I mean really? Does Nevada need a wine industry? After all, money isn’t everything.

Now that I’ve gotten the snark out of the way, let’s get down to facts and figures. I want to show what the wine industry has contributed to each state where it has been allowed to grow without silly restrictions such as NRS 597.240.

I’ve already covered California, which, if it were a country, would be the fourth largest wine-producing nation in the world. With $60,000,000,000 flowing through the economy from this industry alone, there’s little expectation that Nevada can even come close.

But can we come close to our other neighbors? Let’s look at the wine industry in each state that touches our borders.

Oregon

“Wine People” already know about Oregon’s Cinderella story in wine. Winemakers were told that they “couldn’t” grow Pinot Noir in Oregon for a variety of reasons. Now their Pinot Noir is world-class, highly sought after, and their wine industry continues to flourish.

In a report entitled The Economic Impact of the Wine and Wine Grape Industries on the Oregon Economy dated January 2015, the Executive Summary of the 65 page report partially reads as follows:

Executive Summary

Economic Value

The sum of all economic activity in Oregon related directly or indirectly to wine is over $3.35 billion. The net economic contribution, a measure of value added, is $1.4 billion. Other notable statistics:

  • In 2013, estimated wine-related jobs in Oregon totaled 17,099; related wages topped $527 million.
  • Over 950 Oregon wine grape growers produced a crop whose total value in 2013 was $128 million.
  • 605 Oregon wineries or wine companies bottled 2,780,237 nine-liter cases of wine and had revenues of over $363 million in 2013 from the sale of packaged wine. Oregon wines shipped to other states/countries brought in over $127 million in revenue, while direct-to-consumer shipments added another $52 million.
  • Retail sales of wine in Oregon from all sources were $816.6 million in 2013.
  • In 2013 wine-related tourism contributed $207.5 million in revenues to the Oregon economy.
  • Wine-related activities contributed over $63 million in tax and licensing revenues to the state government in 2013, as well as supporting $64.9 million in local property taxes.
  • The Oregon wine and wine grape industries contribute an estimated $11.3 million annually to charities.
  • The post-recession years of 2011-2014 have seen renewed optimism and investment in the Oregon wine industry, with planted acres increasing 18%, the number of wineries increasing by 45% and wine sales volume up 39%, resulting in vineyard and winery spending of between $63 and 110 million to increase production capacity.

Okay, admittedly Oregon is now a powerhouse of wine in the United States, having won Wine Region of the Year in 2013 from Snooth, a well-known and respected wine site. The Oregon Wine Board is diligent in supporting the wine industry in that state as are support organizations for each region. Because of that, there are lots of perks available. For instance, if you fly Alaska Airlines from Oregon, your single case of wine flies for free. The State of Oregon has a Wine Country vanity license plate for aficionados. And there’s the Oregon wine itself.

Idaho

Idaho?!?

Yes, Idaho. Idaho has a great fledgling wine industry that’s rapidly growing, and “even Idaho”  like Oregon and Washington before it, could someday be a powerhouse.

In a report dated January 14, 2015, entitled Idaho wine industry has $169 million impact on economy, Capital Press, an agricultural journal, states in part that:

A new impact study shows Idaho’s wine industry brought in almost $170 million to Idaho’s economy in 2013. It was also responsible for 1,226 full-time equivalent jobs.

In addition,

Idaho Wine Commission Chairman Gregg Alger said Stonebridge (a wine research firm based in Napa) is a nationally renowned wine industry consultant and the $30,000 study will give the Idaho wine industry some real credence among government officials and people outside the state as well.

“This is a real powerful tool to have on your desk,” said Alger, owner of Huston Vineyards near Caldwell. “It shows the impact the wine industry has on so many aspects of the state’s tourism industry and the trickle-down effect it has on the state.”

A previous economic impact study performed by Boise State University in 2007 showed the state’s wine industry had a $73 million impact on Idaho’s economy. Since then, the number of Idaho wineries has grown from 32 to 51. There were 11 in 2002.

The rest of the report is a study of facts and figures in growth and economic stability.

So yes, even Idaho has a thriving wine industry that contributes millions – directly and indirectly – to the economy.

Utah

Utah is probably the closest state to Nevada in terms of the number of wineries and legislated restrictions. Its history has been adversarial to alcohol in any form, despite the fact that it was the last state to approve the repeal of the Volstead Act (Prohibition). However, the problems in that state aren’t the same as they are in Nevada due to the fact that they appear to be less than supportive of this area of growth.

In an article entitled Utah’s Alcohol Problem: Do the State’s Byzantine Laws Stifle Economic Development? the Utah Business journal addresses the above issues in that state. The article begins:

Four convention attendees, fresh off a good day on the tradeshow floor, walk into Red Rock brewpub in Salt Lake City to get a drink and network. Two want to taste a great local beer, one wants a glass of wine and one wants a martini. Can they all be seated at the same table before they decide where to eat?

Nope.

The two visitors who want beers must sit on the “beer only” side of the brewpub, while the other two visitors must enter the restaurant located on the other side of the building, put their names on a list for a table and order food with their drinks. “Is this some sort of joke?” they ask.

Turns out, the joke is on them. Welcome to Utah, home of “the nation’s most restrictive, exotic and confusing liquor laws” (according to USA Today).

So, it would appear that Utah has little interest in growing in areas that Nevada thrives in, including conventions, conferences, retreats, and tourism. What out-of-state person wants to deal with that!

However, despite having only 12 wineries, the wine industry is looking to the future for further economic growth. Like Nevada, Utah combines “Wine and Spirits” into one category instead of separating them as do states with a thriving wine industry.

Arizona

Like many people, I always thought of Arizona as a state with the Grand Canyon, Gila monsters, lots of cacti, rattlesnakes, and sand storms. Boy, was I ever wrong!

An article published in the Arizona Sonoran News Service on October 1, 2014, entitled Wine country becoming an unlikely Arizona tourist attraction highlights the fact that despite the preconceptions, Arizona has come into its own as a flourishing wine destination.

Southern Arizona’s wine country is a maze of vineyards set against endless mountain ranges — a sharp contrast to the desert scenery most people envision when it comes to Arizona. But it is these vineyards in two distinct wine growing regions in Arizona that is fast becoming a tourism mecca for the state.

In the last five to 10 years, the wine industry has begun to spark with an increase of vineyards and wineries in southeastern Arizona and northern Arizona’s Verde Valley, the state’s wine-growing regions. There are vineyards and wineries in Sonoita, Elgin and Wilcox in southern Arizona and near Cottonwood, Sedona and Clarksville up north.

What’s surprising is the history of Arizona wine. Until 2005, there were few bonded wineries in the state because the restrictions were so severe.

The wine industry was completely illegal in Arizona from Jan. 1, 1915, until a very limited bill allowed the first winery license to be issued in 1981. Tom Pitts, president and founder of the Verde Valley Wine Trail, said that the limits were so severe, the state only issued nine licenses by the end of the millennium. The industry exploded following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2005 that directed states to rewrite their wine-growing laws to conform to the Constitution.

Rooney said there are now 80 bonded wineries in Arizona, with about 1,000 acres of vines. In 2012, wine production topped 180,000 gallons, more than double the total production in 2011, according to the Winegrowers Association’s yearlong study “Emerging Wine Industry: New Economic Engine for Arizona.”

Nevada

Sigh. The state statute NRS 597.240 is killing us. Once the opportunity is opened up, I foresee a great boom in the Nevada wine industry. 

All of the states I mentioned above are rating the impact of their wine industry not only in terms of the wineries themselves, but also the industries that grow up around the wineries.  There’s lodging, restaurants, touring companies, and more, all bringing jobs and economic vibrancy wherever they spring up.

Nevada itself is a draw for tourism.  Between the casinos and restaurants of Las Vegas and Reno, outdoor activities, sites such as Red Rock Canyon, Lake Tahoe, Valley of Fire, Sand Mountain, Hoover Dam and more, people come here anyway.  Throw in the ability to visit more than just four wineries in the entire state, and we become the whole package.  No longer will it be necessary for people to cut short their vacations to Vegas, for instance, so that they can take a couple of extra days to visit the many wineries of California. Nevada residents will have a reason to visit the wineries in their own state.  When people go on wine vacations, they usually plan to visit more than one or two wineries.  During my last “real” wine vacation, for instance, I visited at least 20 wineries, more than in Nevada and Utah combined.

Businesses would be even more attracted to Nevada’s low-tax, business-friendly climate and would bring entrepreneurship, new businesses, support businesses for the vineyards and wineries, as well as other types of “satellite” businesses that the wine industry naturally brings with it.

The hearing for the revision of the statute is scheduled for March 9. I plan to be present and involved, and I hope what little I can contribute will see a change for the wineries of Nevada, allowing them to expand and to grow throughout the state and not be restricted to such small areas.  Growth everywhere is good for everybody.

These postings are also dedicated in part to the late and wonderful Charlie Peters, who single-handedly had the law changed in Nevada to allow for winery instructional facilities. Thanks, Charlie, and may you rest in peace.

As always, I await your feedback.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nevada Vines and Wines

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