Virginia and Maryland Decriminalize Us! WooHoo!

Wine lovers in Virginia and Maryland can come out of the shadows this Friday when it becomes legal to do the things we’ve been doing all along.

Virginia’s corkage law takes effect on July 1, making it legal for restaurants to allow patrons to bring their own wine. If you were unaware that Virginia banned BYOB at licensed restaurants, you may be forgiven. The law had never really been enforced, as this quote from Richmond.com illustrates:

According to Phillip Bogenberger of the Virginia ABC, “[there have been no] instances where [ABC has] issued citations for violations of the law prohibiting bringing in wine from outside restaurants.”

Virginia ABC seems to like the new law. The agency even created a Facebook page for it. But before you pack your [yellow tail] and head to Restaurant Eve, there are some things you should know:

Well OK, you may BYO, but maybe not THIS much ...

The law is voluntary. Restaurants may let you bring in your own wine, but they don’t have to.

Restaurants may charge a fee per bottle, and the law does not set a limit on that fee. (The District of Columbia limits corkage to $25 per bottle, though that doesn’t seem to be enforced, either.)

There’s an etiquette to corkage, ably spelled out by Virginia blogger Frank Morgan at DrinkWhatYouLike.com. The main points:

* Call the restaurant to see if managers will welcome your bottle and ask their fee

* Don’t bring a wine that’s on their list

* Offer the sommelier or your server a taste of that special bottle from your collection.

Across the Potomac, Maryland diners are still not allowed to take their own wine to restaurants; the Maryland legislature blocked an effort to allow that this year. But lawmakers did approve direct shipping, which means we can have bottles shipped from out-of-state wineries straight to our homes. Starting Friday, when the law takes effect, we will no longer need to make furtive trips across the border to retrieve a coveted case delivered to a friend’s house (and pay the exorbitant one-bottle “buddy tax”). No more “personal deliveries” to our offices in the District, either. And no more UPS shipments from Napa County prominently marked, “OLIVE OIL”.

There won’t be a flood of deliveries right away, of course, as wineries must apply for permits to send bottles to Maryland residents. The comptroller’s office posted permit applications online this month, and about a dozen permits have been issued already, with more in the works, according to Kevin Atticks, executive director of the Maryland Wineries Association. ShipCompliant, a firm that helps wineries navigate the morass of state regulations on shipping, posted more information about the Maryland permits on its blog.

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About Dave McIntyre

Wine columnist for The Washington Post, co-founder of DrinkLocalWine.com, and blogger at Dave McIntyre's WineLine (dmwineline.com).
Gallery | This entry was posted in Corkage, Current Affairs, Direct Shipping, Maryland, Restaurants, Virginia, Weblogs, Wine and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Virginia and Maryland Decriminalize Us! WooHoo!

  1. Robyn Zimmerman says:

    On our last trip to Napa and Healdsburg, CA, my husband and I joined some wine clubs and look forward to receiving shipments in the fall. Quivira in Healdsburg had already applied for a permit. We enjoyed their rose when we attended a pop up restaurant in their organic garden one evening. Great people and wonderful wine.
    You mentioned Virginia, so I’ll ask: Are there any Northern Virginia wineries that we should check out? My husband and I are talking about a day trip from Maryland.
    Thanks
    Robyn

    • dmwineline says:

      Hi Robyn -
      Day trip possibilities are legion! For Virginia, Loudoun County has about 30 wineries, many of them just across the Potomac, north of Leesburg. In this area, Breaux, Tarara, Sunset Hills, and Corcoran are my favorites. I also hear good things about Hillsborough and Loudoun Valley Vineyards. Further south, toward Middleburg, you should visit Chrysalis and check out Boxwood’s Tasting Room in Middleburg.

      If you care to venture further out toward Front Royal, Linden Vineyards, Chester Gap Vineyards and Glen Manor Vineyards are terrific. Chateau O’Brian is also nice. Other potential visits out that way that I have not visited personally include Fox Meadow, Rappahannock and a new winery called Hume.

      There are many around Charlottesville as well, but that would be an overnight trip.

      Cheers,
      Dave

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