As a wine lover living in California, I take a lot of things for granted. I’m flying through Safeway snatching up the goods to grill Santa Maria–style tri-tip on a Sunday and realize that I don’t have a single bottle of Syrah at home. No worries—I make a pass down the wine aisle and nab a Qupe (love earthy, cool-weather Santa Maria Valley Syrah with Santa Maria barbecue). Or a fellow fan, just back from Washington, say, tells me I have to try the latest Chenin Blanc from L’Ecole No 41 in Walla Walla. I pop onto their website and just order some; I just need to have it shipped to the office here at Sunset, because someone over 21 will need to sign for it. (Sunset doesn’t mind.)
It’s not so easy to fuel a wine interest in a lot of other states. Several years ago, visiting my brother in Boston, I was grocery shopping for dinner at a major market. After produce, meat, and dry goods, I went looking for wine. It was like they had lopped off the supermarket where the wine aisle should be, and it suddenly dawned on me, Oh, you have to go to a liquor store here. I almost felt like the evil bottles needed brown-bag disguising. But it gets worse: In some states you can’t buy wine on Sunday. In others you can’t take bottles to restaurants. We have a warren of wine laws in this country that, frankly, make good wine hard to come by for folks in some states.
Just this month, a report card is out. The American Wine Consumer Coalition rated all 50 states on six wine-friendly issues:
1. The ability to have wine shipped to your home from any winery
2. The ability to have wine shipped to your home from any wine retailer (maybe you love German Riesling, and a New York specialty shop is the only retailer that carries your favorite label)
3. The ability to purchase wine in grocery stores
4. The ability to purchase wine on Sundays
5. The ability to bring your own wine into a restaurant
6. No state monopoly on the sale of wine
They gave each state a grade, based on its score. And—no surprise—California got an A+ (only one of three in the country). Sadly, not every state in Sunset’s beat fared so well. Here are the grades. And if you want to check out the rest of the country, click here to download the whole report.
New Mexico: B