Free the Grapes! July 2019 Winery Update

DTC Wine Symposium Update

Yes, we are six months away from the January 2020 DTC Wine Symposium but the Steering Committee has been hard at work this summer.

Workshop Sessions: Want to speak?
The Steering Committee has identified several potential topics. Check out the Request for Proposal.

Roundtable and Town Hall Sessions: What topics should we cover? Please take 2 minutes to complete our survey and rate suggested topics and suggest your own. The Roundtable and Town Hall Sessions were among the most popular components of the 2019 summit.
Stay tuned for more info on the 13th annual industry summit and fundraiser for Free the Grapes!, scheduled for January 22-23, 2020 at the Hilton Concord Hotel in Concord, California. Registration will go live in early September.  

State Legislative Update

Now that summer is upon us, many state legislatures have adjourned for 2019. But not all!

New Jersey
Two favorable bills would allow wine companies producing more than 250K gallons to ship DTC. The NJ legislative session will likely heat up again in fall but Free the Grapes! is continuing to get press coverage this summer, such as this news item. Wineries: please use copy from our website in your consumer e-newsletters and social media. We need local consumers to continue voicing their support to state legislators!

As in New Jersey, we are busy generating local press coverage and consumer support for future bills that would allow DTC shipments by wineries producing more than 250k gallons per year. Like in NJ, we are trying to overcome a “capacity cap” that limits consumer choice. Please include the following link in your emails and social media, encouraging consumers to write their state legislators:

The CT legislature passed a favorable retailer DTC bill which was signed by the Governor June 5 and went into effect July 1. Senate Bill 647, an omnibus liquor bill, included a provision allowing in-state and out-of-state retailers to purchase a DTC licenses. This is a good win for consumer choice.

US Supreme Court Ruling
As widely reported, on June 26 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional a Tennessee law requiring two years of residency in the state before obtaining a state-issued alcohol retailer license. The 7-2 ruling upheld a lower court decision in Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association vs. Russell F. Thomas. Taken together, the new Connecticut law and the USSC ruling suggests to us that the future holds promise for expanding consumer choice in wine through retailer DTC. You can read more in our Blog.

State Updates in Brief:
AL: SB 274, a winery DTC permit bill, was never brought to vote by Senate Chairman Waggoner, who relegated it to a special “study” on direct shipping. The bill is considered dead for 2019.

DE: As previously reported, SB49 would allow winery DTC shipments.The bill was heard in committee last May, but a vote was not taken. On June 30, the legislature adjourned without taking a vote and so the bill is on hold until 2020.

IA: HB779 was signed by the Governor May 3, removing the 200 transaction threshold requiring wineries to collect and report sales taxes. It leaves the $100K threshold intact, which is good news for many wineries exceeding the transaction threshold.

LA: S34 was signed by the Governor June 11, removing language in the existing DTC shipping law that limits DTC shipments to 750ml bottles. It is replaced with a definition of a case as twelve 750ml bottles or six 1.5L bottles or three 3L bottles.

MI: S320 would eliminate the bonding requirement for alcohol beverage licenses including for out-of-state wine sellers. The bill was voted unanimously out of the Senate Committee on Regulatory Reform June 19 and is on second reading in the Senate.

RI: Our DTC bills were put in study committee. Free the Grapes! is continuing to encourage consumers to write their state legislators.

TX: S 313, which would have removed the 35,000 gallon total annual shipment cap, died in committee.

VT: HB13 raises the penalty for illegal DTC shipments from $1,000 to $2,500. The bill was signed by the Governor June 19.