I was digging through some of my old wine books and came across two items of interest from 1969-70. In those days I kept very meager notes of the wines I purchased, this of course was well before computers and spreadsheets. I scanned one of the pieces of notepaper so you can take a look at what I paid for these wines back then. The second item I found was a wine list from Orsi’s Restaurant in San Francisco. I scanned one page that listed the Claret wines from the Napa Valley. Take a look at the prices, very interesting!
I decided to see what the cost of wine in 1970 would be in today’s dollars. I went to the Web and found an inflation calculator at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That $2.50 Louis Martini Cab I purchased in 1969 would cost me $14.61 in 2010. I see that the list price for the Louis Martini 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet averages about $20 a bottle on the Wine-Searcher, considerably more than the $14.61. Back in 1970 the Napa Valley was struggling for recognition. Today it’s a much different story and some of that fame and glory is in many instances tacked on to the cost of wine. A Napa Valley AVA speaks volumes.
Orsi’s Restaurant was one of the fancier restaurants in San Francisco’s financial district until it closure in in the 1980’s. It was very popular among the jet setters. One of my former students was the son of owner Oreste Orsi and when he found out that I was interested in wine, he gave me a copy of their beautiful wine list.
One thing I noticed right off was that the markup for wines at upscale Orsi’s was double the price of the wine. You can see from the images that a Robert Mondavi 1966 Cabernet Sauvignon could be purchased retail for $3.50 and was priced at $7.00 on Orsi’s wine list (Bin #15). Or, the Louis Martini Cab retailed at $2.50 on my list and priced at $5.00 on the Orsi wine list. That is not bad when you compare that to many of the markups you find today in upscale restaurants. Some mark up their prices 3 or 4 times as much. I was in a restaurant recently where a bottle of Robert Hall Cabernet was $11 for a glass and $40 a bottle. That same bottle of wine can be found at many retailers for $12.99.
I have a great idea. Maybe just for one day, wineries and restaurants could roll back the prices of wine to the 1970 prices. They could pick the date of something historic that happened that year and call it a 40th Anniversary special. Why not start with February 26, the day the Beatles released “Beatles Again” aka “Hey Jude” album.