Wine Coalition Outlines 2017 Legislative Initiatives

Local wine producers celebrated in 2015 when a change in state law paved the way for legal wineries in Washoe and Clark County. Now, they’ll ask the 2017 legislature for five additional changes to encourage wine investment in the region.

Getting retail distribution tops the list. Wine producers are omitted from the current statute that allows craft breweries and distillers to sell to licensed distributors.

This was likely an oversight,” says an outline released by Randi Thompson, Executive Director of the Nevada Wine Coalition, who’s submitted language to incorporate Nevada wineries into the law.

Other proposed changes include removing a sales cap that also limits the profit potential.

Currently, the law says a winery can only sell 1,000 cases of wine until they have 25% of Nevada-grown grapes in their total production,” the Coalition says. “The case limit must be higher so that a winery can generate enough revenue to operate while their Nevada-grown grapes mature and can be used in their wine, which would be about 6 years.”

Nevada wine producers are importing most of their grapes because there aren’t yet enough Nevada-grown grapes to meet the 25 percent requirement. The Coalition points out that most of the state’s existing wineries don’t  reach the 25 percent benchmark.

The exception is Churchill Vineyards, which this year processed 100 percent estate-grown grapes, and has met or exceeded 25  percent Nevada grapes in their production since the winery was established in 2004.

The Coalition will also try to remove a liquor license restriction. Most wineries reach their full revenue potential only if they can host dinners, weddings, and other events where attendees might order other alcoholic beverages. Under current law, they’re limited to serving their own product.

Approval to build central processing facilities is on the list. This would allow shared space and equipment for smaller producers facing prohibitive start-up costs. A central facility could be fully outfitted with the expensive tools of the trade, and scheduled for use on a rotating basis.

Another restriction prevents new wineries from opening a second tasting room location. Vineyards in the far-flung areas of Clark and Washoe counties would benefit from a tasting room in a high-traffic location, in addition to their primary, on-site tasting facility, the Coalition says.

The 2017 legislative session begins on Monday, February 6. Check Grape Basin News for regular legislative updates.

THIS STORY HAS BEEN CORRECTED: A previous version reported that no winery in the state has 25 percent Nevada-grown grapes in its production. The correction reflects activity at Churchill Vineyards.