Napa Valley goes to Washington

The Napa Valley Vintners delegation at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

The Napa Valley Vintners took their agenda to Capitol Hill earlier this month, convening with the country’s lawmakers on issues from tariffs to tax relief.

The NVV delegation, which included leaders from 10 Napa wineries and several NVV staff, took part in dozens of meetings and several trade tastings over four days in Washington, D.C. The NVV serves as the main advocate for upwards of 550 Napa Valley wineries and visits the Capitol to talk policy with lawmakers once a year.

Among the groups’ Congressional audience was Ambassador CJ Mahoney, deputy U.S. Trade Representative, who discussed the ongoing tariff situation that has mired U.S. trade with China and hobbled Napa wineries’ efforts to grow in that market.

In early April, the Wine Institute reported total U.S. wine exports, 90 percent of which come from California, were down nearly 5 percent in value and 1.2 percent in volume, in part because of the retaliatory tariffs. At a value of $59 million, China is among the top 10 export markets for California wine, according to the Wine Institute.

The NVV delegation also discussed upcoming changes to bottle labeling rules with John Manfreda, administrator of the Tobacco, Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), and conferred with USDA Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agriculture Affairs Ted McKinney on the ins and outs of the market access program.

The NVV has long led efforts to reserve the use of the Napa Valley brand strictly for wines made from grapes grown in the Napa American Viticultural Area (AVA). In recent years, the group has worked to further limit the use of the Napa brand to those making wine in Napa and excluding those who buy grapes grown in the AVA, but make their wine elsewhere through a “loophole” of sorts in today’s current regulations. A proposed rule to curb the practice is currently making its way through the TTB.

The NVV group also used the trip to court a corner of the Washington, D.C. market, holding a tasting of 30 Napa wines for members of the local wine trade and a tasting reception for Congressional members and staff, hosted alongside representatives of the Oregon and Washington wine industries.

In a news release from the NVV, Bruce Cakebread of Cakebread Cellars, past chairman of the NVV board pointed out, “Washington, D.C. has an impressive number of steakhouses where cab is king … It’s important that we be here.”

David Pearson, chairman of the NVV Board of Directors, also noted in the group’s release, “Napa Valley is a national treasure and through our ongoing advocacy and marketing efforts, we are making progress on issues of importance to our members and the overall strength of the wine industry—despite only representing 4 percent of the wine production in California, Napa Valley produces 33 percent of the economic value in the state.”

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Wine Reporter / Copy Editor

Henry Lutz covers the local wine industry. He has been a reporter and copy editor for the Register since 2016.