Dear Virginia:

You are joking right? What exactly is the legal difference between a winery shipping to me and a winery using a third party provider to do their order fulfillment? Wineries, big and small, often cannot keep up with the logistics of packing and filling orders in their own facilities. There are issues of storage for all the wine, keeping up with compliance requirements, and being able to dedicate a full time employee to managing such matters. I understand that it can be less expensive and more convenient to pay other folks (fulfillment houses) to do this for you.

I tried to order from Wine Woot yesterday. I’ve ordered from them in the past, with no issues. Yesterday, I noticed Virginia was not on the list of approved shipping states. Baffling. Then I thought back to someone who tried to ship me samples last month…after shipping to me many times, they could not ship to me any longer. I didn’t think much of it at the time, it was an anomaly.  But now, after further investigation, I see that the Virginia ABC issued a circular to all wineries and other business licensed to ship alcohol to VA.  The circular basically states that it is not legal to use a 3rd party fulfillment house to ship wine into the Commonwealth (remember, we are a Commonwealth, not a state, something that routinely trips prospective lawyers up on the Bar…despite it being called the Virginia State Bar, you ought not to refer to VA as a state in your essays!) and all orders must be taken and fulfilled by the entity licensed to ship to VA.  You can read the memo over on the Ship Compliant Blog.

Apparently wineries and other wine industry groups have asked for clarification..or a change.  The Ship Compliant Blog reports that the VA ABC is well aware of the issue but will not budge in its interpretation of the law.  Though it may consider withholding the clarification ruling until 2011 in hopes the VA legislature will act and clarify the law.  Until it issues a new circular, the ban remains in effect.

I’m pissed. This is utter bullshit. Sorry, but it is.  I cannot fathom why VA would object to wineries using a 3rd party TO MAKE SURE THEY ARE IN COMPLIANCE WITH VA LAW.  Needless to say, my state representatives are getting emails from me.  If you live in VA, I urge you to do the same.  Until then FREE THE GRAPES.

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6 Responses

  1. The whole thing is such a mess. Every state has its own issues, but any time when elected officials start getting heavily involved it gets worse before it gets better. It’s going to be easier for my company to export wine to South America then it is going to be to ship to at least 20 states….how does that make sense?

  2. Ugh, not again! It seems as though these alcohol shipping laws with the states (or Commonwealth) change every 10 years or so.

    As I stated in my retweet of your link, my brother used to have fits over this stuff! He was a wine seller and would throw tasting parties for a distributor. He’d have boxes of wine shipped to him, and then go to the parties. At the parties, he’d take the orders and the third-party shipper would send the wine to the customers.

    In 2002, he moved to Montana to help take care of our mother and discovered that he couldn’t receive the wines for tasting nor could his customers receive their shipments.

  3. Welcome to Pennsylvania.

  4. I hope they don’t start this crap in Florida… I think I’d have to move!

    Cheers!

  5. I feel your pain, Sonadora. I’m in Indiana, where people can theoretically ship–if I first have a face-to-face transaction with the seller. Gee, what if the seller doesn’t have a tasting room or retail sales? We challenged that on commerce clause grounds, but the geniuses at the Seventh Circuit said “we don’t see that as a barrier to interstate commerce.”

    Horse crap.

    They apparently don’t think the Granholm v. Heald decision from 2005 means anything. As one of the attorneys who filed the very first constitutional challenge in the country, this is a topic near and dear to my heart.

    The real problem is that the beer and wine wholesalers give a lot of money to legislators, so consumers are usually left out in the cold. The legislators try to find some way to constitutionally erect roadblocks.

    I haven’t tried, but I think it’s easier to buy a gun online than it is to buy wine. My spam filter suggests it’s definitely easier to buy Viagra (a prescription medication, mind you) than it is to buy wine via the Internet.

    Sonadora, you might want to examine the issue of whether the ABC followed proper procedures. If this is an administrative regulation, was there the opportunity for public comment, etc.? Right after Granholm, Indiana tried the same sort of stunt and got smacked down rather quickly by a judge who could read the law and apply it to the facts. Maybe that will give you some remedy.

  6. Thanks all. It appears this mess is just beginning. The VA ABC issued an interpretive circular, “clarifying” VA “direct” shipping legalities. Apparently it’s been on the books for a while, just not made clear until this recent circular. It appears they will now wait for the legislature to weigh in, but they don’t convene again until January, which is a long time to wait for potential resolution…

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