June 6, 2008
Judges, Proceed as Planned

Just in time for tomorrow's Amador County Fair homemade wine competition in Plymouth, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today signed legislation to assure that the judging can proceed without a cloud overhead.

Such competitions have been going on for years, but earlier this spring an official of the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control said a provision of the state's business and professions code made it illegal for home winemakers to share their wines with others, even including judges at county fairs.

No one but the winemaker - "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, said Sen. Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) as she quickly introduced a bill to rectify the matter.

"Even though the provision banning home winemaker competitions had not been widely enforced in practice, the growing legions of home winemakers did not deserve to have an arcane section of state law hanging over them," Wiggins said Friday after the governor signed her bill as an "urgency measure," meaning it takes effect immediately.

More than 50 fairs hold homemade wine competitions, said Stephen Chambers, executive director of the Western Fairs Association.

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