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Arizona: Bill to allow wine shipping to Arizona homes introduced

Arizona: Bill to allow wine shipping to Arizona homes introduced


Source: The Republic

Richard Ruelas

January 28, 2016


A bill that would allow Arizona consumers to order wine and have it shipped to their homes or businesses was introduced in the Arizona Legislature on Thursday.


More than a dozen lawmakers signed on as primary sponsors of the measure, with another 21 listed as co-sponsors. The bipartisan group of lawmakers includes members of legislative leadership.


The bill was crafted by the California-based wine-industry group Free the Grapes, which has backed similar legislation in other states.


Arizona wineries were among the state interest groups that helped shape the bill, according to Gordon C. James, the Phoenix-based public-relations firm representing Free the Grapes in Arizona.


The bill would take away two of the three tiers between consumers and wine producers that were put in place after Prohibition. That regulatory system requires alcoholic beverages, in most cases, to pass through a distributor and then to a retail shop before a consumer can buy it.


The bill will face opposition from wholesalers and grocery interests, said Karie Dozer, executive director of the Arizona Wine and Spirits Wholesalers Association. She said Thursday she had not had a chance to read the proposed bill yet, and could not detail what the arguments against it would be.


Among the groups that will be opposed to the bill, she said, are the Arizona Food Marketers Association and the Arizona Licensed Beverage Association.


The bill would allow state residents of legal drinking age to order wine by phone or online and have it shipped directly to their homes or businesses. There are some provisos. Among them: The wine must be for personal use, and the wine must be delivered to someone of verified legal drinking age.


Under the bill, a winery could ship a maximum of 18 12-bottle cases of wine a year to a consumer in Arizona.


Wineries that wish to ship directly to consumers would have to apply for a license under the bill. The fee for that direct-shipping license is not specified in the legislation.


Current Arizona law only allows direct shipping by small wineries, defined as those that make less than 20,000 gallons a year.


For a sense of perspective, Arizona’s largest wineries, Page Springs Cellars and Arizona Stronghold, are about that size.


Under the proposed law, small wineries would need to be licensed as farm wineries in order to directly ship to consumers. That rule would only apply to out-of-state wineries; Arizona wineries, to legally make wine, would already be licensed as farm wineries.


Those smaller wineries would also not be subject to the annual 18-case limit.


Larger wineries would only need the shipping license to ship to the state.


Currently, larger wineries may ship directly to a customer only if the wine was ordered while actually standing in the winery.


State statues do allow customers to order wine by phone or online from any-sized winery, but that wine can’t be sent directly to the home. That wine must first go through a distributor and then end up at a retail shop for pickup or delivery.


The bill would junk that provision, replacing it with this direct option.


The proposed law would allow oenophiles to get wine shipped from favored out-of-state wineries through phone or online orders, reversing what has been heartache for some.


Over the past several months, customers have been getting notices from wineries that say they will no longer ship to Arizona. This is the result of a crackdown on shipping practices the state Liquor Department started this summer.


More than 200 out-of-state wineries have been investigated for violating some aspect of current Arizona shipping laws.


Cynthia Clevenger, a retiree who lives in Tempe, said she received such a notice from Sea Smoke, a winery known for its elegant pinot noir and based in Santa Barbara County, Calif.


“You can’t normally find it in a retail shop,” she said. “You might be able to find it in a restaurant, but you’ll pay double.”


Clevenger said she and her husband waited three years to be part of the Sea Smoke wine club, but were sent an email in January that said the winery could no longer legally ship to their Arizona address.


“I do hope this passes,” she said of the bill.


Clevenger said the ability to get wine shipped to her house does not mean she is not patronizing wine shops and grocery stores.


“When I just want a regular glass of wine at night, I’m at Trader Joe’s,” she said. She also shops at Total Wine and Safeway.


Ordering from high-end out-of-state wineries, though, is a great option.


“The nicer wines, I would really like to still have the capability to order them and enjoy,” she said.


The primary sponsor of the bill, SB 1381, is Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Scottsdale. Among the notable co-sponsors are Rep. David Livingston, R-Peoria, majority whip of the House; Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, president pro tempore of the Senate; and Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, assistant minority leader in the Senate.


The bill had not been scheduled for any hearings as of Thursday.