Direct Shipping - Printable Version

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- Kcwhippet - 02-18-2000 09:00 AM

With all the latest in the courts about direct shipping, why hasn't there been more traffic here? Jerry gave us the word on the Indiana situation back in December, but there hasn't been anything since. Isn't anyone excited about the potential ramifications of the Texas decision? I am. I'm hoping it will have an impact in our favor in the pending litigation in New York and Virginia. I'm also hoping it's the start of a wave of future suits in all the other states that are not being nice to us wine lovers and consumers. I've sent letters to all our senators and congressman, and our state legislators, keeping them abreast of all the news. Where is everybody?

- Bucko - 02-18-2000 09:34 AM

And right after the Texas decision, Michigan pulls a sting operation and is charging several internet operators with a crime. Simply amazing at our archaic society.


- mrdutton - 02-18-2000 09:48 AM

There has been at least one other free commerce decision made recently in the State of Virginia. Although it was unrelated to wine, it specifically addressed the free commerce clause in the Constitution.

The decision was against Virginia which was trying to prevent "free trade". (Although a bit more complicated than that.)

It just seems to show that there might be "attitude" afoot in the courts and at least sets some kind of supporting precedence for other free trade issues - if it is upheld on appeal.

Recent decisions in Indiana and Georgia also seem encouraging.

As it is, I am restricted by the State of Virginia from purchasing wine directly from an out-of-state retailer. The State of Virginia authorities say it is a tax collection issue. That seems funny to me, because when I purchase non-wine items from Tavolo, Barns & Noble, Norm Thompson, etc., they charge me Virginia State sales tax. If it were a collection issue, how is it that these companies manage to get the funds collected to Virginia?

I can purchase wine from a Virginia retailer, and he can ship it to me. But I am basically "locked" into purchasing only those wines handled by the distributors in Richmond. That sure does limit my ability to broaden my wine purchases.

Geerlings & Wade has an office in Virginia, so I can purchase from their web-site. The only other non-Virginia business I know of that will ship to me is Virtual Vineyard (now known as And they don't ship "directly" because the wine comes from a place in Chicago which has a license to operate in Virginia.

As an adult I should have the right to buy any wine I wish from any source I wish. As for the tax, Virginia tax law even has a provision that requires that I declare out of state purchases and pay the 4.5% sales tax on them - this is called the Virginia Consumers Use Tax. So how can the tax issue even be considered to be the primary issue here? Seems to me it can't. Virginia is just restricting free trade, pure and simple.

[This message has been edited by mrdutton (edited 02-18-2000).]

- hotwine - 02-18-2000 05:17 PM

I'm holding my breath, waiting for some reaction to the Texas case from our elected officials. The liquor lobby is very strong in Austin, and there are powerful interests at risk. The judge's ruling is a most welcome development, but I'm not predicting the dissolution of the cartel just yet.

- mrdutton - 02-19-2000 06:12 PM

I, too, am holding my breath however, for a different reason.

I just can't seem to get a lot of information about the current court case here in Virginia.

I tried to find a web site for "The Coalition for Free Trade" and have had no luck. They are supposed to be either participants or backers for the folks who are suing Virginia.

If anyone has any information, I'd appreciate it if you could share it with me.


- Bucko - 02-19-2000 07:23 PM

The site is under construction but has names and contact numbers.


- Zinner - 02-19-2000 11:15 PM

Hinman and Carmichael, a San Francisco law firm that is active in direct shipping issues has a bunch of info at

The CFT is:
P.O. Box 4277
Napa, CA 94558
Tel. [img][/img]916)849-0522
Fax [img][/img]925)682-3547

The latest word from a writer friend in Georgia is that the bill there(allowing a very small amount of wine) has passed the House and gone to the Senate where it got a favorable reading. So we'll keep our fingers crossed!

[This message has been edited by Zinner (edited 02-19-2000).]

- Zinner - 02-19-2000 11:18 PM

Note: have no idea where the little faces came from on the phone numbers above.

Someone who is more computer literate will have to help me out. I can't seem to get rid of them.

- Innkeeper - 02-20-2000 08:43 AM

Tried the e-mail address: and it was returned unknown. Does anyone have a better address for the coalition?

- Kcwhippet - 02-20-2000 10:08 AM

Checked in at the CFT site. The email address there is for Vivienne Nishimura and it's The phone numbers you gave, Zinner,have a Sacramento area code. Were those old ones? The ones listed at the CFT site are:
707.747.1556 phone
707.747.1566 fax

- Bucko - 02-20-2000 11:14 AM

Sorry, that is all that I have -- maybe KC's will be valid.


- Zinner - 02-20-2000 03:40 PM

Yes, of course. That will teach me to never, ever post anything at the end of a week when I'm half asleep. Grabbed up a printout which must have had the previous address and phones. My(red-faced) apologies. KC's are the up-to-date ones.

If you want to see a web-site that is up, you can go to They have a completed one with links to The Coalition for Free Trade and also the The Wine Institute, which has a useful site(

I do think it's important for anyone who drinks wine to make their voices heard. Often state legislatures pass bills without thinking them through.

Someone who worked at the capitol at the time of Georgia's felony law told me that some of the legislators who passed the law were members of the California Wine Club at the time and didn't realize they had legislated themselves out of ordering wine until too late. Oops!

Sometimes they vote yes on bills as a favor, hoping that the others will support their bills in return. There are a lot of bills to consider in a short time and perhaps only the person who authored the bill has a complete understanding of the ramifications.

My take is that consumers in Georgia(and Florida and probably other felony states) just go around the laws anyhow, shipping wine to friends and relatives in other states and picking it up when they visit. Or they use one of the stores willing to defy the law. Some consumers have gotten so mad, they're willing to go to great lengths to bypass these unfair laws.

- Thomas - 02-20-2000 04:54 PM

Yeah, people get around the laws, but some states are strong-arming UPS and others shippers not to accept the shipments.

The protecionists laws must be challenged at the Supreme Court level in order to stop the nonsense crminality of shipping wine.

But watch for more sting operations in states to start an emotonial issue against sales to minors on the Internet; a back-door way to step on rights.

So far, the only reports of Internet alcohol sales to minors are the result of government sting operations. Alcohol distributor money is powerful in state governments.

- anna - 02-21-2000 12:40 PM

I'm damn happy about the Texas decision -- the court opinion is the best analysis I've read yet on the issue. The judge went into some detail about the balance between the 21st Amendment and the Commerce Clause, which is really where the struggle lies. My favorite quote in the opinion goes something like "Texas consumers can get just as drunk on in-state wine as on out-of-state wine." Now if only Michigan would get a clue (I'm frantically trying to figure out how I can get my futures orders in light of the Michigan AG's crackdown -- UGH UGH UGH!!).
Keep an eye on the New York lawsuit too, filed by the Institute for Justice ( This issue is sure to heat up, with the number of court cases going on right now. Whoopee!

If anyone would like some heavy reading (it's 43 pages), I can e-mail the Texas opinion to you -- just drop me an e-mail message and I'll pass the case on to you.

BTW, I'm an advisor for CFT -- please don't be too hard on Vivienne Nishimura if she doesn't get back to you right away. She is WAY swamped with what's going on right now!
And make sure you write your legislators and drop a few bucks to CFT -- we need to attack this issue on ALL fronts, both in the legislature and in the courts. We're moving in the right direction!

- mrdutton - 02-21-2000 08:36 PM

Thanks, Anna. Great information.

Do you know of any links to the court case in Virginia? Would be most appreciative, if you do, if you could share!

- anna - 02-25-2000 12:07 PM

Unfortunately, the Eastern District of Virginia does not have a website, so it may be unlikely that the court opinion is online. I'll keep hunting....

- EPICURUS - 02-27-2000 02:08 AM

Here's the single best site that I know of containing key direct shipping documents with an emphasis on Virginia. It was put together by stalwart Linda Baldwin, just an interested winette (why CFT put up a nonfunctional site 16 months ago seems baffling to me; why not just provide a link to Linda's home grown site)

- Thomas - 02-27-2000 01:36 PM

Anna, I am a wine and food writer. I am on various mailing lists, but please send along anything you think I should know on the issue.

I just wrote about the Texas decision in three separate columns, and am now getting email feedback from readers, many of whom have bought into the Attorney General sting information about so-called rampant sales to minors that are shipped to their doors.

- mrdutton - 02-27-2000 01:54 PM

Epicurus - thanks for the information. I have visited Linda Baldwin's site and bookmarked it.

Lots of good information there on the Virginia lawsuite. I am keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that Virginia fails to win this one.

[This message has been edited by mrdutton (edited 02-27-2000).]

- mrdutton - 03-02-2000 12:46 PM

We have 3 fairly decent wine merchants in Virginia Beach and one of them is a grocery store.

None of them has any of the wine I am looking for and each has begged off trying to find it because: (1) I don't bring any volume to them and (2) They feel they won't get any help from their distributor.

Of course, as it turns out, their distributor is the same company out of Richmond. It appears that that one distributor has this region "locked" up, captured in the barrel if you will.

That makes me angry because as a consumer I have no more legal options.

This has nothing to do with collecting taxes on the sale. When I purchase something over the internet, chances are that the company already is voluntarily collecting sales taxes from various states - Virginia always seems to be one of them. If the company doesn't collect Virginia sales tax, then as an honest citizen I am compelled by Virginia law to report my out of state, untaxed purchases each year and pay the appropriate 4.5% sales tax.

One of the local wine merchants, the frustration clearly present on his voice, indicated that the distributors in this state just have too much money and presence in Richmond - apparently in the pockets of our esteemed members of the Virginia legislature.

His thought is that we won't see an open market in Virginia at least in his lifetime. He is my age. Now that really frustrates me.

Letters are on the way to Richmond and to Washington, DC. At least I'll have the pleasure of letting my elected officials know about my displeasure.