Unlock the Jeffersonian Dream for Virginia

Will The General Assembly Unlock the Jeffersonian Dream for Virginia To Become A Leader in the American Wine Industry?
Official Virginia Wine Lover – February 2007 Newsletter – By Philip Carter Strother & Robert Jackson Allen

For nearly 400 years, Virginia has been recognized as having an ideal climate and environment for viticulture. In 1608, Virginia became North America’s first wine producing state. However, despite the best efforts of the colonists and founding fathers, the industry did not attain significant success until recently.

Virginia is now home to over one hundred wineries, poised with the potential for more growth. In 2004, Governor Warner initiated a study that culminated in the strategic goal of doubling Virginia’s wine market share. In recent years, farm wineries lost the ability to self-distribute and sell in ABC stores, threatening to undermine that goal.

Many farm wineries rely heavily on wine tasting activities and events to market and sell their products, such as wine tasting lunches, dinners and weddings. In certain instances, tasting activities and events have caused tensions with neighbors and localities have responded. The situation has raised legal questions about whether wine tasting activities and events are subject to local regulation or whether they are exclusively within the regulatory purview of ABC.

In 2006, the General Assembly commissioned a year-long study into Virginia’s farm winery industry at the direction of the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry to examine the economic viability of the farm winery industry in Virginia and, in doing so, the Secretary was to “also address the relationship between farm wineries and the communities in which they operate, including an assessment of local land use regulations as they relate to efforts to market Virginia wine through activities.” Similarly on the national level, a comprehensive study was conducted in 2006 to assist the U.S. Department of Agriculture in determining the economic impact of the American Wine Industry, entitled “The Impact of Wine, Grapes and Grape Products on the American Economy 2007.” The results of these studies reveal that on the national level the full economic impact of the U.S. Wine Industry on the American economic is $162 billion, of which the Virginia portion is estimated to be roughly $290 million.

As of the date of publication, multiple Bills are successfully moving through the Virginia General Assembly as legislators are beginning to realize the importance of the wine industry’s impact on the State, as well as the National, economy. This effort has been the result of the united efforts of many dedicated individuals who have worked tirelessly to shape history by enacting laws that support the growth of the Virginia Wine Industry that will set the stage for unprecedented expansion and will enable the Virginia Wine Industry to truly unlock the Jeffersonian Dream to become a leader in the American Wine Industry.

Philip Carter Strother is the founder and managing partner of Strother Law Offices, PLC in Richmond, Virginia, a law firm that represents a number of Virginia farm wineries in various capacities. He holds a Master of Laws degree from The George Washington University Law School, a J.D. from Thomas M. Cooley Law School, and is a graduate of the Love School of Business, Elon University. Robert Allen is an associate with Strother Law Offices, PLC. He holds a Bachelor of City Planning from the University of Virginia and a J.D. from the University of Richmond.