In one of his last official acts as governor, Deval Patrick signed into law Thursday morning a measure that restores the right of small “farmer-wineries” to distribute their own wine and cider to stores and restaurants.
Small Massachusetts producers of wine and hard ciders have long been allowed to bypass distributors and sell their drinks directly to liquor stores, bars, and restaurants. But last summer, the Legislature accidentally deleted that section of the state’s alcohol laws when they passed a budget amendment making it easier for consumers to mail-order wine from other states.
The unintentional change would have made such self-deliveries to retailers illegal. Those deliveries account for the majority of business at some small Massachusetts vineyards and cider houses.
The state’s 34 farmer-wineries only noticed the mistake in November, when regulators published an advisory explaining the new wine shipping rules that took effect on January 1. Outraged, they demanded a fix from the Legislature and eventually got one on New Year’s Eve, when the state Senate approved an emergency law undoing the mistake.
According to a copy of the signed legislation provided by Representative John Scibak, a South Hadley Democrat who chairs the committee that oversees the alcohol industry, Patrick signed it at 11:05 a.m. Thursday, just minutes before Governor Charlie Baker’s inauguration.