Times are good for two-buck chuck.
With the economy ailing, cheap wines have flourished in recent years. Consumers are reaching for the lower-cost options, forgoing the more expensive drinks. Which is just fine, because most of us can't really tell the difference anyway.
That's putting a squeeze on North Bay wineries, which have struggled to continue producing the more top-shelf varieties. Discounts have made it necessary to retain customers, but those discounts could wind up costing the winemakers more than the price of producing the drink. As a result, employment is down in wine country.
One winemaker estimated that it could take as much as a decade before consumers were comfortable again with prices over $50 a bottle. Others made more optimistic predictions of 3 to 5 years.
Nervous vineyards dodged a bullet in San Francisco this week, with Mayor Gavin Newsom vetoing an alcohol tax that merchants said would keep patrons out of bars and discourage drinking. The tax would have funded an alcohol treatment program.