I've been in business since 1996 and wineries have been inspected only by the Ohio Division of Liquor Control. As part of a state budget bill, the Department of Agriculture was given authorization to license and inspect wineries as food-processing facilities if they wholesale wine.
The Department of Agriculture is charged with issues of food safety, and it makes sense for it to monitor wineries that produce food that has a possibility of harboring human pathogens. The food-processing codes and requirements go far beyond what is required to safely produce wines.
It's ridiculous to extend these requirements to wineries that do not produce grape juice. Issues pertinent to wine in Ohio have been efficiently handled by the Ohio Division of Liquor Control and Federal TTB. We haven't found any cases in Ohio in the past of food illness related to wine. Wine kills human pathogens at its low pH and alcohol levels.
Applying bureaucracy, regulations and fees where there is no problem suggests that the underlying purpose of this regulation has nothing to do with food-safety issues and everything to do with political position and revenues for the Department of Agriculture.
This regulation discriminates against small wineries with tight budgets and craft wines more distinctively styled than those produced by larger wineries that may produce grape juice. Much in these codes is detrimental to the process of unique, artisanal and traditional-styled winemaking.
As a traditional-style winemaker and winery owner, I want the Food Safety Div. of the ODA off my back. Out-of state wineries that directly wholesale in Ohio are exempt from this regulation, further discriminating against small Ohio wineries. Many states that value their wine industry exempt wineries from food-safety regulations.
State Sen. Tim Schaffer agrees this regulation is duplicitous and unnecessary for Ohio wineries. He is sponsor of Ohio Senate Bill 91, which would keep (wine only) wineries and wholesale distributors under the supervision of the Ohio Div. of Liquor Control and exempt from Food Safety regulations.
The Kasich administration so far hasn't seen fit to remedy this example of burdensome business regulation it promised to eliminate.