Against AB4 – And Why

I listened to the folks who were against the change of the law, and was surprised to note that we all agreed on several key points.

1.  The need for the ability for wineries to become established in the entire state of Nevada is long overdue. The only way for one individual to be successful is for everyone to be successful, and that is by bringing in more people and seeing Nevada wineries proliferate.

2.  The need to make sure that there’s a focus on using Nevada grapes to make Nevada wine. As Bill Loken of Pahrump Valley Winery indicated, Nevada should not become a suburb of the California wine industry.

As a sidenote, I understand why California wineries would want to take advantage of the low regulation, low tax, and business-friendly environment of the state of Nevada. While many businesses are leaving California, the wine industry is stuck, of course. You can’t just pick up the California terroir and move anywhere. However, they could open up bottling facilities here in Nevada and make the wines at far less expense than they can in California. Naturally, the Nevada winemakers are quite concerned about that. They put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into growing their businesses, and at this point they don’t want to be competing with cheap California wine. Bill also noted that the California wine contingent doesn’t need to be here if they have no skin in the game.

I couldn’t agree more. Anyone who establishes a winery in Nevada has to confirm that their ultimate goal is to be making wines with Nevada fruit. It is already understood that they will have to import fruits from other areas – be at California, Oregon, Washington, or wherever – but they need to be able to transition to using Nevada grapes.

Grape Facts in Nevada

In northern Nevada there are already vineyards in full bloom. Alfalfa farmers are finding that growing grapes is a far more economical concern. Vineyards use about 1/10th of the water, require far less fertilizer, and as a result, the profit ratio has the potential of being significantly higher. So there are already vineyards ready to go in northern Nevada!

People expressed concern about the feasibility of vineyards in southern Nevada. What about vineyards down there? Is it even possible? I don’t think the question is even relevant. In my opinion, if someone has the ability to have vineyards in southern Nevada, then they should. Once any laws, environmental impact studies, etc., are done, then whether or not vineyards can be feasible in southern Nevada will be something to wait and see.

The interesting part is that southern Arizona has a fledgling but thriving wine industry now. While I brought up some of the facts and figures about Idaho and Arizona, one of the other people brought up lots of facts and figures about Arizona including the regions in which the vineyards and wineries were flourishing. If anything, Arizona is the closest to the environment of southern Nevada. So does that mean that vineyards are feasible? Once again, it’s a wait and see prospect.

The last few people who spoke were all about free markets. Open it up to everybody, they said, and let the chips fall where they may. I agree with that to a certain point, but I think this whole thing has to be massaged very carefully. I too don’t want to be a suburb of the California wine industry. I think it’s important that Nevada has its own wine industry based on its own grapes.  Just like everybody else.

The hearing took well over three hours; I was there about 1:15 PM, and didn’t leave till nearly 5 o’clock. I was tired, exhausted, and my brain was spinning like crazy. Unlike many of the people who testified in person in Carson City, I actually stayed and listened to every person’s point of view. That is the only way to know every part of the argument.

My overall assessment is that the people who are for the bill and the people who are against the bill all have one thing in common; that is, the good of the wine industry of Nevada, and that it should be based on Nevada grapes making Nevada wines. As it turned out, there is no difference in the arguments for or against! Those who are for the change in the bill want the population cap to be removed. Those who are against the change in the law what the population cap to be removed, but they also want to make sure that the focus is on Nevada. The way the current amendment is written doesn’t take that piece into consideration.

I had recommended during my testimony that they take a look at the laws of several of the surrounding states, especially Oregon. Oregon is particularly protective of its wine industry. They do not suffer interlopers lightly.

Ignored at Home

The only thing that is really frosting me at this point is that the local paper, the Las Vegas Review Journal, covered and reported the hearing, and totally ignored the person in Las Vegas (me). Of course, my comments were freely used in the story itself, but I was basically a non-entity. You can be sure that I sent a ranting email to the reporter!

So in Summary…

As you may be able to tell from this long post, it looks as if there is hope on the horizon. Everybody knows that it’ll be a good five years before we start seeing significant inroads into wineries being developed here in Nevada. The good thing is that the legislature is finally looking at this silly law and is finally addressing it.

I really shouldn’t call it a silly law because it was there for a reason. While there are several, it can be summed up in one quote: “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

Now that I’m in it, I’m in it for the duration. I won’t be happy until I see the new law signed and made a part of the Nevada Revised Statutes. I think it’s time for Nevada to finally join its neighbors in developing its own thriving wide industry.

Stay tuned. The party has only just begun.


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