Proposed bill could put the squeeze on small wineries

The ghost of prohibition in this country is still alive and well. After history declared prohibition to be one of the worst laws America ever passed, another piece of pending federal legislation, restricting the wine industry, is being debated. It is HR 5034, which would badly hurt smaller wineries that depend on wine clubs and Internet sales, by effectively blocking interstate shipping.
Wholesalers and distributors lobbied states to pass restrictive laws, but the courts struck down laws that were passed and progress was being made in unrestrictive interstate sales and shipping. Now, opponents of direct sales of alcoholic beverages are aiming at Congress again.
In Temecula Wine Country, South Coast Winery Resort and Spa owner Jim Carter, who ships wine to some 20 states, has taken an active role in informing the public about this attack on their freedom to choose, in a letter to his club members and in a recent article in a San Diego newspaper.
“HR 5034 threatens your rights to receive and enjoy your favorite South Coast Winery wines in the comfort of your home,” he said.  It is very important for small wineries, especially, to be able to have these wine clubs because it’s our best vehicle for dealing direct with the public. “
Opponents of the pending law see it as restricting competition by forcing consumers to only buy retail. Wholesalers and distributors are lobbying Congress hard for passage, and the dollars are flowing to at least 50 of the lawmaker co-sponsors of 5034. Seventy-five percent of all wines that were shipped last fiscal year came from California wineries, so this state especially needs to contact their federal congressional representative and strongly condemn this most recent attempt to dry up the direct sales wine business and put a lot more people out of work.
Ponte Winery’s Smokehouse Grill flavors its menu
An innovative group of chefs have produced menu creations at Ponte Winery’s Smokehouse Grill that have turned heads in the Temecula Valley. And Chef Marlon Martinez says it’s the move to a rustic style menu focusing on Mediterranean flavors.
“We stay local and make sure the produce has been grown sustainable and organic,” he said. “Those menu items that need to be shipped in, we make sure they are in the kitchen in time for a same-day lunch.” Today he was serving a magnificent Pacific Roasted Halibut with mashed olive oil potatoes with a warm oyster mushroom vinaigrette, as shown in the photo. Ponte is well known for its Scallion Dip which they serve as their opener with bread. “It’s so popular we sell it by the jar,” he declared. 
In addition to crushed scallion, the dip mix includes champagne, vinegar and olive oil. Some customers like to pour it into their salad. It’s a very different flavor as most items are at Smokehouse Grill. 
On the wine side, Tasting Room Manager Lauren Todd told me that Italian Reds sell best. I had a lovely 2007 Sangiovese that is wine club priced at $32.95. Their 2007 Super Tuscan also sells well at $32.95. 
Of course, it’s still summer and Ponte sells a ton of the 2009 Beverino, a black raspberry flavored sparkling and sweet red for $23.16.
This is a big winery by Temecula numbers, with about 300 acres of vineyards and gardens.  The Tasting Room and Marketplace are open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and are always full of guests. The Smokehouse Grill is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.  For more information, visit www.pontewinery.com.
Wine Bytes
— Bernardo Winery in Rancho Bernardo has its annual Grape Stomp from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 11. Italian food, wine, Roman Holiday music and dance and 2 tons of grapes to stomp. Cost is $65 per person. Tickets on sale at (858) 487-1866.
— PAON Restaurant and Wine Bar in Carlsbad offers a series of three fun informative wine classes, “Red World Tour” starting Sept. 14 from 6 to 8 p.m. The cost is $59 per class. Nine red wines per class will be tasted. Call (858) 442-2749 for details.
— San Diego State has its fall semester classes on the Business of Wine from 6 to 9 p.m. opening Tuesday Sept. 14 and going to Tuesday Oct. 12. The opener is Exploring Wine with Lisa Redwine, certified sommelier. For more information, call (619) 594-6924.
— Hollywood on the Vine is the theme for the Temecula Valley International Film and Music Festival Sept. 15 through Sept. 19 at various venues in Temecula. Mix among celebrities, film and music executives. Films will be shown and workshops available. A black tie gala will be Sept. 19 as musician Kenny Loggins is honored. Call (951) 699-5514 for information and tickets.
— Blue Fire in La Costa Resort presents Jazz and KIFM Smooth Jazz Radio from 7 to 9 p.m. on Sept. 16. Free admission. Call (800) 854-5000 for details.
— Temecula Valley’s Wine & Culilnary Showcase, celebrating California Wine Month, is from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Sept. 17 at Monte De Oro Winery.  A winemaker roundtables starts it off, climaxed by a Walk-Around Tasting featuring nearly 30 local wineries and a dozen restaurants. Call (800) 801-9463 for tickets. Cost is $65 each.
— Meritage Wine Market is hosting its annual Lobsterfest 2010 from 6 to 9 p.m. Sept. 25. This is an old-fashioned lobster boil with fresh, live 2-pound Maine lobsters and a full New England menu. A lineup of six wines will be paired from a Brut reserve to a 2007 Miner Family Napa Red. Cost is $75 each. Call (760) 479-2500 for details.

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