Former Pats QB Bledsoe seeks change in Mass. wine laws

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March 21, 2013, 6:01 pm
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(NECN: Ally Donnelly, Boston) - Standing in the falling snow outside the Massachusetts State House, former New England Patriot Drew Bledsoe told a small crowd of reporters and onlookers, "First day as a lobbyist, right here. I'm a rookie."

Bledsoe is back in Boston, pressing the flesh and hoping to convince local lawmakers to end a ban on direct wine shipments to consumers.

"There really is no downside," he said. "It benefits the state from a tax perspecitvie. It benefits the consumer. It benefits small business."

The QB now owns a boutique winery in Washington state and ships to consumers throughout most of the U.S., but Massachusetts is one of 11 states in the country where direct shipping is illegal.

"We've got a lot of wine fans and a lot of football fans that literally contact me on a daily basis asking where they can get the wine," he said. "And I have to tell them, 'sorry, I can't ship it to you.'"

He says even Patriot protege Tom Brady had to have Bledsoe's wine, which he says retails for about ninety dollars a bottle, shipped to Brady's dad's house in California.

"I sent him bottle number 12," Bledsoe said. "'Your dad at least saved you bottle number 12, right?' And he goes, 'no, he drank that one too,' and I was like, 'oh, okay.'"

Gary Park says Brady could have gotten the wine from him. He's third generation owner of Gary's Liquors in Chestnut Hill and says direct wine sales could hurt package stores and rob the state of excise tax revenues.

Park said, "The wineries are trying to make this about a freedom or choice type of issue and this is really not that issue. This issue is all about money."

Park says the segment of business affected is high-end wine sales. No one's going to pay shipping on a $10 bottle of wine, but by cutting out the middle man on expensive bottles, wineries keep more profit for themselves. Bledsoe says he definitely wants more profits and makes no bones about it.

Critics also worry about underage drinking and minors ordering wine online and having it delivered with little oversight.

"They're going to make a delivery driver responsible to check IDs, which is really, really hard to do," said Park.

The House bill sponsor, Rep. Ted Speliotis, scoffed at the critique.

"A multi-billion dollar company like UPS isn't going to risk its license to sell to a 19-year-old," he said from his State House office.

Just like wine drinkers, voters have different tastes for the bill.

"No, I don't support it. It's bad for the kids, the young kids," said Maria Martinez.

Tara Alves, getting a Bledsoe autograph with her daughter, disagreed.

"People should have this luxury and wine is good for you," she said.

Don't expect to have Bledsoe's DoubleBack wine shipped by happy hour. The house bill hasn't even had a committee hearing schedule yet.

Tags: quarterback, wine, Patriots, New England Patriots, Tom Brady, Washington, Drew Bledsoe, Pats, QB, Patriots Hall of Fame, wine laws, wine shipments, Doubleback Winery
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