New Vintner Group to Lobby for Industry : Wine Interests Outside California Need Promotion, Group’s Chief Says
A group of Washington lobbyists have formed the capital-based National Vintners Assn. to promote, service and represent in Congress the wine interests of the 43-wine-producing states, including California.
Besides representing about 1,300 wineries in this country, the group is also targeting for membership thousands more wine-grape growers at the start of the production chain, NVA Executive Director Richard Feeney said.
Feeney is a congressional lobbyist and one-time director of the National Meat Assn.
He said he wanted it understood that the association has “no intention of taking on” California’s 54-year-old Wine Institute, which directly lobbies for 520 of the state’s 770 wineries.
“I’ve gone out of my way to take a separate path, at least at the time being, from the Wine Institute,” Feeney said. “I don’t want to get into any kind of a controversy with the Wine Institute.”
“I don’t know what it is,” Wine Institute President John De Luca said about the new group, adding: “What I know is that we are in the trenches right now.”
The institute has promoted California wine interests since a year after the repeal of Prohibition.
Most other wine-producing states have no organization, Feeney said: “If a vintner in Virginia or Oregon wants to join a national organization, there ain’t any.”
Feeney said he didn’t think many other wine-producing states were adequately represented in Washington.
Vintners are worried about what they see as a wave of prohibitionist feeling in America, expressed in new label laws, restaurant posting of toxicity warnings for pregnant women, new tax threats and a general anti-alcohol surge last seen in the 1920s.
One of the new group’s most ambitious programs will be to lobby Congress to change the way federal law regards wine grapes, said Feeney, who theorized that lawmakers might be ready “to look at wine differently.”