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Napa Too Expensive? Others Begin To Agree With Us.

Once upon a time the Wall Street Journal published a weekly column by Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher regaling us in the joys of quality wine with an eye toward value. They rated their wines “Yech”, “OK”, “Good”, “Very Good”, “Delicious.” One of their columns annointed Gallo’s Barefoot Winery Pinot Grigio as a wine to enjoy.

Then, in 2009, the Wall Street Journal released them. I don’t know the details of their departure but I can imagine some editor at a weekend budget meeting saying, “Dude, we’re the Wall Street Journal and we should be writing about $300 Bordeaux not $6 Pinot Grigio.”

So a new era begins. The Journal brings in Jay McInerney (a fiction writer), Will Lyons (wine columnist) and Lettie Teague (a wine columnist and editor) to tag team on the Journal’s weekly wine column. McInerney loved writing about Bordeaux, I vaguely remember Mr. Lyons and Ms. Teague wrote about varietals and celebrity cellars while sometimes dabbling in northeastern wineries around New York and of course France and Napa. Only Ms. Teague made it to the finish line writing a weekly Saturday column.

So after a dozen or so years of writing about Napa as the penultimate California producer of great wine (which we know is not true) Ms. Teague recently announced Napa area wine and tasting is overpriced and the region is overcrowded.

Sitting on the edge of the continent here in California (where 47% of America’s wineries reside) I’d read her columns about wines which are just not accessible without a great deal of web hunting or traveling to the wine cellers of San Francisco, Los Angeles or San Diego.

So after a dozen or so years of writing about Napa as the penultimate California producer of great wine (which we know is not true) Ms. Teague recently announced Napa area wine and tasting is overpriced and the region is overcrowded. Her April 23 article cited clogged roads, the high cost of tasting ($40 average with some three digit tasting fees), the high cost of hotels (four digit fees.) She declares there are other wonderful places in California creating wine and she’s going to explore them.

She ended her column with, ”Of course there are many other wine regions in California where the prices are lower and winery tastings are even, often, free……stay tuned to this column.”

To this we say, Bravo!

The readers of these columns know of savory California New World Wines. From California’s Gold Country to Lodi to Temecula to Santa Barbara to Foxen Canyon to Santa Margarita to San Luis Obispo to Paso Robles (our home town) to Monterey to Santa Cruz to Suisin Valley to Sonoma to Lake County back to the Sierra Nevada mountains above Sacramento, there are thousands of winemakers producing interesting, joyful and tasty well priced wine.

The joy of all this is the 3,600+ different wineries here to explore. We’ll certainly differ on which ones we like or dislike and the ones we enjoy most. But there are plenty of wonderful wines to taste and enjoy here in the Golden State. Napa is just one region.

So Ms. Teague, when you get into our territory here in the central coast, contact us and we’ll give you a tour of the wine we pluck from our backyard. As I’ve said recently, “Love the one you’re with.”


One final note. For those of you who remember the Tastings column in WSJ, here is the final paragraph of the 2009 column announcing their departure.

“This is our 579th—and last—”Tastings” column. The past 12 years—a full case!—have been a joy, not because of the wine but because we had an opportunity to meet so many of you, both in person and virtually. Thank you.”

— Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher


Bill Hodge & Erin O’Neill-Hodge enjoy a good bottle of wine, visiting and enjoying California wineries from Lake County to Orange County, from the Paso Robles Gold Coast to Gold Country and from Lodi to Bakersfield.