Thursday, April 15, 2010

Legal side of the wine business

When the Supreme Court decision of a few years ago threw out individual states efforts to restrict interstate wine sales to wineries in the state, the industry celebrated. Finally consumers could have wine shipped directly to them from anywhere and small wineries around the country could sell directly to consumers in other states. What followed in many states was a renewed effort to limit interstate shipping of wine. Backed mostly by the might of liquor distributors, states passed laws that said "OK no shipment of wine period unless it goes through a liquor distributor". In Arizona the Arizona Wine Growers Association partnered with sympathetic members of the State Legislature, most notably Barbara Leff, and fought a long and expensive battle that permitted sales of wine made by any US winery that produced less the 20,000 gallons a year and held a state winery license. A Michigan winery and a local citizen challenged the law as de facto discriminatory since all but one Arizona Winery makes less then 20,000 gallons. Although many of us thought this challenge might prevail and would then lead to another legislative battle, one in which we would argue to lift the 20,000 gallon limit totally, no one wanted to wage that battle. Fortunately the district court judge ruled against the challenge, preserving the ability of Arizona citizens and Arizona wineries to receive and to ship wine. Check out the newspaper article that features a picture of my neighbor Chris Hamilton of Rancho Rossa.

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