Policy Perspectives

DC Update

Congress is now gone for the year, and maintained its record of having the least productive legislative session in 92 years. It also teed up next year as even worse, with new budget deadlines in late January and early February, plus impeachment hearings on President Biden and a possible contempt citation of his son Hunter, not to mention the six-week recess right before the election so everyone can campaign. Meanwhile, key legislative initiatives like the Farm Bill are stalled until further notice.

San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition—Enter Now!

The first and largest wine competition of 2024 is now just a month away, and I strongly encourage all wineries—especially those from non-California states—to enter before the extended deadline of December 23. The event is sponsored by the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper, and organized by Scott and Bob Fraser.

I’ve judged “the Chronicle” for 20 years, and can attest to its efficiency, fairness, and marketing benefits. In recent years some 5,000 wines have been entered, a backroom army of 80 volunteers is coordinated by the incomparable Anne Vercelli, and about 60 judges swirl, sip, spit, and score over three days before the final “Sweepstakes” round on Friday morning. It’s tons of fun watching the unveiling of results—sort of like “The Oscars of Wine”.

The Chronicle has always been one of the friendliest competitions to wines from “other states”, with entries from New York, Ohio, Oregon, Washington, and other regions often winning the top “Best of Class” honors in various categories. Beyond that, there are lots of Gold medals, along with Silver and Bronze.  And the results are spread far and wide, including at a Grand Tasting in San Francisco a month after the actual competition.

Don’t delay: Enter today. If you don’t play, you can’t win. Visit winejudging.com


New York Vineyard Survey: A Leap Ahead

While Congress ignores WineAmerica’s request for a national vineyard survey, the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, led by Executive Director Sam Filler, is charging ahead with its own statewide version.

With grants from the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority and the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets, NYWGF will initiate the first comprehensive Statewide Vineyard Survey since 2011. It is partnering with Upstate NY-based brand-building firm, Agency 29, along with Ag Access and Deep Planet AI to conduct the survey.

This is a big deal. Last year, WineAmerica retained John Dunham & Associates to conduct a National Economic Impact Study of the Wine Industry, which is on our website. It was detailed and comprehensive—except for the glaring lack of reliable vineyard data, which the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of USDA stopped collecting in 2011. As a result, WineAmerica has been urging Congress to reinstate funding for that, but it’s stalled in the Farm Bill.

New York is an important grape and wine state, both for juice grapes (Concord and Niagara) and a wide variety of wine grapes including Native American, French hybrid, Cornell, Minnesota, and classic vinifera varieties. The survey will be conducted in 2024 and 2025, with the intention of continuing it beyond those two years.

Separately, Fox Run Vineyards on Seneca Lake was recently honored with a “Best of Rochester” award among 17 nominees in the overall “Spirits” category which included wineries, craft brewers, distillers, cideries, and retailers. Co-owner Scott Osborn is the current Vice Chair of WineAmerica, to become Chair in May during our Washington meeting.