Days Of Wine And Roses

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Who's whining now?

Certainly not some of Michigan's 60 small vineyard owners, who are a step closer to being able to hand out samples and sell wine at local farmers markets.

Under legislation unanimously approved May 7 by the  Michigan Senate, winemakers with annual production of up to 5,000 gallons will be able to sell wine outside the confines of their vineyards. Connoisseurs will be able to try before they buy - vineyards can provide up to three, two-ounce samples per customer.

About 60 of Michigan's more than 100 winemakers will be eligible to participate, based on annual production. Some larger wine producers say the bill is unfair and exclusionary.

The measure requires participating winemakers to pay a $25 permit fee at each farmers market they visit. Participation in local markets is also subject to approval from both the market and local law enforcement.

The Michigan Farmers Market Association supports the change, saying it will help promote and expand argi-tourism in Michigan.  Senate Bills 29 and 279 are now before the House Regulatory Committee.

The bills' sponsor, Sen. Geoff  Hansen, R-Hart, contends the measure will help bolster Michigan's wine industry,  which is "one of the strongest sectors of Michigan's economy.''

"We should give aspiring winemakers the opportunity to contribute to our state's economy and give people a Pure Michigan experience,'' he said in a posting on his website. "One way to do this is give them access to a venue that promotes their products to help them build a foundation for a long-term, profitable wine industry.''

If approved, the state Liquor Control Commission would be required to submit a report to House and Senate committees overseeing liquor control issues  within two  years of the bill's enactment. The report would assess the continued issuance of farmers market permits and provide date on the number of permit applications received each year and the number of permit applications approved. Also required would be a breakdown of the number of permits approved in each county.