California’s wine-growing regions and their products are known throughout the world. California wine is ranked third among the state’s agricultural export products, behind only almonds and dairy products. In 2010, over $1 billion in wine was exported from California.
Given the popularity of California wine, it’s no surprise that Californians sought to be able to access wines at their neighborhood farmers’ market, just as they access other local agricultural products. Since 2000, licensed winegrowers have had the ability to sell wine which they make entirely from grapes that they grow themselves. The total wine sales by any winegrower in all farmers’ markets throughout the state is limited to 5,000 gallons in a single year. This is around 25,250 bottles of wine. While this seems like a lot of wine, in 2012, California wineries produced an average of 176,500 gallons of wine each.
Wine sales in farmers’ markets require the consent of the farmers’ market operator as well as a sales permit from the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Controls (ABC) for a particular farmers’ market. ABC calls this a “Type 79” permit. This permit is good for a year and can only be used on a single day of the week in a farmers’ market. A licensed winegrower can have multiple sales permits covering different farmers’ markets or different days of operation of a single farmers’ market. The sales in the farmers’ market can only be conducted by the winegrower, a member of his or her family, or an employee of the winery.
As of July 8, 2014, the law concerning wine sales in farmers’ markets was amended to also allow for “educational tasting events” by licensed wine growers in farmers’ markets under certain conditions:
- The tasting can only be conducted by the winemaker, a member of his or her family, or an employee of the winery.
- Only one winery may conduct a tasting during any single day of a farmers’ market.
- The area of the tasting must be separated from the remainder of the farmers’ market by a permanent or temporary structure such as a wall, rope, cable, chain or fence.
- No one is allowed the leave the area of the tasting with an open container of wine.
- The person conducting the tasting can serve only three ounces per person, per day.
- No items of value may be given away by the person conducting the tasting during the tasting.
Remember that if you are operating a “small certified farmers’ market” in San Jose, city regulations do not allow the sale of any alcohol products so you could not offer space for a winery to sell its products unless you successfully changed your market to be a “general farmers’ market” as defined in San Jose’s city code.