Cabernet Sauvignon grapes ripen in the sun at Tomasello Winery in Hammonton. 

Michael Ein file photo Sept. 9, 2010

New Jersey wineries began filling orders to ship their wines both inside and outside the state Tuesday as a law signed in January took effect.

The law to loosen restrictions on wine sales allows winemakers to ship bottles directly to consumers and to open retail outlets in the state. Wineries outside the state that produce less than 250,000 gallons of wine a year can start shipping to New Jersey, too.

Local wineries received orders before the law became effective May 1, and growers said they would start shipping this week.

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“We’re excited that it’s finally happened after such a long period,” said Charlie Tomasello, co-owner of Tomasello Winery in Hammonton, the state’s largest winery.

The changes were spurred by a lawsuit filed nine years ago that resulted in a federal court striking down the state's regulations as unconstitutional.

The state previously banned New Jersey wineries from shipping directly to consumers. In-state wineries were allowed to open retail outlets, but out-of-state wineries were not allowed. The court found that the bans restricted interstate commerce.

After years of legislative wrangling, the Legislature approved a law to mostly resolve the issue in January and Gov. Chris Christie signed it.

A few constitutional issues remained but the parties signed a consent order last week to end the case.

Winemakers said they are currently applying for licenses to ship to other states, and several said Tuesday that they already have orders from as far away as California and Florida.

“I'm sure everyone's geared up,” said Ollie Tomasello, president of the Garden State Winegrowers Association and owner of Plagido’s Winery in Hammonton.

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