Wine Consumers Must Take Matters Into Their Own Hands

In late 2004, just prior to the coming Dec 7th oral arguments in the groundbreaking Granholm v Heald Supreme Court case, a number of groups and parties concluded their interests demanded they must inform the Court of their perspective on wine shipping in America. They decided they needed to make a case to the Court. They decided that justice required they tell the court the reasons they believed discriminatory wine shipping laws were good or bad for the country. So, all these groups submitted to the Supreme Court an Amicus Brief, otherwise know as a “Friend of the Court” brief.

Those submitting these legal briefs to the Supreme Court back then included:

The Michigan Assoc. of School Principals 
National Beer Wholesalers Association
The National Conference of State Liquor Administrators 
A collection of 33 state attorneys general 
The Wine and spirits Wholesalers of America 
The Illinois Alcoholism Association .
A Collection of Wine Industry Associations
The Wine Institute
The Congressional Wine Caucus
Nobel Prize winning economists 
Five states favoring free trade 
The Napa Valley Vintners 
The Cargo Airline Association (FedEx)
DKT Liberty Project
Ebay and Other Retailers
Goldwater Institute brief

Who’s missing?

This collection of interests, institutions, associations and lawmakers all represent commercial interests of one sort or another. There was no Amicus Brief submitted in the Granholm v Heald case on behalf of the folks most impacted by the Court’s ultimate decision: Consumers.

That’s going to change in the case of Byrd v Tennessee, a case to be heard before the Supreme Court sometime during the first part of the year that has the potential to finally decide if states may constitutionally, through discriminatory state laws, bar its consumers from receiving wine shipments from out-of-state wine stores and retailers .

Today, 36 states ban their residents from receiving wine shipments from out-of-state wine retailers and most of those bans are discriminatory. In other words, those states allow their own wine stores to ship wine to consumers in the state, but bar out-of-state wine stores from doing the same. The upshot is that consumers in those states may not receive shipments of any imported wines, auction house wines or wine-of-the-month club wines from out-of-state because only retailers sell these wines. and the National Association of Wine Retailers are overseeing an Amicus brief in the Byrd v Tennessee case that will present the interest of consumers. Using a GoFundMe campaign, the brief will be funded 100% by consumers. The interests of consumers will be put before the justices and clerks of the Supreme Court.

That consumers were not represented in Granhom v Heald is both absurd and predictable. As I’ve written before, consumers are rarely consulted in any way when wine shipping laws are passed specifically impacting them. Still…

Writing the Amicus Brief on behalf of consumers will be Robert Epstein and Alex Tanford, two men who have litigated on behalf of consumers, wineries and retailers in the area of wine shipping more than anyone else in the country. They helped bring the Granholm case to the Supreme Court and have filed numerous other wine shipping related lawsuits. Most recently they convinced a Federal court in Michigan that this states discriminatory ban on retailer wine shipping was unconstitutional.

Here’s what I want to ask readers of this blog: 

If you support consumer rights…
If you believe protectionist wine shipping bans are wrong…
If you want to help wine consumer and the wine market…


If you work in the wine industry, then the ability of consumers to access wine is of vital importance to you. In fact, your job depends on it. If you drink wine, you are a wine consumer and you ought to have access to all of the hundreds of thousands of wines available in the country. Most important, as a consumer your voice and your views ought to be placed front and center in this important Supreme Court case.


7 Responses

  1. Pete Downs - November 14, 2018

    Tom you are correct – no briefs by consumers on Granholm. Had that avenue been available at the time (using go-fund-me) it certainly would have been used. At the time of the case I was working for Jackson Family Wines and was on the Board of Family Winemakers of California which actually brought the suit that broke open the direct to consumers possibilities that we have today. Don’t forget to mention FAMLY WINEMAKERS OF CALIFORNIA the next time you write about Granholm.
    Pete Downs
    President of Family Winemakers of California

  2. Tom Wark - November 14, 2018


    How are you? I would love to get a quick history of your role and FWC’s role in Granholm. I know you were involved in all those issues. Let me know if that’s possible.


  3. VVP (veux, veux-pas) - November 14, 2018

    1. How 36 states ban their residents from receiving wine shipments from out-of-state?

    2. Why brief is only about wine? Why wine in such favor, but other liquors are discriminated?

    3. Aren’t citizens rights guaranteed and protected by U.S. Constitution?

  4. Agent Red - November 14, 2018

    Donated! Word spread! Grateful for the ways in which you’ve fought this fight, Tom. Thank you.

  5. Pete - November 14, 2018

    Wine lovers have been barred from receiving wine shipments from out-of-state wine stores not by any law, but only by outrageous behavior of UPS and FedEx executives and legals conspired with national wholesalers and state liquor monopolies.

    Now, when goal is met, we should buy better lawyers and go against real enemies.

  6. Fakrash el Aamash - November 15, 2018

    All liquors have the absolutely the same intoxicating effect. Why wine is so privileged again?

    Donate for whiskeys, brandies, vodkas (they are also table wine by definition), tequilas, gins, aperitifs, cordials, liqueurs, beers, hard ciders, wine coolers, malted beverages, mixed drinks and all other alcoholic beverages suitable for human consumption.

    They all have absolutely equal right to be shipped from retailer to consumer.

  7. Jeremiah S. - November 15, 2018

    New Don Quixote, another Sancho Panso and all the same old wind mills.

    The retailer to consumer shipping ban is phantom, myth and illusion contrived by greedy politicians and their spongers.

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