STATE HOUSE – In 2018, winemakers James Davids and Marissa Stashenko left the wine mecca of California in search of a more fulfilling lifestyle. Their journey brought them to Rhode Island where they opened a winery in Rumford to partner with family farms to produce small batches of artisan wine.
“We instantly fell in love with Rhode Island and the quality of life here,” Stashenko said. “We started our business and are really excited to share our craft with our new community.”
But unlike breweries and distilleries, which source their ingredients from around the world, wineries in Rhode Island are not allowed to sell their product on site unless the fruit was grown in Rhode Island. Some of the grapes used at Anchor and Hope winery in Rumford are grown in Rhode Island, but some are from out of state. As a result, the winemakers cannot sell their product onsite.
Sen. Valarie Lawson (D-Dist. 14, East Providence) and Rep. Katherine Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence, Pawtucket) hope to change that with a bill (2023 S-0039, 2023 H-5232) that would allow wineries to sell up to three five-ounce glasses and three 750-ml bottles per customer per day on site.
“As legislators, we should be doing everything we can to support small businesses,” Senator Lawson said. “This may seem like a small change, but for these businesses, and for our community, it will have a big impact. Customers should be able to come see the wine being made and share a glass with the winemakers.”
“As craft breweries and craft distilleries grew, we modified the law to allow them to have tasting rooms and sell their product onsite,” Representative Kazarian said. “It’s time to do the same thing for our small, local winemakers.”
To Davids and Stashenko, the legislation would be a great way to grow their business and become more integrated in the East Providence community. “We’re grateful to Senator Lawson and Representative Kazarian for introducing this legislation, which would enable us to hire more people and grow our business,” Stashenko said. “We’re just asking to be treated the same as the breweries and distilleries. How great would it be for our community if our neighbors could have a glass of wine with friends right here at their local winery?”