Growers venturing into the winery business should be vigilant in complying with regulations, according to Cyndee Smolik and Nancy Headland, partners in Uncorked Compliance at Paso Robles.

Compliance can be easy if you know the rules, but not knowing them or ignoring them can be expensive.

California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is a major regulator in the grape business.

“We deal with the CDFA for our clients,” Headland says, “and a lot of people don’t realize they need a license in order to purchase and process grapes. They may get away with it until the CDFA comes around and checks to see who has purchased grapes and who actually has a license to do so.”

CDFA can make non-compliers pay double the fee to get a license at that point, Smolik notes. But, “CDFA is very easy to work with — if you call them, they’ll walk you through the process. You just need to take care of it, and a lot of people don’t realize the importance of that.”

“It’s not really well known until there’s a budget crisis in California,” Headland says. “That’s when they start looking more closely.”