Direct Shipping Rules Continue to Confuse

Mike Dunne of the Sacramento Bee made an interesting discovery last week when touring the Finger Lakes region of New York. While the Supreme Court’s decision lifting restrictions on the shipping of wine interstate was met with glee by many wineries, some are still confused about the practical application of the decision. The confusion is understandable because, in response to the ruling, many states have imposed thier own regulations and fees for interstate shipments.

Dunne’s experience is most likely not uncommon:

While in the Finger Lakes region of west-central New York last week, I stopped at Thirsty Owl Wine Co., overlooking Cayuga Lake.
I tasted through the wines and then asked if I could buy some and have them shipped to my home in California.

Of course, they said.

I then drove a half-mile down the road to Hosmer Winery and repeated the exercise. There, however, I was told they could ship wine to California only if it were delivered to a grocery store, a restaurant or “any business licensed to sell wine.” I couldn’t have it shipped to my Sacramento house.

Dunne found that “[s]ome vintners say the frequently complex and costly regulations aren’t worth the effort, and tell customers they can’t or won’t ship them wine.” Others found that the removal of the ban on interstate wine shipments has increased sales:

“It’s had a big impact, opening the door for us to do some serious Internet marketing,” said Mark Wagner, owner of Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars along Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes area.

“We’re shipping a lot of wine,” added Wagner, though he hasn’t done any calculations to quantify what the ruling has meant in sales.

Hermann J. Wiemer figures direct sales at his eponymous winery across Seneca Lake have jumped 25 percent since the ruling.
“It’s meant survival for family wineries,” he said.

Dunne also learned that the ruling has allowed smaller wineries to lessen their dependance on large wholesalers. The same wholesaler’s aren’t done fighting yet. Several states, including Massachusetts are considering many versions of bans on direct shipping, including one that would prohibit direct shipping by wineries that produce more thatn 30,000 gallons a year. You know what that means? More money for the lawyers!

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