Monday, August 10, 2009

Searching For Inspiration

So as I have mentioned a couple times in the past week or so, I’m suffering from serious writers block….not that I fancy myself a writer per se, but I think you know what I’m getting at. Truth is, there has been so much going on in my “real” life, you know the outside of the Internets, that I have just been too distracted, (and depressed) to even come up with a topic that I find interesting enough to write about AND people might actually give a rat’s ass about reading….it blows.

Funny thing about a blog, or at least MY blog, is that I see it like a journal of sorts. A place I get to live out loud, be the fool that I often am, document my drunken evenings, make love to wines…or at least let myself get lost in a post that shows how very sensual, and damn sexy certain wines can be, and lavish love upon those in the business, either estates, winemakers, importers or retailers, that inspired me, molded me or in some other way touched me. Well that and I get to rant till my little heart’s content, it’s the way I have always, and will continue to write for this…thing. But man am I in a slump! I have not met with any winemakers, been to France, tasted something new, (new vintages yes, new wines…not so much) in a while….inspiration man, I need inspiration. Top that with the fact that my tiny muse is, as I am typing this post, in Texas house hunting and is miserable about it….argh, feels like my hands are tied, and not in that yummy, good way either.

I was lying on the couch, (a new thing by the way, lying on the couch…in the middle of the afternoon, symptom of my current mind frame I’m sure. Not happy? Just gonna lay then…yeah that’s going to make things better) a river of ideas flooding through my less than tacky brain, nothing sounded the least bit enticing. 2 dear friends, (and regular readers) offered me suggestions, all of them fantastic topics, but I just couldn’t feel any of it…seriously poopie about it too, also helpful…lethargy and poopiness, that’s inspiring no?!

So here I sit, my Dave Matthew’s growling in my ears, glass of not so good Pouilly-Fume in my glass, commanding myself to write something….fuck, anything at this point, just to dislodge my head from its current position, which is directly up my ass.

Five Great Wine Moments In My Life

In April of 2003 I was on my first trip to France, a ride along on an importers trip. I did not want to go, I had tried at least 3 times to get out of it. I was terrified, fiercely insecure about my wine knowledge….especially considering the group I was with, all of which had been in the business at least 10 years longer than I had. I wasn’t the French buyer at the time, a French wine lover, sure, but not a buyer, and the trip was going to be 25 days. 25 days with people I didn’t really know, when I reached my tiny room that first night in Paris I cried…for an hour.

I was so quiet then, so shy, (still am but I’ve found my bite) so afraid…I barely made a peep the first couple days. I would answer questions, never ask any and went along with whatever the rest of the group wanted, just kept my head down, tasted wine, took notes and kept my mouth shut. I was so lonely it was actually painful, then one night…one attitude, one comment and two kind gestures busted the lid off this powder keg…never looked back.

It had been a long day of tasting in Beaune, we were all jetlagged, suffering from the palate and tooth pain that comes from drinking/tasting young wines full of acidity, it was freaking cold and we were all getting edgy, one person more than the rest of us, he was being a tool all afternoon. Whining, late to get started, snapping at everyone over the tiniest things, wore on my already frayed nerves all afternoon, could not have been happier that we had an hour, alone in our rooms….away from each other before dinner. I washed my face and readied myself for dinner at some Burgundy producers house, (I knew not a thing about Burgundy at the time) and tried to relax after an afternoon of having someone behave like a dentist’s drill…..grind, grind, grind…hit a nerve….grind some more.

Turned out an hour was not long enough, by the time I emerged from my room I was a head case. Just the thought of having to spend another few hours with that douche, in the home of some French winemaking family, didn’t know them either, knew half the conversation would be in French, which I don’t speak….I was anxious as hell and hoping for some crazy flu or stomach virus to hit me in the 10 steps it was going to take to get to the car. I was the first one to the car but was shortly joined by the importer in charge of the trip. We stood silent for a few minutes, they had grown used to my silence and finally the importer looked at me, cracked a warm half smile and said, “Sam, don’t be afraid to speak your mind, you’re with your peers” it was a small comment for him to make and say but for me? It changed me forever.

We drove into the gravel parking area at the estate in Volnay where we were to be having a tasting and dinner. I got out of the car to see an old bald dude, his wife and a bouncy, impish looking fellow descending the stairs at the front of the estate. “Sam this is Catherine, Hubert and Etienne De Montille” c-r-a-p…the knot in my tummy was back. As little as I knew about Burgundy I had heard of and tasted a few wines from Domaine de Montille, they were all, “fancy pants” and stuff and here I was, in jeans and white sneakers, (yeah…no one told me) dammit. We tasted in the cellar, my “edge” slipping off of me with each mouthful of Pommard, black cherries, red cherries, earth, pipe tobacco, mushrooms and roasted meat…I was dizzy and feeling more, “at home” with each glass.

We moved the party up to the house where Catherine had prepared a lovely roast beef with a simple sauce. The wines, from magnum no less, were being decanted and the seating arraignment was being discussed, (I learned that this can be kind of a big deal for French women, they want it boy girl, boy girl…it’s a thing) I just stood back and waited to see where they were going to put me. Etienne walked up to me, big, warm grin on his face and said, “Samantha, please sit here” and pulled out the chair at the head of the table. I kind of wanted to puke but I also felt kind of proud…again, twice in one day I let someone’s simple words chip away at my grumpy-I-don’t-care exterior, felt nice to be “touched”. We talked a bit about the trip Etienne and I, he asked if it was difficult and I, so unlike me, told him that it was. Told him that I was missing my family, felt out of place and was having a rough time…he leaned in, asked, “Samantha, please tell me the year that you were born” I told him and before I knew it, he was back with a bottle of 1971 Pommard from the family’s cellar, to share…with me, a very fine wine moment indeed…shit it was a great life moment but the wine helped!

I once had a lover that waited for me to emerge from a long soak in the tub, grabbed my hips while he sat on the edge of the bed, opened my robe and poured glass after glass of Jean Milan Blanc de Blancs down my neck and caught the drops that fell off my body….that was, um…yeah, wicked….damn.

I spent an afternoon with Amy and Michael Sullivan, (my most favorite importer and one of the most important mentors I have ever had) with a wine collector drinking Salon, (shit cannot remember the vintage) and a 1982 Krug…out of magnum. The boys in the room were ready to move on to something, “A little more serious” and there Amy and I sat, drinking 1982 Krug, out of a magnum, the only thing I could see was her sweet little, “Holy shit, can you f’ing believe this?!” face. The wine had me in a deep spell, I swear I could not hear a word, I was in the presence of greatness…I let the wine slip down my throat and let the pounding of my own heart be the soundtrack. Honey, biscuits, seashells, slight Sherry notes, “thump thump thump” caramel, scalded cream, “thump thump thump” and that was just the beginning of the evening….one of the Greatest Wine Days….ever.

Sitting at a table with Didier Dagueneau, at his winery, after a meal of steaks cooked in the fireplace drinking his wines, drinking his wines that I have never even seen here in California, him breaking my bawls every chance he got, telling us to pick whatever we wanted to drink out of his cellar, us being too timid to pick something and him picking DRC….Dagueneau, steaks, DRC, laughter…drunken laughter at the end of a 25 day trip to France with strangers that were now my closest friends, and now me….not ready to go home, Great Wine Day.

January 2008, on the Kermit Lynch buying trip. I had arrived in Alsace 2 days ahead of the rest of the group, I had tooled around the tiny town of Ribeauville and it was quaint as hell….the first day but by the time my fellow travelers had arrived I was like the kid in The Shining, wandering the halls looking for anyone to talk to. The second I saw the only other girl on the trip I was a moth to her flame…she looked like my Amy, long straight blonde hair, big, toothy grin and her name, Mairin, so close to my Merzie I was done. We made friends almost instantly and were inseparable for the rest of the trip, our best night?

We had been tasting all day, again I was in Beaune and we had just dined at the famed, Ma Cuisine. We laughed through the entire meal, made a rather real looking penis out of discarded scraps of bread and stumbled back to the hotel for a nightcap, a bottle of Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose. One bottle, two bottles and….. “May we order another?” we spilled our guts about every vile thing we had ever done, talked about love, sex, our mothers, the normal girl gambit. One of our fellow travelers found us in the hotel bar at 3:00 am and asked what we had been doing. Mairin leaned one of her puffy, North Face jacketed elbows next to him on the bar and said, “Well, we talked about how we don’t get enough sex. Sam showed me her thong and we counted the hairs on each other’s nipples” dude nearly crapped himself, there are some benefits to being the only girls on a wine buying trip, toying with the “away from home” boys.

Before we knew it we had polished off all but one glass of the third bottle of Billecart-Salmon Rose, and it was six in the morning, we had to be in the van by like 8:00. “Let’s just stay up. Go back to our rooms, refresh and be back down here in an hour and a half” I said, this of course made perfect sense to me at the time. “Okay!” cheered my drunk, new best friend, and we stumbled…she in her jacket and me with my last glass of bubbles….into the hotel elevator. The doors slowly slid open on the third floor, my floor and I stepped out waving to my buddy, “See you in about an hour!” I chuckled and teetered towards my room.

No sooner had I clicked over the gargantuan key into the lock and I heard it…BOOM, Bang, Bang, Bang…wtf?! I went to investigate and there I found my lil’ buddy, shoulders and head in, ass and legs out of the elevator, with the doors banging against her hips….merde. My dilemma, I had this last glass of Rose in my hand, how was I going to drag or pick her up?! “I’ll be right back” I promised and drunken dashed to my room to preserve my bubbles. Upon my return my new buddy was in full giggle swing, took forever to get her up…we could not stop laughing. We were being so stoopid, so not what was expected and we were marinating in every second of it.

I got her back to my room, fully intending on finishing my last glass of Billecart but my friends face plant on the bed let me know I had one more task ahead of me, remove her coat and shoes…it’s the humane thing to do right?! The jacket was easy but those freaking Ugg’s, (ugly and a bitch to remove) took forever. I got the first shoe off and what met my eyes sealed Mairin’s spot in my heart forever, flying pig socks…this super lovely girl from Chicago was wearing flying pig socks. I laughed, this time without her and rested my head for just a second.

“Ms Dugan, the car is leaving in 15 minutes” the thickly accented voice on the phone alerted me…….”Merde!! Merde…Mairin wake up!” I screamed, shaking the bed to revive my little friend. She flashed me the stoopid grin of the, “I’m still drunk” I looked at her with as much earnest intensity as I could muster, “We have to be in the car in like 12 minutes”. We ran through my little room like Tasmanian Devils, brushing the hair, tossing the underarm goo back and forth and wiping the “last night’s makeup” from beneath our eyes. I paused for one minute, to finish my last glass of now warm Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose…felt pimpy as hell. We made it to the car with like two minutes to spare, take that boys…take that. That was until I flipped open the itinerary to see….19 Burgundian appointments…shit.


Benito said...


I was serious about that assignment, it helps to break things up and throw everything in perspective. The alternative is that you have to review a tequila and post photos of you performing the Mexican Hat Dance. :)


Thomas Pellechia said...

Every blogger--most every writer--hits a wall at some point.

Seeing that blogs are personal diaries (based on what you wrote, you see it, Sam), it makes sense that once in a while there isn't much to say in the diary.

a while ago I decided that the common "problem" of feeling there's nothing to say can be addressed by not forcing yourself to have to say anything.

In fact, Sam, your post about the trips to France is exactly the kind of exercise writers used to be taught--just start writing and something will happen for the good, maybe...

Samantha Dugan said...

Thanks again for that dude, and I'll take the Mexican Hat Dance into consideration at this point!

It was a real writer that told me to just sit down and start typing something, not worry about what it is and don't try and make it perfect....which is what I did. I had promised that I would have something up yesterday so I just let myself babble, and babble....I would just get into something and someone would come over for a visit, tough to stay focused but least I was able to get something out. Now I just have to keep myself open enough to find my voice again.

Thomas Pellechia said...


From this "real" writer to you: your voice is tops, except for some of the scatology (not all of it, but some...).

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Sam,

What's sad is that everyone wishes that I would get writer's block. But I never do. Well, I think you have to be a writer to get it, so maybe I don't qualify. Like I've never had PMS either.

If this really isn't your voice, My Love, would you introduce me to the woman whose voice it is? I want her really bad.

Meanwhile, great wine biz stories! I have a lot of these drunken wine weekend stories. Can't remember any, but I know I've had them. Once couldn't find my room at the Paso Robles Inn after Hospice du Rhone so I just went around to every room and put my key in the doors until one opened. Took about an hour and a half.

I love you, Sam.

Your HoseMaster

Thomas Pellechia said...

A long time ago (late 70s, early 80s) United Airlines had what they called unlimited wine flights from NY to SF.

You bought the first 375ml Beringer red for a dollar, and you could have as many as you wanted after that--for free.

I used to fly at least monthly between the two cities for about a three-year period, but cannot remember one flight.

Richard said...

Awesome stories, thanks! Need to round up a few of my buddies and dip into the wine closet. Can't afford to buy too much new wine right now, so I'll just do some inventory control. Sadly, no DRC in any of the closets.


Samantha Dugan said...

Thank you so much, really nice to hear when you're all compacted and stuff....oh, that's right, I should lay off the "poo" talk a bit huh? (smirk) My last trip home from France, I woke up halfway home...did not remember how I got there, the airport, nothing. Cannot tell you how amazed I was that I had all my stuff with me...functioning or what?

My very sweet and mildly pervie friend, thank you so much for all the encouragement and all of your kicking me in the ass to get "anything" up. You sir are adorable...and you've got that girls number already..wink.

Get going Mister, whatcha wain' for?!

Nancy Deprez said...

Awesome stories, Sam! Even though I know many of them, they are always fun to read and I read them from beginning to end, they always make me feel good for some reason!

I think they make me feel and remember my first wine trip in Europe. Now that it has been what seems like a while, I don't think about it often, but reading your stories make me think of it fondly.

Samantha Dugan said...

Thanks Darlin'...glad I was able to inspire good memories for you.

Thomas Pellechia said...


Thomas Pellechia said...

For some reason, Google decided to drop my identity, and of course I forgot my password, and I also forgot the comment I was going to make...

Samantha Dugan said...

Yeah there was something hinky going on with Google earlier today...I still member who you is, cannot help ya with the comment though.

Carl said...

Test Comment.

Samantha Dugan said...

What up with all the testing?! I dropped out of school for a reason people!
Oh and Carl no alert message.

Thomas Pellechia said...


The comment had something to do with 2003, while you were in Burgundy I was traipsing all over the southeastern and southern part of France--mainly, the Catalonian/French world from Provence to Banyuls, with forays north to CDP and west to Cahors and Bordeaux.

Rented an apartment for a month in Beaucaire-along the Rhone, and it was one of those rare times when I wasn't in either Italy or France on wine business.

Almost put a down payment on a co-op in Banyuls...

Samantha Dugan said...

I was in the South of France on that trip in 2003, wonder if we crossed paths?! Stranger things have happened, like the time in 2005 when I was in Avignon and ran into a customer from The Wine Country...very strange feeling.

John M. Kelly said...

Sam - swear to god someday I hope I'm in Beaune, sitting outside that little cafe around the corner from Hotel Cep, in the square where they set up the farmer's market, and you are going to just appear. Sit down with me for a Pastis or two, we'll call Dominique and see if he is free, and whether he is or not I will take you to the English Bar and we will get shitfaced. We WILL NOT do body shots with spendy bubbles, and NEITHER you nor I will collapse halfway into the elevator - I'm just too old for that kind of s**t. But it WILL be fun.

Samantha Dugan said...

I damn near screamed when I read your comment! That Billecart-Salmon story, freaking Hotel Cep, can you believe that?

Let's do it dude, I think I might be in Beaune around March of next year. The Pastis is on me but the body shots...all Dominque.