Wine Institute

Institute the Voice of California Wine

Probably not too many vinophiles stop by the Web site of the Wine Institute to bone up on the latest wine law, but I had the pleasure of using this organization as a professional resource for a few years, and the wealth of information and anything that affects the wine industry in California and beyond is dealt with through the expertise housed within the San Francisco offices. And like most of the industry, these professionals have a passion for telling the world what is great about California wine. It’s a great resource for anyone interested in wine.

The Wine Institute is the public policy advocacy association of California wineries. Since its beginning in 1934, the Wine Institute has worked to create a climate in which California’s wine industry could thrive and prosper. The organization brings together the resources of 624 wineries and affiliated businesses to support legislative and regulatory advocacy, international market development, media relations, scientific research and education programs that benefit the entire California wine industry.

This is an organization that is shaping the politics of what is in your wine glass. In June of this year, the Institute appointed its first new president in 27 years. Robert P. “Bobby” Koch, President Bush’s brother-in-law, is responsible for fulfilling the mission of the Wine Institute, which is to initiate and advocate state, federal and international public policy to enhance the environment for the responsible consumption and enjoyment of wine. He previously spent nine years on Capitol Hill working for former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt and former Majority Whip Tony Coelho. Koch is a member of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee for Trade, and a board member of the National Commission Against Drunk Driving.

With new blood of this stature at the helm, you are likely to see more developments in the industry that do affect you as a consumer. The issues the Wine Institute deals with are vast, but the two important issues on the table right now are direct shipping to other states and sustainable agriculture practices.

Restrictions on interstate direct-to-consumer wine sales limit competition and place constraints on consumer choice. This issue impacts the ability of consumers to have reasonable access to the wines of their choosing and this issue has been a fundamental concern for the Wine Institute’s member wineries for decades. With more than 11 million visitors to California tasting rooms a year, the ability to ship a case home to be enjoyed at a later date has been impossible in more than 26 states. The shipping initiatives by the Wine Institute have led to cases that view these regulations as unconstitutional.

California’s population is growing at half a million per year and the Wine Institute is taking steps to insure the winegrowers will have viable and outstanding land to grow their premium products. The Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers have been holding workshops throughout the state to introduce the California wine community to a code of best management practices through a workbook promoting social responsibility and environmental stewardship. The “Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices” is a voluntary self-assessment tool for California’s vintners and growers with information on how to conserve natural resources, protect the environment and enhance relationships with employees, neighbors and local communities.

California wine is big business on a global scale and a healthy revenue stream for the State of California. Each bottle you buy, give as a gift or cellar for added enjoyment is not only the history of the grape, but also the history of the business and political life of one of California’s largest industries.
Visit the Wine Institute Web site at http://www.wineinstitute.org.


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