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Washington measure seeks expansion of wine growler law

Jan. 11, 2017 Updated Wed., Jan. 11, 2017 at 8:16 p.m.

Restaurant manager Jason Appleton pours a glass of wine from a small barrel at Luc’s restaurant in Seattle as he demonstrates that the same system could be used for consumers using their own growlers. Wine drinkers are one step closer to being able to purchase and refill their favorite pours in reusable growlers closer to home instead of making a trip to the winery. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)
Restaurant manager Jason Appleton pours a glass of wine from a small barrel at Luc’s restaurant in Seattle as he demonstrates that the same system could be used for consumers using their own growlers. Wine drinkers are one step closer to being able to purchase and refill their favorite pours in reusable growlers closer to home instead of making a trip to the winery. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)
By Alexis Myers Associated Press

OLYMPIA – Two years ago, the Washington state Legislature began allowing wine lovers to fill reusable containers – known as growlers – at their favorite wineries.

Now, a new measure would allow refills at grocery stores, wine boutiques and other places licensed to sell wine in the state.

House Bill 1039, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Sharon Wylie, would let businesses already licensed to sell beer or cider in a growler to also offer wine in the containers. The measure is set for its first public hearing on Thursday.

“It’s an additional way to market and appeal to customers,” Wylie said. “And being able to safely reuse your bottles is a good thing.”

Paul Beveridge of Seattle’s Wilridge Winery said it’s the most eco-friendly way to consume wine without lessening quality. In addition, he said, consumers get more for less.

“It would be easier, and more convenient for customers to have filling stations outside of my winery,” said Beveridge, president of Family Wineries of Washington State, a proponent of the bill.

He said many state laws pertaining to alcohol date back to the repeal of Prohibition and are designed to protect existing wineries and distributors from competition.

Currently, the only way to avoid a trip to a winery is to “swap out” a growler at a licensed store. But customers have to drop it off and wait for new growlers to be delivered to replace the old one.

More and more beer-filling stations have popped up in grocery stores and pharmacies, where growlers can be refilled with local beers.

Wylie says some wineries are concerned about giving up control over the bottling process and about protecting their products from oxygen spoilage and other threats to quality.

Anne Baunach, executive director of the Washington State Recycling Association, said growlers aid the environmental by eliminating some of the corks, labels and other waste associated with recycling glass.

“Right now if you go into a store and buy a bottle of wine, you consume the wine, and the bottle hopefully goes into a recycling container, but for many people, it would go into a landfill,” she said.

The Washington Wine Institute, the legislative arm of Washington’s wine industry, declined comment in an email.

Oregon has a law allowing growler purchases at wineries, but no other states have passed or proposed a bill that would extend the growler practice outside of wineries directly, according to Heather Morton, a policy specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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