Court decision likely to increase wine promotion initiatives

LOS ANGELES: A Supreme Court ruling last week may have opened the doors for wineries to sell directly to consumers in other states, changing the way these businesses reach out to potential customers.

LOS ANGELES: A Supreme Court ruling last week may have opened the doors for wineries to sell directly to consumers in other states, changing the way these businesses reach out to potential customers.

The ruling struck down bans on out-of-state wine shipments to New York and Michigan. Those states, along with 22 others, allow only in-state wineries to ship their goods to residents, a practice the court found to be economic discrimination. States with such rules must now consider whether to ban all wine shipments, or allow out-of-state shipments.

Gladys Horiuchi, communications manager of the Wine Institute, an industry lobbying group that represents 840 California wineries, said that "there's going to have to be a lot of patience" while individual states examine their rules, but that the decision should give "more access to consumers once states open up."

Phil Cline of Washington-based Yakima Cellars added that interstate shipping could lead to more marketing and communications programs from wineries such as his.

"We certainly would work our Internet presence a lot more, do something to create a little bit more buzz," he said.

Don Chase of California-based Kunde Winery says that California, which produces about 90% of the country's wine, has the most at stake in the changing rules. Small wineries that lack distributors and rely instead on wine clubs and their websites for out-of-state sales also say they have much to gain if states move to allow shipments, as most expect they will.

"Smaller wineries that have not had an established marketing ability, this will allow them to at least be able to introduce their products in a lot more markets," said Chase.

Charlie Tsegeletos of Cline Cellars in California added that the ruling could help him grow relationships with retailers and restaurant buyers in other states as well. Currently, he travels to those purchasers with new products, but is not able to send follow-up bottles to keep them informed of new wines.

"It will make it easier to send thank-yous to all of our customers," he said.

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