How Important Are Tasting Rooms to Success?

Apr 20, 2015

(SVBWine) - There is a bit of a standoff taking place in parts of wine country. No, the battle isn't with the Federales - not with the ABC, CDFA, BOE, TTB, or FDA each of whom have a regulatory role in the wine business. The battle is over events, tourism, and tasting rooms.

The wine business is being pressed from an incredible number of directions by those with conflicting desires and fears:

  • an anti-growth coalition that wants to keep things as they are or at some prior date,
  • the NIMBY club wants control over all they can see - even if its not their property to control,
  • the green alliance who want to dictate what can be developed and what can't,
  • internecine rivalries between winery owners,
  • long standing feelings of inequity between vineyard owners and wineries for grape contracts,
  • the local governments who are trying to make sense out of changing business conditions that include a heavy emphasis on direct sales, and balance the rights of property owners against those of their communities that elect them.

The plot is worthy of a movie .... how bout "The Treasure of the Vinous Madre?" Got a nice nose to it don't you think? I can see the trailer announcing ....Lawless winery owners combat the rag-tag French Legion-like, army of volunteers in a battle royale with only social media, bullhorns and cardboard signs with which to fight.

Anyway, this isn't isolated to Napa. A quick read of the press in Santa Barbara, Napa, the Willamette Valley, Paso Robles, Sonoma, New York, Virginia .... pretty much everywhere there is a burgeoning wine business, will yield news reports about the standoff which like all politics today, contains a fair bit of hyperbole.

The hyperbole seems to center around impacts on infrastructure, noise, traffic and water use. Focusing on Napa for a moment, that's why I loved this article [article], as well as others that are citing facts instead of hyperbole such as:

  • "Everyone in Napa works in the wine business" (74% of employees don't work in wine or hospitality.)
  • "Growth in new Napa wineries is out of control." (The County is approving on average 8 new wineries each year...but there are now 21 permits for new wineries pending.)
  • "There are more wineries in Napa every year" (The actual number of wineries in Napa has been declining since 2011, and now is closer to the number that were operating in 2007. )
  • "Day-tripping tourists are clogging the roads." (21% of cars on the road are visitors.)
  • "Most traffic snarls in Napa are from visitors" (55% of traffic is from people who live and work in Napa.)
  • "Wineries don't need tasting rooms or events to sell wine. They can sell on the internet." (not true. see below.)

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