Saturday, March 6, 2010

Stepping Out

This past two weeks have found me running in circles. I had one employee in Europe and two out sick, that left me with Merritt and a couple part timers at the shop. Had a six day week and a couple nine hour days…not bad as I love my job, love the store and it makes me feel good to be there for Randy and Dale whom on top of having horrible colds that knocked them both out for like a week, lost a beloved family member. Not to anything more tragic than time but losing a parent will always be a painful and somewhat life changing experience. No matter the age or relief that things did not drag out, it hurts and makes you feel a little more alone, my heart goes out to both of them.

So one guy eating and drinking too much in Spain on an importer trip, (yes they are work people, fun but grueling) the Kemners ill and taking care of the things that you must in times like these and the rest of us at the store running to keep up. Last week was simply crazy, we get by with a pretty tight staff…take a couple key players out and the ones that remain are going a little batshit. By last Saturday I was getting punchy, I had that “Need to be here to help” fire in my belly so I was in a great mood but….the series of events that unfolded that day had us all bent over in stitches laughing. We kept a running list of the insane questions, requests and odd behavior, I was going to list them here but when you read them back none of them sound that bad…put them all together and it left us all looking at each other like, “just who the hell is testing us?” and it had us all in giggles. I mean when your day goes from a request for you to import “hot and spicy” cheese from Holland, a woman breaking down because she simply could not believe someone would send her to pick a wine for a gift, a guy that loves stouts and porters wanting a German beer that’s like that, a woman asking me for a good wine, “Oh I don’t know, something from Europe like a Malbec from Argentina”….and ends with a transvestite on one crutch carrying a giant white cockatoo on her, (or his…there was some debate. I say her) arm, well all you can do is laugh right?!

Got through that day with a sing-song taunt to my staff, “I’m off for two days”….so fate, he’s a fucker. I was called in on Sunday, had Monday off but was right back in the wine slinging saddle on Tuesday with another nine hour shift. This week has been a little tougher, still love the job and all but dude…I need a break in the worst way. I would like to say it’s almost over and I have a couple days off but, I’ve learned my lesson, “you hear me Fate?! I got it” just taking each day as it comes. This week has me feeling a bit spent, run down and less apt to laugh at the silliness that occurs when you work retail. I could feel the tightness in my jaw all day yesterday, awareness that I was not quite myself. When a stood there with my face all scrunched up, eyebrow raised in that, “No you didn’t” face after a customer had the nerve to tell me, “You’re kinda hot” I knew I was suffering from too many days syndrome. Black zip-up hoodie with Arrogant Bastard across the front, baggy jeans, black Vans, silver choker necklace, sloppy pigtails and red lipstick….this is the look I went for yesterday morning and I get all indignant when someone lets me know I might have accomplished the look I was going for?! Yeah, too many days.

So the one thing that kept me lighter on my feet yesterday, kept me from snapping and pulling out my hair at its much-lighter-now roots…I had a date. First the hubby and I were going out for crab legs, (this would come back to haunt me later) and I then I had a little rendezvous planned for later in the evening, a new love, a secret love.

You ever met someone that just changes your mind? Someone that is able to chip away at your armor, knock down your barriers and open your mind to things that you had long ago either given up on or never even really considered in the first place. Well I’ve been lucky enough to meet quite a few of those kinds of people. I learned about wine from one, learned about food from one, even been lucky enough to fall in love with one of those people that chip-chip-chipped away at my idea of what I wanted or thought I knew. Been quite lucky in the old mind expansion department and each time that sucker gets cracked open it seems to loosen the hinge for the next attempt.

The latest cracking of the hard headed vault happened right here, here on my own blog. The place I come to express MY opinions and MY thoughts and this is where my own beliefs and ideas were challenged, poked at and in some cases…..changed. I must confess I adore that, am humbled by the fact that anyone that visits this site not only sticks around but there a few that even seem to want to teach me things, share with me, help me broaden my mind or at the very least show me that there is more than one way to look at things….seriously humbling.

So after months of listening to some fiercely passionate dudes spout the praises of wines from a place that I had stopped drinking, even tasting really…years ago, well I felt compelled to take another look and this time with their words acting as a crowbar popping the vault open. I’ve made a very concerted effort to taste each bottle of California wine that is open in the shop, I approach them as I do my beloved French wines…spend time with my nose in the glass, let the wines roll around my mouth and take a bunch of notes. I’ve been trying, I really have and while I still find the wines a bit too primary for my palate, there have been a couple that have blown my top clean off.

It started with Rhys Pinot Noir, a wine that kind of kicked the shit out of one of my Burgundies one evening at dinner. Now the Burgundy was from a warm vintage and seemed to be lacking a bit of its sultry complexity but that Rhys, seduced the hell out of me. That wine was the one that had me cocking my head and wondering just how many other wines I was missing out on. Westwood Rhone blend, Dehlinger Pinot, Alesia Pinot, Aubert Chardonnay, these wines all prying the top off my closed mind and leaving wanting to know more, taste more.

So I did, have been and like I said earlier, I still find that most of the wines from California I have been tasting…well they just aren’t doing it for me. Are they out of whack, out of balance and too sweet? Some of them are but not most, I just ache for bright clean fruit and the kind of acidity that compels me to pour glass number two….and three. I find with a good number of the wines I’ve been running through; Cabernets, Zinfandels, Chardonnays and even Pinot Noir just kind of give it all up in the first glass and that there just aint my thing. My palate is no fan of vanilla, or heavy toast. I don’t much care for tropical fruit or chocolate. I don’t think finding those things in wine a flaw in any way, just not something I wish to keep wrapping my lips around.

I don’t mind big fruit, matter of fact I have begun craving just a bit of that but once my craving is satisfied I tend to just move on to something just a little bit snappier. So while stumbling along in my California wine re-discovery I happened upon a couple things that have not only suited my palate, they have become regular players in my wine buying cycle. Hear that you two crowbar wielding dudes, I am not only tasting and drinking some California wines, I am freaking buying them now.

2007 Fleur Pinot Noir, ($14.99) is a new favorite for its uber light body and bright snappy fruit. I’ve now learned that grabbing one of these bottles is just a joke, always gonna need two. Tangy red fruit, slightly floral and clean as a whistle on the finish.

2008 Palmina Dolcetto, ($17.99) the first time I brought this wine home the bottle was gone so fast I was almost embarrassed. Full of fresh dark fruit, no wood and airily light on the palate. Like I said, gone wicked fast.

2007 Hug Sauvignon Blanc, ($16.99) this wine fills both that primary craving and that snappier thing that I long for. Tons of guava that seems tamed a bit by citrus with nice weight and a long but really bright finish.

This wine was the wine that saved me yesterday…kept my mind focused on having a new love swirl around in my mouth, give me things I could not find in what I already had and gave me that little naughty tingle you get when you smear up the boundaries.

2008 Bebame, ($16.99) dude, I am in love. This wine just pinged off all my sweet spots and lit me up. Cabernet Franc and Gamay Noir, yeah no wonder it sings to me…Loire, it feels and has that snappy fruit that I so adore about Loire reds. I was wrecked from my first sip, still intrigued and longing for more after my last. I drained that first bottle and was left wanting more, just one more glass….one glass lead to another bottle, and another. Must be love…..


Charlie Olken said...

<< It must be love >>

You are singing my song. You are going to keep discovering good CA wines, and you are also going to, at some point, understand that primary fruit does not prevent lots and lots of wines from having great depth and range with things that keep coming out of the glass.

In fact, I delight in your love of Dehlinger Pinot Noir. For sure, Tom Dehlinger has been producing magic for years--I have a cellar full as proof of how much I love his wines.

But, for all of the layering and lovely sides of those wines, they are still Russian River Valley Pinots, and they are heavier than most, richer than most, more filled with primary fruit than most.

So, one of these days, you are also going to run into the RRV Pinots of Bjornstad, Alysian (Gary Farrell's new home), Williams Selyem, Dutton Goldfield, Freestone, Lynmar, Benovia and many, more. And then you will find that many (not all, mind you) of those folks also make ethereal Chardonnay--balanced, deep, bristling with energy, but with that extra bit of primary CA fruit. And, looking at some of the wines you mention, it is clear that you are going to find CA Sauv Blcs right up your alley at times.

Now, whether or not you ever get to like CA Zin or Syrah, Cab or Merlot is less important at this point. All of those varieties make heavier, very pushy wines and finding a Corison Cab in the midst of the overzealous may be less likely.

Still, Sam, I am luxuriating in the thought of your continuing education. No one has to like everything--or even anything--but the great joy of this business for me over several decades has been the discovery that there is more and more and more out there to learn about, to experience, to fall in love with.

Go, girl. The journey never ends. It just keeps getting better and better.

Thomas said...

If I were you, Sam, I'd dig into everything that Russian River has to offer. Then, move up to Mendocino and Anderson Valley.

Samantha Dugan said...

You know it was you and Ron I was talking about. I adore that you guys read me, support me and give me such love when I tend to crack on the wines that you two love. Ron sending me wines to try was just one more step to opening my mind and palate. I still prefer French wines and will drink them more often than any others but I am really diggin' tasting and falling in love with some wines from my home state. I have always loved learning about wine, it's what drives me, pushes me and keeps me interested. This latest exploration, with you and Ron riding my backside has been so much fun....can't wait to share each wine that moves me with you guys.

I'm really lucky that I have Bennett, (Our domestic guy at The Wine Country) and now Ron, they seem to get my palate and steer me in the right direction. If I had to go at it blind...don't think I would keep it up, just too many wines that leave me flat. I need the guidance!

John M. Kelly said...

Sam thanks for the mention on my redFOUR Rhône blend! Can't wait to put the latest bottling in your hand. I'm looking forward to trying that Cab Franc/Gamay blend. I do love me some of the Cab Franc from the Loire, but if I recall correctly my first comment to your blog was about the quality of some of the Franc being grown in the Sierra Foothills.

Kimberly said...

Oh, I love the Fleur Pinot Noir! An aquaintance gave me a bottle two or three years ago, and I was instantly smitten, but haven't been able to find it again here in my little North Carolina town since. But now I know, it's out there somewhere, I know it is!

Sara Louise said...

Your post couldn't have come at a better time.
We're no longer bringing wines from France (re: the email) but will be buying some in the states. I'm going to see if the Fleur and Bebame are sold anywhere near where we're going.
And hot and spicy cheese from Holland?? What's up with that? Weirdos.

Samantha Dugan said...


Shoot me another email with the state and I will see what I can get out of the winemaker.

Again...super excited and so wishing I was closer!