Saturday, April 23, 2011

Response to Unposted Response to My Last Blog

Picture Jack Nicholson in your mind, if you will, and listen to him say, "You can't handle the truth!"

Truth is people do not like to visit wineries with cop cars parked in front or ones with armed mercenaries roaming the grounds. Our guests are not criminals and I think there are better ways of dealing with the few who cause problems – like limit the amount of alcohol poured.

I try to keep this blog a 'reality' show (your words) because most blogs are not. They are 'spin' shows. As Bill says, "The spin stops here." Yes, I try to be humorous because the wine industry as a whole lacks humor. It takes itself much too seriously. Any winery wannabee who reads this blog will have a lot better business plan than if they consult the Washington Wine Commission. If they read this blog and still decide to start a winery, more power to them. I wish them all the success in the world and welcome them to the industry.

As far as 'leadership' (your word again) goes, writing the petition to establish the Rattlesnake Hills AVA was an antiestablishment act in and of itself. (I won't repeat the caustic comments again.) I am not a member of 'the club' and don't intend to be. If you would read more, you would see I wrote a letter in support of the establishment of the Snipes Mountain AVA. I think I support the industry more than the people who wrote letters opposing the RHAVA petition. They did serious damage to the reputation of the Washington wine industry yet they are looked up to as 'the leaders.' I know, the truth hurts.

As for the Washington Wine Commission, a lot of wineries – especially in this region- think the WWC does little more than take our money. (How much money? That's another blog.)

I too served on the WWI board. It has since become irrelevant and not representative of the state as a whole. I now belong to the Family Wineries of Washington State.

I am not going to post your open letter because I think you might want to rethink it. But should you choose, you are welcome to post the original letter or a response to this blog.

The Washington wine industry is mature enough for a frank conversation. Let's see if we can handle the truth.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Spring Barrel Tasting Goes Well

It was really nice that the people from Puget Sound (aka Seattle to the locals) braved whiteout conditions and avalanches to attend the Spring Barrel event in the Yakima Valley. Numbers were probably up from the old days, but what with so many wineries, attendance at individual wineries was down. We here at Bonair had about 1500 visitors and they spent more money than in either of the previous two years, but it was nothing like the good old days when there were only 30 wineries in the valley and we divided all that money by 30, not 100. (Note to next new winery; divide by 101)

The crowd was younger and there were many more women than men. That is good in two ways. Women make most wine-buying decisions and it is great to see the younger crowd enjoying wines. We really sold the hell out of our sweet Riesling. Our older customers just find it hard to get out of the retirement home when the weather isn't perfect. We really miss them, though. In their place, we had a lot of Latinos, a really important customer base.

Other than a winery with gun toting guards and another with three Sheriff's cars parked out front, I didn't hear anything bad. We didn't have any people we had to refuse to serve due to inebriation and Yes, Mr. Liquor Board Man, we carded all who entered the gates and found not one underage person trying to attend the event. Just in case, though, you have a good solution to a nonexistent problem.

It seems some wineries look upon this event as an opportunity to turn off customers by poor organization and surly regimentation. I think this is the biggest opportunity to gain new customers that we have. This is where they get royal treatment and become returning customers. We even put a sign out on the main road advertising 'FREE Wine Tasting – No Pass? No Problem' just to get people who were tired of shelling out $5 at every winery after buying a $50 pass. I want people to try our wine. The wine will sell itself. I guess if your wine isn't very good and/or overpriced and people aren't buying, charging makes sense. I, personally, would rather pay to taste bad/expensive wine and walk out than feel obligated to buy a bottle.

I still think wineries serve too much alcohol. One winery had seven samples of bottled wine and a port from the barrel. If they were serving one-ounce pours, a person could become looped at just one winery. At Bonair, we used ½ ounce PosiPours and gave people 4 tickets to choose from 9 wines (Two dry whites, three sweeter wines and four dry reds.) The barrel sample didn't require a ticket, so the most a person could get was 2.5 ounces. By limiting the choice to four out of nine, people paid attention to what they were consuming. Only one dumbass said, "Start me at the top." When he got to the sweet Riesling, he was done. No tickets left for red wine. One person commented, "That's not very much wine (½ ounce) for a ticket." And our pourer responded, "How much did you pay for the ticket? (free)." Enough said. The PosiPours were a big help when everyone has a different size glass (like the woman with the giant margarita glass). They are much faster because you don't have to watch and guess when to stop. It is all automatic.

Futures from our barrel, the 2009 Morrison Vineyard, Estate Bottled, Rattlesnake Hills Cabernet Sauvignon, sold well.

So, if you attended or worked Spring Barrel in the Yakima Valley, your perceptions would be appreciated.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I’m Lovin’ It!

We recently moved into our new downsized house. As part of the downsizing, we ditched the land-line telephone and DirecTV. (It seems the only thing on TV these days is 'reality' shows; be they medical shows about somebody who let their ass grow to the size of Volkswagen Beetle or just some alcoholics from New Jersey getting sh1tfaced in front of a camera while Bruce Jenner looks retarded.) So now I watch the Daily Show with Jon Stewart on the internet. (Damn, no channel surfing during commercials.) But, I have learned something from a commercial.

What does your $50 bottle of wine and a Big Mac have in common? Here it is and I quote, "McDonalds Big Mac is handcrafted for that one of a kind taste and made just for you!"

Wow, does your precious wine taste like a cheap hamburger? Maybe, just maybe, this hackneyed word can be removed from the winery lexicon once and forever.


You can bet, "I'm lovin' it!"

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.