Oregon Wine Country: Mea Culpa—There’s Nothing to See Here

In a recent post here at Fermentation, I attempted to warn the Oregon wine industry that Portland’s tarnished reputation due to regular violent protests for the past year and a highly visible homelessness problem could impact visitation to the state’s wine country. It was pointed out (see comments on the post) that in writing this warning to the industry, I may have inadvertently added to the problem of the state’s wine industry being impacted by these circumstances. It was suggested that I was a poor advocate for the state’s wine industry.

Well, I hear you. I hear you in the comment section and I hear you in my email (“What the fuck are you trying to do?”). So, allow me to revise my previous comments and thoughts on this issue.

Oregon Wine Trade: Don’t worry about the impact on wine country tourism and visits to Portland due to some minor gatherings in the city’s streets and a few examples of new nylon housing popping up here and there. It just isn’t important and visitors can easily whiz right by the city after arriving at Portland International airport. Moreover, don’t listen to Jeff Miller, CEO of Travel Portland:

“Right now we don’t have conventions and not a lot of business travel. That is a mainstay for our downtown hotels,” Miller told KGW.  But hoteliers say trash, tents, boarded-up windows and last summer’s unrest are keeping visitors away. Schweitzer said guests tell him so.

Miller doesn’t know what he’s talking about and he’s just being a Debbie Downer. And really, what do destination marketing pros know?

More importantly, there’s simple advice all potential travelers to Portland can take to make their stay here lovely indeed. For example, this piece of advice from Travel Portland should alleviate all concerns of potential visitors to the region:

While most of the demonstrations and violent incidents have occurred downtown near the Justice Center, demonstrations have also been held at other law enforcement buildings throughout the city. Similarly, most, but not all, of the violence has occurred late at night. Travel Portland urges all visitors to exercise caution and avoid areas where demonstrations are planned.

I say ignore the warnings, world. Come to Portland. Venture south and see the glories of Oregon wine country. You can zip right by Portland if you believe those liars in the media (“Death of a City: The Portland Story”). But most of all, ignore me. It was wrong and irrational of me—and certainly not very cheerleadery of me—to fall into the trap of considering the potential impact of silly national stories about Portland (“Endless Riots Turn Portland Into a City of ‘Mayhem’“).

Most importantly, Wine Trade, I was entirely wrong to suggest you should consider weighing in on and advocating for a civic response to the “Portland Problem” that these scurrilous national stories that nobody is reading or watching won’t provoke. Focus on putting the “call to action” in the right place in the emails urging folks to buy your wine online.

There’s nothing to see here. I was simply captured by the lies of the right-wing press.

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10 Responses

  1. Linda Depaolo - June 15, 2021

    It’s a horrific state of affairs in Portland…I know because I grew up there..I finally had all I could tolerate of the progressive and ridiculous politics and moved to Arizona. When I visited in April of this year..2021.. I was horrified by the sheer volume of homeless camps …they are everywhere..the piles of trash..graffiti..illicit drugs..crime rates..its a disaster zone. I wont go back and fear for the cities residents who live there and under Mayor Wheeler have become complacent about it all….very sad…I worked in the wine biz for years in Oregon .starting back in the 80’s when there were a mere 125 registered wineries…planting my own vineyards in northern Az. as we speak…Feeling badly about what has happened to Portland..a once vibrant and beautiful city with great restaurants..a lovely waterfront and great parks…Saturday market..ahhh.. the good old days!! I suggest the northern winery owners build their own airport ..add hotels.. expand restaurant options..create their own ” Napa ” and keep Portland out of the loop.

  2. Jim Ruxin - June 15, 2021

    Tom—

    Never censor yourself. We read your blog because of your ideas snd opinions. We don’t have to agree but you do expand our perspective.

    Also I love your sarcasm and sense of humor.
    A breath of fresh air we see from you too rarely.

  3. rh+drexel - June 15, 2021

    Guess you haven’t been watching the latest season of Top Chef.

    Oh welp, negativity about a place probably does garner more clicks.

  4. Tom Wark - June 15, 2021

    RH,

    Everything is fine. There are no problems. Nothing to see here. Nothing to concern ourselves with.

  5. Kort van Bronkhorst - June 15, 2021

    In my original comment, I said the following: “Did you ever think to interview anyone at wineries to get their opinion? Maybe present a more balanced viewpoint?” Now here is a second blog post, intentionally sarcastic, that does neither. I live in Napa. I visit Portland many times a year, since I have kids here. I avoid downtown, because it has problems: Homeless. Drugs, Protests. Sounds like San Francisco, which is where many Napa visitors fly into. Yet Napa is crowded as ever. How is business in the Willamette Valley? My friends from Kentucky were there last week, and said it was busy. But you haven’t told me anything about how it is there. You have only quoted someone from Travel Portland, who laments the lack of convention business downtown. I understand you were miffed at the responses to your original post about the perceived problem. But this new post doesn’t make anything any better. Yes, Portland has problems, and I certainly hope someone starts to figure out how to fix them. The mayor seems like an idiot to me. But I am not confusing downtown Portland with McMinnville or Dundee.

  6. John Pratt - June 15, 2021

    Time to redirect the tourists to Southern Oregon. Great wine, hospitality, outdoor adventures, and peace. If we protest, we do it the old fashioned (60’s?) way, during the daytime.

  7. acv - June 16, 2021

    While I am sympathetic to the view that headlines unrelated to tourism do not seem to have that causal connection, that perhaps a hard set of tourist data numbers showing sagging tourism would invoke, I am equally suspicious that a packed winery tasting room is all there is to wine tourism. Let us see if we can unpack it.

    “California is perceived to be less-destination ready than the rest of the U.S., in particular our friends in Florida,” Visit California CEO Caroline Beteta said Monday. “Americans see Florida as being more open than California, and that’s the hard work we have to do.”

    To start we have a Tourist. We want to convert this tourist into a wine tourist. And, then we want to convert this wine tourist into an Oregon Wine tourist.

    Oregon is no less perceived as being any less destination friendly/ ready than California based on China Virus restrictions implemented by the Governor – but if you make it past that hurdle then you compete with CA for the wine tourist dollars.

    “Beteta said it will be another four years before the tourism and travel industry gets back to the billions brought in two years ago.”

    You cannot simply look at a winery tasting room’s numbers and say…. well, last year on this date we had 45 people visit our tasting room, and this year we had 46….so, we are growing YTD.

    “Claudia Vecchio, president and CEO of Sonoma County Tourism, said that “after a devastating year that saw visitor spending decrease almost 50% and the industry’s workforce slashed by 30%,”

    How much is the tourist spending? What does the workforce look like…because these are also people that will end up visiting tasting rooms on their day off?

    “Many of the sectors where jobs have been slow to return to pre-pandemic levels are those intertwined with the Napa Valley’s wine and tourism businesses, said Eyler. In the hospitality field — including those working in hotels, restaurants, and theaters — nearly 27 of every 100 jobs that existed in April 2019 have not come back.”

    Is wine tourism simply I’ll have the red flight of 3 wines for $10?

    “While up to this point we were seeing mostly tourists from within California — especially the Bay Area drive market — for weekend trips, we are starting to see those East Coast and Midwest visitors return for a long-awaited wine country vacation,” Gallagher said. “And with that, Napa Valley is finally seeing a bump in midweek occupancy, with overall occupancy hovering around 70%, and weekends at around 80%-85%.”

    We can agree that the hardened wine tourist like myself has no problem jet-setting into PDX, skipping Portland completely, and making a successful go of a few days of winery visits in Willamette. But is that the only wine tourist you can convert? A couple without children? Does your average Oregonian want to visit its own state’s wineries when they decide to break out of quarantine?

    How about let us say sisters who love wine? One lives in Boise; ID and one lives in Portland proper. Not rich jet setters…. mom’s struggling to pay the bills but once or twice a year loves to visit Willamette. Does the sister from Boise come down to Portland and stay with her sister in the city of Portland so they can spend a weekend wine tasting without the Hotel and Restaurant bills to worry about?

    How about the businessman who comes to Portland for sales calls and loves to visit the cool wine bars in downtown Portland and experience great Oregon wine he cannot get back home? Instead, he opts for a Zoom sales call…or if he does visit Portland, he remains in the evening confined to the Hotel options for food and drink. I get it I am changing the meaning of wine tourist but if you think that a wine tourist is simply someone who flies into PDX and scoots down to Willamette is the whole business model I think you may be as equally mistaken.

    And lastly, the tourist who discovers that Oregon makes wine TOO and becomes a wine tourist on their trip to the great state of Oregon. Are these headlines making Oregon a desirable destination?

    It is okay to lie to me… I am well hated. But don’t lie to yourself about what is happening to Oregon’s tourist sector.

  8. Dick Butt - June 19, 2021

    This guy is racist as fuck.

    Stick your racial supremacy up your ass, motherfucker

  9. Donn Rutkoff - July 2, 2021

    I will add my 2 cents. I worked for Bank of America in downtown San Franciso from 1989 to 1998. I left the area in 2008 and went back to visit a few years ago. Downtown smelled like a port-o-potty.

    Ten thousand years ago, civilization started realizing that separate sites for living and for pooping was a good idea. In liberal lands, they have abandoned that cool idea and are back to the years just after the ice receded from the northern hemisphere. Oh, and don’t try finding a drugstore or 7-11 in San Fran. Walgreens has shut 17 stores in the city. With as many colleges, symphonies, art mjuseums etc. as SF has, it is sinking into oblivion. Gavin Newsom and Nancy Pelosi, thank you. Napa and Sonoma resident probably have abandoned visiting across the dirty gate bridge.

  10. Donn Rutkoff - July 3, 2021

    Another tidbit about the perils of selling wine: Safeway sells a lot of wine in states where grocers are allowed to sell. Recently, as in the past few days, news reports that the large Safeway store in the middle of San Francisco, on Market at Church, had all their 160 new shopping carts stolen within a few weeks of arrival. Now carts cannot leave the store. So much for civilized behavior in some formerly great cities, permanently run by liberal politics.


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