BC vineyards w lake.JPG

Vineyards in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia

The bureaucrats in Washington, DC, don't have anything better to do, so they're claiming (again) that Canadian wine laws are hurting the USA.

"Discriminatory regulations implemented by British Columbia are unfairly keeping U.S. wine off of grocery store shelves," says the US Trade Representative Robert Lightheizer, "and that is unacceptable."

"Canada is an important market for U.S. winemakers," says the Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue. US wine exports to British Columbia totaled $56 million in 2017, giving it a 10$% market share, according to figures included in the statement.

Lighthizer and Perdue are taking aim at a rule that prevents non-B.C. wine from being sold on grocery store shelves, relegating such products to a separate "store-within-a-store" with a separate cash register.

Well, no, says the BC Wine Institute. First of all, the actual number (US market share) is over 14%. Imports total almost 70 percent of BC wine sales.

US wine accounts for a $468 million trade surplus with British Columbia, according to BC Wine Institute CEO Miles Prodan. Since NAFTA was implemented, US wine exports to Canada have tripled.

The problem, though, seems to be BC's archaic liquor laws. The province has a complete monopoly on wine sales, and BC liquor stores segregate imported wines. US trade reps call that discrimination against the US, which it certainly seems to be. But the last time this was brought up, the issue was quietly shelved. Grocery store shelves, in fact.

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Deep breath, it's time to shop for groceries. But where?

Costco? Walmart? One of the local Kroger outlets (Fred Meyer or QFC)? Albertson's or its awkward sibling, Safeway? Whole Foods? The Amazon duo, Go and Fresh? Metropolitan Market? Trader Joe's? A discounter like Grocery Outlet? A wholesaler like Cash & Carry? An indie like Ballard Market? The neighborhood farmers market? Or even the granddaddy of them all, the Pike Place Market?

Two more options have just arrived. New Seasons Market just opened its second store (after Mercer Island) in the region, and longtime stalwart PCC (rebranding itself as PCC Community Markets) opened its latest store this week in Burien.

PCC got its start as Puget Consumers Coop decades ago when a dozen or so families got together to pool their buying power. It has grown to a dozen stores and (get this) some 60,000 members who have paid a one-time fee of $60 to join. Members receive a 5% discount, so a family that spends $100 a month at their neighborhood PCC recoups the cost of membership in the first year. (Additional details here.) Prices are comparable to other mid-to-upper end chains, plenty of organic produce, a deal with the folks at Baywater Sweet oysters, another with a farm (Pure Èire Dairy in Othello, Wash.) that provides yogurt from grass-fed cows.

More meal-kit news in the meantime. Kroger has bought Home Chef for 200 million simoleons.

As has become part of the marketing for supermarkets these days, New Seasons goes to great lengths to identify as a "local" company (it's based in Portland); beef, lamb, turkey, pork, and chickens are all locally sourced.

Don't have a car? You can get your groceries delivered. Don''t know how to cook? There are classes. Lazy? Almost every grocery store nowadays sells meal kits. (Granted, you have to fix the meal yourself.) If all else fails, just remember that there are 3,000 restaurants in Seattle alone.


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