Oregon wineries find laws pressing against them

Natural Resource News Note:

The Statesman Journal recently reported about the wine battle between vineyards and surrounding farmers and residents.  Based on concerns that wineries are becoming tourist traps, “NASCAR Disneylands,” and losing their bucolic character, Salem lawmakers recently passed H.B. 3280. The bill’s main provision is that vineyards may not make more than 25% of their income from incidentals like food or gift shop merchandise. But existing vineyards that were already making more than a quarter of their income from incidentals were given a grandfather clause, allowing them to continue attracting tourists for events.

The issue has been described as a contention between preserving farmland and promoting wine tourism. However, others believe that the legislature has simply overstepped its bounds by attempting to prevent vineyards from diversifying their products and services. As the Statesman Journal reported, Gwen Purdy, co-owner of Orchard Heights, described this level of government intervention in private business as “scary.” But Jim Bernau of Willamette Valley Vineyards near Turner argues that businesses located in farmland ought to be selling farm products, not running restaurants. But he also says that customers want to sample food with their wine to get a complete wine experience.

Furthermore, some businesses aren’t sure how the law applies to them. Some provisions of H.B. 3280 expire in 2013, and legislators will get to decide whether to renew them. But for now, Orchard Heights will continue to hold holiday brunches.   Read more here.

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