Anne-Marije Rook
Ballard farmers market could soon be hosting a wine or beer tasting.

Governor signs law allowing beer and wine tastings at farmers markets

Today, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a bill that will legalize beer and wine tastings at farmers markets in many parts of the state.

House Bill 1172 came from a measure by state Rep. Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney (D-Seattle) and allows up to 10 farmers markets across Washington to have at least six days of tastings, with each day being limited to products from a single winery or microbrewery.

from the press release:

“Many Washingtonians don’t realize that our wines and beers are an important part of our economy and rank with the best in the world in terms of quality,” said Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Seattle), who sponsored a companion bill, Senate Bill 5029, in the Senate. “Once people get a taste of Washington’s wines and craft brews, the products practically sell themselves.”

House Bill 1172 builds in several safeguards to avoid potential problems at the beer and wine tastings, including limits on advertising and the size of samples, and a requirement that servers have a Mandatory Alcohol Server Training permit from the state. Customers would only be allowed to sample the beer or wine in the booth or stall where it is offered.

The beer and wine tasting bill won broad support in public hearings from farmers and representatives of Washington’s beer and wine industries, including the Washington Wine Institute, Washington Brewers Guild and the Washington Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association.

Wade Bennett, who owns Rockridge Farms in Enumclaw, told lawmakers that people are reluctant to buy fine wines they haven’t tasted and that Kenney’s bill would be particularly helpful at a time when the recession has hurt sales of wines costing above $10 to $12.

“We think it’s very important to our prosperity and to most of the other small wineries that we know,” Bennett said.

Beer and wine are currently sold in about half of Washington’s farmers markets. The sampling days would take place between September, 2011, and November, 2012.

“Washington wines and beers support jobs in every corner of our state, and we believe these tastings will lead to even more jobs in the years ahead,” said Kenney.

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