Frederick County Retailers, Wineries Weigh in on Shipping Debate

The Frederick News-Post in "Frederick County Retailers,Wineries Weigh in on Shipping Debate" interviews Frederick County wineries and retailers in response to the Maryland Comptroller's report on wine shipping.

By Meg Tully
News-Post Staff
December 22, 2010

Frederick Wine House owner Gary Zorechak gets calls from customers throughout the holidays asking if he can ship bottles of wine out of county to family and friends.

He can't.

That's because Zorechak's liquor license requires him to limit his sales to within Frederick County, and those he must deliver or have picked up from the store. State law prohibits wine shipping.

If state lawmakers permitted wine shipping, Zorechak said he would be interested in offering it.

He said he didn't see allowing wine shipping as something that would hurt retailers. That's because he can get his wines from all over the world as well as boutique wines from distributors at a lower price than someone would pay to have a case of wine shipped across the country. Wine shipping is also limited by weather conditions.

"As an owner, I don't really see it hurting any of us," Zorechak said.

A report released Tuesday by Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot is reigniting debate about a proposal to allow wine to be shipped directly to consumers.

Franchot, a Democrat, completed the 257-page report because the Maryland General Assembly asked him to do so in a law passed during the 2010 session.

The General Assembly is expect to take up the issue during its 2011 session, which is scheduled to begin Jan. 12.

In the report, the comptroller's office stated that direct wine shipment by out-of-state wineries to Maryland consumers would not have an overall negative effect on Maryland retailers, but direct wine shipment by out-of-state retailers would.

The difference, the report states, is that people buying from wineries are doing so to get wines that wouldn't otherwise be available to them. Those buying from retailers are primarily motivated by price, the report states.

Zorechak said he hadn't really thought about the possibility of online competitors undercutting him, in part because of the high shipping costs. He said people like to buy wines from him because he carries wines others don't.

Representatives from two wineries in Mount Airy, Elk Run and Berrywine Plantations -- Linganore Winecellars, said they favored a law allowing wine shipping.

Eric Aellen, vineyard manager at Berrywine, said a well-established winery such as Berrywine Plantations --Linganore Winecellars would not see much benefit from wine shipping because their products are so widely available.

But it would come in handy for a new or niche product that retailers don't want to carry, or for a smaller vineyard that's less established, he said. "Shipping wine in Maryland is not necessarily a winery issue per se," Aellen said. "It's a consumer issue."

Linganore Winecellars does ship a small amount of wine to out-of-state customers in states that allow wine shipping. In Maryland, wine shipping is not allowed, but people can find their wines at most stores, he said.

Elk Run Vineyards owner Carol Wilson said she believed retailers should be treated like wineries, which are allowed to ship wine out of county.

"I truly believe in free enterprise, so I don't know restrictions should be put anywhere," Wilson said.

She ships wine to other states, including Virginia, and thinks Maryland consumers would like the convenience as well. She said around the holidays, people call frequently asking for the popular holiday wine, Sweet Katherine, and request that it be shipped as a convenience.

They will be waiting to see what state lawmakers decide.

"Everybody always watches what's happening where alcohol laws are concerned," Wilson said.

Wineries with Permits

Wineries Able to Ship to MD

Here is a link to the Comptroller's website. Search for "DW-Direct Wine Shippers Permit" under permit type.

Search for wineries

 

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