Senate Bill 1276 passed the Arizona state House last week and now awaits Governor Janet Napolitano’s signature. SB 1276 would continue to allow for the direct shipment of orders where “the wine was purchased while the purchaser was physically present at the winery”. The bill would also allow for off-site orders, but with serious restrictions. Only “limited production wineries” would be allowed to ship off-site orders, where a limited production winery is defined by SB 1276 to mean:
A licensed domestic farm winery that produces not more than twenty thousand gallons of wine in a calendar year may make sales and deliveries of wine that the licensed domestic farm winery produces to consumers off of the licensed premises and that is ordered by telephone, mail, fax or catalogue, through the Internet or by other means.
20,000 gallons equates to roughly 8,400 cases, which means that a significant number of U.S. wineries would be excluded from shipping off-site orders to Arizona.
SB 1276 is not an incremental step in the right direction; it is a big step backwards for Arizona consumers. And if it becomes law, wholesalers who oppose direct shipping will surely promote it as a workable model for other states to adopt. This will threaten years of diligent, successful work by winemakers, legislators and regulators to enact reasonable laws that allow limited, regulated direct shipments.
If passed, this bill will almost certainly be challenged in the courts. Just when it seemed like the Granholm dust was beginning to settle, states began introducing these bills with discriminatory capacity caps. New rounds of court cases challenging these caps will mean many more changes to come in the world of wine direct shipping.