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Calif ABC Handed Its Head In A Bag By Appeals Board Which Rips Agency and Rejects Its Winery-Bottlerock Tied-House Cases

Note: This is the main story in a total of four on this case. The other three are linked from this article. Appeals Board quotes are in red


The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has been handed its regulatory head in a bag by the ABC Appeals Board which resoundingly rejected every tied-house allegation the ABC used to prosecute 37 wineries along with Southern Wine & Spirits over alleged violations connected with the 2013 Bottlerock concert in Napa.

 

Appeals Board excoriates the ABC and Administrative Law Judge over “absurd” arguments

 

The Appeals Board’s decisions are shot through with exasperation over what it repeatedly considered the ABC’s interpretations of state law, its focus on irrelevancies, and its unsubstantiated assertions created to fit their complaints against the wineries.

The Appeals Board dished out a lengthy series of wickedly detailed and sharply worded admonishments to the ABC and the Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) who sided with the ABC.

 

The opinion, whose language often bordered on sarcasm and disbelief, left no doubt that the Appeals Board had thoroughly repudiated the methods, manner, and logic of the ABC’s tied-house complaints as well as the ALJs’s support of those.

 

The Board even called one of the ABC’s primary arguments “absurd” and left no doubt about its displeasure when it compared the ABC’s logic —  and that of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who sided with the department — to the “slippery slope” section in  An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments.

 

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 Near identical tied-house opinions in all cases

 

The near-identical opinions — right down to many parts that were word-for-word the same — were issue in the three appeals issued so far by:

 

  • Freixenet Sonoma Caves, penalty: license suspension for 15 days, stayed subject to one year’s discipline-free operation by the licensee. Tied-house charges reversed by the Appeal’s Board. A separate Sunday sales issue was “remanded to the department for reconsideration in light of this opinion.”

 

  • Grgich Hills Estate, penalty: license suspension for 15 days, stayed subject to one year’s discipline-free operation by the licensee. Reversed by the Appeal’s Board.

 

  • Silver Oak Cellars, penalty: license suspension for 10 days, stayed subject to one year’s discipline-free operation by the licensee. Reversed by the Appeal’s Board.

 

Note: the links above, go to the full text of decisions by the Appeals Board. Those links, as well as others in this article are available to premium subscribers of Wine Executive News.

The Parties

The ABC was represented by department counsel Dean Lueders.

 

The ALJs in the three cases decided so far were Sonny Lo and Nicholas R. Loehr.

 

The wineries who had their tied-house cases reversed — Freixenet Sonoma Caves, Grigich Hills Estate and Silver Oak Cellars — were represented by San Francisco law firm Hinman & Carmichael.

 

No one from Hinman & Carmichael would comment on the case and did not respond to Wine Industry Insight’s request for a copy of the Appeals Board decision. The ABC never replied to requests for comment.

Wine Executive News subscribers please click here to read this complete 2,144-word article.

Also In This Article:

The full text of the following detailed sections offering guidance to wineries is available to premium subscribers of Wine Executive News.

  • When is a thing of value not a gift?

  • Appeals Court Asks “What’s the tied-house risk?” (And concludes the answer is “none”)

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Next in this article series:

The Appeals Board Issues Lengthy Takedowns that Rip ABC and ALJ & Cast Serious Shade On “Absurd” Statements, Lack Of Evidence,  Speculation, Poor Logic, Mysteries And More

ABC Appeals Board decisions: complete text (.pdf) Available to Wine Executive News premium subscribers.

 

  • Freixenet Sonoma Caves, penalty: license suspension for 15 days, stayed subject to one year’s discipline-free operation by the licensee. Tied-house charges reversed by the Appeal’s Board. Sunday sales issue “remanded to the department for reconsideration in light of this opinion.”.

 

  • Grgich Hills Estate, penalty: license suspension for 15 days, stayed subject to one year’s discipline-free operation by the licensee. Reversed by the Appeal’s Board.

 

 

  • Silver Oak Cellars, penalty: license suspension for 10 days, stayed subject to one year’s discipline-free operation by the licensee. Reversed by the Appeal’s Board.