Mr. Wark wrote a good piece a few weeks ago about Couloir Wines opening a tasting room in the small town of Tiburon, California, located in Marin County and a decent drive away from the wine centers of Napa and Sonoma.
Wark’s piece is interesting because it celebrates Couloir’s attempt to think outside the box by placing a tasting room far removed from the heart of California wine country, in a quaint environment where it will appeal to locals and passer-by tourists alike, instead of squeezing into the crowded likes of downtown Napa or St. Helena.
As a full-fledged Northwesterner, I believe I can say that for once, California could take a page from the Washington playbook. I have had the pleasure to see firsthand how wineries in Washington State have tried to deal with the issue of attracting walk-in business to tasting rooms and basically how to maximize profit from a tasting room operation. Needless to say, there is nothing akin to a Napa Valley located in the Northwest, and so this issue of how to best use a tasting room as a profit center has been more difficult for Northwest wineries.
However, Woodinville, Washington, has become the thing that Wark hints at or seems to envision with Tiburon, except that maybe Tiburon would be on a much smaller scale at this point. Nevertheless, Woodinville has practically mastered the art of appealing to walk-in consumers (locals and tourists alike) despite the “lack of authentic vineyards nearby” issue.
As I see it, Woodinville ended up this way out of necessity, because Washington’s wine country did not have same tourist appeal of a Napa Valley, and it was also located farther away from Seattle and most of the state’s population. Nevertheless, as Wark points out, Napa’s popularity is also its vice. With the combination of the expensive cost of maintaining a tasting room in the city of Napa, and the saturation of other tasting rooms nearby in the county, it is extremely difficult for a small winery to make it in Napa.
Maybe a different kind of necessity will give rise to more of these non-traditional tasting rooms in the small towns of California as has been happening in Washington. Necessity is, after all, the mother of invention.
(This posting is not to be construed as legal advice. If any of the information in this posting relates to legal issues that you are facing, you should contact an attorney.)
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