Power Shift

“You know it’s funny; when we initially set up our west coast operation, we chose the Bay Area because of its proximity to great restaurants. But now we’ve found that most of the new business is coming out of Los Angeles, so we had to lease a second office down here.”

That’s what the owner of one of the largest and most well-respected wine importers in America told me when I happened to run into him at an account this week. He was shocked to see me in LA, and we spent a few minutes talking about what seems to be well-understood in our business at this point: the power dynamic in California has shifted from north to south.

I, for one, haven’t looked at the numbers, but I don’t really need to. I have eyes. I also have a mouth, and what I’ve seen and tasted in SoCal since moving here in December is beyond anything that was happening up north before I left. Not just qualitatively speaking, but also in volume. There’s simply more of everything: more bars making more interesting cocktails, more retailers with incredible selections, more restaurants with more progressive wine lists, and more people moving here on a daily basis who are tired of working in San Francisco while commuting from Pleasanton.

“We thought most of the refugees would head out to Sonoma or Sacramento, but they’re going south,” said the owner of another boutique wine distributor, when I saw him at a shop in Silver Lake; “Our business in LA has never been better,” he added.

What’s funny to me is that I had no idea. I moved to LA because that’s where my job happened to be, not because I thought it was where the momentum had shifted. I was simply a wine and spirits professional looking for a new home. It turns out I wasn’t alone.

-David Driscoll