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California Vineyard Wants To Get Constitutional About Wine – Above the Law

Sommelier smelling wine in glassMany things come to mind when people talk about constitutional protections: due process, free speech, Amy Coney Barrett failing the name the rights of the First Amendment coldcall at her hearing — the list goes on. Lindsey Hoopes wants to add another thing to the go-to list of what the Constitution protects: wine. She wants to conduct wine-tasting tours on her property and Napa County isn’t having it. Is this an expected consequence of land ordinances, or something that runs afoul of the 14th Amendment? From Reuters:

Lawyers representing Napa County counter that land use ordinances are crucial to protecting the wine growing region’s agricultural character, preventing it from “turning into Disneyland,” said Arthur Hartinger, a partner at Renne Public Law Group in San Francisco. County lawyers say that if Hoopes wants to conduct wine tastings and tours, she needs to secure new permits and shell out for infrastructure upgrades. “There are health and safety and environmental issues,” said Geoff Spellberg, of counsel at Renne.

According to Hoopes, Napa officials for more than 35 years allowed on-site wine tasting at the property, only to change course and sue her last year for permit violations, alleging the winery is a public nuisance and competes unfairly against its law-abiding competitors…The county’s actions are “very disproportionate to the harm alleged,” Hoopes, who is also an adjunct professor at U.C. College of the Law, San Francisco (formerly Hastings), told me. She argued in a cross-complaint that her 14th Amendment due process and equal protection rights are being violated.

Hoopes wont be the only one giving officials push back. She joined with Smith-Madrone and Summit Lake wineries alleging that Napa Valley’s selective enforcement violates their civil rights. Who knew so much drama went into a bottle of wine? You’ll have to wait a while to see how the case turns out, as it hits trial in January of 2024. Pour a glass of a nice red in the meantime.

Is Sampling Merlot A Constitutional Right? These Wineries Think So. [Reuters]

Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord™ in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s.  He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at and by tweet at @WritesForRent.

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Amit Ghosh
Amit Ghosh


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