Wine “Sin Tax” SB558 ~ Thoughts from the Reverend Dr. John Staten

I recently received an Email from my friend John Staten. The Subject line read: Wine “Sin Tax” SB558.

As I was opening it and it was dropping in, I was thinking, “Who better to interpret the wine ‘sin Tax’ than John,” as I chuckled to myself. You see, The Rev. Dr. John Staten is not only a vintner, but he’s also an ordained Presbyterian minister. John received his B.A. in history and philosophy from Stanford University in 1960, and then attended Princeton’s Theology Seminary to study ancient biblical languages and literature. Following the receipt of his master’s degree from Princeton, he entered the University of Chicago in 1964, to study for his Ph.D in Theology. His book, entitled Conscience and the Reality of God, was published by Mouton de Gruyter in Berlin.

Simply put, he’s a man of the cloth.

So, when I read “Sin Tax” I knew this one was going to be good…

Because it’s so thoughtful, it’s worth sharing, given the nature of the content and from whom it is written. Below was the body of what John wrote.

Dear Senator Wright: As both an ordained minister (Presbyterian) and, for thirty-two years also an owner of a small family winery in Sonoma County, I urge you to reconsider what most of us understand to be a “sin tax” with the senate bill SB558. As so many times in the history of wineries in California, representatives in state and federal governments have singled out wine as a “sin” beverage and therefore an easy target for punitive taxation such as is in the senate bill SB558 . This seems strange for those of us who work hard in an agricultural enterprise that, for over a century, beginning with the Temperance Movement in America, we have known table wine, as “the beverage of moderation.” Americans in large numbers have distinguished this grape-based beverage as distinct from high alcoholic spirits. I produce a table wine of Cabernet Sauvignon for Communion in Protestant and other churches. It is called Convivio Red Wine. Along with its other Field Stone table wine brothers it is surely not a “sin” beverage; nor should it be taxed as such. The label reads: “Derived from the Italian word for “banquet”, convivio means, literally, “with-life!” More than any other word, convivio evokes that sense of enlivening connectedness we experience when we gather around a table to share bread and wine and the substance of our lives with one another. In such genuine communion we and the world are made better, and we believe, God is truly present.” Communion wine, like all other table wines, are meant to be consumed with food. They are made and meant to be enjoyed in moderation and with care.

Sincerely, John Staten

The Rev. Dr. John Staten, Vintner
Field Stone Winery & Vineyard
10075 Highway 128
Healdsburg, CA 95448
Tel: 707.433-7266
Web: www.fieldstonewinery.com

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4 Responses to “Wine “Sin Tax” SB558 ~ Thoughts from the Reverend Dr. John Staten”

  1. kevin keith says:

    Jo –

    I wish I would’ve had him send this email to our Governor before he and his troglodytes down state slapped 6% sales tax on top of an 11% wholesale tax on wine, spirits and beer here in KY. Could very well have saved us some heartbreak.

  2. Jo says:

    That’s a lotta meatballs, er – taxes… 17 percent? Yikes… What a huge jump.

    It will just drive people to lower end products, because giving up one’s favorite beverage that’s fermented isn’t going to stop any time soon; as evidenced by the Prohibition runs this country has had.

    You have to ask yourself, “What’s really going on?”

  3. RE Sin Taxes on table wine:

    Has there ever been a through, independent study of alcoholism/alcoholics to determine their beverages of choice? If not, why not? Of course, many urban drunks on sidewalks are called “winos,” but is it Mad Dog or cheap beer or whiskey they are consuming? It surely is not Field Stone, or our White Oak, just down Hwy 128.

    I suggest that such studies be done, publicized, and sin taxes be assessed accordingly.Perhaps the federal and state excise taxes should be strictly charged to wine under $5/3 liter, cheap vodka and no-name beer. Of course, such an approach would be called regressive taxation but certainly fair and in keeping with the escalating taxes in cigarettes (which most of us approve.

    If the bulk of the wine industry got behind this, who knows what we could accomplish? The alternative is the Death of 1,000 Cuts (but not tax cuts, unfortunately) which we are experiencing.

  4. Jo says:


    The study idea is great. If we can get the funding for it, I’ll do the research.

    The sin tax on these products (wine under $5/3 liter, cheap vodka and no-name beer) should also be appropriated for the services that revolve around the disorders caused by overindulgence.

    Wouldn’t it be great if abusers were responsible for their own upkeep?

    I suppose it’s too much to ask, though, because it’s too logical.

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