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Is Wine the New Foie Gras?


Rebel Rose
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Can you get it in your state? On Sundays? Can you special order wines like Loring, Arcadian, Screaming Eagle, Linne Calodo, Saxum . . . wines that have a two-to-ten year waiting list . . . and have them delivered like artisanal cheese or foie gras?

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Mary Baker

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You know, it has just really come home to me that I am dealing in a controlled substance.

I have never really thought of it that way before, in spite of all our regular reports to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which is now the Tax and Trade Bureau, and in spite of having to re-register every year as part of the Bio-Terrorism (I almost typed Terroirism) Act. In spite of the fact that most people with a faintly altruistic/governmental bend hate us. In spite of the fact that the local police forces despise us (except for the police chief, who loves fine wine and often participates as a spotter at auctions) yet they still hammer us for donations for every department in the surrounding 100 miles.

So, not to get "po" or anything, but I am clearly a little annoyed.

Dan and I make our own wine. We plant the vines. We replant the vines after beheading the gophers that ate them. We picked our first harvest ourselves. (Subsequently we hired a crew. :wacko: ) We crush the grapes. We ferment the grapes. We argue over which yeasts to use. We taste the wine as it develops in the barrel. We choose names for the wine with more fervor than we devoted to our children.

I am sitting in my screened in sunporch looking out at an old-fashioned, dryfarmed, head-trained vineyard [picture placemark here] in the early morning sun and thinking about being a dealer in a controlled substance.

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Mary Baker

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You're an outlaw, man. I think a tattoo and a Harley will make you feel better. :laugh:

You can take (Southern?) comfort in the fact that bureaucrats hate everyone. Why do the police despise you, though?

We're fortunate in DC, a very friendly place to buy wine.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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You know, it has just really come home to me that I am dealing in a controlled substance.

Huh. I never think of it that way either, especially around here where wine is everpresent, ubiquitous, benign. :huh:

in spite of all our regular reports to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which is now the Tax and Trade Bureau, and in spite of having to re-register every year as part of the Bio-Terrorism (I almost typed Terroirism) Act.

THAT is really funny !

In spite of the fact that the local police forces despise us

What the heck! Why?

I am sitting in my screened in sunporch looking out at an old-fashioned, dryfarmed, head-trained vineyard [picture placemark here] in the early morning sun and thinking about being a dealer in a controlled substance.

Life is good for the pusher man (or woman :raz: )

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I would disagree that the Feds hate the booze business. We generate more revenue for them per year than any other inudustry outside of pharmaceuticals. Let's face it; alcohol is a controlled substance. Controlled substance isn't a bad word. Medicine and food are controlled substances. The FDA regulates everything from production to sale. It is a measure of protection for the consumer to ensure that substances they take into their bodies are safe. Do the TTB and FDA perhaps go a little far in their protectionism? I would say yes. On the other hand, the chances of you getting hit with a petty lawsuit as a producer are fairly slim since your product has Federal approval. So they protect you as well.

I live in a state where liquor stores are closed on Sundays. I work in the business and I don't mind it. In fact, I am happy about it. When you are involved in retail anywhere, you love having a day off and retail gets an automatic day off once a week. Whereas if we were open on Sundays, I guarantee you my 60 hour work week would jump to 70.

Mail order? That is state regulated, so I am unsure of the TTB's involvement in that, but as far as I can tell there are only around 11 states that allow shipment from outside the state to inside the state (shipment within the state is a different ballgame). States do this to protect their income, but not necssarily just taxes as many people assert. Sure the state would lose some in-state tax revenue if people could ship wine from cheaper sources outside the state and not have to pay state alcohol taxes on it, but the real loss is the GDP of the state. When liquor stores inside the state start losing revenue to out-of-state sources they may close or post lower numbers, which reduces sales tax and gross revenue for businesses in the state. Since alcohol is left in state control for distribution other states may have an unfair advantage to sell alcohol at a lower price due to less state involvment or lower taxes. So until the Fed wants to step in and control alcohol distribution, then there will always be states resistant to allowing direct shipment out of fear of lost revenue.

Additionally, when you can buy your Beringer White Zin and Jim Beam from a state with lower taxes and big franchises for pennies on the dollar of what you would pay in a control state, for instance, local wholesalers begin to lose money on product that would have been sold in their territories. Next thing you know CA retailers and wholesalers are posting record numbers and TN wholesalers are in the dumps losing serious revenue to states that don't have reciprocity agreements not to ship.

So unless you are a fan of 4 wholesalers in the country and 1000 liquor stores owned by 3 companies running the entire country, it is my opinion that state control of liquor distirbution should remain as it is. After all, I don't want Glazer or Southern telling me that they won't pick up X small brand because they can't move a pallet of it. I like going to my small local distributor and ordering 5 boxes of niche brands that will make my customers happy.

That is JMHO and YMMV.

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Great post. I'm just about to sit down to a glass of Chateau Guiraud (bought from a government run wine shop) and some foie gras (frozen from France) now all I need is a Cuban cigar to finish off the night :wink:

SB

"who needs a wine list when you can get pissed on dessert" Gordon Ramsey Kitchen Nightmares 2005

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Great post. I'm just about to sit down to a glass of Chateau Guiraud (bought from a government run wine shop) and some foie gras (frozen from France) now all I need is a Cuban cigar to finish off the night :wink:

SB

LOL! I am smoking a cuban cigar :wink: and drinking absinthe.

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We're fortunate in DC, a very friendly place to buy wine.

And right over the border is one of the stupidest, most restrictive jusridictions in the US: Montgomery County, MD. All wine must be purchased from the county at inflated prices, by consumers, restaurants, and retailers. The selection is awful, and most stores closed on Sundays. I buy my wine in DC and sneak it over the border.

ETA: we can't have anything shipped to us either.

Edited by hjshorter (log)

Heather Johnson

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Waht do you expect from a country with Puritan founders?

Where the Plymouth Pilgrim fathers won the mythology battle over the hedonistic entrepreneurs at Jamestown, despite Jamestown being the earlier foundation....

In the land of the free, anything pleasurable must be regulated...including fireworks

Edited by jackal10 (log)
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Waht do you expect from a country with Puritan founders?

Where the Plymouth Pilgrim fathers won the mythology battle over the  hedonistic entrepreneurs at Jamestown, despite Jamestown being the earlier foundation....

In the land of the free, anything pleasurable must be regulated...including fireworks

Pretty sure the Pilgrims were big fans of drinking. Not sure why you have a chip on your shoulder about that.

I buy fireworks whenever I want. And the poster above you exercise's his/her right to buy booze in a less restricted area for selection and price. That seems like capitalism at work. What more could you want?

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There are a lot of misconceptions/perceptions about the Puritans.

There are also a lot of mis conceptions about our history and specifically the history of alcohol consumption and regulation in America.

The fact is, we have a long history (starting with the Puritans) of alcohol consumption (and regulation)--remember the Whiskey rebellion of 1794?

The role of religion from the Puritans to prohibition has IMOP been vastly overstated.

In fact, it appears that just as it is the case with most of the rest of the alcohol consuming world, governments exercise control over alcoholic beverages both in production as well as consumption (let's not forget that most European countries also tightly control alcohol production and consumption etc) is a result of the desire to fatten the public coffers via taxes. Therer is also a health and safety angle to a lot of the motivation. MADD is far more influential than any so called religious group these days.

Religion plays a miniscule role if at all.

Puritans and alcohol

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The Feds don't hate us, mickey, but the local police despise the wine industry. They worry about traffic fatalities and injuries, as well they should.

States will not lose alcohol tax income on direct mail shipments into the state.

Unlike sales tax, we collect alcohol taxes for any state that requires it. (I love the NH reporting form--one page, simple form, nice people, email reminders--and I collect the NH 8% alcohol tax for every order to NH and submit it monthly.)

As for controlled states and free market enterprise, the three-tier system is healthy and effective in uncontrolled states. To say that it's "okay" for someone to cross a county or state border to find better selection and prices is to acknowledge that the concept of control does not work.

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Mary Baker

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Mail order? . . . the real loss is the GDP of the state. When liquor stores inside the state start losing revenue to out-of-state sources they may close or post lower numbers . . . Additionally, when you can buy your Beringer White Zin and Jim Beam from a state with lower taxes and big franchises for pennies on the dollar of what you would pay in a control state, for instance, local wholesalers begin to lose money on product that would have been sold in their territories.

A bottle of wine (or booze) weighs 3 pounds. It costs approximately $10 per bottle to ship said bottles from California to almost anyplace outside the state. I sincerely doubt that anyone is going to pay $30 a case for their Beringer WZ, Jim Beam, Barefoot Cellars merlot, or Yellowtail chardonnay because they can find it for less in another state.

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Mary Baker

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A bottle of wine (or booze) weighs 3 pounds.  It costs approximately $10 per bottle to ship said bottles from California to almost anyplace outside the state.  I sincerely doubt that anyone is going to pay $30 a case for their Beringer WZ, Jim Beam, Barefoot Cellars merlot, or Yellowtail chardonnay because they can find it for less in another state.

I pay on average $4/bottle for shipping when I order wine from Chicago, NY, or DC.

I'm sure this isn't a popular position to take, but the three tier system works really well for most consumers - sure they don't pay absolute rock bottom prices, but the products they want are available everywhere and at reasonable prices. Yellowtail production alone is likely to be larger than all the premium wine production in the US - the distribution system is set up to serve the majority. The average consumer of yellowtail chard wouldn't know where to order it from, they certainly don't care if it's shipped in a refrigerated container - all they want is the wine they enjoy at a good price, available at every grocery store or local wine shop.

It's very rare that I find what I want at a local wine shop at a good price so I order everything online or over the phone then either pick it up or have it shipped. It's not an ideal solution, but it works. The people who seem to be dead-set against the three tier system are wine collectors, small producers, and people that live in states with backwards laws. The states with backwards laws are slowly modernizing, and the unfortunate reality is that the small producers and wine collectors together add up to a very very small percentage of the population.

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Ouch. You're right on the math--it is $3-$4 a bottle. Still, even that is going to deter interstate orders of cheap-o wines, isn't it?

I have never met a small producer that is "against" the three-tier system. All the ones I know happily use distributors and brokers--when they represent our product respectfully and professionally. What I object to is a MANDATED three-tier system. It creates rampant entitlement, laziness, disrespect, and unprofessionalism.

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Mary Baker

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Ouch.  You're right on the math--it is $3-$4 a bottle.  Still, even that is going to deter interstate orders of cheap-o wines, isn't it? 

I have never met a small producer that is "against" the three-tier system.  All the ones I know happily use distributors and brokers--when they represent our product respectfully and professionally.  What I object to is a MANDATED three-tier system.  It creates rampant entitlement, laziness, disrespect, and unprofessionalism.

I'd imagine most bottles of wine purchased at local shops are consumed in less time than it takes to ship a box from out of state. Most consumers won't order wine at all, in state or out. There are entitled, lazy, disrespectful, and unprofessional people in every field - the three-tier system isn't to blame for that.

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There are entitled, lazy, disrespectful, and unprofessional people in every field - the three-tier system isn't to blame for that.

The 3T system works very well in some areas. As I've said before, recently, it's state-mandated models that don't work. They don't work for producers, and they don't work for the public.

It's like a stove with one burner, and an oven that only heats to 300 degrees.

"You want another burner? What for? How much food can you eat at once?"

"You want it hotter? Buy a barbecue."

"It works, it's not broke, what's your complaint?"

"We're providing you with a good product, which we have personally chosen for you at a state level, and at a price that can't be beat--locally."

"It's safer this way. Minors won't get burnt."

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Mary Baker

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There are entitled, lazy, disrespectful, and unprofessional people in every field - the three-tier system isn't to blame for that.

The 3T system works very well in some areas. As I've said before, recently, it's state-mandated models that don't work. They don't work for producers, and they don't work for the public.

It's like a stove with one burner, and an oven that only heats to 300 degrees.

"You want another burner? What for? How much food can you eat at once?"

"You want it hotter? Buy a barbecue."

"It works, it's not broke, what's your complaint?"

"We're providing you with a good product, which we have personally chosen for you at a state level, and at a price that can't be beat--locally."

"It's safer this way. Minors won't get burnt."

It isn't at all like a stove with one burner - at least in California and numerous other states. Sure there are some states with horrible local regulations, but other states work fine. If issues like this are import enough to the local residents, they'll either work to change the laws or they'll move. The fact is that the overwhelming majority of consumers aren't affected by this issue at all. It's much more like buying a commercial range to install in your apartment:

"You want to install a molteni podium in your apartment? "

"You need to insulate to commercial code or move somewhere with more lax regulations"

"Wouldn't it be easier to just use a regular stove? there are thousands to choose from..."

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It isn't at all like a stove with one burner - at least in California and numerous other states. 

California is not state-mandated. It's free enterprise three-tier. I can choose to use a distributor to deliver and sell to my clients, and to further develop our sales list. I can also choose to sell direct to any store and restaurant I want. I can use the 3T system and sell direct. I have complete freedom of choice.

In my distributor's range, I gladly defer all sales to them out of courtesy for their professionalism and because they're better at following up with accounts. But if I wanted to personally schlep the wine over to Villa Creek, and write an invoice for Villa Creek, and make follow up sales calls every week I could.

In a free enterprise state like ours, or like Colorado for example, the middlemen hustle for both winery clients and retail accounts. (Check out the distributor I linked to in CO. Are these wines available in PA or CT?) The levels of professionalism and the choice of products are much, much higher than in captive, state-controlled markets.

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Mary Baker

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