Originally published Jan. 20, 2017
By Andy Perdue, former writer of The Grapevine
ACCORDING TO THE Constitution, Prohibition ended in 1933. But our nation’s dubious and far-fetched flirtation with banning the devil’s drink from our ancestors’ lips never really ended, a fact quickly learned if you ever try to ship a bottle of great Washington wine to a friend in another state (or even in Washington).
In January 1920, the United States went dry. The experiment failed miserably. I fondly recall my father telling me stories of his grandmother in Shelton going from a staunch nondrinker pre-Prohibition to an imbiber after the passage of the Volstead Act simply because she didn’t like the government telling her what she could and could not do.
In a deliciously ironic twist of history, Walter Clore, hailed as the father of Washington wine, was the son of the president of a temperance union in his native Oklahoma.
The passage of the 21st Amendment (after approval in Utah, no less) would seem to have turned the country wet again. One broad interpretation is that it turned over control of alcohol regulation to the states. The result: 50 alcohol laws instead of one, hardly an improvement.
Looking for more about the fascinating history of Prohibition? Check out “When the Rivers Ran Red” by Vivienne Sosnowski (2010), which chronicles Prohibition in California wine country.
And that is why it is not advised to ship wine yourself. If you do, you are a criminal. The Post Office won’t ship wine anywhere, and UPS and FedEx will do so only if you’ve signed a wine shipper’s agreement, which has special provisions regarding liability, packaging and reporting components.
These agreements are available only to licensed alcohol retailers, such as wineries and wine shops. And the differences from state to state are ridiculously stark.
So what should you do if you want to send a bottle of wine or two to a friend or family member on the other side of the country? In my experience, it is too much of a hassle to figure it out yourself. Every winery you encounter will have a shipping expert. Let that person handle the difficult work for you. Want to send wines from multiple wineries? Turn to your favorite wine merchant. You just have to be sure it holds a direct shipping license for the state you want to ship to.
And don’t let shipping hassles keep you from ordering wines from Oregon and Idaho. They’ll love to ship to you.
Just don’t try to do it yourself. Prohibition still lives.