Who We Are

Family Winemakers of California is an “organization that reflects the small producer's point of view.” With nearly 5,300 licensed wineries in California someone needs to consistently speak for small, family wineries in the fight for more access to markets, protecting individual freedom from government over-regulation, and fostering aspirations to make the best wine. Our beginnings are humble. Family Winemakers was founded in 1990 after the wine market order extension was voted down in a true grassroots campaign. Industry growth and public policy on a myriad of issues begged for input from small producers. One man, one vote is the bedrock principle behind Family Winemakers that guides our views on legislation, regulation, litigation and business practices. We’ve spent 25 years and counting working to loosen up the post-Prohibition restrictions in California law and broaden access to domestic markets. Read more about

News & Events

FWC Deplores Arsenic Lawsuit

The recent lawsuits alleging that certain California wines contained elevated levels of arsenic are misguided and Family Winemakers of California (FWC) views them as a deplorable attack on a highly regulated industry that has developed a worldwide reputation for producing quality wines.  “Consumers should continue to have confidence in wines produced by California wineries.  Winegrape growers and vintners have delivered quality wines for decades and the science that underpins the wine industry is constantly evolving,” notes Joseph Harbison, Chairman of FWC.  The lawsuits are another example of litigious excess looking for a payout even though compliance with a multitude of laws is an industry norm and no actual harm has been demonstrated.

Like all wines produced in the United States, California wines comply with a complex set of laws regarding disclosure, labeling and advertising.  Wines are required to be labeled with mandatory information, including a long-standing health warning, and wineries are prohibited from making false claims in advertising.  The lawsuit ignores these realities and claims instead that wineries should go beyond statutory and regulatory requirements and inform consumers specifically about one constituent in wine, arsenic.  It then suggests a standard for arsenic based on drinking water, because no food standard for wine exists in statute.  The issue came up two years ago about beer in Europe. At that time a University of California, Davis enology professor noted that the issue was already known about wine and that the levels shouldn't be alarming, because it's the kind of thing you see in dust or air.  Arsenic exists in the many foods and beverages.

Constituents in wine, like arsenic, are a function of soil composition, irrigation sources, and airborne deposition.  Both the state and federal government recognize that arsenic is naturally occurring and their statutory and regulatory schemes account for that in food and beverage production.  The federal government does not require constituent labeling or ingredient labeling for wine, nor has it required that arsenic content be disclosed.  Testing, while available, is typically used for export purposes.  There is no federal or state requirement to test for arsenic.

These class-action unfair business practice civil cases seek huge damages without demonstrating that wineries have violated any state law.  It tries to link California warning statutes, such as Proposition 65, to unfair business practices even though the entire wine industry already complies with Prop. 65 warning requirements at the retail level.  Alcohol warnings under Prop. 65 have been around since the initiative was passed in 1986, so it’s likely the plaintiffs have encountered that warning innumerable times.

The issue has drawn a lot of media coverage and attention since the lawsuits were filed.  We believe that accurate knowledge about arsenic, its impact on humans, and the government’s statutory and regulatory structure are critical to reaching an informed opinion about the claims raised and we've included some below.

Background information

Hinman & Carmichael Booze Rules Blog

Farella Braun + Martel backgrounder

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