Over the past several days we have seen media coverage related to our industry with some unusual and emotionally-charged comments.
The letter below was written before those were published.
It is distributed today in the spirit of refocusing the dialogue in a more positive way on the inspiring action taken by some Willamette Valley winemakers to assist colleagues in the Rogue Valley who were confronted by an unexpected and unwelcome development late in the growing season.
The Oregon Wine Board’s newsletter is not offered up as an open forum for industry members to advance personal points of view. However, in this particular instance, we thought you would be interested in an insider’s perspective on a response that should make us all proud to be part of Oregon’s wine community.
OPEN LETTER TO OREGON’S WINE GRAPE GROWERS AND WINEMAKERS
FROM JIM BERNAU
When I got the frantic call in September from a Rogue Valley grower saying that over 15 growers had their contracts canceled just before harvest, ostensibly for “smoke taint,” I could hardly believe it.
Who would do such a thing?
Unfortunately, I did know who. Only a few months ago, I called this large California producer and asked him to stop misrepresenting our state’s AVAs on his labels, packaging and advertising. My words were cordial, but firm.
Fortunately, federal and state authorities are now investigating, and the damaged Oregon winegrowers are represented by legal counsel, with a lawsuit already filed from a previous harvest.
Oregon winemakers and growers have built this industry by working collaboratively, with consideration and mutual respect. They have come to each other’s aid over these past 50 years, and the crisis in the Rogue Valley was no different.
Ed King texted Tom Danowski and me asking what the OWA could do. He envisioned a “Solidarity” wine as a way of paying the growers, and fundraising to help the uninsured growers. The OWA issued an urgent appeal. JP Valot and Jason Lett offered cellar space and winemaking help and Christine Clair coordinated with the growers and winemakers to save as much of the crop as possible. Governor Kate Brown formed a task force of state agency leaders, and a bipartisan effort of legislators and staff pitched in to help with the harvest. Wholesalers, restaurateurs and retailers called and emailed their interest in carrying the wine, with wine enthusiasts pledging to buy them.
From left-to-right: Willmatte Valley Vineyards Founder Jim Bernau, King Estate Co-Owner Justin King, Willamette Valley Vineyards Winery Director Christine Clair, Rep. Gary Leif, Senator Alan DeBoer and Rep. David Gomberg leading a bi-partisan effort to bring in the Rogue Valley crop. Photo credit: Pam Danielle
The Solidarity wines are developing beautifully in the cellars of King Estate, Silvan Ridge, The Eyrie Vineyards and Willamette Valley Vineyards.
It is rewarding to be able to grow and make some of the most extraordinary wines in the world here in Oregon and reaffirming that we share this state and industry with such kind and supportive colleagues.
Founder, Willamette Valley Vineyards NEWS FROM THE OREGON WINEGROWERS ASSOCIATION
Recent headlines have mentioned the possibility of new state taxes on beer, cider and wine. The OWA is monitoring these proposals as they are floated in advance of the upcoming legislative session and will be determining which have the potential to most seriously affect OWA members.
One often-repeated statement you may hear in news coverage is that Oregon has one of the lowest wine excise tax rates in the country. Fact Check: although it is only imposed on a small portion of our highest volume wineries, Oregon’s excise tax is higher than rates in 23 other states. Some states collect no wine excise tax at all.
Since taxes are a topic of media interest, please feel free to direct inquiries to OWA, which is prepared to put the various taxes levied on Oregon winemakers and grape growers into proper perspective for those who may not be fully aware of the burden your businesses carry.
At the federal level, the Ponzi family and OWA hosted Sen. Ron Wyden at an informal gathering last week. Right at the top of our agenda for the senator were the unanticipated implementation challenges related to last year’s tax modernization act. The act lowers federal excise tax rates through 2019 for every Oregon winery and also offers certain benefits to grape growers. We acknowledged the leadership role Sen. Wyden has played over the past three years in revising the excise tax structure, and he pledged to do all he can as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee to lock in lower excise tax rates permanently and address the problems bonded wine cellars and custom crush facilities experienced, which necessitated TTB’s temporary “alternate procedure” (Industry Circular 2018-1A).
The OWA will continue to defend our industry against new taxes at every level as it looks toward what is expected to be a very busy 2019 in Salem and in Washington, D.C. To support OWA’s efforts on behalf of all Oregon wineries and growers, please click here for details on becoming an OWA member.
OREGON WINE SYMPOSIUM
Executive Track to Focus on Informed Business Decisions
Running a business requires infinite decisions, from pricing to branding, staff incentive structures to channel mix, and so much more. The 2019 Symposium’s Executive Business track guides winery and vineyard owners, GMs and other leaders – current or aspiring – to a better understanding of how these myriad choices culminate in sustainable success for their businesses. Learn more about the 2019 Symposium’s Executive Business track.
Southern Oregon, Columbia Gorge and Walla Walla Valley Spots Remain for Oregon Wine Trail New York City: Week of May 6, 2019 | Deadline: Nov. 16
Oregon Wine Trail NYC registration is filling up, but a few spots remain for wineries in the Umpqua Valley, Rogue Valley, Columbia Gorge and Walla Walla Valley. Registration will remain open through Nov. 16, after which these spots will be given to wineries on the waitlist. Get details and registration link.
Register for London Tastings: March 14, 2019
Register now to join OWB in London next March for joint tastings with the Washington State Wine Commission. If you export to the U.K. or are seeking an importer, consider joining us. Register here.
Register for Oregon Wine Trail Toronto: April 9, 2019
Oregon Wine Trail is going to Toronto. Join the OWB as we return to Toronto in April, where we will host an Oregon Wine Trail trade and consumer tasting as well as multiple master classes for the trade. Register here.
Make a Nomination for 2019 OPC International Trade Tour | Deadline: Dec. 1
Each year, the OWB hosts a group of international trade members in late June, chosen from among nominees provided by the industry. The group attends Oregon Pinot Camp and also meets with winemakers from around the state to get a complete picture of wine in Oregon. Learn more or make a nomination.
Travel Oregon’s Fall Campaign Toolkit
Travel Oregon recently launched a toolkit for its fall campaign, an extension of this spring’s “Oregon, Slightly Exaggerated” campaign. Materials for all seven regions will be rolling out over the next several weeks, and may be of interest in helping promote visitation to your region. Learn more and view the toolkit.
OWB Webinar: Pitching Oregon Wine Month to Your Distributors | Nov. 15
The OWB team has prepared a package for wineries to use in presenting Oregon Wine Month 2019 to distributors in state and around the country. Learn how to equip your distributors to make the most of Oregon Wine Month at a webinar on Nov. 15 at 10 a.m. Learn more and register.
OSU Vineyard Workshop: Red Blotch Disease | Nov. 29
Join OSU researchers for a focused workshop on Grapevine Red Blotch Disease covering information about the virus, insects that may be spreading the virus, how it impacts grapevine physiology and fruit composition, vineyard management practices to ameliorate virus effects, and the effects the virus has on wine quality. Get more details and register.
2018-19 OWB-Funded Research Project Summaries Available
In the 2018-19 fiscal year, the Oregon Wine Board of Directors allocated a record $437,000 to funding viticulture and enology projects. The nine projects are summarized on the OWB industry website. Read the research project overviews.
CALLS FOR WINE
Enobytes Seeking Oregon Syrah | Deadline: Nov. 15
Enobytes.com is seeking Oregon Syrah for its Syrah and Shiraz from Around the World report, which will publish in March 2019. Wines need to be received by Nov. 15. Get submission details.
Submit Wines to be Featured at IPNC 2019 | Deadline: Nov. 30
The submission period is now open to apply to have your wine featured at IPNC in July 2019. Through the selection process, the event organizers hope to introduce guests to the outstanding quality and diversity of Pinot noir now being produced around the world. Get details and submission requirements.
Free Shipping on TEXSOM International Wine Awards Entries | Deadline: Dec. 31
Three Reasons to Submit Wines to TEXSOM International Wine Awards
The Journal of Wine Economics recently published an article singling out TIWA, asserting that the competition’s evaluative methods are far more detailed and rigorous than is typical for other competitions. It’s just one of the reasons OWB encourages Oregon wineries to submit wines to this awards program. Read more about this competition.
Designed to showcase Northwest wines and wine regions, the SavorNW Wine Awards is open to wineries with fruit grown in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and British Columbia. Learn more and get submission details.
Pour at Chemeketa’s 2018 Nouveau Release Party
There are still a few spots remaining for wineries to pour at the Chemeketa Wine Studies program’s Nouveau Release Party on Nov. 15 from 5-7:30 p.m. Oregon wineries producing Nouveau style wines are invited to join the celebration while pouring and selling wine at this public event. Get more details.
Vinexpo New York 2019 Exhibitor Opportunities
Vinexpo New York will take place March 4-5. The 2018 show was the largest B2B trade event focused on wine and spirits ever held in the U.S. The deadline to reserve exhibition space is Feb. 1. Get more details.
Linfield Wine Lecture Series: Remembering the Early Days of Viticulture and Wine Research in Oregon | Nov. 15
Join Greg Jones as he moderates a conversation with Barney Watson and Steve Price about how these two wine-loving researchers shaped the foundation of Oregon’s viticultural and winemaking research through decades of data collection, recording and innovative wine trials. This free event takes place Nov. 15 from 4-5 p.m. and will be followed by a reception. Get more details.
2019 Oregon Wine Industry Awards Nominations Open | Deadline: Nov. 16
Each year, the OWB produces an annual report, which is submitted to the State in September. The report comprises a letter from the OWB chairperson, a recap of all major activities performed during the year, a financial recap and more. Reading this report is a good way to get familiar with the OWB’s work on behalf of the industry. View the report.
Find or List Grapes for Sale on the OWB’s Marketplace
If you are looking for a buyer for your grapes, or are interested in buying grapes, don’t forget to check out the Marketplace on the OWB’s industry website. The Marketplace also includes listings for bulk wine, equipment and job opportunities. Visit the Markeplace.