Home Wine Business Editorial Expert Editorial WineAmerica’s D.C. Fly-In: 42 Members, 83 Meetings, New Officers

WineAmerica’s D.C. Fly-In: 42 Members, 83 Meetings, New Officers

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Earlier this month, more than 40 people from wineries, winery associations and suppliers (representing 15 different states) traveled to our nation’s capital for
direct contact with their legislators.

By Jim Trezise

Tara Good, WineAmerica, Sarah Braganini, St. Julian Winery, MI, Congressman Tim Walberg (MI), John Braganini, St. Julian Winery, MI [Photo courtesy WineAmerica]

WineAmerica, the National Association of American Wineries, held its annual “fly-in” to Washington, D.C., on May 7 and 8, with more than 40 members from around the country convening to meet with their Senators and Representatives about WineAmerica’s legislative and regulatory priorities.

This was lobbying on steroids. All year, WineAmerica’s D.C.-based staff members meet and communicate with legislators and regulators on behalf of the American wine industry, which brings results. But personal contact from local constituents who have actually traveled to Washington — sometimes all the way across the country — has a huge impact that resonates throughout the year.

Dana Huber, Huber Winery & Vineyards and Donnie Winchell, Ohio Wine Producers [Photo courtesy WineAmerica]

WineAmerica has winery, association and supplier members from 46 states (which have 92 Senators, and hundreds of Representatives), providing potentially widespread legislative support for issues vital to the American wine industry. This fly-in was expertly orchestrated by WA’s Executive Vice President and Director of Government Affairs Michael Kaiser and Vice President of Development Tara Good.

In addition to the three-person WineAmerica staff, more than 40 people from wineries, winery associations and suppliers (representing 15 different states) traveled to our nation’s Capital for direct contact with their legislators. That personal touch in D.C., while happening only once each year, is a vitally important part of WineAmerica’s overall lobbying efforts. Legislators want to hear directly from their constituents and to understand why our issues are important to their states’ economies.

Facetime with Policymakers

Nature controls the climate for growing grapes, and all we can do is react accordingly. But people control the business climate, so it’s our responsibility to educate them.

The first stop was an hour-long meeting with TTB Administrator Mary Ryan and her executive staff in their conference room. She emphasized the agency’s intention to help small businesses such as wineries, and said “simplicity is great” when it comes to regulatory actions. Kaiser thanked her for that attitude, and various WineAmerica members brought up different topics for discussion, including the process for examining possible ingredient labeling in the future, the importance and benefits of TTB’s label approval process and other matters. It was a very pleasant and fruitful exchange.

Leading up to the two-day fly-in, Kaiser had scheduled more than 80 individual meetings, providing each WineAmerica representative with a precise schedule for the two afternoons of lobbying. Members of WineAmerica’s Executive Committee met with staff and leadership of key committees such as Agriculture, Oversight and Ways & Means, while members fanned out to the key offices in their respective states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.

Debra Dommen, Treasury Wine Estates, CA, Moya Dolsby, Idaho Wine Commission, Dana Huber, Huber Winery & Vineyards, IN, Scott Osborn, Fox Run Vineyard, NY [Photo courtesy WineAmerica]

For each meeting, there were detailed “leave-behind” documents on WineAmerica’s priorities. These described the issue, wine industry impact, WineAmerica’s position and detailed background. The issues included:

  • Farm Bill;
  • Agritourism Bill;
  • USDA Vineyard Data Research Funding;
  • United States Postal Service Shipping;
  • Agricultural Labor;
  • TTB Nutritional Labeling Proposals; and
  • US Dietary Guidelines.

Networking and Transitioning

In addition to the TTB and many Capitol Hill visits, the visiting group enjoyed a breakfast at the Old Ebbitt Grill, the oldest saloon in D.C. (created in 1856, it’s a popular hangout for White House press corps). And a gourmet dinner at Art & Soul restaurant in the superb Yotel hotel near Capitol Hill wowed the crowd.

The WineAmerica business meetings included a transition in leadership, which occurs every two years. Debra Dommen, vice president of government and industry affairs for Treasury Wine Estates Americas, stepped aside as chair of the board but will remain on the Executive Committee.

The new chair is Scott Osborn, co-owner and president of Fox Run Vineyards in New York’s Finger Lakes region. Replacing him as vice chair is Dana Huber, vice president of distribution and public relations at Huber Winery and Starlight Distillery in Indiana, who had served as WA’s treasurer for two years. The new treasurer is Chris Brundrett, founder and winemaker at William Chris Vineyards in Texas.

Tara Good, WineAmerica, and Kelly Bostock, Dos Cabezas Wine works, AZ [Photo courtesy WineAmerica]

The WineAmerica Board and members of the State and Regional Associations Advisory Council  (SRAAC) all thanked Dommen for her excellent leadership over the past two years.

Critical Communication

In addition to the annual fly-ins each May, WineAmerica hosts a fall meeting in different wine regions of the country. Last November’s meeting was in Traverse City, Mich., and this fall’s will take place November 19-20 in Paso Robles, Calif. WineAmerica also publishes two weekly e-newsletters, hosts monthly Zooms of its SRAAC and Government Affairs Committee, and organizes special listening sessions on various topics of vital interest to the American wine industry.

WineAmerca’s website has a wealth of information that should be of interest to all wineries, including the opportunity for membership in the only national association of American wineries.

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Jim Trezise

Jim Trezise

Jim Trezise is president of WineAmerica (WA), the only national wine industry association in the United States. WA is a 500-member strong organization that encourages the growth and development of American wineries and winegrowing through the advancement and advocacy of sound public policy. Membership is encouraged to support the important work of WA, which benefits all U.S. wineries. Go to wineamerica.org for more information.

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