Down East: Is Maine Screwing Up its Wine Industry?

Down East has published an in-depth look at the convoluted and complex set of laws governing wine sales, production and shipping as well as wine tastings in the state.

Yet even such codified situations seem to have exceptions. Winterport Winery, for instance, had a liquor license for three years by virtue of maintaining a restaurant next door (separate door, separate corporation) where it conducted wine pairings with meals and cooking classes. Owner Michael Anderson was surprised, therefore, when he was told that he would not be able to renew his license in 2009.

“Mike, we’ve got a problem,” a state liquor inspector told him. “I want you to become a brewery.”

“You what?”

Ammending the 2009 Wine Tasting Law

Chow Maine’s Bob Rossi has published an update on the effort to revise the flawed wine tasting law that went into effect last year. Hopefully the revisions make it quickly through the legislative process so wine shops can resume their normal tasting schedules.

There are currently two proposed bills aimed at correcting the “no children” aspect of the tasting law. One is sponsored by Representative Stacey Fitts of Pittsfield; the other is sponsored by Representative David Webster of Freeport, the legislator who introduced the “no children” amendment that made it into the final bill that was passed in 2009.

Maine Coastal Vineyards

Today’s Portland Daily Sun includes an interview with Steve Melchiskey from Maine Coastal Vineyards in Falmouth.

Whether or not global warming turns Maine into a wine center, as a 2006 National Science Foundation report suggested, the short season and mild summers make for a climate that is inhospitable to classic wine grapes. St. Pepin, St. Croix, LaCrescent, Leon Millot, Marechal Foch, Ravat 51, Sabrevois and Aurore are the cold-adapted grapes that Melchiskey has found success with. Hundreds of gallons of test blends have been dumped over the years but there has been enough bottled success that their grape harvest festival attracts 125 volunteers.

and an article on the Wayside Soup Kitchen and Food Rescue.

A decade into its mission to feed the hungry and distributing more than a million pounds of food annually, Portland’s Wayside Food Rescue is reaching beyond the traditional food kitchen format by cultivating garden plots and establishing new neighborhood outlets.

No Children Allowed

Chow Maine has a report on Maine’s new wine tasting law and the impact of the provision that tastings “be conducted in a manner that precludes the possibility of children viewing the tasting” is having on wine shops.

Now that the law is in effect, it’s clear that the shop owners’ concerns were justified. Tastings have been canceled, shop owners remain confused about what they have to do to comply with the new law, and getting approval for tastings from the liquor enforcement bureau has frequently proven to be difficult.

X-Rated Wine Tastings

Chow Maine has taken a look at one of the more unusual provisions of Maine’s new wine tasting law. While the law provides shop owners with more flexibility on what can be part of tasting or how frequently they can occur, it also specifies that they must “be conducted in a manner that precludes the possibility of observation by children.”

The changes made by the new legislation won’t go into effect until September, so it’s unclear how the “no children” aspect of the law will affect specific shops. However, an overly strict interpretation of this provision might make it impractical, or even impossible, for some shops to continue to conduct wine tastings.

Online Wine Sales

The state legislature is weighing three separate proposals to enable Mainers to buy wine over the Internet.

The third measure, proposed by Rep. Melissa Walsh Innes, D-Yarmouth, is modeled after similar legislation in 35 other states. It would establish just one permit for wine producers wishing to ship directly to Maine consumers, but not require Mainers to register themselves with state government in order to make the Internet wine purchases.