Education

'Sip and spit' bill aimed at student winemakers passes Senate

Kelly Allyn, left, and Ella Johnson pour Cal Poly-produced wine at the Roll Out the Barrels event at San Luis Obispo's Mission Plaza on Thursday.
Kelly Allyn, left, and Ella Johnson pour Cal Poly-produced wine at the Roll Out the Barrels event at San Luis Obispo's Mission Plaza on Thursday. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

The so-called “sip and spit” bill that would allow 18-to 20-year-old students in enology and brewing science programs to taste alcohol as part of their classes resoundingly passed the state Senate and is awaiting California Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature.

Assembly Bill 1989, sponsored by state Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro, D-Arcata, crafts an exemption to California's prohibition of “furnishing alcohol to a minor” by allowing students at least 18 years old to taste alcohol as part of courses they are enrolled in.

The idea for the California bill originated with Andrew Waterhouse, a professor of wine chemistry at UC Davis, who has been concerned for many years that age restrictions on tastings detracted from students' education.

The same challenge plagues the majority of the more than 350 students enrolled in Cal Poly's burgeoning viticulture program: They can't taste the very product they are learning to make.

Twelve states, including Oregon, Washington and New York, already have similar laws on the books.

The bill was submitted to Brown for his approval at 2 p.m. on July 9.

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