Farm Beat

Farm Beat: Bill would allow wine tasting at farmers markets

jholland@modbee.comJune 10, 2014 

Farmers market customers in California can sample a cherry here, a piece of cheese there, perhaps a few almonds the next booth over. But if they sample wine, they are breaking the law.

A measure in the state Legislature would change that, in a limited way. Assembly Bill 2488 would allow tastings by wineries that produce less than 12,000 cases each year and use only their own grapes. That would exclude the big wine producers in the Modesto area, whose volume reaches into the tens of millions of cases.

The bill would allow tastings for only one winery per market day, and up to 3 ounces per patron. They would have to enjoy it in a cordoned-off part of the market – no browsing for a bunch of chard while sipping from a glass of chard. Hard ciders also could be sampled.

The bill, by Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, passed the Assembly unanimously last month and awaits action in the Senate.

Wineries already can get permits to sell bottled wine at farmers markets, but they are a rare sight, according to an Assembly staff analysis of the bill.

Its backers say the tastings would help with sales.

“Consumers want to understand the wine, decide if they like it and decide if it’s a good value,” said a letter from the Family Winemakers of California, based in Sacramento. “A taste beats the sales pitch every time.”

The bill also has support from the California Association of Winegrape Growers, the Wine Institute and the California Farm Bureau Federation.

It drew a protest from Alcohol Justice, a group based in San Rafael that often is critical of marketing practices by wine, beer and liquor producers.

A news release said the tastings would be a poor example for children at these venues.

“Uncorking wine at farmers’ markets lets the evil genie of alcohol harm out of the bottle for everyone,” Executive Director Bruce Lee Livingston said in a new release. “If consumers want to taste wine, they can buy a bottle and try it at home.”

Drone on

This column touched last month on an effort to get almond growers to plant wildflowers so pollinating honeybees would have sources of pollen and nectar before and after the orchards bloom. That extra food could help keep them strong at a time when colony health is a concern.

The effort is led by Project Apis m., a group named for the bee’s scientific term, Apis mellifera. This week, it emailed a video showing a field of flowers in Yolo County. It was shot from above with a drone, which in this case is not a male bee, but a small, unmanned aircraft. Check it out in the June newsletter at www.projectapism.org.

The site has plenty of information about honeybees and the seeds available to almond growers, including mustard, alyssum, vetch and clover.

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