Bill Daley reports in The Stew that Governor Blagojevich signed HB429 into law yesterday. Starting next June, Illinois residents will be allowed to purchase and ship up to 12 cases of wine directly from Illinois vineyards and out of state wineries. This is in compliance with the 2005 Supreme Court ruling on Granholm vs. Heald which determined that states must allow all wineries to direct ship to their residents, regardless of their location, or none at all. Wineries within the state may not have preferential treatment.
So this is mostly good news. Mostly. Unfortunately, the big lobby groups also included a few humdinger restrictions on other wine purchase and sales laws. As of next June, no Illinois resident may purchase wine from an out of state retailer. We have lots of nice wine shops in Chicago, so that may not effect us city dwellers too much, but lots of other Illinois folk will be shut out of wine.com and online purchase sites they have come to rely on. Likewise, we’ll all have to do without online purchases from cool sites like winewoot.com and most of the online wine auction sites like winebid.com unless they open an official office in Illinois.
The one thing I haven’t seen spelled out in the bill is whether Illinois residents can recieve wine shipments from out of state retailers as gifts. In the past, laws like this outlawed any resident from recieving a wine shipment from out of state, no matter who paid for it. While this doesn’t seem like a big deal, it could be a huge problem for corporate and personal gifts. If you do business with a company in New York and look forward to a bottle of cult Cabernet in your Dean & Deluca gift basket every December, you’ll be out of luck. You’ll probably get a nice bottle of olive oil and vinegar instead. If your sister in California wants to send you a bottle of Champagne to celebrate your birthday, she can’t do it from her local store. She’ll have to call an Illinois store that offers shipping. Or she’ll send cupcakes.
You see where I’m going with this. Once thoughtful gift givers are told by their local retailer that they can’t ship wine to Illinois, most people will just give up and send something else. No New York wine shop when presented with a giant corporate gift order is going to offer up, “Oh we can’t ship to Illinois, but just call Sam’s in Chicago, they’ll deliver for you!”. Yeah, they love referring huge orders to their competition.
Not only that, the Supreme Court decision was all about striking down discrimination in interstate commerce. This part of the new law is the same crap only now it applys to wine retailers instead of wineries. I have to believe the law will get overturned, if someone has the motivation, money, and power to challenge it. But the Illinois beer and liquor distribution lobby is huge and very well funded. They really don’t like the idea of anyone buying any kind of booze directly and skipping their involvement/charges in the process.
A few big Illinois wineries are going to give it a shot, though. The other part of the bill that indirectly sticks it to consumers is that the largest Illinois wineries will now be forced to sell all of their goods through a distributor. In the past, Lynfred Winery in Roselle has sold wine directly to the pizza joint next store and simply walked the new cases over when they ran out. Now, they’ll have to pay a distributor to take possession of the wine and deliver it…next door. And that gruelling task will not be free, so folks will be paying a higher price for their glass of Lynfred American Zinfandel with their pie. Any midwestern winery that hopes to make a profit depends on direct sales and usually income from a B&B, restaurant, or other tourist related business to get by. Lynfred operates two retail shops for their wines called Tasting deVine in Naperville and Wheaton to make purchasing their wines easier for suburban folk. They will now be required to have a distributor deliver their own wine… to their own stores. Its discriminatory, in my opinion, not to mention hella-lame.
I interviewed Lynfred’s Marketing Manager, Christina, a few weeks ago and got even more info on how this law “doesn’t allow Iliinois wineries to grow.” More on that tomorrow…