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									                                                                                                                               SOUTH JERSEY



                                         By João-PIErrE S. ruth
          WITh ThE AuTuMN grape harvest complete, winemakers are tackling the ever-                                r Imag
                                                                                                                         es
                                                                                                             Jupite
          growing cost of doing business in the state, with wineries saying they can’t pass
          along to customers the latest excise tax on their products.
                 Bellview Winery, in Landisville, like its South Jersey contemporaries, has seen
          its revenue squeezed by the recession. An addition of a 3.5-cent fee per 750-millili-
          ter bottle may seem like a drop in the wine barrel, but Bellview owner Jim Quarella
          said the extra price might leave consumers wrinkling their noses as though tasting
          an excessively tannined Shiraz.
                 “I don’t see any way we can pass that on to the consumer at this point,” he said.
          “It’s another hit we have to take.”
                 Sharrott Winery, in Blue Anchor, is likewise shouldering the latest tax from the
          state rather than increase its prices. “We’ll end up absorbing a significant portion of
          it,” said Larry Sharrott Jr., owner of Sharrott Winery.
                 Charlie Tomasello, co-owner of Tomasello Winery, in hammonton, agreed.
          “It’s very difficult to raise your prices a few cents,” he said. “While trying to
          provide value to consumers, raising prices is not an option.”
                 The latest excise tax increase from the state took effect in August. Along
          with wine, the price of liquor rose 22 cents per comparably sized bottle.
                 Quarella said wineries cannot compensate for the tax by simply mov-
          ing more wine. “This is not the economy where you can just go out and
          sell your product,” he said. “It’s hard to make sales now. It’s not a growing
          market.”
                 With the increased tax cutting into income, Quarella said he is
          looking for ways to reduce expenses, while hoping to recoup revenue
          when the economy recovers. he said though the number of sales at Bell-
          view increased this year, revenue slid as shoppers shunned premium
          vintages for lower-cost wines.
                 Even with the election of a new governor, Quarella held little
          hope for relief from the latest levy. “It seems like taxes don’t go                        Mounting taxes are making it
          away,” he said.
                 And it’s not just taxes that are adding costs — the high cost of                    even tougher for South Jersey’s
          fuel for farming equipment is adding expenses, too. A relative new-
          comer to the southern New Jersey wine market, Sharrott has kept                            wineries to stay profitable.
          abreast of what he calls the “long, slow progression of taxes”
          the state has historically doled out to the wine market.
                 Nonetheless, two year-old Sharrott is still growing, he
          said. The winery produced 1,700 cases of wine in 2008, with                                Now, they’re being forced to
          12 bottles per case, and is on target to produce 3,500 cases
          in 2009, he said.                                                                          swallow another increase on
                 Sharrott makes 14 varieties of wine priced from $10.99
                                              ➤➤ See   WINE on page 20                               liquor — or risk losing customers.




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www.njbiz.com                                                                                                                 njbiz   u   November 30, 2009 19
                                                                south jersey




                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                NJBIZ File Photo
               “People are beginning to recognize New Jersey wines.
         the quality is coming up dramatically, and we really are a bargain.”
                                                          Larry Sharrott Jr., owner, Sharrott Winery




                                                                                                                                                                          Christina Mazza
                                                                                                                                                                                            Smarter Agent CEO Brad Blumberg jokingly says his firm
                                                                                                                                                                                            may be kicked out of a Camden business incubator for
                                                                                                                                                                                            being too successful. He now employs more than 30.


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