Wine in reusable growlers? Oregon Senate raises glass to idea

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SALEM, Ore. — 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 are environmentally friendly because they use less glass and cork.

Oregon has 900 vineyards, which grow grapes, and 450 wineries, which turn the fruit into wine, according to the Oregon Winegrowers Association.

Many of Oregon’s wineries 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.