THE WINE'S IN THE MAIL
By Elias Fernandez
Whatever your complaints are about your life, job, or waistline, there is good news when it comes to wine. This is probably the most exciting time since the ending of Prohibition to be a wine consumer. One writer even calls this a “golden age” of wine and it’s a point that’s hard to argue against. The choice of very good wines from around the world has never been greater. A new generation of up-and-coming winemakers is creating outstanding wines and giving us “old hands” a great run for our money.
Even better, thanks to a decision by the Supreme Court last year, the old wine shipping laws got a big shake-up. States such as Texas, New York and Florida have struck down rules that until recently had made out-of-state wine shipments illegal.
This means acquiring those hard-to-find wines you love no longer requires a trek to Napa Valley. Some beloved bottles may be only a mouse click away.
First things first
The new shipping laws can be complicated. Some states require you to apply for a permit to receive wine at your doorstep. Other states restrict the amount you can order on a monthly or annual basis. (Oh no, the lawmakers couldn’t make it simple.) To determine the current state of affairs in your area, visit the Wine Institute’s website where you’ll find an interactive map of the U.S.: www.wineinstitute.org/shipwine/. With a few clicks you’ll learn all the key details about ordering wine in your state.
Once you understand the legal hurdles, it’s time to see what’s available. Most wineries make their wines available through two different means: a wine club or a mailing list.
Many wineries offer wine club memberships that entitle you to special discounts, member-only events and the chance to purchase specialty wines. Once you sign up, a club will automatically send you wine at regular intervals — as often as once a month — unless you opt out. For an example of an active wine club visit the St. Supery website: http://www.stsupery.com/clubs/index.html
Some small-production wineries face a challenge in which demand is high and bottles are few, so these often offer wine through a mail-list program. A good example is Shafer Vineyards, where I am winemaker. Here we make a limited allocation of wines available to customers who’ve signed up for one of our mailing lists. Once you’re on the list (there can be a waiting list to get on the mailing list) you’ll receive an offer to purchase wines once or twice per year as they are released. To see how this works visit www.shafervineyards.com/findingourwines.php.
Can’t get the wine you want directly from the winery? Don’t give up. There are a number of sites on the Internet that make hard-to-find wines available. Names include WineSearcher.com, WineAccess.com, WineCommune.com and WineBid.com.
All this online shopping for wine is sure to spawn a whole new crop of toasts. So let me be the first to wish you happy clicking.