Tuesday, April 7, 2009


I left my house in such a good mood yesterday morning, sure it was raining out but as I climbed into the passenger side of my car, (the hubby was dropping me off at work because we were meeting with Amy and her hubby after work) I felt really good. Some of it was that I put a little extra time in getting ready so I felt I looked my best, part of it was because we were going to be featuring California sparkling wines at our tasting, so I was going to be drinking bubbles, and part of it was I was still floating with pride from the kind words fellow blogger Benito posted about this blog for the awards nomination thingie, bunch of good going on. Amy and I got the shop up and running, machines on, music going and began preparing for the tasting, when I heard the back door slam shut I knew it must be Randy. “Good morning ladies” he bellowed as he made his way to the front of the store. “Morning Randy” we chimed in unison and that is when the day took a painful turn. “Here is something I want Amy to help you with” and he turned to Amy and said, “Because that is your job” (she is a college English teacher when she is not working at The Wine Country) he then went on to tell me that he would basically like Amy to proof read all my work because I have grammatical issues.

I stood there, my face getting hotter and hotter with each word, but nodding and saying, “Okay” each time he pointed out the things wrong with my writing….it’s not that he is incorrect, shit I have run-on’s for days, it was just the whole thing was horribly embarrassing. Amy ended up walking away while he was still talking, and she later told me she was embarrassed too, and I just stood there….the wind sucked right out of my sails. “You have some problems and I would like your friend and co-worker to tutor you”….really?? You couldn’t have maybe pulled me aside and discussed this with me, oh and maybe not done it when I had to be all cheerful and exuberant for a tasting? Nope, it was “good morning….I run out of breath while reading your work, so have her help you” (I would like to point out before anyone thinks Randy is mean that he is one of the most supportive and sweetest men I know. This was just a bad judgement call) I slinked away to the kitchen to chop salami and slice pate feeling like a dummy….

The thing is, I dropped out of school in the 9th grade and prior to that I was a horrible student, so sure there are a go-jillion things that I don’t know, but I try really hard, I pour my whole, malnourished in the education department heart into everything I do….and write, guess I was hoping that counted for something. It took everything I had to keep the tears at bay and continue my day with a fake ass smile, pouring bubbles for the masses, my watch being my only lifeline….only a couple more hours. I think Randy got the feeling that he crossed a line, he stayed far away from me most of the day and the few times he came near me he placed a hand on my shoulder. Do I forgive him, sure I always do….it was not the message, I get it and he is correct but the delivery? Brutal.

I took extra, “lets dull some of the pain” joy in tasting through the wines before the tasting started, that and my little cheer squad of Amy and Merritt telling me that they thought he was wrong and I was finally able to shake the yuck and really enjoy the wines we were pouring and the crowd. We had 90 something people turn out to taste California sparkling wines, the crowd was into it and there seemed to be something for everyone. There was no clear winner, some loved the Schramsberg wines, others preferred the Iron Horse, for me it was Roederer. I’m not going to single out the wines that didn’t do it for me, others loved them so they have merit but the second that Roederer Estate Brut, ($21.99) hit my palate I found what I was looking for….concentration. Some of the other wines while pleasant seemed a touch short to me, but both the Brut and Brut Rose from Roederer were full, rich and long…best part, they were two of the least expensive! I’ve always said that Roederer produces solid wines at a very fair price, now I think I would just have to say, “Roederer makes the best sparkling wines in California”, well for my palate anyway.

Once the crowd was gone, the glasses and cheese trays were cleaned and my department was restocked I sent a text to the hubby, “come get me please”. While I was feeling much better, the store still had that negative vibe…I love that store and I hate it when things feel yucky there so I was ready to leave, call it a day and return on a happier note after a couple days off. The hubby played the role of Knight in Shining Armor, (no white horse, red Camry) and whisked Amy and I off into the sunset….or her house, (the Vortex) where we devised a plan for the evening and ranted a bit about the ugly morning events over a bottle of 2002 Agrapart Mineral.

After a day of California sparklers that Mineral was a force to be reckoned with, so deep, rich and complex. It tasted so dry at first, those domestic wines are much higher on the fruity scale than that sans dosage Blanc de Blancs, took a bit of palate adjustment to really enjoy the wine, but once my palate warmed to it I fell in love all over again. I’m gonna say that while I absolutely love the entire line of wines that Agrapart makes, (aside from the Terroirs…not my favorite) the Mineral is my favorite, it just walks that ultra sexy line of fruity and savory, apples and salted butter, the concentration is stunning and the finish goes on for-ev-er. All the day’s events were blissfully washed away with each sip and there on a barstool in my friend’s home, with her big sweet dogs at my feet, and the sound of the people I love arguing over where we should go to dinner, with that wine in my glass I found my happy spot. Punctuation and grammar and my lack of understanding of each were the last thing on my mind….2002 Agrapart Mineral was the prescription that was needed.

We settled on Tracy’s for dinner, a place we “dine” often. True it is a sports bar but it feels like home and the pub grub is always good…best beef dip in Long Beach, and surrounding areas. Couple of orders of hot wings, half a beef dip, (Amy and I shared and they plated them separately with a big ol’ pile of fries on each plate) and a couple drinks under our belt and we dashed off to the next spot….bowling, awesome. I bowled once….bowled a 26, see I have these nails that grow thick and long, the envy of many but they have hindered my bowling career. Not feeling like being “that chick” the one that holds the ball in their palms, squats and let’s her fly, I agreed to being a cheerleader, “Go Amy Go” and drink runner. I love being in a bowling alley, the sights, sounds and smells are intoxicating to me so I was “all in”. Guess bowling is HUGE on Saturday night, the lot was packed at Cal Bowl when we got there and while circled looking for a parking spot Amy’s husband ran in to put our names in for a lane. Got a text from him just as we scored a space, “Going to be a hour and a half…meet me in the bar”

Cal Bowl is a little like a mini mall within a bowling alley, little shops, restaurants and what not but the best part? A soul food joint…ahhhh the smell of fried chicken and black eyed peas flooded my nostrils as we made our way to the bar to meet up with Amy’s husband. I bellied up next to him but all I wanted was a piece of that chicken, but I was way too full from dinner, (so going back) we glanced at the wine list…yeah, I know, but it was worth a shot, there was red, white and pink….that was it, so I went with a Gin & Tonic and watched the DJ set up for what I’m sure was going to be a kickass show….there at the Cal Bowl. After one drink the group decided to bail on the bowling plan, too bad as I was hoping to make some room for a piece of fried chicken, shaking my money maker on the dance floor, ah well, next time. We picked The Flite Room as our next stop of this bar hopping trail.

Now for those of you not in the area, (which from my visitor map I know is most of you) The Flite Room is one of those place you drive past and think, “If I needed a picture to describe the word seedy” places. Looks like one of those sheds you can buy at the Swap Meet, no windows, tiny and the parking lots smells like pee. When you walk up to the door that is littered with “No Minors” signs and Camel stickers, a civil person would pause and think, “Um…maybe I should re-think this plan”….we didn’t.

Being my first time at the pee smelling, window-less shack, I yanked open the door and charged right in, well there may have been some liquid encouragement happening as well but I was feeling soooo good and ready for a new experience. The smell that met my once fried chicken stuffed nostrils, was cigarette smoke…”Heaven, we are in heaven” I thought, a bar where you can smoke. I’d heard that some still existed but I had not seen one, well…except for the casino in Hemet, (still trying to scrape the memories of that weekend from the caverns of my mind) being able to have a drink and a cigarette without getting the hairy eyeball from people around you, awesome.

We were greeted by a woman that looked like Chaka Khan in a bad wig and blue velvet evening gown, the evening’s master of ceremonies…karaoke, “Oh I love this place” I announced and squeezed myself into a corner banquette, making sure to avoid the big tear in the seat where the stuffing was flowering out like a head of cauliflower. Amy’s husband gathered the first round while the rest of us sat motionless while some poor woman with her hair parted down the middle, bangs clamped down with those little barrettes, croaked out Dancing Queen.

The drinks were lethal, I had two, and the crowd was like nothing I had ever seen…..right out of central casting. We watched, listened and drank our, “two and you’re done” cocktails before heading back to Amy’s to drop them off….but before you head home, another bottle of Champagne.

NV Jean Milan Cuvee Speciale Blanc de Blancs, ($48.99) is always one of Amy’s favorites. A wine that is packed with roasted apples, creamy bread notes and a warm vanilla rich finish. Even after the night’s indulgence we were all acutely aware of how beautiful the wine was, everything you love about Blanc de Blancs but with a richer, more opulent texture. After listening to a sentence fall out of my mouth that made absolutely so sense, I thought I better start the going home process. Hugs and kisses all around, a pet to the doggies and George that cat and we sloshed out to the Camry for the drive home. I managed to fumble into my jammies and wash my face before crashing on the couch, where I would find myself at 6 am, before stumbling into bed for a couple extra hours sleep.

“Here’s to good friends, last night was kind of special”….good friends, great wines, fried chicken aromatics, and Dancing Queen trump clumsy delivered bad news…Thanks Guys!

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