Ramble #7 – Big Sur and Bigger Prices

10 Mar

Pricing of California wines drives me crazy. Oh, there’s lots of cheap naked, barefoot, and animally house wines. But, it seems that there are fewer and fewer solid upper mid-range, kinda special wines regularly available and we’re left to spot “value” wines or label chase. This is probably totally untrue (“Bill, it’s patently false,” says my friend Marty. But, we seldom agree). This week there will be a release of the ‘collectible’ and ‘iconic’ from California. Big California names with even bigger price tags. I can remember buying these wines when I really couldn’t afford to buy any wine at all (more of a pretender then – still a pretender, you say?). Now, when I’m spending my children’s inheritance, I can’t bring myself to pay $75 for a wine that I have in my cellar that cost just (well, ‘just’ is not the proper word) $39 a few vintages ago. What the hell has happened? With the wine business growing in leaps and bounds, consumers becoming more educated, and (aside from my jurisdiction) competition alive and well in the marketplace, why the heck does price escalate so rapidly. I’ve read all the so-called experts’ takes on this (poor weather, growing and insatiable Chinese market, swallowing up of wineries by conglomerates – the last puts the lie to the theory that larger companies can realize economies of scale). I don’t believe any of it! And, don’t suggest that this is an Ontario problem. I was just in Florida and tried to source California wine there and although cheaper on the low and mid ends – still there’s an enormous amount of truly crazily expensive California wine. Did I say crazily expensive? No, ‘crazily’ is the wrong word. The right word is ‘unjustifiably’ expensive. My theory – WE ARE DOPES and they know it.

So, I’m throwing down a challenge to all reading this (at least a few people do, right?). We will not be swayed by fancy labels, stories of a winery’s past glory (God, spare me the irrelevant Tasting of 1976, or whatever that year was, story), and intricate particulars of ‘terroir’ in California until we see some pricing restraint. It’s all winobabble (I’ve coined a word?). News flash, the tech bubble has burst, Hummers don’t rule the road anymore, and mass-produced California cabernets (and, let’s not kid ourselves, many of these ones are mass-produced) shouldn’t cost twice as much as a wonderful, rarer Brunello from an estate that pre-dates the founding of California, for crying out loud. Deep breath. Come on people and join me in a boycott of ………um……eh, do I actually have to choose particular wines to boycott? Can’t I wait and see what hits me while I walk the aisles? Yeah, that’s it, after I buy what I want, I will declare the wines that we are not going to buy. I’m principled but not that principled – after all, I love my Chateau Montelena and I am most definitely a big DOPE. But, you get the point.

Next ramble I’ll take the polar opposite position on pricing for Ontario wines. As in, they deserve to be priced even higher, maybe!

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