The TTB is shutdown. Those were the words those of us in the compliance world of wine woke up to yesterday. It still sounds so surreal to me. So what exactly does it mean? For wineries? For those wanting to start their new wine business?
Here's a brief summation of what "can" and what "can't" currently be done right now depending on which category you fall into as well as my suggestions for what else to be doing right now to have ready for when the TTB comes back to life.
What you can (& must) continue to do:
Submit your monthly report (702) and excise tax reports via the Pay.gov site
What you can't do:
Submit new label approvals
Talk to or email anybody at the TTB
Submit new applications for AP host filings
Submit any other TTB permit update filings
My suggestions for what to do right now if you have any of the above (or other) pending items:
Prepare all necessary items for your label approvals, permit update filings, etc as you would normally. Have them essentially at "ready to go" status.
When the TTB does re-open for business all you'll have to do is logon to COLAs online or send off a mailing which has been prepared ahead of time. For anything that goes out in the mail I'd also recommend either priority mail or UPS/FedEx for your delivery source. For both speed of delivery and traceability.
For those wanting to start a new wine business (custom crush client, AP tenant, new winery):
What you can do:
Prepare all your application materials. This includes the state level of applications, which tend to take longer than the TTB in their approval times. These state applications can even be submitted now. Here in California the ABC offices do require a copy of your approved TTB permit for anyone applying for their type 02-Winegrower license. However you can get the ball rolling with their approval process and you'll already have the info & items ready to submit to the TTB once they are back in business. They don't require this for those of you applying for the 17/20 type licenses.
What you can't do:
Submit your TTB application. Currently their online permit filing system, Permits Online is unavailable. I tried to access it yesterday for a pending permit and was only taken to an "unaccessible" message screen
My suggestions for what to do right now:
As mentioned above- you can go ahead and prepare and submit your state application materials. Get the wheels turning on those as they do tend to take sometimes 2 or more months longer than the TTB to approve.
Prepare and submit your other necessary applications. Here in California you'll need a permit (Seller's) with the CA Board of Equalization. (BOE) This can be filed for online, and it is also directly connected to your CA ABC license.
If you need additional local licenses or permits (business license, LLC or corporation filings, FBN filings, etc. these can also be set up now.
This shutdown is less than convenient. I'm sure the TTB staff feels similarly. But the wine business continues on despite the government's situation. We'll continue to do our thing and many others are still excitedly planning to start their own wine businesses. My suggestion for everyone is borrowed from the boy scouts: Be prepared.
I see that 11 new petitions have recently been submitted to the TTB for new AVAs all within the current Paso Robles AVA. For one, that's a lot of slicing and dicing all at once! And of course there has already been plenty of history to the quest to create several more sub-AVAs within the sizeable piece of land that the parent AVA Paso Robles already is. (5th largest in California)
As I read about this I realized it brings up a topic related to what wineries are focusing on right now: Harvest. And more specifically within their harvest activities, their weigh tags. My last blog post was also about filling out weigh tags. Who knew there was so much to talk about around the topic?!
In this case, with these currently proposed – but potentially 11 new AVAs what it means is for any winery receiving grapes from one (or more) of those 11 areas that thinks they may want to eventually list the new AVA name on their wine label- best suggestion would be to put it on their weigh tags now- for potential label use down the road. Putting these on their weigh tags right now is a potential time saver by keeping them in the good graces of the TTB for required recordkeeping related to their labels.
I should also point out that because these 11 new AVAs currently are not approved, the winery would still want to put the currently approved AVA (Paso Robles) on their weigh tags. (In the event that the AVAs are not granted TTB approval, they'll still be covered for required recordkeeping details)
My suggestions here could be used by wineries that hand write their weigh tags as well as those using a computer generated version. As I already mentioned for those hand writing their tags they would be including BOTH the potential new AVA name as well as the current one, Paso Robles on their tags. For those wineries using a computer generated version, they would be creating a new code in their tracking software for the proposed AVAs, which automatically is then "parented" into the next larger AVA (Paso Robles) and appellations (San Luis Obispo County, Central Coast, California) it is encompassed within. So in both cases they are again still covered for their TTB tracking & label option purposes.
It's game on for crush 2013. I now regularly see trucks carrying those familiar white plastic bins on the roads here in Napa. Once the grapes start rolling in things heat up pretty fast. (No fermentation-related pun intended) Things can also quickly become rather chaotic when it comes to harvest related recordkeeping. Specifically your weigh tags. If you are someone who fills out weigh tags- I've got a warning reminder for you: one thing the county and the state do NOT want to see on your weigh tags:
numbers that are crossed out. Those numbers would of course be your weights, the gross, tare and net that are filled out on a weigh tag.
This comes straight from the CA Business & Professions code § 12716.5. CORRECTION OF ERRORS
A certificate on which a weight, measure, or count error is discovered after issuance shall
be corrected by issuing a correction certificate to all parties who were issued the original
The word “INCORRECT” shall be written across the face of the original certificate. The
original certificate number and reason for the correction shall be recorded on the correction
Though this is regulated by the Department of Weights and Measures with the CA Department of Food & Agriculture, the follow up on site auditing is handled by your local county agricultural commissioner offices. It has been my experience with their audits that they don't let you know that they are coming either. But when they do show up they'll request to see your recent weigh tags in the books or other forms they live in and will then sit down and start to look through a random sample. They are looking to see that those tags:
Contain certain required fields such as preprinted consecutive numbers, weighing location address, commodity type, and complete signature of the deputy weighmaster
That all copies in consecutive number order are there. They don't want to flip through your copies of completed tags and find #'s 12, 13, 14 and 17. (but no 15 & 16) They want to see all consecutive numbers there even your voided tags
BIG no-no. Crossed out numbers on your weights. In the event that you need to change your gross or tare weight on a tag you are supposed to void that original tag (write VOID across it) and then start all over w/a new weigh tag.
This is not a comprehensive list of all items that are required to appear on a weighmaster certificate (the official term used by CDFA for a weigh tag) There is actually a nice summary list of the 13 required items along with a sample template you can use to pattern your own after. This is available on the Napa County Agriculural Commisioner's website. Here's a link to access and print out yourself:
Even though you may be knee deep in grapes right now- being aware of how to fill out all those weight tags you're completing NOW rather than having to deal with fix-it issues via a county audit next spring is worth taking the time.
Happy harvest everybody