Monday, September 27, 2010

What exactly IS a "winery" anyhow?

  I guess for most of us, myself formerly included, "winery" means a place where wine is made. Only...ummm...maybe, maybe not. At the Sedona Winefest this past weekend, I learned that "winery" can mean many things. I'm not going to mention any labels here in the interest of remaining as neutral as possible.  Verde Valley wines, it turns out, run the gamut from estate bottled wines that are grown and produced completely locally all the way down to at least one so-called winery which is buying what are termed "shiners". Shiners are pre-bottled wines. You want a nice Cabernet? How 'bout a Shiraz? Merlot? Gotcha covered. Wholesale prices by the case, slap your own label on and you're set to go. How does a "winery" go from scratch to over 30 bottled wines in just a few years? Easy. Buy your wine from somebody else who sells in bulk, label it and call it your own. You can tell people anything you want about your grapes and where they come from. Who's gonna go to Wilcox, Elgin, Sonoita or anyplace else and check out your story? Certainly not the casual tourist or even the average serious wine buyer as long as the wine is passably good and comes with a good story. I think if somebody is truly interested in Verde Valley wines, they'd do well to check things out pretty well.
  The big hurdle in truly local wines here seems to be the price of land. We've got perfect soil and perfect weather here, but even with the downturn land is still prohibitively expensive for winemakers without extremely deep pockets to go out and buy and put vines on. A vineyard planted today won't make any significant amount of wine for three to five years, meantime, you've got to pay to water, weed, feed, prune, protect and nurture that young stock. There are lots of new grapes in our area, and some winemakers are making a sincere effort to eventually produce all their wines from grapes grown right here. Meantime, like any business, they've gotta have cash flow. So they source their grapes from California, or hopefully, and more often than not, from the Wilcox area of the state. They make their wines here for the most part. This is perfectly understandable in an industry as young as this one. The phonies, on the other hand, can only hope to scam the tourists so long. Eventually, this valley will grow AND produce enough quality wine to make their "shiners" glow-in-the-dark-obvious.

1 comment:

Johnny Montezuma said...

This is also the type & quality of post we have been expecting. TELL IT LIKE IT IS! People need to know this stuff. Hey, when can I own my own winery? I want a shiner for myself! Sounds a lot like the Song Dog Salsa Business Model to me. Let's GO for it!!!!! Pick a good grape and lemme know how to get it on this one--we'll get Miraval to design a Gold Standard label--maybe even with animals. WHA--WHOO!