Did you know that in many states the government regulates wine tasting experiences down to the last minor detail? For example in California wine tasting at restaurants and bars and retail stores is regulated by Business and Professions Code 25503. The subsections in this code go into great detail setting forth rules for tastings conducted in California.
At a restaurant or bar (known as an “on premise” sale – where products are being sold for consumption on the premises) a winery or distilled spirits manufacturers can conduct tastings provided they serve no more than three “tastes” per consumer. A taste is defined as one ounce or less of wine or one quarter or less of an ounce of distilled spirits. But the manufacturer or producer cannot advertise to consumers that there are going to be there to conduct the tasting. It does not however prohibit the restaurant or bar from advertising an event. And the producer must be there to conduct the tasting, not their wholesaler.
Contrast this to the procedure for an “off premise” location, a location where retail sales take place but the product is consumed elsewhere (taken home, brought to a party or picnic, just not consumed on site where the product is purchased). No the producer and the producers’ wholesalers CAN advertise the event themselves, as well as the retailer, but the retailer may not contribute to or offset the producer’s or wholesaler’s adverting costs and vice versa the wholesale or producer may not contribute to the retailer’s advertising costs.
Beer producers have their own set of rules. They can not provide any individual consumer with more than eight ounces of beer in a day, cannot exceed one hour of tasting at any on sale retailer, nor conduct more than six tastings per year at any one on sale location.
In all cases a provider of alcoholic beverages is required to monitor a consumer’s level of intoxication. If a consumer comes to a tasting having been consuming at another on or off premise location the second location can be responsible for the state of intoxication even if they only provide one ounce and then the consumer drives and gets in an accident.
We exist in a very regulated environment. So do not be offended if you go to a tasting event and find the producers are limiting the amounts of they are pouring or the amount they are willing to provide to you. They could lose their licenses to produce and sell alcoholic beverages which would of course put them out of business.