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Jul 9, 2008 07:04 AM

Getting wine home from Napa area?

I'm wondering if anyone has suggestions for getting wine home from Napa Valley, given the new airline baggage fees and carry-on restrictions. Is it best to have it shipped? If so, who would you use?

I anticipate having 2-3 cases, and the last day of our trip will be up in Calistoga, so any suggestions up that way would be particularly helpful.


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  1. I think the best way to go is to have the wineries ship for you. I work for a retail wine store in Southern California and last I heard UPS & FEDEX stopped shipping wine or any alcohol for that matter for people without a liquor licence. I cant tell you how many times we have had to ship for people in just your situation, went on vacation and then were running around trying to find a way to get their wine home, you are smart to do the research ahead of time! You might also check with a retailer in Napa and see if they offer shipping services.
    Good luck and have fun!

    1. Your best bet in the Napa area is Buffalo Shipping. They have a license which allows them to ship to all fifty states -- something that even some wineries are not allowed to do.

      Your biggest headache is going to be the fact that it is summer: Most die-hard wine fans absolutely, positively will NOT ship wines during hot summer months because of the potential for damage. Wine that is shipped sits in the back of UPS or FedEx trucks which can suffer temperatures in excess of hundreds of degrees which will cook the wine. Most wineries stop shipping as early as March or April and won't start again until late October or November.

      Sorry, Bubbles -- FedEx and UPS still DO ship wines, but they have to go to locations with a verified adult showing an identification.

      Honestly, Lirhughe, your best bet is to pair it down to just two cases and bring them home with you in the hefty, styrofoam packers that are available. Label them VERY clearly as being wine and with glass and entrust them to the airline. Better -- I think -- than having them shipped during the summer months and getting baked.

      8 Replies
      1. re: Carrie 218

        Wonder if it is just in our area then? I sell shippers to people all the time so they can ship via UPS or FEDEX and they come back everytime and we have to ship for them....we have the adult signature required as well. I will have to do more research.....

        1. re: bubbles4me

          The SHIPPER has to have a special Federal license to ship via FedEx and UPS. John-Q-Public can't ship wine themselves and it may be that your store does not have the proper licensing. That is why companies like Buffalo have such a great business. There is also MANY limitations on which states you can ship to.

          1. re: Carrie 218

            There are no federal licenses or laws related to interstate shipping of wine, only state laws (most of which have been neutered by a Supreme Court decision). I once checked with BATF on this very point, and was advised that the Fed's only interest is that federal taxes are paid at the point of sale.

          2. re: bubbles4me

            These responses are all very interesting. As a California wine retailer I can definitely corroborate that FedEx, UPS and DHL will NOT accept wine shipments from someone who is not properly licensed by the STATE to sell wine (assuming you declare it as such. We can only ship to around 30 states and many of those have cumbersome licensinga nd documentation requirements. If Buffalo's Shipping Post is shipping to states where regular shops or wineries can't ship to individuals, they must have some intermediary licensed business to whom they ship in those states.

            Another thing to know is that the carriers charge $3.50 PER CARTON for checking the over-21 ID on delivery. That is generally passed along to you by the licensed shipper. I once asked FedEx and was told that they can't guarantee that all cartons will be delivered at the same time so, rather than risk NOT getting proper ID on ANY carton, they charge the fee for EVERY carton (regardless of whether they are delivered together or not). We can thank our state legislatures for all this fun. The aside to this is that several states are now passing laws prohibiting out-of-state wine shipments in to individuals, partly on the basis of legislative concern that under-age drinkers are able to get wine illegally via the internet. So....... You pay $3.50 per carton for a service that many legislatures are convinced doesn't work. Gotta love this stuff. :o[]

          3. re: Carrie 218

            According to Buffalo's Shipping Post's own web site, they do not ship to Utah or New Hampshire, and do require the signature of a qualified adult at the receiving end.


            1. re: Xiao Yang

              Thanks for the correction. It used to be different but with the laws changing every two minutes, I'm not surprised.

            2. re: Carrie 218

              Fedex and UPS will ship wine but it must be from a licensed retailer to an individual, or individual to licensed retailer... Don't ask me why - it's some corny Alcohol Wine & Tabacco law...

              The OP should bite the bullet and either do as you say - and hope the ramp gorillas respect the markings on the check-in luggage - or have the winery send it for next day delivery via Fedex or UPS. I have had the experience with some reputable merchants who will cool off the wine to about 45- 50 degrees, pack it in the styrofoam cases, then pack it in a box, ship it overnight. The wines have always arrived cold to the touch and so far not one broken bottle.

              1. re: bulavinaka

                Sorry - that's Alcohol Tabacco & Firearms - I'm drinking the Wine right now...

            3. I usually bring back a case of Scotch from the UK each summer and have never had problems. The airline will take it as checked baggage so long as it is properly packed. They have been known to reject the odd bottle in the regular luggage unless it is packed in a mailer within the luggage.

              Check your airline's weight restrictions for domestic travel. Most are at 50 lbs. per bag, with high fees for going over. A single bottle of wine is around 2.5 lbs. Weigh before you check!

              Now that many airlines are charging for bags, you may want to consider shipping instead. The first and second bags are usually $15 and $25 (less than shipping by UPS or Fed Ex), but bag #3 is often $75-100. Eek! If you're already checking luggage, this could get expensive. It is also possible that the wineries you visit get better shipping rates than you would as an individual.

              3 Replies
              1. re: lexdevil

                Virgin America has a 70 lb. limit and haven't yet started charging for the first checked bag, but of course they serve a very limited set of destinations.

                1. re: lexdevil

                  I believe that $75-$100 is still cheap compared to shipping from Europe. You would have to use some form of priority shipping to get a case of wine over in good shape. I hope I’m wrong, so does anyone have actual experience?

                  1. re: BN1

                    Absolutely, but I'm guessing the OP would be shipping w/in the US.

                2. Carrie 218 has really answered your question. The styrofoam shippers are the way to go, and either ship them (through the winery or through Buffalo Shipping) or check them as luggage and pay the extra cost. That's what I'd do. The summer heat is a factor.

                  Lots more posts about this on the Wine Board, including a current one:

                  1. Have you considered taking the wine on the plane with you and shipping all your other baggage back some other way? Greyhound will ship 50 pounds of stuff from San Francisco to New York in three days for $56, for example.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                      Chuckles might have hit on the best solution!