Sunday, January 11, 2009

Let's all drink (and think) locally

I'm tired of hearing about the economy, everyday there seems to be dire news and morbid projections. We'll get thru all this negativity eventually, but first I think we need to look around and make damn sure our local communities are the ones that survive first and foremost. For instance, on an outing yesterday in our local community, I noticed that three restaurants have folded in the last few weeks. Now granted, these are not the type of places I frequent anyway, being a wine guy and all, but I hate to see local people put out of work.

As a matter of fact, we went out to dinner last night in the Pearl District in downtown Portland. Things were pretty much their usual vibrant self, though I did get a parking spot out in front (hope this is not a bad omen). Anyway, we did our best to stimulate the economy - even went to yet another establishment for a lavish dessert course (complete with a 10 year old Tawny port).

Back at home, I was contemplating my navel after dinner (over a bottle of Ponzi's Dolcetto from Oregon no less) and I was thinking "what can I do about all this?" - remembering back to my gastronomic excursion of earlier, I flashed on the wine lists! Both of the establishments had a plethora of imported and North American wines but almost no regional wines save for the obligatory large wine company, nationally distributed Pinot Noir.

I live in a region that produces luscious, wonderful red and white wines not only from the Willamette Valley and southern Oregon but also from Eastern Washington. Literally hundreds of small producers make some of the most concentrated, consistent and food friendly wines on the market today and these producers provide a huge boost to their local economies in terms of labor as well as goods and services that are required for the production of these wines. (In the interest of full disclosure, I am one of those producers making kick-ass cult wines!).

Now if you are like me, I am still going to go out to dinner and will spend money (perhaps less frequently but still going out none the less). And when I do go out, I'll more likely choose a local establishment as opposed to a national chain. BTW, here's a little quirk about me, I cannot eat dinner without a glass of wine to enjoy with it. Furthermore, I won't eat my dinner if that glass is empty, preferring to wait until a fresh glass has arrived at my table.

But I digress. So here's what I was thinking - let's form an coalition to support our l9cal producers. This is true whether you are in the Niagara region, BC, Portland, Seattle, Idaho - whatever. When you go out to dinner, only order (if possible) wine that is produced locally (let's say within 300 miles or so - (this will also, in some small way, reduce our carbon footprint as well!). "My restaurant does not offer any local wines you say" - Eureka! - that's my point! If they do not, drag the wine steward's butt over to the table and explain to him (or her) that you expect the establishment to carry locally produced wines. If enough of us insist upon it, we can make it happen! And whenever you travel, do the same thing - if you go to Montreal, seek out locally produced wines to enjoy while there - Seattle, only Washington State wines - you get my point.

Next - we need to track and communicate about all this. I suggest forming a local blog, or use your own blog and encourage other people to write about the restaurants that have great wine lists, highly populated by local wines. This will drive business to them thus encouraging more places to do the same and publicize the whole movement. Maybe we should come up with a rating system, what do you think?

Lastly, what shall we call it? I've toyed with the idea of "Local First", a name already in play but not well used. Maybe it should be called "Local Vino"? Drop me a line, comment on this or email me your suggestions for a fitting moniker.

Until then - a toast to health and revitalization for the New Year!
Karl Dinger - Terra Vina
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