Wine Vigilantes

Wine PatrolThis just in: The Wine Patrol is looking for deputies in the war on outrageous wine markups in restaurants FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: WINE PATROL DECLARES WAR ON EXPENSIVE RESTAURANT WINE New WinePAL® Program Allows Consumers to Fight Back SONOMA, California (March 20, 2006)—The Wine Patrol, a beloved fixture of Wine Country in the 1990s, has remerged to lead the fight against high-priced wine in restaurants. The Wine Patrol was notorious for bringing a sense of humor to the wine business and pulling wonderful stunts like hijacking the Napa Valley Wine Train. Their new WinePAL® program requires that restaurants use a portion of their wine lists to present excellent wines at value prices to accommodate people who love wine but break into a sweat when ordering a $70 bottle. The ingenious WinePAL program actually deputizes consumers and gives them an active roll in lowering prices. Lance Cutler, a local Wine Patrol Commander says, “We’re not looking to go to war on this. In fact, we desperately want a negotiated peace.” Cutler explains that dining in restaurants is one of society’s grand pleasures, but for many there is no fine dining without good wine. “When the average wine bottle on a list costs more than your dinner, when you have to decide between a bottle of wine and your kid’s dentist appointment, it makes it financially difficult to enjoy your dining experience.” According to Cutler, most restaurants price their wines at 2½ to 3 times what they pay for them. If they buy a bottle for $20, that bottle will be priced between $50–$60 on their list. Given our current distribution system, the winery that produced that $20 bottle of wine was lucky to receive $12 for it. The winery had to grow or purchase the grapes, produce the wine, barrel age it and bottle it. They had to pay for label design, bottles, corks, and capsules. They stored the wine, shipped it, sold it and billed it. Somehow, the wineries make enough profit selling that bottle for $12 to stay in business and grow. “The restaurant wants to make $40–$50 profit for that same bottle of wine just to open it and pour it into a glass,” exclaims Cutler. “That’s a wine crime.” The Wine Patrol thinks that every restaurant wine list should have at least one fine wine under $30 in every category. They think it is reasonable to insist that at least 10 percent of the list is under $30. They prefer that there be no corkage fee, but if there is, keep it at $10 per bottle or less. For each bottle purchased from the list corkage for at least one bottle should be waived. The Wine Patrol would like to know who is purchasing the wine, so they know who to congratulate or who to blame. They’d like to see creativity, selection and value in the wine-by-the-glass programs. The Wine Patrol is recruiting deputies to help spread the word to restaurants. Deputies will have identification cards depicting the Wine Patrol logo and their status as deputies. Deputies will also have cards they can leave in restaurants that direct the wine buyers to the website where they can see the requirements for achieving WinePAL certification. When dining at a fine restaurant, but one with wine prices in the stratosphere, deputies would simply leave a card when they pay the bill. “I know this sounds a little silly,” Cutler admits, “but believe me, if we get enough deputies to leave enough cards, restaurant owners will listen. We can change the way wine is sold in restaurants.” People who want to enlist as Wine Patrol deputies or who are looking for more information on the Wine Patrol and the WinePAL program should visit

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