“A lot of wine drinkers are thinking the same thing. Bottles priced at around $60 retail have done well, and there is also a lot of action on lower cost bottles. If you prefer a nice cocktail, the price of premium brands has steadily risen, so you’re seeing drink prices climbing as well.”
At this point, we pause and wonder, “how are highend winemakers are making it?” Trinchero Family Estates representative, Josh Lawrence, offers insight (though not to the benefit of upscale restaurants). Trinchero is a Napa family-owned company since 1947, with a portfolio ranging from the low-end Sutter Home White Zinfandel (in its defense, my mom likes it) to its recent partnership with Italian gourmet giant, Cerreta Wines, and co-owners of Piedmont’s only 3-Star Michelin restaurant, Piazza Duomo.
Senior Sales Specialist, Lawrence, bemoans the loss of high-end wine sales from resort hotels and upscale restaurants, where COVID has had huge impact. However, highend wine suppliers have offset that loss of sales with increases in wine shops and e-commerce. Seems more high-end diners are purchasing wine in bulk and enjoying them before they dine out or are paying corkage at the restaurant. Either presents a disturbing trend for upscale restaurants.
Even among this challenging contemporary COVID landscape, the 29 Palms Inn, established in 1929, sits proudly. Heidi Grunt is the 5th generation family operator and, surprisingly, pricing is not her first concern. “It’s labor shortages, then it’s the rising costs, as well as supply chain problems.”
Heidi, a true entrepreneur, has multiple solutions to counter current COVID setbacks. “We used the downtime to remodel, including a more pleasant dining entrance that is less obtrusive to pool guests. We designed generous table spacing. We reformatted our breakfast menu from a dining room experience to wrapped products. We reduced menu options on our dinner menu to maintain quality and consistency. We farm our own garden and act as our own supplier for fresh produce, including vegetables and herbs. On the beverage end, we even do our own homebrew Kombucha!
Bravo, Heidi and 29 Palms Inn. We may be destined for fewer places and higher prices, but with owner/operators like Heidi Grunt, we can still be well and creatively served, safely, in a unique environment.