One of the first phone calls that King Ferry Winery owner Peter Saltonstall received Monday was from a friend in Vermont.
"He said, 'Now you can send me some wine,'" Saltonstall said. "I told him, 'Not yet.' This is very exciting and I've been working on it four years, but it doesn't fix it automatically."
In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned prior judgments and ruled that wineries can ship their product out of state.
Justices ruled state laws must treat wineries equally regardless of their location. The ruling struck down laws in New York and Michigan - where it's illegal to order wine from another state or ship it there - as discriminatory because they allow in-state wineries, but not out-of-state businesses, to ship directly to consumers.
It's also the case for residents in 22 other states. Legislatures in the affected states must now review their laws to make sure in- and out-of-state wineries are treated equally, or states could simply decide to ban all shipments.
New York state Sen. Michael Nozzolio, R-Fayette, said an all-out effort is under way here to get a wine shipment bill through the state Legislature before the close of the session June 23. He said for wineries in the Finger Lakes, the Supreme Court decision against sales to minors and assure proper taxes will be paid.
Much of the out-of-state shipments are expected to be generated through Internet sales, from first-time samplers as well as those who have toured the Finger Lakes and have first-hand experience with the region's wines, Nozzolio said.
"It will definitely expand sales opportunities and, just as importantly, expand the reputation of New York wines because now people around the country will finally be able to get them," said Jim Trezise, president of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation.
"It's going to be sort of a snowballing effect: Wine writers will write about our wines, consumers will try them, so the industry will make more of them and that will create more consumers on the other end."
Striking down the bans was expected to have the largest impact on small wineries who aren't big enough for national distribution - and on the wine connoisseurs who love them.
"Those very small wineries - that direct business is their lifeblood," said Kathleen Schumacher, president and CEO of New Vine Logistics, a Napa, Calif.-based company that specializes in wine shipping.
Saltonstall said that's the case for most Finger Lakes wineries, including King Ferry.
"You can stop off at any parking lot of a winery and see all of the out-of-state plates and see why we need direct shipping," said Julie Suarez, manager of governmental relations for New York Farm Bureau. "This ruling is a dream come true for those of use who have fought so hard and so long to allow our wine makers to fairly compete with other producers around the world."
The ruling will create more jobs, preserve farmland and bring more tourists to New York, Suarez said. More than 2 million tourists visit vineyards in the state every year.
"We can now expect more of our wineries to grow their business and their reputations as more and more people will now have access to our wines," she said.
But Saltonstall warned that critics of the ruling, primarily wine and liquor wholesalers, were not going to "sit on their hands."
In a statement posted on the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America, Inc., Web site, president and CEO Juanita Duggan said the ruling gives states the option of "supporting face-to-face transactions by someone licensed to sell alcohol or opening up the floodgates."
Duggan said WSWA would support strengthening alcohol laws, arguing in-person ID checks are best.
Critics said the ruling usurped a state's right to control alcohol within its borders and could promote underage drinking because proof of age would not be required for Internet purchases.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, said that while the Constitution grants states broad authority to regulate alcohol, they may not discriminate against out-of-state wineries.
The wine industry is booming, with an estimated $21.6 billion in sales and tourists flocking to wineries for tastings and tours. The recent hit movie "Sideways" took a lighthearted look at California's love affair with the grape.
While wineries have proliferated, there also has been consolidation. Smaller wineries say they can't compete with huge companies unless they can sell directly to customers over the Internet or by letting visitors ship bottles home.
The case centered on the 21st Amendment, which ended Prohibition in 1933 and gave states authority to regulate alcohol sales. Nearly half the states subsequently passed laws requiring outside wineries to sell their products through licensed wholesalers within the state, enabling state governments to collect millions in alcohol taxes.
But the Constitution also prohibits states from discriminating against out-of-state businesses. That led to a challenge to the Michigan and New York laws by winemakers who want to cater to Internet customers.
Internet and telephone sales by wineries currently account for just 1 percent to 2 percent of domestic wine sales, a figure advocates say will grow as states ease restrictions on alcohol sales.
"Raise a glass at dinner tonight and toast the wisdom of the Supreme Court's ruling," said Jeremy Benson, executive director of Free the Grapes, a coalition of consumers, businesses and winemakers. "Today's historic ruling will benefit each tier of the wine industry."