Oddly enough, a small number of students at Washington State University's Tri-Cities campus who are learning the science and production of wine are not allowed to taste the very product they are making.
To the rescue comes Rep. Larry Haler, a Richland Republican, who thinks it's high time these underage viticulture and enology majors were able to at least sip the grape. Hence, his bill, HB 1549, which at long last will permit wine-making students between the ages of 18 and 21 to swish around in their mouths a little squirt of a pleasant Cabernet Sauvignon."My bill will make it possible for them to taste the product, to savor it in their mouths, but they will still be required to spit it out," Haler told us yesterday morning.
Asked how it would be possible to monitor this, Haler replied with a laugh, "The instructor will be watching them very carefully."
And, God forbid, if they swallow?
"Well, they could be expelled from the course," said Haler. Yes, he's serious. Chardonnay swallowers will not be tolerated!
The seeds for Haler's measure were planted in the early January, the first week of the legislation session, when a group of Tri-Cities enology students came to the lawmaker's office and basically told him they needed to be able to taste the stuff they're studying.
Haler agreed that it was pretty ridiculous that current law forbids something seemingly so commonsensical.
"The grape growing business is growing by leaps and bounds," said Haler. "And I think it's important that these students should be able to do what professional samplers and tasters can do."
Presently, 27 students at WSU's Tri-Cities campus are working toward a BA degree in Integrated Plant Science, with a major in viticulture and enology.
Haler said he not yet encountered any opposition, though he wouldn't be surprised if there are "some objections" from the Liquor Control Board.
A toast, to Larry Haler, who, to rephrase that famous wine commercial featuring Orson Welles, has drafted legislation because it's time.