Ballot Question Would Let Wineries Sell Direct

Wednesday, October 22nd 2008, 9:55 pm
By: News On 6

By Chris Wright, The News On 6

HASKELL, OK  -- Less than two weeks until Election Day, and an Oklahoma industry says its fate hangs in the balance.  Voters will be asked to relax the rules on who local wine-makers can sell to.  Oklahoma wineries say they've been pouring out potential profit to middlemen. 

Most of the staff at Stone Bluff Wineries chipped in Wednesday to finish up a shipment of port.

"What they're doing is filling each of these bottles by hand," said Bob McBratney.

Started by Bob McBratney nine years ago, the small winery is one of many that have popped up recently in rural Oklahoma.

"We've introduced an entirely different culture to the state of Oklahoma.  When we started Stone Bluff Winery in 1999, there were only four licensed wineries in the state," said Bob McBratney.

It is now one of 53 in the state.

But, McBratney says that growth was bottled up when the law changed in 2007.  Wineries must now sell their wine through wholesalers.

The state question on the ballot would once again reverse the law, allowing wineries to sell directly to restaurants and liquor stores.

When it had to go back to dealing with wholesalers again, Stonebluff Cellars says the sales of its wines actually dropped 50%.

"This state question will again advance the ability of these wineries to survive.  So it's very important that it pass," said Bob McBratney.

McBratney says cutting out the middleman will also translate to cheaper prices, and more variety, for consumers.  And, he hopes an industry that few in the past would have associated with Oklahoma, will continue to grow.

"And it's going to be good for the whole state.  We're going to be bringing in additional revenue to the state that's going to be helpful for everybody," said Bob McBratney.

Stone Bluff says Oklahoma wineries have also contributed to the local agri-tourism industry.

Calls to the Oklahoma Wholesalers Association were not returned on Wednesday.

Editor's note: There are four state questions on the November ballot.  To look at the questions, CLICK HERE.