Know-Nothings and Demagogues in Sonoma Wine Country
I keep coming back to the issue of wine tasting rooms on the Sonoma town plaza, I think, because this “controversy” that continues to brew in this fine town highlights two of the things I truly detest about local politics: Know-nothings posing as authorities and demagoguery masquerading as reason.
The concern among some that there are “too many” tasting rooms on the Sonoma Plaza has caused these two very distasteful things to collide and fold up upon one another and exhibit #1 is this editorial in the Sonoma Sun:
Sonoma Tasting Bars: From Cachet to Cliche—By Larry Barnett
To read this disingenuous, deceptive and duplicitous editorial, one would think the author possesses a real concern for the wine industry and wants to warn us that if there are too many tasting rooms on the Sonoma Plaza then a ” jaded public will seek out deals and low prices and boom will go bust like it always does”. The fact is, the author has no concern for the wine industry as a whole, let alone the Sonoma Valley wine industry.
More importantly, even a glancing read through this thing demonstrates Mr. Barnett has no sense of the history, economics or structure of the wine industry. It marks him as a Know-Nothing posing as an authority. And his use of the term “Tasting Bar” rather than the more common and meaningful term “Tasting Room” marks him as a demagogue.
Try, also, to measure the length and depth of the insult that Mr. Barnett flings at wineries and winemakers when in this paragraph he tries to describe what winemaking has become:
“Talented winemakers were [in the past], of course, essential, that is until laboratory wine chemistry blending became the secret formula behind brand success. Parlaying taste components within computer algorithms let anyone with enough money blend award-winning wines.”
Not only does this description of what it takes to make fine wine demonstrate a near perfect lack of knowledge of winemaking and the wine business, but it reveals his contempt for winemaking and the wine industry in general and lays bear the lie that is his supposed concern for the wine industry he seemingly wants to save by putting limits on wine tasting rooms around the Sonoma town plaza.
But if you wanted real a demonstration that Larry Barnett has no clue whatsoever of the dynamics the wine industry or the most basic conception of the economics of wine tourism, all you need to do is read this paragraph from the editorial:
“The introduction of the wine bar on Sonoma Plaza eliminates the need for a public winery. No castle, no tram; just some barrels in a warehouse, a sexy vanity label plus an expensive lease does the job. The public no longer needs to search or travel, simply amble down the sidewalk and hit five or six tasting-room-wine-bars in a half-block. Cachet, it turns out, is easy to sell. Wineries have long since become wedding event centers, and lucky for those who have. Paying off loans on castles and trams takes big money and big crowds.”
Yes, the 20 or so wine tasting room around and off the Sonoma Plaza are going to make all the amazing wineries up and down the Sonoma Valley desolate and without visitors. Yes, well done, Mr. Barnett. Fine analysis. This bit of insight must surely explain why not a single winery located away from the Sonoma Plaza attended last weeks meeting of the Sonoma City Council and Planning Commission to complain that all these tasting room around the Plaza were about to put them out of business. Not a single one testified to this.
Demagogues and know-nothings are dangerous people. They practice deception and call it “reasonable debate” and “needed input”, when instead what they offer is confusion and distortion. You read this editorial and you have to ask two questions:
1. Did Mr. Barnett think no one was going to read his writing?
2. Are the editors at the Sonoma Sun so lazy the couldn’t find anyone with even an ounce of authority to pen a piece opposing more tasting rooms.
I don’t live in Sonoma any more. But I still care deeply about that town. I sometimes wish I did still live there though because I would relish having the bona fides of residency to stand up in town meetings and reveal this kind of know-nothing demagogue for the charlatan he is. Unfortunately, if there are unnecessary limits placed on businesses around the Sonoma town plaza, it will be due in part to the ruckus raised by folks willing to believe this kind of demagoguery.