Expanded Options?

January 11, 2013
BY Ron Snyder
Maryland lawmaker seeks expansion of kosher wine choices

A Montgomery County lawmaker plans on proposing legislation during the General Assembly that would allow residents to purchase kosher wine from out-of-state stores and online retailers.

Del. Sam Arora (D-19) said his bill would expand options to Marylanders two years after the state ended its longtime ban on direct-purchase wines; the 2011 legislation only applied to stores in Maryland or wineries in the country.

Those limitations, Arora said, can make it difficult for Jewish Marylanders who keep kosher to purchase the wine of their choosing.

“We’re not talking about greatly expanding the direct-sale market,” Arora said. “We’re talking about allowing people to live out their faith.”

Aurora said expanding the current law to include kosher wineries makes sense, as most such wines are made in France or Israel. Currently, he added, there are no kosher wineries in Maryland and only about 35 kosher wines available for purchase in the state. By comparison there are about 200 kosher wineries in Israel, Aurora said.

“We have a strong Jewish population in Maryland, and I’ve heard a lot of support for such legislation,” Aurora said. “It can be very difficult in many communities to find kosher wine, especially during holidays like Passover when you have families drinking four glasses a night.”

Baltimore Jewish Council Director of Government Relations Cailey Locklair said her organization is strongly behind Arora’s efforts, and it plans on lobbying lawmakers to pass the bill.

“This was something we had hoped would be addressed when the original legislation passed in 2011,” Locklair said. “We’re now hopeful that this oversight can be addressed in the upcoming session in Annapolis.”

Several lawmakers supported a kosher winery amendment two years ago, but the proposal failed. Among those who backed the amendment were Baltimore County representatives Del. Jon Cardin (D-11) and Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D-11).

Zirkin said he believes the best chances of the bill passing this time is for it to go through the House of Delegates first, where it can gain momentum before moving on to the Senate.

“It’s a good idea and something store owners and residents in my district have approached me about,” Zirkin said. “It just makes sense.”

Maryland Wineries Association Executive Director Kevin Atticks said his organization would take no specific stand on Arora’s proposed changes to the current law. At the same time, Atticks believes any expansion that allows for greater direct access for wine is a good thing.

“Our stance has always been to support consumer access to wine,” Atticks said. “This is a proposal by [Arora] where he is trying to get access to wine not available here. I see no reason not to support that.”

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