As an industry, wineries have been regulated by the federal government since the early days of US history. From the beginning stages of building a winery, through the stages of making wine and eventually to the finished product being shipped out to its customers wineries are required to set up and maintain many applications, records and reports required by the Alcohol & Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau. (TTB for short.) In my positions at several wineries over the years I have had several first hand experiences, and listened to many stories from others about our frustration and confusion in regards to coming to terms with what was expected of us to meet their requirements. Much of this came down to what I call a language issue.
We were speaking our “real world” winery language and the TTB representatives were speaking their “government-speak” language. The two often did not meet. Thus the confusion and frustration.
What I came to learn quickly from these less than satisfying interactions was two things. First when you come into contact with a friendly and helpful person at the agency, write their contact information down immediately! Second, the TTB really did want us as wineries to “get it right”. They wanted us to be able to understand what their requirements meant and how best to go about meeting them.
A good example of this is seen by viewing their website. When I first began interacting with the TTB back in 1998 their site was much simpler and had the daunting, unhelpful look often seen on government agency sites. However if you take a look at it now they have made great strides in providing a lot of information available to those both in and out of the wine industry. For those in the industry there are now several tutorials available to navigate the process of filing out certain reports. There is detailed information about the application process. There is also the entire handout packet from their annual seminar available as a download. If none of these provide the answer to your question there is of course a contact section with names, numbers and email addresses. I have also had many experiences going this route. They are very good about responding back to emails especially, but I have had good luck with phone contact as well.
So whether you are just at the beginning stages of building a winery, or have been in the business for decades the regulations apply to all. Knowing how to navigate those regulations smoothly and effectively makes a huge difference in your overall attitude towards the value of compliance. Since the TTB is an agency that all in the industry must deal with, it behooves them to become at least semi fluent in their language. These days they have made that a much more attainable task.