Earlier this month, as the New Jersey Legislature was considering revamping laws regulating the state’s wine industry, I was visiting a winery in Bloomington, Indiana.
Yes, I left the Jersey Shore in the summer to vacation 700 miles from the ocean. That’s why I needed the wine.
The woman pouring my free samples told me she wouldn’t be able to ship back to New Jersey any bottles I might decide to purchase. Don’t worry, I said, my state’s about to fix that.
But lawmakers went on their summer break without fixing it, leaving wineries and their tasting rooms in legal limbo.
There are two things you have to admire about wineries.
The first is the business plan: Get your customers drunk, then close the sale. It’s surprising that car dealers and real estate agents haven’t fallen on this scheme.
The second is the way some wineries have been able to market themselves as event centers, by hosting concerts, festivals or farmers markets.
The winery we visited has an evening concert schedule, but on a quiet summer afternoon it offers itself as a picnic ground. Bring your lunch, use the shady decks and tables. And, of course, while you’re here, buy a couple of bottles of wine. There are also soft drinks for the kids and the chance to feed large koi in a large pond.
It’s a nice day trip, something to do while you’re on vacation.
In other words, the sort of thing people are always saying the New Jersey shore needs.
To me, an afternoon at a winery seems like the perfect complement to a morning at the beach or an evening at a seafood restaurant.
Area vineyards are doing their part. But now, thanks to the stalemate in the statehouse, new wineries can’t even get licenses.
When our lawmakers get back to work, they need to help our wine industry get back on track.
Let’s get this done.