Bill would give wineries production flexibility

DENVER — Colorado wineries will be able to package and distribute wine they don’t make themselves under a bill that won approval in a House committee Tuesday.

The measure, HB1034, would allow those wineries to add jobs and expand their businesses, winemakers told the House Business & Labor Committee.

Jay Christianson, owner and winemaker at Canyon Wind Cellars in Palisade, said the measure would allow them and other vineyards to use their packaging equipment more, and make additional money doing so.

“The concept of being able to bottle for other wineries that do not have the financial abilities to purchase packaging lines offers a tremendous ability for us to expand,” said Christianson, who also is chairman of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board. “We have a bottling line that we use about four days a year for ourselves, so maximizing that machine would be great.”

The measure, introduced by Rep. Angela Williams, D-Denver, and Sen. Cheri Jahn, D-Wheat Ridge, complies with what federal law already allows and many other states already do.

It also opens the door for wineries to move wine in packaging other than traditional bottles, including in kegs and cans.

“There’s a lot of venues that aren’t allowed glass in the state of Colorado and across the nation, so we opened up to music venues, to football stadiums, to baseball stadiums, to airlines, to pool parties and the like,” said Ben Parsons, a former Canyon Wind winemaker who now operates a wine-packaging business in Denver. “All of these things attract interest in our industry, (including) potentially large wineries who may then consider investing in new vineyard land on the Western Slope. It creates more jobs and it creates increased tax revenues from more wine sales.”

The bill, which heads to the House Finance Committee for more debate, would allow a winery or wine wholesaler to obtain a $200 license, and then package that wine for distribution, including to restaurants.

Colorado law already allows wineries and packaging operations to accept wine from vineyards inside the state. The bill would open that packaging to out-of-state wine, but only after the winemaker pays the federal excise tax before shipping it here.

Parsons said it’s cheaper for out-of-state wineries to send bulk wine to in-state packagers, particularly if they’re packaging it in kegs.

Each keg holds about 26 bottles of wine.

“When you look at a bottle ... there’s $4 in packaging in that bottle before I even put any wine in it,” he said. “With the equivalent of 26 bottles, there’s a $104 savings for every keg of wine that I can pass on to the distributor, who can pass to the restaurant or bar, who can pass on to the customer.”


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