Vacation over, the daily swill is back

Vacation over, the daily swill is back

The west coast ports are back open. Yippee! Seriously, I am guessing a lot of folks celebrated this news with champagne or drinks… it is crazy after all of that posturing that they came to an agreement three days after the Labor Secretary (of the USA) came to intervene. It makes me wonder what was stopping them from negotiating in good faith earlier in the process.

Premiere Napa Valley set a record for funds raised at its annual event. While that isn’t especially newsworthy, it is indicative of the current economy, especially for affluent consumers. Almost $300 per bottle is pretty astonishing considering what you can buy if you went out into the market – like this or this. I am surprised there isn’t a similar event for Pinot Noir at this point based on its popularity among collectors.

Petaluma Gap is creating an AVA. This makes sense as wineries have been touting the “Petaluma Wind Gap” as a point of differentiation for many years. For buyers of Sonoma Coast wines, it has been obvious that the Sonoma Coast AVA would eventually be carved up into a lot of smaller AVAs. That is what drives the West of West group to differentiate itself as well.

Illinois is really protecting its wine retailers and distributors. First, there was the news that a lawyer was using a technicality (are shipping charges on wine taxable?) to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars as a whistleblower. That action was targeting out-of-state wineries. Last week, the state’s Illinois Liquor Control Commission went after out-of-state companies that do not have licenses to ship to Illinois — this is primarily retailers. It is important for both people in the industry and consumers to know that the rules for wineries and retailers are different. While wineries can feasibly ship to ~40 states in the US, retailers can only legally ship to ~15 states without going through the 3-tier system.

Daily Swill for February 5

Daily Swill for February 5

The west coast ports (e.g. Long Beach, Oakland) have been problems for importers/exporters for the past half year, but apparently it is getting really bad. I am sure the port operators are just looking for ways exert pressure on the longshoremen to force the negotiation process. Why it matters: for wine and spirits, a lot of product comes into the west coast ports. If they close, it will cause issues especially for California exports and for smaller importers that do not have as much flexibility / resources to re-direct imports through other ports around the USA. It is usually a short-term problem but it could become a major issue.

Epic Wine & Spirits has made a couple of moves in the past week. First, they added a notable Burgundy producer in Albert Bichot. Then they added Wilson Artisan Wineries. Wilson is a company that has been rolling up boutique producers, mostly in Dry Creek. No doubt Bill Foley (the new owner of Epic) respected this strategy. Why it matters: California is the largest wine market in the USA and probably one of the largest in the world. It is dominated by two distributors – Southern Wine & Spirits and Young’s Market. Wine Warehouse is a key competitor but smaller. The rest of the competition is smaller and fragmented. Bill Foley and Epic seem to be trying to join the big boys.

I mentioned this project a couple times in the past couple days, but it looks like it is going to be a contentious “battle” for the Wagner Family and Sonoma residents. As I mentioned, I think this is relevant because Meiomi is one of the hottest brands out there right now.