California Brings On the Winery Tasting Room Silliness
When it comes to alcohol, digressing into silliness isn’t uncommon. On the one hand, the stuff can get you drunk and you can do silly, stupid things. But on the other hand, the stuff is the source of huge amounts of tax revenue, it is among the most heavily regulated substances in the country, and there are entire departments of government devoted to overseeing how alcohol is made, distributed, sold and drunk.
Put that all together, mix in a little COVID-19, add a dollop of historic economic pain and what do you get? The rule in California that winery tasting rooms may again open up as long as they serve full meals with the wine tastings.
Surely this rule on opening up California winery tasting rooms was developed with little or no thought and discussion. Surely it was a condition of opening tasting rooms that was developed by a committee made up of plumbers, horse trainers, and pro hockey players. Little else could explain the stupidity behind this rule. Wait….I take that back. Having a combination of plumbers, horse trainers, and pro hockey players surely would have created a more rational outcome. It must have been teetotaling economists and health bureaucrats that made the meals-with-wine-tasting rule.
You really have to ask, how is public safety served by winery tasting room personnel not merely interacting with visitors by bringing them their taste of wine, but then also again interacting with them to bring them their plate of pumpkin gnocchi with parmesan and truffle shavings? (Pinot Noir or Syrah?)
And consider the plight of Napa Valley tasting rooms. It is illegal for Napa wineries (according to County ordinance) to serve food, giving them the choice of breaking County law or a state order if they want to finally open their doors and start doing business again. Personally, if it were me, I’d go ahead and break the state order. But of course, I don’t have that decision to make.
Chuck Wagner does, however.
Wagner is the founder of famed Caymus Vineyard in Napa Valley. He’s gone ahead and sued California Governor Gavin Newsom and the state’s chief public health officer, Sonia Angell, claiming that California not allowing wine tasting rooms to open for normal tasting (sans meals) is a constitutional violation—specifically his equal protection and due process rights.
The issue will get resolved before this case is ever finished. Mr. Wagner’s lawsuit will easily take years to complete. My bet is that within a month the requirement to serve meals at tasting rooms will be rescinded. This kind of stupid doesn’t hold up to well in the face of rational, economically deprived, smart human beings simply responding with a hearty “fuck you, I’m pouring”.