Going postal

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Going postal

I was recently in the Post Office mailing some wine-related mail, when the postal worker behind the counter stopped me and said, “Hey, you might be able to help me.” After looking him in the eye and finding no discernable signs of psychosis, I smiled and asked what he needed. “How do you guys,” he said, meaning us wine professionals, “mail wine?”

It’s a perfect symbol of exactly how mind-shatteringly frustrating it is to attempt to send wine through the mail that even a USPS employee has no idea what to do. Each state decides for itself how it regulates alcohol, and the resulting rules are so draconian and restrictive that they essentially amount to backdoor prohibition: preventing you as a free citizen from fully enjoying your constitutional right to drink.


Crush owner Paul Coleman (right), pictured here with wife, Nan, and former manager, Gregg Oxley, says that changing the wine shop’s name to avoid a legal battle with a similarly named wine shop in New York City would cost a bundle.

The biggest issue involves direct shipping: the ability, or lack thereof, for wineries and retailers in another state to ship wine to you the consumer. In 14 of our states this is illegal (in Tennessee and Utah, it’s a felony, but what isn’t in Utah?). Of the 36 states that do allow some kind of direct shipping, the Gordian Knot of taxes, permits, limits, etc. are enough that the average wine shop employee’s response to a shipping request is usually “I’d rather bite the head off a rat.”

What about a free citizen who is of age? Can you send wine to your favorite uncle in Connecticut? No way, José! Totally illegal. Why? The Children, of course. We have to protect the children. That’s what it always comes down to with these laws, the crazy teens ordering cases of California Cabernet so they can get Effed Up. It doesn’t matter if your uncle doesn’t have kids, lives on an uninhabited island, never leaves the house, and will sign for the package with ID and DNA sample in hand. You still can’t send him that wine.

And if that’s not enough to make you go postal, maybe this little story will be:

A few weeks ago, a rumor started tip-toeing around the local wine world that Crush, the little Belmont wine shop, was for sale. Well, the not-yet-1-year-old grape juice purveyor is looking for a new manager (Gregg Oxley left under what may have been a cloud on August 15), and owner Paul Coleman says that if he finds someone suitable to run the shop, he’d like to hang on to it. But a looming legal battle is making selling Crush look more and more attractive.
 
It seems that Crush Wine & Spirits, a massive and well-funded wine shop in New York City, wants to crush Crush.

“We just kind of heard from them out of the blue,” Coleman says. It turns out that the NYC store has a federal trademark on the name “Crush Wine Company” and has been sending our local shop letters since January asking that they change their name. Doing so, Coleman said, would cost “several thousand dollars.” And fighting Goliath in court would cost even more. 

But trademarks exist for a reason, to keep consumers from getting confused. So let me help you out. Crush Wine & Spirits is on E. 57th St. in NYC. It is huge and owned by the Myriad Restaurant group (owners of some of NYC’s top restaurants). Crush is on 826 Hinton Ave. in Charlottesville, Virginia. It is small and owned by Paul Coleman. Tell all your friends in NYC before they accidentally make the drive down here.

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Going postal

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The other day the old “Have you read…?” “You should read…” “Let me loan you…” conversation started up at a friend’s barbeque, when our gracious host announced that she never loans books, she simply gives them away. Another friend then piped up that there was a website in existence that fostered exactly that road to good karma: Paperback Swap.

The site takes the conventional conversation of “Have you read…”, puts it on the Internet, and expands the number of participants in the conversation exponentially. You pay for the postage of the books that you send out and, in return, when you have books sent to you, the sender pays the postage. For each book you send out, you get a credit towards a book that can be sent to you at some point in the future. Say you read Eat, Pray, Love, hated it and see no reason why it should still be on your bookshelf; put it on Paperback Swap, send it out, and then order yourself a book you really want for your bookshelf! There’s no room for schlock ‘round these parts!

It’s not a particularly pretty site. In fact, the graphics remind me of those Scholastic book order forms circa 1988, but it’s user-friendly and does the job without much fuss. I’m not complaining; I’m just looking for something to complain about.

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