You ever look at your life and ask, "How did I get here?", and no I'm not being all existential looking for the meaning of life, or what hand fate or destiny have in where we end up. I'm talking about what little unforeseen events land us in our current state. I was in my French department this afternoon, listening to one of my favorite Cd's pound through the speakers box cutter and price gun in hand, wheeling cases around preparing for this weekends tasting, admittedly shaking my hips and singing aloud, (sorry to anyone that heard that...it's bad I know) timing the click, thunk, click, thunk of the price gun to the beat of the music when it hit me....."This is what I get to do for a living...this is my life?". Now trust me when I say that there are also days when I crawl home, back screaming in pain, wounded by the memory of a grumpy customer, palate fatigued and frustrated asking myself the same question...but today was a good day so I'm feeling much more romantic about the whole thing. I work with people I adore and spend most of my free time with, I get to taste some pretty freaking amazing wines, travel to Europe, (3 times in 5 years...I'm 36 that is pretty amazing for a girl that grew up in "assisted single working parent" housing...that's a nice way to say the projects) dine in some of the most amazing restaurants and have partied with winemakers that many only dream of meeting. Seriously how did this happen?!
It started with Randy Kemner, (Owner of The Wine Country) my second or third cousin that I saw maybe once a year as a kid, I knew he was larger than life and seemed to take up all the air in a room...even then I could see that he was force but was unsure in my awkward pre-teen state of mind what to think of him. He was too Euro for my milk toast way of life and to be frank he made me skiddish. Full on the lips kisses and fighting with me about weather Pretty Woman was sending a tweaked message to young girls was more than my self interested teen aged mind could process. Little did I know then but he was curious, an instigator and full of the kind of self assured, "I'm going to call you out on this" personality unlike anything I had ever seen. It was Randy that first brought wine into my life, he had to do so with me at 25 dragging my heals and fighting him the whole way. I refused to taste wines in front of suppliers and would stand in front of him red faced with steam pouring from ears trying to assure him that, "I cant do this". He would let that beautiful smile spread across his face and in his most calm voice say, "Sam, yes you can". Very annoying to a know-it-all twenty-something that was sure he was wrong but there was just something about his nature that made me want to try, try and please him, make him proud of me....so I did keep trying and one afternoon with a glass of wine from Alsace he got me! I've been his ever since. Even now I wait with baited breath as he tastes a wine that I brought in....is he going to like it....will that grin spread across his face in that way that lets me know that I, "did good" or will he crunch his nose to let me know that it is not to his liking? The older I get the less the "crunched nose" gets to me but I still love that grin.
Without Randy there would be no "Me" at The Wine Country and after years of laughter, tears, pain and pleasures unlike any I could have ever imagined I can only offer a humble, "You are the reason I'm here".
My other, "Inspiration" was Michael Sullivan of Beaune Imports. I first met Mr. Sullivan on a rainy afternoon umpteen years ago when he was tasting Randy on some of his wines. Randy yelled my name across the store and I lumbered over to the tasting room, (a dance that had been going on for some time) to taste this, whatever wine that blew his mind. Meeting an importer to me was akin to meeting a movie star and being the horrifically shy person that I am....I basically wanted to die! Michael Sullivan stood there with the confidence that can only come from a wicked wealth of knowledge and a comfort in one's own skin that comes from growing up in a life very different than mine, so in short he scared the shit out of me. I was a mute that afternoon as I was on the next few visits but after a couple of years I started to find my voice if you will and even found myself commenting on his wines here and there but an actual conversation was more than I could even imagine dealing with...he was just too huge and his wines were without-a-doubt my favorites in the store.....what could I say to him? Fast forward to November 2002 when I pick up the phone to hear Michael's voice say, "is this Sam.....so you are coming on my trip to France next year" ACK!!! I tried no fewer than five times to get out of it, don't have a passport, too short on money, not able to leave the store because we were short staffed...none of my lame excuses worked and I boarded a plane for the trip that would change my life. I left a too afraid girl and came back a woman with a passion that was, and is insatiable.....I have never looked back.
Michael was, (and still is) an amazing teacher that has shared his knowledge with me in an effortless coolness that has formed my personal style...it's grape juice...lets not get all serious. French wine and Beaune Imports by way of founder, Michael Sullivan remain my favorites and without that trip and Michael's nurturing I simply could not be where I am today. So you, Michael Sullivan are also The Reason I'm Here.
I bring this up now because this Saturday I will have both of the people responsible for my personal growth, or plight depending on which day you ask me will be at The Wine Country at the same time...Saturday April 26th from 1-4 PM a tasting with Beaune Imports founder Michael Sullivan....and the ever grinning Randy Kemner. Come in a meet the people that make me try harder and push me to find the very best for all of you!