Sonoma Vineyard, Grapes, rows, tractor

Sonoma Vineyard, Grapes, rows, tractor (Photo credit: Melissa Evanson)

Wineries Win Fight To Use Social Media More Freely

Megan Goldsby
October 17, 2018 - 4:50 pm

Wineries can finally go viral on social media now that Gov. Jerry Brown has replaced Prohibition-era laws that prevented vintners from posting about events on sites like Instagram. 

The so-called "Tied house" laws forbade winemakers from posting pictures of a restaurant where they could be hosting a dinner with wine pairings. Although the laws have been on the books for decades, many wineries violated them. 

“We just thought that was frankly ridiculous,” said Michelle Novi, the Napa Valley Vintners' associate director of industry relations. “Wineries [were] breaking the rules, and probably not realizing it. So, instead of trying to get them to correct their behavior, we thought, why not get the rules changed?”

A law relaxing the rules in the 2018 Alcohol Beverage Control Act was signed by Governor Jerry Brown in September. That governs how alcohol is manufactured and marketed in California.

Before the change, Novi said that wineries had to get creative to abide by the rules. They might show picture of a wine bottle, instead of where the event was taking place. Still, her group regularly spotted wineries stepping over the line.

The laws were originally written to prevent inappropriate business relationships and unfair practices.

“But in reality, all it was doing was constraining alcohol manufacturers, wine brands, from communicating authentically in social media,” she said.

But despite the success, the fight to modernize the rules is not over yet. Pictures are now legal, but Novi pointed out that so-called “laudatory statements” are still banned.

“For example, a winery couldn’t say: ‘This is going to be a great dinner at Koi,’” referring to a Michelin-starred restaurant in San Francisco.

But Novi insisted that’s how wineries need to communicate to build relationships with customers and partners. Her group will advocate for eliminating those restrictions next year, she said. 

Written by Jordan Bowen.