The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down state laws limiting mail-order sales of alcohol, saying local wineries that sell their products via catalogue or the internet can ship them across state lines. Ron Mark runs Summerset Winery in Indianola and says they already take orders for customers in some parts of the country. They can ship now to fourteen “reciprocal” states. “We allow them to ship to us, and they allow us to ship to them. All of the other states have some sort of restrictions.” He says the laws in some states are so strict, you can go to prison for shipping wine to your customers in those states. He says right now some wines get sold across state lines, but it’s not up to the winemakers. The distributors control all the wine coming into the state, he says, so if you like a wine they don’t handle you’ll have to drive over to the state where it’s made and pick it up. “It’s very restrictive right now,” he notes. He says Summerset Winery has turned away a lot of customers who’d like to get his products through the mail. He can’t put a dollar amount on it, but gives the example of Iowans who spend winters in Texas and would like him to ship them some wine now and then…but it’s illegal. The court said rules discriminated between in-state and out-of-state businesses, and the high court said the states would have to allow all direct shipments — or none. That worries the winemaker from Iowa. Mark worries that while states can’t restrict trade but still can control alcohol sales, “They might just go completely the other way and say we will allow no one to ship anything in our states, inside or from outside.” No matter what happens, Mark says it won’t have too much impact on Iowa wineries. Just a small part of his business deals with Internet and out-of-state sales. “It’s not gonna kill us one way or the other, and I’m not gonna get fabulously rich if it does go the other direction, I’m sure.” He says it would be nice to be able to provide wine through the mail, as a customer service. Some 22 states will have to review their laws following the Supreme Court ruling.
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