Thursday, September 24, 2009

Maryland group pushing change in state's shipment law toasting several recent successes

I've been on the e-letter list for the group called Marylanders for Better Beer & Wine Laws since January, when I had a chance to interview executive director Adam Borden about his fight to change the state law prohibiting wineries from shipping their product to homes around the country.

Despite a crazy few weeks either testifying or simply arguing his case to anyone within earshot, the bill to overturn that law was rejected. Just like always. But Borden vowed that 2010 would be different, and recent developments would give some prescience to that battle cry, although he's far from overconfident.

Chatting by phone Thursday afternoon with him, Borden said there has been a "huge amount of progress" with the push to pass this bill early next year through Maryland's House and Senate. One shove came from a Sept. 7 editorial in the Baltimore Sun that supported his group's agenda. The headline: Our view: If Maryland wants to grow wineries and accommodate consumers, the state's misguided ban on direct shipment of wine must finally be discarded.

Borden said he heard that the editorial reverberated quite loudly in Maryland's capital of Annapolis as well as elsewhere across the state. "That was really exciting," he said, "and for them to come out tis early with such a long endorsement was really great."

Indeed, not a single opponent would show up to argue their side with Borden on Dan Rodricks' Midday NPR show last week. And then came last weekend at the Maryland Wine Festival in Carroll County, when the group added about 5,000 signatures to a membership that already topped 10,000. The original group totaled around 1,700.

You can read more about the group and their initiative at, where you also have the opportunity to contribute to this grassroots effort. In the meantime, Borden noted that the group is planning a fund-raiser called "Drink Local: A MD & VA Wine Seminar & Tasting" on Thursday, Oct. 8, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Whittemore House (near Dupont Circle) in Washington D.C. It will feature three Maryland and three Virginia wineries, with each one serving a red and white wine. Virginia viticulturalist Tony Wolf and Association of Maryland Wineries executive director Kevin Atticks will offer a 45-minute seminar on the terroir in the two state. A seminar on the politics of wine in Maryland and Virginia will wrap up the evening.

"It's a great way to profile the industry and let people be able to taste some of the wines," Borden noted.

As for this final push before action on the legislation starts in January, Borden said the key is maintaining the momentum and "making sure the delegates and the senators know that this is going to be an issue that's going to come up for a vote this year [2010] and we want their vote. That's really it.

"They've always been . . . what's been such an easy way to co-sponsor is a bill when you know it's never going to get out of subcommittee. But as soon as it looks like it's going to get out of subcommittee, they say, 'Oh ----, I actually have to do something about it.' Soooo, they better be doing something about it."

No comments: