SCOTUS backs off, so wine shipping rules are still undecided

January 21, 2023

Unfortunately for consumers, on Jan. 9, SCOTUS declined to hear a case that would affirm Granholm v. Heald, which allowed shipping alcohol interstate, thereby reaffirming that the Interstate Commerce Clause was superior to the 21st Amendment rule (prohibition repeal) that legalized the right of states to devise their separate booze laws. Previous cases have risen to SCOTUS, and in each, they affirmed Granholm. The problem is that a ton of money flows from big biz to state legislators, as campaign contributions and other benefits, while they continue to refuse to follow the higher law, thereby denying we the peeps unfettered access. I had hope in 2019, when the Tennessee Wine and Spirits v. Thomas decision was upheld. However, even that decision did not move our Delaware Legislature. Do not abandon hope! Two cases are wending their way through Illinois/Indiana and Arizona. If either is upheld by the circuit courts, it would be normal for the Supremes to weigh in when two districts oppose their opinions. As usual, and highlighting the glacial movement of our court system, oral arguments were held in December 2021 at the 7th Circuit, and those paper shufflers have not rendered a decision yet. Please recognize this is only one side of the discussion. The opposite camp has decent opinions to consider. Are the consumers' interests and access to diversity of items to purchase at fair prices protected given the ongoing consolidations among various industries into Amazon- and Walmart-like mega-providers? Will we be best served by the demise of small businesses this could cause? Follow the money. Occam's razor, while often correct, was not carved into granite by a lightning laser from on high. This paragraph was prompted by a W. Blake Gray article, titled “SCOTUS backs down from another wine case,” with added thoughts from me on local effects. (Wine case; get it?)

2019 was an excellent year for Saint-Emilion Grand Crus. Do not leave! Not all of them cost milyuns or bilyuns. The following is a great buy under $18: Montagne-Saint-Emilion Chateau Teyssier 2019, 75% merlot, 25% Cab Franc, redolent of boysenberry, raspberry and barrel spice. Cab Franc provides color, body and acidity to a huge, concentrated palate where aromas repeat; add in some mocha and herbal flavors. Color and tannins say it will continue to improve, 91 McD plus 2 huge price points; at under $15, it is stealing. There are plenty at New Jersey stores under $13 plus tax. Read label exactly! The original Chateau Teyssier Saint-Emilion Grand Cru is based near Saint-Émilion, just outside Bordeaux. It is now the family home of Jonathan Maltus, who purchased the property in the 1990s and has expanded operations into JCP Maltus Vigneron & Winemaker. His products are informed by Thomas Duclos, the best-regarded wine guy in Bordeaux these days.

Next up is Olema Cab 2019. I still remember riding a grape picker with Barbara on a night pick piloted by Jerry Lohr. At the time he was regarded as a legendary innovator. To avoid picking during the very hot daytime temps in Arroyo Seco, he had adapted one of those machines used to move large stacks of lumber, fitted it with wands to shake the grape clusters loose and installed a conveyor attachment to deliver the bunches to waiting trucks. With further processing, he had them chilled, thereby providing juice at the appropriate temperature to the destemmers. As he drove us through the rows, he explained the process and told the group stories. An accomplished raconteur. Anyhow, In the mid-1970s, most of the product was Riesling and by a happy circumstance a varietal type named Valdiguié. It was thought to be Gamay, until genetic testing discovered its true name. How about trying something new to you, with big, jammy, ripe fruit and spice? The 2021 J. Lohr Wildflower Valdiguié is the best recent vintage. The J. Lohr Monterey Roots is $13 and a solid 89 McD. They recommended it with crab cakes and remoulade, Croque Monsieur, or goat cheese and sun-dried tomato ravioli. The Hilltop Cab 2019 from Paso Robles can be found under $30, 91 McD. J. Lohr produces 1.8 million cases and Wine Enthusiast recently wrote, “What Robert Mondavi was to Napa Valley, Jerry Lohr is to the Central Coast.” I met each of them on several occasions; both were nice men, but Lohr was much more fun.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct a location error. 

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter