Ed Driscoll

This is Why California Can't Have Nice Things

“Castro Valley Winery to Government: Crush Grapes, Not Vintners,” Debra Saunders writes at Townhall:

“You’ll never meet anyone who says, ‘I want to be a millionaire. I think I’ll start a winery,'” owner Bill Smyth tells me from his small office over the tasting room of Westover Vineyards, nestled in Palomares Canyon. Smyth has worked in a number of fields. He made some money. He bought the vineyard property when he was young. His ex-wife bought him a kit to make wine, and his labor of love turned into a small business.

Now, thanks to heavy-handed California regulators, he’s selling off his ports and boutique wines and turning his winery back into a home.

In July, California Department of Industrial Relations officials showed up at Westover Vineyards and slapped Smyth with $115,550 in fines, back wages and penalties. His bad: Like many other East Bay wineries, Westover benefits from the labor of volunteers to help with winemaking and pouring. Smyth offers a free course in winemaking; he says participants are free to help out or not. He has a legal form for volunteers. It reads: “I am donating my labor free by choice.”

We’re not talking about teens being pressed into grueling labor in hot fields. As one who enjoys the fruit and neighborhood feel of Livermore Valley wineries, I’ve met both volunteers and employees who started as volunteers. They tend to be middle-aged professionals who want a piece of the oenology dream.

California entrepreneurs pride themselves on the can-do spirit that allowed Hewlett and Packard and Jobs and Woz start their businesses in their garages — and then consistently vote for socialists who would make a kid’s lemonade stand illegal, let alone a winery or home business. And then they wonder why the state, with its gorgeous weather (at least near the coast) and tremendous natural resources has a net outflow of citizens. As the Manhattan Institute noted in 2012, “For the past two decades, California has been sending more people to other American states than it receives from them. Since 1990, the state has lost nearly 3.4 million residents through this migration.”

Related: Meanwhile, in Illinois, “I hate to see the Democratic Party continually demonize Americans that are successful. What? Should we all be failures?”