West Virginia wine looks to be more available, boost agritourism with new bill

28 March 2024- During the 2024 Legislative Session, the West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA) worked closely with Delegate Wayne Clark (R-Jefferson) on House Bill 5294. The bill clarifies to whom and where wine can be sold and sampled, providing expanded opportunities for retail sales for wineries and giving the state’s Agritourism industry a boost. Following months of deliberations, the bill passed both chambers and is currently awaiting action from the Governor. The bill can be read in its entirety on the West Virginia Legislature page.

House Bill 5294 aligns West Virginia’s policies more closely with those of neighboring states. The bill introduces new regulations and licensing procedures for wineries in handling both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. In a bid to enhance consumer safety, alcoholic beverages will only be served to individuals aged 21 and above who exhibit no signs of intoxication. Notably, the bill eliminates the compulsory food service requirement for wineries, while granting them the ability to provide complimentary and purchasable samples of their products. Additionally, under this legislation, wineries can acquire licenses to sell their products at approved off-site and on-site locations, including at fairs and festivals.

“We are thrilled about the passage of HB 5294,” said Elizabeth Dix, owner of Kirkwood Winery in Summersville, WV. “The effect on our business will be substantial. It will allow state wineries to sample their products, giving their customers a full experience of tasting our West Virginia-made wines at our wineries, as well as fairs and festivals. As our agritourism industry grows, we feel this is a huge step forward for West Virginia and West Virginia wineries. This will allow tourists to more thoroughly enjoy all our state has to offer.”

Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt thanked Delegate Clark for serving as the lead sponsor for this critical piece of legislation, saying, “It is a major step forward in improving and strengthening our Agritourism industry. Delegate Clark, his staff, and winery operators worked diligently to pass a bill that would benefit farmers and customers alike.”

For more information on HB 5294, please visit https://www.wvlegislature.gov/, or contact the WVDA at 304-558-3200.