Opinion,Wine,Wine Business

Why Are Palates So European Centric on the East Coast? Easy…

I believe I may have found an answer, through my 19 years of observations, visiting both parts of the country extensively, and by living on both coasts – each for extended periods of time.

Here’s what stuck me as pretty true, as I began to write my assessments of Elliot Essman’s Use Wine to Make Sense of The World. His wine journey isn’t as long as mine, so it was fun to return to someone else’s more recent age of discovery. While my explorations have been about learning the wine business, Elliot’s have been really geared toward tasting/enjoying wine. And, his wine tasting experiences and revelations really got me to thinking.

Living on the East Coast, he’s got that advantage of his peers being better schooled in the world of wine, versus the wine world… Since the age of discovery and foreigners landing on our eastern shores from Europe, people on the east coast still have tighter connections to their European ancestors.

Being from the east coast, I can trace my lineage to 1623, for instance, when (great grandfather 14 generations ago) Reverend William Blackstone landed in Massachusetts and founded Boston; and to (great grandfather 14 generations ago) Deacon Samuel Haines, who sailed from Bristol, England in the “Angel Gabriel,” one of Sir Walter Raleigh’s ships. Angel Gabriel was the one wrecked by the great hurricane of August 15, 1635. Haines obviously made it  to shore, because I’m here to continue writing the family tree.

I tell you all this to prove the point of knowing how far my European roots date back. To speak with many native Californians, they can mostly trace their ancestors back to the Gold Rush of 1849, to their relatives who came in search of gold. Many brought grape seeds or vitis vinifera cuttings with them, and got down to making wine for those cold winter nights in the mountains.

For Elliott, he’s more of the east coast type who is willing to go find wine, rather than get into the growing and making of it. While there is wine grape growing and wine making on the east coast, it’s definitely not as concentrated as it is on the west coast, with one winery after the other as they’re laid out in Napa Valley, for instance.

Our east coast and west coast cultures seem to – generally speaking – be of this ilk, in my opinion, experiences, and findings over the years.

East Coast city dwellers – where there are major cities all along that coast, from Portland Maine to Miami, Florida – are very open to imports… The European ones have landed there since the 1600s.

West Coast city dwellers – where there are fewer metropolitan areas along the coastline, from Seattle (not on the coast), to Portland, Oregon (also not on the coast), to Los Angeles – are more involved with their own state’s wines first, then to other west coast wines (Oregon and Washington), and then to imports.

  • When I sold wine in Washington State, I noticed that Washington wines are the primary focus by nearly 50 percent, with the other 50 percent being almost evenly split between Oregon and California wines… with a bare minimum of “other” wine regions being found, but you have to look.
  • When I sold wine in Oregon, I noticed that California wines are sold by nearly 50 percent, Oregon and Washington split the other almost 50 percent, with negligible sales of wines from other wine regions from around the world.
  • California has about 75 percent California wines, and the rest of the world is our oyster, if you visit any large retail outlet for wines, like supermarkets and Costco, for instance.
  • New York? It’s all open to all imports. Many importers are based in New York, New Jersey, and Miami, where the wines enter the country. West coast wines take their place, but they don’t dominate as they do out here.

While I admit  there’s a lot of generalizing here, the observations of someone going in and out of wine off-premise* accounts for years in 40 different US states allowed me to study those shelves extensive… and the people who make purchasing decisions. (*Off-premise means that you have to buy the wine and take it off the premises to enjoy it.)

While working in the Sierra Mountains for Ironstone Vineyards, I learned a lot about the Gold Rush:  who came, and how they faced the new world. Many of them brought seeds and cuttings, which they planted in their new locations. Today, feral vines are still found in those mountains, as the life cycles continue. I have a feral vine in my back yard which I’ve been watching (and eating its grapes) for years. It just showed up one year, and I’ve been enjoying it ever since. It’s a white grape variety, but I’ll never know which one, unless I pay for DNA testing. It doesn’t mean that much to me, as much as enjoying its fruit does. Coming from a seed, it’s now a bastard child of some variety…

The fact that the vines in the Foothills are vitis vinifera, and not an indigenous kind like vitis riparia or vitis berlandieri, for instance, tells us that they were brought from Europe and aren’t Native American varieties.

All of this has me concluding that the East Coast is more Euro-Centric, because it’s closer to them and their roots for enjoying, rather than living in a Mediterranean climate, like we do on the West Coast. West coasters are more engaged with the roots we’ve more recently put down; and enjoy each day going forward in Mediterranean sunshine, rather than looking back to the old country… (You can take the girl out of the east coast, but you can’t take the east coast out of the girl. I tend to look over my shoulder a lot more than the average Californian, I know.)

This is the new country, so being Euro-Centric isn’t as much of a priority, except for those few who continue to fly back to the “Old County.” There aren’t many of those out here who travel in an easterly direction. It takes so long to get to Europe, for instance, from the West Coast. Most of these guys out here haven’t even made it to the East Coast. Hawaii is the direction that’s most coveted…

And, I get that, too, with wine all along the way.

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42 Responses to “Why Are Palates So European Centric on the East Coast? Easy…”

  1. Nick says:

    That all sounds about right to me. There are also probably various protectionist trade practices to consider. Neat topic.

  2. J.R. Wirth says:

    I am a westerner who, for a period of time, lived on the east coast. When I moved back to California I burned all my shoes because they touched east coast soil. That sums up my east coast experience, much like 90+% of Californians who get the bug to move out there. That being said my views on this subject are tainted.

    Yes, a lot more easterners have fake coats arms in their stuffy, dark, townhouses showing their Euro-ancestry, and yes, eastern cities are gateways to Europe. The bigger picture is that easterners behavior patterns are more ingrained. It’s the culture of the east coast itself that keeps palates there from changing.

    These are people who cling to what was done before. They eat at the same dank, mildew infested, old restaurant on Easter Sunday that grandma was taking them to in 1952 (Even though the service became lousy years ago). They belong to the same crappy, dated beach club that their parents joined in 1962 (and pay through the nose for it) even though a seawall obstructs their view and there is no beach. In short, Easterners are used to living on a pile, paying too much for what they get, living narrow minded lives in narrow little houses. Given this culture, is it any wonder that they still grab that same musty bottle of French wine that they’ve aways grabbed?

  3. Jo Diaz says:

    J.R., there’s a lot to be said for your observations of simply doing things because they’ve been done that way in the past. while living on the east coast, I watched many people from there try to move tot he west coast, and return… unable to pull it off. In fact, it was most of them. I could never return, though, because the opportunities that I’ve found here don’t exist there. And, yes, there are many who are overly pretentious. I have to agree with you.

  4. Jo Diaz says:

    Nick, thanks for your comment.

    I think you may be right about protectionist trade practices. The protectionism would be coming from long-standing relationships handed down from one generation to the next in restaurants and wine shops by the owners. These guys have been doing business with importers over the years. Once the wines land from Europe, most of it already has acquired/guaranteed shelf space. Gary V is a classic example… He’s a next generation, while his dad owns a huge retail outlet. Whatever he’s going to inherit is already on the shelves, his dad has introduced him to everyone he knows, and he’ll just fall into line when ordering… continuing the practices.

  5. While I have to agree that there are cultural differences between east and west coasts, and that some extrapolation about the historical development of wine consumption is possible, I think that there is a real problem with over generalization, especially if it encourages comments like J.R. Wirth’s above. Sorry to hear he had such a bad time of it here in the east, and that it would result in such bitterness, and small mindedness.

    Sure there are old fogies with money, who are stodgy and set in their ways about what they drink and cellar, but to project that “sensibility” on to the rest of the east coast is simply insulting. The strech from Euro-centricity to ingrained stagnation, is simply inappropriate.

    Not all of us have a long tail back to Europe, Jo. Both sides of my family emigrated here after WWI, with little or nothing to their name, made wine in their basements during prohibition, and have never had access to old-standard luxury vino. Exploration of a wider wine world, for enjoyment and value, has been a must. In a way, I would say that east coast people are even more open to the wines of the world than west coast folks are, because the left coasters have ample access to local products, and right coasters need to bring stuff in…historically wine has traveled better in a cool ship hold, than in a hot rail car. But, to leave it at that would still be just another over simplification. Tyler Coleman’s “Wine Politics” is a must read for anyone interested in this topic, on a broader scale.

    For what it is worth, I’d invite anyone to come to Vermont for a culinary/wine tour. While we may not be emblematic of the east, I think such a venture, would dissolve some pre-concieved notions.

  6. Jo Diaz says:


    Thanks for your comment. I agree with you about Vermont. It’s one of our more beautiful states. I just love Vermont… It’s such a *green* state, in all senses of the word.

    I agree that I’ve over simplified, and haven’t taken into account any other region but Europe… That’s because I went back to the earliest beginnings of world exploration in this part of the western world, including my own family’s migrations. That was all very British and wanting to claim the new land… Hence New England, and up and down that coast into Virginia. What came after is a second huge migration during the Gold Rush… this leaving many cultures on the East Coast… Italians, Portuguese, Irish, and so on. And, as you mentioned, after WWII, then onto the Vietnam War, etc. Now we have huge waves of Asian and Middle Eastern populations coming to our universities, taking our intelligence and culture back to their counties. We are being homogeneous at an alarming rate, as compared to other times in history, greatly accelerated by our being able to jet around so easily.

    Some of my relatives came with a silver spoon in their mouths (which never got passed down to me ;^). and like you, others came as ship builders… but not with a love of wine; more a love of the Bible and their Puritanical ideologies of temperance. (I have a great grandfather who was in Salem during the witch trials, I’m sad to admit.)

    On my blog, it’s always going to be very general, because I’m not writing a book, like Tyler Coleman did… Blogs aren’t about those exacting details. In my opinion, blogs are very generalized thinking… I know mine is, because I save my technical writing for those parts of the day that I’m on someone else’s clock.

  7. @Jo Diaz maybe u should know what u are talking about when u comment

  8. Jo, consumer research confirms your speculation about west coast bias towards west coast wines, which John Gillespie has memorably dubbed “the Sierra Gap”. Although there are some fracture lines, as is appropriate given our geology. Washington and Oregon consumers index high for purchasing each others wines, less so for Californian. Californian consumers favor the home town Pinots over those of Oregon, whereas east of the Sierras it’s a more even playing field.

    It’s also worth noting the role of distribution on the east vs. west coast preferences. European wines and their supporters have done a better job exploiting the “cracks” in the distribution funnel via direct import, clearing houses, small nimble brokers/importers, captive labels, etc. Many of the small production, interesting, and high value wines that we take for granted here on the West Coast are almost impossible to find back east.

  9. Jo Diaz says:

    Thanks, Christian, for your quick synopsis from your own research.

  10. Jo Diaz says:

    Gary, tell me more.

  11. Hey Jo, I do understand where you are coming from, enjoy your blog, and refer to it regularly. Give me a shout next time you come to the Green Mountains…

  12. Jo Diaz says:


    Thanks, I will. I have many great memories, including the cheese!

  13. East Coasters don’t “get” California. They’re secretly jealous of us, and so they take this NYC attitude that they know everything and everybody else is a rube. I know, because I am a New Yorker born and bred but have lived here for 25+ years.

  14. I thought I’d get into the discussion with a few opinions. Some opinions include New York City and the terroir of the East Coast. For a long time, New York City had mostly European wines for sale in wine shops and restaurants. The system was difficult to break into for Mondavi and slowly began to change. Even today participants in blind wine tastings that match Long Island wines with those from France are surprised to see that Long Island can hold its own with some grape varieties such as Merlot. The second opinion is that the terroir of the East Coast is more similar to France than the West Coast. We have visited several hundred wineries along the East coast from Connecticut to North Carolina. You taste a more of an European-style wine. Many winemakers and students on the East Coast are from Europe.

    There is a strong connection between Europe and the East Coast. Virginia was at one time suppose to replace France with supplying wine to England. The plan didn’t work out. There may be many reasons why there is more of an Euro centric slant on the East Coast. However, I can point out that when I began to make wine at a Maryland winery and at a Virginia winery, I opted for California grapes.

  15. Jo Diaz says:

    All good points, Terry.

  16. Jo Diaz says:

    Steve, You always crack me up.

  17. GregP says:

    Not sure where to begin. Maybe any writer today who can’t differentiate nor correctly use then/than (as well as expressive/expressively) shouldn’t be writing in public forums? I certainly can’t take such writing as serious, not sure how others feel.

    As Wirth correctly pointed above, there are huge differences between Right and Left Coast mentalities, one must live for extensive periods of time on both coasts to really understand that, anyone who hasn’t done that shouldn’t be writing about it nor arguing. All I can say, as a Brooklyn transplant to CA 20 years ago now, Wirth speaks the truth. Its that stodgy old mentality of East Coast that is the issue. CA state supermarkets have better wine selection than 99% of wine retailers on East Coast. East Coast consumers know almost nothing about West Coast wines, why should they when these wines make very rare appearances on shelves, and in cases of small, serious wineries they don’t at all? To be clear, we, on the Left Coast, do have a great selection of Old World wines and do buy and consume them, we do not “discriminate” and are as open minded as the next guy. Something I would love to see on the Right Coast where retailers themselves mostly know nothing more than Old World wines and, oh, yeah, Malbec now. (Wow, color me impressed!) Too bad wine drinking consumers are led by incompetence and close mindedness…

  18. Jo Diaz says:

    Thanks, Greg, for your comments.

    Yes, I occasional make mistakes as I write, so thanks for the edits. I pay a business writing editor to proof what I write for others professionally, because even after pulling a 4.0 in my Business writing course, and being the first one in my business writing class, I still wasn’t as perfect as my score demonstrates. I get that I’m an imperfect human, so thanks for reminding me… seriously. I’m okay with being reminded, so I tighten up what I do during sloppy writing moments. This is my journal as a wine publicist, so I get more relaxed as I write on the fly, and I know it.

    For your own edification, my Gregg Reference Manual states that in all correct writing, we should only write the words associated with symbols, versus using the symbol, like your percent sign above. You might enjoy knowing that one for the future, since you seem to be a perfectionist, too.

    As for living on both coast: I lived in Maine for 45 years, and have been out here for 19. I qualify…

    Good for you coming from Brooklyn. My husband is from the Bronx and Manhattan, while I’m from Maine and Boston. I think we’ve all got the East Coast under our belts and understand that coast pretty well, as well as this one.

  19. Apologies…I think I may have unintentionally tossed distilled alcohol on the friction between east and west. I think that it detracts from the exploration of the topic, in the way that Jo had hoped to pursue. Truth is, we have to realize and accept that we are all in this screwed-up interstate commerce system together, and that the many divides are not necessarily of our choosing. Those that appreciate wine, have more in common with each other, than with a good percentage of those that partake the favors of other sorts of booze. If we hope to help any ‘outsiders’ to convert to the fruit of the vine, a deep civil dispute between east and west, can only serve to dissuade, or force newcomers to choose sides, and that does not benefit Bacchus, or any of his minion.
    For myself, I have made some very cool connections with producers out west, and appreciate what they do, as finances allow, and somewhat in proportion to the global and local offerings…

    On another note, for anyone who has paid close attention, Vaynerchuk has busted his hump to build the projects he’s working on…I’ve been watching since about episode 250, and if I remember correctly, his dad fired him for buying a pallet of wine that he had an intuition about, because the store simply didn’t focus on that kind of liquid. He’s built his stuff, and may not be to everyone’s liking, but he successfully deals with the distribution system that he’s dealt, and helps some of us get our lips on juice, that we can’t get in our own state.
    SIDEBAR: Down with HR. 5034

    as far as the cheese is concerned, yes it is kicking…scuttlebutt is that Sam Gugino will be at the VT Cheese Maker’s Festival this summer, doing a VT Wine session with a local chef…
    on the east coast it’s almost midnight, and time to sign off…in the west, party on.

  20. Jo Diaz says:

    Love it all…

    And Gary’s dad fired his butt for ordering a palate of wine? Huh… Well, that explains why when I called the store looking for him, he never got back to me. No one told me he wasn’t there, and I haven’t read that chapter of his life. Now I know why he loves his mom so much. That explains a lot. Thanks.

    Gary, my deepest apologies, man. Fortunately, you’re brilliant enough to keep going on your own. Your videos are brilliant, and have done a lot to bring a whole new generation into the wine world without fear. Your books are admirable.

    By the way… I know I was the first to declare him the next Robert Parker. I wrote it in 2008, and everyone else has followed along with the thinking. I know a star when I see one. September 8th, 2008. Check it out: A New Age of Wine Media: Is Gary Vaynerchuk the Millennium’s Answer to Robert Parker?

    Little did I know, seeing the differences that generally exist between the two coasts, that there would be those who would come out swinging. It’s always refreshing to work in a little character assassination in the process. It always makes the soul feel sooooo good. You, Todd, did none of these things that you fear you might have. You just expressed your own opinion, and I value your input. Sleep well.

  21. Jo Diaz says:

    Had a good night’s sleep, and came up with this rambling around in my brain this morning.

    This is directed to GregP…

    First of all, I’d really like to thank you for the than/then example. I clearly know the difference. Yet, as I’m wrapping up an event that took me six months to organize with 50 wine companies, 30 restaurants and caterers (Dark & Delicious, fifth annual last Friday night), staff of 50, ticket sales and attendees, I’m more exhausted than (thanks) a bear in November. I’m literally dragging my butt around. Not paying strict attention right now in my journal, as I’m still taking care of wrapping up that event and keeping all my other wine clients happy, I tripped and hit a wall harder than (thanks) ice, while writing this wine publicist’s journal. Thanks for catching me, rather than (yup!) letting me get away with anything.

    You can be sure that I won’t make that mistake again anytime soon… exhausted or not.

    The next part of this is me wondering what it must feel like to sit in judgment of someone else’s work, who clearly defines who she is, and yet you remain in complete anonymity?

    When I enjoyed my Psychology of Interpersonal Relationships and Business Writing classes, both explained that when anyone has to deliver bad news, we’re supposed to first start with a positive, put our criticism into the middle of our text, and then finish with a positive… It leaves others with their sense of dignity. I’m going to assume that you really do care about others, and that you just haven’t learned this method yet. (Nobody wants to deliberately alienate others, unless there’s some brain imbalance, right?)

    Again, it’s always a trip putting stuff onto the world wide web. Today’s authors don’t have the luxury of editors to catch grammar, spelling, and punctuation, as in the days of old.

    Reflecting on you… yes, you do leave an impression… I know that there’s a job for you in writing, if you don’t already have one. You may be a technical writer already, because you have a short fuse when it comes to grammatical errors, GregP. Have you considered this as a career, if you’re not already in this field? I know you’d be excellent at it. I know when I read other people’s work, I can quickly detect their errors and make the mental corrections. When I review my own work, though, I read things exactly as I know they *should* be, not as they are. This is why I pay another set of eyes to review what I’ve professionally written. I know how it works in writing. I’ve been supporting myself pretty well for the last 30 years with my writing (and that includes paying a support staff)… But I don’t hold myself to perfect standards, because there’s no real perfection in this world. It’s one of the things this old lady’s learn along the way; and yet, I’m still a perfectionist.

    Native Americans leave one mistake in their work, so that the spirit of the work has a place to exit and enter. Did you know that? Wally Whitefeather gave this gift to me a long time ago, as a legend, which also accompanied an intricate piece of work that took me a week of investigating to find that mistake. (I also found that it was deliberate.)

    I toyed with not writing this publicly to you, but then thought, “Hey, he’s anonymous. Nobody knows who GregP is, so there’s nobody real on the other end to take this to heart.”

    Take good care of yourself… That’s your job this time around. That’s my gift to you.

  22. @KarlSummerville says:

    Interesting discusssion, controversial! Not sure I necessarily agree with some of the sentiment but a great post and thread nonetheless.

    Btw, have you guys heard of lovethis? I’ve started using it to get wine recommendations, pretty useful. Check out my tasting notes and I’d be interested to connect with you guys to find some interesting labels and new producers. Here’s a link to my profile: http://ow.ly/42A6l. Keep up the great blog, how do I subscribe?

  23. Jo Diaz says:

    Hi, Karl,

    Yeah… something so simple becomes something so complex. My blog on Monday is entitled, “How Can Some People Interested in Wine Still Be So Uncivil?” It leads in with… “Isn’t wine supposed to be a civilizing beverage?” It’s been a very interesting week. Having put out a couple of my own observations, and having others give me very interesting feedback. I’m now chuckling, at myself, mostly. Let’s see what Monday brings.

    My Subscribe RSS feed is in the upper right hand corner of Wine-Blog. Thanks for your interest. I just joined your LoveThis network. Thanks for the tip.

  24. Back to the original question regarding an East Coast bias for the European styles (although the detour was a lot of fun to read). We have a California cab that has a distinctly European taste profile, which we plan on entering in an upcoming competition in New York. The wine did garner gold in SF, so we’re really curious how it will do on the East Coast. Guess we’ll find out at the end of March.

  25. Jo Diaz says:

    Good luck with it Ron. You’ve brought up a great point; i.e., how do wines do in competitions that have the rulings of collective palates? I’d love to know how it does. Let me know. You could be a really great blog topic.

  26. wineguyla says:

    Just wanted to write to say that I truly enjoyed this article, a lot. Yes, there are generalizations along the way; but I didn’t mind. For, in general, I agree with the viewpoint of your hypothesis. Permit me however, to dare to throw in another premise/hypothesis, that I think folds neatly into yours.

    So, I am thinking here of influence that the imported food cultures, and in turn, a wine cultures had on our country and to your point, it’s Euro-centric palate. First, European immigrants brought with them to America a culture of food (specific to their origins) and in many cases (such as the Mediterranean countries) one that was also wine centric. First I think of the Italians, French, Greeks and Spanish, and then even Germans (though their love of beer cannot be overlooked). I don’t think that western pioneers/settlers (American born or of Northern European extraction) eventually shared this food/wine culture.

    Many of these immigrants naturally populated the great cities along the East Coast; the melting pots of European immigrants: New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, then onto Chicago. Palates weened on European cuisines and wines, spreading the gospel, and well, what they enjoyed.

    I think that it is not a bad idea to note, that as our country grew and perhaps pockets of money and sophistication did, I believe that French cuisine came to define “fine dining” for the greater part of the 20th century.

    Ok, lets cut to say the 70’s to throw more spice thrown into the mix when we to see the (beginnings!) of the country starting to show an interest in food. Frankly, this may, or can be, attributed to the media, both television and written. Television personalities such as Julia Child and yes, even the “Galloping Gourmet” fueled and gave voice to a rising interest in food: elevating the bar along the way. In print we saw the rise of and influence of the restaurant critic: Craig Claiborne for the NY Times and Gourmet mag and Gael Greene for New York magazine.

    On the restaurants scene, on opposing coasts, the great New York restaurants were in full stride: Lutèce Le Grenouille, La Côte Basque. In California we see Alice in the wonderland of bounty and plenty that California ingredients provided her, opening Chez Panisse.

    I think distinctive cuisines and in one case, locale, influenced the wine selections that diners were being presented (in the East by French sommeliers?). Now, don’t’ get me wrong, I am not saying that the country was downing glasses of Barolo, Burgundy or Bordeaux left and right. I haven’t researched consumption numbers, but I am guessing across the country it is fair to say though during this time, if or when Americans were drinking wine, it was more likely glasses of Riunite, Mateus, Lancers, and “Chablis” and “Burgundy” from California (in jugs no less).

    Obviously, there was a flotilla of wine of all sorts arriving on our shores from Europe during this time: Riunite and Chianti in fiascos (baskets) from Italy, Blue Nun from Germany. Again, I am certain that the consumption of, dare I say fine or good wines, or, in the line with the European palate theme, “dry” wines, was limited and confined to pockets such as the East Coast, and French and Italian restaurants outside those.

    Importation and distribution continued to grow, and coupled with what I believe were these beginning stages of a food culture in the US, we see the interest in wine expand as well. Then market begins to expand as does the selections available from all over Europe. Imported wines are cheap and France meets demand with Bordeaux, given the volume available, and through the early efforts of the large negociants, Burgundy.

    So, naturally, and to bring it full circle back to your hypothesis, we see a growing food culture and the established big East Coast cities, and their burgeoning populations and (sophisticated) dining scenes, “naturally” gravitating to their European roots and wines. The access to and proximity to the wines of Europe weighs in as well. Elsewhere, eg California/West and/or in the younger cities, we see wines choices that are not confined to Europe but rather sources closer to home; as Napa and Sonoma were to Berkeley. One can’t ignore California’s booming population and the locomotive building steam; the Californian wine industry. [At the risk of being all over the place, lol, a tangent question might be: was there as well a generational influence during this time of umm, “cuisine consciousness”?That is, I wonder about the likelihood that the younger the diner, in the new cities, the more likely that they may have been drinking soft drinks (ie sweet drinks) and preferring “fruitier” wines. Their parents, dining in French restaurants were, in contrast, perhaps were drinking more coffee growing up?]

    As I mentioned, I enjoyed your article quite a lot. Thought that it would be fun to throw into the pot some thoughts and ideas of why our coasts may have these disparate wine palates.

    From an East Coast born foody and wine geek, now quite at home on the West; vive la difference!


  27. Jo Diaz says:

    Wineguyla… You’ve written your own story… Now, off to read it…

    Okay, Back from the big read, and you’ve got some interesting points.

    Surely food and wine cultures go hand-in-hand, and they’ve been evolving for many, many years. Love the “Alice in her wonderland” reference. While she was inventing “slow food” out here, I was stir frying everything for my kids in a wok that my sister Merry had given to me in the woods of Maine. My joke was that as soon as I got my wok, I really learned how to run my kitchen. And yet in Maine, wine was only a once a week purchase. We grew up only having wine on Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and I know it’s my Puritanical, Maine-iacal roots.

    By the way, did you know that Mateus is a Portuguese wine? I just found that one out while in Portugal. Who knew, all these years later.

    Generations, as you’re stating, have added more layers to the changing cultures we’re now all enjoying as diversity cuisine.

    Greg has mentioned that the East Coast is still so stogy, as compared to what’s going on on the West Coast. I’ve not spent much time in the outlaying areas, except to say that I had a recent trip to New York and found a bit of what he’s saying true in those outlying burbs. Having meals there certainly weren’t like dining at The Modern.

    The West Coast is so refreshing and forward thinking. I do think that even when the East Coast is progressive, it’s still got a foot stuck in history, as Greg notes. Californians can only count back to the Gold Rush, primarily speaking.

  28. Jo Diaz says:

    Greetings Jo! I tried eleven times to enter this on the blog comment section but was told each time that I had the spam word wrong (this is confusing since it was spam numbers, but hey??). So, I am dropping my comment here. Mostly because I think that Portland is such an unusual market (owned a distribution company for six years, sold it a year ago). Here is my comment:

    Greetings Jo! You might want to revisit your numbers for Portland, OR. Oregon is the number one consumer of Italian wine in the US (yep, you read that right). Imports are huge here (Italian, French, and now Spanish…gruner and mencia are cool at the moment). Portland has always had an anti-California attitude and that continues today. Most agree that Portland turned to imports because of the anti-CA sentiment, along with incredible wine people (Peter de Garmo who started Slow Food in the US, Matt Kramer, etc.) who fell in love with European wine and pushed it hard in their respective venues.
    Just to put it in perspective, Portland is also the number one consumer of the rosé made from Hondurrabi Beltza and H. Zuri. Weird is Portland! And for anyone who needs a refresher course watch Portlandia!!
    Thanks for the great blog!!

    Eugenia Keegan

  29. Jo Diaz says:

    Eugenia, I’ll be talking with my Webmaster husband about that issue. Thanks. How frustrating for you, and what determination. Thanks for letting me know and your important insights into the current Portland (OR) market.

    Thanks for the great update ;^)

  30. Peter Minde says:

    I’m not sure the east coast is more Euro-centric than California. As a wholesale distributor rep in New Jersey, probably half my sales were of California wines. A significant amount of the balance was “new world type” wines with varietal rather than appellation labeling and a style similar to California.

    I like California wines just fine, but personally I lean towards European wines: is there a law against it?

    Mr. Wirth, your comments are immature.

  31. Jo Diaz says:

    Peter, thanks for weighing in as a wholesaler. You’ve got the actual facts and figures that will dis-spell the myth.

    Maybe a large enough shift has happened for everyone to “just get over it.”

    I know I’m getting there pretty quickly.

  32. wineguyla says:

    Yes, Jo, I did in fact know that Mateus is Portuguese wine. I think it almost a source of nationalist pride for them.

    As a matter of fact, do you know they still currently sell 2million bottles a year of the rose! I’m thinkin’ that maybe the Brits are drinking it with breakfast, lol

    Speaking of selling, hang on to your seat as we are in for a ride: the owner of the brand is about to re-launch it in the US; with a big push. They have done well in Europe already (there is a sparkling rose wine) as they found the brand “Mateus” has quite the cache and thus value. There is some story too as how they are marketing the “new” rose; ie different varietals or countries or something like that.

    I have bottle on 1981 that a friend gave me as a joke for a birthday a few years ago. Its such a great souvenir of a moment in time that i can’t bring myself to open it


  33. Jo Diaz says:

    I wouldn’t open it, either; although, as a candle holder and some incense burning, it might be worth the memories of the night on Sabattus Lake. ;^)

  34. andy reagan says:

    so where did JR Wirth live? i’m assuming NYC? you sound like you would have been on board with locking up Gallileo.

    you, by far define the word TWIT

    I almost wish you and I were on competing high scool debate teams or a talk show taking on this topic. What a presumptuous ahole or what an unadventurous life you must have led out here. take a drive 45 minutes outside of NYC to the Hudson Valley. Take a train to my town Charlottesville, Va. home to Thomas Jefferson and a number of great wineries that make wines in both new and old world styles. Take in the beauty of the blue ridge and the hospitality of many a Virginian resident. You fail to point out that many easeterners would bejust as shocked by the smog and the smug if they relocated to LA. And you want to talk pretentious? Whats an acre cost in napa buddy?

    As far as the difference in palates, I drink just about anything so I can’t speak to the root of this post without real data. I’m not picky, and I know plenty of folks who aren’t as well. I was recently in Napa and thought some wines were poorly made and some were obviously outstanding. Just like any other region in the world.

  35. Jo Diaz says:

    Andy, I know many people from the east coast who couldn’t make it in out here. The culture is so different, and I’m sure that the culture shock the other way must have also been unbearable… Especially since JR came home quite bitter.

    In a blog I wrote about going to St. Charles, MO, I wrote:

    I’m from the East Coast, where we tell it like it is.

    Ouch! You’re on my foot!

    I now live on the West Coast, where we tell it like it isn’t.

    Excuse me, but you and I are both standing the same exact spot. And, as luck would have it, you’re standing on my foot. I would so appreciate it if you could simply take one step to the right, so that my foot could be free.

    Now comes the Heartland.

    Honey, do you mind? My foot… (and pointing while genuinely smiling).

    Some people just can’t adjust to change. I found it very hard adjusting to the West coast in a lot of ways, and I had some pretty bitter experiences from some very nasty people… But, I’ve also got those same stories about people I worked with on the East Coast. Being a woman who speaks her honestly and openly has opened me up to a lot of experiences.

    I also try really hard to not get into too many debates on my blog, because I try to bring more understanding to what I’m writing. ‘m publishing this and not editing, but I have mixed feelings about attacks by anyone on anyone. When JR wrote his attack, I know that he’d get hit hard because of it… Every action having an equal and opposite reaction… I’m letting free speech take it’s course, but am hoping that it doesn’t further deteriorate.

    Okay, guys?

    I like playing nice in the sand box. I know. I’m boring, but I prefer diplomacy over all else. Thanks. I got hit over the head one day by a friend who had just found out he had to move, and when I came up to him in the sand box and said, “Hi, Mike,” he took his toy gun (of the 50s) and hit me over the head with it, squarely and hard. I’ve hated that sandbox stuff ever since.

  36. Jo Diaz says:

    Thanks fro bringing your wine culture from Virginia into the conversation. Virginia is a gorgeous state. Like Vermont, very green and stately.

  37. andy reagan says:

    I guess being a military brat and former marine has me in a position where culture shock is not something that effects me. I really fail to understand why some 15 states are lumped in to the same basket due to a few observations from folks who only gave a few cities or areas a chance. Most folks from upstate new york love that the city is what most people assume New York State is like. Keeps the rif raff out. There is a pretty amazing culinary school in Dutchess county, in the city of Poughkeepsie, you know the CIA? New York also has a great wine industry, seeing the hudson river wind through the Catskills is a sight that never fails to amaze me. Tubing down the esopus, strolling through the town of Woodstock, hiking the appalachian trail, so many beautiful parts of this side of the country. All I’m trying to say, in a non argumentative way, yet I guess a defensive way, is that there are as many similarities, culture wise as there are discrepancies. If I am interpreting you correctly you are saying that easterners just speak the truth, black and white? No grey? And that is offensive to some? Isn’t that part of whats wrong with society today? There are situations where the blunt, honest statement needs to be made, i.e. Mr. Obama, you are spending too much we shouldn’t be borrowing so much money from China. And using your metaphor (if thats what it was, euphamism, analogy? i didnt do so well in english class) if you were standing on my foot I would have politely removed it from underneath yours and stepped aside and probably would have said excuse me. I don’t think anyone can claim that across the board, for anyone in any part of the states that they all fit in to the same category. Regionalism is dying if it hasn’t already from dialect to fashion to industry and economy. The internet, 24 hour news cycle, blogs like this, for many different reasons the evolution of the american culture has become somewhat polarized, I think it is depressing but thats the way it is.

    Not getting in to debates on a blog is really the opposite of what blogging is about. You are posting an opinion on a subject, in a wide open arena that no matter what, someone is not going to agree with. As for calling JR a twit and an ahole, I should have taken the high road, but any chance I get to call someone a twit I will, especially when it is well deserved. I’m a passionate person, I prove that in the wines that I make, the meals I cook, the love I have for my wife, my state, and my country.

    Every state on the east coast is beautiful, and green. From the orange groves in florida the laid back music scene in Athens, GA, Charleston, SC the bluegrass and majesty of Asheville, NC, the history and culture of Virginia, the eastern shore and blue crabs from the chesapeake bay in Maryland, the beaches of deleware, the gardens of New Jersey (actually i think jersey could be the exception to my point ;-)) the adirondacks and microwbrews in NY state, whale watching trips in Massachusettes, lobster in Maine. There is plenty of other beautiful areas as well. I guess my only point is that generalizing is very immature.

    Anyway I never liked sand, especially the Sand pits at Paris Island.

  38. Jo Diaz says:

    Andy, good response… I love it.

    I, like you, have been around a lot of states. In my wine career, I’ve been to all but nine of the US states + Puerto Rico. I used to enjoy 60,000+ miles a year as a frequenet flier for about a decade. I remember when I was first assigned to Minnesota, I snickered. Having grown up in Maine, spending summers in Boston, and then spending a lot of time in New York City, which I l-o-v-e, I thought I was pretty cosmopolitan. When I got to Minneapolis, I found out what a twit I had been to think that there wouldn’t be any culture in the Midwest. I was continued to be humbled in Cincinnati, Des Moines, and Boise… to name a few. I have found that I love each state, because each does have a traditional culture, based on who first founded that land mass. I love travel, and I also know where I love to live.

    And, generalizing makes for the best jokes, because people do relate to my generalized joke of who is who when it comes to interacting with others. That’s been my experience. Whenever I tell that one, and I just did in St. Charles, MO, the group I was speaking before really cracked up. They knew what I meant. This generalization isn’t hurtful, as other generalizations are with ethnic, mental health, or sexual diversity ones. These I steer clear of, because I don’t want to dehumanize or hurt anyone.

    I’ve been to the CIA in upstate NY, by the way. I have a sister who studied there, and I worked with the National Pork Board during a National cook off at that site. It’s totally amazing, and I prefer it to the one in Calistoga, because it has more depth, more space for educating. Maybe it’s its history and massiveness. Just a preference.

    As for my blog, I’ve said it over-and-over again on this one (and I don’t expect newcomers to know this), I’m journaling my current life as a wine publicist. I believe there are two uses for the blogosphere; some of us love to rant, and some of us love to rave. I’m of the latter. I generally am a storyteller on my blog, because I’m living so many of them, and they’re worth sharing. Sometimes I put thoughts out there, and those thoughts ignite something in others where they need to rant about it. It’s okay. The publicist inside of me will… whenever it happens, because humans love diversions as good sport and will go at it… will want to negotiate the debate in a way that a coach always does.

    I also am a firm believer that those people who have their momentary rants and defend what they love are *very* passionate people, like you.

    I thank you for your comments, and that you took the time to read the words I’ve written as personal thoughts, thrown against the wall to see what sticks. I’m now very curious about your wines 🙂

  39. andy reagan says:

    I didnt find your generalization is hurtful yet more of a curious inquiry. Whats his names generalization and a few other folks’ comments were not true and needed to be refuted. That was my only goal.

    My mom grew up in Minnesota, north of Minneapolis in a small small town, my dad in Chicago. He joined the Navy and moved around quite a bit. I was born and raised in Virginia but have lived in numerous states and have been to all but 14 states. Mama was a history teacher and trips to battlefields, museums, historic houses, and symphonies were the norm.

    here are a few links if you are bored:




    and less formal yet much more fun:


    have a great day!

  40. Jo Diaz says:

    I’m a Maine-ah by birth. Lived and loved there for 40+ years, but I nevah ate lobstah… but only once. I left it for tha rest of yah, ah-yah…

    I think those of us who travel a lot become more accepting of others. Our views are broadened by our life experiences.

    And you’re at Jefferson Vineyards. How historic is that? Your mother raised you well. I brought my kids to Boston a lot when we were in Maine, for the same reasons that your mother brought you to battlefields, museums, etc. My great grandfather 14 generations ago founded Boston, sent over by King James to preach the King James version of the Bible. We spent time in Salem, because another great grandfather lived there (yes, during the trials, I’m sorry to say, although i don’t know his views… but, let’s just say no one in his family was declared a witch). These cultural experiences are also my norm and were my children’s.

    I relate to who you are; now off to research Jefferson Vineyards, and check out your recommended reading (after I get my work assignments completed). Thanks for stepping into my world.

  41. andy reagan says:

    my mom is awesome! if only i had realized it while i was dragged through all of those museums. at least now i hold an appreciation for those things. i am truly grateful for all my mama did for me. shes awesome!!!!

    thats amazing that you can trace your family back to the founding of boston. wow!!!! i love history.

    Jefferson Vineyards is incredibly historic. google fillipo mazzei for more info.

    If youd like i’ll go in to detail but for now i’ve appreciated my latest chardonnay too much. so my rambling needs to be restricted. i think you and i will have great conversations over the years to come. lets enjoy our similar philosophy on life.
    until then

    take good care

  42. Jo Diaz says:

    You, too, Andy. I did research the other day, and you are indeed a very historic location. If you can get your wines to me, I’ll taste and write a story…

    My info is in “Contact.”

    I’ve made many wonderful friends through the Internet. I love being able to reach out this way.

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