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Wednesday Wraparound


I don’t know Jennifer Porter, the new head of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, but I wish her well. She’s got big shoes to fill, taking over from Stacie Jacob, with whom I and Wine Enthusiast worked on several occasions over the years. Paso Robles is one of the big success stories in California. There was no guarantee this inland San Luis Obispo County appellation could become a hit, but it has. Good luck Jennifer!

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What’s that old saying, Dance with the one that brung ya? It’s meant to suggest loyalty to those who never let you down, and I guess that’s why Diageo renewed their contract with Southern Wines & Spirits.

These are two big companies that have discovered life is infinitely better together than apart. Readers of this blog know that I’ve expressed frustration with the three-tiered system and its domination by big distributors, like Southern. But I’ve been put in my place on more than one occasion by people I respect who explained to me that lots of wineries simply couldn’t do business without the distributors. So I’ve officially taken a neutral position on this topic.

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Speaking of happy marriages, one of Bordeaux’s oldest, most prestigious wine schools is fighting falling enrollment by extending its arms to–who else?–Chinese students. I guess you sell your stuff to whoever’s buying!

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Oh, those naughty wine economists! Now they’ve discovered that “monogamous societies are bigger drinkers than those in polygamous societies,” or, to put it another way, “monogamy was indeed positively correlated with drunkenness.”

I wonder how they did their research? As much as I respect economists (did I really say that?), it’s hard for me to believe that the more you drink, the more likely you are to commit yourself to a single partner. But what do I know?

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I have newfound respect for the people of Oregon–at least, those who listen to Oregon Public Radio. Their top story of the week was about Oregon’s cool, rainy wine season, which was even worse this year than California’s, because they’re that much closer to Alaska. I can’t imagine the top story of the week on KQED radio being the vintage weather. Go, Oregon wine people, go.

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Finally, there’s this bizzaro story about a family who got lost in a corn maze and had to call 911 to rescue them. It was in Massachusetts, a state I lived in for 16 years after moving from NYC, and while I knew plenty of strange people there, I can’t imagine getting lost in a corn maze when actually they were only yards away from a nearby road. On the other hand, I did once get lost in a vineyard. It was Firestone’s, down in the Santa Ynez Valley, and the only reason I didn’t call 911 was because I would have been too embarrassed to tell them I  didn’t know where I was. Obviously, I survived.

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That’s it for today. What, you expected Shakespeare?

  1. Steve,

    The people who tell you that “wineries simply couldn’t do business without the distributors” are 100% correct — but that doesn’t mean you should take a neutral position on this topic.

    Most importantly, the use of distributors IS REQUIRED BY LAW. No other industry faces a government-imposed and mandated middle-tier. So if a small winery knows some retailers (restaurants, wine shops, etc.) in great markets (say, DC and NYC), she is prohibited, by law, from selling her wares directly to these retailers.

    Second, because the use of distributors is required by politicians, distributors have successfully lobbied distributors for all sorts of absurd laws.

    From a winery’s perspective, this means garbage like not being allowed to fire your wholesaler. Seriously. Once you sign up, it’s till death do you part. In certain states, wholesalers have state-sponsored exclusivity to certain regions; or state-sponsored exclusivity to certain brands.

    For consumers, the pernicious influence of wholesalers is why 37 states still prohibit consumers from ordering wine from out-of-state retail shops. And why states like Washington refuse to privatize the sale of alcohol (which reduces competition and choice and raises prices).

    Are distributors necessary? Absolutely. But there’s no reason why the presence of wholesalers needs to be required by law. You shouldn’t be neutral on this topic! Consumers and wineries need your help!

  2. Steve, monogamous societies are bigger drinkers because they ARE monogamous – I mean, they’re married, so they drink more. It’s a simple equation of logic that I learned in logic class – the “if, then” equation – if someone is married, then, they drink more… Your assertion that “it’s hard for me to believe that the more you drink, the more likely you are to commit yourself to a single partner” is looking at it all wrong! They weren’t drinking that much when they were single, but marriage drove them to drink! The reason they drink, is that they got married! So, yet another reason not to get married… and I bet the people who got lost in that maze, were/are married. I rest my case.

  3. Given the number of times Mrs. Leslie has driven me to seek the bottle, I can’t imagine how I my liver could survive two or three wives. You can prove anything with statistics, but I would think that the few renegade Mormans and quite a few Muslims who practice polygamy and do not drink would tend skew the results.

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