May 1, 2008
Sour Grapes

Before long, Californians no longer may have to fret about getting busted if they have a glass of wine with their picnic at a winery. Not that people who do this actually look worried. Deep in state regulations governing the consumption of alcoholic beverages, however, is wording that suggests that wineries aren't to allow visitors to open and consume anywhere on the premises a bottle of wine they've just bought in the tasting room.

Under legislation drawn up by Assemblywoman Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) and Senator Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa), the law is being clarified so wine-drinking picnickers need not run the risk of being charged with a misdemeaner. The measure, AB2004, passed out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee yesterday and now heads to the Assembly floor.

To clear up another wine-related matter, Wiggins next week is expected to introduce legislation to allow home winemakers to share with others the wines they make. Many already happily do this, but Wiggins recently learned that the practice technically is illegal.

According to a section of the state business and professions code, homemade wine is to be for the winemaker's own personal consumption. No one else - "not a judge in a competition, not your neighbor, not even your spouse if he/she did not participate in making the wine" - is to drink the wine, says Wiggins in a press release issued today.

As it stands, the law jeopardizes long-running home wine competitions, including the California State Fair's, Wiggins suggests. She says she will introduce her bill with an urgency clause so it would take effect as soon as the legislature passes it and the governor signs it, perhaps in time for this year's State Fair homewinemaking competition.

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