Sonoma Winegrowers Could Lose More Than $150M in 2020

Dear Client:  

It’s been a tough year for California’s wine country, to say the least. The fallout from a global pandemic and a series of record-breaking wildfires in the region have left many wondering what this year’s harvest will look like. 

A recent survey from the Sonoma County Winegrowers gives us some insight into the 2020 harvest. Spoiler: growers don’t feel too optimistic. 

“We estimate between 25-30% of the Sonoma County winegrape harvest will go unpicked due to the pandemic and fires,” says Sonoma County Winegrowers president Karissa Kruse. “So far, we have identified approximately a $150,000,000 loss to growers which will have a ripple effect on the County’s local wine and tourism industries which can contribute up to $13.4 billion annually to the local economy in a normal year.”

Harvest was already looking a little lighter this year in the county at about 180,000 tons, and growers anticipate about 50,000 tons will go unharvested. That amounts to about $151,657,081 in losses, according to the survey. 

The majority of those surveyed (more than 70%) said that at least some grapes “will go unpicked or be rejected by wineries due to the wildfires.”

As for future concerns, winegrowers listed that they wanted more research on smoke taint, rapid and accessible testing for smoke exposure and more concerted efforts to prevent and slow future wildfires, like forest and woodland management.

One bright spot is that over 15% of winegrapes in the region had been harvested when the LNU Complex fires broke out in August, thanks to an earlier harvest this year. By the time the Glass Fires were taking off about a month later, 90% of grapes were already harvested. However, during the peak of the fires many had to evacuate and abandon their harvest for the time being.

“We are grateful for the resolve of Sonoma County winegrowers who remain committed to their vineyards and employees. The best way to support our growers, workers, families, and community is to purchase Sonoma County wine whenever possible, and especially cherish wines from the 2020 vintage. They will be hard earned and well loved,” says Karissa, adding, “While there will be a 2020 Sonoma County vintage, we are hoping for a long, boring 2021 season.”


Walmart has been trying to gain the right to sell spirits in Texas for years, and is currently trying to get its case in front of the US Supreme Court. Yesterday, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) and the Texas Package Store Association (TPSA) argued why the SC shouldn’t bother. 

BACKGROUND. Walmart can sell beer and wine in Texas, but is prohibited from owning a package store permit, and therefore from selling spirits. The retailer filed a lawsuit against the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission in 2015 challenging sections of the TABC code that prevented it from doing so, claiming it is irrationally banned for being a public company. 

In 2018, US District Judge Robert Pitman sided with Walmart, ordering the TABC to cease enforcement on three of the four challenged sections; the ban on public corporation, the five-permit limit, and the consolidation exception for family members [see WSD 03-21-2018]. The TABC filed for appeal. 

The Fifth Circuit then ruled in favor of the TABC and intervenor, the Texas Package Store Association, reversing the district court’s ruling [see WSD 12-11-2019]. In June, Walmart decided to take its case to the US Supreme Court [see WSD 06-16-2020]. 

The public policy research foundation the Cato Institute, the Retail Litigation Center and the US Chamber of Commerce filed amicus briefs in support of Walmart’s position. 

THE OPPOSITION. Overall, the TABC says Walmart is jumping the gun here by trying to take the case before the SC. “The Court’s standard practice is to wait for a final decision in the courts below before granting certiorari review,” per the brief, and the Fifth Circuit remanded the case back to the lower court “for a reweighing of the evidence.” 

“In essence, Petitioners are asking the Court to grant review to apply the new standard of scrutiny for discriminatory alcohol regulations announced last year in Tennessee Wine before there is even a finding of discrimination in this case and before the courts below have had an opportunity to apply that new standard themselves.”

Moreover, the TABC claims that there is no circuit court split, and thus “no real conflict that requires resolution by this Court.” You may recall, part of Walmart’s argument is that the Fifth Circuit’s opinion conflicts with decisions handed down by the SC as well as from other circuits. 

In its own brief, the TPSA claims the public corporation ban has “no discriminatory effect against out-of-state interests,” nor is it economic protectionism. 

“Accordingly, this case does not present an issue worthy of a review by this Court. There is no economic protectionism here. Instead, Texas has chosen to employ a residence-neutral, non-taxation-based approach to moderating per capita liquor consumption in its state. Texas’s unique approach is fair, and it works.” 


PALM BAY INTERNATIONAL INTRODUCES NEW TOMMYROTTER BOURBON WHISKEY. Palm Bay International and Tommyrotter have introduced Tommyrotter Napa Valley Heritance Cask Straight Bourbon Whiskey. This over proof, four-grain whiskey consists of corn, wheat, rye and malted barley, and is finished in premium cabernet sauvignon casks from Rutherford, Napa Valley for three months. It is then non-chill filtered, and bottled at the Tommyrotter Distillery at 95 proof. The bourbon is available at a suggested retail price of $50 a 750ml.

BACARDI UNVEILS NEW 100% BIODEGRADABLE SPIRITS BOTTLE. Bacardi has unveiled their plans to put 100% biodegradable bottles on shelves by 2023. This new bottle will replace 80 million plastic bottles, 3,000 tons of plastic, currently produced by Bacardi across its portfolio of brands every year. This was made possible thanks to their collaboration with Danimer Scientific, replacing the petroleum-based plastics with Danimer Scientific’s Nodax PHA, per a release.

SPIRIT HOUND DISTILLERS RELEASES THREE YEAR BOURBON. Spirit Hound Distillers has released a bourbon aged for three years in American oak barrels. The release will coincide with their two-day tasting event on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. The grain bill is made up of 60% corn, 20% Colorado-sourced malted barley and 20% rye. A limited supply is available for approximately $64 a 750ml. 

JOHNSON BROTHERS NAMES NEW VP, NATIONAL ACCOUNTS. Matt Colasanti has joined Johnson Brothers as vp of national accounts. Matt joins the company from E&J Gallo, where he worked as senior director on the Drive Team. In his new role, Matt will report to AJ Atta, vice president and general manager. In addition, Nathan Johnson has been promoted to director of regional chains, and will partner with branch chain directors and general managers across the country to drive local excellence in chain selling, service, category, activation and execution, per a release.

SGWS MATCHES CONSTELLATION’S DONATION TO CALIFORNIA WILDLIFE RELIEF FUNDS. Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits has matched Constellation Brands’ $100,000 donation to support charities focusing on wildlife relief funds. They have donated $50,000 each to the Napa Valley Community Foundation and Sonoma County Resilience Fund. You may recall, Republic National Distributing Co. also matched Constellation’s donation.  

APOTHIC WINES AND SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR PARTNER FOR ‘EVENING OF INTRIGUE’. E&J Gallo’s Apothic Wines has collaborated with actress Sarah Michelle Gellar to launch an Evening of Intrigue: Choose Your Apothic Journey. This virtual experience guides wine lovers through a mysterious adventure, narrated by Sarah Michelle Gellar, per a release. As they enter the site, consumers are invited to make a series of decisions that ultimately lead them to a custom recommendation for an Apothic wine. It is available on 

Until tomorrow,


“The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more.” – Jonas Salk

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