The Simple Rhetoric of Wine Country Nimbys

BlahHow do you know when its safe to ignore a critic? When they demonstrate a willingness to engage in simple, meaningless rhetoric, rather than in delivering their opinions with words that mean something.

This tendency to ignore the meaning of words and even make them up with no care for what they mean is on display in among the current batch of Nimby Wine Industry Critics who whine about under organizations titled, “Napa Vision 2050”, “Soda Canyon Road” and others.

Take for example a letter recently published in the Napa Register by Patricia Damery, a supporter of the Nimby movement called “Napa Vision 2050”:

“Amazingly, large event centers have even been finessed to be described as an “accessory use” of agriculture, effectively commercializing our “protected” agricultural lands!”

It’s this term “event center” that I’m thinking about. NimbyMaster Damery uses it likely because she’s heard other critics of the wine industry use it and it sounds to her like it might mean wineries don’t make wine, they just invite tourists for events. And, that sounds bad to her. That sounds to her like it might make others feel bad about the Napa wine industry.

Yet in reality, Damery’s and others’ use of the term “event center” to describe wineries are really just a perfect signal to everyone else to ignore this person and their opinions since they are grounded in no matters of fact or reflection but merely offered in order to try to poke the industry.

When you hear wineries referred to a mere “event centers” you can rest assured that the people using this term understand very little about Napa Valley, its ecology, its environment, its politics, its economy and certainly very, very little about the wineries they are attempting to demean.

What’s interesting about the use of the term “event center” to describe a winery in Napa is that it is believed by those who use it that its continued use will make the point that wineries aren’t in the proper business of making wine, but rather are simple tourist traps. This, they believe, will turn the residents of Napa County against the wine industry.

But it won’t. Those who live in the County and actually take care to understand how the wine industry and the Napa economy functions rather than simply blathering on in community forms, aren’t tricked by this very simplistic rhetorical device.

But as I said earlier, there is a benefit to this term being used: it helps us identify the idiots in the crowd that alert us to their inconsequential place in the debate.

8 Responses

  1. Steve - March 10, 2016

    This kind of word manipulation does seem politically motivated or expoused by people of the “causes” mindset; need to use word tricks or “code” words; words to subliminally or volitionally motivate some poor souls to a “campaign”. It wasn’t that long ago some “causes” folks tried to kill of the SUV market. That is like calling a newspaper a “bilge holding tank” then going on with a story about media bias.
    Some such words I have heard most recently by writers/talking heads referring to some in the national political arena as having attitudes “similar to Hitler and his brown shirts”. (This was from Matt Lauer.) Other such words are: racist, white privileged, hands up don’t shoot et al.
    Yes, the wine industry is somewhat shackled by “last-in people”, who moved to the promised land and now want to shut the door. Kind of like moving in next to an airport then lobbying to shut down the airport because you don’t like airplane noise.
    Most, albeit not all, people can pick up the Horse Whisperer” code lingo and then discount the diatribe that follows as an arcane attempt at psychological neutering to try moving forward with wine a “cause”.

  2. Russell - March 10, 2016

    So if someone uses the term “Event Center” we can safely identify them as an idiot? Is that your contribution to the public discourse? People can disagree without one of them being an idiot. Then again, some disagreements involve two idiots.

  3. Tom Wark - March 10, 2016

    No Russell. It take more than simply uttering the words “event center”. If someone uses the term “event center” to refer to a winery, then we can surely identify them as idiots.

    In this case, there is clearly disagreement. However, it’s demonstrably true that anyone who thinks its more accurate to call a winery an “event center” is, in fact, an idiot.

    • Russell - March 10, 2016

      No, that is not demonstrably true. More to the point, calling people idiots never helps to win an argument, unless you are just venting to other people who agree with you. I don’t usually respond to provocative blog posts, but I just saw a video of a man getting punched in the face at a Trump rally, and it pissed me off. Next time I will take a walk before rising to the bait. I suggest you do the same.

      • Steve - March 10, 2016

        Gentlemen, it isn’t bait. To quote a famous detective-only the facts ma’am. It does seem some words can set us all off not Tom or Me…all of us. Russell, what are words that set you off other than “idiot”? Honestly, I am incensed about a lot of things publishers/authors say and then scream they are not biased like me. They do not use words to insight and influence and they get very uptight when someone does exactly the same or criticizes them and their tricks of the trade. Tom, pretty much nail it. We must decide who’s opinion is more valuable.

  4. Paul Moser - March 11, 2016

    Sorry, but this column is loaded with its own straw-man distortions. Wanting wineries to adhere to the terms of their permits is a far cry from wanting to “turn the public against the wine industry.” I don’t know anyone who doesn’t recognize the overwhelming contributions of the wine industry to the local economy. And it is for that very reason that the Vision 2050 people are adamant about wineries adhering to the guidelines that the law has set out. They understand that as soon as permitting limits become just an annoyance, something to be winked at and ignored, the sooner wine country will become a theme park, overrun with glitzy cook offs, film festivals, concerts, and other “events” less and less connected to the project of making fine wine, and less and less likely to attract the visitors our economy relies on. If you are going to advocate killing the goose that laid the golden egg, then at least acknowledge what you are doing.

    • Tom WArk - March 11, 2016


      While you’d like to discuss substance, I’m sort of stuck on those folks trying to contribute to the debate who can discern the difference between a winery and an “event center”. If you aren’t willing to or can’t make that distinction, then you really ought to be ignored.

      • Paul Moser - March 23, 2016

        I re-read this article and am still amazed at such posturing. As anyone would, I agree that a functioning winery should not be described as an “event center.” But that was never the issue. No one is arbitrarily choosing to make those labels interchangeable. The issue is twofold: First, should the language of the Ag Preserve charter be changed in a downright Orwellian manner to allow the likes of concerts and festivals to be described as “winemaking activities”? Will that serve to preserve the environment that attracts so many visitors? And second, should wineries be able, simply by presenting the county with a fait accompli, to enlarge their physical footprint and/or their activities that involve the public, thus becoming more than just wineries with, say, tasting rooms? If, as we have seen, wineries get the idea that there is no penalty for such activities, then it is absolutely possible to turn Napa Valley into a glitzy theme park; something that will destroy decades of efforts to make the valley a desirable rural destination for tourists from around the world.

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