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Generational sniping? I don’t think so


Yesterday I wrote about gender. Today, it’s generations. (Why am I thinking in such weighty terms lately?) It happened when I read this Q&A in the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, by one of their writers, Peg Melnik. It started out with her profiling a real, 23-year old Millennial and asking the question, “How can wine country court them [Millennials]?”

Good enough question to draw me in. Usually, if the first sentence of an article or blog don’t grab me, I move on.

A couple things struck me about the Millennial, whose name is Matt. First, he doesn’t want to be condescended to by writers, critics, merchants, tasting room personnel, or anybody else. Here’s a great quote from him: “If a winery wants to target Millennials, it should be accepting of how we demand quality, image, and history, but we like to think for ourselves.” All Matt asks is for industry folks to be respectful of where he’s coming from, not treat him like an idiot because he may not know as much as a Boomer. And “The winery should know that we network and market through each other and a warm smile and a memorable experience in a tasting room can go a very long way.”

That’s great stuff. Then Melnik concludes the Q&A by asking Matt “about the generational sniping from the Baby Boomers who think some of the Millennials drink wine with too much gusto. What’s the best way to bridge this generation gap?” That’s when my jaw dropped.


snipe [verb] to shoot from a hidden position, as at individuals of an enemy force; to direct an attack [at someone] in a sly or underhanded way

Have I missed something? I haven’t heard anything about sniping Boomers throwing underhanded stink bombs at Millennials. If anything (speaking on behalf of Boomers), we think it’s fantastic that people Matt’s age are getting interested in wine. When Melnik asks her readers, “Is there any more generational sniping going on?” I hope they tell her, loud and clear, “No! There isn’t. And stop trying to stir up trouble.”

I don’t know, was last summer’s Rockaway dustup an example of “sniping”? To the extent any criticism was expressed from my direction, it was concerning questions about journalism, P.R. ethics and full disclosure. I don’t think it was a generation gap thing. And it sure had nothing to do with anyone enjoying wine too much.

I did think that, when the magazine WineX came out about 10 years ago (could have been longer), I was discountful of it, as were most other people I knew, because I thought it condescended to young people, as if they had to throw in sexual or cultural terms of reference instead of just being smart. But that wasn’t a snipe at young people, it was my disgust with a magazine that pandered to some bizarre perception of them.

One of the best things that’s happened to America is that we’ve become a wine-drinking country. My generation led the way, simply because we were born earlier than Gen Y and Millennials. Now, people over 21 are turning to wine in droves (and we have a wine-loving couple in the White House, Yay!). I’ll lift a glass to that, and welcome Matt and his Millennial friends to the club.

  1. I posted your post on Matt’s facebook wall. He’s hot right now!

  2. Scott Carpenter says:

    Thanks for saying it, Steve. Those “millennials” are the future of wine sales, and I hope everyone appreciates that. I read Ms. Melnik’s article on the recent Russian River Wine Road two-weekend event. Her focus was on the young people who came to the tour to have a good time – gasp! – in the Healdsburg town square; she missed the story that took place at the wineries – and on the road – deciding instead to focus on what she interpreted as loud, bad behavior by that young crowd.

    I also covered that event for network radio and found this same crowd to be quite the opposite of the partying rabble Ms. Melnick described. Of the 50 people I interviewed (mic-on-street), most were in their twenties and thirties. Yes, a few were in a party mode, but all were responsibly tasting and buying wine. And those who might have had a little bit too much also had designated drivers.

    In our follow-up story, we noted that most participating wineries saw increased sales over last year, several to the tune of 30%. When asked, the wineries told us that it was the younger people who drove the surprising sales numbers. All attendees that we spoke to were professional and governed themselves accordingly. In addition, CHP told us there were no more DUIs accompanying the event than there are on a typical weekend. And when you’re talking about 30,000 people, that says something.

    Clearly, the Press Democrat missed the story. Considering the challenges the publication is facing, maybe it’s time to review who’s at the keyboard. And maybe it’s time to review the editor as well.

  3. As a Millennial, Steve, thanks for the welcome!

    I assumed the sniping question referred to the recent Press-Democrat article about barrel tasting weekends and how many younger wine drinkers go to those to drink a lot (gasp! don’t they run one of those every year?). Can’t find the link at the moment, navigating their website can be a bit of a pain.

    Hope the North Coast adventures are great!

  4. Steve: the link that Lynae was looking for is this one:
    And that was clearly what Peg Melnik was referring to in her question. Sorry you hadn’t seen that piece. It would have gone a long way toward explaining her “sniping” reference.

    As for your assertion that Peg was “trying to stir up trouble” — and for Scott Carpenter’s little bit of nastiness regarding the Press Democrat’s need to “review who’s at the keyboard” — all I see is a reporter who did her job. She used her news judgment and determined that the couple from Ohio who raised objections about what they encountered during this event was part of the news story. That, apparently, ruffled some feathers. But no one has suggested any part of the story is inaccurate, or that the couple was misquoted.

    The Press Democrat didn’t “miss the story,” Scott. It found and covered an aspect of the story that you didn’t. Doesn’t make you wrong — but it sure doesn’t make you right, either.

  5. Steve, you might have missed earlier articles and blogs on the subject. I enjoy your blog. A little research is always good before you blog about someone though.

  6. Steve
    “discountful”? Are you a writer, or what? Just because it’s a blog… Please, a little mor Strunk and White, a little less Joyce. Actually Joyce would be fine. That’s more Bush. Mark

  7. As the winemaker at a winery staffed solely by the millenial generation (at 30 I am the oldest employee), we are very cogniscent of the role that millenials play in both future and current wine consumption. We also happen to be located just outside San Luis Obispo, a town where college kids make up a large part of the population. Yes, we do experience those millenials who are just out to consume (as per the sniping from the Boomers), but we get an increasing number who want to become educated. We feel it is our role to educate this tier of consumers, not berate or ignore them because they follow our wine drinking ethics.

    However, I have experienced a lot of “old school” wineries that really miss the mark when it comes to the millenial generation. We are generally uninterested in tradition and convention. We prefer the screwcap to the cork, unoaked rather than oaked, Spanish Garnacha to Napa Cab. The wineries that don’t adapt to these younger generations will find themselves in the same boat as the auto industry.

  8. To misunder-quote Bush, I am the discounter!

  9. Sniping…hmmm. At millenials…double hmmm. Like Fintan, who is just outside San Luis Obispo, we also have had a healthy influx of millenials for our Cerro Prieto Vineyard & Cellars eco vineyard tours. True, most wineries don’t promote their vineyards, but I can tell you that the folks we have entertained here have been not only interesting but interested in our eco tours. Most wineries in our Paso Robles area don’t promote their vineyards…but they should, in that vineyards are some of the most spectacularly scenic places we have here. And the millenials, God bless them, are wildly enthusiastic, not just about the inherent beauty of our vineyard (as well as the wine it produces), but they are also very eco-centric.

    Am I surprised by this? Initially, absolutely. Now, milennials are good referrals for us, they are very pro eco issues, and are definitely a force for sustainable ag/ going green. If anything, it is possible millenials were not taken seriously enough, maybe because somebody thought “they hadn’t paid their dues”, or something like that. What we have seen is a very intelligent consumer group, who love fine wine, are very taken with vine/wine eco issues, and are delightful people to be around. In my very limited experience, it is people my own age who tend to be put-offish, not very interested, and in some cases, not very interesting.

    Anybody out there who has some millenials they don’t want? Heck, send ’em our way…we welcome them. I love Fintan’s close: “We prefer screwcaps to corks, and like unoaked rather than oaked.” It’s the new math, and I agree with Fintan that to ignore the millenials would be a very poor choice, indeed.

  10. I’m pretty sure “sniping” was just an odd word choice for what was meant as “taking a jab.” At least that how I read it as a 22 year old from the respective group’s article topic.

  11. merlotman says:

    Changing habits? I think so, The new generation, spring breakers etc. Beer, Margaritas….Now wine, why not? Our future consumers, they may come for fun, buy one bottle…but will purchase cases in the future. Chill out. Big Smile I am 57 ………………

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