Things To Be Thankful For In Winemaking Compliance
Posted on 2015-11-23 by Ann Reynolds

Yes I know, “thankful” and “compliance” don’t usually show up in the same sentence together. But if you’re someone who has spent the past 15 plus years interacting with the TTB from a recordkeeping and reporting standpoint you can appreciate the improvements that have come along to simplify the process. Plus I’m a person who believes in a regular practice of gratitude. So in the spirit of marking this Thanksgiving week I’ve summarized a few of this years compliance “developments” that I’m grateful for.

Some of these items on the list are developments from the TTB over this past year while others are about new developments in my business.

1.  Label approval times are still relatively “quick”. Average processing time is now 20 days.

2. Another TTB update related to label approvals. The “You can get it wrong but still get it right!” update they posted in September. See my blog post which summarizes this: 9-29-2015 Blog post 

 3.  I’m now teaching a winery compliance course through the Napa SBDC offices. The class is offered twice a year. Sign up for my newsletter to find out about upcoming 2016 dates.

4.  Wine Compliance Alliance has had a Youtube channel for a year now. 2015 was quiet as far as posting new videos but starting January 2016 you can expect to see regular weekly uploads on topics related to TTB winery compliance, from permitting through record keeping, reporting, paying excise taxes and label design/label approval. Here’s the channel to subscribe: Wine Compliance Alliance Youtube channel

5.  Last but not least I’m continually thankful to all of you who have found my blog and made contact with me to let me know that it made you smile, helped you out or you became another awesome client. Thanks! I’m very grateful to hear your appreciative feedback! It is you that I am writing for! Make sure you stay in my loop of the wonderful world of winemaking compliance by signing up for my newsletter by accessing my “5 Simple Steps” download here on my site.

And for those of you who have any items to add to this list from your own experiences I’d love to hear about them! Please share them in the comments section below.

Here’s to more updates and improvements to be thankful for in your winemaking compliance as we approach 2016!          Stay tuned!

California wineries-time to determine your ABC license renewal fee
Posted on 2015-11-10 by Ann Reynolds

All California wineries have an annual filing due this month (November 15th) to the CA ABC (California Alcoholic Beverage Control) which is the Winegrower/Wineblender report. This annual report is sent to you & returned to the CA ABC headquarters office in Sacramento via regular mail. (sorry no online filing available) 

As the holder of either a type 02 the Winegrower license or the type 22 the Wine blender license you are required to submit this report annually related to some specific gallon amounts that come directly from another of your required reports, the TTB Report of wine premise operations. (still most commonly referred to in wine making circles as the “702” report) 

The numbers that are filled in on this CA ABC report are used to determine what your annual license fees will be come their next renewal cycle. For example as the holder of a type 02 Winegrower license (which by the way is the type that a winery will obtain) if your winery produces less than 5,000 gallons of wine on a yearly basis then your annual ABC license fee is $69.

But what does the CA ABC mean when it uses the term “produces”? Here is where you need to refer specifically to a year’s worth of your winery’s TTB “702” reports starting with July of the previous year through the June report for the current year. Next within those reports you’ll be summing the totals from lines 2 & 5 in section A. You’ll first sum the total of all numbers that were listed on line 2, produced by fermentation. Write that number down. For line 5, received in bond you ONLY want to sum any gallon amount for bulk wines that were purchased from another winery site and then blended into your own wines. If that applies to your winery then add that number to the sum from line 2 and fill in that number on line 1 of the CA ABC report.

See the report example here:  ABC261_I

You’ll next calculate the license fee required based on the gallon number you filled in on line 1 and write in that dollar amount on line 2. You’ll next compare that dollar amount to what is already handwritten on line 3 and determine whether you either owe an additional amount, are due a credit or owe nothing.

That’s it. Once completed if payment is due you’ll include a check with the completed report and return to the CA ABC headquarters office which is in Sacramento CA. 

Here is a helpful FAQ summary the CA ABC put together for completing this report:


Winery Compliance Class in Napa: November 3rd
Posted on 2015-10-06 by Ann Reynolds

 Just like there are seasons of growth and activity in the vineyards, the same applies for activity levels related to day to day winery compliance tasks. The 2015 grape harvest is wrapping up on the early side this year which means that things are beginning to slow back down to “normal” in the cellar.

This is another perfect time to take a look at your winery’s compliance “health”. Is it in good standing? Are you keeping your wine making records correctly to pass either a TTB or a Napa County planning audit?

If you have ever lost sleep over the above topics- I’m teaching a class next month which is designed to help you find out.

The class is “How to keep your winery Audit safe” and is being offered on Tuesday, November 3rd from 9 til noon through the Napa-Sonoma Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

Go HERE for full details & to sign up. 

It will be offered at the SBDC office on the Napa Valley College campus.

The class will focus specifically on key issues related to TTB (Alcohol & Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau) and Napa County Planning use permit audits. These are items that come up most frequently in the course of on site audits by both of these regulating agencies. Topics such as required records and reporting, excise tax payments, and how to determine production levels will be explained and reviewed so attendees can then determine whether their winery has any potential issues that need to be addressed.

Winery staff attending the class are highly encouraged to bring the following items:

  • Full previous years TTB 5120.17 (“702”) reports
  • Most recent TTB excise tax report
  • Examples of required records: a completed bill of lading for cased wine & one for bulk wine
  • Current Napa county Use Permit 

This class will go a long way to help wineries fully connect the dots as to how the records and reports they are required to be maintaining and filing either have potential audit holes in them, leaving them vulnerable as well as specific steps they can take now to address them.

Here is a link to get signed up:    Winery Compliance Class


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

Connecting your grape weigh tags to your wine labels
Posted on 2015-08-18 by Ann Reynolds

Yet another grape harvest is underway across California & the western states. The grape harvest is where the compliance “story” of a wine and all it’s relevant details begin. From a winery compliance perspective this means all the hard copy records that any winery is required to be maintaining in their files. At harvest those would be the weigh tags, or formally called weighmaster certificates. Did you know that there is a direct connection to the details on your grape weigh tags and the details listed on your wine labels?

This direct connection backs into requirements by the Alcohol & Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau (TTB), as well as the California Alcoholic Beverage Control (CA ABC) offices and their regulating authority. Both of these agencies have regulating authority related to wine labels.

For the TTB the connection between your wine labels and your grape weigh tags is any items such as a varietal, AVA, or vineyard name that appear on your wine labels must also appear on the weigh tags that documented the grapes that became those finished wines. The TTB considers a grape weigh tag a “source document” and will use them for verification purposes in the event of an audit of a finished wine which tracks the wine’s details back from the wine label to the weigh tags.

For the CA ABC they are looking for a specific listing, or actually two on your wine labels both of which have to do with the appellation information listed there. In California we currently have four conjunctive labeling laws on the books, specific to four grape growing areas of the state. What each of these laws state is that if a “sub” AVA of one of these grape growing regions is listed on a wine label then the larger “parent” AVA must also be listed on the the label, either next to it, or on another part of the label(s).  Those four areas by the way are: Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Lodi and Paso Robles.

Grape weigh tags are the “birth certificates” of the wine world. My suggestions are always to make them as specific and narrow as possible. 

Concerned that your weigh tags are incomplete, inaccurate or wouldn’t pass TTB or CA ABC requirements?

Let’s discuss further:

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

Wineries – Do you know if your records paper trail is complete?
Posted on 2015-07-22 by Ann Reynolds

Wine making compliance has a lot of moving parts. Those moving parts primarily consist of the records that detail the activities that happen to a wine throughout it’s “life”, generally from grape to bottle though it could also be a much shorter story.

These (required) records consist of 3 main items; weigh tags, work orders and bills of lading. Any winery will need to have at the least 2 of these in their files, and would be required to produce them in hard copy form in the event of a TTB audit.

In my experiences most wineries are not aware of the specifics that the TTB requires to be tracked on each of these required records. Unfortunately, winery staff are often not given any or enough training related to TTB compliance in order to do that part of their jobs effectively.

Taking a look at each item separately here are some quick run-down questions for winery staff to ask when assessing each of these records in their files.

Item 1. Weigh Tags. This record as an official state of California (CDFA) document is called a weighmaster certificate. A weighmaster certificate is required for any sales transaction of grapes, juice or bulk wine.  A weighmaster certificate has a specific set of items that it must contain. (see sample here under weighmaster certificate requirements)

From the TTB’s perspective however a weigh tag is essentially a birth certificate for a wine.

Assessment Questions:

1. Do your weigh tags document the AVA for the grapes used to make your wines?

2. Do your weigh tags document the specific vineyard names for all your grapes?

These are two items that are NOT required to be documented on a weighmaster certificate, but wineries want to include them to make the connection between their weigh tags and their wine labels. Both AVAs and vineyard names are commonly listed on wine labels, and the easiest way to satisfy the TTB during an audit is to have them included on all the weigh tags for your grapes.

Item 2. Work orders.  Work orders are the records that track each activity that happened to a wine throughout its life at a winery site. They track the crushing, pressing, movements, addition materials added, blendings, filtrations, bottlings, etc that happen from start to finish in the wine making process. Gains and losses are documented on these. 

Assessment Questions:

1. Do you have hard copy work orders that include the date, tank/barrel info, blend/lot numbers, and start/ending gallons for your wines that document all wine making activity for each of your wines from “start to finish”? 

2. Can your work orders be connected one to the next for your wines, so that blend #’s match, starting/ending gallons match and any excessive losses are documented?

3. Are you tracking your finished wines by their accurate tax class? (Either below 14% or over 14 to 21% alcohol) 

Item 3. Bills of Lading.  A bill of lading, or BOL as they’re referred to by industry is what the TTB refers to as a “Transfer in Bond” record. When a winery receives in or ships out bulk wine a bill of lading is required for that wine shipment. There is a specific set of items that the TTB requires to appear on any Transfer in Bond record. (See list here) 

Assessment Questions:

1. Do your winery’s BOLs contain: Your TTB BWN number AND the receiving winery’s BWN (or BWC) number? And full physical address for both?

2. Do both your BOLs and the BOLs you receive from other wineries contain the FULL breakdown on the wine: Vintage, Varietal, & Appellation- all adding up to 100%?

3. Do both your BOLs and the BOLs you receive from other wineries list either the actual alcohol content OR at a minimum list the tax class? (below or over 14%)

The three wine making records described above are what tell the real stories of a wine’s life. The details that they track become the numbers that wineries report on the TTB Report of Wine Operations report, the details that (in part) document whether a winery qualifies for the Small Producers Tax credit, and what a wine will or won’t qualify to list on its label. These are all topics that come up most commonly during on site TTB winery audits.