Supporters pore over winery laws

Gazette.net post the article below about how direct wine shipping would benefit Maryland wineries:

Thursday, Jan. 28, 2010

Supporters pore over winery laws

Newly legal wineries see prohibition of selling wine on-site as last obstacle

This story was corrected on Jan. 28, 2010. An explanation follows the story.

Brandywine farmer Gordon Gemeny, one of several Prince George's County farmers to express interest in starting a winery, is gearing up to take on what he says is the final obstacle in the way of opening the business: state liquor licensing laws that would prohibit him from selling wine on-site.

But Gemeny is worried a separate wine-related issue also expected to come before state lawmakers this year — whether to allow direct shipping of wine to Marylanders' homes — could get in the way.

Direct shipment of wine has pitted direct shipment supporters against liquor wholesalers for years. Gemeny said he believes another fight this year over winery-to-customer shipping may divert attention away from the overhaul of state liquor regulations.

"I think it would be a good idea, but I am not going to be active in any way in supporting it," said Gemeny, who runs a 200-acre farm.

On Nov. 17, the Prince George's County Council approved changing the county's zoning code to allow for wineries on county farms, a move county officials said they hoped would encourage agritourism in rural areas and help preserve farmland.

County farmers can now build and operate wineries, but state liquor laws don't allow them to get licenses to sell their product on-site.

But Adam Borden, executive director Marylanders for Better Beer and Wine Laws, said he believes that even if wineries are allowed to sell their product in the county, small, local wineries are less likely to turn a profit without direct shipment.

"In the case of the wineries... the vast majority don't have distributors," said Borden, whose organization is leading the charge for direct shipment. "If you're not local, you're probably not going to see that wine again."

Maryland is one of 13 states that do not allow in-state or out-of-state wineries to ship their product directly to consumers, according to Borden.

The Maryland Wineries Association, which is leading the effort to reform state liquor licensing regulations, is remaining neutral on the issue of direct shipment.

Previous attempts to change state law to allow Marylanders to order cases of wine directly to their home have been unsuccessful, but House Economic Matters Committee Chairman Dereck E. Davis (D-Dist. 25) of Upper Marlboro said he expects a bill will be introduced this year. His committee includes the Alcoholic Beverages Subcommittee, which considers liquor-related issues.

Davis said he would wait to make a judgment on direct shipment until he hears more testimony on the matter, but added that he did not think it would affect the growth of the county's future winery industry.

State wine and beer wholesalers have opposed allowing direct shipping, arguing the existing three-tiered system that connects producers, distributors and retailers is sufficient.

Nicholas Manis, deputy director of Maryland Beer Wholesalers Association, said his organization has opposed direct shipment and will continue to oppose any future bills. He said he did not think direct shipment would have a significant effect on the success of local wineries.

"If you read any reports on the Maryland wineries, they're flourishing," he said. Referring to arguments from direct shipment supporters that wineries need it to make a strong profit, he added, "If it did, I don't think you'd see such tremendous growth."

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly stated The Maryland Wineries Association's stance on direct shipment. It has remained neutral on the topic.

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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