Too Many Grapes - Consumers Benefit
Times must be tough! Last week I got telemarketed by a vineyard owner offering me grapes. Two calls in the same day! It got me thinking. I had actually been telemarketed the week before too. These are the kind of calls that intrude during the cocktail hour trying to switch your long distance.
I'm a retailer, not a winery. As a retailer, I'm the "bottom feeder" on the food chain. As a retailer, I don't have that "license to steal" that growers and wineries do.
A grower I have known for around 20 years has been "picking my brain" on selling wine recently. I figure if this grower is talking to me, times must really be tough. I don't think my neck is red enough for some of these growers. As a recent escapee from Santa Barbara, I suspect some of these growers think I might be some kind of a wacko and "tree hugging" environmentalist.
I was talking to a winery owner and friend just last Thursday, and he told me, "growers have been calling me and saying 'make us an offer.'" This underscores the fact that there is too much crop out there-especially chardonnay.
You and I, as consumers, should be the beneficiaries of this economic situation: fabulous wine made from world-class grapes at bargain basement prices! But on the other hand, growers who have too much chardonnay in inventory could be crying the blues. If the business plan calls for selling chardonnay at $15 a gallon and you're unloading it at $3 a gallon, what do you tell the bank?
A friend of mine and work colleague, Dexter Johnson, commented it's too bad the growers planted so much chardonnay. "They could have planted some more interesting varieties too." Where's the French columbard and chenin blanc? But all growers and producers could see in their blindness was chardonnay chardonnay - chardonnay.
As an interesting sidebar, it strikes me that American consumers and wine producers always ask these dump questions: What's going to replace merlot? What's going to replace chardonnay? What will be the next chardonnay? This expresses absolute stupidity. Why does some other white grape have to replace chardonnay? It was established decades ago that California produces some of the finest chardonnay in the world outside of Burgundy. It thrives in California's climate and especially in the cool environment of the Santa Maria Valley. Consumers love it. Why does it have to be replaced. Can't the varietal co-exist with other great white grapes like sauvignon blanc, roussanne, viognier and white Riesling?
Just driving from Los Alamos up to Monterey County, it's vineyards-vineyards everywhere! And this growth has mushroomed in just the past two decades. What were the investors thinking? It strikes me you don't have to be a rocket scientist to ask this fundamental question: Doesn't rapid-fire vineyard growth presuppose a commensurate growth in wine consumption? If I had been the banker being asked to fund these vineyard projects, that's the question I would have been asking!
Great Eats - Great Wine!
Brothers Restaurant has finally reopened. Brothers is located at Mattei's Tavern on Highway 154 in Los Olivos. My web designer, a consummate "foodie," commented it's the best food in an hundred mile radius. These guys get it. What brothers Jeff and Matt Nichols do epitomizes California cuisine at its best with an emphasis on "freshness." Needless to say, the wine list matches the food as well, featuring a good collection of all the best local wineries in Santa Barbara County. The service is transparent too. It matches the quality of both the food and wine. The restaurant is open daily from 5 p.m. To make reservations, call (805) 688-4820. Bon appetit!
Bob Senn lives in the Los Alamos Valley and owns the Los Olivos Wine & Spirits Emporium.
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