After reading Dr. Donald Casebolt’s latest anti-alcohol jeremiad in Sunday’s U-B, I confess I’m caught in a series of quandaries. He makes a compelling case for completely abstaining from any and all booze. But on a personal level that means I’m stuck with several thousand bottles of wine that will have to be disposed of properly.

Shall I dump them all down the drain, as they do in countries run by the Taliban? And if I do, would that impact the salmon spawning in the Touchet, which runs right past my home? Don’t want to harm no little fishes! And then there’s the issue of all that glass. I can’t send it to China — they don’t want it! So that’s going to impact the landfill.

But my health and your safety are paramount, so those problems can be managed. The larger issue is how to dismantle the hundreds of breweries, wineries and distilleries that populate our lovely Valley. These are mostly small mom ’n’ pop businesses, and I suspect they won’t all be able to transition easily into food trucks and pizza parlors.

Their demise is going to leave quite a few people unemployed, my friend Nick Velluzzi has pointed out in his excellent new study on the economic impact of the Walla Walla wine industry. His research cites 2,484 jobs, business sales of $430 million and labor income of $114 million related to our local wine industry in just the last year. That’s a tough nut to swallow, but hey, we’re all from pioneering stock, and as Dr. Casebolt has pointed out, demon alcohol has to go. So let’s get after it.

Unfortunately, the pain doesn’t stop there. It’s pretty clear that tourism largely depends upon the wine industry and its ancillary industries, especially lodging and dining. So let’s quit with the grandiose plans to add housing, apartments, fancy hotels, new restaurants, etc. The ones we already have will be more than adequate as tourism collapses. I fear not all will survive.

Still, there is a bright side to all this. Parking will be easy again downtown. Vehicular traffic will be significantly reduced, which should mean fewer potholes. And speaking of pot holes, that may be what replaces all the defunct watering holes! As the prez says, “We’ll have to see…”

Paul Gregutt


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