I run the risk of sounding pugnacious as I write this… I  know. And, I may never hit the send button. If you’re reading this, I decided to publish it, with this immediate disclaimer. Please don’t think that I’m just a whiny wench. I’m extremely frustrated and just trying to work it out in my wine journal. This is what this blog is about. I’ve said it from day one, I’m just journaling.

In the wine business, I’ve learned more about democracy than I ever would have learned in any political science class.

Life is the real laboratory, because it goes on for much longer than any four unit class, in any university…

This isn’t something I would have ever expected to learn, nor do I enjoy knowing it, but it’s something that we must all learn about our political structure… And the wine business is a great microcosm from which to learn. It’s also something that I watched my father, a small business man who was raising five children, learned the day the first “Mart” hit town. And that is, when it gets too big to fail, it takes over those who can pretty quickly fail. Fast food is a classic example, for instance, of the food “mart” program. How many wonderful restaurants have not been able to make it, because they simply can’t compete; nor would they ever work for such an establishment.

And we wonder why we have so much unemployment in the United States? I don’t wonder… I get it.

It’s a quantity versus a quality issue…

So here’s the frustration…

I’ve always been a  champion of the underdog. I really despise (a strong word, I know, but I don’t know what other one to use) when corporations put the burden of “getting the word out about a product” on the backs of the smaller businesses. It’s just an unfair practice, and it’s also a key element of democracy, it seems… And I wonder if that’s what our founding fathers had in mind when they wrote the Untied State’s business plan. Could they have possibly seen the Marts coming? I don’t really think so. I’ve given birth to three lovely daughters. I had no way of seeing what any of them would do with their lives. I’ve had to stick around long enough to find out how well each one would do.

Now, I have to be really careful phrasing this, because the last thing I want to do is alienate those for whom I need their help…

Having started my share of marketing groups, the response from the wine writing community is always overwhelming for a group of like minded wine companies. The group offers a unique opportunity for a wine reviewer to get his or her hands on a “collection” of wine. They don’t have to call around for several samples, remind people that they need technical data and suggested retail. They can set an approximate deadline and know that a story will be forthcoming. A wine advocacy group is like a “mart,” except that when it’s just beginning, the burden of proof is in the membership, and it’s not the big guys who sign on right away… if ever. In PS I Love You, for instance, there’s only one member of the top four producers in the US that supports our efforts. These are the companies that have the most resources through economy of scale efforts, and they stand to make the most profit from getting behind the effort. Their companies, however, have so many layers of bureaucracy that they don’t even know we exist, and that they’d also benefit with even greater sales potential. Without someone at the top really “getting it,” we can’t even make it past the parking lot guard.

The reason I’m so frustrated is that when there’s a call for samples, to prove how special the wine is from that advocacy group, the small producers really feel the burden of that call for “samples please.” Small producer need to monitor their spending, and I’m constantly wondering how to tip the scales of justice in their favor… Champion of the underdog that I am.

I’ll figure it out, but I have to be careful in the process that I don’t write a letter that leaves someone feeling guilty and throws us a donation, versus having someone “get it,” because getting it has long term consequences, versus just throwing us a bone. I have to prove what’s in it for them. I believe their drawback is that they don’t need to be a “member.” That they don’t need us, in their minds; but, I argue that they do. They’re in business to make money, and spending it is part of that process. Why would they not want to support that which is already helping them with varietal visibility and successful sales? We can fast forward their sales, too.

Food for thought…

When PSILY started in 2002, there were only 62 growers and producers combined.

Today, in 2012, there are over 1,000.

In 2002, there were only less than 10 members of PSILY… because we started in September, in all fairness to the year.

Today, in 2012, we have 90 members.

Therein lies the inequity rub, and I’m facing it all over again… for the third time with a third advocacy group. I’ve got to find the answer… And, I’ll let you know when I do.

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