Friday, February 05, 2010

Baltimore Business Journal Highlights Wineries Fighting Arcane MD WIne Laws

Friday, January 29, 2010

Modified: Sunday, January 31, 2010, 5:59pm EST
Maryland wineries seek end to ‘crazy rules’
Baltimore Business Journal

A toilet stands between John and Denise Wilkerson’s dream of turning their 45-acre farm into a winery.

Baltimore County regulations require that any place that serves food — wine is considered a food there — requires a septic system. That contradicts state law that doesn’t count wine as food.
So Wilkerson is stuck with 12,000 plants waiting to be pruned at his DeJon Vineyards in Hydes. He has no plans to serve any food on site.

“It’s become a nightmare; these are just crazy rules,” Wilkerson said. “If you go to Virginia and Pennsylvania, their wineries are growing like crazy.”

Wilkerson’s plight is why the state’s winery industry is pushing for legislation that would simplify winery regulations in Maryland’s 23 counties. After meeting with lobbyist groups and associations that previously shot down attempts to redefine wineries, the Maryland Wineries Association is optimistic about the current bill in the General Assembly.

The new legislation, called the Maryland Winery Modernization Act, would allow wineries to sell wine for on- and off-premise drinking seven days a week, serve a specific list of food with their wines, and participate in co-operatives and farmers markets.

It would also let wineries hold other manufacturing licenses, a key point for Rose Fiore, who co-owns Fiore Winery in Pylesville. The winery opened a distillery operation in 2005, but legislation limits the amount of its production of grappa, a strong brandy made of grape residue. Fiore said if the distillery can’t make enough to supplement the wine sales, she may close the distillery.

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