Which Wine Industry Authority Should You Trust?

Patrick_CampbellThe foremost analytic issue today for the wine industry, and other industry’s, is how best to wade through the mountains of analysis that appears from all directions. Who’s word, who’s analysis, whose ideas, whose data is most authoritative and best able to guide us in developing both short and long-term plans?

In the wine industry this issue of authority comes up in a number of ways. Who is the best person to trust with wine evaluation, for example? Parker? The Wine Spectator? Enthusiast? Connoisseurs Guide, to name a few.

More far more important than this is who to trust when it comes to understanding how to plan for the future of a community. Napa and Sonoma Counties are both now giving great consideration to growth, tourism, wine industry development and trying to understand exactly what limits and opportunities ought to be put in the wine industries’ paths.

Take for example this piece of commentary offered by Patrick Campbell, a long time wine industry participant and former owner of the great Laurel Glen Winery who played a key role in wine industry planning in Sonoma. Patrick’s commentary in the Press Democrat makes the point that vineyards have and do serve as a buffer to development and notes that acre for acre, vineyards have far less impact on resources than people.

There’s one authority.

Contrast this with the response in the article’s comments of one Shepard Bliss. Shepard is a professor of psychology and berry farmer. He’s not an economist. He’s does not work in the wine industry. He’s not a developer. However, he confidently writes:

“My concern with the argument that wineries in ag areas are better than houses is what will happen when this boom-and-bust mono-crop fails, which it is likely to do. Big Wine operations have real estate divisions. When they do bust, they will sub-divide and sell off that expensive land to the highest bidders, who would be likely to build those houses he and others of us are concerned about.”

So, which authority to you trust? The one with experience working in the industry at issue and one who takes a balanced view? Or the professional anti-winery activist with no economic training at all who declares that Sonoma’s wine industry will go bust?

Anyone with a kernel of a brain will trust Mr. Campbell and dismiss Mr. Shepard.

Finally, when it comes to determining what kind of limitations the wine industry ought to face, I advise we take with a grain of salt those people who confidently declare that we must limit the number of visitors to wineries in both Napa and Sonoma because, well, because it’s “just too much already”.

When you hear someone declare that there is too much winery tourism, ask yourself how these people know it is currently “too much”. What is “too much” and how do we measure that. My sense is that these people will declare, “Well, it’s just seems like too much”.

Authority you can trust is authority that comes with experience, with data, and that comes without scare quotes or nebulous, unsubstantiated statements.



4 Responses

  1. Randy Agness - September 15, 2015

    Article releasing this week about concerns with the Finger Lakes harvest for specific grape varieties.

  2. Bob Henry - September 17, 2015


    • Bob Henry - September 24, 2015

      Awaiting replacement comment to escape the maw of “moderation.”

      (Nudge, nudge, Tom!)

  3. Bob Henry - October 29, 2015

    Redux / reposted comment sans the embedded links (should those give Tom’s blog the hiccups):

    Bob Henry – September 20, 2015
    your comment is awaiting moderation.


    You have created a false dichotomy by setting up the argument as being limited to choosing from one POV (Campbell’s) or other’s (Bliss’s).

    I demur. There are more POVs / more positions waiting to be heard on this issue.

    I don’t know Patrick Campbell, but I am well acquainted with his work at Laurel Glen.

    “I was born in Baltimore in 1947, grew up on the fringes of the southern California wine industry, and studied English Literature at Pomona College and Philosophy of Religion at Harvard University. I have a degree in neither viticulture nor enology. In short, I have the proper credentials for winemaking.”

    Source: https [colon] //www [dot] tierradivinavineyards [dot] com/about-us/

    (Same source as your head shot for Mr. Campbell.)

    I don’t know Shepherd Bliss, but a little research on the Web reveals he is a lecturer at Sonoma State, who own Kokopelli Farm (which specializes in organic berries and free range chicken eggs).


    https [colon] //www [dot] linkedin [dot] com/pub/dr-shepherd-bliss-iii/6/814/60b

    http [colon] //www [dot] freestone [dot] com/lostchance/shepardtalk [dot] html

    Both gentlemen have studied religion at college.

    Neither is a trained economist.

    As we saw in the debate raged over whether The Fed should raise the short-term interest rate, economists disagree among themselves all the time.

    ~~ Bob

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