Acton, Mass. – Local wineries are toasting legislation that could allow them to sell their chardonnays and merlots at statewide farmers markets while package stores are questioning the proposal, claiming it could create “bureaucratic nightmares.”
The Massachusetts Farm Winery and Growers Association is urging state lawmakers to support a bill that would allow them to sell their products at farmers markets, saying that it would enable patrons to continue to buy local goods and help stimulate the economy.
“I think it’s a big deal,” said Kip Kumler, owner of Turtle Creek Winery in Lincoln and Massachusetts Farm Winery and Growers Association chairman. “This is a success story for Massachusetts. Let’s harmonize these regulations that make sense and what you see in other states.”
State Sen. James Eldridge, D-Acton, is sponsoring the proposal that seeks to permit wine tastings and sellings at markets, enabling local vendors to showcase their offerings and patrons to purchase bottles. Eldridge said allowing sales would help shoppers to continue reducing their carbon footprints.
“It’s a natural connection,” Eldridge said. “I’ve always been someone who is a big environmentalist and an advocate for buying local. This is a great way to buy local and stimulate the economy. It’s something that is a win-win.”
The proposal comes as a longtime push for the state’s 34 wineries to introduce new wines to new patrons, Kumler said.
But local package stores say the bill raises concerns about production limitations, health issues and proper training.
Bob Hirsch, owner of The Grape Vine in Boxborough, said he is concerned about product quality and demand, especially because of the economy, and how the state would regulate sales.
“That’s a real problem,” Hirsch said of the proposal. “If they legalize this, we would create a whole new level of bureaucracies. I just see this as a bureaucratic nightmare in going ahead and controlling this. The last thing I want to do is create more state bureaucracies.”
Calling it a “big step forward,” Kumler believes the initiative would aid package stores.
Because farmers markets are seasonal, half-year operations, patrons, Kumler said, would then turn to package stores to purchase their chardonnays and merlots.
“It will help,” Kumler said. “Those package stores are there 24/7. Farmers markets aren’t.”
To sell wine, farmers would obtain licenses from local governments and the state’s Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, Eldridge said. Additionally, markets would comply with all laws, such as refusing sales to minors and checking proper identification.
Acton-Boxborough Farmers Market officials said they support the proposal, allowing patrons to purchase items to complete a full meal.
Market coordinator Jennifer Taylor said markets are designed for one-stop shopping, selling meats, vegetables, bread and more.
“A bottle of wine is always a nice addition,” Taylor said. “A lot of people who like wine want a nice bottle of wine to go with their meal.”