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County finds new revenue source: Tax put on winde.

Screven County commissioners took a chance to capture a little more revenue Tuesday, by levying an excise tax on wine made in the county and sold wholesale to grocery stores.

The tax of 22 cents per liter will bring in, at most, about $21,000 a year. That’s because Shannon Vineyards, which opened last fall, is licensed to sell a maximum of about 95,000 liters of wine annually.

Owner Jim Shannon said that figure could grow as the winery expands. “It’s tens of thousands of dollars,” he said. “It’s certainly something that can be passed along (to the customer) or shared. It’s good for the community.”

Commissioners voted unanimously to levy the tax and to issue a wholesale distribution license for a winery for $200. They could have decided to stay out of the matter, and leave it up to the state to regulate, but that would have meant passing up a possible revenue stream.

Shannon needed a statement from the county saying it doesn’t regulate wholesale sales so he could get a state wholesale distribution license. Or he needed the county to step up and decide to get involved.

Taking no action “won’t stop him from distributing” wine wholesale, said county attorney Hubert Reeves III. “It would eliminate a potential source of revenue.”

Now that the county has made a decision, Shannon said he can apply for the county and state licenses and possibly have wine for sale in stores as soon as 90 days. He said he would like to sell the wine in stores such as Wal-Mart and Publix.

Shannon already sells muscadine grapes to stores across the nation. At the winery, on Highway 21 about nine miles south of Sylvania, he makes wine and sells it at a tasting room, restaurant and banquet facility.

A second tasting room should open by the end of February in the Mopper-Stapen Building in downtown Savannah, Shannon said.

Meanwhile, the Screven County facility has hosted a variety of events including weddings, and offers wine tastings and five-course gourmet dinners. For Valentine’s Day Saturday, a couple can enjoy a five-course meal with candlelight, a bottle of wine, a chocolate fountain, and a choice of entrees such as rack of lamb, lobster ravioli or 20-ounce steak, for $99.