Schooled in winemaking in both Germany and California, winemaker Scott Harvey was crucial to putting Amador County on the California wine map in the 1980s. After years spent propelling such wineries as Santino, Renwood, and Folie a Deux to success, he launched his own Scott Harvey Wines with his wife Jana in 2004. We're thrilled to have him take over the regular Wine.Woot guest blogger position. Peter Wellington will continue as an occasional contributor.
Since I’ve had such a good time participating on the Wine Woot blog, WineDavid asked me if I would submit fun and informational blogs like Peter Wellington has in his wonderful Random Ramblings. His will be a hard act to follow.
For the last week I’ve been working on getting label approvals from the TTB (Tax & Trade Bureau). All wine labels have to be inspected and approved by the federal government. As with most federal bureaus these days, they are extremely over worked. I have submitted labels they have previously approved, only to be rejected this time. It seems a lot is left to interpretation by the individual inspector. I have also had rejected labels, where I waited a month to send them in again, come back with the TTB stamp of approval. You learn not to argue with them. Just do what they ask and be very polite. Kind of like in-laws.
A good example is our fortified wine we call Forté. It is a fortified wine made just like you would make Port in Portugal from all Portuguese varieties. As a European trained wine maker I will not use European place names on our wines. So we call the wine “Forté” rather than Port. In 2004 when I first obtained label approval for this wine the back label said “A California Port Style Wine.” This time the term “A California Port Style Wine” was rejected. They said I had to use “Red Table Wine”. I said, “It is not red table wine, it is a fortified wine”. They said I could not use the word fortified on a wine label so therefore had to use “Red Table Wine” I pointed out to them that that would be lying to the consumer. They didn’t seem to care, stating that was the regulation.
Knowing that using “Red Table Wine” on this wine would be a marketing nightmare, I politely ask what other alternatives there were. TTB said I could list the varieties and their percentages. So I re-submitted the label with the percentages and the varieties. It was again rejected. I again politely called them and asked them why. They said one of the varieties “Sousao” did not exist in their list of accepted wine varieties. I’m thinking that’s odd, it is a fairly common variety in Portugal. I was thinking, it has to exist and kept questioning the inspector for a good 20 minutes, before I finally asked if he had a variety on the list spelled somewhat like Sousao. He looked at the list and said there is one spelled Souzao. I go great, I’ll re-submit with Souzao and it was finally approved.
Another example of a label coming before different inspectors with their telling me I had to do contradicting things is with our Napa Valley Old Vine Riesling. I moved the production of this wine to one of Cosentino’s Wineries in Lockeford which is near Lodi. I wanted the produced and bottled by statement on the back of the bottle to reflect that we are a Napa Valley Company. Rather than just saying “Produced and Bottled by Jana Winery, Lockeford, CA” I had the statement read “Produced and bottled by Jana Winery, Lockeford, CA for Jana Winery, Napa Valley, CA.” On the first bottling this statement was accepted. The next year when I sent it in the new inspector rejected it. Again, after a 20 minute polite phone call I finally got it out of the inspector why he was rejecting it. He decided that the place had to be a city not a place, so Napa Valley was unacceptable since it carries no postal address. Luckily, there is a town in Napa Valley by the name of Napa. So I asked him if I dropped the Valley off of it to read “Produced and bottled by Jana Winery, Lockeford, CA for Jana Winery Napa, Ca” if that was okay. I sent it in again hoping he would get the application and not the first inspector that approved the previous one. He got it and it was approved.
For another label story, more dealing with the development of our Angel Ice Riesling, check out this post on our blog about what we went through to develop the art work and name for the wine.
The regulatory world is quite complicated for wineries, and always a learning experience. Makes me glad I’m not a lawyer!
WineDavid, thanks for this opportunity to further reach out to the wine woot community.