One thing you don’t see on TV too much is Napa Valley being dissed. It’s even less common to see Sonoma be hailed over Napa. Yet this very occurrence was brought to my attention today in the form of a recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy.

Derek, played by Patrick Dempsey, is soliciting advice from Mark, played by Eric Dane, on whether he should take his girl to Napa or Sonoma for a couple days. The advise he gets back is straight forward: Sonoma, because there are less tourists and smaller hotels.

I know…it’s a small little item, but…damn, you just don’t see that sort of thing often on your average network show.

And I’m not suggesting it’s a Sideways-moment that will catapult Sonoma in to the American consciousness. I think what we probably have here is a case of one of the writers having probably recently had this very discussion and they thought they’d pass on the seemingly insider kind of knowledge to the show’s script.

But this is a reminder. The power of popular culture and its icons to influence American’s views of the world is immense. The movie "Sideways" and it’s effect on Pinot Noir sales is only the latest example. Before that we saw "60 Minutes" catapult the sales of red wine based on their coverage of the health benefits of the beverage.

The point, of course, is whimsy. No one as far as I know anticipated the effect that Sideways would have, even though many knew this movie was being released. One never knows what kind of popular culture event might ignite an idea or industry or wine or region.

6 Responses

  1. Arthur - November 28, 2007

    Egads! Could Gray’s Anatomy finally include tidbits of reality? (It’s a soap opera with meidicine as a distant and fuzzy backdrop. Scrubs is infinitely more accurate to the realities of medicine). But as often is the case in American culture, those with the greatest audience are not necessarily the best qualified to be speaking on a subject.
    And so I think you are on to something, Tom, and this little passage in the show could actually impact the traffic in Sonoma and Napa.

  2. swirlingnotions - November 28, 2007

    My husband and I CRACKED UP at McSteamy’s comments on Sonoma vs. Napa. We were actually shocked at how accurate a description it was (clearly one of the writers has spent a bit of time up north).
    Speaking of Sideways, did you happen to be at the screening with the cast and director here in Healdsburg when it first came out? It was strange, a lot of uncomfortable titters in the audience at the obvious allusions to wine snobbery (as you know, there are a lot of people out here in wine country who nose and swirl their wines before drinking but are not snobs). And most of the people I spoke with afterwards thought it was so-so at best and would just drop off the radar. Woops. Wrong.
    By the way, I know this is totally off topic, but if you have a moment, please check out http://www.generouspour.com, a partnership project I’ve been involved with between Clos du Bois and Share Our Strength, working towards ending hunger in America. There are recipes, entertaining tips and music playlists, along with a full on “party kit” with downloadable invitations, menu templates, votive covers and even donation cards in case you’re moved to turn your feast into a charitable fundraiser to benefit Share Our Strength. And . . . when you download a holiday song on the site, Clos du Bois will donate $1 to Share Our Strength.

  3. Thomas - November 28, 2007

    Where’s Napa? Is that in California?

  4. Jill - November 28, 2007

    now, if these was really a case of inside knowledge, wouldn’t the conversation be focused on touting the Oregon and WA AVAs over either Napa or Sonoma?
    The show is based in Seattle after all. And Sonoma as a ‘discovery’ seems a little bit like 10 years ago.
    Before Sideways, most Americans probably weren’t familiar with the Central Coast. But Napa and Sonoma seem like the establishment at this point.

  5. Jason - November 29, 2007

    It’s really interesting to me how volatile the American perception of wine is and why, given that some pretty small acts made some pretty big impacts in the wine market, smaller more independent wineries haven’t tried to promote themselves more.
    You’re right, while it probably didn’t make a huge impact, I guarantee it had an impact. I bet owners of sleepy little B&Bs in Sonoma were calling each other wondering to what they owe the unusual volume of reservations. Which leads me to my point: if something so tiny could have such a big impact, why don’t small independent wineries and wine groups work this angle? The big plonk-o-matic wine groups continue their usual marketing blitz as if they were selling cars or watches and not wine. I think there’s a limit to how far such advertising can take you. It’s all-too obvious that wine marketing has some pretty strong quirks that someone needs to tap into.

  6. loulou - December 8, 2007

    We recently saw that episode and both answered “Sonoma” before Mark had the chance to say it.
    Having been to both Napa and Sonoma, the writer obviously had done their homework!

Leave a Reply