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Wineries find creative ways to sell, market their products

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LAHOMA, Okla. (AP) _ Hart Pekrul is not waiting for state liquor laws to change regarding the selling and distribution of homemade wine.

The winemaker and his son, Con Pekrul, continue to work within a tightly bound distribution framework regarding their products, but they have found creative ways to sell what they make.

``We had this up before the Legislature a year ago, but it never made it out of committee,'' Pekrul said about amending and changing Oklahoma law that restricts interstate and in-state shipments of wine.

A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturned laws in New York and Michigan that allowed in-state wineries to ship directly to consumers but banned out-of-state wineries from doing so. The court found the practice to be discriminatory and anticompetitive.

In Oklahoma, winemakers are prohibited from interstate and in-state shipments, so the ruling is unlikely to have any immediate effect here, said state Attorney General Drew Edmondson.

Edmondson said if this recent ruling ignites a trend in which the court strikes down other state restrictions on wine shipments, the situation could change in Oklahoma.

``But I don't see that in this ruling,'' Edmondson said.

Regardless of the limitations, the Pekruls have found ways to get their product into the hands of people who like wine.

Opening for business two and one-half years ago in a location along U.S. 412 that was a gift store previously, Hart Pekrul said store visibility to passing motorists is a huge plus.

``Most of our trade is in northwest Oklahoma,'' Pekrul said.

Plain View Winery was able to pay expenses during its first year of operation.

Sales increased by 38 percent the second year.

``Hopefully, we're going to be higher,'' Pekrul said about the third year of operation. ``We have found more wholesalers and retailers this year.''

Pekrul and winemakers throughout the state know about the wholesale and retail business. Its their bread and butter.

State law allows winemakers to take their products directly to liquor stores, which saves them money from having to retain brokers and distributors.

Patrons at wine stores like Plain View can sample their products.

``People can taste stuff before they buy it. That's an advantage they have buying here rather than in a liquor store,'' Pekrul said.

The Pekruls sell their wine in different size bottles to perk interest and demand.

They also work with other novelty food vendors, such as a pickle processor in Dacoma and buffalo sausage packager in Hinton, to combine foodstuffs with wines that sell extremely well as holiday gift packages.

Still, a lingering cloud remains over northwest Oklahoma winemakers like Plain View and Indian Creek Village Winery near Ringwood, which is owned by Terry and Jenny Lewis.

Patrons often enter the store, inquire by phone or try to order by Internet a particular homemade wine with an addendum that the product be shipped to them.

``We tell them, 'No, we can't do that. Our state law won't allow it,''' said Terry Lewis.

When that happens, the winemaker loses revenue. The state loses money from tax revenue. Its an antiquated law with no sound moral or economic arguments to support. It needs to change, Lewis said.

``It's almost comical. Economically, the state is losing. It's got to wake up in terms of revenue lost,'' Lewis said
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