When is Wine Not Wine
It all sounded like something that the Red Queen in ALICE IN WONDERLAND might ask- or something that Yossarian would ponder in CATCH-22—confounding, confusing, mind-stretching, unfathomable, a backwards-speaking Yoda riddle:
When is a taste of wine no longer a taste of wine? And when it is no longer a “taste of wine”, why does the guest sampling it have to be standing on a certain, specific type of flooring, with a bathroom and hand-washing station within 200 feet of them?
A taste of wine is no longer a taste of wine when you charge the guest for tasting; then the wine becomes “food” and the Environmental Health Department is now involved in addition to the ABC and Sonoma County’s use permits.
Golly. A whole new state agency to get to know better- intimidating! But hey, it turns out that really great people work there who want to make everything work- and I got to see that by attending a Wine Road meeting at Enviro Health last week that had a feeling of the peace talks at Yalta- fear gave way to understanding, a plan, and a new mastery of guidelines to make our events and daily wine service even better for our guests-
Charging for tasting- part of Responsible Hospitality as well as a way to offset some very real costs- what other industry samples out their products so freely in Palaces built to do so? The very first thing we learned in the Enviro Health meeting is that Governor Arnold is going to fix the conflicting language in the codes by providing an exception for winery tasting rooms so that this will, soon, no longer be an issue.In addition to our Certified Food Handling classes we will be purchasing an additional permit from Enviro Health. There are different levels of “risk” associated with the permits with regard to levels of complexity for food preparation- even serving just crackers or bread cubes is regulated. Temperature maintenance (either below 45 degrees F or above 135 degrees F- NO WHERE in between!), sneeze guards, containers with hinged lids, protective outdoor tents with specific size mesh openings, types of flooring, proximity of bathrooms, hand-washing stations—
In addition to the purchasing the permit, before each event we must submit a plot plan of food service layout, wine-tasting area(s), a list of foods to be served, the method or equipment for keeping the food either hot or cold as well as the plan for storage, as well as details of the hand-washing station(s).
The Wine Road plans to purchase food service thermometers for each winery to help with this- just like the inspectors use!
I was feeling a little shell-shocked but it seems totally doable- though my favorite word of the day was SHELLSTOCK which is the fancy term for oysters, clams, mussels, scallops and such- I never knew that all of those, just like every product used in winemaking, must have a way to track its origin.