I'm up in the Santa Ynez Valley as the harvest begins, working on an upcoming story about the wine industry. Yeah, I know, rough assignment.
I've been told that some winemakers are choosing not to produce an entire vintage this year because there's so much supply left over from last year because of the down economy. Overall, wine prices are collapsing, though some vineyards are still able to command premium prices for their grapes. More on that in a couple of weeks. By the way, the best wine description I saw today: "Beet-root-meets-cola essence." I'm still waiting for someone to come up with a way to work "ambidextrous" into a description, as in, "very fruit forward, with a hint of molasses, an ambidextrous wine that works with any food."
However, the real buzz in the valley these days has nothing to do with the quality of the Pinot Noir, but whether Colony Capital will turn Michael Jackson's nearby Neverland Ranch into a tourist attraction. There's a local group of homeowners called Never! which hopes to shoot down the idea.
However, you might eventually be able to buy a little bit of Neverland...in the wine aisle.
I'm told that about ten years ago, Michael Jackson decided to get in on the region's fast-growing wine industry. He hired consultants and drew up plans to plant a vineyard at Neverland. But then came the post-9/11 recession and his molestation trial, and the vineyard idea died on the vine.
Now, however, if you go online and type in various domain names like www.NeverlandValleyVineyards.comor www.KingofPopWines.comand www.BeatItWines.com, the domain names have been taken. No websites yet, and no wines, but stay tuned...
It all goes to prove that half the battle in selling wine is marketing. King of Pop Pinot Noir? You might buy a bottle, just to see.
Meantime, how often do you choose a bottle because you like the label? The Australians hit a marketing home run putting animals on labels--it actually helped sales.