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Wineries outsourcing to get product directly to buyers

  • 08/11/06 -- Schug Carneros Estate visitor center manager David Cumming (CQ) had to write a 57-cent check to NYS Alcoholic Tax Processing. (The Press Democrat/ Crista Jeremiason)

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that states allowing their own wineries to ship directly to consumers had to allow wineries in other states to do the same.

But the court didn't say they had to make it easy.

Many California wineries are finding that while they enjoy the right to ship directly to more states than ever, doing so has never been more complicated.

"It's almost like they were spiteful in making up these regulations," said David Cumming, retail manager for Schug Carneros Estate Winery east of Sonoma.

Cumming used to personally handle all the winery's shipments to its wine club or online customers. But since last May's court ruling, the changes to state laws, the complexity of the new rules and the increased reporting requirements have put him over the edge.

"It just became overwhelming," Cumming said

So Schug did what more and more California wineries are doing to address the dilemma. It outsourced its entire direct-shipping operation.

New Vine Logistics, the fast-growing direct-shipping company, has added 60 new wineries or winery groups, including Schug, to its client list since the Supreme Court decision, said company president Kathleen Hoertkorn.

The Napa-based company, formed in 2001, expects to ship $110 to $120 million worth of wine this year, up from $60 million last year, she said.

The landscape is shifting so quickly that New Vine Logistics is hosting a direct-shipping conference this week to keep wineries up to speed on the changes. Representatives from several area wineries, as well as industry groups such as the Wine Institute in San Francisco and MKF Research in St. Helena, are scheduled to give presentations at the invitation-only event Thursday at Cline Cellars.

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