Free the Grapes Update

    September 15, 2016

2016 has proven to be a very busy and successful year for winery-to-consumer direct shipping, and there’s a lot of planning underway already for 2017! The 44 states that allow winery shipments account for 94% of the US population, but there are more grapes to be freed.


The 10th annual summit on DTC marketing and sales is presented by, and a fundraiser for, Free the Grapes! and is the group’s primary source of funds for all the work done in states like NJ, PA, AZ and others to help build the DTC marketplace.

Here’s what you need to know this month:

  • Register soon. Save $55 by registering before December 7 for the 2-day ticket. Outside Napa or Sonoma? You’re not alone. In 2016, registrants represented 14 states and 4 countries; 14% were CEOs/Owners and 67% were DTC, club, tasting room or marketing managers.
  • Want to speak on a panel? See the RFP here. The Steering Committee is narrowing in on speakers right now so act fast. Moderators and panelists are being added to the website.
  • Keynotes are getting lined up. As previous reported, Lulie Halstead, CEO, Wine Intelligence, will reprise her 2014 presentation on global consumer trends, one of the most popular speakers in the past 9 symposia.
  • Trade sponsor slots are selling quickly. Sponsors – new and returning – are planning exciting demos and new service introductions at the Trade Show. More on this soon.

The DTC Wine Symposium will be held January 11-12, 2017 at the Hilton Concord Hotel in Concord, California. Speaker and topic information is being updated on


Pennsylvania becomes 44th State for Winery DTC
After years of work, PA passed a DTC bill and started processing winery licenses in August. According to, 184 wineries had received their PA shipping permits as of September 4. You can read a summary and get links to forms on Wine Institute’s Direct Shipping page. Pennsylvania was the largest of the seven states that continued to ban winery shipments.

Arizona removes capacity cap for mid-sized brands
Wineries producing over 20,000 gallons were previously prohibited from obtaining a DTC permit for off-site sales. Under the new law advanced by Wine Institute and signed by the Governor on March 31, permits for these wineries will be available by January 1, 2017. The successful effort in Arizona was a collaboration between Wine Institute and Free the Grapes!, who created a local chapter and press campaign to generate consumer support for broadening consumer choice. The state capitol’s main political newspaper, the Arizona Capitol Times, nominated Free the Grapes! as the “Best Grassroots Campaign” of 2016.

New Jersey campaign launched: include a link in your next consumer e-newsletter

Thanks to funds from the DTC Wine Symposium, Free the Grapes! is launching a consumer press campaign in NJ this fall to convert consumer frustration in New Jersey into collective action in 2017. The goal? Support for Wine Institute’s lobbying effort to eliminate the existing 250,000 capacity cap and to create a standard, state-issued license that will allow larger wineries and wine companies to ship into the Garden State.

Next Steps: If you have NJ consumers on your email list, please include the following text and image of Shackles, our mascot, in your next email campaigns:

Help us Free the Grapes in New Jersey: The wine industry’s national grassroots campaign, Free the Grapes!, is working to increase the variety of wine brands that New Jersey consumers can buy direct from wineries and have shipped direct to their offices and homes. Our winery supports their collaborative efforts and encourages you to sign-up for their private email list, which is never rented, sold or borrowed by any other organization. Free the Grapes will send you periodic updates on new legislation to remove an archaic restriction banning wineries and wine companies producing more than 105,000 cases per vintage from shipping wine to New Jersey wine lovers. They’ll make it simple and easy for you to voice your opinion on wine shipping to your state representatives.

Illinois: New law imposes new penalties for retailer infractions, and additional restrictions
Governor Rauner signed Senate Bill 2989 last month, which, among other provisions, establishes a felony penalty for retailers who, after receiving a cease and desist letter, continue shipping to Illinois consumers. This provision does not adversely impact a winery that is shipping legally under an Illinois-issued DTC shipping license.

Unfortunately, a ban on retailer-to-consumer shipping restricts consumer choice for wine lovers in Illinois. Some of you may recall that several years ago the wine industry worked with state legislators to craft a workable DTC shipping bill which originally included retailers (as does the Model Direct Shipping Bill), only to see the powerful, in-state retailer lobby in Illinois strip out this provision. Other retailer groups were not able to – and have subsequently not been able to — overcome in-state retailer interests.

Additionally, the new law imposes new reporting requirements on common carriers and fulfillment houses related to direct wine shipping. Under the new law, the holder of an IL Wine Shipper license will be required to register the name and address of any third party provider authorized to ship wine on their behalf with the Liquor Control Commission. Wine Institute reports that SB 2989 also raises licensing fees for most types of licenses, including non-resident dealer and direct-to-consumer licenses. Each of these has a higher rate for an initial application and/or if people renew via paper rather than on-line. The new DTC shipping rules will become effective on 1/1/17, while the new fee rules will take effect immediately. Here are the new license fees.

Oklahoma: include a link in your next consumer e-newsletter
During the last legislative session, OK Rep. Dan Kirby introduced favorable House Bill 2756 which, unfortunately, did not pass. We are encouraging OK consumers to write their legislators today with a simple message: support Rep. Kirby’s plans in 2017 to introduce similar legislation.

Next Steps: Include our copy and a link here in your next e-newsletter to OK wine lovers.

Rhode Island: favorable bill died in committee
RI is one of two remaining states that continues to require consumers to first visit a winery before a direct purchase and shipment (Arkansas being the other, and Arizona is removing this requirement later in 2016). A favorable hearing in the House Corporations Committee took place on March 22 but, unfortunately, the bill died in committee.