“The Professor Has Been Drinking (Not Me),”

Democratic Assembly Member Wesley Chesbro ( his wiki), of California’s 2nd district (which is basically from the Oregon border all the way to the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge), is about to get a huge boost in student support. That is, if his proposed assembly bill No. 1989 passes. The bill proposes that students between the ages 18 and 21 can taste wine and beer in class!!!

Now, before you underagers head in to English 101 and crack open a PBR, or whatever it is the youths of today are drinking (King Cobra, perhaps?)….there are some strict stipulations. First, you have to be enrolled in a “qualified academic institution,” secondly, you must be a qualified student and lastly, and this is the stickler, you can only “taste.” The official name of the assembly bill is: Underage Drinkers: students in winemaking and brewery science programs.

Wesley Chesbro

Wesley Chesbro (smiling at the camera) looks on at Track Seven Brewing Co. in Sacramento as Gov. Jerry Brown signs AB 647, a bill by Chesbro that clarifies state law so that craft breweries may refill customers’ “growlers” – photo courtesy Chesbro’s office….so he seems to be pro common sense for the drinks industry!

Below are the actual definitions extracted from the bill:

A qualified student may taste an alcoholic beverage, and both the student and the qualified academic institution in which the student is enrolled shall not be subject to criminal prosecution under subdivision (a) of Section 25658 and subdivision (a) of Section 25662, if all of the following criteria are met:

  • The qualified student tastes the alcoholic beverage while enrolled in a qualified academic institution.
  • The qualified academic institution has established an Associate’s degree or Bachelor’s degree program in enology or brewing that is designed to train industry professionals in the production of wine or beer.
  • The qualified student tastes the alcoholic beverage for educational purposes as part of the instruction in a course required for an Associate’s degree or Bachelor’s degree.
  • The alcoholic beverage remains in the control of an authorized instructor of the qualified academic institution who is at least 21 years of age.
  • Nothing in this section shall be construed to allow a student under 21 years of age to receive an alcoholic beverage unless it is delivered as part of the student’s curriculum requirements.
  • “Qualified academic institution” means a public college or university accredited by a commission recognized by the United States Department of Education.
  • “Qualified student” means a student enrolled in a qualified academic institution who is at least 18 years of age.
  • “Taste” means to draw an alcoholic beverage into the mouth, but does not include swallowing or otherwise consuming the alcoholic beverage.

I wonder if they’ll have a “proper spitting method” in the curriculum as well.

However, and class room humor aside, this could actually be a huge boost to the winemaking education system in California. About a year ago I tried all of Cal Poly’s wine, there was a student from the program there (not pouring) and he explained how he hadn’t tried any of the wines as he was under age.

“WHAT?!?” I cried, “You haven’t tasted your own wine?”
He sheepishly shook his head.

sensory evaluation

What sensory evaluation might look like….

Obviously, I found that a tad absurd…a student who is learning to make wine (or beer for that matter) can’t actually taste the product they’re making, and even worse have any point of reference of what styles they might or might not prefer.

Hypothetically, a winemaking student could get through a large portion of their studies, finally get to taste at 21, and hate the stuff! What then lawmakers?! This bill could possible prevent hundreds of students wasting precious loan money and years in college to only find out they like vodka better.

The bill will be heard by the committee in the State’s capital on March 23rd. I believe it’ll be heard one more time after that before there’s a vote.

I hope the wine industry gets behind this one as it can have a real positive impact on our state’s future winemakers.

I’ll be posting updates as I find them.

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