In the map on the left, the states that permit wine shipments are in white. The “wine” colored states prohibit the shipment of wines. Both New Jersey AND Pennsylvania are in the “NO WINE SHIPMENT” column. To folks like myself who are passionate about wine this prohibition on wine shipments is frustrating because many of the best wines are sold by mailing list and shipped to customers from small wineries in Napa, Sonoma and other areas of California and the two other major wine-producing states, Oregon and Washington.
Currently, a bill has been introduced that would allow wine shipments to the Garden State. It would also allow wineries in New Jersey to ship their wines to other states. Here is the story from the Philadelphia Inquirer:
NJ BILL WOULD ALLOW SHIPPING WINE
By Paul Nussbaum
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Looking for a rare Russian River red from California? Or a taste of Egg Harbor’s finest, a 2006 Renault Winery Cynthiana?
To pick up their favorite wines, New Jersey residents soon may have to go no farther than their front door.
A state Senate committee last week endorsed a bill to permit the shipment of wine directly to consumers from in-state and out-of-state wineries. An identical bill has been introduced in the Assembly, and Gov. Christie is reviewing the issue, a spokesman said.
If the bill becomes law, New Jersey will be the 36th state to allow such shipments, according to the Wine Institute. Efforts to pass a similar measure in Pennsylvania have been thwarted for years.
Supporters say the legislation would give consumers a greater choice of wines and prices and would boost sales by Garden State wineries. Opponents maintain the bill could hurt liquor stores and wholesalers and make it easier for minors to obtain alcohol.
“New Jersey consumers should not have to be limited only to what’s in stock at their local wine store, nor should they have to drive halfway across the state to get a quality New Jersey wine,” said Sen. Brian Stack (D., Hudson), a sponsor of the bill.
“Likewise, out-of-state visitors who try New Jersey wines and want to purchase them shouldn’t be shut out,” he said. “It’s time we give consumers and vintners the ability to deal directly with each other.”
Jeffrey Warsh, who represents three of the four major wholesale alcohol distributors in New Jersey, said direct shipping could cost the state jobs and tax revenue.
“For a very small [license] fee – $100 – those out-of-state interests can gain access to our liquor system and do great economic damage to our wholesalers and retailers,” Warsh said. He said the big four wholesalers (Allied Beverage Group, R & R Marketing, American B.D. Co., and Fedway Associates) employ about 3,000 workers in such jobs as warehousing and trucking.
At Canal’s Discount Liquor Mart in Pennsauken, Gary Brady, the wine buyer and floor manager, predicted that direct shipping by wineries would have little effect on the store’s business.
“It could affect us a little bit, but I don’t think it will knock out the big stores like us,” Brady said. “People like shopping in the store. We bank on our walk-in business.”
And, Brady said, the cost of shipping probably would deter many customers from buying over the Internet or by phone.
Dan Brown, who with his wife owns the small Wagonhouse Winery in Mullica Hill, said direct shipping would help him sell more bottles of such wines as his 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon (at $11.99 a bottle, a full-bodied red “with black cherry and black currant flavors aged for 18 months in French oak for hints of chocolate and coffee”).
“We do get quite a few requests for shipping, and when we say no, it’s a unanimous reaction of disappointment,” said Brown. “For us, it would be a benefit for sales.”
The Senate bill, which was approved 5-0 Thursday by the Law and Public Safety Committee, could come to a vote by the full Senate this month. The chief sponsor of the measure is Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney (D., Gloucester), so Senate approval is expected.
If the bill makes it to Christie, “there are certain issues we want to take a close look at,” said Michael Drewniak, the governor’s press secretary. He said Christie was concerned about preventing minors from buying alcohol.
If the measure becomes law, the state would rely on delivery companies, such as FedEx and UPS, to enforce the shippers’ policies requiring an adult to sign for wine deliveries, said Senate Democratic aide Derek Roseman.
Throughout the nation, state liquor laws are in flux, as long-accepted ways of doing business are challenged after a 2005 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that in-state and out-of-state wineries must be treated alike by state regulations.
New Jersey in 2004 revoked a law that permitted direct shipment by in-state wineries, but not by those out of state. Since then, all direct shipping by wineries has been prohibited. New Jersey residents are permitted to take delivery of wine and other alcohol from a New Jersey liquor store.
In Pennsylvania, some state lawmakers have long tried to rewrite the state’s prohibition on direct shipping. Liquor Control Board regulations allow direct shipping only by wineries with a “limited winery” license.
Only one out-of-state winery, Kistler Vineyards of Sebastopol, Calif., has obtained such a license. A second, Hopewell Valley Vineyards of Pennington, N.J., is seeking one, said Nick Hays, spokesman for the Liquor Control Board. Many in-state wineries have the licenses.
Enforcement of the direct-shipping ban is a low priority for Pennsylvania State Police because of limited manpower and money, said Maj. John Lutz, director of the bureau of liquor control enforcement.
No criminal charges have been brought against consumers or wineries.
“We do receive a complaint occasionally,” Lutz said, noting that state police had investigated and sent “cease-and-desist” letters to two or three out-of-state wineries to stop shipping without the proper license. They have done so, he said.
There is a lot that has to happen between now and the bill being approved and signed by the governor. It is good news though that a very real possibility exists that NJ will, at long last, permit wine-lovers to purchase some of their favorites that currently aren’t available.