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American wineries call for curb on drunken visitors

In an effort to curb drunkenness, the Temecula Valley Wine Association in southern California is asking people not to visit too many wineries.

Wineries are grappling with visits too often ending up in drunken excess, according to winery reps from New York to California.

‘It is a really centred around limousines and buses, with a lot of people thinking [as they are not driving] they can drink as much as they want,’ said Ray Falkner, president of the Temecula Valley Wine Association, based in southern California.

‘They are not a hazard on the road, but they are a hazard in the winery – they are very boisterous, rude, obnoxious and disruptive. If you have an entire bus load or limo group, it hurts the entire tasting experience for other guests,’ Falkner told decanter.com.

‘There is not a winery in the valley that has not had it occur,’ added Falkner, whose association represents some 21 wineries.

He has called for greater responsibility from the bus and limo drivers. ‘They cannot be responsible for every participant, but they are responsible if they have a group that is already intoxicated and they decide to take them to yet another establishment.’

Local television recently highlighted the same problem in New York’s Finger Lakes wine region, with some wineries issuing yellow or red warning cards to groups which get too rowdy.

But one limo driver, Stewart Alexander, told Rochester, NY-based wham13 television, ‘So long as they’re not destroying property, being boisterous and having a good time is what wine tours are about.’

In the Napa Valley, the problem is less pronounced, according to Daryl Sattui, owner of the V Sattui Winery in St. Helena, partly because most visits cost money.

‘Some regions perhaps are more desperate to attract people, but Napa is the wine mecca. We put up a little bit of a filter in the form of paying to taste,’ he told decanter.com. ‘We seek serious tasters.’

Sattui agreed that groups can pose a problem. ‘A lot of wineries may not admit it, but they are not in favour of limos,’ he said. ‘If people are intoxicated, we do not serve them, if they ask for seconds and thirds, we cut them off,’ he said.

Written by Panos Kakaviatos

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