Hank Wetzel’s vineyards stretch to the horizon, a swath of green straddling Sonoma County’s Russian River, farmed by generations of Wetzels for half a century.
It is a long way from Shanghai.
Nonetheless, seated outside his tasting room on a recent morning, the 68-year-old patriarch of Alexander Valley Vineyards was scrolling through photos from China on his tablet: A shot of his booth at a giant Shanghai trade show, thronged with customers. Another of Chinese restaurateurs sampling wines at a $1,000 dinner he hosted. And several of the pandas at Shanghai’s zoo.
When he began exporting to China two years ago, Wetzel had high hopes of penetrating its fast-growing imported wine market. But today, as President Trump’s trade war shows no sign of waning, “the economics of selling there are horrendous,” he said. “Our importer is keen on our wines, but every $15 bottle I sell her now ends up costing her $30. We could soon be out of business there.”
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