There was an interesting article in the Napa Valley Register yesterday, warning Napa Valley producers that they are not the only game in town anymore. If Napa is to continue its hegemonic position in the wine world, the article's author writes, it needs to refocus its attention on what it does best.
The author points to a new high-end restaurant in Oakland that doesn't have a single Napa Valley wine on its list as proof that Napa is beginning to take for granted its place in the wine world. And while I don't think that there will ever be a time when Napa isn't the dominant wine region in the US, other regions, like the Livermore Valley, need to do more to bring their wines to a larger restaurant and wine shop audience.
I am deeply conflicted about selling wine through the three-tier system. First, the system only benefits the smallest subset of participants: namely the large distributors, mega brands, and the politicians who receive enormous contributions from the distributors. Small brands are not going to succeed long term presenting their wines this way. They do not have the marketing muscle, case volume, profit potential, or visibility that the mega-brands do. Most distributor sales reps are paid on commission, and when it comes to putting bread on the table, it is the order and not the brand building that takes priority. Secondly, I prefer to know what those who consume my wine think of it. Through direct sale at the winery and through our wine clubs, I have the honor of talking with a great many people who tell me exactly what they think. The gratification and responsibility is immediate.
The conflict comes, though, from the fact that looking askance at an opportunity to tell my story, to pour my wine for someone who hasn't tasted yet, is too important to pass up, no matter how it comes about. If a wine region, like Napa did starting in the 1970s, bands together to show the larger world what it can do, and it continually produces better and better wine, it has a chance
to succeed as a group in this incredibly competitive business.
What do you think? Do you search wine lists for Livermore Valley wines? Are you seeing more good wines coming from Livermore today than 5 years ago? What can we do better?