of the efficient miles of container shipping means the French wine has 50 percent less carbon dioxide emissions, about three pounds.

Now, the French and many of their European counterparts are selling us wine at exorbitant prices already, and the weakening dollar is making those already expensive bottles even MORE expensive.

SO, we should not be buying wine from California because of carbon emissions, we can’t afford to be buying French and other European wines (let along wait for them to be mature, or ready to be drunk), so where does that leave us???

GOOD QUESTION! I think this is where the concept of drinking wines from lesser known winemaking regions comes into play. And I bet you know where I’m going now….yup, DRINK ISRAELI WINE!!!! Most israeli wines are made in a New World Style so you don’t have to lay them down and wait 10+ years to soften and be ready to drink. And Israeli wines are more carbon friendly than our own domestic Napa wines – at least for those of us residing on the East Coast.

Remember, drink Israeli wine!!!

Have a fabulous weekend.


Laurie Daniel: What’s ahead for wine drinkers in 2008

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

A recent article, “What’s ahead for wine drinkers in 2008″, written by Laurie Daniel for the San jose Mercury News is an interesting read, with 4 predictions listed below.  Not much for me to add but I do want to comment on #3.

1.  Domestic wines should look more attractive as prices rise on many imports.

2. More companies will start touting how “green” their wines are.

3. We’ll see more wines from ever-more obscure places.

4. Some wine producers will become more transparent about their winemaking practices.



When referring to the “obscure places” in #3 Daniels mentions places in Countries like Italy & Spain that once was not considered to be a wine producing region and now is.  She proceeds to mention countries such as Croatia, Bulgaria, the former Soviet republic of Georgia and even goes so far as to contemplate the possibility of wines from China.


I am interested in this prediction (isn’t it really an already proven trend?) as it relates to another “obscure” region…yup, ISRAEL!  While Israel can not even be mentioned in the same breath in terms of size, I think the recent Wine Advocate feature on Israeli wines both confirms Daniels suspicion that new, previously unexpected wine regions will emerge in the not too distant future AND that Israel should be included in the list of “obscure places”.


Keep your eyes open…premium Israeli wine MAY be coming to a shelf near you sooner than you think…


Happy happy everybody…


Wine Ingredients (part 2)

Monday, December 24th, 2007

I blogged this when Bonny Doon first released the news that they would be including ingredients on their labels.  They have just released more specific information, and have indicated that they will be including 2 types of ingredient notifications.   The first are for those ingredients that remain in the wine, and the second, for those that are used in the winemaking process but are then REMOVED from said wine.

Randall Grahm Discloses All on New Labels

SANTA CRUZ, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Bonny Doon Vineyard labels will disclose all wine ingredients beginning with the 2007 vintage white and 2006 vintage red wines. As of 2008, consumers will note that all ingredients are listed in two sections on the back label of each bottle of Bonny Doon wine. The first section highlights the wines basic ingredients, i.e. grapes and sulfur dioxide, a preservative, found in the wine. The second section will point out ingredients used in the production of the wine such as bentonite, (a type of clay used to clarify wine prior to bottling) that essentially no longer remain in the wine.I’m writing about this as I really find it to be a real breakthrough for the wine industry (specifically as someone who prefers to know what it is that I am eating/drinking).  I wonder how others who restrict certain ingredients from their diet feel about ingredients used strictly for clarifying wine – meaning the ingredients are added and then removed.  If you were trying to avoid said ingredients and were told it was added and then removed, how would you feel about it???

I welcome comments and at some point if I ever get an “email me” button up, I welcome direct contact as well.

Happy holidays.  Drink wine, but DO IT safely!!!!



Saturday, December 15th, 2007

The weather outside it frightful…and as such I did not make it out to a a wine bar this evening. I did finish up a bottle of home-vintnered white made by my friend Todd. It was actually not half bad. Very nice bouquet, some floral, notes & lots of melon. A missing mid-palate & a finish that turned a little bitter as it warmed to room temp, but for home made wine – not bad at all…

OK, on to the headline. Credit to Megan Haverkorn of Wine & Spirits daily for this one…

America’s favorite ex-con, Paris Hilton, is launching a new sparkling wine in a can. In the ads, Paris is nude, covered in gold paint and crawling across a desert to market her brand, Rich Prosecco. Characterized as “The perfect ‘starter drink’ for your night or a special pleasure as a reward at the end of the day,” Rich Prosecco will launch in Germany this week and the U.S. next year. The brand comes in original, passion fruit and strawberry flavors.

As you’ll recall, Paris spent 23 days in jail this June for driving with a suspended license after receiving probation from a previous DUI charge.

Hmmm…is this a pathetic attempt at capitalizing on “celebrity” & “sex”, or is it further proof of the proliferation of (sparkling) wine, and as such maybe not the worst thing in the world…????? OK, yes it’s bad…

Wine Ingredients – should they be posted on the label???

Monday, December 10th, 2007

Bonny Doon, of Santa Cruz CA thinks so. I’m a fan of Bonny Doon wines and I LOVE this move!

“Randall (Grahm – owner of Bonny Doon) feels that it’s important to openly share with consumers any additions made to the wine, and by extension to make other winemakers responsible for [acknowledging] their own additions and interventions,” explained Alison Davies, marketing associate at Bonny Doon. “We hope for a number of results: by stating all the ingredients, this could lead the industry in the direction of full disclosure and encourage winemakers to be more hands-off and less interventionist.”

I’ve stated on several occasions that I observe kosher dietary laws, but when it comes to wine, whose production MAY include problematic products (used for clarifying wines) I have looked the other way, figuring these problematic ingredients are removed from the wine before bottling. And there is virtually no way of knowing which wines are made using some of these problematic items. Until now!

I’ll be thrilled if Bonny Doon is in fact successful in getting other wineries to follow suit and begin to list ingredients on their wines. And who knows, this may become law – which would be GREAT for vegetarians, vegans, kosher consumers, etc…

Have a wonderful week!


Non-“Kosher” ingredients in Wine

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

This is a very detailed and technical discussion, the kosher aspect of which I touched upon in a friends blog a few weeks ago regarding wines from Israel. That post can be found at The topic was also touched upon by a new cyber friend at

The reason I am re-visiting this topic again here is that I received one of the many emails I get from Wine Spectator today, this one being their “Wine & Healthy Living” email.

Contained in this email is a question from “Jane”, whereby Jane asks about ingredients in wine which Vegans might not want to consume. The exact question and answer should be contained in the following link, but it appears not to have been posted there yet .

Since it has yet to be posted, I’ll include it here: “How could a vegan find out which wineries use egg whites for fining their wines?“.

For the record, wineries also use other products for “fining” which are problematic for both kosher observers as well as vegans.

As someone who observes a KOSHER diet (albeit leniently), this is a question which I have researched and that has led to a tremendous dilemma – one I still grapple with.

To keep things as succinct as possible, the truth is that many wineries use one of a few ingredients in SOME wines to “fine” or “clarify” the wine. While this is most common in whites, it is done with many reds as well. How do you know when one such ingredient was used? Well, as Wine Spectator answered Jane, “Current labeling regulations do not require the producer to list the fining agents on the bottle“.

Without getting into the gory details of what ingredients are at times used as fining agents, I’ll end this post with the url provided by the fabulous people over at Wine Spectator. I am not sure how much of a help it is, but it allows me to sidestep this topic for the time being.

Happy Holiday Season…