The Wine Industry Should Fight: Lessons from Sonoma
I always had a pretty good feeling that the City Council in the town of Sonoma would do the right thing where the fake issue of “too many tasting rooms” around the Town Plaza was concerned. And they have.
Monday the Sonoma City Council voted 4-1 to not limit the number of wine tasting rooms on and around the Sonoma Town Plaza. It was a pretty forceful display of common sense. However, the way the issue was raised, discussed, debated and ended provides some important lessons for people working in the wine industry as well as for individuals living in a town where a prominent wine industry is an important part of the civic fabric.
Lesson #1:Noise-Making Is Not An Indication of a Movement
The people suggesting that Sonoma limit the number of tasting rooms did a good job of making noise through editorials and by garnering newspaper coverage. However, their numbers were very small. We know this because the City Council obviously felt no pressure to dismiss their claims. The other hint was that every time the issue came up in the media, the same person gave the “no more tasting rooms” side of the story.
Beware of Well-Spoken Know-Nothings Posing as Experts
Most people are not experts in any given field. So, the chances are that when they speak up about something, they’ll be doing so without the facts at their disposal or a real understanding of the issue they are trying to address. However, they may be well-spoken and those who also have no understanding of the issue maybe be inclined to listen to them as authorities. This was decidedly the case in the Sonoma Tasting Room debate. Those seeking limits on the number of tasting rooms around the Town Plaza made wildly stupid claims about the “cache” of the wine industry, about business trends in the wine industry and even about wine making that didn’t match reality. But they said them in a well-spoken and articulate way.
The Success of the Wine Industry in Sonoma, Napa and Other Locations Opens It Up as a Scapegoat
The proponents of limits on Sonoma Tasting Rooms were clearly concerned that the town of Sonoma had changed over the years and had taken advantage of the attraction the town held for wine lovers. Why this change had come about is a complex question. But these people decided it was the wine industry’s fault. This led in turn to accusations of harm brought about by the wine industry. It was accused of causing higher rents around the plaza and of causing drunks to hit the roads. None of this is true. However, it’s clear that any and all accusations had to be directed at some entity. The Wine Industry was the most convenient.
The lesson the wine industry should learn from all this is that the minute it finds itself attacked for reasons it cannot be actually responsible, it needs to fight back immediately. It needs to point out the fallacies in the attacks. It needs to push back. It did that in Sonoma successfully.