Legislation needed to encourage Nevada's fledgling wine industry

The establishment of a thriving wine industry could be an economic windfall for rural Nevada, but apparently not everyone sees it that way.

Local rancher Charlie Frey has spent the last six years investing his time and resources into developing an operational vineyard in Churchill County. His efforts have produced Nevada's first estate winery. The first bottles were sold commercially last year.

But Frey has also run into an expensive and cumbersome hurdle - distribution.

Under current state law, vintners are not allowed to sell wines to retailers or to private citizens except at their own facilities. That privilege goes to alcohol wholesalers who, according to Frey, account for more than half of the cost of the wine at stores due to their markup.

The Nevada Assembly Taxation Committee will hold a hearing on AB403 Thursday at 1 p.m. The bill, sponsored by Assemblymen Tom Grady and Pete Goicoechea, would allow rural Nevada vintners to transport to and sell up to 12 cases of their product in a single day at a farmers market. That's all well and good, and it is a bill we support, but it hardly is the kind of legislation that would spur the creation of a vibrant Nevada wine industry.

A thriving Nevada wine industry would create a regional tourist draw and breathe new life into one of Northern Nevada's pioneering forms of commerce - agriculture. Grapes also require a fraction of the amount of water needed to grow hay and grains.

Every state that borders Nevada has a wine industry that is far superior to that of the Silver State. Given our natural resources, climate and booming population, there's no good reason why state law should encumber Nevada's viticulture industry instead of supporting it.

Vintners need more substantial help from the Legislature to reduce the barriers to free wine trade.

We hope that AB403 gets some traction in the Legislature and encourages dialogue on the issue. It may not be the type of law that throws open the doors for a new industry, but it's a good start.

- This editorial appeared in the Lahontan Valley News


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