When wine lovers from New Jersey finish a tour and tasting at Cakebread Cellars in Napa Valley, they'll often ask to have some of their favorites shipped to their homes on the other side of the country, or attempt to sign up for one of the winery's many wine clubs.

And they get turned down — but not because the winery doesn't want their business.

"We tell them it's their fault," said Dennis Cakebread, chairman of the winery. "It's up to them to change it — to call their state legislators to educate them about the issue."

Of the 40-plus states that permit wineries to ship their products directly to consumers, just two — including New Jersey — have a cap on the size of wineries that are allowed to do so. Those producing more than 250,000 gallons per year, or 105,000 cases, are prohibited from directly shipping wine.

"The challenge that we see with the New Jersey law is one of unfairness," Cakebread said. "I can't believe that this happens in America — that they would punish, penalize longevity and success."

According to Free the Grapes, a national coalition of wine lovers, wineries and retailers, New Jersey consumers currently can't receive direct shipments of about 90 percent of the wine that's produced in the United States. Of the approximately 10,000 wineries in the U.S., only 369 held New Jersey direct shipping licenses in 2017, the group said.

"Most wineries in the United States are well under 250,000 gallons," said Jeremy Benson, executive director of Free the Grapes. "At the same time, though, there are a number of winery brands that are owned by larger wineries."

According to Benson, Arizona and Massachusetts recently eliminated similar-capacity caps.

A handful of states prohibit any type of home delivery of wine. New Jersey lifted its ban on direct shipment of wine in 2012.

Legislation in the state Assembly and Senate would remove New Jersey's cap and allow direct shipments from wineries of all sizes.

In a letter opposing the legislation, the New Jersey Liquor Store Alliance said the state shouldn't "double down" on a "losing proposition," noting the state never realized the revenue anticipated from legalized shipments in the first place, and plenty of products from large, out-of-state wineries are available on the shelves at liquor stores throughout New Jersey.

"The bottom line of this second-generation legislation is that we cannot find a single winery in this country (that) produces over 250,000 gallons that is not already selling their wines in our state through our exemplary three-tier system that guarantees 100 percent tax compliance at every level in our tightly regulated state-based industry," the letter said. "We would like to know who are those wineries producing over 250,000 gallons that Free the Grapes claims to be representing? Our concern is that they are some of the wineries whose products are already readily available among the more than 50,000 products currently registered in our state."

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