Posted on November 19, 2014
A recent brew-ha-ha erupted in California when the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control dropped a hammer on a number of California wineries that inadvertently violated the “tied house” rules by re-tweeting a seemingly harmless notice published by the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau advising their followers of a wine tasting event that was sponsored by a wine retailer.
The offending tweet? Behold, the horror —
Two days till @SaveMart Grape Escape in Downtown #Sacramento! Get tickets and info here: http://bit.ly/U7XFVq.
The problem is that the tweet violates the rule that alcohol producers are prohibited from promoting specific retailers to the detriment of others. Eight wineries were investigated for social media activity that mentioned the retailer SaveMart, and were compelled to turn over to ABC all social media postings and emails related to the event. ABC threatened to suspend their licenses for 10 days (during which time they would be unable to sell anything), or admit the offense and be placed on probation; all eight chose the latter penalty.
Read all about it in The Sacramento Bee (“Tweets cause trouble for Sacramento-area wineries, breweries,” by Chris Macias (8 November 2014)).
Tied-house laws go back a very long time. In England a “tied-house” is a “public house” (pub) owned by a brewery or distillery that, naturally, promotes its own product. They are shamelessly all over London. Tied-houses were legal in the States until that grand experiment known as Prohibition, but with its repeal and the creation of the three-tiered system of manufacturer-wholesaler-retailer, where common ownership in two of the three is prohibited, out went the tied-house. The thinking was that the tied-house encouraged the over-consumption of alcohol, because a common practice was to offer a “free lunch” while the consumer paid for drinks. The public policy rationale is to prevent vertical integration and dominance by a single producer in the marketplace.
The rules seem to have outlived their usefulness, and each state has a confusing array of exceptions. For example, in California if a person who owns a winery has an economic interest in several restaurants, they can sell their wine in a maximum of two restaurants, and the winery cannot supply more than 15 percent of the alcoholic beverages there. And if the winery sells more than 125,000 gallons per year in California, they must supply the wine to the restaurant through a wholesaler.
Tied-House Laws in Virginia
Virginia’s Administrative Code specifies what is allowed in the context of tied-house rules, but its the Code of Federal Regulations that singles out the provision of “things of value” in the context of the tied-house:
[It shall be unlawful ...] To induce through any of the following means … by furnishing, giving, renting, lending, or selling to the retailer, any equipment, fixtures, signs, supplies, money, services, or other thing of value . . . . 27 United States Code, Chapter 8, Subchapter I, Section 205
Virginia’s tied house laws aren’t nearly as Draconian as California’s, but in the last year Virginia had its own tied-house controversy, when the Virginia ABC put a stop to distributor-hosted wine tastings and dinners. As reported by Rebecca Cooper in The Washington Business Journal, “Virginia restaurants get reprieve on wine dinner crackdown” (10 April 2014):
The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control started cracking down on the dinners in 2013, using the logic that the ABC law prohibited wine wholesalers and distributors from providing anything of value to retailers that sell alcohol — in the case of wine dinners, that thing of value was information about the wine they were drinking.
Restaurants subsequently cancelled wine dinners they had planned to put on with wholesalers, who often sell a significant amount of wine to customers at those dinners.
But a bill signed into law by Gov. Terry McAuliffe on March 31  specifies that wholesalers providing information to customers of retail establishments is not prohibited.
“Nothing in this title or any Board regulation adopted pursuant thereto shall prohibit … Any winery, farm winery, wine importer, or wine wholesaler licensee from providing to adult customers of licensed retail establishments information about wine being consumed on such premises,” the bill, S.B. 337, reads.
One section of the Virginia Administrative Code strangely singles out employees. If, for example, a person working as a secretary at a distributor cannot take a job moonlighting as a bartender, because it would violate the sanctity of the three-tiered system and is therefore illegal (Virginia Administrative Code 3 VAC5-30-20). The Virginia ABC used that as an example of a prohibited practice in a notice to licensees in 2012). There is, fortunately, an exception for banquet licensees, farm wineries and off-premises winery licensees.
It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.
– Gore Vidal (1925-2012)
Going back to the story from Sacramento, something particularly pernicious needs examination, because what is galling to this wine producer is how this tweet came to the attention of the California ABC. The story reports that a multibillion dollar wine company has a legal department dedicated to ferreting out transgressions and reporting them to the understaffed ABC:
[Joe] Genshlea [a co-owner of Revolution Wines, one of those penalized] said he spoke with an ABC agent who said the department was getting swamped with tied-house accusations. The uptick in complaints, Genshlea was told, was a concerted effort by a certain large-scale producer.
“He wouldn’t say the name of the company, but they have a huge team of legal assistants, and they scour the Web looking for people to violate,” Genshlea said. “He said it was a multibillion-dollar producer … one of the big ones.”
ABC declined a request by The Bee to name the producer(s) logging the tied-house complaints.
Alcoholic Beverage Advertising Restrictions
All alcoholic beverage advertising is permitted in this Commonwealth except that which is prohibited or otherwise limited or restricted by regulation of the board. Any editorial or other reading matter in any periodical, publication or newspaper for the publication of which no money or other valuable consideration is paid or promised, directly or indirectly, by or for the benefits of any permittee or licensee does not constitute advertising.
“‘Electronic media’ means any system involving the transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, television, electromagnetic, photoelectronic, or photo-optical system, including but not limited to, radio, television, electronic mail, and the Internet.”
And blogging? While we see it as a tool promoting “brand awareness;” the goal is the same as advertising, but there is definitely no compensation. If blogging is accepted by ABC to be alcoholic beverage advertising, in the eyes of this observer, this blog is safe.
But — are tweets, Facebook posts and other electronic transmissions protected? Just like California, Virginia ABC could decide that a tweet by a winery or wholesaler that inadvertently promotes a retailer violates the tied-house rule. Advertising is expensive, so if tweets and posts are deemed to be “free advertising” that benefits a retailer, then ABC has something to hang its hat on and pursue the producer. If complaints start rolling in, it could happen.
We might add that alcoholic beverage advertising in connection with the sponsorship of public events is allowed, but limited to sponsorship of conservation and environmental programs, athletic and sporting events (but not college or younger), and events of a charitable or cultural nature. Cooperative advertising is prohibited, and awards or contributions of alcoholic beverages to the event are prohibited. Further, the charitable organization must be tax-exempt. See 3VAC5-20-100. But promoting a retailer? It is not allowed in the Code.
So Virginia wineries that use Twitter (or any other social media platform) — beware! We all need to be more vigilant about this strange intersection of social awareness as promotion, and actual advertising. Sometimes they are one and the same (in the cold gimlet, jaundiced eye of the law). So wineries — please be mindful of the tied-house rules and don’t risk your license and your livelihood. See the rules here and the penalties here.
Success in Social Media Advertising
Millennials measure wealth not by possessions but by experiences. They enrich their lives by accumulating experiences from their travels, hobbies, volunteering, relationships … and the stories of those experiences become the new social currency for a target that’s “always on.”
That’s why, for millennials, sharing visual artifacts of their experiences is core to the relationships, building their identity. The digital world provides a unique environment to facilitate that sharing with unparalleled access and reach. Brands that are able to integrate seamlessly into millennials’ desires to share and communicate are the most successful.
Posted on November 12, 2014
Over the last two weekends the Southern Virginia Wine Trail Association presented Taste of SoVA, a food and wine pairing adventure. Guests obtained a passport that lists all of the member wineries, and on visits to each received specially prepared food from local restaurants to accompany their wines. The trail has a large footprint, so it made sense to divide it roughly in half, so November 1 featured the trail’s west end, November 8 covered the entire trail, and this coming Saturday, November 15 will showcase the east end. Passports for this weekend are available at a cost of $15, and can be purchased at the member wineries. You can see a list on the new SoVA Wine Trail Guide, now available to download to iPhone and Android phones.
We teamed up with Charley’s Waterfront Café in Farmville. We have a special regard for Charley’s; they were our first wholesale account and remain a great customer. One of the owners, Tommy Graziano, spent the day with us preparing the food. We served a Low Country-style fried oyster with crab roe, apple-cider cole slaw with chopped green onions and sea salt on a Ritz cracker. The chef insisted on the Ritz cracker — that’s what makes it “Low Country.” If you’re unfamiliar with the term, for Foodies it describes the rich culinary traditions of coastal South Carolina and Georgia — picture Charleston, Savannah, Edisto Island — refined, languorous and oh so Southern. The oyster was perfect with our 2013 Viognier.
The second bite was a scrumptious sweet called Chocolate Royale, a chocolate ganache with almond succes, gianduja feuilletine on a crunchy bed of almonds and hazelnuts. That was paired with our 2012 Merlot and 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon.
Many thanks to Tommy for the food and the stories! He always keeps us in stitches sharing his adventures. And many thanks to Pamela Toombs, our who graciously and tirelessly tends to the tasting room. But it’s your turn to create your own– come to Southside and see us!
Start the day early with Rosemont of Virginia (they open at 11 am), then stop in the lakeside town of Clarksville for lunch at either The Lake House or The Lamplighter. From Clarksville, make your way north on Route 15 to see us. From Annefield, head west to Hunting Creek Vineyards, followed by Bright Meadows Farm, make your way to Sans Soucy Vineyards, and finish up at DeVault Family Vineyards. Here’s our suggested itinerary. But if you’re traveling from the north and starting near Lynchburg, just reverse the route, start with DeVault, and plan on lunch as your next stop at The Drug Store Grill in Brookneal. Done!
Posted on November 5, 2014
It’s a bit late, but here’s the last post on our European idyll this summer. We kept getting distracted by more pressing matters.
After a couple of perilous wrong turns in Bristol, England, we made it to the Bristol Airport for a quick hop over to to Dublin for the last few days on the Emerald Isle. Our hotel on Harcourt Street was a great location, close to everything, but it was also in the heart of the busiest nightclub district in Dublin, which mean’t lots of activity into the wee hours of the night — lots of shouting, car horns, music. Patrons being booted out of the clubs at 5 am, that sort of thing.
Dublin has a gritty charm, like many northern cities. Think Baltimore or Providence or Philadelphia, and you get the vibe. Interesting sights include the Guinness Storehouse, a multi-media extravaganza that shows how Guinness beer is brewed, and with a roof-top bar with phenomenal views. The National Gallery is undergoing restoration, but a selection of masterpieces can be seen, including works by Vermeer and Caravaggio. The Archaelogical Museum had breathtaking displays of Celtic art, jewelry and antiquities, and a sobering display of perfectly preserved prehistoric bog bodies. The peat bogs are a wonder, anything that gets buried in them does not decay. There were exhibits of medieval and Renaissance clothing recovered from bogs that looked like it was made yesterday.
Don’t forget the famous Book of Kells in the Old Library at Trinity College. The Long Room of the Old Library is what one wants in such a place, with ancient tomes running floor to ceiling and marble busts of great luminaries at the end of each shelf. The lavishly decorated Book of Kells is unlike any other, dating from the 9th century. Visiting it is a bit of a disappointment, for school group after school group crowds around, and fail to understand the importance or attraction. The students barely glance at it.
We spent a day exploring the villages south of Dublin. One called Sandycove included a James Joyce Museum in what is known as a Martello tower. The towers date from 1804 and were built as a defense against our dear friend Napoleon Bonaparte. The tower was occupied by the army until 1897, and in 1904 Oliver St. John Gogarty became the tower’s first civilian tenant. During his occupation, the tower hosted a visit by James Joyce, who stayed but a few days (and was unceremoniously asked to leave). As the tower’s brochure puts it,
On the sixth night of Joyce’s stay, Trench (Samuel Chenevix Trench, a friend of Gogarty’s) had a nightmare about a black panther. With a scream he reached for his gun, fired a few shots into the fireplace and fell asleep again. Gogarty then took the gun, called out “Leave him to me!” and shot down the saucepans from their shelf over Joyce’s bed. Joyce took the hint and left the tower immediately, never to return. A month later he eloped to Europe with Nora Barnacle, to begin a life of self-imposed exile.
While resident for just six days, this incident was the model for the opening sense of Joyce’s Ulysses. The museum exhibits include first editions of most of Joyce’s works, manuscripts, personal possessions, and death masks of the great writer.
Apart from the touring destinations, two establishments stand out: one night in search of place to have drinks we chanced upon a new restaurant called Pedal Pushing Monkey on Pembroke Street in search of a drink. Behind the bar were two mixologists; the place had just gotten their liquor license and they were working on selections for the bar menu, so we let them experiment on us. Everyone was charming and accommodating and delightful, and the drinks superb. We ended up staying for dinner. Its right upstairs from Dax, a French restaurant that in 2014 was named the best restaurant in Dublin — the accolades must rub off.
On our last night we had reservations at a restaurant equally close to the hotel but in the other direction, Camden Kitchen, which serves cutting edge comfort food in an intimate two-story space. Loved it.
Pedal Pushing Monkey, 23 Pembroke Street Upper, Dublin, Ireland +353 1 661 8636
Camden Kitchen, 3A, Camden Market, Grantham St, Dublin 8, Ireland +353 1 476 0125
Posted on October 29, 2014
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
– William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Macbeth, Act 4, Scene 1
This Friday begins that trifecta of macabre commemoration: Halloween, All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day.
First up is the most secular (and ancient) of the three, Halloween, which has devolved into a festival of sugar-coated gluttony for children. It has roots in Celtic pagan rituals, particularly one called Samhain, which was a celebration of the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter. It’s also a time of year when spirits could more easily cross into this world and visit their old homes, so offerings would have to be made to them to ensure the survival of livestock through the winter. Offerings of food and drink were made to them. Pranks were played, in imitation of impish demons. Costumes in the guise of repugnant, frightening beings came much later, in the late 19th century and continue today with appearances by witches, vampires, ghosts, skeletons, devils, zombies and the like — perhaps the guys sporting the ultra-tacky Ray Rice costumes are onto something. We’re dealing with a tradition that’s been going strong for a couple of thousand years.
Next up is All Saint’s Day on November 1. In the Catholic tradition we commemorate the saints and martyrs. This is followed by All Soul’s Day, which is the day set aside to pray and remembrance of the departed who don’t happen to be saints. Or martyrs. The difference is All Saint’s is for those who have been “beatified,” while All Souls is for those who have not — that is, those who have not been purified and reached Heaven. In a nutshell, everybody else. This tradition is of more recent vintage, dating from 835 AD.
There are varying traditions worldwide commemorating the end of the harvest, all rooted in an ancient appreciation for the celebrating the harvest, the passing of the seasons and preparing for the dark days ahead as we look forward to another spring. Not surprisingly, most of these traditions involve food. In parts of the South, All Soul’s Day is the day to visit cemeteries, clean tombstones and, of course, leave flowers. Usually this includes a picnic, as if you are joining the dead for a meal. Many ancient European traditions included feasts that provide for leaving place settings for the departed.
Whether you observe these feast days as a Christian or a pagan, to us it means the end of our regular open hours. With the close of Virginia Wine Month, we switch to our abbreviated winter hours. From November through the end of March, we are open on Friday and Saturday, 11 am to 5 pm — just like our closest winery neighbor, Hunting Creek Vineyards, and the other wineries down the road you can visit during an easy day trip this winter, Bright Meadows Farm and Sans Soucy Vineyards (assuming you’re heading west). If your travels take you to the east, visit our newest winery neighbor American Way Country Wines on the way to Rosemont of Virginia, or if heading southwest, Greenwood Vineyards on the other side of Halifax, or if you’re going due south, visit Three Sisters of Shiney Rock Winery near Clarksville.
Speaking of boiling and baking — here’s an event you don’t want to miss …
Dust off the cauldron and bring on the hell-broth! The Southern Virginia Wine Trail Association presents Taste of SoVA on three weekends in November (November 1, 8 and 15). For just $35 guests receive a Food & Wine Pairing Passport. Each SoVA winery has paired with a local restaurant to present specially prepared bites to accompany your wine tasting (we will feature Charley’s Waterfront Café & Wine Bar from Farmville). Passports are NOW ON SALE! You have three weekends to visit all 12 SoVA wineries for food & wine sampling, wine tours, and fun! See the SoVA Wine Trail website for details.
About the artist: Luis Ricardo Falero was a Spanish-born painter (1851-1896) who lived most of his life in London. His work concentrated on the nude, shown in a highly-finished manner in a mythological or fairy tale setting. At his best, Falero shows a super-realist talent for depicting the female form, but his subjects are a bit coy, with an emphasis on sexiness — well executed pin-ups rather than high art. ¶ He was born in Granada, but studied in Paris and lived in London after rejecting his parents’ choice of a nautical career for him. In Paris he worked as a portraitist and in pencil, and learned the art of watercolor. He settled in London in the 1880s, and died there in 1896. Witches Going to Their Sabbath resides in a private collection.
Posted on October 22, 2014
Monday afternoon was a reminder of why we love this business. We were invited to participate in a reception and lunch with and in honor of the Virginia Wine Summit conference panelists at the Trump Winery outside of Charlottesville.
It was an apt choice of venue. The lunch was held at the top of the Trump property in what was built as the Kluge (now Trump) Carriage Museum. The massive building is still called that, and renovation of the building is nearly complete for its use for barrel storage and events. To be fair, it crowns the summit perfectly, and its all done up in perfect taste. To reach it one traverses a long, winding drive through acres and acres of vineyards, past the chapel, and further up the hill to nearly the highest point on the property, with a panoramic view of the 1,300 acre estate below, with cattle grazing in the distance.
The reception with passed starters lasted 45 minutes, followed by lunch on the terrace. The menu was by Tucker Yoder, Executive Chef of The Clifton Inn, our favorite in Virginia, where they manage a seamless combination of elegance, sophistication and ease. The Trump staff made everyone feel perfectly at home on this flawless fall afternoon. Well done.
Fall squash salad with sprouted quinoa, herb tofu dressing, toasted squash seeds and pecan nougatine
Trump Chardonnay 2013
Braised duck leg with swiss chard, smoked bets, blackberries and farro
Trump New World Reserve 2012
Grilled apples with maple Panna Cotta, cinnamon brioche croutons and basil
Trump Blanc de Blanc 2008
Posted on October 15, 2014
I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation; and all hearts
Were chill’d into a selfish prayer for light…
– Darkness, by George Gordon (Lord Byron)
The phrase, “the year without a summer” has been reserved for the year 1816, when the eruption of Mount Tambora resulted in unprecedented (on a human timescale, anyway) global cooling. Mount Tambora on the island of Sumbawa in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) erupted with such force on 5 April 1815, it spewed so much ash into the atmosphere that it affected climate worldwide; global temperatures fell three degrees Celsius, and there were massive crop losses throughout North America and Europe, causing food shortages and starvation. The following year the effects became apparent.
That gloomy summer of 1816 had other effects. That particular summer Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron were on vacation at Lake Geneva, and the constant rain and gloomy skies inspired them — Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, and Lord Byron wrote his poem Darkness, which perfectly captured the angst and unhappiness caused by the relentless gloom. It’s worth noting that one other influential literary work arose from this jointure: the composing of the short story The Vampyre (1819), by John William Polidori, who accompanied Lord Byron on this trip as his personal physician. This was the first vampire tale which spawned that Romantic genre.
The eruption was in 1815, but in 1816 and the two following years the hardship was immense, with widespread food shortages and mass migrations. Comparing that global catastrophe to this past summer in Southern Virginia may be a bit extreme, but its been devastating (to us) nonetheless.
Because its been so cool and wet, our red grapes refuse to ripen. While there is really no such thing as a “typical” year, in yeas past we would have picked our red fruit around mid-September (a couple of weeks earlier than the rest of the Commonwealth), and it would be pushing 22 or 23 Brix. Yet as of this writing, the fruit is still hanging in the vineyard, and we contemplate the possibility of making an Ice wine. We took samples this morning after two days of rain, and the results are not encouraging.
For the uninitiated, what is Brix? It is a measure of the specific gravity of sugar in a solution. For red grapes, we aim for 23 Brix or higher but can manage (like the Europeans) with something lower. Our Cabernet Franc has been dancing around 17 Brix, while the Cabernet Sauvignon around 19 Brix. There are other things we measure — the pH and the total acidity, but we won’t bore you with those details. When we get to the most basic and subjective of measures to evaluate the juice — taste — we find that is is diluted and lifeless.
It really is astounding, but it’s the hand we’ve been dealt by Mother Nature this year. The Pinot Gris, Vermentino, and Vidal Blanc are in, but we may have to abandon the rest of the fruit this year, which is a great disappointment. There is consolation in the fact that we have so much wine from the stellar 2013 vintage we have plenty to carry us forward. We’re giving it a couple more weeks, but the growing season is essentially over. And with a particularly violent storm bearing down on us this morning, all we can say is, “Well played, Mother Nature, well played.”
Posted on October 8, 2014
Where to begin? Once again the party was a great success, thanks to the efforts of Cameron Anctil our tireless event planner and coordinator who somehow finds time to be the director of the Southern Virginia Wine Trail and run her own professional photography and design business, Studio Luxe Photography & Design. Whew.
She pulled together an interesting assortment of vendors to make this party memorably evoke the Carribbean on this flawless, brisk day. We had a gentleman from Bull City Cigar Company of Durham, North Carolina rolling cigars for guests. The Key West Band provided an unobtrusive background. Floral arrangements were executed by Pamela Toombs, who runs our tasting room (and she is also a professional floral designer).
We had a pair of amazing cakes by Shannon Moon of Dessert Tres Leches. They were cigar boxes made of sugar! Every bit of it, including trompe l’oeil including cigars, ashtrays and lighters was edible. That last bit doesn’t sound very appetizing, but we had the lighter, which was a delicious marshmallow fondant. The food from Boka Taco Truck of Richmond was just delicious. In the middle of the afternoon we were treated to a salsa dancing demonstration by Salsa4Life Richmond.
What made it most memorable, of course, were the guests. Our wine club members are a loyal group, and are not just fans, but friends. One and all, thank you.
To see additional photographs, please visit our Facebook page.