Friday, April 1, 2011

Where Have All the People Gone?

Sing to the tune of Where Have All the Flowers Gone? In the old days, spring break was the time for teachers to hit the road and go wine tasting. (Hey, I used to be in education, so any excuse to drink is a good one.) Then the school districts started taking different weeks for spring break, so the crowds were spread over a three-week period. Not a problem, lots of teachers in need of alcohol made for three good weeks.

Then you can add the fact that the number of wineries went from 100 to 600 in a short time span while the number of teachers remained about the same (although with all the new initiatives and lack of funding in public education, the need to drink is much higher.)

This year Mutha Nachur has not cooperated, either. It didn't snow all winter, but decided to make up for it in the spring. As I write this on April 1, Stevens Pass is closed indefinitely due to avalanche danger. Since our main source of wine drinkers is from Puget Sound and must travel over the dreaded Snoqualmie Pass, tourist traffic has been light. Well, look on the bright side. We at least we have lots of irrigation water this year.

Upon quizzing tourists that do arrive we find they are visiting a few wineries in the Rattlesnake Hills, then going to visit a few elsewhere like Prosser Flats or Walla. In the old days, when there were about 24 wineries in the Yakima Valley, people would spend a day seeing all of them in Zillah Zillah, then a day in Prosser, and finish off with Red Mountain. Every winery saw every visitor.

Now we can add a new dimension; $5.00 gasoline. Two years ago when gas hit $4.00 per gallon I bought a Honda Fit so I could still go when and where I pleased. Granted, it only holds about 18 cases of wine, but that would make the trip worthwhile. But people are slow learners. I still see new Yuckon Duhnali Tahoo XLT gas guzzlers. They are great for hauling wine but can cost $100 for a fill up. I can put 100 cases of wine in my Dodge Ram 2500 SLT but I am lucky to get 14 miles per gallon downhill with a tailwind. When I turn on the key it sounds like a toilet flushing. (1.6 gpf by federal mandate)

Spring Barrel Tasting is in two weeks. That is the official start of wine tourism season. We will see if the people come out or not. I'll keep you posted.

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