Biz Buzz: Law helps off-site tasting rooms

Downtown Paso Robles wine-tasting rooms have been given a boost with a law signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last week.

They can now sell wine by the glass or bottle, and customers can drink what they buy on the premises.

Up to now, tasting rooms off-site from their wineries, such as Ortman Family Vineyards and Clayhouse Wines in downtown Paso Robles, could give their customers only an ounce of a taste of their wine.

Those wanting more were required to buy the wine either by the bottle or the case, and could not open bottles at the tasting room.

“We’re happy about it because it gives our customers more options,” said Kari Kittinger, tasting room manager for Clayhouse Wines.

The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, is an extension of what was passed as the “picnic wine” bill last year.

That bill allowed tasting rooms at the wineries to start selling wine by the glass, but tasting rooms off-site were still limited to the one-ounce pour.

Some wine industry experts say that the new law won’t really cause much change.

Stacie Jacob, executive director of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, said the focus of the tasting rooms is to give customers a taste so that they purchase wine for later consumption.

“I think you do a tasting room to have a storefront downtown, a place for people to come and experience your wines, and I don’t think the new law will spur a lot of new tasting rooms,” she said. “It just gives the existing ones more tools to maximize their marketability.”

— Melanie Cleveland

Mercedes service center expands

Star Automotive of San Luis Obispo recently moved from Tank Farm Road to 750 Francis Avenue, off Broad Street.

Star Automotive was established in 2006 as an independent, exclusively Mercedes-Benz service center and is owned and operated by Brian Wampler.

The new location is larger and offers three times the parking of the old one.

— Julia Hickey