Shipping wine for the holidays? Not so fast

Sending a bottle of holiday cheer to my friends in Massachusetts seemed like it would be easy enough. I logged onto the Rare Wine Company, my favorite fine wine source. Their monthly newsletter arrived in my mailbox just days ago, and I picked out a nice Pinot Noir. When I called to make sure it would arrive before Christmas, I learned that it's illegal for wine merchants to ship to Massachusetts -- and 13 other states (CT, FL, GA, IN, KY, MD, MI, LA, NC, PA, TN, UT, VA).

A 2005 Supreme Court decision opened the door for interstate wine shipping to states that allow in-state vintners to sell directly to consumers. So I logged onto David Bruce Winery, an excellent Pinot Noir producer I visited when I was in the Santa Cruz, Calif. area a few years ago. Again, I picked up the phone to make sure the wine would arrive in time. Lo and behold, I learned that wineries are also limited as to which states they can ship to.

Next, I decided to see if there was a loophole for mail order companies whose baskets combine food and wine like Wine Country Gift Baskets. I clicked on their FAQs page -- and hit another brick wall. I logged onto the Wine Institute to learn about state shipping laws, and realized there was no way I could ship wine to Massachusetts any time soon.

I Googled the town where my friends live and found two liquor stores. I called them both and learned that while two don't deliver, one of them would deliver wine as long as it wasn't a bottle of Two Buck Chuck -- and someone 21 or older was there to receive the package. Gregory Dolgushkin of the Rare Wine Company also pointed out that an adult signature is required regardless whether you order from an online wine merchant or directly from a winery.

Dolgushkin cautioned that it's a horrible time of year to ship anything -- especially glass bottles -- and they've already experienced delays and breakages. Although there is still time to receive a shipment in time for Christmas, "Nothing is guaranteed," he said. As for my gift, as long as the delivery guy doesn't slip on the ice from the back-to-back winter storms, the wine will be there by Friday.

By then it'll be me who needs the drink.

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