Wineries in Oregon are allowed to hold weddings and other events that are prohibited on other farms under a recent court ruling.
The Oregon Court of Appeals has held that state land use law bans large on-farm events that aren’t closely tied to the sale of farm products and agricultural education.
However, the wineries have carved out a niche in state law under which they’re permitted to conduct a broad range of promotional activities and hold a limited number of commercial events each year.
Earlier this year, the Oregon legislature passed comprehensive rules for the type of activities that wineries with at least 15 acres of surrounding vineyards can conduct on-site.
Senate Bill 841 established a permanent framework for wineries after several years of temporary legislative measures related to promotions, said Jana McKamey, government affairs manager for the Oregon Winegrowers Association.
“Our industry wanted clear rules of the road going forward,” said McKamey.
Apart from allowing for a variety of tours, wine club and tasting room activities directly aimed at promoting wine, the bill permits up to 18 events like weddings in which wine promotions are secondary, said Mike Gelardi, an attorney specializing in land use at the Davis Wright Tremaine law firm.
Wineries can also have professional kitchens and prepared food to pair with wines, but not on-site restaurants, he said. Income from “incidentals” other than wine sales is also limited 25 percent of revenues, which is in line with the limit for other farms.
If a winery produces more than 50,000 gallons per year, then the surrounding acreage must be at least 40 acres for such activities to be allowable on the property, Gelardi said.
Wineries that don’t conform to those production and acreage standards can still apply for a conditional use permit for promotional activities, as can other agritourism operations, he said.
To obtain approval for such events, landowners must show they won’t disrupt neighboring enterprises, Gelardi said. To qualify for the maximum number of events, they must actually show benefit to other local farms.
Prior to Senate Bill 841, there was disagreement among wineries over the number of allowable commercial events and food service elements, McKamey said.
The industry was able to build a consensus by getting feedback from wineries through surveys and facilitating conversations about the issue, she said.
Wineries were eventually able to strike a balance by recognizing the need for some limits on promotional activities while giving businesses flexibility, McKamey said.
“There were years of internal discussions within the wine industry,” she said.