"We're pretty enthusiastic about the program," Tincknell said. "We don't think that the fee structure is too high for many of the wineries than they're probably working with."
At this point, the wineries will not enjoy the discounts Amazon has negotiated with shippers, Tincknell said. Consumers will pay a shipping price of $9.99 for up to six bottles and $19.96 for a case of 12 bottles, according to two people who have been briefed on the program. Wineries will make up the difference between actual shipping costs.
Amazon executives did not return repeated telephone calls seeking comment over several weeks.
Amazon's sales typically peak in its fourth quarter, as shoppers buy and ship holiday gifts. That timing wasn't lost on winery executives.
"Having worked at Amazon years ago, I thought ... that is a recipe for success. We have to be there," said Stacy Bennett, vice president of digital marketing at J Vineyards and Winery. "There are so many eyeballs on Amazon.com, so in the online world, where the traffic goes, the money flows. This is just the reality of where the customer is."
The challenges Amazon will face are considerable.
Any retailer getting into the business of shipping wine to consumers must deal with a complicated structure of rules that date back to the Prohibition era. Some states, like Utah or Mississippi, don't allow wineries to ship directly to consumers at all. Others, like New Hampshire, have limits on how many bottles can be sent to a household each year. In some states the rules even vary from one county to the next.
"It's a whole lot easier to send a gun to another state than it is to send a bottle of wine," said Robert Larsen, public relations director at Rodney Strong Vineyards. "It's mind-boggling ... The forces stacked up against direct shipping are formidable."
To navigate the tricky maze, many wineries use the software system ShipCompliant, which comes with a database of 10,000 rules wineries must follow to comply with federal and state laws. ShipCompliant, used by Coppola and other wineries, is likely to be part of the Amazon deal, Daniel said.
"It's literally madness," said Jeff Carroll, vice president of compliance at ShipCompliant. "If wineries are shipping to more than five states, it becomes almost impossible to make sure their shipments are compliant without using an automated tool."
Carroll declined to comment on whether ShipCompliant was going to be part of the Amazon launch. ShipCompliant counts roughly 1,800 wineries as clients, which resulted in about 4 million shipments last year, Carroll said.
The company started in 2005, not long after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down laws in two states that prohibited wineries from shipping directly to consumers. That paved the way for many states to revisit laws that, in many cases, require alcohol producers to ship products through a three-tier system that regulates the operations of producers, licensed wholesalers and retailers.
Since then, a growing number of wineries and retailers have started selling wine on their own websites. But their sites lack the traffic that Amazon draws.
"The wine industry is so driven by the distributor," Bennett said. "I think something like Amazon will help the smaller, and even the larger, wineries get to the consumer without having to go through the distributor."
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