Idaho May Ease Shipping Restrictions

Legislation cleared an Idaho House panel on Tuesday that would allow out-of-state wineries to ship up to 24 cases a year directly to customers in the state for personal consumption as long as the wineries doing the shipping buy a $50 Idaho permit.

If approved, that would make Idaho the latest state to loosen up on direct wine shipping. The proposed process follows guidelines of the Wine Instititute, which represents 800 California wineries. Consumers buying wine under this method would not be allowed to re-sell it. That means restaurants, for example, would not be able to buy wines that way then sell them to customers. Plus, Idaho wine exporters would be subject to other states' laws.

The legislation now has been cleared to undergo full House-floor debate. If it passes, out-of-state wineries would pay Idaho sales and excise taxes on such transactions. That's about $250,000 annually. The state has not been collecting taxes on out-of-state wine sales. There would be no limit on wine bought directly from Idaho vineyards or wine-tasting rooms, and taken home by the purchaser.

And most Idaho wineries are too small to have their bottled beverages shipped through established distributors, Ron Bitner of Bitner Vineyards told the Associated Press.

"Once you get below 5,000 cases a year, it's hard" to get the interest of distributors, said Bitner (seen here with wife Mary), whose 12-acre, 1,000-case winery offers wines made from riesling, cabernet and syrah grapes. "You can't fill the distributor's pipeline. With the economies of scale, we need to be selling retail."

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