Monday, November 30, 2009

Might Need A New Program

So in a effort to ensure that we would have a sold out class the day after Thanksgiving Randy booked one of my Champagne events, these classes are always the first to fill up, sell out and have been the most successful in terms of sales, so I too thought it was a good idea….but we are starting to have, well and issue. So we can seat, (comfortably) around 30-35 people for one of our classes, many more than that and it can get pretty cramped not to mention it is harder to control the crowd, so I have always taken 30 for the Champagne events….a few glasses of bubbles and the crowd gets a little um, boisterous, so 30 seemed to be the magic number for me.. The class this last Friday sold out long ago, that’s all good right…yeah except for one thing.

The format of my bubble events is super relaxed, I don’t pound a bunch of, “how Champagne is made” or history of the estates down people’s throats, I let the wines do most of the talking and I interject with bits of information and walk around the tables making myself available for any and all questions. I talk briefly about the wines before each flight but for the most part the crowd kind of does their own thing. This format has been working for me for years, people like the chill feel of it and end up chatting with their neighbors, making new friends and having a great time…I love that, have always loved that but, as I checked the enrollment sheet for the class this Friday I saw what I have been noticing for the past few…large parties, really large parties and a long ass waiting list with more large parties.

Now normally this would not be a problem, full seats are full seats, but what has begun happing is the same groups are showing up, bringing their friends, (and a picnic this last time) and while one member of the group, (usually the one that makes the reservation) may buy a bottle or two, the rest of the group is not…problem. I have people on a waiting list that want to attend but my seats are full with people having a private party, I appreciate that they like my events and all but the goal is to move some wine, turn people onto things they have never tasted and like sell some too. Well these groups are starting to be a problem, even filling a cancellation is a problem, 4 people cancel and I look to the waiting list and it’s all groups of 5 or more…argh!

The class this Friday was full of the regular suspects, (two large parties in particular) and we had 2 no shows, (just so happens they are my biggest Champagne buyers as well) so the class really was not all that successful, sure we filled seats, sure my core group of ardent supporters bought some Champagne, we sold over three thousand dollars worth of wine, but wrestling with the noise from the private parties and having that loud group not buy any wine, well it told me that I might need a change in my program.

The first suggestion was not taking reservations for groups larger than 4, well that won’t work because they will all just make separate reservations…oh and what a nightmare when they all arrive and tell us that they want to sit together, nope that’s out. The second was to say the class was sold out when these parties call, well I am not about to do that, I’m not lying. So aside from pulling these people aside and telling them, “I know you like these classes, I’m flattered, I really am but if you wish for them to continue we need the seats filled with people that may actually buy wine”…thinking that might just go over like a fart in church. No what I think I am going to do for the time being is take 45 reservations for all the Champagne classes, sounds rather daunting to me personally, (all those eyes on me at one time…makes me feel kinda barfy just thinking about it) but I’m at a bit of a loss, I need more bubble lovers to support and grow my department, the little private parties just aint gonna make that happen.

All that being said, the class was still fun, (another problem with the party goers, they tend to want to stay. They just sit there while we are cleaning up around them. No offence folks but we are not at a party, we’re working and we would like our evening to end before like 11:00 PM and stuff) those ardent supporters, well they stayed to help me clean and empty the bits of leftover Champagne before convincing me to go to a bar and have a few drinks…weak, Champagne makes me weak. The best part of the night was as it should have been, the wines, the wines were fucking, (sorry Thomas) fantastic!

Featured Wines

NV Jose Dhondt, ($59.99) I was the odd man out on this wine, I loved it…always love it but thought the wine that I poured next to it was better, (Pierre Peters) but it was still lovely. Deeply roasted, tons of apple and a delicate mousse.

NV Pierre Peters, ($52.99) this wine can give me goosebumps. So savory and almost salty, sea-kissed, with little bits of citrus and toast. This wine begs for oysters and after a bottle of it with oysters…well begging is likely.

NV Bruno Gobillard, ($76.99) a wine that spun my head at a Champagne trade event and one that I was dying to wrap my palate around again. Subtle, very fine bead, delicate graham cracker, apple skin and cream…rich and supple but refined, think muscular legs beneath lace.

1999 Guy de Chassey, ($79.99) I had recently sent this bottle to someone whose palate I am dying to get to know, wanted their take on it, to see if it flipped their switch like it did mine, don’t think it did but putting the glass to my nose that night…flipped me again. I taste so much Champagne that when I taste one that is so different it just grabs me, this wine…well it shook me with both hands, and I dug it. Sexy as hell, full of fragrant white flowers, pears, green herbs and spice. The palate is long, really long and the wine just kept getting better and more expressive as it warmed I the glass. I went back at the end of the night to re-taste from the open, un-refrigerated bottle…damn, giving me little shivers just thinking about it.

NV RH Coutier Brut, ($39.99) I will confess a soft spot for this wine. The importer brought a bottle to dinner one night and asked me if he should consider bringing it in, um…flattering much?! Well I gave him a giant, “hells yeah” and now it’s here. I love the richness, texture and weight of this wine, and at this price…stoopid, it’s a stoopid value. Baked fruit, warm bread and butter with a long Pinot rich finish.

NV Camille Saves Carte Blanche, ($56.99) another Pinot rich bubbly, full of red fruit, toast and cream. Lovely weight and a long toasty finish. Powerful enough to hold up to food but pretty sublime all on its own.

NV Vve Fourny Brut Rose, ($45.99) you know, there is always one wine that gets trounced, this was it. I think after all those Pinot based, powerful wines this pretty “little” wine just got clobbered. Gentle wild strawberry on the nose with bits of pepper and a more cooked berry thing on the palate, very pretty, very clean and a perfect little starter wine.

NV H. Billiot Brut, ($56.99) um, love it. Always love it. Big cooked apple flavors, tons of toasted bread and a mouth feel that is rich and assertive. Slutty, I always call the wines from Billiot slutty and by that I mean there are no hidden corners, the wine is all out there in its curvy, sexy nakedness…rawr.

NV Rene Geoffroy Brut Rose, ($63.99) oaky, I’m fessing up here, I didn’t like this wine at all that night. I found it stinky, like someone just lit a match and the palate was completely shut down. Might just be a phase, I’ve had and adored this wine in the past but that night…

NV Camille Saves Brut Rose, ($72.99) sexy, this wine is ridiculously sexy. Palate staining texture, cooked black cherries and cream…drinks more like a Burgundy than Champagne but it has all those sassy little bubbles….damn.

We also poured the H. Billiot Cuvee Julie but seeing as I just wrote that up in my last post I will spare you the rerun….it still makes me want to do naughty things, still a remarkable wine, still delicious.

Thanks to all that attended, I think at least one of you read this silly blog. Thanks for the after tasting drinks, um…kisses and bites on my neck, you people are totally crazy and I adore you for it. Be prepared for a much different looking, (in terms of size) but still great tasting, Champagne event in the New Year.


Michael Hughes said...

How about I come & help keep the fools in check?

Samantha Dugan said...

You and I could go all, "Wonder Twins" on em! Tell you what, if you ever come out I would have such the lineup of bubbles chilled and ready....we might even have one of those, "This is so NOT going on the blog" nights.

Thomas said...


Here's the real problem for you: "and we had 2 no shows, (just so happens they are my biggest Champagne buyers as well)..."

That's an indication that your buyers, the regulars you want, may be getting sick of the party-goers.

You call this a class, but it doesn't seem like one to me.

My take would be to keep the ongoing gathering as is, and create a second class that you call "For the novice."

The new class will ensure a flow of new people--the old class not only takes care of the party, but it might even be one that someone else can handle rather than you.

As the new people become the old, they go into the waiting list for the first class.

Michael Hughes said...

I like the sound of that

Jessica said...


All I want for Christmas is all those lovely bottles of bubbly! Truly though, I may just ask the hubby for a champagne allowance! Gosh, I wish I could be in LA EVERYTIME there is a cool something at the Wine Country, but I guess that would mean I would have to live there...

Hmmm, bubbly for thought........

Ron Washam said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,

Ah, the joys of running wine shop tastings! The first thing I'd do is not let them bring food, unless they bring it for everyone! Just like in the second grade. Maybe make them wear a piece of cheese on their noses if they disobey. And when the tasting is over, give 'em the heave-ho. They're clearly taking advantage of your patience and kindness. They won't buy less if you just ask them to clear out--they're just tirekickers anyway. Let's see, three grand for thirty people, a hundred bucks a head, that ain't bad. Especially in these tough times.

I tasted the Guy de Chassey under some tough circumstances, Thanksgiving when I was sick and with all the attendant Thanksgiving distractions, and I still loved it. After it had sat in the glass for a while it was almost like a fine white Burgundy with gas. After Thanksgiving dinner I knew how it felt.

By the way, I love you.

Your HoseMaster

Amy said...

Although it may not be a popular idea, maybe the "no-shows" should be charged full price, not half. Then in the future, "no-shows" are banned from the champagne events. How can we get new customers to the event to spend money? You work too hard, and care too much, for the events not to be successful. I really missed you all on Friday night.

Samantha Dugan said...

Very good suggestions, thanks for that. The "no shows" have done it before but like I said, they are BY FAR my biggest Champagne customers, they have a business that tears them away, (like out of state) often, think it was just an oversight. I think doing more tastings might be a plan I am down with, one for the part kids and one for everyone else.

You would so fit in at my bubble events, you and Vicki could sit together and everything. The wines were just sick, truly amazing wines that I know you would have adored.

My HoseMaster Sir,
The Guy de Chassey drives me wild, not unlike a certain smack-talkin, joke slinger I know. I know some of those people are taking advantage but in these times it's hard to crack the ol whip as it were. I want everyone to taste those wines, love them as I do....really sucks to turn people away. Keeping my fingers crossed that the new plan will find us some new bubble lovers.

If you knew who no showed you would not be saying that, no way in hell I would ban these folks. I am sure it was just a mixup and I KNOW they will be back. Something clearly needs to be done and I think letting more people in might help a bit, we shall see. We missed you too sweet girl!!