Writing this from California where Brett and I are spending a couple of weeks spreading the word about Wine Travel Guides and learning how American wine lovers tick.
Yesterday (Sunday afternoon) we decided to cruise the Russian River Valley incognito, pretending we were pure wine tourists. Used brochures and the Lonely Planet Guide as our sources of information. We had a great vegetarian lunch in Sebastopol at The Slice of Life (you wouldn’t find THAT in a French wine region) and then went along some small (for California) roads to find Iron Horse Winery, known for its sparkling wines (Brett used to sell them at his wine bar in Essex), but also making still wines. We could see it up on the hill (great view) with a huge number of cars parked. As we approached it was like driving up to a stately home in England on a sunny Sunday afternoon (although this was a shack rather than a stately home) … everyone out with dogs, children, picnics etc. and a party atmosphere. The tasting room was effectively outside and one could buy flights of wine tasting wines for $10. A few people were evidently interested in the wines, but others were there for a social occasion, and others to get as much down their necks as possible – a black stretch limo showed up and dispensed forth about 8 ‘beautiful young people’ who had obviously already made several visits. I didn’t know whether to be pleased that the California wine industry is doing so well, or disappointed that it is simply a lifestyle tourist attraction. It wasn’t that different at the other winery we went to briefly – De Loach, which I knew from my visit to California in 1996. De Loach is now owned by Boisset and has a beautiful tasting room with a team of staff informing about the wines ‘on taste’ (again sold for $10 per flight of 5 wines …. refunded if you a bottle of anything starting from $15). The same limo turned up there with the group even worse for wear, but ‘having fun’.
So different from France, where – to be honest – they are still trying to work out where they are going with wine tourism. Yet, they do need to address the issues properly as it is of growing interest and if handled right developing wine tourism will help France emerge from its ‘wine crisis’.
If you want to listen to an interesting podcast discussion on Wine Tourism that I participated in this morning, click here.
In the meantime, with your own personal wine travel plans in mind, if you haven’t yet subscribed to the Guides on my site, use this code D1BLG08 to receive a useful discount!
Back to the hard work in California!