Park closures hit Ten Spoon


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Ten Spoon Vineyard and Winery co-owner Andy Sponseller doesn't mince words when it comes to the first government shutdown in nearly two decades. In his eyes, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives "aren't behaving honorably." They're putting hundreds of thousands of people out of work nationwide "to prove a political point," he says, and punishing hardworking Americans over a beef with the Affordable Care Act.

That beef has already cost Sponseller thousands of dollars. For roughly 10 years now, Ten Spoon has supplied speciality wines to Yellowstone National Park. But in addition to shuttered offices, furloughs and huge reductions in key governmental programs, all national parks are now closed—a development conservation groups claim has cost neighboring communities more than $600 million nationwide so far.

Yellowstone already canceled its final Ten Spoon order for the season. And if the fight in Congress continues much longer, it could cost Sponseller even more revenue.

"If we miss $10,000, $15,000 worth of business between now and the end of the year over this, that's definitely going to hurt us," Sponseller says. "The fat we have to spread around here covers things like a burned-out forklift motor or a price increase on one of the fruits we use here. ... If we lose an order or two before the end of the year, it just sets us back."

Sponseller is particularly worried about a new contract Ten Spoon landed earlier this year with the concessioner at Grand Canyon National Park, which is open year-round. The winery developed two wine labels for the contract: Canyon Cutter and Air Patrol. For every bottle sold, Ten Spoon and concessioner Delta North have agreed to donate $1 to the Idaho-based Peregrine Fund to support condor recovery. Ten Spoon spent years working toward such a project, Sponseller says, and now he's concerned the shutdown will "give us a bad start."

"It's a real bump in the road—a pothole," Sponseller says. "It just couldn't come at a worse time, because we're trying to get started with what could be a good project for us."

Sponseller was so livid last week he says he called Republican Rep. Steve Daines' office and "complained bitterly." If Ten Spoon's winter order for the Grand Canyon is canceled, it will not only cost the winery more money than the Yellowstone cancellation, but also leave the business looking for a home for the wine already set aside for the contract.

"Our business is a real seat-of-the-pants business," Sponseller says. "If we don't sell it one place, we have to go find another place to sell it."


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