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A Quest To End “At Rest”

February 12, 2014

Sometimes I feel powerless. When the gears of government start turning, they tend to take on a life of their own. And there doesn’t seem to be a thing you, or I, or anyone else can do to stop it.

It’s not as if the opposing political party would be any less inclined to help big business get their way at the expense of the consumer.

When I found out that the state of New York was seriously considering “at rest” legislation that endangered the existence of small wine distributors I was shocked. It made no sense. Small wine distributors are able find incredible bottles from all around the world, made by independent producers in limited quantities. These may not be the wine brands that you know, but these are the wines that you want to be drinking.

These are the wines that I want to be drinking.

Now there is an effort out there to “Stop the Cork Tax” which will help you generate a letter to your state legislator. It’s a fine and important step. Please click here to add your name to the pile and share the news about this lopsided legislation.

Still, I felt like we should be able to do something more. After a little bit of collaboration with Adam Morey at Empire Wine & Spirits, I think we have the making of the best protest ever.

So what exactly is this bill and why should you care? Here’s a bit from the “Stop the Cork Tax” press release:

A proposed New York law (A5125-2013 / S3849-2013) would require that wine and spirits sold in within the state must be warehoused “At Rest” in New York state for at least 48 hours prior to delivery. Currently, these products stop first in New Jersey warehouses.

“The reason the wines are warehoused in New Jersey is because all of the ports are located there,” said Dominick Purnomo, wine director / owner, Yono’s & dp An American Brasserie located at 25 Chapel St in Albany. “If they were to then truck the wines into New York for storage, that would raise prices at every level.”

Although the two largest wholesalers in the state are located in New York, many small-scale distributors currently use New Jersey warehouses. While large wholesalers generally represent mass-produced wine and spirits, the smaller distributors are known for showcasing boutique wine and spirits produced by small, independent labels.

My biggest concerns are that the “At Rest” legislation will drive up costs for wine in the state while also reducing consumers’ choices.

The lawmakers will describe this initiative as a way to create warehouse jobs for New Yorkers, those in the wine business see it much differently. They see it as a money grab by the two largest wine distributors in the state. Those are Southern Wine & Spirits and Empire Merchants (which has no relation whatsoever with Empire Wine & Spirits). The breadth of wine brands these distributors carry is staggering.

Let’s show those big guys, who incidentally have made generous political donations over the years, that we don’t like their shenanigans.

The best way to do that is to exclusively buy wine from smaller distributors.

That’s easier said than done. Wine distributors are pretty much an invisible piece of the wine market to consumers. Winebow, Martin-Scott, Michael Skurnik, Monsieur Touton, Polaner Selections, and Verity Wine Partners aren’t exactly household names, but these are just some of the small distributors for whom we are fighting.

So with Adam’s help, we came up with six wines, one from each distributor. These are all smaller, idiosyncratic wines that represent exactly the kind of diversity and passion these distributors can bring to the market. The following are all available at Empire Wine, and they are all value priced.

I mention that last part because under this proposed legislation, should smaller distributors survive, their costs for doing business will increase and we can expect to pay more for wines like these in the future.

As always, whenever buying a new wine, I recommend getting at least two bottles of each. Now, without further ado, here are your wines.

Tikves Barovo 2012 | Verity Wine Partners | $14.95
This is a blend of indigenous grapes Vranec and Kratuchia from Macedonia. Imported by Eric Solomon/European Cellars. Eric’s wines are diverse and well known. Most of all they consistently represent incredible value. His portfolio is highly regarded by consumers and critics alike. Robert Parker has written that Eric is one of “our country’s most highly esteemed importers.”

Domaine LaPierre Rasins Gaulois 2012 | Winebow Inc | $10.95
Mathieu Lapierre, son of Marcel LaPierre – one of the great pioneers of natural wine – makes this value priced wine from the youngest vines at Domaine LaPierre in Morgon. The wine is imported by another well known figure, Kermit Lynch. Kermit is one the greatest proponents of handcrafted, unfiltered, so-called natural wine.

Cune Crianza Rioja 2010 | Michael Skurnik Wine | $9.95
A phenomenal bargain from the winery that produced Wine Spectator’s #1 Wine of 2013. Imported by Christopher Cannan’s Europvin USA which focuses on “authentic, artisanal wines of genuine character.”

The Shebang Sixth Cuvee | Douglas Polaner Selections | $11.45
60% Zinfandel from vines with 90+ years of age. This wine comes from artisan heritage-site winery Bedrock Wine Company. Master of Wine Morgan Twain-Peterson produces this value-oriented blend as well as single vineyard, old vine red and white wine blends from nearly forgotten sites in California. The Bedrock Vineyard itself was planted more than 100 years ago.

Domaine Thunevin-Calvet Cuvee Constance 2008 | Monsieur Touton Selections | $12.45
Hailing from French Catalonia, this is a delicious, full bodied red that is both complex and pleasure-bent.

Badenhorst Secateurs Chenin Blanc 2013 | Martin-Scott Wines | $11.95
This wine comes from a boutique producer in Swartland, South Africa. AA Badenhorst uses classical winemaking methods including light sulfuring/filtering. The wine is a consistent winner and sells for under $15. It is a crisp, delicious, minerally white. The previous vintage was one of Adam’s go-to whites throughout the summer.

Now go make it happen.

I can’t do it without you. You can buy these bottles online or go down to the store and pick them up in person. Buy one or buy a mixed case of all six. Buy them for yourself or as a gift for a friend. Buy some up for Valentines Day dinner if you are staying in. Chenin Blanc is a great match for oysters (on which I hear fin – your fishmonger is running a VD promotion).

And when you are done, please share this news (and this wine list) with friends. Let’s hit the troublemakers where it hurts, on their ledger sheets. Vote with your wallets. Vote for small distributors. Vote for choice and value. Vote for limited production boutique wines. Vote for the underdog.

Maybe, just maybe, we can simply solve this problem by pairing the right wine for the occasion. Wouldn’t that be fantastic?

But it will only work if enough people take action. Let’s get shopping.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 12, 2014 12:41 pm

    Just signed the petition. It’s a slick interface, hope it does some good. You get to put in one paragraph of personal viewpoint. Here’s what I wrote (though you should compose your own):

    “From a personal viewpoint, I will add that this attempt at political cronyism has a lot of echoes of Christie’s George Washington Bridge embarrassment. I think it will have the same embarrassing effect on its supporters when the public becomes aware of it.”

  2. February 13, 2014 1:37 am

    Just in case you are more comfortable sharing this kind of thing over Facebook, I set up an event page for the “protest”. It’s public and open to all. So invite all your New York friends. This effects all of us, even those downstate.

  3. February 13, 2014 1:41 pm

    There must be something in the water in the Bronx… Political contributions leading to a proposed law to raise prices on everyone’s wine and reduce selection – all in the name of “make work” jobs. If jobs is the issue I propose we require that all food sold in new york be grown without any evil mechanization like tractors. That should lead to tons of new jobs. No? I didn’t think so.

  4. Randy K permalink
    February 14, 2014 8:10 pm

    Picked up a couple of bottles of the Rioja today! Thanks for the tip :)

  5. February 17, 2014 12:50 pm

    The Cune Rioja just “won” at our Rioja wine club over the weekend. Fantastic value!

  6. February 24, 2014 12:09 pm

    I’m curious to know how much coordination Adam did with his staff regarding this protest? I love Empire and their staff, but trying to find these six bottles resulted in six different trips to the computer to find them. Now, I love a good a wine scavenger hunt as much as the next person, but at 5pm on a Friday, I just wanted to get up the Northway home. I guess I was expecting the protest wines to be collected in one of the displays, but maybe that was asking too much? At minimum, I thought the staff would be more aware of this “promotion”. Anyway, of the six wines one was out of stock and another had a different vintage available. We haven’t tried any,yet, but maybe we’ll get to one of them tonight?

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