Better know a wine law: Maryland!

Maryland, the home of the Fightin’ Terps, threatens to turn its wine lovers into perps: The laws governing these five and a half million residents make it a felony to order wine online and have it shipped to their homes. To purchase wines, consumers residing Annapolis, Baltimore or along the Chesapeake must buy from a local store; comparison shopping through retailers on the internet or ordering directly from a winery is illegal. (Small wonder neighboring DC is the thirstiest non-state in the nation.)

Maryland is also home to 38 wineries today. Seeking to jump-start the domestic wine industry after Prohibition, the US Department of Agriculture turned to this mid-Atlantic state, opening an experimental winery in Beltsville, Maryland. Even though it was not long-lived, today’s wineries follow the early trail blazed by the Feds. The only problem: they cannot ship their wines to consumers in-state or out-of-state. In a recent survey (pdf), all but one winery respondents found this to negatively affect their business.

The keys to reforming the laws that have kept Marylanders locked out of the wine cellar for several decades may be within reach. Although the legislation has been introduced every year since 1981, Adam Borden, executive director of Marylanders for Better Beer and Wine Laws, says that this year it has majority support in both houses.

But the legislative path is not without roadblocks. Who has screwcaps big enough to stand in the path of this legislation? Senator Joan Carter Conway, chair of the Health and Education committee, threatened to stifle the bill in committee despite six of nine members being co-sponsors. But today, a committee in the House will hear testimony on the issue.

Robert Parker, Maryland’s best-known wine consumer, will not be testifying today since he is traveling, according to Borden.

Marylanders for Better Wine and Beer Laws and their page On Facebook
House Bill (80/141)
Senate Bill (26/47)

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16 Responses to “Better know a wine law: Maryland!”

  1. Thank god . . .
    Someday I might be able to get some good wine when visiting my parents without going into DC!

  2. America really has an antiquated system of wine distribution.

  3. I am a resident of Maryland and covered Mrs. Conway’s blocking of the bill and the reasons for her position (having to do primarily with where she gets her campaign contributions and what her husband does for a living) on my blog here, if anyone cares to read it.

    I will be shocked if this passes. I tend to be an optimist, but when it comes to the Maryland Legislature, money talks… and the only people really against this bill (the liquor distributors) happen to be big political contributors. The folks in Annapolis know this isn’t the kind of issue that gets them booted out of office, and they know they can publicly support the bill without ever needing to actually vote on it. So they’ll talk a good game, but no one will stand up to Conway to move the bill through.

    The MBBWL are doing a heck of a job bringing attention to the issue, and I sure hope I’m wrong in my pessimism. It’s insane to think I can’t order a legal product and have it shipped to my house.

  4. We lived in MD for 7 years and fortunately were able to find very good wines stores in Annapolis close to our home near Solomon’s Island. However, we also have a cabin near Yosemite, which is close to wineries in Paso Robles, the Sierra Foothills and other central coast areas. We were not able to join wine clubs or have wine shipped from the wineries without using “alternative means,” such as shipping to friends in neighboring states or via our luggage. People will find a way but why should they? Hopefully Paul’s optimism, like mine, will be repaid, and not our pessimism.

  5. Come on MD. Give us a slight hope that not all politicians are corrupty corrupter-sons!

  6. Thanks for inserting the link – I didn’t want to step on any toes.

    Trying to be optimistic, gonnna open an Xtant tonight hoping someday I can have more shipped to my house.

  7. […] Better know a wine law: Maryland! (Dr. Vino, by Tyler Coleman) […]

  8. Marylanders for Better Beer and Wine Laws is really trying to bring attention to this issue. I can’t wait for the day when I can have wine shipped to my house! It’s a shame Maryland is missing out on the potential revenue from wine shipping licenses and taxes from this great source. When they change this law, I’m ordering a case of something REALLY expensive!

  9. Dems and the media complain vociferously when the lone voices of Bunning (R) and Shelby (R) block US Senate actions for “misguided principles.” Where is this outrage when Conway (D) does the same for campaign contributions.

  10. It’s just so wonderfully ironic that the state that Robert Parker calls home is so protectionist. But as I understand it the legislature did pass some sort of law years ago that allows Mr. Parker to get his samples, so no need for him to insert himself in the debate on behalf of the sort of people who keep him rich and happy.

  11. All,

    Even after Friday’s hearing, the Baltimore Sun is pessimistic on the chances of wine law reform this year; also, Borden has resigned
    Let Del. Dereck E. Davis, head of the House Economic Matters Committee, know your feelings!


    We previously discussed Parker’s critic exemption here:

  12. Great comments!

    Adam Borden did a terrific job getting the grassroots growing. If the bill ever passes, every winery in CA ought to send him a bottle. This guy has been amazing; he’s been everywhere. They all know him in Annapolis now. It’s been a pleasure to work with him the past year.

    Bob Parker- He deserves praise for stepping up to the plate. He did not testify, but he did send a letter to the Governor supporting the cause and probably did more behind the scenes. He knows what goes on in MD. Maybe next year he’ll testify. He’s got good reasons to stay away from this.

    Senator Joan Carter Conway- (D), she has been called out on this everywhere. This is not totally a RED/BLUE issue. A majority of both parties sponsor it. It is true that the BLUE team leadership are a large part of the reason it fails. However, the “REDS” are just as complicit. In the House it is the Republicans- Warren Miller, Stiffler, Impallaria, James King, who earn equal credit for sinking this in the subcommittee which prevents it from moving to a full house vote. The irony for me is that the DEMS have stepped up for what is IMO, more of a libertarian issue.

    We need people to write, act and organize. I am suggesting a boycott of those MD Districts, such as Conway’s and Warren Miller for buying wine. Let those business know that consumers can vote with money too. “Don’t buy in District 9”. (9A – a slice of Howard County) Plenty of other places to buy wine, including DC/VA/PA/DEL.

    Blog links to the Washington Post, and Baltimore Sun Op-Eds below

    Many thanks to all those who showed up in Annapolis to let them hear directly the issues.

    Please find me on Facebook and other places, if you are ready to step up to this challenge. tmcquighan at

  13. […] rare moment in the legislative sun for the subject of wine direct shipping in the Maryland, where, as we discussed, is a felony to ship wine. Consumers and wine industry experts gave testimony before a committee. Tom Wark, executive […]

  14. How sad…I am considering a move from Southern California to Rockville. I was horrified when I learned that you cannot have wine shipped to your door. SoCal has fine wine available (boutique wines) at our local grocery stores.

    Regardless of the politics this law just makes Maryland seem, well, backwards. I almost fell out of the chair to learn that in racically conserative Virgina …of course, you can order on line in there. Perfect.

  15. I forgot to ask…so, since you can’t order online are there any stores that are highly recommended to purchase Rombauer, Frank Family Vineywards, and other fine wines? I guess my concern isn’t so much being able to purchase online as it is finding wines above the caliber that would be served in the Marriot, Applebees, and Olive Garden. Thanks. Too bad about the ordering though…Turely wines are only sold online so there are alot of MD residents missing out on some very nice wines.

  16. Being retired, my wife and I decided to travel, by car, accross the country visiting family. At every stop we were able to purchase fine wine and carried some to the next stop. Upon reaching CA, and finding their great wines, we purchased several cases to have them shipped back home. However, knowing Maryland’s backward, stupid laws, I shipped them to a friend in the surrounding area. When I told the wineries why I had to do this, they laughed and were thankful they did not live here.


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