To dive into the timeless and delectable dichotomy—that which unites farmers, philosophers and creators. And, that which delivers us back to, while reminding us the importance of our mother earth.
It’s remarkable what we can sometimes take for granted—perhaps less today that say, two years ago. But, an example that quickly comes to mind is Trader Joe’s, which was critically influential in the development of wine-culture in Southern California, going back four decades. They made wine readily available, and affordable—progressively convincing an otherwise largely unknowing populace that wine is an extension of food and that it should be incorporated into daily life. Whether discounted first growths or six-dollar Vouvray, they’re still thriving in the new luxury vertical, completely devoid of snobbery—and, most importantly—giving the customer what they want.
Well, almost. Three-hundred stores and 25 states later, this privately owned and operated company—along with every other “grocery store” in the state of New York—cannot sell wine. Californians can now do nearly all of their shopping at Trader Joe’s—in addition to their more traditional dry-goods, alternative independents and earth-friendly products—they offer produce, meats and myriad artisan goodies. But, if you couldn’t get wine there, would it change the value of your experience?
Apparently, David Paterson, New York’s governor wants more. He proposed this week that the state’s 19,000 grocery and convenience stores be allowed to sell wine. Who could oppose that, right? Well, how about the 2,400 wine and liquor retailers—who are already fighting formidable behemoths with rocks and slings. Think ecommerce giants like wine.com and the pending, much-anticipated arrival of Amazon; not to mention the augmenting dominance of forces like Costco and Whole Foods.
In Southern California, around the same time that Pronto Markets became Trader Joe’s, an Angelino named Steve Wallace was scouring the unspoiled back roads of California and abroad, in search of new wine. A decade or so before that, the Hanson family opened Hi-Time Cellars, an hour or so down the coast; another two decades before that, Sherry Wine and Spirits Co. was founded, in 1934, now Sherry-Lehmann; and over a hundred-years earlier, Acker Merrall & Condit, which prides itself as being America’s oldest and finest wine shop, was founded in 1820.
In 1998, my suggestion that Costco, in the hands of David Andrew, would become ‘one of the largest retailers and potentially dominate the fine wine category in volume,’ was met with both fear and indifference. I recall a specific example from someone who shall remain nameless, in the interest of retribution, who jested about buying Château d’Yquem where he gets his dog food and trash bags. Deep knowledge and customer-service would prevail. We all know how that’s turned out. In its first year, Andrew’s wine program saw a 30 percent increase in fine domestic wine, a 54 percent increase in fine imported wine and a 35 percent increase in imported wine in the under-$10. In 2007, Costco generated $456 million of U.S. Fine Wine sales.
This week, Decanter quoted Mike Martin, owner of Martin Brothers, a thriving shop near three supermarkets on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, said, ‘I’m not worried. They won’t carry what I carry. They won’t compete on ‘82 Latour.’
What’s appealing about opening the doors to 19,000 outlets? The more than ‘$150 million in revenue for the state in licensing and franchise fees over three years, while boosting the state’s wine makers and customer convenience.’ Not only does this proposal allow for additional state revenues, but it also furthering the collective cause—in establishing an even greater omnipresence through convenience and consumer education.
Only time will tell the fate of retailers in Manhattan, America’s single-biggest wine market, and throughout the state of New York. California has a few success stories to offer: Wally’s continues to thrive, as does Hi-Time Cellars, not to mention a few other folks like K&L, now on their third location, this one in Los Angeles—the second largest wine consumption city in the United States.
Lest we forget the trailblazers of decades past—what set them apart then, is what defines the success of today’s independent players: innovation. Food for thought.
Prohibition, one of the darkest hours in American history—which lasted from 1920-1933—was repealed on this day, December 5th, with the 21st Amendment of the eighteenth article to the Constitution of the United States. This brainchild of short-sighted neerdowells, was catastrophically harmful to the country, society and communities across the country—eventually proving the government’s failure to legislate morality. Before its end, mass corruption brought a surge in crime and racketeering—giving life to the moguls who shaped the booze industry as we know it today. A far cry from the allure of San Francisco speakeasies—families were decimated and the California wine industry was brought to its knees.
The fear-mongers got everyone in a McCarthy-like fervor—along with the Rockefellers. Even old Henry Ford, a staunch prohibitionist, had an undercover network of spies, and would fire anyone caught under the suspicion of drinking. He took over every brewery in the state of Michigan and turned them into ethanol alternative fuel plants because he didn’t believe in oil. That’s a whole different story.
Americans consumed $30 billion worth of wine in 2007; and the government collected more than $5.3 Billion in alcoholic beverage tax revenue in 2006. I guess that explains that—perhaps we should look at the potential revenue opportunities for contemporary illicit contraband. In an economy like ours, every dollar counts; and crime is not our friend.
Happy Repeal Day!
I am deeply saddened to report that Dr. Antoine Badan—a man of almost mythical proportions to anyone who knew him—has passed away. So, if you’re lucky enough to own Mogor-Badan wine, I would suggest drinking it tonight in his honor.
This year has been unbelievably difficult for the family—consummate activists in all matters of the environment and their beloved Valle de Guadalupe. A few months ago, Antonio’s mother passed away—it was her husband who brought la Virgen de Guadalupe to the Notre Dame in Paris. She used to tell the story of one-hundred charros lining Rue de Rivoli, in procession to the church.
Many will remember him for having mounted every aspect of the winemaking process himself, from crushing the grapes to pasting on the labels, which he designed using type from an old print shop in Paris. Others will praise him for bringing the quixotic passagère clandestine Chasselas grape to the Americas. Friends and colleagues will celebrate his vast contributions to oceanography and those to his community. But those who knew him will remember him most for his unbending integrity. With him he carried the revolutionary phrase “Por un Valle de Verdad” every day of his life—he lived it and breathed it proudly as a consciousness.
Antonio leaves el Mogor in the keeping his beautiful sister, Natalia, and her children who will miss him dearly.
The 2007 La Ferme Julien Côtes du Liberon Rhône Valley (Perrin ) Bourboulenc 30%, Grenache Blanc 30%, Ugni Blanc, 30%, Roussanne 10% [International Wine Imports, American Canyon, CA] 13% is light in color; with a lovely subtle nose, that maunders from floral to fruity—with a bouquet of bright citrus, ripe apples, fresh grass, spice, grapefruit and faint undertones of candied apple, pineapple and tropical fruit. The palate is very well balanced, with good structure, offering golden apples, spice and grassy herbaceousness; the finish is long and clean.
Sure, this is not the best example of white Rhône—I mean we’re not talking Château Grillet or Chave Hermitage Blanc—but for $4.99 at Trader Joe’s, I have to kick this one up to Cost-Mojo. Can’t wait to try the Rosé—beautiful!
One would think that it would have gone away, by now; and I apologize for my part in perpetuating its existence. Those WS Loyalists have taken to the streets—or, social networking sites, as the case may be. Anonymous activists are defending the failing kingdom under siege, whilst vilifying this Robin Goldstein, as a cheap self-promoter. They’re frantically pouring hot oil down on the first-wave of attackers—and the story seems to somehow mirror the ebbs and flows of a cheap political race.
Some anonymous commenter(s) have even chosen to attempt discrediting the Association of Wine Economists (AAWE). Not advisable. One thing is certain, this event—what some people are sagely referring to as a “practical joke”—has created quite a stir amongst us; the likes of which none of us has seen in some time. Hopefully this won’t create anymore rifts than those which have already been wrought. When in doubt, spin.