On Wednesday, Sept. 30, I attended a Planning Commission meeting. During the meeting the commissioners considered the issue of the definition of agriculture. Marketing was one issue and many different opinions were expressed. Should marketing be part of the definition of agriculture or not?
There were several speakers who offered comments. One speaker said that Napa Valley grapes are among the most expensive in the country. He may have said THE most expensive, I'm not sure, but at least among the most expensive. That being the case, the speaker seemed to argue that wineries needed some flexibility in marketing in order to convince people to buy expensive wine made from these expensive grapes.
I pondered this argument for a while because it seemed strange at the time. You know, something not quite right but you can't put your finger on it exactly. I understand the idea that Napa Valley grapes are expensive. Napa Valley wines must also be expensive because the raw material is expensive. But, Napa wines have a worldwide reputation for being excellent wines. So Napa wines are marketed around the world now and they have a fine reputation. So why do we need extravagant marketing here in Napa?
By extravagant marketing I mean circus acts, jazz concerts, drive-in movies and very expensive wine/food pairing meals on winery grounds. I understand wineries need to market (aka, sell) their wines on winery grounds. But why the extravagant marketing strategies? If Napa wines already have a fine worldwide reputation, who is the target of this extravagant marketing? Can't be anyone very far off! Certainly not the wine buyer in the next county or the next state or the next country! Who then?
Seems to me that extravagant marketing events like those mentioned are designed to attract tourist dollars. You know, tourists. People in the immediate area because they've come here. And why are they here? They are drawn by these extravagant marketing events, aren't they? Isn't that why the events are staged? Of course it is. To draw in tourists. Not that drawing in tourists is a bad thing but like all things, even a good thing in excess can be bad.
Tourists drive cars or ride in buses. Therefore, there is traffic that comes with tourism. Tourists stay in hotels. Therefore, there are hotel workers who must drive into and out of the county each day to attend to the needs of the tourists. This increases traffic as well. Tourists and all those who must care for them put demands on water, air and space, all a consequence of tourism, which is a consequence of extravagant marketing strategies designed to draw in tourists.
So what's the point? Well, Napa grapes are known worldwide. And Napa wines are known worldwide. Marketing campaigns designed to sell Napa wines have been successful. This is why the grapes are so expensive to begin with. So extravagant marketing is not needed to sell expensive Napa wines made from expensive Napa grapes -- that marketing has already been done and is successful.
Extravagant marketing is needed to pack in tourists to spend their money on other related items, not Napa wines but all other things "Napa."
I think I've put my finger on the part of this argument that didn't make sense. When the wine industry says it needs to draw in tourists but then denies any responsibility for traffic congestion, or demand on local resources, they are not being completely honest, are they? The kind of marketing most people object to is the glitz marketing designed to make people spend money on all the wine-related things. It's not wine they are selling, it's the experience they are selling. Which reminds me of a joke I heard once:
When a man with no money but experience meets a man with money but no experience, the man with the money will have the experience and the man with the experience will have the money.
I think I've got enough experience to smell a con when it's offered up.
The wine people say they are being made the scapegoats for traffic, congestion and the like; well, isn't extravagant marketing responsible for these things? And isn't it those expensive grapes and expensive wines that are used to draw tourists in? Scapegoat or responsible party? Hum?
Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. At least own up to it instead of whining about it when others point out the obvious.