Free the Grapes! February 2023 Winery Update


Presented by and the chief fundraiser for Free the Grapes!, the 16th annual conference held in January brought the DTC community back together in person for the first time in three years.

All Sessions were livestreamed, and their recordings are available to view on demand via the Whova app for registrants until April 18.

If you didn’t register for DTCWS but are interested in viewing the Sessions, you can purchase a virtual registration here and view the Sessions.   

Highlights of the annual conference:

  • 550+ Participants from 9 countries and 17 U.S. states!  86% rated the conference as either “excellent” or “good,” with 94% “recommend it to a friend or colleague.”
  • 4 Keynotes, including Steve Gross’ annual “State of the States” update on 2022 wins and what we can expect in 2023.
  • 16 Breakout Sessions, including a sneak peak of the 2023 DTC Shipping Report presented by Sovos ShipCompliant and Wines Vines Analytics
  • 23 Sponsors, including WineDirect’s Lounge, introduced and demo’d new products and services. 

Special thanks to our stellar Steering Committee for rising to the challenge!


Streamlining and preserving existing DTC shipping regulations continues to require winery compliance.

As previously reported, Missouri has been sending cease and desist letters to several wineries for violating the 2 cases/month/person limit. The Massachusetts Alcohol Beverage Control Commission is conducting minimum purchase age compliance checks. These are just two examples.

The best practice for age verification is to enable an age verification service at the point of online purchase for all states, regardless of their requirements. Winery compliance has been a cornerstone for the industry’s ability to secure and maintain DTC shipment legislation.

Free the Grapes! and industry lobbyists at Wine Institute also face misinformation campaigns that create confusion among legislators and their staff. Beverage Dynamics magazine ran an article in December titled, “Illegal Alcohol Shipping Has Become a Serious Problem.”

Articles like this often seek to confuse shipping and delivery, to falsely portray the (beneficial) role of fulfillment houses, and to conflate retailer and winery DTC. The goal is to create confusion, which makes it very difficult to present the proven benefits of legal, regulated winery DTC shipments. Free the Grapes! is working on new communications tools to clarify these issues.


Many state legislatures are not yet, or just now, in session for 2023.  

DELAWARE: 2022 DTC Bill to be reintroduced in 2023

As previously reported, the industry’s model direct shipping bill, HB210, passed the House Committee on Economic Development, Banking/Insurance, and Commerce in March 2022 but did not move further before the session adjourned June 30.

This year, the bill is being reintroduced with strong and very public support by its author, Representative Mike Smith, as evidence by this article.

Free the Grapes! will keep wineries informed. We anticipate requesting that wineries like yours send our messaging along to consumers on your email list in DE, so that we can generate letters to state legislators in support of the bill.

IOWA: Eliminates Winery Bond Requirement

As reported by Wine Institute, the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division (ABD) has eliminated the bond requirement for a wine direct shipper permit in its online licensing system pursuant to alcoholic beverage legislation (SF 2347). The removal of the bond requirement became effective on August 18, 2022 and makes it easier for wineries to apply for new DTC permits and renewals. In addition, the new law simplifies the renewal process for wine direct shipper permits and Vintner’s Certificate of Compliance holders. For questions, contact Wine Institute Regulatory Compliance Manager Annie Bones.

MAINE: Bill Calls for Shipping Study

SB444a was signed by the Governor in May and calls for a report to be presented to the legislature this month on the effectiveness of the wine shipping program, and its applicability to spirits DTC.  Wine Institute is coordinating with regulators to provide input to the report, which is now being drafted.   

MINNESOTA: Seeking an Increase in Case Shipping Limits

Wine Institute is working with legislators and staff to seek an increase in the current two-case annual limit in exchange for the model bill’s registration and tax payment requirements.  

MISSISSIPPI: Seeking Replacement of the Special-Order Provision

The state’s special-order provision is not working, as anticipated. HB 1137 was introduced in January of 2023, and despite passing out of its first subcommittee it failed to meet the 1/31/23 deadline to move out of the full committee.  We will continue to work on this issue throughout the year in anticipation of the 2024 legislative session.

NEW JERSEY:  No Action (Yet) on Capacity Cap Bills

As we enter the second year of NJ’s two-year legislative session, we anticipate committee action on HB2432 and S549. These bills address the state’s current “capacity cap” statute by introducing a new license for wine companies producing more than 250k gallons per year. We anticipate reaching out to wineries requesting you email your NJ consumer list in support of these bills.

Complicating matters, Naked Wines has proposed similar legislation, but it would only apply to wineries without a NJ wholesaler – which means it would apply only to Naked Wines.

RHODE ISLAND: Seeking to Remove the Onsite Visit Requirement

Wine Institute will again seek to support a bill removing the onsite visit requirement. In 2022 our bill was heard in committee but failed to move.