David L. Morrow II
Netflix, Wine, and Chill
I love those silly memes that compare life in your twenties to life in your thirties. The twenties are usually filled with moments of “Turn-Up or Turnt,” “YOLO,” and drama-filled social lives. Whereas your thirties most likely include a book club, an occasional wine tasting, and the very important Netflix-binge weekends. The latter is by far my personal favorite, mainly because it is the cheapest and most self-indulgent.
There is something to be said about curling up in a snuggie with a glass of wine, a significant other, or just your lonesome self to watch the latest commercial-free Netflix creation. Right now, I am watching the second season of Stranger Things with a very good 2014, Sonoma, California, cabernet sauvignon.
A recent episode of Keegan-Michael Key’s Netflix comedy Friends from College entitled “Party Bus” inspired my recent tour of wine country in Napa Valley, California, with six friends. This episode included the trifecta of millennial obsessions: Netflix, wine, and close friends. A recent study found that millennials drank 42 percent of all wine in the United States in 2015, more than any other age group. And, I must confess, my friends and I contributed to that statistic on our vacation. (No, we did not have a drunken weekend—maybe just a very turnt day.) Napa Valley was beautiful, and I learned so much about wine, which got me wondering about the basic laws of the wine business.
The wine industry is structured on paper like many other legal entities throughout the country, and therefore, it has similar legal considerations. Young lawyers versed in mergers, stock sales, investments, corporate formation, leases, advertising and marketing, sponsorship agreements, trademarks, property tax, and even estate planning for family vineyards will feel right at home in the realm of wine law.
Unique to the wine industry, however, are the legal geographic designations of American Viticultural Areas (AVA), which are set forth by the US Department of the Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. According to federal regulations, if a wine is produced in a designated AVA, then (1) 85 percent or more of the wine must come from grapes that are grown within that AVA’s geographic boundary and (2) the wine must be fully finished within that specific AVA. Some states have even stricter standards of the use of marketing an AVA on wine labels. As of December 2017, there are 240 established AVAs in the United States—139 of which are in California. The AVA system ensures truthful marketing and promotion in labeling of wines to protect the consumer and encourage honest business dealings.
And, in case you ever thought about starting your own wine business, according to James Moss of J. Moss Winery in Napa, the average start-up cost is $50,000, and because of how long it takes to make good wine, you won’t make a profit for at least two years.
I’ll pass on that, grab a cheap wine from Trader Joe’s, and binge on Netflix instead.
This article appeared in the May 2018 edition of the Young Lawyer Magazine