A state Senate committee has advanced a bill that would ease limits on tasting rooms. Proponents said the measure would help small wineries that have been devastated by pandemic shutdowns and smoke damage to winegrapes.

“Tasting rooms are the lifeblood of their operations,” said Tyler Blackney, a policy director at the Wine Institute, adding that the businesses sell a product unique to California, but they need more opportunities to connect with consumers.

Steven Mirassou, a winemaker for Steven Kent Winery, noted that nearly 85% of the state’s wineries are classified as small. Being unsuited for widescale product distribution, these wineries are at a great disadvantage and “need their tasting rooms in order to survive in a very competitive” market. This bill would even the playing field, he said.