A forum on direct wine shipping Tuesday at the Goldwater Institute in Phoenix was anything but a dry recitation of policy.
After a panel discussion, several supporters of direct shipment delivered animated comments and grievances to panelist Karen Gravois of the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America, the only speaker not in favor of direct shipping.
"How do you justify the economic discrimination between what's available in state and what's available out of state?" asked Larry Winer of the Arizona State University law school.
She responded that states have the right to regulate alcohol, and taking away that tight would affect a states' ability to promote an orderly marketplace and collect taxes.
There was also a minority in the room opposing direct shipping.
"I don't know why you people have such an ax to grind that you want to shake down the whole system," said Ray Johnson, who introduced himself as a nephew of Barry Goldwater.
The forum presented arguments for and against allowing consumers to buy wine directly from wineries. Panelist Sen. Barbara Leff, R-Paradise Valley said, "What I discovered from my constituents is that they weren't able to get the wines they wanted" at local stores.
Arizona law requires wine shipments to go through a three-tier system, meaning that wineries must sell to wholesalers, who bring it into the state and sell the wine to consumers. The Goldwater Institute, among other groups, advocates also allowing consumers to order directly from wineries, either over the phone or through the Internet.
In addition to Leff and Gravois, the panel included Clint Bolick, vice president of the Institute for Justice, and Sen. Ken Cheuvront, D-Phoenix. Mark Brnovich of the Goldwater Institute moderated the panel.
Gravois was the first to speak, outlining the wholesalers' reasons for opposing direct shipment. She argued that the 21st Amendment gave states the power to regulate alcohol, and that their control over liquor will be taken away if direct shipment is allowed. Arizona is one of 24 states that forbid direct shipments to consumers from out-of-state wineries.
She said that selling wine over the Internet and by phone is "bootlegging."
Bolick painted the issue as a "David versus Goliath" battle, with large corporate liquor distributors lobbying to limit the ability of small, family-owned wineries to do business. Brnovich prepared a policy report on the subject that is available online. Click on "Studies" for the full text.