A wine collector in Kentucky has launched a grassroots effort to overturn the state's 1996 law that prevents residents from ordering wine from out-of-state sources and having it shipped directly to their homes.
Last December, Lauren Abel, owner of a public relations and marketing firm in Burlington, started a campaign close to her heart: gathering petitions from residents throughout the state and encouraging wine lovers to call their state legislators, asking them to repeal Kentucky's shipping ban.
Until 1996, Abel and her husband had no trouble collecting boutique wines from California and elsewhere to expand their cellar, which contains 300 to 400 bottles. Then the state passed a law making it a felony for an out-of-state winery or retailer to ship to a Kentucky residence. Now Abel and other wine collectors can only buy from local stores, which don't always carry the rarer wines they are seeking.
"This is a violation of the Constitution," said Abel. "If we are a free country, a true democracy, why are you legislating my personal rights away? Who are you to tell me what I can and cannot buy? It goes deeper than the fact that I can't pursue my hobby. It goes to the heart of what being a U.S. citizen is about."
Groups of consumers in several other states -- including Indiana, Texas and Virginia -- have filed lawsuits in federal court seeking to overturn shipping laws. (In December, a U.S. District Court ruled that Indiana's direct-shipping ban interferes with interstate commerce and therefore violates the Constitution, but that decision is being appealed.)
Abel, however, hopes to enact change through the legislative process, which she feels will cost Kentucky taxpayers less money. However, she said that if consumer lobbying efforts don't succeed during this legislative session, she would consider taking her case to court.
Kentucky residents who are interested in circulating petitions or receiving more information can contact Abel via e-mail at email@example.com or write to her at P.O. Box 569, Burlington KY 41005.
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For a complete overview of the direct shipping issue, read our feature package The Wine Wars.