New wine law should help nonprofits
by Seth Hemmelgarn
Like any party host, nonprofit agencies often like to treat their guests to a little wine. But state regulations many found confusing have made this process difficult. Many vintners could donate wine but weren't allowed to pour it.
A bill just signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger changes that. Assembly Bill 323, authored by Assemblywoman Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa), allows winemakers who operate on a wholesale or retail basis to donate and pour their products at charity events. Usually, only traditional wineries were permitted to do both. This should make it easier for nonprofits to find donated wine, and they were happy to hear the news.
"Frankly, it is often a struggle to reach our monthly quotas of donated wine for our many events," said Jon Finck, public relations committee chair for the Academy of Friends, in an e-mail. The organization helps numerous HIV/AIDS Bay Area agencies with proceeds from its popular Oscar night gala as well as smaller events throughout the year. "Academy of Friends welcomes this new AB323 with open arms and looks forward to working with an expanded base of vintners interested in offering a taste of their grapes to our select Academy of Friends clientele."
Chris Weber, director of development and communications for San Jose's Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center, said the organization had been considering having wine donated for events such as wine-tastings, and this new law will make that easier.
"Boutique" producers who don't have the facilities to make their own wine were sometimes allowed to donate their wines, but they weren't allowed to pour. Many people were unaware of the previous regulations.
"People were running afoul of the law without even knowing it," said Evans, whose district includes Napa and Sonoma counties, where many boutique winemakers are based.
She said she wrote the bill after several vintners were cited by the state for violating the law. Three of them appealed. The bill took only seven months to make its way through the state legislature. Evans said the bill never received any "no" votes, and the governor signed it right away. Unlike most bills, the new law takes effect immediately. Evans said that, to her knowledge, no charity had ever been cited in relation to the old regulations.
According to Evans's office, the state's winemakers made more than $115 million in charitable contributions last year. She called the old regulations "outrageously unfair." The new law will affect approximately 1,400 producers statewide, according to Evans's office.