POSTED ON November 30, 2008 | IN Tasting Rooms | BY Joe Becerra

Has the wine bubble burst as yet? We made two trips to the Napa Valley during the month of November visiting several tasting rooms and one very large wine shop, JV Wines. From what I can tell Napa Valley wines have not made a move downward in price. Most of the wineries we visited were selling their top wines for $30 and well beyond. Nowhere did we find a single wine on sale. Even though most of the tasting rooms we visited were empty, tasting fees averaged $10 a pop for a basic tasting and up to $75 for an elaborate food and wine pairing at one winery. We got the feeling that wineries here are in total denial about our economic crisis and the impending burst of the wine bubble. The Napa Valley has never been in this position before.

Take these scenarios:

You just got laid off your job, one easy way to save some money is to cancel your membership in the Franciscan and Beringer wine club.

Maybe you work in sales, working on a commission, but no one is buying. Is it time to go back to your beer drinking days? $25 buys a lot more beer than wine.

You suddenly face the fact that the house you purchased three years ago is now worth less that what you owe on the house. Maybe instead of buying those Cabernets at $40, you might consider buying some of those Spanish and Argentinean wines rated in the high eighties by the Wine Spectator and Robert Parker that are amazingly priced under $20.

You decided to look at your 401K retirement account and found that it dropped nearly 40% this past year. You start to think about how to replenishing that fund. Maybe that means not eating out at restaurants and ordering that delicious wine to go with your dinner.

Or maybe, you are doing okay financially but you begin think that what brought us into this mess is the American desire of wanting it all. Maybe it is time to just enjoy more of the simple things of life and cut back on the luxury items, like expensive wines that we simply do not really need.

Wineries have to be feeling this pinch and it would seem that inventories are likely to pile up. Fewer visitors are likely to travel to the wine country unless there a good reason to go there. A good reason to go there is a wine sale. A sale like the retail stores do to get customers in the door. Put out a sign at the entrance to of the winery, “Wine Sale Today, 20% off all wines.” How about no tasting fee or, at least at a minimum, a tasting fee applied to the purchase of wine? All America seems to be “on sale” and all of us are looking for bargains. Why not be able to find bargains at the very place where the wine is made?


  1. JD in Napa says

    Not sure which tasting rooms you visited, but we took friends out this past weekend, and the tasting rooms we visited (Acacia, BV, Silenus, Sequoia Grove) were quite busy. Sequoia Grove was three deep at the bar. BV had a bunch of recent vintage wines at deep discount. And this is the (relatively) slow season, anyway, since crush is behind us and the holidays upon us. And I’m sure you know that there are good reasons for tasting fees (deter the cruising drinkers who won’t buy anything anyway). So your conclusions, based on a small sample space, are interesting.

    Sidebar – what is it about crush that is so interesting for touristas? Watch a forklift dump a bin into a destemmer, and it’s over.

  2. Bettie Infante says

    I have to agree and disagree. First off I have always wondered why the same wine is more expensive at the winery verses a retail store. Don’t forget the wineries are in business to make money, but they will be forced to adjust with the economic slump. They are not in denial just trying to protect themselves. The tasting fees have really sky rocketed, it is a great idea for the tasting fee to be appled to the purchase of wine. I feel the wineries will adjust in time, just like all of us have had to.