It’s not local wine when you’re buying grapes from another state

local wineColorado craft brewer says its new wine is innovative, but it’s the same approach Big Wine uses

Craft beer made name its name on authenticity and honesty. This was in marked contrast to Big Beer, which kept selling the same worn out and bland fizz for no other reason than because that’s what Big Beer did.

So what happens when a craft beer producer moves into wine? Does it bring the same authenticity and honesty that it brought to beer? Not, apparently, if it’s a leading Colorado craft producer called Odell Brewing.

Maybe Odell Brewing has a reason for making its wine with out of state grapes instead of those from its native Colorado — which is hardly craft, authentic or honest. I asked, but never heard back from the company. Maybe someone there truly believes the twaddle in its news release, that Odell claims it “is dedicated to pushing the boundaries of modern American wine.” And that “we’re committed to making wine that is just as innovative as our beer.”

Because making wine with out of state grapes is the sort of thing that small wine producers criticize Big Wine for doing, and that those of us who believe in Drink Local have been fighting against for years. It’s neither innovative nor boundary pushing; rather, it’s just a way to cut costs, since those grapes will probably be cheaper than buying Colorado grapes.

And Odell’s wines – a red and white blend, plus two roses, and all made with grapes purchased from Oregon and Washington – are hardly breathtaking. And that the wines will come in cans? Not exactly innovative, either, not in the middle of 2020.

Let’s be clear here – Odell can do whatever it wants, and I’m not criticizing the company for making wine. Rather, it’s because Odell is pretending that its wine effort is something that it’s not.

In fact, I can’t help but think that someone at Odell and its wholesaler, Breakthru Beverage (the third biggest in the country) wanted to duplicate the almost unprecedented success of Cooper’s Hawk. That’s the restaurant and winery chain that uses California grapes no matter where its stores are located. For one thing, Breakthru is mentioned in the second paragraph in the news release, and that’s just odd. Why would anyone care who the distributor is?

So good luck to Odell – just don’t expect anyone who knows local wine to pretend your product is local.

5 thoughts on “It’s not local wine when you’re buying grapes from another state

  • By MrDoug -

    Well WC, Colorado produces a very limited amount of grapes due to short growing seasons, and low yields 5K cases a year odds of getting all local at that volume of grapes are low.

    Odell’s is a success story of the little guys making in a very tough market. When you have a Bud plan about 10 miles away and your brewery could fit in a single fermentation tank of theirs, I say they get a break on this one. They are beer people and as you know Wine is a different animal all together.

    • By Wine Curmudgeon -

      There are plenty of Colorado grapes — just more expensive. Decent Washington state cabernet grapes can cost as little as $5 a gallon, which works out to a $1 a bottle. Again, it’s not a criticism of making wine. It’s a criticism for acting as if the wine will be special, when every big producer in the country does the same thing.

  • By Andrew -

    O’Dells is a Johnny-come-lately to winemaking, but they are by no means the first of the Colorado Front Range (Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins) “negociant” type wine bottler/canners to buy grapes from out of state. The best marketed one proudly proclaims that it is an “urban winery” that owns no vineyards; the wines listed for sale on their website make no reference as to grape or juice provenance….. so I assume it’s concocted “double double, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble in a lab….. with plenty of additives and scary sounding goo thrown in to make it taste “right.”

    I won’t drink the stuff, at any price.

  • By Chris -

    Spot on commentary and a very timely topic. Grape harvest is right around the corner and if Odell was concerned about making a craft, local beverage, they would see a number of reasons to purchase locally this year. Local vineyards are going to suffer when small local wineries cannot afford to buy 2020 grapes because of a decrease in sales due to Covid-19. When you preserve local agriculture you preserve heritage and authenticity and you keep hard working farmers in business. Back in the day the term micro-brewery had meaning, 25 years later and decisions are simply made at the macro level. If Odell wants to make juice into “wine” it’s no different in my eyes to Bud wanting to make Seltzer, chasing the American craft drinker is part of their model. Europeans place high value on authenticity and origin because they know its good business and elevates quality. Americans place high value on convenience and affordability and get what they deserve.

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