Tuesday, January 31, 2006

It's that time of year again.

You know, Valentine's Day. And this year, something special: "Law & Order: SUV" Valentines. They make the Marge Simpson candy valentines I gave last year look positively tasteful.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Self-distribution: Update.

Actions of politicians continue to astound, although I really suppose they shouldn't.

On Thursday, the subcommittee (of the House Committee on General Laws, which has jurisdiction over alcohol-related matters) considering HB 1288 - the wineries' self-distribution provision - voted down the provision by a 4-1 tally.

There has been no press coverage of this bill, so it's unclear to me why the delegates voted against the bill. I can think of only two groups who might oppose the legislation: (1) the neo-Prohibitionists, who knee-jerk oppose anything that makes it easier for adults to purchase a product they're legally permitted to purchase, and (2) Virginia wineries who are big enough that they already have distributors in order to get their wines throughout the state and who won't be able to benefit from self-distribution because their contracts with their distributors prohibit it. (And I don't see those Virginia wineries opposing the bill, because their future is dependent on a strong, growing Virginia wine industry.)

Distributors aren't going to oppose the bill, because they don't want the hassle of distributing small wineries' products, when there isn't much profit potential in the small-volume, small-markup wines. But if the bill passes, the Virginia ABC will force distributors to distribute the wines - I've seen it happen in the case of a small microbrewery - with threats to the distributors' licenses. And if that happens, no one involved with the distribution - wineries, distributors, retailers and restaurants, and customers - will be well served.

And plenty of groups - among them, the Virginia Vineyards Association,
Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, Virginia Agribusiness Council, and
Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association - supported the bill.

The good news - to the extent there is any here - is that the bill is scheduled for reconsideration on Tuesday, by the entire House Committee on General Laws. There's still time to contact your representatives (and, more importantly, the members of that committee).

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Saturday, January 21, 2006


There has been legislation introduced into this year's General Assembly, designed to address the distribution of wine by in-state wineries; a subject thrown into some turmoil by last year's Supreme Court decision requiring that states not discriminate between in-state and out-of-state wineries. This bill addresses the ability to small wineries to self-distribute their wines, directly to retailers and restaurants, without having to go through a distributor.

Self-distribution seems to be a win-win for all interested parties: Wineries get to make sales to retailers and restaurants without having to yield a portion of the proceeds to distributors, retailers and restaurants get to deal with those who are most interested in selling them the wines, and distributors don't have to concern themselves with low-volume, low-profit wineries.

So this legislation would allow wineries "small enough" to qualify for the federal small winery tax credit (27 CFR 24.278) to self-distribute. Yes, it's an arbitrary cut-off, but at least it's not one easily changed by the Virginia ABC regulators. And yes, I believe that all current Virginia wineries fall under that limit. But my guess is that this set-up would pass muster as being constitutional on its face.

I've heard from two wineries, asking that I contact my state senator and delegate in support of this legislation. That's fine, and a reasonable request. What bothers me about the requests, though, is that they both stray into Parade of Horribles territory, suggesting that some/many/most Virginia wineries will go out of business without the ability to self-distribute, and that some/many/most Virginia wines won't be available at retailers and restaurants. Well, baloney. I suppose that might be true if the legislation didn't pass and these wineries did nothing to find distributors. But I think that if the legislation isn't enacted, those wineries would find it in their best interest to go together and create an independent distributor whose main purpose was to distribute Virginia wines, and I'm sure they'd find support from the retailers and restaurants who would otherwise not have wines available for the customers who want them. Market forces will find a solution to this dilemma, even if the legislature does not.

My other concern with the requests was that they both urged me to use their cut-and-paste form letter to send to my representatives, without even considering that I could write my own. Knowing that elected representatives ignore obvious form letters, I'd think that asking us to send our own notes of support would have been the better approach.

How'd they do that? Not to mention, Why?

I'm a sucker for cool marketing ploys. Not to the extent that I'd buy a car for one, but I've certainly bought boxes of cereal for the neat premium inside.

In the car category, however, is this ad for the Honda Civic. Appears to be a British ad, so we're unlikely to see it here. (Unless they show it once, during the Super Bowl.) Push the "Watch" button, and be amazed.

Cool, eh?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Weather. Or not.

Bizarre weather of late. (Yes, that's the best excuse I can come up with for not posting lately.) Fairly warm days - each week of the month has had a couple of days in the upper 50's and one making it to the 60's - and little cold weather. And for the past two or three days, lots and lots of wind. (Enough to bring down small limbs from the tree in my front yard. Thankfully, the limbs hit my front yard, too, and not the house.) The wind was blowing so hard this morning - especially when funnelled down the streets of Richmond - that it almost knocked me over; a sensation I last felt while going outside during Hurricane Isabel. Weather- and wind-wise, you'd think it was March.

My suspicion is that we're being set up for a cold and snowy February.

Monday, January 09, 2006

And a couple more.

Recommendations, that is.

When you sit around inside the Atlanta airport for untold hours on end ("Atlanta" is an Indian name, meaning "excessively long waits for no apparent reason"), you have the opportunity to read a lot of books. Thanks to Delta Airlines, I got just that opportunity on my trip out to Colorado. In both directions.

Lance Armstrong's War is an in-depth look at Lance Armstrong's 2004, the year he became the only person to win the Tour de France six times. An interesting approach to a biography: you get a lot more detail about what goes in to winning a Tour and what it's like to be a professional cyclist than in books that cover a longer timespan. (And you have to love the internet: here's an NPR interview with Daniel Coyle, the author. And here's an excerpt.)

And I got out to see Munich this past weekend. Excellent movie. Definitely worth seeing.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Yes, yes; I'm still around.

Trying to recover from the cold I caught on my trip to Colorado over New Year's. The wedding - no, not mine - went off just fine. Let me tell you, though: airplane flights when your ears don't pop properly are no fun at all. They make sitting around for hours and hours and hours in the Atlanta airport, awaiting flights which were delayed for no apparent reason, seem like a party in comparison.