Following on from yesterdays post, the following is part 2 of 4 of a post made by a friend of mine, Lucas Meeker – Assistant Winemaker at Meeker Vineyards in Sonoma. The post originally appeared on professional Q&A website Quora.com.
The question Lucas answered was: What are some Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of Owning a Napa Winery?
My annotations throughout the article appear in the form of: [Notes like this], and as always I’ve highlighted what I consider to be the key points.
Answer by Lucas Meeker
Competition, market saturation, high start-up cost compared to other regions. Really, the only reason to start a wine label in Napa is if you’re absolutely effingenamored [My new favorite word] with that region and you really, really, really want to make expensive Cabernet. And that market is even more saturated and competitive, and there is basically no way you could have any success within that model for a reasonable start-up investment. Don’t let that fool you, though, there are business models in the wine industry between super-premium and high-volume that work just fine, even in Napa. But like any industry, those models require some creativity and ingenuity and some fleshing out entirely on their own. Will they make you a millionaire? Probably not, but you can provide a nice living for yourself and your family.
The big weakness of Napa is the same as its strength, really. If you can make some seriously kick-ass stuff from Santa Lucia Highlands, Sonoma County, Mendocino County, Santa Rita Hills, Southern Oregon, Eastern/Southern Washington, or parts of Upstate NY (and doing that requires NOT trying to force every region to make Cab, because not all of them will, and you need to get over that now), you’ll be able to do that at a significant price advantage to Napa.
That leads me to my most important weakness about Napa: As the wine business grows in this country, consumers will continue to become even more educated and informed about the product, and the more that happens, the more Napa‘s cache and name recognition will dilute. Considering the precipice of growth the wine business is teetering on right now, this makes starting a winery specifically focusing on Napa fruit even more sketchy. On top of that, with the way global warming is going, it’s perfectly possible that Napa‘s climate will be too hot for Cab within the next 30-40 years. At least, too hot to be reliable (I’m not saying that it won’t make good wine anymore, just that it won’t with the same consistency and predictability). [It will be really interesting to see the impact that global warming has on Napa grapes. From what I hear, Europe has been experiencing shifts in their average vineyard temps around harvest time, and could quite possibly be one of the reasons why vineyards in my Mother Land (England) are now becoming more feasible.]