All 50 states have commercial wineries. Maryland ranks 17th in production or, put another way, number of gallons produced.
California has the most wineries by far—2,869 in 2010, according to Wine America, an industry group. Washington State comes in second with 658 wineries.
In Maryland, wineries are governed by local jurisdictions’ regulations and state laws. On a local level, new wineries need zoning approval to open. However, counties’ zoning and permit offices generally don’t have separate categories for wineries, so they are usually classified as agricultural businesses, according to Kevin Atticks, executive director of the Maryland Wineries Association.
Although there are efforts to devise uniform, statewide regulations for wineries, Atticks says the association works county-by-county to get permits and approvals for winery operations.
Wineries require several licenses, including those allowing them to:
• Produce and sell wine.
• Distribute their product. (Small wineries that produce less than 27,500 gallons per year may get a license to sell directly to restaurants and liquor stores. Above that number of gallons, a wholesale distributor must be hired.)
• Participate in wine festivals.
On the legislative level, the 2010 Maryland Wineries Modernization Act revised and streamlined laws affecting winery operation, while the 2011 Alcoholic Beverage-Direct Wine Shipment allowed wineries in- and out-of-state to ship directly to Maryland customers after getting a permit from the comptroller’s office.
The Governor’s Advisory Commission on Maryland Wine and Grape Growing operates under the Maryland Department of Agriculture. On the advice of the commission, the Maryland Wine and Grape Promotion Council was formed; at one time, the council made grants through the Maryland Grape Growers Association, according to Bruce Perrygo, association coordinator.
Some funding is still available from the federal tobacco settlement for tobacco farmers to buy grape vines. The Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission administers those grants in the five southern Maryland counties.