- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Terry Sullivan will go to great lengths for a good bottle of wine, but he knows it’s often easier to have it mailed to his doorstep.

The Columbia, Md., resident has visited nearly 700 wineries around the world, but said he always lamented Maryland’s long-held ban on home wine delivery, which was lifted July 1.

“We’d have to drive to the winery, which is fine if it’s in the same county you’re in,” he said. “I definitely think [the new law] is a step in the right direction.

Home delivery of wine in Maryland appears off to a fast start since the law took effect, with more than 100 wineries applying for direct wine-shipping permits, the state comptroller’s office said.

Maryland had been one of 13 states that banned residents from receiving wine at their homes until the General Assembly enacted the law this spring.

While legislators and many business owners touted the law as a boon for wineries, just 11 had requested shipping permits before the first of the month. However, participation has jumped in the past two weeks. A total of 150 wineries - 17 in state and 133 out of state - had requested the $200-a-year permits as of Tuesday. Eleven of the in-state wineries and 55 out of state had received their permits.

“After 75 years [without direct shipping], it takes awhile for word to spread,” said Kevin Atticks, executive director of the Maryland Wineries Association, which represents the state’s 50 wineries. He added that many California wineries began receiving the news only when the law went into effect.

The law allows in-state and out-of-state wineries to ship wine but prohibits deliveries by liquor stores, wine-of-the-month clubs and other retailers.

Maryland wineries and many legislators spent decades fighting to lift the shipping ban, but they met fierce resistance from the state’s alcohol industry, which argued that direct shipment would allow some businesses to circumvent the state’s three-tiered system of distributors, wholesalers and retailers.

Legislators hope to legalize direct shipment for retailers eventually, but they did not pursue it in the 2011 General Assembly session as part of a compromise with alcohol lobbyists.

Mr. Atticks said the law will allow in-state wineries to expand their businesses and launch their own wine-of-the-month clubs. Smaller wineries hope the law will help them make repeat customers of people they were once seldom able to reach.

“We’re guardedly hopeful that the thing will take off,” said Fred Wilson, president of Elk Run Vineyards in Mount Airy.

Jennifer Layton, general manager of Layton’s Chance Vineyard and Winery in Dorchester County, said her Eastern Shore winery has long relied on visitors and occasional wine festivals to draw customers but will now be able to reach far more customers.

“People got the wine there and wanted us to ship it to them,” she said. “The thing I’m happiest about now is being able to make the customers happy.”

Even larger wineries with wide distribution, such as Boordy Vineyards in Baltimore County, expect the law to help them increase sales of their less available wines.

Susan Rayner, Boordy’s director of marketing, said Monday that the winery shipped 15 cases of wine last week, 12 of which were mailed to customers out of state.

“People would call Boordy and say, ‘I can’t find your pinot grigio,’ ” she said. “Now they say, ‘Forget where it is; just ship it to me.’ “

State analysts estimated this spring that 300 wineries would sign up for direct shipping in the first year, earning the state more than $60,000 in revenue.

A spokeswoman for Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot said he had no firm expectation for participation but attributed some hesitance among wineries during the summer growing season, when sales are slower.

The spokeswoman said Mr. Franchot, a Democrat, expects more participation this fall.

Said Mr. Atticks: “I think things will pick up. It’s a huge opportunity for our industry because it opens a brand new market while also satisfying current desires.”



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