OLCC stings target wineries

Between June 7 and 24, the OLCC targeted businesses, bars, and wineries throughout the state. As I analyze the data from the various stings, I am pleased with the compliant wineries and warily anticipate more to come in months ahead. I will isolate stings in two areas of the state known for its wine, the communities of Sutherlin, Coquielle, and McMinnville.

Coquielle and Sutherlin are quite close to each other, less than an hour’s drive. The OLCC targeted 18 bars and businesses, but no wineries, despite the towns’ respective proximity to the Umpqua Valley. Sutherlin had a stunning 100% compliance rate with its 13 targeted businesses, while Coquille had an 80% compliance rate (more to do with underlying numbers of targets — only five). Sutherlin’s sting was on a Thursday (June 26) while Coquille’s was on a Saturday (June 7).

McMinnville, on the other hand, had a far greater scope. There were 64 stings there, on a Tuesday — June 24th. 54 of the targets were in compliance, giving an 84% compliance rate. Let’s talk about who was targeted in this gem of Oregon’s wine country.

I did a paper tally of the types of businesses targeted (this is an approximation only). Of the 64 targets, I calculate 24 restaurants or delis; 7 bars (known more for their beers than brats); 25 stores; and 8 wine-related businesses (stores and tasting rooms). Let’s think about those numbers — two stings, both Southern Oregon communities, have no wine-related targets, while a full 12% of the McMinnville targets are.

Sadly, two of the wineries ‘failed’ the sting. As I don’t know the exact facts and circumstances of the stings, I will not name those two wineries. Keep in mind that each citation is subject to appeal and review. (Don’t do it alone — while an OLCC licensee must have an attorney at an OLCC hearing, a permittee need not — but should.)

Congratulations to the wineries in compliance in the June 24 sting — Maysara Winery, Woodward Wines, Insiders Wine Market, The Eyrie Vineyards, Willamette Valley Vineyards Wine Center, and Vino Arcanum.

My thoughts and trends? I foresee a continuing sweep of the northern Oregon wine country, including tasting rooms in Dundee, Gaston, Forest Grove, and Carlton. While some of these towns have seen stings in the last few months, the OLCC has not aggressively targeted wineries and tasting rooms in 2014. The last target in Dundee was in December. Keep in mind Forest Grove has been targeted three times since them — but none of them tasting rooms. As far as I can research, Gaston and Carlton have not been targeted in over two years — they are both ripe for a sting.

My go-forward suggestions:

1. Continue Oregon’s responsible tradition of training your tasting room associates to diligently check IDs of those who look under 26 years old.

2. Keep a log of suspicious visitors and share it with your colleagues close to you. The OLCC encourages people to submit names of businesses that they think are not compliant so that the OLCC can sting them. If a patron in your tasting room is overly interested in the service of another customer, ask yourself why. You might even overtly card each and every patron that enters after that, in full view of the nosy patron. Be vocal in your winery’s commitment to OLCC compliance.

3. Ask young-looking patrons if they are over 21 years old. Use the words “Are you at least 21 years old?” Wait for the reply. They are not permitted, under OAR 845-009-0200(2)(d), to lie about their age — take advantage of that fact. When I work behind the bar, I regularly ask this question of everyone in a group. If one person does not answer aloud, I check every ID. If one person jokes that he or she is not (usually a senior citizen), I again check every ID.

4. If your tasting room has been cited earlier, you could be on a targeted list to check compliance again. OAR 845-009-0200(3)(b).

5. If you are the tasting room manager, make yourself an example of a compliant server to your colleagues. Take Oregon’s drinking laws seriously.

Foto kindly donated by Big Foto.