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(TRENTON) – In a move that would bolster New Jersey’s status as one of the largest producers of wine in the country, Assemblywoman Celeste M. Riley is pushing a package of bills that would help the state’s industry expand its presence in the beverage market.
“New Jersey is the fifth largest wine producing state in the country,” said Riley (D-Salem/Cumberland/Gloucester). “Over the past decade the industry has really exploded, earning our growers and producers awards and recognition. Now is the time to capitalize on this momentum and give the industry the tools it needs to continue to expand while boosting our economy.”
Riley has introduced a bill (A-3063) that would allow wineries to expand into the malt beverage market and operate as breweries, as well. The bill would establish a winery-brewery sublicense that would permit wineries to produce malt alcoholic beverages for retail sale to consumers for consumption off the licensed premises. The bill would also allow farm wineries to produce fermented alcoholic cider, commonly called “hard cider.”
Additionally, the bill would establish a unique farm brewery license that would permit farms to produce malt alcoholic beverages for retail sale while operating in much the same manner as a farm winery, using locally grown farm products in brewing malt beverages to be sold at the farm. A licensee would be required to be actively engaged in farming on or adjacent to the brewery site and to actively cultivate hops or other products used in the production of the malt alcoholic beverages.
A second bill (A-3064) she is sponsoring would help promote the establishment of wineries in New Jersey by allowing small grape growers to share manufacturing responsibilities and costs under the creation of a new type of winery license – the cooperative farm winery license. Under current law, a farm winery is only eligible for a license if all aspects of the manufacturing process, including vinification, aging, storage, blending, clarification, stabilization and bottling, occur at the same location where grapes are grown.
“This new license would allow those who are growing grapes on at least three acres to enter into a cooperative agreement with at least one other individual or entity also involved in the growing and cultivating of grapes on at least three acres. Additionally, the new cooperative farm winery license would entitle the cooperative to establish a total of six salesrooms, as it does under current law for farm wineries.
“This is a great way to help smaller ‘mom and pop’ farms venture into the market while also promoting Jersey pride. Farm winery cooperatives would be required to use grapes and fruits grown in New Jersey in order to meet the labeling requirements as ‘New Jersey Wine.’ Essentially, we’re giving small business owners the tools to go out and earn a living while promoting our state in a positive way,” added Riley.
Riley is also co-sponsoring a third bill (A-1702) to permit the direct shipping of wine to New Jersey consumers and allow in-state wineries to ship to other states. This bill has received approval by the Senate and is pending action by the Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee. The other two bills have been referred to the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.