When I heard Portland was going to have a Starbucks that serves beer and wine I headed straight to their new NW Couch location to check out the wine list. What a great opportunity for regional winemakers to get a little more exposure and possibly a nice little cash infusion. After all, if Starbucks goes nationwide with this type of store, getting a bottle placed on their list could be as huge for winemakers as getting a book in Oprah’s Book Club used to be for authors.
The first thing I noticed was the list of beers. It was a nice list and all but one of the beers (Stella Artois) was from Oregon. OK, there was a seasonal offering from the Alaskan Brewing Company but I’ll put that in the Pacific NW column. So out of six beers, five were from the Pacific NW. And those beers were all bottles I’d happily quaff. The space looked great and the food menu was interesting enough to make me want to come back and try a few things. Too bad I can’t say the same about the wine list.
The wine list is eight bottles strong, with only three of those wines coming from Oregon or Washington. The wines were from King Estate, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Erath, William Hill (California), Alamos (Argentina), Joel Gott (California), Louis Martini (California) and Canella (Italy). Pretty pedestrian stuff and frankly, it’s the kind of list I’d expect to see in the hands of an institutional caterer or at my cousin Nancy’s wedding later this summer in Lompoc. It’s the kind of wine list I like to refer to as “the path of least resistance.”
Don’t get me wrong, I am not a serial Starbucks basher. I will always tip my hat to them for helping to make high-end coffee consumption a part of everyday life for millions of Americans. Which is why I headed to the new location today filled with hopes they could eventually have a major impact on American wine culture. But I’m not sure they will make such an impact with this kind of lineup. Starbuck’s, I know you can do better than this.
I was kind of hoping that Starbucks would take a cue from the exploding local urban wine scene here in Portland and include a wine or two from the likes of Enso Winery, Helioterra Wines, Guild Winemakers, Vincent Wine Company, Grochau Cellars, Boedecker Cellars or Seven Bridges Winery. I know, these folks don’t produce massive quantities of wine and you might have to re-write your wine list every month or so but your list is on a big chalkboard, so let’s put those erasers to work. I’d be way more likely to come into your stores to buy a glass of the J. Christopher “Cristo Misto” than the William Hill Napa Valley Chardonnay. But that’s just me.
Starbucks, you can, with just a modicum of effort, find a whole bunch of local wines that are more interesting than this lineup. You can even find more interesting local wines that will cost you roughly the same amount of money as the wines currently on your list. I’m hoping that’s the direction your wine program will take. For now, I guess we’ll just have to cross our fingers and hope for more than the least.