Caymus Vineyards, one of Napa Valley’s best-known wineries, has created a lawsuit against California’s governor and public health officer, that the state’s reopening strategy treats winery tasting rooms unfairly.
Chuck Wagner, the winery’s proprietor, is calling for federal courts to cancel the tactic that allows some tasting rooms to open while others continue to be closed.
“The orders permit the reopening of winery tasting rooms if, and only if, they also provide ‘sit-down, dine-in meals,'”
the legal paperwork alleges.
“The orders provide no explanation for this requirement. Any winery that does not—or, under local ordinances, cannot—provide such meals may not reopen. The governor and the state public health officer have an obligation to promulgate orders that treat like businesses in a like manner.”
Ironically, both parties in the suit are winemakers.
Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom is a co-owner of the PlumpJack Group, which includes four Napa wineries.
Wagner is the longtime proprietor of Caymus, which he co-founded with his father, Charlie, when he was just out of high school. Today, he and two of his children own multiple California wineries.
“Napa Valley is being treated differently than other parts of the state,”
Wagner told Wine Spectator.
“It’s mainly the inequity of how we’re being treated that bothers me. We’ve reached out to the state for answers and cannot get them.”
Gov. Newsom declined to comment on the lawsuit.
The argument comes down to how California is allowing winery tasting rooms, shuttered since March, to slowly allow to reopen.
The state is in Stage 2 of “re-opening”, which permits restaurants and certain retail businesses to allow partial operations.
Winery tasting rooms are not included.
However, several California counties received waivers that allowed wineries that also offer food service to resume tastings as long as guests are outdoors and properly spaced.
Some wineries in Sonoma, Santa Barbara, Paso Robles and El Dorado began tastings in recent days.
But Napa County does not allow wineries to offer full-meal service. As a result, Napa wineries have not been included.
Many winery owners in un-selected regions have complained.
Wagner worries for smaller wineries that are taking a greater hit.
Wagner continues on that he doesn’t object to the state taking precautions. “We take this seriously. We will abide by all the health criteria set out by the state and county.”
He encourages the court to strike down the rule or ask the state to change the rules soon, as long as there is not a spike in COVID-19 cases.