I’ve Got Gas!
I finally paid more than $4.00 per gallon for gasoline. It happened this weekend, yesterday actually, early in the morning on my way to the golf course.
I didn’t see the price on the sign or the pump. I was just leaning against my car thinking what I needed to do later not to embarrass myself with my driver. Then I looked up and saw it: $4.11 for regular.
Now, I knew this was coming. Everyone knew. And the fact is I only paid a total of $1.69 more to fill of my car at this price than the last time I filled it up. Nevertheless, I was shocked. $4.00+ per gallon for gasoline!!
Did I care that I was paying an extra $1.69 to fill up my little car? No. What do I care. I spend more than that every day on my nightly dose of candy. It was the Idea that gas had reached this strange, arbitrary, $4.00 per gallon benchmark that I could not shake from my head. And I started thinking…
What does this mean to the wine industry that I’m shocked (and not a little disgruntled as well as fearful) about what amounts to an extra $1.69 per fill up? I think it means a lot.
I’m not about to suggest that the increasing price of gas has little effect on individuals and the economy. In fact, I’m sure it has the kind of monumental effect that I can’t even begin to calculate. However, just from the perspective of what it costs to get from here to there in our autos, the difference between $4.11 per gallon and $3.00 per gallon isn’t that much. In fact, the difference between me taking a road trip from Sonoma to LA and back at $3.00 per gallon and $4.11 per gallon is about $55.00. That cold hard amount isn’t about to deter me from taking the road trip.
But I’m betting the psychological difference that $4.00 per gallon represents is going to weigh on people’s minds this summer and in turn it will affect the wine industry.
The most immediate impact will be felt in tasting rooms. Here in Sonoma and Napa I suspect they’ll be seeing fewer people visiting from Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York, New Orleans and Rochester, and more people from Sacramento, Eureka, San Francisco, San Jose and Fresno. These visitors don’t stay for a week. They stay for a weekend. That means they don’t book as many hotel rooms, don’t visit as many restaurants and don’t visit as many wineries as the folks from Rochester, Minnesota.
Here in Sonoma Valley our economy is intimately linked to the tourism that the local wineries and the wine industry attract. Without them this little valley is side trip on the way to Sacramento, the ski slopes of Tahoe and the casinos of Reno. Without them, our population immediately falls by 35% and our economy is diminished even further. Housing prices crash. Many of the very cool food shops and restaurants are shuttered and replaced by Arby’s and "Quick Stops".
In other words, It would behoove the wine communities that thrive off attracting folks to their "bucolic wine country" to start increasing their marketing, to work harder to attract folks in the wake of the psychological impact that $4.00+/gallon will have, and to start thinking real hard how to get more "locals" (Californians), to take their vacation in wine country.
Now, I’m just spit-ball’in here, but perhaps now is the time for something that I believe is unprecedented: Maybe it’s time for Sonoma Valley and Napa Valley to do some Co-op Marketing.
THERE! I said it. I know. Heresy.
Napa and Sonoma working together to attract visitors rather than working alone to steal them from the other? People in either Valley are never more than a half hour away from the other Valley. Together, they represent the most extensive and impressive and intensive wine country experience perhaps in the World.
I have a feeling that the impact of $4.00 per gallon will have much more of an impact on people’s thinking than we might imagine and it’s going to take some out-of-the-box thinking to mitigate the damage.
Thinking about this whole situation gives me Gas!