Know Your Local Wine Shop ~ Arkansas Edition

The Arkansas state flag was designed by Willie Kavanaugh Hocker.

The Arkansas state flag was designed by Willie Kavanaugh Hocker.

I love to visit wineries when I am traveling. But sometimes, you can’t get away when you are away. How do I solve the problem? Check out the local wine shop or liquor store.

But, first a word about Arkansas liquor laws.

Confusing is too simple a word. As is arcane.

First off, you can’t buy wine over the internet and have it shipped to you in Arkansas. Well, technically you probably could but because Arkansas won’t ship its liquor to you the other states won’t allow the reverse. You can go into a winery or store buy your liquor and have it shipped to your residence only. You have to have a special label from the ABC (alcoholic beverage control) agency or the special label from Fed Ex or UPS. But the winery has to pay all the taxes to Arkansas and pay for a permit. So naturally most places won’t do it. oh. And you can only have a single case.

Whew. Complicated. But it gets worse. Like if you live there worse.

Some counties are wet. Some are dry. Some are wet and have dry towns. Some are dry and have wet towns. In wet places you can get beer and wine in a grocery store. And in most wet places you can’t buy on Sunday. Because God.

You will find team spirit everywhere! Photo by Gretchen Neuman for VinoVerve

You will find team spirit everywhere! Photo by Gretchen Neuman for VinoVerve

The best way to figure out what is going on in your area is to drive around on Sunday and find out which stores have full parking lots. That’s how my dad figured it out. Luckily as a retiree, he could pick where they could move. Which is why they don’t live in Conway, Arkansas. They originally were really set on the place. And then they went to dinner at nice steak house and found out that their beverage options were Coca-Cola and sweet tea. Ugh.

So they opted for a place in Benton County.

And while they found a place that is open on Sundays (after 11am of course so the baby Jesus doesn’t weep) that wasn’t the place that they took us to during our inaugural trip to Arkansas. We went to Guess Who?.  An odd name, I agree, but a great shop, super friendly and busy too.

Organized into four sections, the store has a separated entrance for those buying liquor by the case.  And I mean a case of Tito’s Vodka.  I think this spot is mostly for the restaurants or clubs, but the lady running it was super friendly.  The other entrance is for the regular customers.  Broken down into beer, wine and liquor sections.  The beer section includes a cooler with a large section of craft brews.  Much to Kevin’s excitement it also sells Boulevard Brewing Company beers.  Technically not a craft brew anymore after being sold to the folks at Duval, it hasn’t become as accessible as Sam Adams or Budweiser, but we can’t get it at home.  As as extra special plus for Kevin, this store carries the special brews usually only available in the tasting room.  The liquor section is probably the smallest part of the store. Found in front of the registers found by type on short black metal shelves.. Liquors are organized by type.  Pretty standard stuff.

Duck Dynasty wine.  Fake as the Show... which is probably also a product of California...Photo by Gretchen Neuman for VinoVerve.

Duck Dynasty wine. Fake as the Show… which is probably also a product of California…Photo by Gretchen Neuman for VinoVerve.

The last part of the store is the wine section.  This is probably the largest section and is bright and airy with wines organized in wooden cases by location or varietal.  There is a good mixture of options with popular and bulk wines being found in the front.  Guess Who?  Offers a variety of classes for customers, private wine lockers and wine tasting opportunities.  Oh, and a section for local wines of which I took advantage (and will be discussed later).  The one downside?  Finding this obnoxious Duck Dynasty wine. The wines are being produced in California and have no other connection with the family other than the labeling.  The press release from Trinchero Family Wines says that the family “Share(s) the same values,” with the Robertsons. Not all of them I hope.  But as my mother has always said, “If it looks like a duck, talks like a duck and acts like a duck…. Well, it’s a duck.”

Over all, I was impressed with impressed with Guess Who and expect that I will be shopping there  occasionally while visiting the folks.  If you are in the Bentonville area and need some wine, I suggest you visit them too.



Guess Who?
214 SE Walton Blvd.
Bentonville AR, 72712

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

It Doesn’t Just Happen to Wineries

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Do any of these complaints sound familiar?  It reminds me vaguely of the stories from several years ago about Sam’s Wines & Spirits.

Makes you wonder what happens if the distributors get their way on HR 5034, doesn’t it?  or is the better word “fear”?

The Myth of Protecting the Children From Wine

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Dear Congressman Mike Quigley (and many others, but Mr. Quigley represents my district in Chicago);

I appreciate your sincerity when it come to wanting to protect our youth from demon rum and wine being shipped directly to our homes from the wineries of our choice. I do. Really. I had a lovely conversation (eventually) with your legislative aide on the subject and he emphasized your deep and unabiding concern “for the children” and therefore supported HR 5034.

There is just one problem.

It is rubbish.

As a theory, it is lovely. The reality is that it can’t be done. And whats more? It probably shouldn’t be done.

Why shouldn’t it be done? Well, alcohol, particularly when we are talking about wine has been woven into the fabric of our culture. Football and beer. Celebrations and champagne. Family dinners and wine. And how do we teach our children about these things? They can’t participate. We build the belief that some magical day they will be “mature” and know what do with alcohol. Poof! You’re 21! Mysteriously the knowledge comes to you! Go forth and be responsible.

The reality is very different. We wait until our children are 21 and outside of our control to allow them to start experimenting with wine. And what happens then? Binge drinking and foolishness because they are now, FINALLY, allowed to imbibe. It is cruelly timed that we set them off on their own at the same time we let them start learning about liquor. In fact, it is an invitation to disaster and no one’s family has been immune to it. Wouldn’t it be smarter to have this experimentation being done when there is an adult to supervise and guide them?

Very simply, I say yes. Will everyone teach their children responsibly? No. But then we can’t guarantee that anyone is raising their children to learn anything responsibly. We can’t guarantee that all adults use alcohol judiciously.

As to why we can’t control our children’s access to alcohol? There are two main reasons. Firstly, there is access to it out there in the world. Not delivered on the internet. Not at the corner store or neighborhood tavern. Alcohol is in our homes. A couple of beers in the fridge, a bottle of wine on top on the counter, a bottle of vodka in the cabinet. There in your house, most likely in a place that anyone can access. If there isn’t any liquor in your home or if you have managed to secure every ounce of it under lock and key (including your Listerine, rubbing alcohol and vanilla extract) you are probably the only parent that does. You may be sure that some kid in your child’s acquaintance will have access to an unguarded liquor cabinet.

The other reason that we can’t control our children’s access? Fermentation is a natural process. To make alcohol all a teen needs is a sweet liquid and yeast, ingredients that can be found in any grocery store and frankly, wild yeast circulates in the air. It is basic science that we teach them. In. High. School. When I was in high school fermenting grape juice was considered a legitimate science project.

Which leads me back to Rep. Quigley and his support for HR 5034. Let’s be honest. The purpose of HB 5034 has nothing to do with protecting our children, because when push comes to shove, we really can’t keep our kids from getting access to alcohol. It is time to stop hiding behind our kids and explain to your constituents your real reason for supporting this legislation. I doubt the reasons will sound as noble.

And if you are concerned about your access to the wines of your choice being stripped from you with vague and specious concerns for your kids, join the American Wine Consumers Coaliton or Free the Grapes

Bad News For Local Wine Lovers

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Over the weekend I started getting the email notices about H.R. 5034.

It is a short bill. But what it lacks in size it makes up for in the potential to further entrench the power of private wine, beer and liquor distributorships. This is being done under the guise of eliminating litigation that might potentially open up the wine, beer and liquor markets to increased competition. Egads! The horror!   After decades of being told that dereguation is good, now that some of the goodness of it might trickle down to the common man, it must be eliminated.  Like the plague.  If this bill is passed, advocacy groups such as Marylanders for Better Wine and Beer Laws,  Free The Grapes, The Specialty Wine Retailers Association and the Illinois Wine Consumers Coalition attempts’ to allow you to purchase the wine of your choice will be forced to prove that the regulation in question:

“has no effect on the promotion of temperance, the establishment or maintenance of orderly alcoholic beverage markets, the collection of alcoholic beverage taxes, the structure of the state alcoholic beverage distribution system, or the restriction of access to alcoholic beverages by those under the legal drinking age.”

Ahh. right.  So we can’t improve our alcohol distribution system in our states because they achieve SOME of their goals?  Certainly not the most progressive reason I have ever heard.  But who do these regulations work for?  Not the consumer who can only buy what the distributors allow them to chose from at the price that the distributor decides to sell it to them for.  Not small wine shops which won’t be offered competitive prices because the big boys in the industry don’t have any incentive to deal with them.

Worse, the reasons given for  this legislation have been ridiculous.

Expensive wine keeps our children safe from disease and alcoholism.  The law would allow the States to avoid expensive litigation brought by advocacy groups.  An open wine market would return us to the days of Tommy Guns and Al Capone because liquor is a “lawlessness unto itself”1.

Who are they kidding?  The aim of this legislation is not to improve temperance (who said this should be the goal of the state?) and protect children but rather to insulate those individuals who control the distribution channels.  The proof of this?  The legislation is almost verbatim from a draft written by the National Beer Wholesalers Association.   Are we really to suppose that they love my children more than I do?  I don’t think so.  But they do love the monopolistic powers granted them from the states.

If they manage to get their way with this legislation, you can be certain that the Distributors will not be content with State laws as they exist.  Slowly but surely, you will find them working to make certain that their products are the only legal game in town.

The legislation has been introduced by Reps. Coble of NC (who’s number one contributor was the NBWA), Chaffetz of UT (also received donations from NBWA), Delahunt of MA (his PAC has received donations from various alcohol concerns) and unfortunately my own Congressman, Mike Quigley.

I have already called Congressman Quigley’s office in Washington and left a message with his Legislative Aide. To date, I have not recieved an answer back. And honestly, after the experiences that I had with the Illinois Wine Consumers Coalition, this doesn’t surprise me. I found that most of the politicians that I tried to speak to, even those, who like Rep. Quigley represent me, never had the courtesy to return a call or an explanation of their policy positions. Which leads me to speculate…. cynically.

If I ever hear back from the Congressman’s office, I will let you know what I learn.  In the meantime, I urge you to contact you member of Congress and tell them that you oppose this legislation.

You can find the contact information here.

1. Duckworth v. Arkansas, 314 US 390 (1941)  (I always try to make my point with 70 year old litigation… it makes your point seem so modern and relevant)

A Bad Week For Wine

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Illinois Wine Consumer Coalition

Illinois Wine Consumer Coalition

That is the only conclusion that I can come to.  An extremely bad week for wine.  Particularly if the wine isn’t nearby.

Maryland’s efforts to reform their wine laws has failed for this year when HB 1262 died in committee.  They are gearing up for next year’s fight already and if you want to help you can contact Adam Borden here.

Consumers in New York lost their effort to be able to purchase wine in grocery stores even though you can already buy beer there.  This makes NO sense to me as we in Illinois can buy beer, wine and liquor in grocery stores and yet we still appear to have healthy number of liquor stores.  (maybe I should take a survey of my neighborhood vs. one in NYC to show difference…)

and as finally, as Kevin pointed out yesterday, Michigan’s new, ridiculous law regarding wine shipping went into effect.

Over all?  Not a good week for wine.  Illinois’ proposed new law is still waiting to come back out of the rules committee and to progress.  If you are interested in working to opening the Illinois wine market to  outside retailers, please come join us at the Illinois Wine Consumer Coaltion (www.  Let’s make sure that consumers SOMEWHERE in the United States is free to buy the wine of their choice legally.

Michigan Consumers Lose Access to Wine-Shop Shipments

From the Detroit News an article on impinging consumer rights…

A new tweak in the Michigan liquor laws went into effect Wednesday that makes it almost impossible for state residents to have wine shipped to them by a wine shop.

The new state law specifies that wine shops in Michigan or out of state can ship directly to consumers only in their own vehicles, not by common carriers such as FedEx or UPS.

This bill is not so much aimed at Michigan wine shops. Instead, it targets stores like Sam’s Wine & Spirits in Chicago and high-end stores in New York and Washington, D.C., which ship sought-after labels usually at savings.

“This law is trying to prevent wines from being shipped into Michigan without going through the three-tier system,” said John Lossia, owner of Merchant’s Fine Wine in Dearborn. The proposal was backed by Michigan beer and wine distributors.

There is not a need for most wine shops in Michigan to ship wine to residents, but they do use independent carriers for gift baskets, which typically contain wine.

“This law is going to hurt our gift-basket business,” said Lossia.

According to the Specialty Wine Retailers Association, the Michigan liquor distributors that pushed for this bill contributed more than $522,000 to state lawmakers in the last election cycle.

Meanwhile, Michigan craft distilleries are urging legislators to pass a new bill, State Senate Bill 427, introduced Wednesday, to allow wineries with distilleries to sell their products at satellite tasting rooms.

Most of the small distilleries in the state were started by wineries — Round Barn, St. Julian and Black Star to name a few. Under current law, these wineries can sell their distilled spirits only at the tasting room at the site where they produce it, which greatly limits their ability to sell these products. Round Barn, for example, has satellite tasting rooms in Union Pier and Saugatuck, where they cannot sell their vodka and brandies.

Wine and Bricks

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

They don’t sound like they go together, do they?

But they do.

One of the loopholes in Prohibition was wine was able to be produced for home consumption. In fact, the Mayor of New York City even sent instructions to a constituent on the matter.

One of the most common methods for producing wine was with a wine brick (or sometimes called a wine block)

California grape producers would produce grape juice concentrates that could be dissolved in water. These bricks often came with warnings such as: “After dissolving the brick in a gallon of water, do not place the liquid in a jug away in the cupboard for twenty days, because then it would turn into wine”.

Surprisingly enough to meet the demand California growers increased their vineyards by 700% during Prohibition.

News for Illinois Wine Lovers

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

You might have noticed the logo for the IWCC and wondered what that was all about.

Those of you in IL are probably aware that last year, a law was passed that prohibited us from purchasing wine from out of state retailers (although, strangely, in state retailers can still ship out of state). A group of us have gotten together and formed a non-profit group advocating the change of this law to re-grant the right to shipping that we had for 15 years – The Illinois Wine Consumers Coalition.

We’re hoping that with enough voices, enough signatures on the petition, we can get the attention of our legislators and change this anti-consumer law.

Please visit our website and sign up, sign the petition, and most importantly, share this info with your Illinois wine drinking friends! As little as a few thousand names can really make our voice heard – we need your help.

Also, beginning tomorrow we should be getting some press coverage – so write to your editorial pages, send a letter to your representatives, and let’s get our access to fine wine back!

Let me know if you have any questions, ideas for us, or want to get more involved, or would like to donate in support of IWCC.

The legal tide is turning in our favor – now is our time to make a difference!