Winery Visit Turns Sour (Part 1)
In the summer of 2000, my wife and I decided to take a day trip to Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island in Lake Erie. We were excited at the prospect of visiting this resort, which played a key role in America’s history during the War of 1812, and today serves as a popular summer resort offering a variety of holiday attractions. Among these are tours of the island’s wineries, and high on our list of places to visit was one of two wineries on the island. After driving from our home in Bowling Green, Ohio, about 25 miles south of Toledo to Sandusky, Ohio, about midway between Toledo and Cleveland, we took the Jet Express ferry to Put-in-Bay. Stepping off the ferry, after the 45-minute trip, we found ourselves in Downtown Put-in-Bay. There was so much to see and do and we had less than a day to do it all, so we rented a golf cart to move around the village and see as many places as we could.
The idyllic ambience of the island in 2000 was in sharp contrast to the days when the Battle of Put-in-Bay, also known as the Battle of Lake Erie, raged between American and British naval forces (in September 1813). At that time, the American fleet, led by Oliver Hazard Perry, fought with the British naval squadron just north of South Bass Island and captured several British ships and over 300 soldiers, thus ensuring victory for America.
Our beautiful summer’s day on the island started at Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial. We visited the Lake Erie Islands Historical Society Museum, the South Bass Island Lighthouse, and stopped at a pizza place for lunch. In the afternoon, we planned to visit a winery.
Although we rarely indulge in wine, my wife and I love wineries and have visited some in Northern Virginia, where we now live, and in Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. The winery we visited in Put-in-Bay offered tours of the tasting room, vineyards, grounds, and other places of interest in the winery. We paid $5 each and signed up for a tour. We each received a glass of wine and joined 10–12 others waiting for the tour guide.
Our guide soon appeared — with a glass of wine in hand. I thought he looked a bit tipsy and wondered whether he received a glass of wine for every tour he led!
After sampling the delights of the tasting room, we headed for the vineyard, wine laboratory, wine-processing plant, wine cellar, and the shipping warehouse. During the tour, our guide offered interesting information about the wine-making process and related tidbits to keep us engaged. As we passed through the warehouse, one of our group, a thirty-something, suddenly became visibly excited. She had been eyeing cartons of bottles stacked on one side of the warehouse. Each carton was labeled Made in Mexico. Unable to contain herself any longer, she blurted out, “Why do you buy bottles from Mexico? Why not from the U.S.?”
(By way of some background: Ohio had been part of the Rust Belt, a region extending from the Midwest to New York, especially states near the Great Lakes. Until the 1970s manufacturing had been the dominant industry, but started to decline in the late 1970s because of manufacturing companies relocating their plants to Mexico, and later to China and other low-cost countries. Practically, every family in the Rust Belt region had suffered a job loss or knew of some family that had suffered a job loss).
As a professor of strategy and international business at Bowling Green State University, I saw this as a godsent opportunity for me. Raising my voice, I said, “And, you know what? The largest wine bottle maker in North America, Asia, and Europe, Owens-Illinois, is located right here in Toledo. Why don’t you buy bottles from them?”
The tour guide, already flustered by the young lady’s question, could only mutter, “I only work here; I don’t make those decisions.”
The tour continued with a sense of unease, though I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps the guide should have been wearing a sombrero!
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How would you respond to the young lady’s question? Please post your responses here.
I will post Part 2 of this article here with a summary of the responses (without names) I receive.
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See also my related article, “Old is New Again:”