TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester/ Cumberland/Salem) that would stimulate the growth of the state’s winery business was cleared out of the Assembly Budget Committee today.
The bill, S-3172, would allow direct shipping of wine to New Jersey residents from small wineries only, which is defined as those wineries that produce 250,000 gallons or less of wine per year. Additionally, the bill provides a remedy to a Federal appellate court decision last December which found the retail outlets and tasting rooms operated by New Jersey wineries to be unconstitutional by precluding out-of-state wineries from these same rights in New Jersey. This legislation levels the playing field by allowing small wineries both in-state and out-of-state to operate outlets in New Jersey.
“The limited access people have to New Jersey wines has suffocated an industry that has enormous potential for growth,” said Sweeney. “New Jersey’s wine industry can grow by leaps and bounds if we act to change our current flawed policies. This in turn will be spur the kind of economic growth we sorely need in the state right now.”
New Jersey has gone from just a handful of wineries a dozen years ago to more than 50 today, ranking our state seventh in the nation for total wine production. Many of the state’s wineries are located in rural areas, and do not produce enough wine per year to have relationships with wholesalers. This makes their retail outlets and tasting rooms, as well as a few wine festivals held throughout the year, the only way for wine consumers to purchase their products. New Jersey’s ban on direct shipping has caused the state’s wine industry to be uncompetitive with other wineries, and suffer a significant loss of potential business.