I’m down on Livermore Valley as a wine area. I go wine tasting all the time. When I was a kid, I collected baseball cards. Now I go wine tasting. I taste in downtown Oakland — an absolute hoot. I taste in Alameda and Petaluma and Santa Rosa and Sonoma and Dry Creek and Russian River and Lodi and the Sierra foothills. I almost never taste in Napa because it’s too crowded and expensive and I’m no longer looking for cabernet or chardonnay. But I love Napa wines.
My beef is with Livermore. It’s about a half hour from my home. Sometimes, when I finish my column I drive out there and taste with the intention of buying. I always find something I want to buy at just about every winery I ever visit and I feel it’s polite to buy if people are polite and generous. Everywhere I taste they charge a fee — let’s say 10 bucks — but waive the fee if I — or you — buy one bottle or more. I’m not sure if this still is the case in Napa because, as I say, I don’t go there much.
In Livermore they do not waive the fee. This is rude and just plain bad business. At Wente I bought a few bottles and the guy still asked for the 10 bucks. I said it’s customary to waive the fee if a customer buys wine. He told me I was “old style” and insisted I pay. I paid. In subsequent trips to Livermore wineries I have told the person serving the wine I would buy such and such bottles but only if the winery waived the fee. This usually caused consternation but in each case the fee got waived.
I don’t want that hassle anymore. I don’t want wine tasting to be filled with conflict. So, I won’t go to Livermore anymore. It’s not about the $10. I can afford that. It’s a matter of principle.