Category Archives: Current Topics

TTB label approvals: now allowing your application to not match your label!
Posted on 2015-09-29 by Ann Reynolds

TTB label approvals, or COLAs as the lingo goes for industry insiders are a topic that generally causes those of us who deal with their submission and approval to roll our eyes and have no shortage of “war stories” to share of our experiences with them over the years.

Despite our often frustrated view of the label approval process, the TTB has made great strides in streamlining the whole submission/approval process over the last few years. In September 2014 they again updated their list of allowable label revisions. This updated list has meant that wineries and wine cellars get to save themselves some time and potential lost sleep by NOT having to submit for a new label approval (COLA). This updated list of allowable label revisions applies to any wines that your site (which means your TTB permit) has previously obtained a COLA. It is well worth the time of winery staff to be familiar with this list, so they then know whether or not they need to bother with submitting a new COLA for wines that they bottle every year.

This latest update from the TTB related to label approvals now means that winery or wine cellar staff can incorrectly complete their label approval applications & still have them approved! The TTB just announced that they will now allow 3 fields on the application to NOT match the actual data on the wine label(s).

Those 3 application fields are: net contents, alcohol content & vintage. 

So what does this mean? If you submit a label approval for a wine and the information you put in any of the above fields of the COLAs online application (net contents, alcohol content & vintage) does NOT match what appears on the label files that you upload, then the TTB specialist viewing the application will still go ahead and view your label files since those 3 fields are all part of the list of allowable changes. As long as all other fields on the application match the label files, and the balance of items on the actual label(s) are all compliant they will approve it.

A more specific example of this would be if I submitted a label approval application with the following: the net contents field listed 375ml, the alcohol content field listed 14.5%, and the vintage field listed 2013.  However, the label files that I uploaded were printed with: 750ml, 13.8%, and 2014. These 3 non matching fields are all examples of allowable label changes, so the TTB specialist would still be able to approval this application, provided the rest of the fields and items printed on the labels were correct and in compliance.

To view the TTB announcement summary follow this link and you’ll see it in their Announcements section on the lower right side:

TTB label approval qualification announcement


Napa County Use Permit holders: Understanding the 75% rule VS production.
Posted on 2015-09-22 by Ann Reynolds

The topic of winery use permits has been a hot one here in Napa County since early this year. From my viewpoint of growing  in Napa and working in the wine industry since 1993, we’re reaching a “critical mass” sort of point in the industry’s evolution. Napa County is essentially writing the textbook on how to successfully manage winery development and growth related to local regulation, tourism, and community support.

The local regulator for wineries in the unincorporated area of Napa county is the Napa County Planning office. They issue winery use permits and also do random annual audits of those permit holders. This post is written to further explain the details behind two Napa county use permit conditions which wineries are tasked with staying in compliance: the 75% grape source rule and permitted production gallons.

The first topic, the 75% grape source rule is defined as follows in the original WDO (Winery Definition Ordinance) text: “All wineries first established subsequent to January 23, 1990: at least 75% of the grapes used to make the winery’s still wine, or the still wine used by the winery to make sparkling wine, shall be grown within the county of Napa.”

What does this mean to a winery as far as assessing their use permit compliance? The Napa County Planning office will determine whether a winery is in compliance with meeting the 75% rule by viewing their grape weigh tags. (weighmaster certificates) This means the weigh tags for all grapes received into their physical site, since that is what the use permit is assigned to. In other words if your winery sends grapes to another winery site for processing (crushing, fermentation) those grapes don’t count towards your site’s use permit totals.

The next use permit condition related to wine making activities is the production gallons. The Napa county planning office uses two separate sets of wine making numbers to determine compliance for this. Both sets of these numbers come directly from the TTB 5120.17 (“702”) reports filed by the winery site. For a full description of these two sets of calculations used by the county please see my post from July: Calculations for Napa county use permit production gallons

Here again compliance is determined only from wine making activities that occur on your physical site, so both the resulting gallons from those grapes that are sent to another winery site to be processed into wine as well as any of your finished wines that are sent to another site to be bottled do not count towards your site’s county use permit production gallons.

If your winery holds a use permit issued by the Napa County Planning office, take a closer look at your list of conditions, then run the numbers from your site’s weigh tags and TTB “702” reports. I recommend doing so on an annual basis. 

Questions on exactly how to do this for your site?

Sign up for one of my Compliance Check In calls.

Wineries: Tell the TTB what you think
Posted on 2015-08-25 by Ann Reynolds

There is no shortage of confusion and often frustration for US wineries in their dealings with the Alcohol & Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau, the TTB. As part of my business I hear about it quite often and at times am directly affected by it myself.

The TTB is taking strides to improve on areas on significant confusion to those that it regulates and a first step towards doing that is to gather your comments via an anonymous survey.

Would you like to actually let them know how you feel?

If you are already on their email newsletter list you’ll be receiving a link to access this survey soon.  (By the way- if you’re interested in getting on their email list just go to and you’ll see a link: “Get email updates”)

The email they are sending out right now is for their 2015 Customer Satisfaction survey.survey says

In this brief survey they are asking for your feedback related to:

  • customer service
  • application processing times
  • ease of understanding for their regulations
  • general suggestions for areas of improvement

Think you could give them a point or two for how to improve the way they interact with you?

Keep an eye out for their email. The survey will be available until September 30th

Here is their announcement:    TTB 2015 Customer Satisfaction Survey

Wineries: No cross outs on your weigh tags!
Posted on 2015-08-13 by Ann Reynolds

It’s game on for crush 2014 2015! 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. Continue reading

Napa County winery annual reporting may be coming soon
Posted on 2015-07-28 by Ann Reynolds

There are currently several hundred wineries in the unincorporated area of Napa county which hold a use permit issued by the Napa County Planning office. Currently these wineries are not required to file reports to the planning office related to their wine making activities. That may change though as a result of recent proposals from the county planning office and discussions with the county’s Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee. (APAC)  The County is now proposing an annual self certification that wineries would be required to complete and submit to their office which would be used to verify if wineries are meeting use permit conditions.

Would you know right now whether your winery was in compliance with the conditions on your county use permit?

Based on my interactions with many local Napa wineries most would not. They would also not know what their specific use permit conditions are related to their wine making and which of their on site records are used by the county to determine their compliance.

There are two areas tied to wine making activities that the county looks at to determine a winery’s use permit compliance; wine production gallons and grape appellation sources. The first, wine production gallons is the approved amount listed on a winery’s most current use permit. The second, grape source data is specific to the Winery Definition Ordinance (WDO) which went info effect in 1990 and in part set the requirement for grape deliveries received into wineries with use permits approved after that date at 75% coming from Napa county grapes.

What records does the county use to determine compliance in these two areas? The first, wine production compliance is determined by calculating two sets of numbers which come from the winery’s Alcohol & Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau (TTB) report of wine premise operations report. (Still commonly referred to in the industry as the 702) Here’s an excerpt from a post I wrote in 2013 which explains and provides an example of these calculations:

“Calculating the first set involves some math. The county first takes a look at your gallons “produced by fermentation”, which is line #2 on the TTB report. They total all of these numbers from 3 year’s worth of reports. Next they add to that the difference in your gallons of bulk wine received onto your site minus the gallons of bulk wine shipped out from your site. These received and shipped sets of numbers appear on lines 7 & 15 of the TTB report form.  After reaching the final number of this first calculation they then take a look at one other number from the TTB report, line 13, gallons bottled. They compare the first calculation number to the total gallons bottled number and whichever is higher is what the county will use to base whether or not your winery is in compliance with the number of gallons listed on your use permit.”

Example of calculation:

“Let’s use fictional winery ABC Cellars. Here is their fictional summary for 3 year’s worth of TTB  reports.They produced by fermentation (line 2’s totals) 8,540 gallons. They received in bond (line 7) 3,400 gallons and transferred in bond (line 15) 1,890 gallons for a net of 1,510. Adding this to their produced by fermentation number we get 10,050 gallons. (8,540 + 1,510) This is the first calculation number. Lastly their Bottled (line 13) number for the 3 years was 9,640.   The number the county would have compared to the number on their use permit is 10,050, since it is the higher of the two. So as long as ABC Cellars has a use permit gallons above 10,050 they would be in compliance”

The second area, the 75% grape source requirement for post 1990 use permit holders is verified by data that comes from all of a winery’s weighmaster certificates, or weigh tags for grapes received onto their site. Here again a sum of 3 years worth of data compiled from their weigh tags (or other record info) is used to determine that at least 75% of the grapes received and processed at a winery site are documented with “Napa county”, “Napa Valley”, or any of the 16 sub Napa Valley AVAs as their origin.

If you are concerned that your winery is at risk of being out of compliance on the above county requirements you can reach me to discuss further. or 707-266-1946

CA wineries: Time to renew your ABC licenses
Posted on 2015-05-05 by Ann Reynolds

Here in California if you are in business as a winery, which is known as a “Winegrower” with our Alcoholic Beverage Control agency by now you would have more than likely received a mailing with your type 02 license renewals. The CA ABC gives numbers to all the different types of licenses they issue, and for those in the winery game they hold the type 02, or winegrower license.

First of all, I’ve always gotten a kick out of that term, “winegrower”. I always thought wine was made, and grapes were grown. However the license name was derived by the CA ABC folks once upon a time they are still rather old school with their renewal process. All type 02 licenses, which is called the Winegrower come up for renewal by June 30th of each year. These renewals are sent out, and must be returned via snail mail to the CA ABC headquarters in Sacramento. 

So a head’s up to all you California wineries- if you don’t receive this renewal mailing from the CA ABC by the end of May- give their Sacramento office a call 916-263-6882. You’ll want to provide them with your ABC license # as well. In case you can’t easily track down what that number is- here’s a link to look it up on their handy license query lookup

The CA ABC states that it isn’t their fault if for some reason their renewal mailings don’t make it successfully to your mailbox, and if they don’t receive your renewal mailing back post marked by June 30th they will tack on a ranging rate of late fee, which depends on what your license fee is. I also suggest sending your renewal back to their office in some form that you can track confirmation that they received it.

One other point worth mentioning here is that if your wine business is the “alternating proprietor” type you will hold a second type 02 license, called a duplicate. This will list whatever your businesses address is, which is different from your other type 02 license that lists the winery’s physical address. This second, or “duplicate” 02 license is also up for renewal by June 30th of every year- so make sure that you receive that renewal mailing from the CA ABC office as well. Here is where to contact them again if you don’t receive it by the end of May.  (916) 263-6882.

Winery Compliance Class: May 12th in Placerville
Posted on 2015-04-14 by Ann Reynolds

In last week’s blog post I wrote about how winery compliance is a conundrum of a task for the vast majority of winery staff responsible for managing it. What is the main factor behind this? In my opinion it comes from the following two sources:

  • (1) They are given little to no training specific to it
  • (2) The wrong staff person (or persons) are managing it

I was in the fist group back in my early days at Sterling Vineyards in the late 90’s, when I first began the compliance leg of my wine industry career. Essentially I felt like I was stumbling around in the dark as I attempted to make sense of the 6 figures of wine gallons I was tracking on and off site and how their details (vintage, varietal, appellation, etc) translated into what the TTB required to meet their regulations and keep in their good graces.

Fast forward from there to 2006 when in large part as a result of my less than ideal winery compliance learning experiences I began teaching the topic at Napa Valley College. Since then I’ve continued to offer compliance training courses through other venues, in both face to face and via online style.

I’ve decided to expand these training opportunities to a wider area and will host my next in person training in the Sierra Foothills region of California – where there are well over 200 wineries currently.

The course is being offered on Tuesday, May 12th from 9 am til 2 pm at the Cary House Hotel in Placerville. 

Full course info & sign up details are here:  

Winery Compliance Training: On the Road

This course is for you if you too have felt like you’re stumbling around in the dark as far as understanding what your winery is supposed to be doing to keep up with TTB regs and you’d really like some piece of mind that comes from a training like this.

Topics covered include:

What specific records you need to be keeping on your wines & what they need to look like

What reports you need to be sending to the TTB and how to fill them out to avoid any red flags

Time savers for your TTB filings: required reports and label approvals

TTB & CA BOE excise taxes: Is your winery filing and paying them at the correct rates

Give Napa Valley credit or lose your license
Posted on 2015-03-25 by Ann Reynolds

I recently heard from 2 clients telling me they were contacted regarding their use of a sub AVA of Napa Valley on their TTB approved wine label. What they were specifically being contacted about was that their labels did NOT also list Napa Valley next to that sub AVA.

This scenario is one example of what are known as conjunctive wine labeling laws here in
California. In the case of Napa Valley it is sourced from California Business & Professions code #25240 , which has existed since 1990. What it placed into law is the requirement that any wine label which lists one of Napa Valley’s sub AVAs (which we now have 16!)  must also list “Napa Valley” next to it………..Anywhere that sub AVA appears on the label by the way folks!

What might happen to your winery if you don’t do this you ask? You could be required to pull all of that bottled wine out of warehouses, retailers, etc and re-label it correctly. Or your winery could have its CA ABC license suspended or revoked.

There are currently 4 conjunctive wine labeling laws on the books in California. Besides our Napa Valley scenario here the other three are Lodi, Paso Robles & Sonoma County.

Winery staff that are involved in the compliance side of wine label design & obtaining TTB label approval need to be the watchdogs on behalf of their winery or wine cellar for this California requirement. The TTB is not going to flag your label approval submission for not meeting this state of California conjunctive labeling requirement! 

Through the wonderful technological tools now available for doing TTB COLA searches- our CA ABC offices or anyone else interested in keeping a “conjunctive labeling” eye on TTB approved wine labels can easily run searches to spot those that are out of compliance.

This is another great example of what I refer to as the “connect the dots” big picture that wineries need to have in relation to successfully managing their ongoing compliance. By “connect the dots” I mean how one item of your winery compliance, in this instance an individual wine label and its TTB label approval is then connected to meeting requirements of CA ABC law.

Who has this “connect the dots” view at your winery?

How to KNOW your excise taxes (TTB) have REALLY been paid!
Posted on 2014-09-25 by Ann Reynolds

This headline in the wine industry last week caught my attention- Wine Cellar owner sentenced to prison . This was related to lack of payment of TTB excise taxes due for over a year’s period of time. The thing was, this business had been including on their customer’s invoices payments made for excise taxes but those taxes were never paid to the TTB, so the owner was just pocketing those amounts. 

The owner of this wine storage & shipment business was actually sentenced to 9 months of prison time in addition to restitution payment due to the TTB of closer to $900,000. That dollar figure would come from the past due tax payment amounts, late fees and penalties related to her knowing neglect in paying them.

But what about the wineries that stored their cased wines there? What about their responsibility? Are they in trouble with the TTB as well? No they are not, their responsibility would lie in the details of how they shipped their wines to the warehouse. The paperwork that goes along with a shipment of cased wine to a storage warehouse is called a bill of lading. (or what the TTB call a transfer in bond record) On their bill of lading a winery would have specifically indicated “transfer in bond” on it, meaning that the federal excise taxes had not been paid on those cased wines. This in turn generally means that when the winery receives an order for those wines it is forwarded to the warehouse for fulfillment and then they, the warehouse as the site that actually shipped the wines are required to file the federal excise tax report and submit payment to the TTB on the amount of wine shipped.

This is what all the winery customers of this warehouse in Salinas thought was happening, especially since they were seeing the tax payment amounts coming back to them on their invoices. Why would they have suspected otherwise?

The only way a winery can be 100% sure that all their TTB (And California BOE by the way too) excise tax payments have been made is if they are filing them themselves. 

What this scenario looks like is all of a winery’s cased wine shipments going to a wine warehouse for storage & fulfillment are all sent “Taxpaid”. This “taxpaid” statement is also indicated on the bill of lading sent with the wine to the warehouse, so the warehouse will know how to log in into their system and keep track. Plus it is also the start point indicator for the warehouse that they do NOT have to submit any of the tax filings/payments on shipments of those wines. The TTB excise tax reporting and tax payments are then fully the responsibility of the winery itself.

Another item of note related to this same issue I have heard several times in recent months is that some wine storage warehouses in Napa and Sonoma county are no longer willing to file TTB excise tax payments under the small producers tax credit. So for any of their winery clients that qualify for this hefty 0.90 cent a gallon tax credit they would essentially be telling them “if you want to take advantage of this huge tax savings on your wines, you’ll need to send them into us “Taxpaid””. Which would mean that the winery would document their bills of lading of cased wines being sent to their warehouse as “Taxpaid” and then follow up on those shipments for their next reporting period by submitting the TTB excise tax report along with payment.

For more info on the bill of lading document go here: BOL info

For more info on the TTB excise tax for the small producers credit go here: SPC tax info

To talk more about your winery records and reports please contact me here:                  

OR     707-320-8575

Free Harvest compliance “Tips & Tricks”
Posted on 2014-09-10 by Ann Reynolds

Harvest 2014 while underway, has been a “start, stop” sort of harvest here in Napa so far. That is the picking began and then either slowed way down or stopped while waiting for the next round of grapes to hit the “ready” stage of ripe. 

Then of course here in Napa many wineries were hit to varying degrees by the earthquake over 2 weeks ago now, so the fact that grape deliveries had slowed down was actually a bit of a silver lining as the cleanup process had to be taken care of.

So as wineries get back in gear with harvest, which by nature is a chaotic & unpredictable event I’d like to offer some organizational assistance to reduce some of that chaos.

This assistance is my free “Harvest compliance Tips” list. These are designed to give you simple, specific guidance around your weigh tags, work orders and reports to:

  • Help keep your harvest numbers organized for later use
  • Keep you in the good graces of the TTB, and county Ag commissioner (both of these agencies can audit!)

If you’re someone who is responsible for completing weigh tags, or completing the CA Grape crush report- these compliance tips are for you.

Send me an email to sign up: