People often think of wineries as places where winemakers crush grapes, ferment and age the grape juice, and bottle their finished wine (or some combination thereof) to sell to others. But as a legal matter, what can a business owner do with a winery license under Idaho’s complicated web of regulation? Owning an Idaho winery stands out as the singularly most flexible way to enter the wine business and develop your wine brand.
In addition to obtaining the equipment and federal permits necessary to manufacture wine, someone hoping to start a winery will need a winery license from Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC), which is part of the Idaho State Police. Each person has to fill out an application and undergo a criminal background check. If ABC issues the permit, the applicant pays a $300 fee and the winery license attaches to a location.
Of course, winery license holders can manufacture and bottle wine, but a licensed winery gains a number of other important privileges too. It can sell its own wine at retail directly to consumers by the bottle or by the glass on its own premises so long as the winery has produced the wine it is selling. More importantly, however, the license holder also becomes both a wine distributor and importer under Idaho law for their own products. Wine importers are allowed to bring wine into Idaho from out of state and sell it to distributors. Distributors in turn are the people who, in many cases, are necessary to connect consumers with producers. They have the unique ability to buy and store wine from importers, wineries, and other distributors. Then they resell it to retailers such as wine shops and grocery stores. Distributors can also sell wine to bars and restaurants. In short, a licensed winery can manufacture, import, and distribute its own products in Idaho.
For help getting a winery license or growing your wine business, please contact our Wine, Brew, and Spirits Group at 208.344.6000.