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Gourmandiary, May 2005
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Organic Food Night

The Supreme Court enables P2P Wine Sales
"Organic Food" Night

First, a BIG thanks to Frank Albani for the opportunity to participate in his
"Organic Food and Land Care" talk at the Plymouth Public Library on May 9th of
this year.  Frank draws quite a crowd!  There were at least 70 people attending
this talk and they all were deeply appreciative with their comments afterwards.

I had a great time learning lots about all kinds of organic issues.

Sarah told us all about how to skip the chemicals when it comes to caring for our
lawns.  Now that I know that nematodes can eat grubs, watch out!   was up
second. I talked about the nature of the industrial food pipeline and drew a
picture meant to illustrate the last 7 thousand years of human evolution!  After
me, Kofi told us all about his 'Community Supported Farm' in Buzzards Bay, MA
called 'Bay End Farm'.  Then Frank gave a great slide show on the Soule
Homestead Farm in Middleborough, MA where he is the Executive Director.

The attendees of this talk not only heard my spiel about how to eat outside the
industrial food pipeline, but they got to meet the farmers that enable them to do
that and even see pictures of how they farm!  It was great fun for them and for
me as well.

If you live in Massachusetts make sure you stop in and visit Frank Albnani's
organic farm and education center in Middleborough, MA.  They have a summer
concert series, tons of programs for kids all summer long.  He'll host birthday
parties, even teach your kids how to make butter!  Check out
www.soulehomestead.org for the latest calendar of events.

Want fresh veggies and a bouquet of flowers every week of the summer?  
Contact Kofi at
www.bayendfarm.com and join his CSA!  It's the best way to eat
'outside' the pipeline, keep you food dollars in the local economy, and "put a face
on your food" as Frank says.

Thanks again Frank!

The case to buy a case.

The Internet is a great enabler of small business.  It  costs practically nothing to
set up a web site, advertise the goods your wish to sell, and give the customer
an address to mail a check to.  The only thing stopping the freedom of this variety
and no industry is more regulated than the alcohol industry.

In May 2005 the Supreme Court became the new best friend of winos
everywhere when it declared  the regulations that prevented a winery from
directly shipping you a case of their wine 'unconstitutional'.  But what does this
mean to us (US?) wine consumers?  Should I put a call in to Chris Bilbro at
Marietta Cellars in Sonoma for my case of 'Old Vine Red Lot #36'!?  (Damn I love
that wine).

I HOPE it means that my Uncle Dan can finally retire the 'box' of
thou-shall-remain-nameless red in his fridge and instead, using the Internet, opt
to ship a case of top quality red Zinfandel from Pasa Robles to New York for the
next time I visit!  We'll see...

The History

When prohibition ended the federal government created the alcohol industry from
scratch.  While each state could opt to put their own spin on it, the 'three tiers' of
the system were mandated by the government.  The first tier consisted of the
'producers' who made beer, wine and spirits.  The second tier contains
wholesalers and distributors.  The third tier contains the retailer who sells to the
public.

To sell their wine, first a winery had to find a distributor willing to take their
vintage to the retailer.  Typically this meant that the winery had to have a large
enough volume to warrant the distributor's attention.  From the retailer's
perspective the winery had to have enough of a reputation to enable the strong
sales of their wine.  Who wants to get stuck with 20 cases of something you
cannot sell because no one wants to shell out money to experiment.  This was
not a small-producer-friendly environment.

Throughout the 90's 23 states adopted new laws allowing for P2P wine sales.  A
winery could advertise their wares on the Internet and ship directly to their
customers within the state.  Later, states began to create reciprocal relationships
with other states that allowed P2P wine shipments.  So a person in Missouri could
have wine shipped to them California, but a person in Maryland could not.  This
upset everyone.  While consumers were frustrated by these draconian
arrangements, the second and third tiers of the three tier system were even
more upset because they were getting cut of their take.

The Court Case

Granholm V. Heald is the case that went to Supreme Court.  On May 16th the
court, in a 5-4 ruling, said that a state who allowed in-state P2P wine shipments
could not ban interstate P2P win shipments because such a practice was
discriminatory towards out of state wineries.

What does this Decision Mean?

Well, it could mean a couple of things...

Your state might do what NJ did and ban all delivery by mail of alcohol.  That sure
levels the playing field huh!  Missouri is the other extreme where its already
'open' system now accepts shipments from any state.

What is most likely to happen is that each state will craft some form of legislation
that allows for the shipment of wine that ensures that the taxes owed on that
shipment are paid.  The taxation issue was the big issue all along because in
most states it's the job of the second tier to collect those taxes and give them to
the state.  With that tier no longer involved in a P2P wine transaction, who will
collect and deliver to the state the money they are owed?

Let's be clear, the three tier system was not dismantled by this recent court
decision, but the door was opened to allow wine shipments if all the logistics
could be worked out.  I'll keep an ear to the rail on this one and let you know
what develops as policy for Massachusetts, Vermont and New York which is
where most of the wine drinkers I know reside.

Get ready Dan!  Someday, with the help of the postman, we're going to explore
the world of Pasa Robles together from my PC!