Wine Business

Napa Valley Vintners Go to Washington

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Napa Valley Vintners are in Washington DC this week to lobby for a number of initiatives
Napa Valley Vintners are in Washington DC this week to lobby for a number of initiatives, including more funding for fire mitigation and smoke exposure research and more protection of the Napa Valley name.

The advocacy meetings started Tuesday and end Thursday in Washington D.C. with members of Congress and administration and federal agency officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau.

The delegation includes Napa Valley Vintners members, including board chairman Cyril Chappellet.

One issue to be discussed this week is protection for the Napa Valley name. Both Kentucky Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey are “distinctive products” of the United States, a protection recognized by other countries.

“We believe the Napa Valley name should receive the same level of protection,” said Rex Stults, vice president of industry relations at Napa Valley Vintners

The Napa Valley name has been ripped off and misused around the world for years, Stults said.

“I think it’s appropriate to ask for this because of what Napa Valley represents in the world of New World wine,” Stults said.

Napa Valley Vintners helped found in 2005 the organization Wine Origins Alliance to protect places names. Wine Origins Alliance was expected to welcome at a reception Thursday in Washington D.C. three new U.S. members: the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail and the Old Mission Peninsula Wine Trail in Michigan; and the Virginia Wineries Association.

Napa Valley Vintners’ other top priorities include supporting fire mitigation and protection programs.

The trade association continues to support Napa County’s efforts to obtain federal funding for fire mitigation, including funding for a Napa Firewise mitigation project near St. Helena Hospital near St. Helena.

The trade association also draw attention to a bipartisan proposal by U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., to help property owners protect homes and businesses against wildfires through grants and tax credits.

The vintners also planned to address property insurance costs and availability. It Is a “critical issue,” said Michelle Novi, counsel and senior director of industry relations at Napa Valley Vintners.

The federal government should step in and provide a backstop for insurance companies that would limit insurance liabilities when disasters hit. That would allow them to remain in the market and continue to write policies, Novi said. “We need innovative solutions,” she added.

U.S. Rep Adam Schiff, D-Calif., in January introduced the “Incorporating Support for Unprecedented Risks and Emergencies” – or INSURE bill to stabilize the property insurance market. If approved, it would cap insurers’ liability through a new federal program; participating insurance companies would be required to provide disaster coverage and mitigation. Thompson is listed as a co-sponsor.

The vintners also planned to discuss this week the U.S. Farm Bill, which has remained in limbo in Congress. The bill is supposed to be reauthorized every 5 years to fund agriculture, nutrition, conservation and other programs.

Napa Valley Vintners want permanent funding for smoke exposure research, Novi said.

In addition, the vintners seek support for USDA’s animal and plant inspection service, Novi said. Keeping the program well-funded is important as the wine industry deals with pests, she said.

The vintners also want better staffing for USDA’s Farm Service Agency which helps farmers and ranchers during natural disasters.

The U.S. Farm bill covers federally-subsidized catastrophic crop insurance policies.

Napa Valley Vintners supports changes to the crop insurance program. Current crop insurance rules required that the fruit must be tested for wildfire smoke damage while still on the vine. Crop insurance policy holders who pick their fruit only to find out later the wine shows wildfire smoke damage should still be able to utilize their crop insurance, the vintners have argued.

The other vintners signed up to participate in this week’s trip included: Malek Amrani co-founder of The Vice; Kellie Duckhorn, general manager, Baldacci Family Vineyards; Dawnine Dyer, winemaker, Dyer Vineyard; Andy Erickson, winemaker, Favia; Ed Matovcik, vice president of public affairs Robert Mondavi Winery; Carlton McCoy, president and CEO, Heitz Cellar; John Skupny, owner, Lang & Reed Napa Valley; Emma Swain, CEO, St. Supéry Estate Vineyards & Winery; Schatzi Throckmorton, general manager and proprietor, Relic Wine Cellars; and Donna Walker, owner of Pulido-Walker Estate Vineyard and Winery.