California winemakers’ open secret: They don’t drink their own wines

by Esther Mobley at

Gianpaolo Paterlini sees a lot of California winemakers at his San Francisco restaurants Acquerello and Sorella. Naturally, winemakers tend to drink wine when they dine out, and Paterlini observes one consistent pattern in their ordering habits.

“They never drink American wine,” he said. “Absolutely never.”

It’s something of an open secret: Among American winemakers, American wine is not cool. These aficionados would prefer to drink bottles from Champagne, Burgundy, the Jura — really, just about anywhere in Europe.

For years, some vintners have called out their community for its anti-American bias, urging peers to celebrate each other’s wines. In the past, that sentiment had a cute team-spirit feeling to it. Now, in 2024, the message feels more dire. “After the wildfires, COVID, supply chains, inflation, all these tech layoffs in the Bay Area — it hits differently now,” said Noah Dorrance, owner of Reeve Wines in Healdsburg. 

If these winemakers want their businesses to survive, they’d better start believing that American wine is cool.