I stumbled across a great organization dedicated to breaking the stronghold distributors have on our antiquated wine shipping laws. Free The Grapes! is a grassroots effort that seems to focus on wineries, but recognizes that retailers are constrained as well. If you sign up for their email list, they will keep you up to date when shipping laws are up for debate in your state. They also have a great mascot named Shackles.
Tag Archives: Wine Industry
In St. Louis we are incredibly fortunate to have the 33 Wine Bar, an eight-year-old institution tucked into Lafayette Square. It is minimalist – no TV, no smoking, no sign to proclaim its existence. What it does contain is our city’s best wine list at very fair prices, a wonderful patio and an exceedingly knowledgable staff of three who I let choose my wine (a responsibility that I do not often relent).
As of today, the founder and owner of 33, Jake Hafner, has taken the first step to moving on from the building that was his life for those eight years. The business is truly a reflection of his personality – subtle, stylish and full of substance. It is a haven for those who relish the complexity of wine, both on the label and in the glass, but have not lost sight of its hedonism.
I heard the news late last night and stopped by 33 this evening after leaving work in a snow storm. I felt the need to congratulate Jake, and to thank him as well. The man has hardly had a day off in the last eight years, let alone a vacation. I am truly indebted to him for the wonderful memories I have accumulated there thus far. I also had to get one more recommendation from him. I came away with a 2001 Helmut Mathern Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Spätlese (which is the greatest name for a vineyard this side of Naylor Dry Hole in California) for $27.
My other intention was to meet the new proprietor of the business, Jeff Stettner, who is a close friend of Jake’s. He was in the industry in California before moving to St. Louis four years ago. It sounds as though he has exciting developments in store, and I came away with the impression that the business and its integrity are in good hands. I look forward his recommendations and hospitality.
For those of you who have enjoyed a glass or three at 33, raise your next to Jake.
It seems that the VIP reserve room list that was provided on the official website was actually a list of the wines that would be poured at the new Premier Event on Friday night. The two wines that I had me most excited, Clos Apalta and Dom Ruinart, were not to be found. The Krug was also absent from the floor. The other two I mentioned, the Long Shadows Project and the Josmeyer, were wonderful.
This will be my fourth year attending the St. Louis Food and Wine Expo at the Chase Park Plaza, which is presented by Schnuck’s. It is our city’s premier event for the wine drinking public. Though boutique producers are largely absent from the event, there are hundreds of good wines to try. Paying double the admission price gives you access to the VIP reserve room with an impressive lineup. I am particularly looking forward to the Dom Ruinart and Clos Apalta. Others to look for are the Long Shadows Project, Josmeyer and Krug (of course!).
Just days after we learned that Amazon.com will be selling wine, Decanter.com reports that the Wall Street Journal will be getting into the game as well. We frequently have customers bring in the weekly wine column to see what we are able to obtain for them on the list. Frequently it is less than half of the wines they review. I would imagine that 100% of the wines will be available on their website.
As I said in my posting on Amazon, I love to see more outlets for people to purchase wine. Increased interest will bring them to me eventually.
According to Decanter.com, the online retailer Amazon.com will begin selling wine within weeks. Amazon has declined to comment on the matter and there is no word on which wines the company will be selling.
I am all for Amazon’s wine sales. My only reservation is the carbon footprint of individual bottles flying around the country on a greater scale. I work for a small retailer that specializes in niche wines that will not be available to a behemoth like Amazon, so we won’t be competing with them when it comes to price. It will bring more drinkers to wine, and once they are into wine they will eventually need to get some expertise on the subject. That’s when they’ll come to us.
It will also serve to reduce the regulations on the wine industry. The wine laws in America are determined by individual states. Some are much more restrictive with shipping than others. I am currently only able to ship wine to thirty-one other states because some states want to control (tax) every bottle of wine. As a small retailer we are unable to affect this situation, but a large corporation with a legion of lawyers can. Check out this article on Wal-Mart’s efforts in dry counties throughout the South.
When the Twenty-First Amendment repealed Prohibition, control of alcohol reverted to the states. This resulted in a fractured industry. In some states, a retailer or restaurant can buy alcohol from any source. Examples of the various sources include wineries, distilleries, private collections, distributors and importers. In a select few states (California, New York and New Jersey to my knowledge) a retailer can also act as the importer. Other states have much stricter regulations. In some cases, retailers are only able to buy products from one state-controlled agency.
Missouri’s system seems to be the most widely used. Retailers and restaurants are only able to buy from a distributor based in the state and that distributor must purchase from an out-of-state supplier. Wineries are able to sell directly to retailers and restaurants. Purchases cannot be made from private collections.
Since I’m writing about the local wine laws I’ll take this opportunity to digress. These restrictions have guaranteed that no restaurant in Missouri can have a spectacular wine list. If restaurants are unable to buy from sources other than distributors, then they cannot acquire mature red wines. Quality red wine is meant to be aged, but wineries cannot afford to hold the wine until it reaches maturity. The onus is on the consumer to do so. Restaurants cannot afford to do this. They want to open their doors with an amazing wine list of mature wines, not a list of potential greats that will overpower the cuisine because they are consumed too young.