Cashing in on fame
Can we talk?
Over the last few years I’ve tasted a lot of wines made by people who got famous and wealthy in other fields, then decided to try their hands at the wine biz.
They may be athletes or rock stars, businessmen, restaurateurs, celebrity cooks or Hollywood types, whatever. Their names are household words. And that’s precisely why they get into the wine biz: someone (marketing wiz? PR guru? agent?) persuades them that they have a leg up selling whatever they make, because the American public is so gullible, they’ll buy anything that has a famous name attached.
And you know what? Most of these famous name wines are pretty mediocre. They’re also usually overpriced. (There is one notable exception: Boz Scaggs. He makes really good wine at his Scaggs Vineyard on Mount Veeder.)
The warning for consumers is the oldest one: caveat emptor.
They’re at it again in NY over selling wine in grocery stores
This argument seems like it’s been going on forever in The Empire State, doesn’t it? The one about whether grocery stores should be allowed to sell wine.
There are valid arguments on both sides. Basic freedom and capitalism suggest grocery store owners should be allowed to sell wine. But liquor store owners fear that such a move would put them out of business.
It’s hard to take sides when you don’t have all the facts, but I’ve on record as supporting the grocery stores. This ghettoization of where wine can and can’t be sold is an anachronistic leftover of Prohibition and needs to stop.
And if you think NY is crazy, try Pennsylvania
PA has got to be America’s wackiest state when it comes to the distribution and sale of alcohol. (Well, maybe Utah’s even wackier.) It’s has been in a complete psychodrama lately. It’s a control state, meaning PA’s 625 liquor stores are owned by the state. That sucks. Some politicians, mainly Republicans including the Governor, want to privatize the state stores, which would be a good thing, but so far, no one has actually introduced a bill. It’s easy to say you’re for something if you take no actual steps to realize it.
Then there’s another idea floating around that would allow beer distributors to sell wine and liquor. The geniuses behind this say it’s to maximize customer convenience, since under the current system, wine and liquor are available at the state stores, but beer has to be bought by beer distributors or at a restaurant or bar.
That is a pretty schizoid system, but don’t you think beer distributors already have about as much power as we should trust them with? I do. The solution to PA’s problem is, once again, the basis of any free market: let any licensee (on- or off-premise) sell any alcoholic beverage they want.
Times’ Resto critic Bruni to pen op-eds
I’m looking forward to seeing how Frank Bruni, who’s been the Grey Lady’s restaurant critic for five years, will do now that he’s been given a coveted weekly slot on the paper’s op-ed page.
The Times has shown it has a sense of humor and is willing to take risks with its columnists. Maureen Dowd’s snark, Frank Rich’s biting wit (I miss him now that he’s gone over to New York Magazine) and even David Brooks’ dry scholaticism make for some of the liveliest opinion pieces in America. Now Bruni, who’s openly gay, joins their ranks.