Wine Lovers Unite!

I direct you to this post over at Vinography. I read about this House Bill yesterday and nearly cried. If you at all value the ability to order wine from retailers/wineries outside your state, I urge you to call/write your Congressional Representative immediately. IT IS NOT ABOUT THE CHILDREN, IT’S SIMPLY ABOUT SUPPORTING AN ANTIQUATED MONOPOLY DESIGNED TO LIMIT CHOICE FOR CONSUMERS AND TO STOP PROPER/LEGAL INTERSTATE COMMERCE. Preventing consumers from ordering wine from retailers/wineries outside their state does nothing to protect children from alcohol. Tossing “children” into a bill is the fastest way to get it attention and get it passed because no one, and I repeat no one, wants to be seen as even potentially connected to voting no on a bill that will “protect” the children. It’s a ruse. An insidious ruse meant to hide the real purpose of the bill, which is to keep money in the pockets of distributors and keep wine choice out of the hands of consumers.  VOTE NO on HR 5034!!!



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.

Virginia Wine Bill Articles and Info

Sorry to bore those who aren’t interested in this topic, but there are only 45 days in the legislative session, and I would like to help draw as much attention as possible to this issue. Especially since it seems that all anyone cares about in the legislature this term are Virginia Transportation issues.

An article in The Free Lance Star, Making a Case, out of Fredricksburg.

Another article in the Daily Progress out of Charlottesville, Bill Seeks to Aid Small Wineries.

Inside Nova has printed Law Makers See Support for Wine Distribution Bill.

The Roanoke Times published Small Wineries May Get a Break.

The Daily Press out of Hampton Road has Pushing Their Case for a New Solution.

In the Newsleader out of the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia Wineries’ Progress Corked by Unecessarily Stringent Federal Court Ruling.

I also urge you to continue monitoring Allan’s site at the Cellar Blog. In addition to his interview with Saxman, he has now interviewed the owners of two small Virginia vineyards on the effect of the current law on their business.

I also see that Doug on Below the Beltway is offering some thoughts.

Again, here is the link to find your legislator. Call or write now!

More on Virginia Bill

Just a round up of some recent articles and blog posts concerning the new Virginia Wine Bill that would allows both instate and out of state wineries to self-distribute up to 3000 cases of wine in Virginia a year, effectively reinstating a right held by Virginia wineries for the last 20+ years.

Popping the Cork in The Virginian Gazette out of Halifax County, published this morning.

Virginia Wineries Want Law Changed also in the Potomac News.

A Call to Action issued by the Virginia Vineyards Assocation, including talking points about the proposed bill.

The article I already posted on WTOP News from January 4.

Dezel over at Virginia Vine Spot offers his thoughts on the matter.

Allan at The Cellar Blog has several posts on the topic, including an interview with Delegate Saxman, a sponsor of the bill.

Kelly from Kelly’s Grape Times posts a short synopsis.

Wine and Spirits Daily has a small blurb.

You can find your legislator here.

I urge you to call or write your legislator ASAP. There isn’t much time in this legislative session to get this law through. I will post more links as they become available.

Good News for VA?

I think this article today may be good news for VA vineyards. If this new legislation passes, it will once again allow VA vineyards and, other vineyards from anywhere, to self-distribute up to 3000 cases of wine per year in VA. The part for out-of-state vineyards has to do with the Commerce clause and laws affecting interstate commerce that can be and are struck down due to the fact that they are often found to be unconstitutional. Disparate treatment of similarly situated businesses…..etc. I could give you a whole lecture on Con Law, but really, it’s not all that interesting!

My one concern is that one of the sponsoring lawmakers states that the purpose is to allow VA wineries a break until they become large enough to need and afford the services of a wine distributor. I would have to see the proposed legislation to look at the wording, but I wonder what size that would be? And then, what of the new wineries that have developed? Is it until all are big enough or what specifically would be the conditions triggering the end of the ability to self-distribute?

It’s a big step in the right direction for the lawmakers to realize that banning self-distribution is not a great way to help a young industry develop. I’ll continue watching this to see how it develops. Let’s hope it passes without issue. Thanks to Cellar Blog for pointing out the article.

Love VA Wines?

Go over to Fermentation and read this post.

I knew that these laws were being pushed here by lobbyists. As we were visiting Virginia Wineries earlier this year at least one of them, Tarara, had a sign up asking patrons to sign a petition against the enactment of the law forbidding VA wineries to sell directly to retailers and restaurants. Something they had previously been permitted to do.

I wish I knew what good, if any, wine distributors actually did. To me, it seems like they are simply a middle-man in the process of getting wine to retailers and restaurants, thus driving up the cost for the ultimate consumer and hurting small wineries, especially local ones who could use any leg up they can get.

The development of this law makes me sad for the future of the wine industry in VA. And for me, since I doubt I will be able to get the Governor’s White from the Williamsburg Winery for $7 in the store anymore.