Reach out to Illinois?

by Brad Asmus on July 28, 2008

How would you like to be on a list that some of the most affluent and committed wine buyers in one of the top 10 wine markets in the US use to make their buying decisions? Incredibly, the State of Illinois Liquor Control Commission publishes just such a list on the web—and you can get on it.Illinois

The list is called the Current List of Approved Winery Shipper’s Licenses. It currently lists some 275 wineries including the likes of Silver Oak, Screaming Eagle, Dalle Valle, and Harlan Estate. The list includes addresses and phone numbers. What’s not to like?

The truth is, the list is buried in the bowels of the SILCC’s website and, despite an article mentioning it in the Chicago Tribune, not that many people will ever find it. But you should still work to get on it. Illinois is a great market, the permitting process isn’t that difficult and it will probably only cost you a couple of hundred bucks.

A permit fee based on manufacturing volume is required:
Class 1 (not to exceed 250,000 gallons annually) $150
Class 2 (not to exceed 500,000 gallons annually) $500
Class 3 (over 500,000 gallons annually) $1,000

You also have to post bond in relation to the excise tax that you’ll be charged for shipments into the state. This is similar to the bond you must post for your TTB permits and can be handled by the same bank or insurance agency you used for that. If you decide to self bond, you post a CD with a value of $1,000 with the SILCC.

Small Winery Bonus: If you make less than 25,000 gallons of wine annually, you can also obtain a self distribution permit that allows you to sell direct to retailers and restaurants.

There are record keeping requirements, you have to pay excise and sales taxes and you can only sell 12 cases of wine to any one customer, but still, it’s not that big a deal. Especially when you consider that 13 of the 100 most affluent zip codes in America are in Illinois.

Once you’ve done everything you can to build business in your local market, you’ve got to look elsewhere. The affluent communities of Illinois–among other states–are wildly under served by small wineries. Instead of beating your head against the wall trying to build business in San Francisco or Santa Barbara or other metros already heavily marketed to by wineries with bigger budgets than yours, why not consider Northbrook, or Kenilbrook or Schaumberg, Illinois, where average incomes are in six figures and where high end restaurants and bottle shops rarely, if ever, see a real, live wine maker?

Resources:

Application for State of Illinois Winery Shipper’s License (”Direct Shipping Permit”)
-Includes application, Registration Statement, Self-Distribution Exemption, Directions for Completing Bond Forms, Financial Reponsibility Bond form, Financial Institution Irrevocable Letter of Credit Bond form, Liquor Tax Statement of Liability form. 12 pages total. PDF.

State of Illinois Liquor Control Commission
Springfield Address:
101 West Jefferson, Ste. 3-525
Springfield, IL 62702
Ph: 217-782-2136 Fax: 217-524-1911

Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association
Illinois is home to at least 72 wineries

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