Nevada Craft Brewers Introduce App

With dozens of craft breweries dotting the Silver State map, new brews could go undiscovered for months – or forever. The Nevada Craft Brewers Association has a way to “connect”  beer lovers with experiences they might not stumble over in the ordinary course of things. The new Nevada Brewers app makes recommendations, and points the way to the pub (geographically speaking). It allows users to rate the beer, and it keeps track of their favorites. Association spokesman Don Vetter sees the app as a tool for tourism, too. It’s available for IOS and Android. Check your app store.

Alcohol Bills Circulating in Carson City Include Production Cap Increase, Tax Increases

Senate Bill 130 — dubbed the brewpub bill — could raise the cap on craft brewery production in Nevada. Currently, craft brewers are limited to 15,000 barrels per year. The cap would triple to 45,000 under the proposal.

The Nevada Wine Coalition is seeking amendments that would extend to wineries, says Executive Director Randi Thompson.

“Currently, the law says a winery can only sell 1,000 cases of wine until they have 25% of Nevada-grown grapes in their total production,” Thompson says. “The case limit must be higher so that a winery can generate enough revenue to operate while their Nevada-grown grapes mature and can be used in their wine, which would be about 6 years.”

The case limit increase is part of the Coalition’s 2017 agenda. SB 130 is scheduled for hearing by the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 181 establishes drug and alcohol treatment programs, funded by a package of sin taxes.

Under the bill, the excise tax on malt beverages would increase to 24 cents per gallon from 16 cents. The tax on other beverages would increase between 35 cents and $1.80 per gallon, according to alcohol content.

The cigarette tax would go up 60 cents, to $2.40 per pack from $1.80. Gaming license fees would increase by one-quarter of one percent.

Senate Bill 199 creates a license for estate distilleries. Distillers would be limited to 400,000 cases annually under the bill’s provisions. SB 199 and SB 181 are not yet scheduled for hearings.

Legislative Round-Up: States Weigh Changes to Alcohol Laws

State lawmakers around the nation are considering bills that address everything from higher wine taxes, to serving size for wine-infused ice cream, to liquor licensing at beauty salons.

In Maryland, where alcohol is tightly controlled, the legislature has a designated “liquor day” to consider beverage bills. A slate of 62 bills hit that state’s General Assembly last week. A high-profile proposal would expand the number of licenses that can be granted to retailers. It’s sought by Bethesda-based Total Wine, which is prohibited from opening a third store in its home state. Another bill would establish a tasting license for beer, wine, and spirits in agricultural Cecil County, MD, with servings limited to 1 ounce of beer or wine, and one-half ounce of liquor.

Pennsylvania is facing a budget deficit, and may try to fill it by ordering its state-owned liquor stores to improve gross margins, after a consulting firm reported that other states with their own liquor operations have lower operating costs and higher profits. The Philadelphia Inquirer editorialized last week that the state could generate more revenue by selling its stores and getting out of the liquor business.

Mom and pop stores are squaring off against large retailers in Connecticut, over a bill that would lift price controls. The current law requires retailers to adhere to a price list set by wholesalers.

Montana could prevent education cuts by doubling its wine tax of 27 cents per liter, according to a state senator who says her bill would generate $2.5 million for the state’s general fund.

North Carolina’s craft brewers want to repeal a law that prohibits them from distributing their own products once their production hits 25,000 barrels. They hope to raise the cap to 200,000.

Restaurant patrons in Mobile, Alabama could be served a glass of wine or beer at a sidewalk cafe under a proposal to permit outdoor service only in specified entertainment districts. Currently, customers seated outside must walk inside to get their own drinks.

A New Mexico state senator is carrying a bill that would allow restaurants to uncork bottles carried in by customers.

New York may alter a regulation requiring ice cream to be sold in quantities no smaller than a pint, to pave the way for restaurant-sized portions of a very popular wine-infused ice cream.

In Tennessee, they’re fighting a ban on Sunday grocery store sales. This follows a successful 2014 bid to allow grocery and convenience stores to sell wine at all.

In Florida, grocery stores would be able to sell liquor under a bill making its way through the legislature. Currently, liquor sales must be conducted in a separate facility. Beer and wine sales are permitted in the stores.

Vineyard Advice After a Wicked Winter: Don’t Prune, Do Weed

Too soon to prune. That’s the advice from Danny Hopper on the first sunny day in February of 2017.

“We’ve still got a long way to go this winter,” he said. “We recommend delayed pruning in this region because we can get freezing temperatures on memorial day weekend and snow down here in the valley.”

Hopper graduated from UNR where his Ph.D. in plant biochemistry emphasized viticulture.

The vines are probably fine, Hopper told Grape Basin News, even after a series of winter storms pounded the region with snow and rain, and temperatures dipped into the 20s

“Vines can survive, especially in January and February, at minus-10,” he said. “Honestly, we had winters that were super dry that I think were more of an issue for the vines, because they essentially dehydrate and the vines die due to lack of water during the winter.”

But not this winter.

“Because we got so much water, the big thing is weeds,” he said. Watch for weeds, and enjoy an easy time for a few weeks before spring requires harder work.

Where a vineyard was truly flooded by the recent stoms, damage assessment will have to wait until spring.

“A lot depends on the age of the vine,” Hopper said. “A mature one can withstand being overwatered more than a very young vine.”

If you’re using root stock, watch carefully to determine if the fruit-bearing vine is still alive. If the scion dies but vines start to come up from the root, you’re not growing what you think you’re growing.

Since graduating from UNR, Hopper has turned his attention to marijuana plants. He’s conducting new research in his job as Cultivation Manager for Silver State Relief, and applying some of what he learned in the vineyards.

“Unprecedented” Alcohol Coalition Pushing Craft Beverage Tax Reform on Capitol Hill

President Trump and the Republican Congress have promised tax reform at the same time a beverage industry tax reform is gathering steam on its own. The industry is keeping an eye on the big picture, even as the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act has been introduced in both houses.

“What we think is going to happen is, there will be some very large proposal that would encompass everything,” said Michael Kaiser of WineAmerica, speculating that the alcoholic beverage provisions could be absorbed into the larger effort. “We don’t want to have to swallow some pill that we’re not really in favor of in order to get these other reforms through.”

The industry-specific bills are S.236 and H.R. 747. They expand tax credits for all producers of alcohol. For wine producers, they would alter the current federal excise tax scheme that’s based on wine gallon production. The bills would also push up the alcohol threshold for table wines, extending lower tax rate for the category to products with up to 16 percent ABV, from the current 14 percent. They also provide more flexibility for deducting interest expenses.

The industry coalition includes wine producers, distillers, and associations representing both large and small brewers. Kaiser credits Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), who saw the two brewing factions submitting separate tax proposals, and tidied up the effort with a single bill.

“Not only did he do that, he added in benefits for the spirits industry as well as the wine industry rather than do this piecemeal, let’s have it all in one bill and get it done all together,” Kaiser told Grape Basin News in phone interview. “This is unprecedented that all the beverage industry lobbies are working together.”

There is bipartisan support in both houses, but no Nevada legislators have signed on.

Washington’s new direction is churning up other concerns. One of them is agricultural labor. Kaiser says WineAmerica supports comprehensive immigration reform, which doesn’t appear to be on the immediate horizon.

Trade issues are another.

“The largest single market for American wine outside the U.S. is Canada. We want to make sure there are no trade barriers,” Kaiser said. In addition, he says, there’s the possibility of a domestic glut.

“If you’re a small winery that doesn’t have any interest in getting your product out of the country you are competing for shelf space with larger producers who might export,” he said. “If they can’t export, those products are going to go on the shelf here, which could squeeze out some of the smaller producers here.”

In the face of a federal hiring freeze, WineAmerica is also pushing for continued funding of federal programs and agencies. The Department of Treasury oversees the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau, for instance, where a slowdown could stall winery growth.

“They do everything from approve alcohol beverage labels, to collect taxes, to approve new permits for new producers,” he said.

Growers are also dependent on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Market Access program, and marketing and specialty crop grants. Kaiser says it’s critical to keep those programs in place.

Filmmaker Set Out to Capture Passion and Culture of Napa Valley: “Filmmaking and Winemaking are So Similar.”

Nicholas Kovacic’s last documentary was about beer. “Brewmore Baltimore” examined a 200-year brewing tradition and captured the beer culture of the East Coast city.

The next challenge had to be a story about wine, he says, and the obvious subject was the Napa Valley. Kovacic and two colleagues set out in the late summer of 2014 to explore the culture of the nation’s premier winegrowing region.

“Decanted. A Winemaker’s Journey” had its world premiere at last fall’s Napa Valley Film Festival. The film follows a new entrant to the highly competitive northern California region, where breaking into the business is increasingly difficult, and not for  the feint of heart. Vineyard managers, winemakers, and winery proprietors share their stories, and their thoughts about what it takes to succeed now.

The filmmakers met with initial skepticism when they approached members of the close-knit community, Kovacic told Grape Basin News in a phone interview. Ultimately, they connected on a deep level, he said.

Heidi Barrett, of Barrett & Barrett is one of the Napa Valley winemakers featured in “Decanted.”

“Filmmaking and winemaking are so similar,” he said.

“Decanted” features beautiful aerial vineyard shots, and follows the product through the harvest and into the cellars, all the while gathering narrative from the human participants.

The “you are there” moment comes during a scene at the 2015 Napa Valley Premiere, an annual auction produced by the Napa Valley Vintner’s Association. The energy comes across in the packed and noisy pre-auction tasting event.

Several thousand people attend, and it’s one of the few times each year when everyone in the valley comes together, Kovacic said.

“It’s 9 o’clock on Saturday morning,” he said. “They’re tasting unfinished wines, sampling immature wine before it’s bottled.”

To eavesdrop on individual conversations, Kovacic put wireless microphones on attendees, and fed their voices to separate channels. He was able to flip through and listen, then deploy cameras quickly to the locations where the dialog was most interesting.

“It’s fun when you’re in that space, because there’s so much industry jargon going on.” He understood the chatter on an intuitive level, even if the lingo wasn’t entirely familiar, he told Grape Basin News.

Did two years chronicling Napa Valley wines make the film director into a wine snob?

Yes, Kovacic says at first, then pulls back a bit.

“I think so – I don’t know if I want to call myself a wine snob. We affectionately like to call ourselves ‘junior connoisseurs.’ What it’s really done for me is opened my palate up to a wider range of wines from around the world.”

Nonetheless, the next project will take him back to beer. While the northern Nevada screening of “Decanted” is taking place at Reno’s MidTown Wine Bar, Kovacic and crew will be starting work on a new film at the monastery where the Monks of St. Joseph’s Abbey make the nation’s only Trappist beer, an hour west of Boston.