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Bill Allowing N.J. Vineyards to Sell Directly to Retailers Passes Senate

12-16-11

By Adele Sammarco for NewJerseyNewsroom.com

The Garden State’s wine industry in the past decade has grown from about a dozen vineyards to more than 50 today, ranking New Jersey in the top 10 across the nation for wine production.

In a move to expand New Jersey’s wine industry and visibility, the Senate approved legislation Thursday that permits the state’s wineries to sell directly to retailers, allowing them to ship small amounts of their bottled wine to consumers by mail.

Only wineries that produce a maximum of 250,000 gallons per year will be able to sell and ship directly. Under the bill, all farm wineries where grapes are grown and fermented will also be eligible.

To date, Americans in about as many as 38 states have already been ordering wine directly from vineyards where it is grown, and have been able to successfully ship it to their home. Now the Garden State has joined their ranks.

It’s a step in the right direction, according to Janet Giunco of Four JG Orchards & Vineyards in Colts Neck who says, “It increases our ability as a small business to expand our marketplace.”

Yet some liquor wholesales and retailers oppose direct shipping claiming it would harm their business and contribute to job loss.

Attempts to lift the state’s requirement that wineries sell to state-licensed wholesalers have long stalled in the Legislature.

Last year, a federal court ruling struck down an arrangement under which New Jersey allowed small wineries to sell wine at a few locations without wholesalers because it did not allow out-of-state wineries the same option, according to Philly.com.

According to NJ.com, State Senator Christopher “Kip” Bateman of New Jersey’s 16th Legislative District attempted to stop the bill from being passed citing, “it was not properly vetted.”

In an effort to level the playing field, Thursday’s bill now permits small wineries both in and out of state to operate those outlets, say supporters of the measure.

The legislation passed the Senate, 23 to 13.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney, (D) of Gloucester, a sponsor of the bill, said in a statement, “New Jersey wineries are by and large considered among the best in the country, but consumer access to these wines is still severely limited. This legislation will change all that.”