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Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.

Category archives for “wine lawyer”

Custom Crush vs. Alternating Proprietorship: Starting a Cheaper Wine Business

October 13th, 2014

There is a long running joke that it is easy to make a million dollars in the wine industry, you just start with two million dollars. Joking aside, there are relatively low cost ways that you can get started in the wine business, without having to invest in planting your own vines and building your own winery. These options allow you to get started making and building your brand without having the considerable overhead of vineyards and winery buildings. Two ways exist of doing this: you can enter into a custom crush relationship with an existing winery to make wine for you, or you can get your own winery license, based at an existing licensed winery, in what is referred to as an alternating proprietorship or AP arrangement. In both cases, you own and develop your own wine brand or brands. We have put together some information on both systems here, and also recommend that you read the full Industry Circular from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) on the differences between them.

Custom Crush

In a custom crush situation, you contract with a winery to make wine for you. Even if the grapes that are used for the wine are grown or purchased by you, the produced wine belongs to the winery until state and federal excise taxes are paid and it is sold to another properly licensed entity. The winery gets the label approval and maintains all records and reports. You, as the brand owner, generally obtain a wholesale license so that you can buy the tax-paid wine from the winery and then resell it to wholesalers and retailers, depending on your state licensing. Each state has a different way of managing this. In Oregon, for example, custom crush customers often get a state winery license alongside a federal wholesale license. In California, it is possible for a wholesaler to also obtain a retail license and market wine direct to consumers, although shipping to other states with such a license is limited to the small number of states which allow an out-of-state retailer to ship to their residents.

Alternating Proprietorship (AP)

The TTB will allow licensed premises to alternate between owners, such as in an AP agreement where more than one winery is licensed in the same location. Premises can also alternate between types of licenses, so that a facility can alternate between a winery and a brewery or distillery, for example. In an AP situation, the TTB will allow more than one licensee to operate a winery in the same location, and even for some of the same staff to be used, provided that each owner makes independent decisions evidencing authority and control over the winemaking process. The TTB requires and will review the written AP agreement between the parties, often referred to as “host” and “tenant,” to make sure that each licensee has a bona fide plan to conduct its own winery operations. Although an AP arrangement involves more permitting and recordkeeping than the custom crush approach, it carries some significant benefits. First, the AP tenant is licensed as a winery and will be able to benefit from the rights of a winery licensee in that state. These can include being able to sell direct to consumer in almost all states, operate one or more tasting rooms, and produce or blend other types of alcohol. Second, an AP tenant is likely to be eligible for the small domestic producer tax credit, as production is based only on the AP tenant’s production, which is not likely to exceed 250,000 gallons in the start-up phase (note that there are no minimum federal production requirements for a winery but California, for example, requires at least 201 gallons of wine a year to be made by a licensed winery). It should be noted that winery licensing under an AP agreement may trigger some grape sourcing requirements that you should be aware of, and you will need to research local planning issues more closely in an AP structure than a custom crush relationship.

If you are interested in learning more about custom crush and alternating proprietorships in California or elsewhere, contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2014 · All Rights Reserved ·

TTB Reconsiders Use of “Estate Bottled” Following a Winery Sale

May 21st, 2014

To be labeled as “estate bottled,” a wine must be, among other things, made from grapes grown in an American Viticultural Area, on land that is owned or “controlled by” the winery, and the winery must crush, finish, age and bottle the wine in a continuous process.

Previous guidance from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (“TTB”) suggested that a wine would not be entitled to use the “estate bottled” designation if a change of ownership of the winery occurred at any point during the winemaking process, because the new owner technically would not have “controlled” all phases of the process. To address this issue, sellers and buyers of wineries that produce “estate bottled” wines would sometimes enter into an Alternating Proprietorship Agreement (“AP”) whereby the seller would maintain its bonded winery operations until all wine in process at the winery as of the closing date had been bottled and labeled. This approach was difficult for both sellers and buyers, given that the AP could be in effect for a lengthy period of time depending on which stage of production the “estate bottled” wine was in.

In a recent private letter ruling, the TTB advised that it has reconsidered its position and that the proprietor of a winery can  use an “estate bottled” designation for wine that was grown and fermented by a predecessor proprietor and bottled by a new proprietor (provided the wine also met the other requirements under 27 C.F.R. § 4.26). The ruling provides that the ownership of a winery may change while the wine is in process as long as the bottling winery does not change. The TTB further explains that the definition of “controlled by” refers to the land on which the grapes are grown and the winery operates, as opposed to the owner of such land. With a change in winery ownership, the “estate” land is not altered, and thus the new owner can maintain the “estate bottled” designation.

This guidance from the TTB should come as a welcome relief to potential purchasers and sellers of wineries that produce “estate bottled” wines.

For questions about the acquisition or sale of a winery, please contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2014 · All Rights Reserved ·

Dan Kramer Featured in The San Francisco Examiner!

February 3rd, 2014

Strike & Techel’s own Dan Kramer was featured in an article in Sunday’s San Francisco Examiner. Dan was interviewed for the article “Want to be in the booze business in SF? Better know the law” in which he discusses his experience in the alcoholic beverage industry, including the complications and expenses of obtaining a retail license in San Francisco, California promotional issues, as well as distribution and direct shipping. As Dan pointed out, alcoholic beverage legal issues can not only be complicated, but they are often not on people’s radar as they venture into the industry. If you’re just getting started in the industry or have any questions about retail licensing, distribution, direct shipping, or just about anything else in the industry, call Dan or one of the other attorneys at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2014 · All Rights Reserved

Getting Started in the Business: Licensing

December 12th, 2013

This blog entry is part of a continuing series discussing important steps to get started in the alcoholic beverage industry. Once you have pinpointed a location for your business (discussed in a previous post, here), you will need to obtain a license, or a combination of licenses, before you commence operations.  To determine what type(s) of license(s) you need, here are some answers to questions you may be asking:

*   Do the Tied-House Laws Permit Me to Hold the Licenses I Want?  Federally and across all states, “tied house” laws generally prohibit the same person or entity from having an ownership interest in alcohol beverage businesses in more than one of the 3 tiers -manufacturing/importing, distribution and retail.  (To learn more about tied house laws, review this post.)  However, that restriction is far from absolute.  Many statutory exceptions have been carved out of the 3-tier system to permit cross-tier licensing and the resulting patchwork of exceptions can be difficult to comprehend.  For example, in California, wineries can also own restaurants (subject to restrictions) and certain off-sale retail stores.  Small breweries (less than 60,000 barrels/year) can own on-sale retailers but large breweries cannot.  Beer and wine wholesalers cannot also be retailers, unless they sell only wine through the retail store.  Other states have their own set of hard-to-explain exceptions.

*   What Does My License Permit Me to Do?  The general rule is that manufacturers sell to wholesalers; wholesalers sell to retailers; and retailers sell to consumers.  But this, too, is riddled with exceptions.  California wineries and breweries can sell their products directly to retailers and consumers without using a distributor, but distilled spirits manufacturers can sell only to distributors and cannot themselves hold a distributor license.  Rectifiers, on the other hand, can act as their own distributor and sell their products – and spirits products made by anyone else – directly to retailers.  Moreover, you may need more than one license to operate your business.  For example, if you are going to be operating a distillery, you will need a Type 4 (Distilled Spirits Manufacturer’s license), and a Type 6 (Still) license.  If you are importing distilled spirits from outside of California and distributing them to retailers you’ll need a Type 12 (Distilled Spirits Importer), and a Type 18 (Distilled Spirits Wholesaler).  California issues dozens of different licenses so it is important to know exactly what you want to do, which licenses are needed to accomplish it, and whether you are eligible to hold them.

*   What are the Processing Times to Obtain a License?  In California, it takes about 90-120 days to process an application for a new license, and slightly less time to transfer an existing license at a premises that is already licensed. It will take longer to process an application that is incomplete, contested by neighboring residents or the local authorities, or filed incorrectly.  Also keep in mind that the ABC cannot issue a license until it has received confirmation from the City/County that all required use permits have been obtained.  Each applicant will be assigned a local ABC investigator to handle the application until the process is completed.  Currently, U.S. Alcohol Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau (“TTB”) licenses are processing in about 90 days, similar to California licenses.

*   May I Obtain a Temporary Permit?  Provided that you are transferring an existing license at an already licensed premises, the California ABC may grant a temporary permit so you may operate your business while the license transfer application is being processed. A temporary permit is not available in connection with applications for new licenses or applications to transfer existing licenses to a premises that has not been previously licensed.

*    What Are the Costs Involved?  Depending on what type(s) of license(s) applied for, the cost can vary considerably.  A schedule of license costs is available here.  Some retail licenses are limited in numbers and must be purchased on the open market.  Prices for these licenses vary greatly by type and location.  For instance, a Type-47 (On-sale general eating place) may sell for $200,000 in San Francisco, whereas the same type of license in Fresno County currently only costs $12,000.

In conjunction with your ABC application, you may also need to obtain other federal, state or local licenses/permits.   In California this may include, for example:  federal licenses through the TTB; a certification from the Secretary of State that you are qualified to do business in the state; and a sales tax permit from the State Board of Equalization.

Contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel if you have questions about applying for a license to get started in the alcohol beverage business.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2013 · All Rights Reserved ·

Wine Growlers From a Keg

October 29th, 2013

Keg wine is a growing trend. Packaging and selling wine in kegs has a lot of advantages. Wine kegs are refillable and reusable. Wineries save on packaging costs, and restaurants enjoy the convenience of serving many customers without constantly uncorking bottles.

Alcohol laws dictating permissible containers and packaging for wine are expanding in concert with retailer and consumer interest in keg wine. For example:

- Effective July 1, 2013, Florida allows the sale of wine in 5.16 gallon canisters, which can be tapped like kegs, to restaurants and bars.

- Effective April 1, 2013, Oregon allows any wine shop, grocery store, wine bar or restaurant to buy wine by the keg and resell it to consumers by the glass, or in some establishments, consumers can fill their own containers in a size that is 2 gallons or less.

Most states continue to have restrictions on this “growler” type of service by a wine shop. Those restrictions comport with federal rules saying that packages cannot be filled with wine except at a winery or at a “tax paid bottling house.”

We expect to see more legislation in the coming months and years if this trend continues.

If you have any questions about keg wine, feel free to consult one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2013 · All Rights Reserved ·

Strike & Techel Speaking at Upcoming Conferences

October 15th, 2013

Barry Strike will be a presenter at the International Wine Law Association (AIDV) International Conference on October 18-20 in Vienna, Austria.  This annual conference brings together speakers and participants from around the world to discuss global strategies for legal issues related to the wine industry.  Barry will present on U.S. regulatory agencies available to assist international wine companies.

Kristen Techel will be speaking at the Wine Law Forum on Friday November 22, from 9:00am-5:00pm at Hotel Paradox in Santa Cruz, California.  Kristen will share her expertise on the emerging role of third party providers in a discussion entitled “Third Party Providers:  Unlicensed Participants in a Licensed Industry.”  The event is co-sponsored by the International Wine Law Association (AIDV).

If you would like more information on the AIDV organization or about either conference, please click here.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2013 · All Rights Reserved ·

Winery Direct Shipping Coming Soon to Montana

August 26th, 2013

Starting October 1, 2013, Montana will allow the direct shipment of wine to Montana residents by wineries that hold a Direct Shipment Endorsement. Holders of a Direct Shipment Endorsement may sell and directly ship up to 18 nine-liter cases of wine annually to an individual in Montana who is at least 21 years of age. Any in-state or out-of-state winery that is already registered with the Montana Department of Revenue must pay $50 and file associated paperwork to receive a Direct Shipment Endorsement, and wineries not already registered with the state will be able to simultaneously register with the state and apply for a Direct Shipper Endorsement. Applicants must submit a signed affidavit that they will contract only with common carriers that agree that wine will be delivered only to an individual in Montana who is at least 21 years old and who signs upon receipt of the wine. Records may be due every month and every quarter, and must be held for state inspection for up to three years. All taxes must be paid quarterly and tax records submitted monthly (by the 15th date of the following month) to the Department of Revenue. If a holder of a Direct Shipment Endorsement uses a bonded wine warehouse for fulfillment purposes, the endorsement holder must file a written notice that includes the name and address of the warehouse. The state also requires pre-approval of all wine labels to be shipped into the state. Stay tuned as Montana will likely issue regulations and step-by-step instructions in the coming months.

If you have any questions about shipping wine directly to Montana residents, or residents of any other state, contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2013 · All Rights Reserved ·

TTB Says Alcohol Content Can Move to the Back Label for Wine

June 10th, 2013

Announced today, and effective August 9, 2013, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (the TTB) has announced changes to its labeling requirements for wine. Amending 27 CFR 4.32, the alcohol content for wine no longer must appear on the brand label, and instead it may be printed on the brand label or on other labels affixed to the bottle, including the back label. The TTB also amended 27 CFR 4.36 to the effect that wines with alcohol content of at least 7 percent and no more than 14 percent may still be labeled with either (a) the designation of “light wine” or “table wine” on the brand label, or (b) the numerical alcohol content of the wine. The new amendments do not permit the “light wine” or “table wine” designations to appear on any label other than the brand label. A new COLA is not required if the only change made to an approved label is the relocation of the alcohol content statement.  If you have any questions about labeling, contact an attorney at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2013 · All Rights Reserved ·

Recent California Statutory Revisions Clarify the Scope of Permissible Retailer Listings by Suppliers

April 29th, 2013

Effective January 1, 2013, California AB 2349 amended Business and Professions Code Section 25500.1 and repealed Section 25500.2. The two sections (25500.1 and 25500.2) were duplicative in that both permitted suppliers to list the names of two or more restaurants that carry their products.  Section 25500.2 included beer, wine and distilled spirits suppliers, while 25500.1 pertained to suppliers of wine and brandy. The newly amended 25500.1 covers suppliers of beer, wine and distilled spirits. In addition to consolidating the two laws, the newly amended Section 25500.1 removes the requirement that the listed on-sale retailers be restaurants – suppliers can now list bars and clubs that do not serve food. The new Section 25500.1 also clarifies that suppliers can list “other electronic media” with the retailers’ names, addresses and websites, which would include the retailers’ twitter accounts, Facebook pages, and other social media forums.

The revised Section 25500.1 parallels the existing and unchanged Section 25502.1, which pertains to supplier listings of off-sale retailers. Section 25502.1 has not been revised to include “other electronic media” as a means to list the retailers’ information, but we believe it is intended to parallel the on-sale provisions of Section 25500.1. Note that the on-sale and off-sale statutes both include restrictions, e.g., the listings may not include retail prices; the supplier must list at least two unaffiliated retailers; and the retailer may not pay for the listing.

For information about these statutes or any other California trade practices questions, please contact any of the attorneys at Strike and Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2013 · All Rights Reserved ·

Strike & Techel Welcomes Dan Kramer, Linda Gago-Seco and Manny Diaz

December 12th, 2012

Strike & Techel is pleased to announce three recent additions to its alcoholic beverage licensing practice.

Daniel Kramer joins Strike & Techel as a partner. Mr. Kramer represents local and national hotel, restaurant and general retail companies in all aspects of alcoholic beverage licensing, including license acquisitions and transfers, entity structuring, and the preparation of concession agreements, interim management agreements, and restaurant purchase and sale agreements.

Linda Gago-Seco joins Strike & Techel as a paralegal. Ms. Gago-Seco has spent the last 14 years as an alcoholic beverage licensing specialist and previously worked for the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Manny Diaz joins Strike & Techel as a consultant. Mr. Diaz previously worked for the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control for over 30 years, including as Assistant Director of the Northern Division, before becoming a licensing consultant.

We are thrilled to have Dan, Linda and Manny join us.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2012 · All Rights Reserved ·