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New California Law Expands Winery Privileges

7/18/2008 Articles

Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law new provisions that allow wineries to sell wine by the glass and allow customers to buy and consume wine by the bottle at wineries.  There are some twists to the new rules.  The loosened rules apply only to the primary licensed premise and do not apply to tasting rooms operated under a duplicate California winegrower's license, commonly known as a "Dup 02".

The new law allows a winery to do the following at its primary licensed premise:

  • Give or sell tastes of wine to consumers;
  • Sell wine by the glass to consumers;
  • Sell wine by the bottle for consumption in a picnic area or any other area that is part of the licensed premise;
  • Allow consumers to cork and take home any wine in a bottle that has not been consumed.

The rules only apply to activity on the winery's licensed premise.  Often, picnic areas are not included in the premise description for a winery's federal permit and state license.  It would be prudent to check your winery's premise description to ensure it includes picnic areas or other areas where you would like to allow customers to consume wine by the glass or bottle.  If the picnic area is not part of the licensed premise, the winery needs to expand its premise by informing both ABC and TTB of the change.

As a result of the changes, visitors to wine country will have the opportunity to drink larger quantities of wine.  Wineries should consider enhancing training of tasting room personnel to understand how to recognize when a customer is over served and take steps to prevent over service.  Wineries also should consider how to monitor picnic areas and other places where customers may be drinking bottles of wine.

The modifications make clear distinctions between tasting rooms at wineries and tasting rooms at Dup 02 locations.  Dup 02 tasting rooms may only give "tastes" of wine to visitors.  ABC officials have described a "taste" as an amount less than a glass and have defined a taste as a one ounce pour in other contexts.  While it may not be exactly clear as to what a "taste" is, it is clear that a taste is not a glass of wine.

The law known as the "picnic bill" goes into effect January 2009.  It is codified as Business & Professions Code section 23358.  Changes also were made to Business and Professions Code section 23390.

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