Month: March 2021

COVID-19 State Small Business Assistance Grants

Two Grant Opportunities for WA Small Wineries

Washington wineries will soon have an option between two small business grant opportunities available through the State’s on-going effort to provide assistance to businesses impacted by the pandemic.

Wineries may be eligible for a grant through the WA Department of Commerce’s “Working Washington” small business grant program OR through upcoming grants that will be made available through the WA Department of Agriculture, targeted at the WA small craft beverage producer sectors.

The portal for Working Washington grant applications is now open and the grant application portal for the Department of Ag small craft beverage producer grants will open in the next two weeks. While wineries may meet eligibility requirements for both grant programs, businesses may receive only one of the two grant types available.

Over the next couple weeks, WWI will be providing information and assistance to help you determine which grant might better serve your business.

In the meantime, we encourage you to read through the eligibility and application requirements for the “Working Washington” grants found here. The Working Washington grant application portal (via the Department of Commerce) will close on April 9th. All applications received within that open period will be considered.

The Department of Ag COVID-19 Recovery Grant website will be updated with eligibility criteria and application requirements for winery, cidery, brewery, and distillery businesses soon.

We truly appreciate the Legislature’s and the Governor’s allocations of funding for small business grants through the Department of Commerce and the Department of Agriculture; and the State’s recognition that craft beverage producers contribute to the health and diversity of the Washington state economy by providing support to disproportionately impacted and previously underserved agricultural sectors, through these new grants for small craft beverage producers.

Please keep an eye out for more info, coming soon!



Washington State Wine Commission Board Positions

Open Positions on the Washington State Wine Commission – Letters of Interest Due April 23

Attention:  Washington State Wine Industry

The Washington State Wine Commission was created by the Washington State Legislature in 1987 to promote the growth of the wine industry. Its mission is to raise awareness and demand for Washington State wine through marketing and education, while supporting viticulture and enology research to drive industry growth.

The Commission was constituted under the Washington State Department of Agriculture and is governed by an appointed board of commissioners.

The Commission board is composed of twelve voting members and one non-voting member; five voting members shall be growers, five voting members shall be wine producers, one voting member shall represent the director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture and one voting member shall be a wine distributor.  The non-voting member is a producer of non-vinifera fruit wine. Members serve three-year terms.

On June 30th the terms of four members of the Wine Commission board will expire: two producer and two growers. Candidates must meet qualification requirements as outlined below.

Appointments [RCW 15.88.050(1)]:

The director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture shall appoint the members of the commission. In making such appointments, the director shall take into consideration recommendations made by the growers’ association and the wine institute as the persons recommended for appointment as members of the commission. The director usually makes appointment selections in early May for a July 1, 2021 start to the 3-year term.

Positions expiring on June 30th are currently occupied by:

  1. Position #3 – Producer— Shylah Alfonso: Shylah will seek another term.
  2. Position #5 – Producer—Steve Griessel: Steve will seek another term.
  3. Position #8 – Grower—Sadie Drury: Sadie will seek another term.
  4. Position #10 – Grower —Brenton Roy: Brenton will not seek another term.

In accordance with RCW 15.88.030(1), the board seats mush be filled with candidates who meet the Mandatory Qualifications listed below. Additional requirements are as follows:

  1. The two producer positions (#3 & #5) have no additional requirements.
  2. The grower positions (#8 & #10) have no additional acreage requirements but must be filled by wine grape growers who do not produce and sell their own wine.

Pursuant to RCW 15.88.050, the Washington Winegrowers Association sends grower recommendations and the Washington Wine Institute sends wine producer and distributor recommendations to the Director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture for appointment consideration. The Director usually communicates appointments in May for a July 1, 2020 start to the 3-year term.

If you are an interested, qualifying wine producer, please submit your letter of interest and biographical information to WWI’s Executive Director, Josh McDonald, at

If you are an interested, qualifying grower, please submit your letter of interest and biographical information to the Washington Winegrowers Association Executive Director, Vicky Scharlau, at

Candidates will be interviewed by the Association responsible for each open seat (reflected above) and recommendations made to the Director of Agriculture.

Commissioner Duties and Responsibilities:

  1. Active involvement in commissioner board meetings through regular attendance and engagement in discussions with meetings
  2. Represent and speak for the broader interest of the industry, not that of one’s own business nor that of any particular subset of the industry
  3. Have a clear understanding of the mission and be able to articulate its purpose and structure to the industry and general public
  4. Serve as an Ambassador for the Commission, educating the broader constituency about the Commission’s strategic direction and programming
  5. Be knowledgeable about industry trends
  6. Be available to serve on committees and attend Commission-sponsored event
  7. Be knowledgeable about state agency governance rules and regulations, i.e. Open Public Meetings Act, State Ethics laws, wine and grape assessment process, etc.
  8. Lead with intention, inclusiveness and equity.
  9. Have a desire and openness to learn and adapt to new ways of thinking as the wine industry grows.

Mandatory Qualifications [RCW 15.88.030(4)]:

Each member of the Commission must be a citizen and resident of the state and over the age of twenty-one years.  Each member must be engaged in that phase of the growing or wine producing industry that he or she is appointed to represent, and during his or her term of office must derive a substantial portion of income from, or have a substantial investment in the growing of vinifera grapes or the production of wine from vinifera grapes as an owner, lessee, partner, or a stockholder owning at least 10% of the voting stock in a corporation engaged in the growing of vinifera grapes or wine production from vinifera grapes; or the manager or executive officer of such a corporation.  These qualifications apply throughout each member’s term of office.

Desired qualifications:

  1. Strong grasp of marketing principles and tactics
  2. Strong understanding of the various wine marketing channels, including trade, media, distribution, and the consumer
  3. Collegial and collaborative approach to decision making and problem solving
  4. Strong leadership and management skills
  5. Strong communication skills
  6. Solid understanding of, a strong belief in the importance of, V&E research
  7. Global perspective of the wine business
  8. Extensive contacts and relationships throughout the industry and in the broader community (both within Washington and beyond)
  9. Strong record of participation or involvement in industry activities
  10. High level of integrity

Current Board of Commissioners includes:

  1. Steve Griessel, Betz Family Winery (winery)
  2. John Sportelli, Columbia Winery (winery)
  3. Casey McClellan, Seven Hills Winery (winery and grower)
  4. Brenton Roy, Oasis Farms (grower)
  5. Dan Werth, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates (winery)
  6. Sadie Drury, North Slope Management (grower)
  7. Dick Boushey, Boushey Vineyards (grower)
  8. Ryan Lumaco, Southern Glazer Wine and Spirits (wine distributor)
  9. Serena Roberge Gordon, Fletcher Bay Winery (non-vinifera producer
  10. Shylah Alfonso, Pomum Winery (winery)
  11. Rachel Horn, Aniche Cellars (winery)
  12. Lacey Lybecker, Cairdeas Winery (grower)
  13. Rianne Perry, Washington State Department of Ag (WSDA rep.)

Phase 3 begins on March 22 for the entire state

On March 11th, the Governor announced that on Monday, March 22, the entire state will move to Phase 3 of his Healthy Washington reopening plan.


During Phase 3, wineries and tasting rooms are permitted to offer on premise service at 50% capacity. Physical distancing and masking protocols must still be enforced. Additionally, alcohol service must end at midnight, and there is still a minimal food requirement for indoor service (see below). Additional information including table size will be released next week, and we will share the full guidance as it becomes available. 


The 50% capacity allowance is for up to 400 people maximum. Larger venue events, including baseball games and other sports, are capped at 25% occupancy or up to 9,000 people, whichever is less


Healthy Washington Phase 3 Reopening Metrics


Under the updated plan, the metrics of counties, not regions, will be individually evaluated every three weeks. The evaluations will occur on Mondays with any possible changes taking effect Friday. Large and small counties will have different sets of criteria, as seen below. If any county fails one or more of the metrics below, that county will move down one phase.



Vaccine Eligibility Update

The Governor also announced a revised start date for all WA residents that fall into Phase 1B – Tier 2 of the vaccine rollout will now become eligible on Wednesday March 17.
As food processors and for those owning vineyards, some employees involved on the production and vineyards sides of the business will qualify for eligibility in Phase 1B – Tier 2. This includes employees engaged in activities that meet the following criteria:

  1. Congregate agriculture–specifically those who work and/or live in a congregate setting interacting with a high volume of co-workers (vs. animals) over extended periods of time (i.e., >3 hours in 24 hour day). Relevant roles are more likely to include crop selection, production and packaging vs. equipment maintenance
  2. Congregate food processing–specifically those who work and/or live in a congregate setting interacting with high volume of co-workers over extended periods of time (i.e.,>3 hours in 24 hour day).

The WA Department of Health has an online tool where you can check your vaccine eligibility. You can find the full framework for vaccine allocation and prioritization here.

Open Air Seating Guidance, Live Music, and Food Requirements


 Outdoor & Open Air Seating Requirements

This document outlines the guidance for Open Air and Outdoor Seating Requirements, as updated on January 19.
Live Music
The guidance for live music can be found
here. Dancing is prohibited except in a minimal and prescriptive fashion at weddings.

 Food/snacks Requirements
There is still a food/snacks requirement for indoor service, although it was updated on March 5. The
new guidance requires either minimal food/snacks service or an allowance for food to be brought in from a restaurant. Please note that no longer are both required.


COVID 19 Operations Best Practices

State leaders worked with Byron Marlow, Professor of Hospitality Management at WSU, to put together a comprehensive list of guidelines and suggested best practices for wineries. These best practices apply for both indoor and outdoor service. 

  1. Washington Winery COVID 19 Reopening Requirements Guidelines and Best Practices.
  2. Washington Winery COVID 19 Supplement Response Operations Checklist.
  3. Washington Winery COVID 19 Supplement Response Posters.
  4. Voluntary Customer Log Template




Restaurant and food service workers eligible for vaccine

On March 18th,  Governor Inslee announced that on March 31st, restaurant and food service workers will be eligible to receive a vaccine. Prior to this announcement, we joined with our colleagues in the restaurant, lodging, and brewery industries to ask the Governor to prioritize our essential workers who interact with the public on a daily basis similar to grocery workers and others currently eligible for a vaccine. As a reminder from previous emails we’ve sent on vaccine eligibility, those winery workers in the vineyard and production side of your business became eligible on March 17.

We are thrilled the Governor’s office and other state leaders listened to us and agreed to prioritize our hard work winery employees in production now and beginning March 31st those working in every tasting room across the state. We know our wineries have been on the frontlines throughout this pandemic and, especially now that we are open to the public, we felt strongly should be prioritized as essential workers for vaccine eligibility.

For more information on the vaccine roll-out and vaccine locator, click here.

If you have any questions about where you or members of your winery team fall on the schedule, don’t hesitate to email us at and we will do our best to help discuss this new vaccine eligibility criteria and how it applies in your winery.

2021 Virtual Legislative Session Update

We are very pleased to report that HB 1480, which would codify and extend the timeline for the LCB’s temporary COVID-19 sales allowances like curbside service for wineries, cleared the House yesterday by a vote of 86 – 12. We are also thrilled we were able to amend the bill to include allowing restaurants to sell wine by-the-glass to-go. This bill is a high priority for WWI and for our partners in the restaurant and beer industries.

The bill is necessary so that licensees can continue curbside, beer/wine/spirits to go, deliveries, and other COVID-19 related allowances. While the LCB has been a fantastic partner in allowing this flexibility since last March, this bill gives these policies needed backing in state law. The bill will now go to the Senate, where it will need to receive another hearing and vote before it can be signed into law.

Beyond HB 1480, we are working on many different bills to help our member wineries, grape growers, and suppliers while also if possible supporting our colleagues in other hospitality sectors. Some of these bills include:

Alcohol Related Legislation

SB 5417/HB 1480: Extending certain privileges granted to liquor licensees to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

HB 1483: Concerning workforce development in the beverage alcohol industry

COVID Hospitality-Related Relief Bills

SB 5061: Concerning Unemployment Insurance (signed into law)

SB 5272: Concerning temporarily waiving certain liquor and cannabis license annual fees (sent to Gov for signature into law)

HB 1095: Removing tax obligations from PPP and other Federal and State COVID 19 pandemic-related grants

HB 1332: Concerning property tax deferral during the COVID 19 Pandemic

HB 1368: Responding to the COVID pandemic through state actions supported by federal funding (signed into law)

HB 1299: Providing B&O tax relief to the hospitality industry


SB 5172: Concerning the retroactivity of overtime claims in exceptional cases

HB 1285: Modifying the B&O tax exemption for certain fruit and vegetable businesses


We are helping lead an effort to secure a $12 million budget ask that would go to the Washington Tourism Alliance to market Washington State including our wine regions to the country and world. When we are past the pandemic, we want to be hitting the ground sprinting on tourism vs. barely getting by as-is our current level of state tourism funding.

WWI continues to work with coalitions and act in supporting roles on issues related to the wine industry. In addition to the bills highlighted above WWI is engaging on, there seems to be no shortage of business addressing taxes, labor, environment and other. There is a lot going on in this new and very different virtual format of a legislative session! We will continue providing updates as the 2021 virtual session moves along.