By Mannix Porterfield
Existing law in West Virginia says you can sample no wine before its time at a fair or festival on Sundays.
All that could change soon, under a bill that cleared the Senate in a 27-7 vote Monday, allowing home-grown wines to be sold at 10 a.m. on Sundays.
Agriculture Committee Chairman Ron Miller, D-Greenbrier, pushed SB470 through his panel this session, at the request of Frank and Barbara Tuckwiler, who operate a winery, Watts Roost, in his district.
“This isn’t dealing with all wines,” Miller emphasized.
“Only those at fairs and festivals, the ones that are set up there. It just allows them to sell their craft, their farm wines, at 10 a.m., just like everyone else who opens up there.”
Miller emphasized that sampling and sales are limited to the fair-and-festival circuit.
“We’re not opening it up to grocery stores, we’re not opening up in convenience stores,” he said.
“Only at fairs and festivals. Not anywhere else.”
Voting against the bill were Sens. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph; Donna Boley, R-Pleasants; Truman Chafin, D-Mingo; Minority Leader Mike Hall, R-Putnam; David Nohe, R-Wood; Education Chairman Robert Plymale, D-Wayne; and Majority Leader John Unger, D-Berkeley.
Miller wasn’t sure how many small wineries flourish in the state, but he pointed to one that has been around for some time — Daniel Vineyards outside Beckley.
“It’s growing,” he said.
“And they run into problems. They would go to fairs and festivals just like all other vendors and craftsmen, and it is a craft, and they weren’t allowed to open because of the law.”
What has made it so frustrating for them is that wineries will be stationed at a fair or festival all weekend, after paying their fees, but wouldn’t offer samples or sell bottles until 1 p.m., and by then, the event was just about over, Miller said.
“For them, this is a matter of fairness,” he said.
“For me, it is a simple way to try to promote West Virginia agriculture. I didn’t want to include grocery stores. I don’t want to include distillers, any of that.”
Miller said the wine-producing enterprise in West Virginia is fledgling and not a major one for now.
“It’s not a lucrative business right now in West Virginia,” the senator said.
“We don’t produce enough wine. One winery in New York will produce more wine, I think, than we do in our whole state. It’s a craft business, almost a hobby business for some. There are some folks who are making a little money with it.”
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