Quick question my winemaking compliance friends, When you researched for the answer to a compliance question were you ever frustrated with the first answer you were given? And by frustrated I mean the answer you were given either was not very clear or just didn’t sound like the right one you were after? My simple solution when this happens to you? Get a second opinion.

The form of a compliance second opinion is what I call our version of a support group. This is a list you’ll create and manage yourself. It is a hugely helpful resource to fall back on for all the random questions that come up. The people you will add to this very personalized group are a combination of two sources.

The first source is from the actual government agencies, be that the TTB, the ABC or the CDFA for example. The individuals from each of these agencies that make it onto your personal support list are going to be ones that you’ve actually made contact with in the past that were helpful, responsive and friendly. (These are my 3 main criteria, you may develop your own)

Once I’ve made contact with someone who meets at least two of my criteria I’ll add them to my list of contacts, usually adding some comments in there that specify the type of help they can provide. I’m also gathering their contact info as well, phone number and email ideally.

The second source of compliance support group members to have is fellow colleagues at other wineries who are dealing with the same stuff you are. Making contact with people from this source is our version of networking and is incredibly valuable on just a moral support level alone. Those of us who are responsible for dealing with winery compliance on a day to day basis are often a lonely breed, so having others you can talk to and commiserate with can be a very validating (And enlightening) experience.

If you are reading this and are someone who currently is feeling lost in their compliance desert and has nobody on their compliance contacts list to reach out to here are my suggestions:

1. Start with developing your list for the second source, your fellow winery colleagues. There are a number of ways to begin to develop this list. You can contact anybody you already know who works at a winery and ask them who manages their compliance records and ask for their contact info. Then start making introductory phone calls or emails to get the ball rolling. Whoever is responsive makes it onto your list, at least for starters. You can also look into any classes that are offered related to winery compliance and consider signing up. You know you’ll meet fellow compliance folk at those gatherings, so bring several of your cards and ask for theirs.

2. To start developing the names from the first source, the government agencies you can start by asking the people you are now getting introduced to at other wineries. Ask them who they recommend as good resources to contact for various types of winemaking compliance questions. You may not only be given some great names to add to your list but you’ll also be bonding with your new winery colleagues by asking for their input.

My final suggestion for you in developing your compliance support group is to keep in contact with folks like myself. Compliance experts that is. We’ve been in the trenches and dealt with the nuttiness that can come along with managing compliance records, so rather than go down the “re-invent the wheel” road yourself you can reach out to someone who has already gone down it many times and is very familiar with how the wheel is built.

For any of you who have great compliance support group stories or suggestions you’d like to share, I’d love to hear them. Please enter them in the comments below.  Spread the good word.

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