Local winery in favor of online wine sales - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Local winery in favor of online wine sales

May 9, 2008

Arlington -- Tucked away in rural Calhoun County is 170 acres of muscadine vineyard known as Still Pond. Family owned and operated for decades, this Arlington based winery has been a staple of south Georgia's small, but successful wine industry.

"We've had the vineyard here about 40 years. For a number of those years, we were hand picking, grading, packing table grapes and selling whole fruit to wineries. About 6 years ago, we decided to get out of the fresh market business and go strictly into the juice and wine end of it," says owner Charles Cowart.

Cowart says this move has proven successful as his winery now boasts 11 different award winning wines. But while Still Pond wines are distributed throughout the state of Georgia, direct sales from the winery itself have not been so strong.

He says, "We have seen a decrease in it. Before, our weekend traffic was the high time and now we're seeing that being spread more during the week. When somebody's passing by they'll stop. They won't wait until the weekend to make a special trip out here. It would certainly be a benefit for them to go online and click a mouse to order a bottle of wine rather than making the trip."

But right now it's illegal to do that in Georgia - one of only a handful of states in the country that does not allow online shipping sales of wine to consumers. However, this could all change very soon by way of a bill passed last month by the General Assembly which would allow Still Pond and other Georgia wineries to sell their products over the world wide web.

"What we're talking about is House Bill 1061. It would sort of bring us into the 21st century, along with some of our neighboring states, in allowing us to ship wine to customers," says Cowart.

If Governor Perdue give his approval on the bill, it would allow consumers 21-years-of-age and older to order up to 12 cases of wine online - provided an age verification and an adult signature upon delivery. 

Cowart agrees that online wine sales would not only be beneficial to the future growth of his business, but to the community and state as well.

He says, "We pay a lot of taxes - local, state, and federal taxes -.so I can't see it being anything more than win, win, win for everybody."

House Bill 1061 would allow consumer to order wine from licensed wineries and have them delivered, even on Sundays. But before sales can be made online, it requires the licensed seller to have security features on website to ensure the person making the purchase is of the legal drinking age.

Along with HB 1061, Senate Bill 55, also known as the "Merlot to Go" bill, passed last month. The measure would allow restaurant patrons to take home a resealed bottle of wine purchased with a meal. But the pen is mightier than the cork and Governor Perdue will have to sign off on the bills before they go into law.

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