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Fill her up: Gov. signs bill that allows for refilling wine bottles

Source: Monterey Herald

SALINAS – A bill that has its origins in Monterey County, was recently signed into law allowing consumers to bring their own wine bottles to be refilled at participating tasting rooms, reducing waste and expanding business.

“It is important to have a level playing field for all winery establishments. The new legislation allows wineries to reduce packaging waste and cost,” said Heather Brand, owner I. Brand & Family Winery. “This is a win, win situation. We can reduce our environmental footprint and pass savings through to our guests and customers.”

Brand was part of the catalyst behind getting the ball rolling on Assembly Bill 239 which was authored by Assemblymen Carlos Villapudua, D-Stockton, and Robert Rivas, D-Hollister.

I. Brand’s tasting room is in Carmel Valley Village, and its winery is in south Salinas.

Brand said she had been looking into refillable containers for the I. Brand tasting room and found that the law on the books allowed for wineries with tasting rooms attached to production facilities to refill containers, but not for those unattached.

“This seemed to unnecessarily disadvantage some businesses,” said Brand.

When Monterey County Vintners & Growers Association Executive Director Kim Stemler arranged for a leader from the Alcoholic Beverage Control board to speak to the association, Brand asked during the talk why there is a difference for attached and unattached tasting rooms, and if the rule could be changed.

“That got the ball rolling and Kim (Stemler) and local legislators really followed through,” said Brand. “I had testimony prepared for (state) House and Senate review, but that proved unnecessary as the law passed with ease.”

Stemler said that the local and state wine industry cares about sustainability, and the Monterey County Vintners & Growers Association-facilitated legislation is not only great for the environment and business but also is another vehicle for building community in the county’s wine regions.

AB 239, an act to amend section 23390 of the Business and Profession Code, relating to alcoholic beverages, was first read in mid-January and signed into law by Gov. Newsom on Sept. 22. The law goes into effect Jan. 1.

“This bill exemplifies California’s commitment to achieving its sustainability goals through creative and business-friendly ways,” said Rivas in a press release. “Our breweries have already demonstrated how effective growlers are at reducing consumer waste and expanding business – now it’s time to allow our wineries to do the same. I applaud the work of my colleague, Assemblyman Carlos Villapudua, D-Stockton, and stakeholders like the Monterey County Vintners & Growers Association for their dedication in getting this bill passed.”

Growlers are glass, metal or ceramic containers used to transport draft beer.

“The most likely scenario would be that wineries will have branded, reusable growlers that customers and guests could return to the winery and receive a sterile replacement filled with the wine of their choice,” said Brand. “This is what we intend to do at I. Brand and Family, just as soon as we get through harvest.”

Brand said the new law allows for a sustainable option to reduce waste in packaging which is good for the environment and her company’s bottom line. She added that the legislation is a testament to Stemler for working with the Alcoholic Beverage Control leadership, local and state industry partners, and Assemblymen Rivas and Villapudua, who helped to craft the bill.

The bill attracted broad support from the California wine industry, including the California Association of Winegrape Growers, the Wine Institute, and sister wine regions throughout the state.