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Supreme Court considers changes to wine shipping rules

January 28, 2019

Big doings last week in D.C.  On Wednesday, the Supremes, minus Notorious RBG, heard arguments concerning shipping wine. Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Association v. Blair could invalidate liquor laws nationwide by allowing us, the hoi polloi, to order wine from out-of-state retailers and wineries. The original case seemed quite narrow: How long must one be a resident of a state to get a license to sell. SCOTUS probably would have refused to hear this case. However, several states joined and broadened the parameters. They are afraid conglomerates like Total Wine & More might become like Amazon and gobble up all their liquor stores and big money-making, state-owned dispensaries. Somehow the issue transmogrified into an Article 1 Section 9 Interstate Commerce Clause argument. I think SCOTUS took this case to allow possible large changes. The 2005 Granholm v. Heald 5/4 decision opened up some shipping by narrowly opening the ruling of the Prohibition Repeal amendment, which basically established states’ rights for deciding rules and lawmaking regarding sales of booze. Justice Thomas in Granholm wrote strenuously for the minority. In my opinion, Tennessee, with or without Notorious RBG, will provide insight into the court’s future direction regarding USC Amendments 9 and 10 and Article 1 Section 9. It appears the Civil War did not resolve one of its primary drivers, states’ rights.

This is a conflicted place for me. I’m a strong originalist supporter and free marketeer. In this recent wino argument, free market seems to be providing an expansive QPR polarization, with cheap plonk and ultra-expensive top-flight product “de rigueur.” Recent consolidation of the small, independent wine producers and growers, through purchase by huge multinational conglomerate distributors, has had a pronounced negative impact on quality, with a drive toward mediocrity and broad-based appeal at the low end, while prices for boutique top-quality wine rise through the proverbial roof. Regulars are well aware I constantly push for readers to establish a solid relationship with local stores which provide service. While it may be true that it costs a few pennies more at a mom-and-pop, it is also true that well-informed and connected shop owners can move more quickly and effectively to satisfy your wants and desires. The other option, “just doin’ it,” is actually unlawful in Delaware. The Supremes could wipe out Delaware’s anti-competition laws. Look for a decision in March or April. Best wishes to Notorious for a speedy recovery and a long, happy retirement starting soon.

Concha y Toro Don Melchor is a fine example of top-flight Cabernet Sauvignon that doesn’t break your wallet when buying properly aged wine. I recommended both the 2010, at $81 in 2014, now $101, and the 2011, $53 in 2012, now $90, as excellent buys on release. They have come into their own and are ready now with plenty of shelf life left. Both are easily found. I think the ‘11 is the better buy. Although it is a bit less lush, the ‘11 has fewer sharp edges and is not as fruity. The winemaker only needed 1 percent Cab Franc for color and tannin while the 2010 needed 3 percent. Also shows a tad more acidity, which I prefer. Both are top drawer at their price. As a comparison, Total Wines in Virginia and Minnesota are selling the 2011 for $80, Pennsylvania Liquor Board at $90. In Delaware, Total is selling the 2014 for $105. The most recent release, 2015, is excellent! Concha claims it is the best they’ve ever produced. I’m down with that. I’ve seen it advertised by Calvert Woodley at $550/6-pak. You guys know what a tightwad I can be. Cellarers should buy the 2015 up to $110/bottle and don’t wait. Very dark cherry color with a mixed bouquet of plum, cherry, currant, graphite minerality and tobacco nuance. Smooth, round, full-bodied with raspberry, chocolate and slight white pepper flavors, fine ripe tannins, and proper acidity flowing through a long, juicy finish; 94 McD ready now-2024. The 2016 will cellar 15 years at least and be ready in two. Most would be better served to buy 2011 for $95 and drink some with dinner tomorrow night.

Don’t forget Polar Bear Plunge, Saturday, Feb. 2, in Rehoboth Beach to support Special Olympics. The weekend includes the plunge and a 5K plus a bunch of other fun events. Last year, about $875K was raised. It is a ton of fun. You can support the event through my daughter’s team web page, www.classy.org/fundraiser/1796886.