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Greene Leaves WineAmerica

Attorney to remain interim outside counsel after taking job in Seattle-based law firm's beverage group

by Jane Firstenfeld
cary greene wineamerica
Cary Greene is leaving WineAmerica after four years.
Washington, D.C.—WineAmerica, the influential national association for U.S. wineries, marks another change in key staff. A month after Californian Mark Chandler was appointed executive director, rumors circulated at the Eastern Winery Exposition that WineAmerica counsel Cary Greene would soon be leaving.

Greene, who also had filled in as interim executive director following the 2010 departure of Bill Nelson, confirmed the news this week in a conversation with Wines & Vines.

He emphasized that his departure is amicable and that, in his new position at the Seattle-based law firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, he’ll serve as interim outside counsel for WineAmerica. This transitional arrangement will continue “at least through WineAmerica’s main meeting,” at a yet-to-be announced date.

Although WineAmerica directors have not decided if they will seek full-time counsel or opt for outside representation, Greene said, “Our hope—the firm and mine—is that we can continue to have a relationship with WineAmerica.”

Looking back
After four years with the organization, Greene described his duties and achievements. “I’ve been engaged at the strategic federal level and worked with state and local associations. WineAmerica would play Mr. Fix-It to make sure policies were moving ahead. State and local governments are different but similar: The issues may be different, but the themes are the same.”

WineAmerica is a highly collaborative organization, Greene said. “We work with the states to prevent competitive barriers from becoming more restrictive. We are allies. It’s a team effort among WineAmerica, Wine Institute, local industry and occasionally even distillers and brewers. It’s about finding commonality. Where do we all see eye to eye? Smoothing out the differences and finding a way forward.”

Of the issues he’s helped fix at WineAmerica, Greene said he’s most proud of “our tremendous work fighting the 2010 CARE Act, HR 5034, which was being pushed to get rid of the federal commerce clause” that drove the historic Supreme Court Granholm decision, clearing the path for direct-to-consumer interstate wine shipments.

“It was a signature accomplishment. Our grassroots work all over the states showed our muscle,” he said.

He also recalled WineAmerica’s contribution to keeping alcohol under TTB regulation, when a “food safety” proposal was brewing to transfer the authority to the Food and Drug Administration.

“We successfully made the case that the TTB does a great job. With the FDA involved, it could have been muddy. Whose rules do you follow? We wanted to make sure the lines of regulatory control remained very clear. This was a big deal,” Greene said.

During his tenure, Greene testified on behalf of direct-to-consumer sales in New Jersey and Maryland, working with local wineries and the Wine Institute. Both of these key markets have since adopted less restrictive regulations. 

“Were they perfect? No. Do they need to be improved? Absolutely. But it’s a foot in the door,” he said.

“I see the last four years as a success. Nothing came up that could damage us that we didn’t successfully fight against,” Greene said. “A lot of it is incremental, but we have prevented things that could have brought dramatic (negative) changes to our business.”

Greene’s new firm represents, among many others, the Oregon Wine Board/Oregon Winegrowers Association and Chehalem Winery in Newberg, Ore. He is part of the hospitality/beverage law practice.

Meanwhile, he said, “I’m here to support Mark Chandler’s vision. The organization’s in good hands with him.”

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