Changes to Kansas liquor laws could prove beneficial to the state’s wineries

A first of its kind wine tasting festival in Kansas will be held June 16 in De Soto at Riverfest Park.

“This is a new ballgame,” said Patrick Guilfoyle, city administrator of De Soto and an advocate of Kansas wines.

During the recently completed legislative session, Gov. Sam Brownback signed a wide-ranging mix of changes to the state’s alcoholic beverage laws.

One of those is known as the “De Soto Law” that will allow visitors at wine tasting festivals to taste wine samples and buy bottles of those same wines at the tasting event. Prior to this law’s enactment, wine tasting visitors would have to travel directly to the wineries to purchase those same wines.

Guilfoyle said that was a big obstacle for the state’s wineries.

The measure took effect May 31, so the Winesong at Riverfest will be the first wine tasting event to take advantage of the new law, and 14 Kansas wineries will be represented at the festival.

A short ride to Winesong is a “no-brainer,” Guilfoyle said, noting that a round-trip to those 14 Kansas wineries would be 335 miles.

Tickets to Winesong are $15 each and include 10 wine samplings a souvenir wine glass and appetizers from local food vendors.

Greg Shipe, who with his wife, Charlee Glinka, own and operate Davenport Orchard, Vineyard and Winery just west of Eudora, will be one of those at the festival.

Shipe said the new provision will “help pay for the expense to go to these places,” he said. Before, he said, they would be invited to events and couldn’t make any money at them.

The festival is providing a refrigerated truck to store cases of wine.

Several other major changes in alcohol regulations were approved by the Legislature this session, including one that is designed to lure a dinner train business to the area. These changes take effect July 1.

Under one provision, dinner railway cars can obtain a liquor license. Rep. TerriLois Gregory, R-Baldwin City, said the measure was aimed at luring a Nebraska dinner train business to operate between Baldwin City and Ottawa.

Other provisions of the new law allow:

• Drinking establishments to offer “Happy Hour” specials. Previously, bars could offer special drink prices, but those charges had to last all day.

• Micro-distilleries to sell and serve their products on their premises.

• Liquor stores to offer free tastings of beer, wine and alcohol to their customers.