Supporters pore over winery laws
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
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
"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.