Virginia Wine Council Update

Virginia Wine Council Update – from Matt Conrad (Director, VA Wine Council)

Promotion of Virginia Wine Receives Broad Support at Governor’s Press Conference

Delegates and Senators from both sides of the aisle joined Governor McDonnell at a press conference earlier this week at which he unveiled his “Jobs & Opportunities Agenda.”  According to a press release from his office, this “legislative package consists of 20 pieces of legislation, as well as previously announced budget amendments, all focused on spurring job creation, promoting economic development and creating more opportunities for Virginians.”

Of chief importance to our industry are Senator Watkins’ Senate Bill 237 and Delegate Landes’ House Bill 588, both of which will spur rural economic development and tourism through greater promotion of Virginia as a wine destination.  SB237 has already reported out of the Senate’s Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee.  It and HB588 are now before the Senate Finance and House Appropriations committees, respectively. Please take a moment to email your legislators to explain the importance of this legislation to our industry and to Virginia’s overall economic revitalization.

The Virginia Wine Council also made great strides on two other items of our legislative agenda this week: securing the ability to conduct tastings in ABC Stores and restoring the ability of farm wineries to use third-party marketing portals to sell wine via the Internet.

SB26 (Puller) originally granted only spirits manufacturers the ability to offer tastings of their product in the stores; however the VWC worked with the patron and allied industries to extend Virginia farm wineries the same privilege.  That bill reported out of Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services this morning.

In late 2009 Virginia ABC issued a series of circulars that prohibited the use of third-party marketing portal services, such as VinoShipper.  Over weeks of negotiation the VWC has reached a settlement with ABC and the wholesalers to restore some of that ability to the wineries that depended on that model as part of their business plan.  HB630 (Scott, E.T.) and SB483 (Hurt) create an in-state marketing portal license and an approval process for out-of-state marketing portals, provided they are operated by agricultural cooperative associations.

Below I have provided a brief update on other legislation of importance to the Virginia Wine Council this year.  Please feel free to reply to this email with any questions you may have.

Bill Status for the week of January 25 -29

HB 582Landes

SB 347 – Hanger

Agri-tourism Incentives Act; created. Working with patrons and leading industry groups (Agribusiness Council and Farm Bureau) to find mutually agreeable resolution.  It is likely that a study group will result from both this legislation and the Farm Business legislation (below) also sponsored by both Delegate Landes and Senator Hanger.

HB 583Landes

SB348   – Hanger

Farm businesses; local restrictions. The VWC is working with industry groups and the patrons to amend the language of this bill and the Agri-tourism Incentives Act (above).  We have submitted amendments to proposed language that avoids creating a definition of a “farm business,” particularly in any way that excludes farm wineries.  This suggestion has been accepted by the working group that includes the Agribusiness Council and Farm Bureau.

HB 1324 – Loupassi

Consumption of lawfully acquired wine at certain licensed establishments with corking fee. Delegate Loupassi submitted this legislation on January 22nd that would permit consumers to enjoy a bottle of wine brought from their private collection at the restaurant of their choice, provided the restaurateur agrees.  A reasonable fee may be charged.

HB 630Scott, E.T.

SB 483 – Hurt

Alcoholic beverage control; third party shipment of wine and beer. The VWC reached a resolution with all parties (manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers) that will preserve the original intent of the legislation.  This bill will permit wineries to operate fulfillment centers AND contract with 3rd parties to operate web portals.  This legislation will restore a similar service to VinoShipper for Virginia consumers, but will require a portal license from ABC and require that the licensees be organized as an agricultural cooperative association.  The substitute with this new language was reported from the ABC subcommittee of House General Laws on Thursday and was reported from Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services this morning.

HB 952Jones

SB 26 – Puller

Alcoholic beverages; tasting event to be conducted at government stores under certain circumstances. The VWC asked the patrons of the original bills to include Virginia farm wineries among the parties who may conduct tastings of their product in ABC stores.

If passed, farm wineries whose products are sold through Virginia ABC stores will be permitted to conduct tastings of product already for sale. The Senate version reported from Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services this morning with only one vote in opposition.  The House version will be taken up next week by the ABC subcommittee of House General Laws.

SB 237Watkins

HB 588 – Landes

Alcoholic beverages; portion of wine liter tax collected to be deposited in Wine Promotion Fund. The Senate version will not likely be heard in Senate Finance until at least February 10.  The House version has been referred to a subcommittee of House Appropriations and may be heard as early as this coming Tuesday.

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