Free the Grapes!

    May 9, 2016


Arizona to Remove Winery Visit Penalty: Free the Grapes! Nominated “Best Grassroots Campaign”

As you may know, Arizona Governor Ducey signed a favorable bill March 31 that will allow AZ consumers to order directly from any US winery licensed by the state without requiring a visit to the winery first, and regardless of the winery’s production size. The state is expected to start issuing forms later this fall.

This was a big win. How it got done illustrates our industry’s strategy on fixing onerous DTC regulations.

Free the Grapes! created an Arizona-based advocacy group last year. Working with a local PR agency, we created a 9-month campaign including a FTG booth at 3 consumer events, aggressive press outreach, and a social media program. The results: major feature stories in the Arizona Republic newspaper, a doubling of our consumer database, and more than 1,000 consumer letters to legislators in Q1 in support of our cause. The state capitol’s main political newspaper, the Arizona Capitol Times, nominated Free the Grapes! as the “Best Grassroots Campaign” of 2016.

Simultaneously, Wine Institute’s team and local lobbying firm coordinated legislative and advocacy strategy, which resulted in a favorable bill that won widespread support including important, vocal advocacy from the Arizona Wine Growers Association.

Perhaps most importantly, the PR campaign and legislative approach for Arizona were fully integrated starting back in spring 2015. This collaborative approach has been the “secret sauce” of the industry’s successful strategy for nearly 20 years.

An Op Ed story shows how this collaborative approach played out in Arizona. The AZ Wine Growers Association wrote an Op Ed article that our PR campaign placed, which effectively countered wholesaler charges that the bill would harm local businesses, including wineries:

“It’s unnecessarily difficult to order Arizona wine directly, and that hurts business. Senate Bill 1381 would fix that…As an Arizona businessman, I’m excited for the potential this brings to Arizona wineries. Opening our state up for direct shipment will be good for Arizona’s economy.”

Eric Globski, founder of Arizona Stronghold Vineyards and Page Spring Cellars, member of the AZ Wine Growers Association. Op Ed, Arizona Republic, February 29, 2016

In other states, Wine Institute has provided some updates, below:

A favorable bill continues to work its way through the legislature here, although the important grocery store issue will most likely hold up progress on any direct shipping bill. Nevertheless, Free the Grapes has generated some consumer letters to legislators in order to maintain pressure.

Wine Institute continues to work to reverse the new exclusion for wineries with existing wholesaler relationships and to press for a remedy.

RI is one of two remaining states that continues to require consumers to first visit a winery before a direct purchase and shipment (Arkansas being the other, and Arizona is removing this requirement later in 2016). A favorable hearing in the House Corporations Committee took place on March 22, and Free the Grapes! issued a press release and generated consumer letters to support improvements.

House Bill 22 died in committee, and would have removed the DTC ban on wines already listed with the state for sale.

DTC WINE SYMPOSIUM: Save the Date for 2017

The Steering Committee for the Free the Grapes! fundraiser and industry summit has begun planning for the 10th annual event, to be held January 11-12, 2017 at the Hilton Concord Hotel in Concord, California. This year, Stephanie Friedman, director of consumer sales and marketing at Gary Farrell Winery, heads up the conferences as its chair, with an active Steering Committee.

The January 2016 event demonstrated how the DTC Wine Symposium continues to expand its presence:

  • Registrants represented 14 U.S. states and 4 countries (Australia, Canada, Italy and New Zealand)
  • 50% of attendees were from outside Napa and Sonoma Counties
  • Attendees included 334 registrants plus an additional 125 suppliers and outside speakers and media
  • Registrants were CEO/Owners (14%) and managers ( 67%) primarily DTC, club, tasting room, marketing.

More information on the program and speakers will be released this summer on