Virginia Wine Update from the Virginia Wine Council

Virginia Wine Update from Matt Conrad of the Virginia Wine Council:

“This past Friday a circuit court judge of the Twentieth Judicial Circuit issued an order that could impact the Virginia wine industry far beyond the borders of Fauquier County, the locality in which Kate Marterella operates her family’s farm winery. Although the case centers on the interpretation of the Declaration of Covenants governing the Marterella’s subdivision, the judge held in the order that the on-site retail sale of wine is not an agricultural activity.

In defense of this position, the Court references Webster’s New World Dictionary, 3rd Ed. for the respective definitions of “agriculture” and “retail.” Specifically, the Court holds that “agriculture does not include the on-site retail sale of wine by the glass.” The Court analogizes that “a farmer who sells the cattle he raises on his property is engaged in agriculture, but he could not sell butchered and packaged meats to consumers on his property and still call it agriculture.” We at the VWC believe the beef cattle farmer would disagree and we know our winegrowers do too.

In its order, the Court makes no reference to the July 1, 2009, amendment to Virginia Code Section 15.2-2288.3 that declares “the agricultural nature of … activities and events” relating to the marketing and sale of wine at Virginia farm wineries.This past session of the General Assembly, the Virginia Wine Council fought hard to have that designation made part of Virginia law and it is regrettable that the Circuit Court did not take notice of it.

Take a moment to read the Order, which is linked here.”

Categories: virginia wine, wine industry issues | Tags: | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Virginia Wine Update from the Virginia Wine Council

  1. Mike K.

    John, please clarify – did this decision apply to retail sale of wine on site, wine sold by the glass (not samples), or both?

  2. vcuspoon

    From my understanding it was sale of by the glass pours not samples or bottles for off premise consumption. I’ll email Mike for a clarification as the above information is all he sent.

    thx for the comment

    • Mike K.

      It would seem fair to me that, if they want to sell by the glass, they should have an on-premise license just like anyone else would have to do (other farm wineries do). Otherwise I guess you would have to get the General Assembly to give a special exception or privilege to farm wineries to sell by the glass. They could probably get that passed, but it hardly seems fair to the wineries that already serve food and have an on-premise license. Or might the current farm-winery statutes have some kind of gray area where that might be allowed? Apparently that court doesn’t think so. How did ABC weigh in? (not that I value their opinions)

  3. Mike K.

    Since you can barely read the court order it’s kind of hard to sort out the nuts & bolts here. It’s obviously more about the Marterella’s specific circumstances than anything else. Have other wineries (not restricted by covenants like the Marterella’s property) ever had this same issue?

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