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    « Summer Arrives | Main | Consumer Report? »

    American Wine: The Locavore's Hypocrisy

    Link: American Wine and Locavore Movement, by Todd Kliman, author The Wild Vine – The Daily Beast

    In an excellent article author Todd Kliman blasts American restaurants for their public devotion to buying local food, while snob-ily ignoring local wines. He correctly points out the superficial commitment to buying local by restaurants in Missouri, New York and Virginia, all states with vibrant wine industries and many dedicated and serious winemakers. When questioned by Kliman, sommeliers (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) noted under their breaths that the wines were not just up to their standards. That perhaps is flipped around as maybe it is the sommeliers, not the wines, that are not up to snuff as it is the job of the sommelier at a locavore restaurant to discover and offer the finest local wines to their customers.

    While other American wine regions may be limited in the selections they offer to restaurants, the same cannot be said for West Coast restaurants. Certainly any sommelier worthy of the title could craft an outstanding wine list from the wines of California, Oregon and Washington. Anyone claiming they can’t is just not doing their homework.

    Perhaps no more hypocritical example can be found than the famed Alice Waters of Chez Panisse fame. Chef Waters can be found on national television constantly singing the praises of Slow Food, but one look at her wine list in Berkeley tells another story. I agree with Chef Waters that the vast majority of California wines do not match well with her food, but there are more than enough that do to provide her with an outstanding wine list. Toss in the wines of Oregon and Washington and she has no excuse.

    Let’s give Chef Waters a break as Chez Panisse is a stones throw from Kermit Lynch’s wonderful store and Kermit’s exceptional wines can make anyone forget their locavore passions when it comes to wine. Certainly I cannot resist Kermit’s imported temptations myself. However, I am not on television saying the only way to eat and drink is by supporting local farmers. Winegrowers, it should be remembered, are farmers too.

    Hard core locavore chefs in Seattle, Portland and San Francisco rant on about their local sources for eggs, cheese and meat, while their wine by the glass selections are more likely to be produced from vineyards 4,000 miles away. Hopefully someday locavore will be a term that is more than a marketing fad.

    In Europe, chefs are locavores naturally, in America it is still a foreign concept. Oddly enough Europeans practice it, but don’t talk about it much. In America, we talk about it a lot, but don’t practice it well.

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    Reader Comments (5)

    There was a panel discussion about this very topic at this year's Drink Local Wine conference in Virginia, and some interesting points were raised. What really struck us was the price issue. I understand that alcohol markup is important to a restaurant's profits, but holy cow. We drink almost exclusively great Virginia wine, but when I go into an eatery and they want $75 for a bottle that I could drive fifteen minutes to the tasting room and pick up for $30... no. We're fortunate to have found a great local joint that serves amazing local food AND offers local wines at a very fair markup (at most, $10 or so more than we'd pay at the tasting room). They do a fantastic job of supporting local ag producers and actually turned us on to a winery we hadn't yet tried.

    July 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGrapeEnvyGuy

    Restaurant wines prices are staggering at best. Someday they'll learn they would actually make more profit by charging more reasonable prices.

    July 10, 2010 | Registered CommenterCraig Camp

    Imagine how hard it is to get someone to buy local wine when it comes from someplace other than California, Oregon or Washington! I know of only a handful of restaurants in Chicago that include local wines on their lists despite the fact that dozens celebrate their use of other locally sourced products. It's enough to make a locapour cry.

    July 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGretchen

    This is a very important topic about wine and eating/drinking locally. I like the Alice Waters eat locally idea and the history of Chez Pannisse, etc. but I feel that she has become detached, and perhaps a bit out of date. A few years ago I had the pleasure of dining at Chez Pannisse. I asked the waitperson about the California wine "situation." She sweetly replied that Chez Pannisse "preferred" the wines of Kermit Lynch to those of California. That's nice for the Waters-Lynch monopoly but come on! Maybe when Chez Pannisse started out the comparison between French and American wine was more obvious and extreme but these days that's not as clear-cut. Welcome to the 21st Century, Ms. Waters!

    July 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStevie
    An important consideration in making local food decisions is the true cost of an imported food vs. the benefit it brings to the table. For meats and vegetables the choice is easy, anything non-local must be transported in massive bulk and constantly refrigerated at a huge energy cost, and quite likely originated in high density industrial farms or CAFOs. Imported wine, on the other hand, does not need to be rush transported or refrigerated, and per pound has an extremely high value, meaning that transportation is generally not nearly as wasteful. There is also a much lower risk of the product coming from an unsustainable source. High quality Western European vineyards in particular have been leaders in keeping farming scaled-down and natural. Economically, choosing local wines can be extremely beneficial by helping to retain money within the community, but environmentally speaking importing wines is very different from importing other foods.
    February 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristopher Michaels
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