By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jul 06, 2007 at 10:01 AM

A new budget amendment proposed by Wisconsin State Senator Russ Decker (D-Weston) has popped the corks of Wisconsin winemakers and has even drawn the attention of Forbes.com.

The amendment would prevent Wisconsin wineries from selling directly to retailers, forcing them to work through distributors, which according to some would cut margins and force up prices.

“The three tier SB40 is a very scary bill for us and very bad news for all Wisconsin wineries and also for all the people who enjoy our wine. The state never informed us of this bill they just sorta slipped it in,” says LaVerne Vetrano of Concord’s Vetro Winery, west of Milwaukee.

“I myself distribute to 35 or more stores. Right know we cannot afford a distributor; they take too much of the profit for the same job I do. And who knows our wine better than us?”

Carrie Lynch, a spokesman for Decker, told Forbes that the amendment is meant to help the state comply with a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled that in- and out-of-state wine shipments must be treated the same.

"We're really not trying to squash them as it may be," she told Forbes. "We're trying to help them get more sales and to make sure it's being done legally."

There has been talk that the changes will benefit consumers by allowing them to have wine shipped from out of state and will help state wineries by letting them ship directly to customers. The latter is illegal right now, but the law goes unenforced.

“We feel it is a free enterprise and I should be able to move our own wine as we see fit,” says Vetrano. “The wholesaler proposed solution is excessively pricey, excessively burdensome with paperwork and may be rejected by the common carriers who do the actual delivery.”

Vetrano believes that the changes will fatally affect the state’s vintners, which represent diversity and bring tourism dollars here, she says.

“Every winery in Wisconsin is special and they all are bringing in revenue to the state (via) tourism. Vetro Winery brings people as far away as France, Japan and Canada and all the neighboring states. We have 33 wineries in the state. If this goes through I would not know how many would fold because of profit cost and permits.” 

Decker's office has not replied to a message at press time. Stay tuned. 

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.