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Winemakers Gather On Distribution Regulations

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Nearly 150 vintners huddled recently in Napa to discuss the laws that regulate national wine distribution. The winemakers and their lawyers have launched their march on the US Supreme Court, led by renowned attorney Kenneth Starr.

Vintners want the freedom to ship their wine directly to consumers, instead of relying on wholesale distributors who they argue leave out small wineries.

Wholesalers oppose, saying the vintners are just trying to make more money by cutting out the middleman. Starr told winemakers at Friday€™s gathering that it might be hard to reach the Supreme Court, but was confident of the constitutional merits of the cause. Industry leaders hope to face the Supreme Court in a year or two. There are now five direct-shipping cases idling in appellate courts.

The Coalition for Free Trade, an industry group, hired Starr last March. He is best known for his work on the Whitewater and Monica Lewinski cases that tainted the Clinton administration.