The California Legislature reconvenes on January 4, 2016 to continue the second year of the session.
Family Winemakers of California monitors and lobbies a variety of public policy issues on behalf of its members. Legislation ranging from changes to the tied-house laws (the state’s alcohol laws that were crafted after Prohibition), fees and taxes, business regulations, and environmental issues that affect winery and vineyard operations must be identified, their impact gauged and action taken.
The scope of the effort is significant. Each year the California Legislature introduces over 2,000 bills.
Family Winemakers screened over 2,200 bills and identified 37 priority bills for the 2015-16 Legislative Session. A similar number of bills are likely to be introduced in early 2016. FWC supported a couple of bills to remedy the social media marketing problems that deal with naming retailers, and how to extend more tied-house advertising exceptions. FWC also supported tied-house advertising exceptions for BottleRock and Del Mar Fairgrounds. It opposed legislation to assess a nickel-a-drink on cocktails as a bad precedent for consumers. The challenges in 2016 will continue to be water availability and its beneficial use, taxation, and farm labor.
Limited policy committee hearings may be held in January for two-years still in stuck in the house of origin. New bills will be introduced from January through February and a traditional policy committee hearing schedule will commence in March. The 2016-17 budget will be unveiled by Governor Brown in early January. The impact of the economy and temporary taxes authorized by Proposition 30 will come into play.
The Family and Stonebridge Research Group were awarded a $369,000 Emerging Market Program grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop a road map on how to sell California fine wines in the Chinese market back in 2013. On September 15, 2015 the project received its second year of funding from the FAS for $430,666, for a near doubling of project activities.
The first focus for the project was the quality of importers with whom California's fine wine producers were partnering in China, as very few producers had satisfactory sales or payment experiences. There was initially a list of about 10 such importers, developed from the trade and from peer recommendations, with another 10 "up-and-coming." Most of these companies carried few if any California fine wines. However, in the last 18 months interest among quality importers has clearly grown. As the importers say, now that they are actually "selling wine to the people who actually drink it", they are finding that consumers are more adventurous and often prefer California wines when they try them. This trend is most evident in the most developed wine markets, such as Shanghai and Beijing. Even importers who have exclusively worked with top European producers are becoming interested in California and they have been coming to our classes, asking about winery contacts.
Thus, we are increasingly introducing producers to a variety of highly recommended importers with whom they have otherwise been unfamiliar and who do not tend to be the usual importer groups recommended by usual sources of export advice.
You can read more about the program here