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Your Turn: “Napaland” - How Napa may become the next Disneyland
Your Turn

Your Turn: “Napaland” - How Napa may become the next Disneyland

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For more than 20 years, Walt Disney dreamed up his Disneyland Theme Park.

On July 17, 1955, his dream became a reality after just one year of construction. Disney unveiled his $17 million park and its 18 attractions that ranged from Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride to the King Arthur Carousel.

It took only seven weeks for Disneyland to welcome its one millionth guest and nearly 60 years later, billions of people have visited the company’s parks located all around the world.

Since its opening, Disneyland has undergone expansions and major renovations, reinvented itself adding new rides and attractions, and the price for that experience has doubled in last 20 years.

Are there comparisons to the Napa Valley?

In 2018, there were over 400 wineries in the Napa Valley, a full 290 of them now require appointments. There are 89 that don’t require appointments with only 14 officially offering “complimentary” tastings with purchase of wine. According to “Visit Napa Valley,” wine tasting fees range from $5 to $50 per person. And the wineries with special tours or food pairings run from $60 to $150 per person.

Per the Wine Enthusiast, “Are we now confident enough to dictate what we want out of a visit, rather than letting a winery decide? And do younger visitors want something other than the same-old tasting rooms of their parents’ generation? There’s no doubt that the status quo can be a less-than-inspiring experience. Crowded, perfumed and staffed at times by indifferent hosts, the traditional tasting room can be a rotten place to learn about and taste wine. Visit several of these kinds of tasting rooms in a day? Good luck remembering any of the wines.”

The year in Napa Valley is 2029:

— Imagine we have self-driving vehicles coupled with artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver the next generation wine tasting experience.

— Imagine the cost of your tasting experience is two or three times more expensive.

— Imagine only having the ability to tour and taste at large corporate wineries.

— Imagine your wine tasting experience to become standardized, automated, optimized for speed and selling wine club memberships.

— Imagine a next-generation wine experience with food pairing, custom dinners, saffron pairings, gift shops, rides and attractions.

— Imagine you can’t get to sit down and meet the wine maker or the vineyard owner.

— Imagine there are no longer small family farms and unique vineyards to visit and build a relationship.

Small family vineyards are not permitted to host tastings and sell Napa Valley wine on their family farm. The path to compliance for small family farms and vineyards to host tastings and direct-to-consumer sales on their properties is cost prohibitive and only the big players can afford.

This creates an economic hurdle making it virtually impossible to make a living growing, tasting and selling wine for Napa’s small family farms and vineyards. The prevention of tastings and direct to consumer sales guarantees that small family farms and vineyards will in perpetual economic jeopardy.

Imagine it is 2029 … Napa Valley small family farms and vineyards will disappear if nothing changes.

George O’Meara lives in Napa. This first appeared on the Save the Family Farms blog.

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