Maryland shipping law lets winemakers breathe a little easier -- Gazette.Net


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Nearly two years after it went into effect, a Maryland law that allows the state’s winemakers to ship their products directly to customers has given them another way to generate profits.

The change definitely has benefited wineries, said Kristen Thomas, the wine club manager at Boordy Vineyards in Hydes in Baltimore County.

The vineyard launched a wine club nearly a year ago, with about 100 members who receive shipments of wine four times a year, and has licenses to ship to Maryland, the District of Columbia, California, Georgia, North Carolina, Hew Hampshire, New York, Florida and Virginia, she said.

People regularly ask if Boordy can ship wine to them when they return home from a visit to the winery, and several people call or email each week to ask for wine to be shipped to their homes, Thomas said.

The state law, which went into effect in July 2011, allows winemakers to ship wine to customers, answering a long-standing request from the Maryland wine industry. Wineries previously had been required to ship to a wholesaler, then to a retailer, where the customer could pick it up.

Businesses from outside the state who want to ship wine into the state or Maryland businesses who want to ship within the state must be licensed to manufacture wine, and must get a permit from the state comptroller’s office.

Black Ankle Vineyards in Mount Airy wasn’t sure what the impact would be when the law went into effect, but decided to set up an e-commerce site just in case, manager Melissa Schulte said.

Since the direct shipment law went into effect, Black Ankle’s wine club has grown from around 400 to 500 members before the new law, to almost 1,400 members, with about 400 people having wine shipped four times a year, she said.

Before the law went into effect, wine club members had to pick up their orders, she said.

There’s no cost to join the club, but members commit to buy at least four bottles of wine each quarter, she said.

According to a December report from the comptroller’s office — the last period for which statistics were available — the state issued 629 direct shipping permits in the 18 months after the law went into effect, leading to 49,350 gallons of wine being shipped and generating $567,524 in revenue.

Not all wineries have adopted direct shipping so enthusiastically, for various reasons.

Lois Loew, owner of Loew Vineyards near Mount Airy, said her small vineyard works with a shipping agent that handles all of the licensing and paperwork issues that come with shipping alcohol.

Loew said her business has not seen a significant profit from shipping and looks at it as another service for customers.

But the ability to ship wine directly comes in handy sometimes, Loew said.

She recently sent a shipment to one customer who wanted Loew’s wine for her wedding because she and her fiance had gotten engaged at the vineyard.

Susan Reed, who manages the tasting room at Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard in Dickerson, which obtained a direct-shipping permit, said the vineyard doesn’t ship wine often.

Of the 327 members of their wine club, only about 25 have their packages shipped, she said.

But the law opens up the wine club to members who live too far away to come to the vineyard regularly, she said.

Anthony Aellen, president of Linganore Winecellars in Mount Airy, said Linganore didn’t see much of an increase in business because its wines are distributed in stores throughout the state.

But he said winemakers are still better off with the law than without.

Aellen said Linganore has seen demand for some of its more limited products that aren’t as widely available.

The law lets customers get wine that would have been impossible to get before from wineries, because their products aren’t sold in stores.

“This has helped tremendously for boutique production lots,” Aellen said.



rmarshall@gazette.net