Wine growler bill passes Senate

Jonathan J. Cooper / The Associated Press

SALEM — Fans of Oregon craft beer can bring a reusable container known as a “growler” to their local brewery and fill up, and the Oregon wine industry wants in on that kind of trade.

The state Senate raised a glass to the idea Thursday, voting unanimously to let wineries, restaurants, grocery stores and wine shops dispense wine in consumer-supplied growlers of up to two gallons. The measure now goes to Gov. John Kitzhaber.

Winemakers say they’re always looking for new ways to market the products of a growing Oregon business, adding that growlers save a lot of glass and cork.

“It is really environmentally friendly, and it’s also promoting wine as a daily commodity that can be enjoyed with meals and shouldn’t be thought of as something extraordinarily special every time,” said Wynne Peterson-Nedry, the second-generation winemaker at Chehalem Winery in Newberg.

Chehalem already offers growler fills at its tasting room. The legislation will allow its customers to fill their growlers at restaurants and grocery stores, Peterson-Nedry said.

Oregon has about 900 vineyards, according to the Oregon Winegrowers Association. Many are small operations that have trouble competing for limited space on store shelves, said Sen. Lee Beyer, D-Springfield. The measure would give the small local businesses another way to get their wine in front of consumers.

“It allows the small wineries to get equal standing with some of their larger brethren from outside the state,” Beyer said.

Some wineries already distribute wine in kegs, which restaurants use to sell by the glass.

The legislation would require the wine to be dispensed by someone with a valid service license from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. As with beer growlers, the wine container will have to be securely covered before it’s returned to the customer.

A spokeswoman for Kitzhaber, Amy Wojcicki, said the governor will sign the bill, and it will take effect immediately. That will happen in time for winemakers to promote growlers during Oregon Wine Month in May, said Dan Jarman, a lobbyist for the Oregon Winegrowers Association, in testimony submitted to legislative committees.