Prominent in the news is a minor flap in Oregon, begun by an ill-timed pronouncement from the OSU Extension Service. Apparently, it was intended solely for home wine growers.
Headlined “Oregon Appears to be on the Brink of its Worst Wine Grape Harvest Since the Vineyard Industry Started a few Decades Ago”, it set off a firestorm of statistical retorts.
The cries of outrage could be heard from Ashland to Astoria, which prompted a follow-up press release from the OSU College of Ag Sciences headlined “Cool Weather Could be an Advantage to this year’s Oregon Wine Vintage.”
The next press release came out from the Oregon Wine Board, doing some damage control, noting that winegrowers remain optimistic about this year's harvest, and are “marshaling all their skills and patience" to deal with the wet conditions. The final flourish was a note about last year's vintage, also a cool one, noting that quantity – but sacré bleu! not quality – was impacted by cool weather.
Some version of this marketing dance goes on every year at this time, when whatever harvest conditions prevail are spun to be positive. Some years are easy – the sun she is-a shining! But three of the last few years in Oregon have been especially challenging – 2007, 2010 and now 2011. Definitely not candidates for Vintage of the Century (we have had several of those already this century, so a a little time off is ok.) But I must also note that The Media – meaning that tiny handful of critics and publications whose pronouncements on the worthiness of any given vintage impact sales – may already be showing signs of a big old frown. And if that happens, the trade goes into panic mode, especially in Oregon, where memories of the 2007 anti-hype are still fresh.
Although I found and reviewed many excellent Pinots in 2007, I was in a distinct minority in the press. Hence the quick and angry reaction by Oregon vintners to their own Extension Service putting out such a dismal note BEFORE ANY GRAPES WERE EVEN PICKED! Can you say premature ejaculation?
Spare The Children!
In other news, the Costco initiative campaign in Washington state continues to gather steam. Having learned some hard lessons from last year’s failed effort, Costco has re-tooled and re-energized its effort to detach liquor and wine sales from the arms of the State. They have now donated more than $11 million to the campaign, opposed (no surprise here) by the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America.
Neither side is being entirely honest in their messaging to the masses, but I don’t think any voters are fooled by the scare tactics about providing booze to minors. Minors have always had access to booze, and always will. It is not up to the State to be the parent. Liquor sales are well regulated and will continue to be well regulated if this thing passes. As far as I can tell, the end of State-run liquor will also be a financial boon at a time when it is desperately needed. And despite the opening of a couple of truly outstanding liquor stores recently – one in my old West Seattle neighborhood – I don’t think anyone would give the State more than a D minus on their handling of the business over the past decades.
Let’s see where the major newspapers come out with their endorsements. Right now, I think this initiative has a better than 50/50 chance of passage.
A (Gasp!) Surprise Worker Shortage
The San Luis Obispo Tribune reports today that local (Central Coast) wineries are having problems finding workers to pick their rain-soaked grapes. Small wineries, that rely on hand-picked (rather than machine-harvested) grapes as a measure of quality, are particularly impacted. How much of this shortage of workers is weather-related, and how much is a result of the immigrant-bashing going on across this great land? Time will tell.
But if any of my readers happen to rely on migrant workers for seasonal labor, I would hope that they would do their part to support rational immigration reform, rather than take the extreme positions being floated elsewhere in the country. If only in their own self-interest.