GOVERNOR CHRISTIE SIGNS LAW SAVING WINERY TASTING ROOMS
AND ALLOWING WINE SHIPMENTS IN AND OUT OF STATE
Gov. Chris Christie today signed historic legislation allowing small New Jersey wineries to keep their tasting rooms open as well as ship their wine directly to consumers inside and outside the state.
The new law also allows small wineries outside New Jersey to directly ship wines to New Jerseyans as well.
“This would not have been possible without the hundreds of thousands of New Jersey wine fans who wrote, emailed and called their local legislators to support the legislation,” said Ollie Tomasello, chairman of the Garden State Wine Growers Association. “It has been a long uphill battle against the powerful national liquor lobby that opposed the legislation—only more proof that when the people speak in volume, their elected officials listen.”
Tomasello gave equal praise to the handful of legislators who worked tirelessly to support the winegrowers and pass this much-needed legislation. Tomasello singled out Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assemblyman John Burzichelli, Deputy Speaker John Wisniewski and Assemblywoman Celeste Riley who sponsored successful bills in the state senate and assembly. “They supported the efforts of farmers and winemakers who work hard for a living to bring New Jerseyans a quality wine product,” said Tomasello, adding “their hard work and your support not only ushers in direct shipping, but helps the state preserve thousands of acres of vital farmland.
“It allows New Jersey to continue to grow as a major source of fine wine and the fastest growing segment of our agricultural economy. And it is a major step in addressing the concerns of a Federal Court ruling last year that ruled New Jersey wineries were operating in an unconstitutional manner by not allowing out-of-state wineries to operate retail outlets and tasting rooms in the state,” observed Tomasello.
“Everyone agrees--wineries, elected officials and state house supporters--it was the public’s support that brought the issue into the limelight and made it top of mind to elected officials who had to vote in the assembly and senate,” said Tomasello. “It was their letters, emails and phone calls that decidedly helped turn the tide in gaining support for the legislation.”
The Wine Growers Association also thanked the governor. “He recognizes and appreciates the efforts of hard working New Jerseyans who expect little in return except the right to grow their businesses in a fair marketplace,” said the association chairman. “The governor’s signature and the legislature’s approval are strong signs to the federal court that New Jersey has tried to do what is right in a free market economy.”
Even though the legislation has been signed into law, it must still undergo the approval of a federal court judge who must now rule whether New Jersey wineries have stopped operating in an unconstitutional manner by not allowing out-of-state wineries to operate retail outlets and tasting rooms in the state.
“We are hopeful the judge finds the new legislation meets the requirement,” said Tomasello. “If so, New Jersey becomes the 39th state to achieve this accomplishment. But it may be months before the law can be practically implemented by the State Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, which also has been holding licensing approvals for 12 new wineries that are built and ready for business but can’t sell wine because of a state moratorium until the issue has been settled.
“We’re confident the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission will look to other states with shipping regulations already in place and act swiftly to implement its own procedures for shipping. In the meantime, we want to thank all of our supporters and fans of New Jersey wine who deserve all the praise for making it happen. It was a long, uphill fight to gain approval. And you did it! Your voices—the people’s voices—are a major reason we won,” said Tomasello.