Buying direct

You are not alone if you enjoy wine. Last year, U.S. wine sales increased for the 22nd consecutive year. You also now are more likely to buy wine directly from a winery.

Direct-to-consumer (DtC) sales increased 18.5 percent in 2016, topping more than five million cases and $2.3 billion in revenue. Although retail stores dominate with $24.6 billion in sales, direct-to-consumer (DtC) growth is three times the growth of retail wine sales.

Several reasons: States have relaxed ridiculous, antiquated laws to give consumers freedom of choice. DtC has long been the only way to obtain higher end, rarer wines from smaller makers. The average DtC bottle price is $38.69. Average DtC price for coveted Napa cabernet sauvignon is $97.93. Fastest growing DtC category is wine selling for more than $200.

At the same time, online buying of everything is booming. In a new trend, DtC wines that cost less than $15 now represent the largest volume of DtC sales. Taking notice, large and medium-sized wineries, long reluctant to enter the DtC market, joined the DtC revolution.

By industry metrics, there are 64 large wineries that produce more than 500,000 cases a year and 260 medium-size wineries that produce between 50,000 and 499,999 cases a year. Their combined DtC sales increased by 183 percent in 2016.

Part of the reason large and medium-size wineries enjoyed such growth numbers is they had so few DtC sales in the past. Limited production wineries (less than 1,000 cases) and very small wineries (1,000-4,999 cases) account for 77 percent of DtC sales.

Cabernet sauvignon leads in DtC demand (16 percent of sales), followed by red blends, pinot noir, and chardonnay. California is the most common DtC destination with 31 percent, Texas is second with nine percent, followed by New York with six percent. The wine world changes and grows every day.

Tasting notes:

Tommasi Viticoltori Valpolicella Ripasso 2013: “Baby Amarone” is fascinating, wonderful. $23-35

• Chateau Montelena Calistoga Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013: Smart intro to upper-end, seriously good Napa cabs. $50-58

• Frank Family Vineyards Rutherford Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: Decadently delicious luxury. $85-98

Last round: I don’t drink wine any more. Same time, I don’t drink any less.