Saturday, July 09, 2011

Terhune owner worried about winery, NJ legislature failure

DATE POSTED: Thursday, July 7, 2011 5:07 PM EDT
By Marisa Iati, Staff Writer
Princeton Packet

The failure of the New Jersey Legislature to pass a bill that would protect wineries’ ability to sell directly to retailers, restaurants and individuals could jeopardize Terhune Orchards’ Vineyard and Winery.

The bill is S2782 in the Senate and A3897 in the Assembly. The Senate passed the bill on July 1 but the Assembly did not.

Gary Mount, co-owner of Terhune Orchards, said the bill is a response to a lawsuit filed by California wine interests. The suit claims it is unfair that New Jersey law does not allow other states’ wineries to ship their products into New Jersey.

”The interstate commerce clause is a very powerful and far-reaching part of federal law and states are not allowed to do anything that inhibits interstate commerce,” said Mr. Mount. “The gist of the lawsuit is that New Jersey’s law was (giving an) unfair advantage (to) New Jersey wineries as compared to other states.”

”The legislation that was sponsored by (state) Sen. (Stephen M.) Sweeney leveled the playing field, made out-of-state wineries more equal with in-state wineries,” he said. “He sponsored a bill and indeed the Senate passed this bill, which would answer the requirements of the federal court case.”
Mr. Mount said because the bill did not pass in the Assembly, New Jersey has not adequately addressed the concerns raised by the lawsuit. He does not know what will happen next because the state Legislature has gone on summer recess.

”What we’re told is that the judgment will come out from the federal courts over the summer,” he said.

Terhune began investing in its wine business six years ago. Depending on the outcome of the lawsuit, Terhune may have to cease marketing its wine, he said.

”We might not be able to sell direct to liquor stores or restaurants and we may not even be able to sell at the vineyard here,” he said. “To not be able to market the wine that way is going to be disastrous for the wineries. The only option that might still be available to us would be selling through wholesalers, but all of New Jersey farm wineries are so small that dealing with the wholesalers isn’t really an option.”

Mr. Mount said he had planned to sign a contract to build a new winery building at the orchard but no longer plans to do so.

”We won’t invest in that if we might not even be able to sell our wine,” he said.

Mr. Mount said New Jersey farm wineries are formulating a plan to address their concerns, but he does not yet know what that plan will be.

”I have heard that the Assembly is going to meet for a short time in July,” he said. “I think our representatives in the Assembly need to hear that people are in favor of having farm wineries.”

People enjoy visiting farm wineries, he said.

”If they just want to get a bottle of wine they can go to a liquor store, but if they want to go where the wine’s produced, talk to the people who are making the wine, see the place where it’s made, that’s one of the reasons they really like to come to a farm winery,” he said. “It’s a real amenity to a town to have a farm winery.”

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