The film Sideways painted a pretty positive portrait of wine tastings; Rex Pickett’s novel had a more jaundiced view, especially the opening scene at an LA wine shop’s weekly tasting where regulars headed each Friday to get “sideways”—pretty darn drunk—for a mere five bucks.
Since then, drunken behavior at wine tastings has become a real problem for wineries.
Although renting a limo or joining a tour bus seems like a good way to hold down alcohol-related traffic incidents in the wine country, according to the Los Angeles Times, limos and tour buses are getting the blame for bringing already-inebriated crowds to wineries (registration required). A Napa Valley tasting room consultant notes, “The limo crowd appears to have great demographics on the surface, but some of them tend to—and there’s no polite way to put this—they tend to just get juiced.”
But now the wineries are fighting back. In the Temecula Valley, wineries have banded together to require the limo companies to police their customers or risk being banned. In New York’s Finger Lakes wine region, wineries give out warnings or expulsions to limo companies with rowdy clients. In the Napa Valley, some tasting rooms charge up to $50 for tastings, writes the Times: “‘Those higher prices are going to eliminate the party crowd,’ said Veronica Barclay, a wine marketing consultant in Napa County, ‘unless they’re dripping with money.’”