The Taste of Death
Lying halfway between San Diego and Los Angeles makes the Temecula Valley an easy escape for city dwellers hungry for the serenity of a day in the country. Temecula's wine country is located a mere five miles off of the I-15 Freeway among citrus groves and vineyards. In the clear early mornings, colorful hot air balloons seem suspended in the skies overlooking this bucolic valley. Growing up I felt privileged to live in this idyllic countryside. However, utopia is an ideal, not a reality, and my youthful innocence has given way to real concern and awareness of the intrinsic hazards lurking here. The bureaucrats and businessmen, who feed off our tourist trade, have masked the unattractive pitfalls of the wine country with romantic propaganda. The wineries and local government need to work together in providing a safer environment for the tourists they so eagerly recruit.
According to the Automobile Club of Southern California, our state has some of the nation's strictest laws for driving under the influence, which has contributed significantly to our state's sharp declines in drinking and driving crashes (1). Yet, when visiting Temecula wineries, no concern regarding this matter is evident. When questioned about their wine tasting protocol, representatives from all three of the largest tasting rooms, Thorton, Maurice Carrie, and Baily's, revealed to me that no provisions are made for expectoration after tasting. The Taste of Wine, by Pamela Price, states that this is a necessary part of proper wine tasting: "There will be a sink or spittoon easy of access, possibly a few pieces of dry bread or dry biscuits to refresh palates . . . Serious wine tasting must be done like this" (36). Deviating from this conventional technique creates a situation in which the taster may easily consume enough alcohol to become legally drunk. In our valley, most vintners offer a selection of five different wines and a commemorative glass for the average price of four dollars. Each individual sample is approximately one and one half ounces, totaling seven and one half ounces of consumed alcohol per tasting. John Dolour, proprietor of Vintage Vineyards Winery, told me that, "The typical tourist visits three wineries during their day visit to this valley." The National Center for Statistics and Analysis's "Drink Chart Guide" shows that as little as eight ounces of wine over a two-hour period can raise the blood alcohol level to 0.07%, which significantly impairs driving capabilities. Tripling this amount, as many visitors do, guarantees that a 230-pound person would exceed the legal blood alcohol level of 0.08% (31). These results clearly indicate that a day of wine "tasting" is no different then a night of bar hopping, and therefore necessitates a designated driver.
The five-mile stretch of Rancho California Road that connects fifteen commercial wineries is in great need of improvement. Within the city limits, this road is...