We end the year by raising a glass to Mud Bay Wines. It was the most wonderful “mom and pop” type wine shop in Tsawwassen, overflowing in hard to find BC wines, at winery prices, laid out simply, cleanly by varietal, with helpful staff, a huge selection in the fridge, a few nominal but worthy cuisine items and, get this, dog friendly, with treats behind the counter. Before or after a ferry trip it was a common detour for us. You always felt welcome at Mud Bay. I simply have nothing bad to say about Mud Bay Wines, but things come and go, it went, let’s not get sentimental. C’est la vie.
However… Mud Bay went for the wrong reason. It went because our provincial government is archetypally provincial. They treat adults like children (like children in an institution, like unsupervised children in a boarding facility, like a Lillian Hellman allegory) and adopt and enforce rules that are asinine. And I’m not talking about Geoff Meggs rationalizing the removal of the downtown viaducts so that the developers that own the city can capitalize on more development. I’m talking about the “good news” Liberals “modernizing” BC’s cryptic, comic and often quaintly anachronistic liquor regs. The “liberalization” of liquor laws in the province, by the provincial Liberals, a supposed right-leaning pro-business government, allow for BC wine shop licenses to transfer (i.e., be sold) to grocery stores. So Mud Bay is now available about half a click further south in a commercial grocery store chain. But it’s not the same. No PR mouthpiece bureaucrat can make the argument. You can get the bestsellers, but none of the finds, the attention to detail or the character of an actual wine shop. Why the two couldn’t coexist, why government couldn’t allow expansion of wine sales, why there had to be some imaginary level playing field, is anyone’s guess. I guess a deputy minister somewhere along the line got an MA in economics and wanted to ensure his (or her) thesis wasn’t simply a dust collector in a Public Storage locker. Essentially, what Christy Clark’s Imbeciles, er, Liberals have done, is create paperback stands where before there were libraries. Death to character, one government policy at a time. When I hear Vancouver proclaimed by our politicos as the most livable city on the planet all I can do to stop from heaving is wonder whether anyone has lived in a free society, unconstrained by moronic, antiquated, and, worse, “modernized” policies deemed to enhance livability.
Barcelona, with its buried ring road on the beach, that’s livable. Melbourne, with its light rapid transit, that’s livable. Jesus, Portland, with its wine served in cinemas and downtown parking free evenings (!) and weekends (!) that’s livable. See any similarities with liberal liquor laws in any of the most livable cities on the planet?
This brings us to the Vancouver Sun. That is not a jarring segue; it is in fact their complicity in the liquor boondoggle–and I hold them accountable for viewing this issue as a tangent that has received, at best, a human interest segment by Pete McMartin. They have one of the best critical wine writers in Canada, Anthony Gismondi, who they have write short and not terribly useful minor wine reviews once a week (for, mainly, the dross that BC Liquor sports) and then a cellar selection midweek. With Decanter, Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate, Imbibe and others online, and with every Joe and his dog blabbing on about malolactic fermentation and high versus low alcohol content (witness this blog) we simply don’t need more file card wine recommendations. But GM’s articles, on wine, the wine business, are what counts. These are better, generally, than anything in the Globe or NP. Why he doesn’t take home a journalistic award of excellence is baffling. But not more baffling than having is essays presented as lifestyle on Saturday, in other words, not being a “proper” columnist; that’s the Sun I guess… Gismondi needs to be in the business section, twice a week. But he’s not. That’s because the editorial tag team down at the Sun, the last half decent paper left in the province (emphasis on half) for some idiotic reason hasn’t come to grips with the business of wine.
In BC, wine is a business. In fact, it is a holy trinity of business. It is first a generator: It generates jobs. It produces a tangible product. It produces a product in demand. It has a gross and net profit angle, it has a human interest angle, it has a production, wholesale and retail angle. Mining, forestry, fishing, the lead stories never end. One more Vaughan Palmer inside story about a pipeline and there’s a Pulitzer I’m certain. Second, there is wine tourism. Forestry tourism anyone? Oil patch tourism anyone? So tourism, variously somewhere in the top three provincial industries, doesn’t get the business section either. And, finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is the political side of the story. Wine is politics. The headline side of the story. It’s time to elevate AG to the gaping hole left with David Baines’ departure from the biz section. Our one and only resolution this year. More of a last hope I guess.
Well, there you have it: Sadness and bad news and ignorance called Buying Wine in BC.
Happy New Year.