Law to allow wine tastings and corking unfinished wine bottles
SUMMIT COUNTY – A bill signed into law last week could allow municipalities to let liquor stores host wine and beer tastings and permit diners to take home the wine they were unable to finish with dinner.
Municipalities will first have to decide whether to allow local liquor stores to host tastings. If so, they will have to decide how often tastings can take place or if they will be granted merely by requests as special events.
Under the new state law, which goes into effect July 1, qualified liquor store owners and their employees could hold tastings four of six days of the week for a maximum of 104 days a year. They are also limited as to the hours they can hold tastings and are required to remove and destroy all open alcoholic beverages on the premises. Customers would be limited to four, one-ounce tastings of wine or beer, or a half-ounce of hard liquor apiece.
Despite the limitations, liquor stores owners said the idea intrigues them.
“We’re really excited about it,” said Anne Dowling of Ridge Street Wines in Breckenridge. “It allows people to try different wines they normally wouldn’t try. They’ll venture in the $10-and-under rack, but they won’t be so daring with the more expensive wines. This way, they can make an instantaneous decision for their bottle of wine tonight.”
“It has some merit if a wine rep comes into a store to introduce a new wine,” said Breckenridge Police Chief Rick Holman. “It’s an opportunity in a controlled environment to provide an event for that store. I think that’s how it would be viewed.”
Others were surprised to learn of the new law.
“I’ve been 17 years in the business, and all of a sudden I have to consider something totally new,” said Marcia Bauder, co-owner of City Liquors in Breckenridge. “It’s a whole new thing. In this business you don’t get a lot of new stuff as far as laws changing.”
She’s curious about the opportunities if could provide, as well.
“I think it’d be really good,” she said. “The customers could try before they buy. (In the past) the reps could show us, but not the customers.”
Fred Koehne, the night manager for Dillon Ridge Liquors, said he thinks wine tastings are a great idea, for both the company and customers.
“You can push new products and right away, we know if customers like it or not,” he said. “There is so much wine out there that people have never tasted. This could let them try different varietals and vintages.”
Liquor store owners realize they could come under the same kind of scrutiny bar and restaurant owners do in regards to overserving.
“That’s something you always have to watch out for,” Koehne said. “But there would never be more than small samples.”
Beer and wine tastings in liquor stores don’t bother Eric Mamula, owner of Downstairs at Eric’s and a Breckenridge Town Council member.
“The liquor reps know what they’re doing – it’s a tasting,” he said. “It’s one thing if they’re having full-blown parties and taking business away from the bar community. Liquor stores understand what the deal is; they understand carding people. They’re trustworthy. And we already sort of do that (tastings). You can come in and taste, give customers a little sampler.”
Many think the wine corkage portion of the law is the responsible thing to do.
“I don’t have a problem with it,” said Bev Gmerek, community prevention coordinator for the Summit Prevention Alliance. “I’d rather have someone take a bottle home than slam it down there at the table.”
“Corking is a good thing; it makes people more aware,” Holman said. “Why force people to drink every drop? Let them cork it and take it home with them.”
Dillon Police Chief Gary Cline disagrees.
“We’re taking a risk of putting more drunk drivers on the road,” he said.
Travis Holton, owner of the Blue Spruce Inn in Frisco, is a little uneasy about the new corkage law.
“I think that’s the challenge,” he said. “We’ve always felt that was a good level of control to not let people leave with alcohol. If someone’s borderline drunk and they decide to finish that bottle in the car, we didn’t overserve them here, but they wound up self-medicating at a later time and getting in a wreck … I don’t know if it’s good or not.”
The Breckenridge Liquor Authority will discuss corkage and wine and beer tastings at its next meeting, 9 a.m. June 15 in the town council chambers.
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or email@example.com.
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