News Headline October 12, 2009
Direct Wine Shipping for Maryland?
Advocacy group confident that legislation will pass in 2010
by Linda Jones McKee
Terri Cofer Beirne, formerly a lobbyist for the Virginia wine industry
and now with the Wine Institute, spoke on the political panel.
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.
Adam Borden took the reins at MBBWL in 2008, when the founder moved out
of state. Since then, he’s built an organization of 15,000.
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
415.453.9700 | Fax: 415.453.2517