Amazon.com debuted its latest online wine shop Thursday, offering more than 1,000 wines and shipping to a dozen states.
The new marketplace — Amazon's third attempt to enter the wine business — is still in the early stages of its development. Amazon Wine currently features more than 100 wineries from around the country, and is still adding wineries to the site.
"We're excited to connect wineries to the millions of Amazon customers who enjoy the convenience of shopping online," Peter Faricy, vice president of Amazon Marketplace, said in a statement.
At launch, shipping is available to California, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming and the District of Columbia, with more coming soon.
Industry veterans saw the change as a positive development for the industry, and a way for smaller wineries without major distribution deals to reach consumers in new markets.
"They'll have a learning curve, I'm sure, to make it work. But on balance I think it certainly is positive overall for wine," said Jon Fredrikson, president of Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates in Woodside.
The website carries only a fraction of the 120,000 to 150,000 wines available in the market, Fredrikson noted.
"It's kind of a test," he said. "But I think that for some small wineries that are not in national distribution, it gives them exposure, so there is potential."
On Amazon's new site, shoppers can search by appellation, varietal and price point, and hone their search further for flavors like blackberry, cassis and cherry. They can narrow the results down to wines rated 90 points by reviewers, and those with 14 percent alcohol-by-volume, for example.
"Consumers want to learn more about their wines before they buy them, and this just hopefully deepens the relationships between the consumers and the wines that they buy," said Honore Comfort, executive director of Sonoma County Vintners.
Previous attempts by Amazon to sell wine online were stymied by the complex web of regulations that govern distribution of alcohol, which vary from state to state. This time, wineries will handle the responsibility of shipping to customers and complying with each state's laws, an Amazon spokeswoman said.
By contrast, San Francisco-based retailer Wine.com handles fulfillment, storage and shipping logistics including any fees, and ships to 20 states, a spokeswoman for that company said.
J Vineyards and Winery, Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards and Francis Ford Coppola Winery are among the featured wines on Amazon Wine.
"It seems like the larger wineries are stepping into play here sooner than later," said Paul Tincknell, a Healdsburg wine marketing consultant. "I think you'll see these smaller wineries popping on fairly quickly over the next couple of months."
Krutz Family Cellars, a Santa Rosa winery that produces only 2,000 to 3,000 cases per year, signed up in hopes of reaching consumers in states where it doesn't offer tastings, said Patrick Krutz, owner and winemaker.
Customers will be charged $9.99 to ship up to six bottles, and $19.98 for a full case. But shipping typically costs around $35 for a box of six and $55 to $60 for standard ground shipping of a case, Krutz said.
Among his offerings on Amazon Wine is a 2008 Stagecoach Vineyards cabernet sauvignon priced at $75 a bottle, a price that enables his winery to handle the shipping costs wineries will pay.