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Wine: A locapour victory in Maryland

Co-owner Jim McKenna served wine to Jana Lee during a 2006 wine tasting at the Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard. This weekend, the winery will be able to do the same at a Bethesda farmers market, thanks to a new law. (Lucian Perkins -- The Washington Post)

If the Bethesda Central Farm Market seems a little crowded this Sunday, that's only because there will be a party going on. The market's organizers, along with Montgomery County and state officials, will be celebrating a new law that makes it easier for Maryland's wineries to sell their produce at area farmers markets.

Gov. Martin O'Malley signed the Maryland Winery Modernization Act into law last month. Most of the "modernizations" will make it easier for the state's 30-plus wineries to do business in ways invisible to consumers. The farmers market provision increases from three to 15 the number of "special event permits" wineries may apply for each year in Montgomery and Prince George's counties. It also allows wine retailers to apply for a one-time, seasonal permit that will allow them to sell Maryland wines at farmers markets in the county where the store is located.

The law took effect June 1. It represents a significant boost to Maryland's wine industry, which is growing rapidly. (Three new wineries opened in May, bringing the state total to 39, according to the Maryland Wineries Association.) Many wineries are dependent on winery visitors or festivals for the bulk of their sales. Farmers markets can be a profitable means of reaching new customers, especially as the "locavore" movement takes on a "locapour" element. The seasonal permit for retailers will encourage more stores to carry and promote Maryland wine, while also helping small wineries that may not have the staff or resources to attend multiple farmers markets each week, said Kevin Atticks, executive director of the winery association.

Mitch Berliner, co-founder of the Bethesda Central Farm Market, which operates on Thursdays and Sundays, was a prime champion of allowing wineries to participate in farmers markets. Last October, he had Mt. Airy's Black Ankle Vineyards participate in the market one Sunday to publicize efforts to change the law.

So on June 6 at 10 a.m. Berliner will welcome Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, Del. Brian Feldman, the measure's local sponsor and other dignitaries to commemorate the new law.

Oh, yes: In addition to the usual local cheeses (from Stonyman Gourmet Farmer) and charcuterie (from MeatCrafters), there will be wine to sample. Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyards, Montgomery County's own, will be pouring and selling its prize-winning wines.

For Maryland wine lovers, it will be a bittersweet celebration. Legislation that would allow consumers to have wine shipped to their homes was stymied again in this year's legislative session. Advocates of direct shipping say a deal has been struck to pass legislation next year, but we'll just have to wait and see.

The Bethesda Central Farm Market operates Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the parking lot off Elm Street, behind Jaleo, and Thursdays from 3 to 7 p.m. on Bethesda Lane between Elm Street and Bethesda Avenue. Sunday's celebration of the winery modernization law will begin at 10 a.m.

-- Dave McIntyre
(Follow me on Twitter.)

By The Food Section  |  June 3, 2010; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  To Market, To Market , Wine  | Tags: Dave McIntyre, farmers markets, wine  
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Why the hell is there even a "Report abuse" link when 1) the link generates an invalid address, and 2) after I cut and pasted the subject and body areas (hint: don't use spaces or special characters, or they get turned into hex code), the address "" is rejected with status message 5.2.2 (Mailbox full) anyway??

Posted by: MaxH | June 4, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Good question, Max: I just tested it out myself and am forwarding the problem to our tech people. Thanks for pointing it out!

Posted by: Joe Yonan | June 4, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

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