If Linda Jones McKee wants to sell a bottle of wine from Tamanend Winery at liquor stores in Maryland, she knows just what to do.
Call up a distributor, and make an appointment. Bring in some samples to find out what the distributor likes. If they’re interested, negotiate a price and shipment details, and that’s it.
“Six weeks after that, if they like your wine, you’re in business,” she said. “Even less than six weeks if they really want it.”
If the distributor doesn’t like it? It’s an open market.
“You go down the street to the next distributor,” Jones McKee said.
In Pennsylvania, it’s not that simple.
Here, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is the sole decision-maker behind what gets on the shelves of state-owned liquor stores.
If they don’t like it, you’re out of luck.
For Pennsylvania-based wineries like Tamanend, located in Lancaster, that means there’s just one shot at success.
Gov. Tom Corbett is leading the latest charge to “get out of the business” of selling booze. Critics on both sides of the aisle have come out saying privatization could ignite safety issues, negatively impact rural areas or cause the state to lose money. But polls show voters support privatization.
Corbett’s plans could double the amount of wine and spirit stores in the state, offering up to 1,200 wine and spirit retail locations. Grocery store, and big box retailers like Wal-Mart, also could have the option of selling wine. This would put Pennsylvania in step with most other states. A study from the Food Marketing Institute says 33 states and the District of Columbia allow food stores to sell wine.
It would be a new world for alcohol consumers in Pennsylvania, the pros and cons of which lawmakers will inevitably debate.
But it also would mean a new chapter in the Pennsylvania wine industry.
“It would give us a whole new avenue to market our wines,” Jones McKee said.
Jones McKee first entered the wine industry in the early 80s, as a co-founder of Lancaster-based Wine East magazine. The magazine, which recently merged with Wines and Vines, covered all things wine east of the Rocky Mountains. She co-authored a book, “Pennsylvania Wines,” on the region’s winemaking history and the PLCB.