Juanita Swedenburg, owner of Swedenburg Winery in Middleburg, Va., and champion of direct interstate wine shipping, died at her home on June 9, at the age of 82.
As the lead plaintiff in Swedenburg v. Kelly, Swedenburg teamed up with the Institute of Justice law firm to challenge New York state's laws that banned out-of-state wineries from shipping bottles directly to in-state consumers. While New York state wineries were allowed to ship to in-state customers, out-of-state wineries were forced to sell through wholesalers and retailers--a costly and unlikely undertaking for small wineries like Swedenburg's.
After the protracted legal battle ended up in the Supreme Court, Swedenburg won her case on May 16, 2005, opening the New York market--the second largest in the country--to out-of-state wineries, as long as they undergo the process of acquiring a direct-shipping license. Anne Heidig, president of the Virginia Wineries Association, called the case a "landmark," and said that the ruling "forced additional looks at [the shipping laws] in all the states." Heidig noted, though, that some states have since used the ruling to limit direct shipping from both in-state and out-of-state wineries.
The feisty, no-nonsense vintner traveled to New York for the U.S. District Court hearings and helped put a face on a complex legal argument involving the U.S. Constitution's Commerce Clause. In 2002, Swedenburg told Wine Spectator that she was motivated to challenge the status quo because so many of her visitors came from other states and they couldn't understand why they couldn't send purchases back home or, when they returned, call up to order more wine. She estimated she lost 20 percent of her business a year because she couldn't ship wine directly to out-of-state customers. She added that those who campaigned to uphold state shipping laws "don't realize what a mobile country we are."
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