Family Winemakers Returns to Its Roots

Back in the day, Family Winemakers of California was a fairly radical organization relative to the other winery associations that existed in the United States. This radical posture was due in large part to the leaders of the organization (Brice Jones (Sonoma Cutrer), Bill MacIver (Matanzas Creek Winery), Patrick Campbell, Laurel Glen), all huge advocates for the concerns of small wineries and family farmers. In fact, the birth of Family Winemakers of California came after an exodus of small and family wineries from the larger Wine Institute when many wineries became disillusioned. The believed that Wine Institute policy was geared to closely to its larger members.

That radical quality slowly seeped out Family Winemakers over the years as they became a well respected lobbying organization and the creators of the most important winery tasting in America.

Something changed yesterday when that organization turned activist and filed a lawsuit in Massachusetts seeking to overturn legislation that only allows wineries of certain, small production levels to ship direct to MA consumers.

They leveled the charge that this restriction is every bit as discriminatory as simply banning out-of-state wineries from shipping to MA residents, a condition that existed in MA and other states before last years Supreme Court decision in Granholm V. Heald.

In all the years that there have been court battles over direct shipping, I’m unaware of Family Winemakers stepping into the breach and filing their own suit. I want to find out why the change of heart now.

This case is pretty important and similar law suits will be filed in other states that have taken similar approaches. Family Winemakers will not necessarily have the MA wineries on their side. If Family Winemakers win the case and production limits on shipping are called unconstitutional,, it’s nut unlikely that the MA legislature would simply respond by banning all direct shipping, including by local wineries.

There is risk here.

However, from a consumer perspective and from the perspective of wineries across the country this is a very welcome move. Having the authority of a well-know and well-respected organization of 400+ wineries entering the direct shipping fray is a very good thing.

One Response

  1. Paul Mabray - September 19, 2006

    I have to say this is the best move I have seen an organization do in a long time. Fight strongly and aggressively for the rights of its members to sell wine unconstrained by unconstitional restrictions. I am very pleased by Paul Kronenbergs decision and leadership. We support Family Winemakers Choice and hope more of these will surface from the other organizations.
    Inertia – Powering the Wine Revolution
    —Paul Mabray – CEO

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