One of the more unique provisions of the proposed Maryland wine shipping legislation is that it would legalize wine shipping for retailers in addition to wineries. Won’t you be able to sate your love of grape juice only from wineries, you may ask. Well, not if you want to give a gift basket, participate in a case club from multiple wineries or are seeking out older or more obscure vintages or imports. For example, most kosher wines are made overseas, and with the advent of retailer shipping in Maryland, those of us interested in kosher wines will more readily find them from retailers in states with larger Jewish populations like California and New York.
We received the following email, which summarizes why this one representative retailer wants retailer shipping:
As a store owner that specializes in Maryland produced wines, I understand the problems facing the survival and growth of our State’s wine industry. The distributor side of our three-tier system does not care about our local wineries (a.k.a. farmers) and small businesses such as mine. Distributors are monopolistic and generally only care about the profitability and preservation of their monopoly. Allowing direct shipment of wine is vital to consumers’ freedom of choice considering that most wines sold in this fashion are simply never going to be available in our three-tier system as it exists today. The direct shipping of wine is expensive and would most likely be the last resort for a consumer. Retailers that offer outstanding service and selection do not have to worry about this being a threat to their sales. Our State Treasury stands to gain by allowing taxes to be collected on wine that is directly shipped to consumers versus losing out when Marylanders go to neighboring States to receive such shipments.
Cherry Hill Liquors
42 Beauchamp Road
Elkton, MD 21921
Additionally, our movement was covered this week by one of the most respected trade publications, Wines & Vines. Here is a copy of the article:
News Headline October 12, 2009
Direct Wine Shipping for Maryland?
Advocacy group confident that legislation will pass in 2010
by Linda Jones McKee
Washington, D.C. — As everyone connected with the wine industry knows, when it comes to laws regulating wine — and especially the shipping of wine — we do not live in the “United” States of America. Each state has its own set of laws and its own set of penalties. Fortunately, the number of states where direct shipping of wine is a felony is currently down to three: Kentucky, Maryland and Utah.
There is some hope that change may soon come to one of these. Maryland has a consumer group, Marylanders for Better Beer and Wine Laws, which in the past year has acquired a new executive director, more members and a sharper focus.
The group, known as MBBWL was founded in 2005 by Scott Ehlers, a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., who lived in Maryland. Ehlers signed up about 1,700 of his friends and fellow wine consumers as members. The primary goal of the organization was to advocate for beer and wine laws that would benefit consumers, promote competition, protect the environment and support Maryland’s breweries and wineries.
On its website, MMBWL lays out its case for Maryland residents and stakeholders: “Marylanders for Better Beer & Wine Laws supports legislative bills that would allow both wineries and retailers to ship directly to Maryland consumers. Under this legislation, the Maryland Comptroller would issue a permit allowing wineries to ship up to 24 cases of wine per year to consumers after obtaining a Direct Wine Shipper’s License, allowing both Maryland and out-of-state wineries to fulfill Maryland orders. Similarly, Maryland retailers could ship intra- or inter-state, while out-of-state retailers would be able to ship into Maryland. The legislation requires common carriers (UPS, FedEx) to deliver only to recipients over the age of 21 and to check ID before releasing the shipment.”
In 2008, Ehlers moved out of Maryland. He put out a call for someone to take over the organization and one person, Adam Borden, volunteered to be on the board of directors. When no one else stepped forward to run MBBWL, Borden became the executive director.
In the year since he took over, Borden has set up a board of directors with 18 members including two winemakers, one grapegrower, four retailers and representatives of food, beer and wine groups within the state. Membership has increased from 1,700 to 15,000 in just 12 months, and the group has concentrated on the issue of direct shipping.
According to Borden, MBBWL has secured Carolyn Krysiak (D-Baltimore), the head of the Maryland House of Representatives alcohol sub-committee, to be lead sponsor of its direct shipping legislation. Krysiak has more than a decade of experience on the House Economic Matters Committee and its alcohol sub-committee.
“Our goal is to get a majority of members in both the House and the Senate to co-sponsor the legislation,” Borden said. “We have worked with legislative services to draft our legislation so that when it goes to the committee, the members will debate the merit of the bill, and not become immersed in technicalities.”
One challenge for MBBWL is that the Maryland General Assembly meets annually only for 90 days — from January 12 to April 12. That’s not much time to get one piece of legislation introduced, discussed and passed, especially when there are many other issues confronting the Assembly. In 2009, 49 alcohol-related bills were introduced.
In addition to working with legislators, MBBWL also sponsors events to educate more consumers about wine in Maryland, and the issues facing the wine industry. For example, on Oct. 8, the organization held an evening wine seminar and tasting that featured wines from Maryland and Virginia, and two hour-long seminars on the terroirs of Virginia and Maryland and the politics of wine in those states.
Tony Wolf, viticulturist and director of the Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Virginia Tech; Kevin Atticks, executive director of the Maryland Wineries Association; and two Maryland winery owners, Ed Boyce of Black Ankle Vineyards and Greg Lambrecht of Serpent Ridge Vineyards, participated on a panel that discussed terroir and the challenges facing grapegrowers and winemakers in Virginia and Maryland.
The political seminar featured Terri Cofer Beirne, formerly a lobbyist for the Virginia wine industry and now with the Wine Institute, and also Adam Borden, MBBWL’s executive director.
After the evening’s tasting and seminars, Wines & Vines asked Borden specifically: What are the chances that direct shipping legislation will pass in 2010? Borden responded without hesitation, “It WILL pass in 2010.”
With more than 15,000 constituents of Maryland legislators lined up behind him, Borden may be the person to make direct shipping happen in Maryland.
Marylanders for Better Beer & Wine Laws
4315 Underwood Road
Baltimore, MD 21218
Tel: (443) 570-8102
(At press time another link to another article has been added: http://www.delmarvanow.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2009910150385)