Tips To Ensure Grape Grower Payments From Wineries

Brad Goehring was always surprised to hear from fellow California winegrowers who said they were having trouble collecting on the grapes they had sold to wineries. But while the recession may be over, a lot of winemakers — especially vintners of high-end wines that really saw sales plummet as consumers moved to more affordable price points — are still reeling. And the growers who supplied their grapes are getting splashed with all that red ink.

Dale Stern, the California Association of Winegrape Growers’ legal representative, says there’s no question such problems have increased, and the wineries aren’t small unknowns. “Without a doubt I am getting more calls from winegrape growers and this is involving more wineries than in the past,� says Stern. “A lot of the calls that I get are wineries that are larger and have been around for a long time and owe quite a bit of money to growers.�

Goehring, who has been stiffed for the first time by a winery that while not overly large is publicly traded, still can’t believe he’s been caught up like some of his friends. “Now I’m one of those growers,� says Goehring, who farms 400 acres of winegrapes near Lodi. “I used to think ‘I’ve got a lien in place — I’ll be one of the first to be paid.’ But there are too many loopholes.�

No Wine — No Payment

Among the loopholes, says Goehring, is the fact that if the winery has sold the wine, the grower who supplied the grapes to make that wine basically doesn’t have a lien any more. In addition, the wine must have some value. “If it’s a 2007 Sauvignon Blanc it’s not worth anything; most white wines are out of the tanks and into the store within a year,� he says. “These are some of the problems CDFA (California Department of Food and Agriculture) really needs to address and tighten up.�

Goehring says he’s not a complainer. A fourth generation winegrower, he’s never been to court before. And he emphasizes that the great majority of wineries take great care of the growers that supply their grapes. However, for those wineries who don’t play by the rules, the CDFA simply doesn’t have the situation under control. For example, in his case, the agency slapped the winery with a six-month suspension of their license to buy grapes. “But the suspension runs from December through June when there are no grapes (harvested),� he says. “It didn’t even catch the winery’s attention.�

Even if the winery’s license is suspended, that only means they can’t purchase grapes. The winery can still purchase bulk wine and bottle it.

Get The Ball Rolling

Goehring has perhaps more insight on this situation than the average grower because not only is he a member of CAWG’s Board of Directors, but he has some input on 10,000 acres of winegrapes in the state, with his involvement ranging from providing advice to custom farming. He can understand how a lot of growers can get caught, especially with the recession. “Maybe you’ve been through the ringer the past few years and you’ve had trouble selling grapes,� he says. “You just want to make a sale, so you’ll sign any contract.�

But a good contract is critical if a grower wants to try and ensure payment (see “Grower Payment Checklists�). Even with a good contract, as Goehring says he had with the winery who hasn’t paid him, growers have to be prepared to take action.

Goehring and a half-dozen other growers who’ve been stiffed by the winery are currently talking to an attorney. The growers range in size and the amounts owed, which Goehring says ranges from four to six figures.
Goehring offered the following advice to growers regarding payment. “First, hold onto those relationships with those wineries that are good, that are valued. Two, make sure you have a contract that ensures your rights. Three, on day one (of payment due) pick up the phone and call the winery.�

Leave a Reply

Grapes Stories
GrapesDeveloping The Grapes Of The Future
June 9, 2015
Through advanced chromosome mapping, VitisGen is working to create hardy and disease-resistant grape cultivars. Read More
GrapesASEV-ES Announces Outstanding Achievement Award Winner
June 9, 2015
Wayne Wilcox will be presented with the award at the 40th Annual ASEV-ES Conference in Dunkirk, NY, in July. Read More
Disease ControlTips For Grapevine Trunk Disease Diagnostics, Prevention, and Control
May 28, 2015
Various pathogens and environmental factors are considered to be major threats to the vineyard’s health. Pathogens are disease-causing organisms such Read More
GrapesDeadline Extended For Crucial Winegrape Disease And Pest Referendum
May 27, 2015
Returned ballots to continue the Pierce’s Disease/Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter referendum must be returned by June 10. Read More
EquipmentThe Benefits Of Vineyard Mechanization
May 27, 2015
Labor accounts for a substantial fraction of the production costs of most fruits, including grapes. Manual harvest is particularly laborious, Read More
Apples & PearsSolve Your Labor Problems From Within
May 26, 2015
Summer is here, which means harvest season is just around the corner. Hopefully you’ll have the crews you need this Read More
Disease ControlPartnerships Key To Healthy Northwest Vines
May 26, 2015
Washington’s grape industry has seen accelerating growth over the past several decades. That momentum is owed, in part, to the Read More
The Latest
GrapesRaisin Grower Wins Supreme Court Decision On Price Supp…
June 23, 2015
A farmer who refused to hand over half his raisin crop to the government as part of a New Deal-era Read More
GrapesCalifornia’s Winegrowers Overwhelmingly Back Anti-Pest …
June 22, 2015
More than 80% of growers vote to continue Pierce’s disease/glassy-winged sharpshooter referendum. Read More
Disease ControlFMC’s RHYME Fungicide Labeled In California And Arizona
June 18, 2015
RHYME fungicide is now labeled for use in California and Arizona  for control of powdery mildew and black rot in Read More
GrapesDeveloping The Grapes Of The Future
June 9, 2015
Through advanced chromosome mapping, VitisGen is working to create hardy and disease-resistant grape cultivars. Read More
GrapesASEV-ES Announces Outstanding Achievement Award Winner
June 9, 2015
Wayne Wilcox will be presented with the award at the 40th Annual ASEV-ES Conference in Dunkirk, NY, in July. Read More
Disease ControlTips For Grapevine Trunk Disease Diagnostics, Preventio…
May 28, 2015
Various pathogens and environmental factors are considered to be major threats to the vineyard’s health. Pathogens are disease-causing organisms such Read More
GrapesDeadline Extended For Crucial Winegrape Disease And Pes…
May 27, 2015
Returned ballots to continue the Pierce’s Disease/Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter referendum must be returned by June 10. Read More
EquipmentThe Benefits Of Vineyard Mechanization
May 27, 2015
Labor accounts for a substantial fraction of the production costs of most fruits, including grapes. Manual harvest is particularly laborious, Read More
Apples & PearsSolve Your Labor Problems From Within
May 26, 2015
Summer is here, which means harvest season is just around the corner. Hopefully you’ll have the crews you need this Read More
Disease ControlPartnerships Key To Healthy Northwest Vines
May 26, 2015
Washington’s grape industry has seen accelerating growth over the past several decades. That momentum is owed, in part, to the Read More
Disease ControlInland Desert Nursery Is Main Source For WashingtonR…
May 26, 2015
The Judkins family has been in the business of clean grapevines for more than 40 years. Today, their Inland Desert Read More
UF/IFAS developmental biologist Dennis Gray looks at the progress of grapevines in a vineyard.
Crop ProtectionResearcher Using ‘Precision Breeding’ To Cr…
May 20, 2015
Breakthrough would mean significant savings on pesticide and fungicide sprays. Read More
GrapesMatthew Fidelibus To Be Recognized For Extension Work
May 20, 2015
The American Society of Enology and Viticulture (ASEV) recently announced that Western Fruit Grower™ magazine contributor Matthew W. Fidelibus, of Read More
GrapesUSDA Reports 928,000 Total California Grape Acres
May 12, 2015
But Allied Grape Growers’ numbers suggest there are a lot more non-bearing acres. Read More
GrapesAre Robots The Future Of Grapevine Pruning?
May 12, 2015
A new robotic pruner being developed uses cameras to build 3-D images that help it determine where to make pruning cuts. Read More
GrapesNew Alternative To Hedging Could Be A Canopy Management…
May 12, 2015
Palissage can reduce lateral emergence in the fruiting zone, while also decreasing disease. Read More
GrapesTips For Finding Vine Balance
April 28, 2015
Vine capacity, size, vigor, and crop load all must be considered to achieve ideal vine balance. Read More
GrapesAssessing And Managing Grapevine Freeze Injury
April 28, 2015
After two consecutive brutal winters, growers in the Northeast and Midwest are working to salvage vines. Read More