Wine tasting at state’s farmers markets should be allowed

The proposal now before the Legislature is limited in scope and contains sufficient safeguards.

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Farmers markets in Washington state could soon add one of the Walla Walla Valley’s best known products — wine.

A proposal is making its way through the Legislature that would allow vendors at farmers markets to offer wine — as well as beer — tasting.

This week the plan won approval from the House Government Accountability & Oversight Committee. The legislation has already been approved by the Senate.

It seems reasonable. It would benefit the farmers markets, its vendors, wine and beer makers in Washington state and consumers.

Under Senate Bill 5674, in-state wineries and microbreweries would be eligible to serve 2-ounce samples with some caveats. The winery or brewery must serve food or be set up next to a food vendor. And the scope of the wine and beer marketing is small — only three wineries or breweries would be allowed to serve samples simultaneously at the same farmers market.

In 2011, lawmakers approved a pilot project to allow 10 farmers markets across the state, the closest to Walla Walla being Pasco’s Farmers Market, to test the idea.

Under the rules of the pilot project mandated staff from the microbrewery or winery must observe all tasters in a designated tasting area to ensure that minors and intoxicated people do not participate.

Forty-seven wineries and four breweries qualified to offer tastings at the pilot markets.

This new option for farmers markets should result in expanding interest in state-produced wne and beer, particularly in places such as Walla Walla where wine tasting is a tourists activity. Those visiting the area will go to the downtown market to taste some wine and might just walk away with some unplanned purchases.

It will also give small wineries such as those in this Valley an opportunity to market their wine to consumers they might not have otherwise reached.

Eric Miller, manager of the Kittitas County Farmers Market, told the Yakima Herald-Republic the plan should also benefit wine and beer shops wanting to market their products.

“It is a good recognition of the importance of the beer and wine industry in this state,” he said.

The proposal is a solid plan that will only help the wine industry here and around the state.

Letters welcome

Our address is P.O. Box 1358, Walla Walla, WA 99362.

If possible, e-mail letters to letters@wwub.com.

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