By Lauren Wanko
Business continues to grow at Sharrott Winery in Camden County. Co-owner Larry Sharrott credits much of the boost in sales to legislation signed into law in 2012.
“Our sales since the law has passed has gone up 25 percent,” he said.
The law allows New Jersey wineries producing less than 250,000 gallons of wine a year to directly ship up to 12 cases of wine to customers over the of age 21 both in and out of state. So far, Sharrott Winery has shipped to about 400 customers.
“It’s a very big deal for us. As a small winery, our exposure is pretty limited. We’re mostly South Jersey based. We’ve created new things like our wine club and we have many members to our wine club so it’s allowing us to keep our customers closer to us,” Sharrott said.
Sharrott insists without direct shipping about three-quarters of his wine club wouldn’t be possible. New Jersey ranks 10th in the nation in wine production and the Garden State has the sixth largest wine consumption in the country. There were 12 wineries at the end of the 1990s. At the beginning of 2014, there were 48 licensed wineries in the state.
“The old idea of Turnpike Red and Parkway White is going away,” said Sharrott.
Another provision of the law allows the same small New Jersey wineries to sell their spirits in up to 15 outlets in the state apart from the premises. Those outlets include BYOB restaurants like The Tortilla Press in Collingswood.
“I think it’s a true win-win,” said chef and owner Mark Smith.
Smith says the winery is not selling wine to the restaurants, they are leasing space and the restaurant staff is selling the wine on behalf of the winery, which allows the BYOBs to maintain their BYOB status.
Sharrott says this provides him an opportunity to gain customers who may have never stopped into his winery in the first place.
And Smith thinks his business is reaping the same benefits.
“I think some of the customers are coming to our restaurant because we have their product now,” Smith said.
About 30 to 35 guests purchase a bottle of wine while dining at the restaurant every week.
“We’ve only been doing it for two months so I can only see it increase,” said Smith.
“A lot of it comes down to exposure. My best way of selling wine is for people to taste it,” Sharrott said.
Sharrott insists that added exposure will only help the industry continue to grow.