Friday, April 30, 2010

What A Difference A Year Makes

I got into work the other morning and began my ritual of checking my email box, (the work one) my actual mail box, walking my departments and seeing what has sold or needs to be merchandised after being off for three days. Went through the special orders, checked the signups for the upcoming classes and started to settle in to being back at work. I have a somewhat revolving schedule that goes something like; five days on, one off and back in for five then off for three…kind of drives me nutty and that third day really makes me edgy. I trust my staff completely but I just feel like there is shit I could be and should be doing besides sitting on my couch watching Law & Order or movies. Okay a little side note, I did watch It’s Complicated Tuesday…dude, awesome. That movie was one of the best I have seen in a long time….great dialog and chemistry, cooking, sex, falling in and out of love. The very real connection between people that have loved, shared a life, raised kids…life, real life. Like I said, awesome.

I was just getting into my groove when Randy came in and started talking to me about how we can generate new business. I always get a knot in my gut with these conversations, I so want the store to thrive and I literally lose sleep trying to think of ways to make that happen. Fuck I even stated this silly blog hoping that I would be able to reach people, touch them and inspire them to come see us at The Wine Country. I’ve put my whole life, the good and the bad…my whole heart into sharing myself here in this space in the hope that people would feel my passion for wine, my whole hearted love for it…how it was able to change me. Exposed myself in order to create a connection, I have not that much to give, just me, my stories and my connection to wine. What I’ve learned, how wine has found a way to touch every inch of my flesh, how it speaks to me, whispers to me….purrs at me and pushes me. The way it seduces me, is always in my head and my heart…

My late night rants and ramblings are my cricket’s song….me rubbing my legs together, stringing my words together trying to weave a tapestry intriguing enough for people to begin rubbing their own legs together…start chirping and paint their own story with wine. My biggest hope is that they let our store be a part of it, think of us when they think about wine and all its glorious pleasures.

“You always have something creative to say on your blog, I just wish we could figure out a way to channel some of that to strum up some excitement here in the shop” Randy said as we were tossing ideas back and forth…I was momentarily speechless. Randy and I have had our disagreements about this blog, he is not a blog guy and for the most part sees them as a giant waste of time. Matter of fact a year ago even saying the word blog induced and almost gag-looking face for him…like he was trying to say it but the sheer ridiculousness of it all caused his face to screw all up. He started coming around a bit a few months ago and seems to read, (from what I can tell) fairly regularly now. We used to kind of bicker about it, me proclaiming it an important tool while secretly being crushed that he didn’t see that I spent my nights writing and spilling my guts, trying to be funny or at the very least interesting…for him, for the store. He concerned that I was spending all this time and energy for nothing. “Aside from giving us more exposure”….don’t even need to finish the rest of his sentence, he was acknowledging the fact that my hours of work and nakedness had in fact done something. What a difference a year makes.

We hashed out some ideas and I started an email blast about 2007 Burgundy. A vintage I went weak in the knees for the second I tasted my first little Bourgogne and one that has the press now taking a second look at. I harvested information from the “pros” and we put together a rather exciting lineup of wines to blast our customers with. I was feeling kind of driven and focused and that is when I saw him.

We have quite a few handicapped customers at The Wine Country, people that come in and need our help filling their glass, taking their credit cards from their wallets and even one customer that requires a bendy straw in order to sip his wine. These things touch me, to have a person that has been through whatever trauma that is courageous enough to have us bendy their straw, carry their case out or dig into their personal belongings to retrieve their credit card…well I admire that kind of openness and fearlessness. I envy it in a way.

I watched as he limped in rather uncomfortably, legs wobbly, leaning heavily on the cane at his left side. I was going about my business, pricing wines, calling reps, ringing up other customers but I kept my eye on him. Baggy Dockers, cane, sweater, awkward lean. I did my thing, working as always but this cane using, sweater clad figure with the tall man assisting him were in my peripheral. He seemed to be having his needs met, staff running to retrieve wines he wanted and him taking his time navigating the sales floor with a shopping cart.

I found myself watching him, the way he slowly shifted the hearty bar on the cart. The way he seemed to will his legs to power that cart. I was admiring him from afar, proud if his strength, his drive and just when I thought I could not be more moved he swung his cart around. Cane dangling on the side, tall assistant at the ready but not interfering, a face looking back at me. Eyes I had seen many times before but encased in a body that was not the one I had last seen him in.

“Credit or Debit?” I asked in my lightest most friendly voice. “Um, it’s been so long since I have answered that question I’m not sure what to say” he responded. I felt my throat get thick and I felt my eyes locked on his. “I came for some Rose. I love coming here for Rose” he said as he watched me grip the neck of his gathered bottles and drop them in a box. I laid the credit card receipt on the counter and pushed a pen closer to his fragile frame. I watched as he used his left arm to lift his right hand…the one with the curled under fingers and unnatural arch and marveled in the way he was able to rest that unwilling limb atop the receipt and sign his name with his left hand.

A stroke, one year ago this maybe fifty year old violin repairman had a massive stroke that has had him in physical therapy every single day for a year. This man spent a year re-learning how to talk, walk, brush his teeth and stand and here he was, visiting The Wine Country and buying Rose. A connection. His body may not be as able as it once was but his memory of shopping at our store for Rose was vivid and powerful enough to bring him back. “It is so nice to see you again” I said as I handed over his receipts and pushed his box of wine in the direction of his helper. “Nice to be seen” he said with a smile and slowly made his way out the door. I watched as Randy chatted with him out by his car and before I knew it I was crying. Not sad for such a strong and courageous soul, no I was touched that coming to see us was something that he wanted to do.

Vintage, watching this whole thing made me think about vintage and what it really means. One year. So much can happen in the span of a year, the good the bad, the heartfelt and the humbling and all of that becomes part of who we are. How one year can change us, add layers to the already complex creatures that we are. Each vintage leaving it little “I was here” mark on each of us. It’s the same with wine really and I for one happen to find comfort in the connection to a wine through its expression of a vintage. When tasting a 2003 Burgundy, the somewhat forced ripeness, the super soft acidity, the clumsy chunkiness of it, I am reminded of record breaking heat waves and watching footage of Europeans dipping into historic fountains to relieve themselves from the oppressive heat….tasting a wine from that vintage paints a picture on my palate of what the vines had to endure and what a winemaker was able to make from that. Smoke taint from fires, overripe or under ripe fruit, hard tannin, soft acidity, plump or thin each vintage leaving its mark, its history and it is there for us to taste. I want wine to speak to me like that, share its story, its struggles or windfalls with me. Much like the way I wish to make people understand my passion for wine by retelling the story of the evening, the people or the lust that surrounded it. That’s why I have never gotten too caught up in the whole which vintage is better deal, why I don’t measure one against the other. Was year 34 better for me than year 38? Dunno, without that 34 I wouldn’t be this 38 and any attempt to place value on one above the other seems not only silly but really missing the beauty of discovery and expression.

Now I’m not saying I want to drink, (or want other people to drink for that matter) jacked up wines and when you follow producers rather than vintages the chances of that happening are slim. A great winemaker would sooner scrap a vintage, sell it off in bulk than dump a bunch of crap wine on the market with their name on it which is why I have always been much more producer driven than vintage driven. I like that I can taste subtle differences from vintage to vintage…even dramatic difference are thrilling for me. It’s all history, it’s all a story and for me it is a very real connection to a place, a winemaker and that one year. The next vintage will just be one more for me to read, feel, taste and connect with and I find myself grateful for that.

Grateful to the Francois Chidaines, Dominique Lafons, the Alix de Montilles…winemakers that aren’t trying to crank out some soulless, timeless, placeless “juice” they are pouring me a story, inviting me to taste what each year has given them, reaching me and adding my experience, each new experience as one more chapter in their history book…weather they know it or not.

One year ago I could not know that Randy would be proud of the work I have put into this blog and even start gathering bits of my stoopid ramblings to include in our newsletter…
One year ago I could not know that a loyal customer would suffer as traumatic a life changing event as I could imagine and still find the will and want to come shop for Rose with us.
One year ago I could not imagine that the founder of Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine would be reading my French leaning drivel
One year ago I could not have known that my best friend would move out of state
One year ago I could not know that a brilliant comedic writer would enter my life and forever change me
One year ago I could not know that I would be travelling to Memphis to meet a couple of my readers
One year ago I could not know that a sweet American living in France would find me
One year ago I could not know that the wine writer for the New York Times would read me, understand me, find something in my buzzy late night musings worth visiting time and time again

This blog
My words
The Wine Country
Our mission
My voice
The wines that send shivers down my spine
Wines that seem to wrap their fingers around my throat and gently stroke the words out of me
The winemakers
The vintages
That make that all possible
Make this all possible
Our connection
To each other
Beautiful discovery of exploration…..

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sometimes The Young'ns Need A Spanking

Kind of a funky day for me
Too sensitive, that means me...I was being too sensitive
Just out of sorts and feeling kinda poopie until....

Older and slightly broken but...

111 to 87, freaking sweet

Is it Friday yet?

Rolling Uphill

Tasting Notes From The Last Week:

Wine #1) Fairly ripe on the nose, some peach and honey. Medium weight on the palate, getting some acidity but I wish there were just a bit more fruit.

Wine #2) Lemon rind and a faint bit of butter. Plump on the palate but the fruit is rather lifeless. Good acidity, maybe too much as there is nothing but prickle on my palate.

Wine #3) Smells zippy almost like it has been acidified, green apple tartness but super soft and missing brightness.

Wine #4) Damn, wish the fruit was cleaner, getting lots of cream and not much else. Tastes tanky, like it has been sitting around too long. Muddy finish, clumsy.

Wine #5) Simple aromatics of cream and red apples. I would finish the glass but never go back for a second.

One appointment and five wines I would never even consider taking home to drink but do they have a place in the shop? The wines…

#1 Schlumberger Pinot Blanc
#2 Marc Bradif Vouvray
#3 Schlumberger Pinot Gris
#4 Louis Roederer Carte Blanche
#5 Louis Roederer Brut Premier

Randy had been talking to me not fifteen minutes before this appointment about the idea of bringing in some brands that might make people more comfortable. Now he had been talking more about the liquor department for the most part, but had mentioned that maybe we should consider a few wines with established names and reputations, well shit howdy how’s that for timing? So I ran through the wines, my boss’s words still bouncing around in my dome but my mind, my heart and my drive where so not on board. Sure I could put these “medium” wines on the shelf and hope that someone gets a warm fuzzy by seeing them and loads up their cart but….history has taught me something very different.

Our store is a destination, a place people have to make a special trip to come to. We are not in a mini mall and the nearest grocery store is blocks away. We are located in a somewhat industrial area across the street from a post office, no one is popping in for a bottle after enjoying a leisurely lunch at the restaurant down the street…dude aside from the post office and the bakery next door, (think cakes not crunchy baguettes) there is a gym and a gasoline refinery so not a lot of window shopping or unintentional foot traffic happening at The Wine Country.

So now what would make people walk past the wine department of their supermarket, get in their car and drive past the Cost Plus or BevMo that is located in the same center and drive all the way to our store to get that bottle of Roederer? Um, I tasted it and I wouldn’t walk to the other side of the room for it, it’s boring, flat, (not as in no bubbles as in no vibrancy) and inspired little more than a burp from me….and I LOVE Champagne. Tasting things like that, these big brand, well known, made in the millions of bottles, wines like those I tasted that afternoon left me passionless and kinda of wanting a cocktail.

I got home that night thinking about my conversation with Randy and how it coincided with a appointment where I tasted “comfort” wines and I found myself getting a little riled up…shocking I know. Now it wasn’t Randy that had me all prickly, he is a very smart man and he feels the same way I do about stuffing our shelves with bulk wines. Hell it was not too long ago, when the economy was just starting to take a dive that we listened to our suppliers…the bulk wine pushing suppliers…when they told us that people were going to be a lot more careful with their money. They were going to be looking for brands they knew, things they had seen before, brands they could trust. So we took a leap in the shallow end and brought in piles of big brand, inexpensive wines for our customer’s comfort. Yeah, they were comfortable alright, comfortable walking right past those stacks in search of something else. It was an amazing thing to watch and a very valuable and important lesson learned for us. We brought in a bunch of McWines, slashed our profit margin and the wines didn’t move. We ended up having to red tag the already cheap wines just to get them the hell out there. Randy took it in the shorts on that little lesson so he was in no way advocating that we do that again. He was talking about booze for the most part and maybe having a couple of offerings in each department for the brand conscience customer and he was right of course. And I know that he will do the same as I do when and if someone asks us what we think about them….offer another more exciting suggestion. Know why? We want them to come back.

When I taste wines like the ones I did that afternoon I am left feeling like Sisyphus, rolling my passion filled boulder uphill just to have some marketing department, restaurant wine list or glossy publication roll it right back down. When a consumer tastes a wine like that Bradif Vouvray or that Roederer, which are solid wines…not exciting but good, it isn’t going to inspire or ignite any kind of fire or passion for wine. Sure it will give them a buzz and I am all for that…not going to pretend to be one of those wine people that acts like the buzz in not part of the pleasure, bullshit, that is utter bullshit but you can just as easily get a buzz from a couple of shots of Vodka. I ache to have people taste things like H. Billiot Brut and Francois Chidaine Les Argiles Vouvray, wines that are not only brilliant but inspire people to explore, want to learn more and have the power to elevate a wine drinker to a truly passionate wine lover. That, that is why our customers drive past BevMo and Cost Plus, why they make the drive to The Wine Country and why they ignored our pile of McWines…it’s because of our Sisyphean efforts that they have been inspired to do so.

Proud, it makes me feel so proud each and every time a customer walks through that front door. I let that feeling of pride smooth my ruffled feathers, poured myself a glass of 2008 Chanteleuserie Cuvee Beauvais Bourgueil, marveled in its purity and expression…let the dark fruit and minerals remind me why I do this. So today is a new day and it is with great pleasure that I dig my feet (and palate) in, press my body against that boulder and begin my trek uphill again….

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Can You Keep Me Floating....Just For Awile?

You aren’t him…
You could never be him…
But right this moment
In this second
When I can smell you
Feel you taught and firm in my hands
Ready to please me
Trying to please me

Your body aching to swim in my mouth
My lips wet and wondering…
Are you, can you be enough
For now?

Is it wrong that I let myself be momentarily thrilled by you
Let my tongue plunge and flick
Feel this shock of energy
My lungs beginning to expand….
Every muscle in my body cinching
Tightening, flexing
To be with you
Feel you

Can you do this
Can you be okay with this
Where you born to do this

Born to give me pleasure
Drive me wild
Make my skin go bumply
My nostrils flare…
My heart race
For tonight?

Do you understand?
Will you know?
Do you already know?
Your place….

I can beg you
Urge you
Open myself to you
For you

My skin yours to constrict
My reaction to you yours to own
My head spun and lost in want for just you…

Just for tonight
Can you keep me floating…..
Just for awhile?

Hold me
Touch me
Stroke me
Whisper your sweet breath
Stoke my fire….

Please me
Please me long enough
Slip those tender fingers just under my waistband
Just up my shirt….
Press the tight spot at the base of my neck
Use and admire my body in the way I use and admire yours….
Just for tonight?

I feel that you were created to satiate me…

I am Yours
Tonight, but just until….
I can have

I so love my little wines
The wines that keep me floating

Wines that please me just enough
Just for awhile……

Saturday, April 17, 2010


This is all just too demanding
Too much work

So many posts
So many hours
So many wines
So much of myself shared....

I'm just spent
I'm just tired
I'm just kidding

Crazy week; newsletter deadline, anniversary, hubby's birthday, friends in town.....I just have not had the time or energy to post and clearly it is weighing heavy on me. I am still here, not going by way of the Dodo or the HoseMaster...just caught up in like life and junk. I was feeling all guilty so I thought just in case someone out there is waiting, wanting or worried that I've grown tired of writing about wines, the business or every bloggers favorite subject, myself....wanted to assure you that I have not. Just one of those weeks.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


It was 5:00 am and I found myself once again sitting before the ever comforting glow on my humming little laptop. My little couch perch, my very own space in my humble and chilly home. I confess to having a terrible habit of falling asleep on the couch, not sure what my deal is but ever since I was a kid the idea of going to bed has always felt like some kind of surrender. I fought to stay awake, would even give myself a little pinch on the arm to keep myself up….not much has changed really. I don’t pinch myself anymore but I will pour myself one more glass of wine and try and nurse it through my nodding off to sleep. More often than not I wake on the couch, glass of wine still on the table at like three in the morning and hobble off to bed. It’s my silly routine and my hubby has grown accustomed being single until he feels my icy feet slip next to his at whatever in the morning.

Last night was a tad different; I did not fall asleep on the couch. I was however still awake at 12:30, wrestling with a fierce case of heartburn. It was wretched, the kind that starts like a bubble in your chest, grows and ends with that gurgling burn at the top of your throat. Now if any of you ever suffer with this you will know that laying down only makes this whole burning, gurgling business worse….and of course we were out of anything that may have helped soothe me, awesome. I teetered off to bed hoping that sleep would be a strong enough medicine, yeah not so much. Gurgle, burn, sit up, curse and repeat… was fantastic I assure you.

Around three I curled up on my right side, my eyes burning nearly as bad as my chest, tired…so painfully tired and finally drifted off to sleep. Forty minutes later I was awoken by a very loud, “Mom!!!!” my own voice screaming, shaking me from my much needed slumber. I stayed in bed trying to shake it all but I lost and found my way to my little space. Now I’ve never been one of those dream analyzers, I don’t try and figure out what they mean, what my mind is trying to tell me or feel that there are lessons to be learned by studying what my crazy ass head does while I sleep. Just never been one of those people and truthfully I rarely remember my dreams most of the time but this one, this one I have had so many freaking times that if it weren’t so terrifying it would be like a visit from an old friend.

Sometimes the setting or situation changes, me walking in to find or waking on the couch to find that the front door….the one I had locked before falling asleep, is open. I walk to the door to shut it and, SLAM….a foot blocks me from closing the door and then the shoving starts. Me against the door and “Him” pushing from the other side, always the same struggle and the most terrifying part, I open my mouth to scream and nothing ever comes out. I’ve been having this same dream since I was like seven or eight, it follows me each year and each dream I am my current age but it always ends the same way, me trying to scream for help and not having a voice. That was until last night, last night in my dream I was able to scream for my mother and woke to find I was actually screaming. So funny thing, turns out my hubby is going to be worthless in this situation, there I was screaming for my mother at like 3:40 in the morning and the hubby didn’t even flinch….very reassuring that. I stumbled out to my little perch and gently humming laptop heart burning and pounding thinking about dreams for the first time.

“So what do you want to do when you grow up Sam?” a question that followed this scholastically challenged, street running, authority fingering, pregnant at seventeen girl around like this stupid bubble of are-you-kidding-me. What did I want to do? What the hell could I do, survive, try not to be a massive fuck up and try and raise a person that was better than I was. Lofty right? I was never a dreamer, not sure if it just wasn’t in me or if the reality of my situations didn’t give me the time to even think about it. I knew I didn’t want to be a stereotype; hood rat turned breeder. I knew I didn’t want to live off the system or take a dime from anyone to raise my son. I let my mother help me, she let me live with her but I started working as soon as my tiny son was healthy enough to be with a sitter. I would not take a dime from the man that helped me create my lovely son, a decision that would have my ear bent over and over again…to take one penny would give him access, he didn’t deserve access and I would have sooner worked three jobs, give up sleep for good and sell my blood than let that kind of evil near MY son. Well, so I guess I did have one dream…be a good mother, give my son all that I had, show him what was possible if he was willing to work for it. He did…a junior at U of L, still cannot believe my son is a junior in college.

Sitting here this morning I let myself think or dream a little bit. Dream of what is next for Jeremy, dream of my Amy finding new friends and exploring her passion in culinary school out there in Dallas. Dream about my adorable neighbors, a one and four year old….their journey just beginning. Dream about The Wine Country, how I so long for that store to get the business and recognition I so feel it deserves. Dream of a friend up North being healthy and watching his children grow. Dream of a beloved man that is starting a new chapter in his life, hoping he knows how honored I am to be a part of it. As I sat here running through it all I heard those words again, “What do you want to do when you grow up?”…..

Guess the only thing I have ever really wanted for myself is summed up by the nightmare that has followed me all these years…I want a voice. I want to be heard. This shy woman that would rather swallow her own tongue than speak in public, this self deprecating woman that finds it difficult to walk past a mirror, this woman that is proud of her actions but has not as of yet learned how to be proud of herself…I want to be heard. I want to have my fingers stroke my keys, share my words, thoughts and opinions and have someone give a shit. So at least on a small scale, my dreams have come true.

So please indulge me when I extend a full hearted, overwhelmingly touched thank you to Ron Washam, Alfonso Cevola, Charlie Olken and Nancy Deprez. All four of these people nominated me for a Best Writing on a Wine Blog award, fuck seriously? These are some of the finest writers I have ever had the pleasure to read and they heard something in me worth tossing my name in the ring…unreal, a dream come true for me. I also loved the email the boys sent shortly after the nomination, the “don’t be shocked or upset if you don’t win” email….matter of fact I think those emails touched me even more than the nominations. The owning of their praise and concern, the knowing that they heard me….dreams coming true.

Okay so I would also like to take a moment to confess that I bit Ron’s head off when he nominated me, just felt like when my Mom would tell me I was pretty….Ron, thank you My Love. I am honored by your adoration and praise. I love that you hear me and your warm hug is in every post I write. Your acceptance and guidance, your support and admiration make me proud, proud of myself My Dear Sweet Man. Thank you. Thank you for paving the way and opening doors that let me feel and really hear that people like Eric, Alice, Charlie, Alfonso, John, Michael, Marcia, Benito, Jeremy, Jimmie, Eric, Jess, Vicki, Heather, Thomas, Anon 1 (although he remains silent I know when he’s here) Sara, Kevin and all the others have heard me and for showing me that I do have a voice.

It came to me in a dream this morning, I opened my mouth and heard my voice….thank you all.

Friday, April 9, 2010

NOT Your Cougar's Chardonnay

An unplanned upon stop had me rushing through the doors at work almost exactly an hour late. I was sweating up a storm, (freaking hot here is SoCal yesterday and as always….I wore the absolute wrong thing) and looking at a tasting room full of suppliers. I dumped off my bags, punched in, grabbed my binder full of wide rule paper and hurriedly made my way into the tasting room gesturing wildly and announcing to anyone that may have been waiting for my late ass that I was very sorry I was late. Said hello to my Kermit rep who only had two wines for me to taste, asked her if she wouldn’t mind just pouring me a little of each and plunked my ass down next to a rep that was wearing a slightly clinched face and had about ten open bottles of French wine…clearly the guy I had kept waiting.

That blasted hour had set me so far behind, I had to meet with reps and then prepare for our 4:30 commuter tasting in which I was featuring the Champagnes from Paul Bara. I quickly began tasting through the grumpy faced guys wine; a bunch of 2009 Roses and some red and white from the south of France. Swirl, sniff, scribble notes, taste…more notes, dump and move on. Not the way I like to taste but watching two more reps walk in, (both to see me) seeing my cheese order which needs to be counted and merchandised, be dropped off and with Paul Bara breathing down my neck it simply had to go that way. “Thank you for waiting and yes I can see you again tomorrow” and grumpy guy was on his way, bounced to the next rep in line and powered through his Alsatian, Burgundian and Rhone offerings with the same sniff-scribble-taste-scribble-dump efficiency. Time I simply did not have enough time to gush over each wine and honestly, nothing really warranted any extra attention. That was until….

“You’re in for a treat” Randy beamed as he got up from the seat where he had been tasting with and keeping company my final appointment of the day, Adam. I simply love Adam, he’s very sweet, a young hipster/rocker guy with a serious passion and palate for wine, if my “Crush Card” were not already full I would have one on him for sure. All that being said other than the brilliant Champagnes he reps, (Terry Theise portfolio; Jean Milan, Billiot, Pierre Peters….) I buy very little from Adam. He sells cool wines, funky wines and wines that are interesting but they tend to be a little too, “Interesting” and a bit too pricy for me to invest much of my French wine buying budget in. When I saw the oddly shaped bottles that were awaiting me I knew it was going to be another one of those tastings, wines I dig, geek out on but just don’t know how to or who to sell them to. The squatty bottles with the raised letters that spell out where they came from, J-U-R-A across their chest….or what I think of us the chest on a bottle of wines body, just a bit bellow the neck….are just those kind of wines.

“Stinky” I said after quickly spinning and sticking my nose in the first of the Tissot wines I would be tasting. Adam took a sniff and concurred; the 2007 Tissot Traminer (in screw cap which I love) was indeed off so we moved on to the 2008 Tissot Chardonnay Classique. Still trying to keep the quick pace with which I had handled my earlier appointments I gave the glass a quick little spin and brought it to my nose. Deep sniff and my time sensitive shoulders softened a bit, “Meursault dude, it smells like Mersault” I took in the deep aromas of roasted nuts and minerals, felt the expansive pear and spice across my palate and scribbled something in my notes about this wine being a serious value, (would be around $30.00) and could even appeal to new world drinkers. Time still ticking away and causing my pulse to speed up I asked that we move on to the next wine.

Twenty minutes, it was twenty minutes later and I had still not tasted the 2007 Tissot Chardonnay Les Bruyeres that was spinning around in my glass. You know those moments when you just say “Fuck it, I’m going to do it anyway”…..yeah I was not about to end the full on, heart pounding, mind bending, groan inducing spell this wine had me under. I was being seduced, my mind and body reacting, flashes of sweaty skin, raw bread dough and salt spinning around me. Paul Ba-who Champagne? This sexy, raw…earthy, intriguing wine had me pinned up against a wall in some seedy restaurant bathroom while everyone else was waiting for me to return to the table. Something familiar in that Blanc de Blancs or Chablis kind of way but…even drier, earthier and way goddamn sexier. Pretty, elegant, polished? Hell no, this wine is naughty in that “Damn that’s sexy in that unconventional or almost ugly” way. Not an ugly wine but a wine that I know only has a limited audience….an audience like myself, those people that get turned on by sweaty….earthy, weighty and wild. Oh yeah, I’m pulling the trigger on this $37.99 bottle of Cougar repellant even if I have to buy each bottle for my own self indulgent pleasure…..

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wine Biz Interview #8 Retailer Randy Kemner Owner of The Wine Country

When I first had the idea to turn my "Shoe On The Other Foot" interview with Tom Wark into a series of wine business related interviews, (as they are anyway) I knew I had to include a retailer. Now at first I thought it might be best to look outside the family as it were and pose my questions to a retailer that I was not so closely connected to, or one who's customers might not read this blog but as with many of my ideas, that was just stupid. I got up the nerve to ask the owner of the store where I work, the man that brought wine into my life and the man who is partially responsible for the woman I am now....I asked and he gave me the cutest little shrug and said, "Sure!"

Much like the interview I did with Michael Sullivan I struggled for questions and wrestled with my overwhelming urge to be protective which basically means I had to go to Randy and tell him that I was worried about asking him silly shit....Charlie Olken and Alice Feiring no problem, freaking Randy Kemner and Michael Sullivan and I'm in a full on panic, such a tard.....Randy's reply, "I was a man whore at one time, well not a whore really because I didn't get paid for it but...." this conversation went as most do with Randy when he feels like chatting which is to say, on forever. The outcome was as it often is, Randy telling me it was fine and to do my thang. I did and here he is, my mentor, my beloved boss and one of the sweetest most important men in my life, Randy Kemner, owner of The Wine Country.

How long have you been in the wine business?

27 years, 3 months and 24 days, but who’s counting? On the other hand, if you’re asking how long I’ve supported the wine business, that’s 40 years this coming September, my 40th anniversary of turning 21.

What inspired you to open a retail wine shop?

My business partner in my wholesale wine business wanted to buy me out and convincingly suggested I open a retail shop. There were no wine shops within a 30 mile radius that did what I wanted to do, so I thought it was a good idea at the time. I needed a job, and I was unqualified to work for anybody. Luckily, I like wine, so if you have to sell something for a living—and who doesn’t?—wine beats the hell out of women’s shoes. Or mortuary supplies.

What would you say was the least expected obstacle on the retail side of the wine business?

There are so many “least expected” obstacles I don’t know where to begin.
Learning that the health department required a Sloan valve on your men’s room urinal was a big one.

Another early obstacle was hassling Bordeaux and its negociant system. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that a wine so simple to understand would be so hard to buy and sell competitively.

I couldn’t believe some wineries wouldn’t offer their wines to me because of stupid things like waiting lists.

I was shocked to learn that Costco was selling wine for less money than the big distributors were offering it to me.

I was also surprised that I could sell $2 million dollars worth of wine in a year and lose money doing it.

On the public relations side, it is really hard to draw attention to your business without participating in a major scandal. Print ads are expensive and aren’t very effective, nor are cable TV ads. Direct mail is even more expensive, and hiring clowns on the sidewalk with those spinning arrows raises all kinds of insurance issues.

Has your vision for the store remained the same or have your customers, staff, suppliers and the market ever shifted your position?

Interestingly, I recently re-read my very first newsletter, written largely before I opened the store in the fall of 1995. In it I wrote an introductory essay introducing me and The Wine Country to the world. I pretty much touched on the same themes that guide us today: the importance of wine and the table, and recognizing our role as message bearers from wine growers in faraway places working the land for our pleasure. Respect for our customers, that sort of thing.

When I first conceptualized the store I thought customers would beat a path to my door if I offered the finest wines at the lowest prices. But after I opened I was surprised to discover that people didn’t come to our store for big national brands—even when we offered the lowest prices in southern California—so we failed to reach my overly ambitious sales goals. Even before our first anniversary it was clear I had to raise prices a bit or go under, sacrificing my competitive edge. It wasn’t long after that I realized that I’d have to give up certain products that used up capital and didn’t produce, and those products were all in chain stores. I had to tell my suppliers who sold wine to Costco to sell it all to them. I quit selling Woodbridge, Moet, Kendall Jackson and prestige wines like Dom Perignon. And for the most part, people stopped asking for them, if they ever did at all.

In short, I learned, to my utter disappointment, that I couldn’t be all things to all people, but I also began to carve out a special niche for ourselves—ignoring Parker points and Suckling scores and actually leading our customers back to a more traditional relationship with their wine merchant. Now we talk and listen to each other.

Much like Michael Sullivan you forced me out of my shell, you ever wish you could stuff me back in?
Never. Now if you could only learn to drive the freeways and enjoy teaching Beginning Wine classes I would consider that a triumph

Your newsletter is one of the most talked about on the retail side of this business, how much time do you spend writing it?

Back when I did all the store’s wine buying I would write it on and off for three weeks, then work on it full time day and night for an entire week, writing it at home to avoid pesky distractions like customers asking for help and suppliers asking for money. In recent years, with all my wine buyers contributing wine reviews and articles, I still write it on and off for three weeks in the morning and a bit in the evening, then wait for them to send their contributions. I give them a deadline one week before the printer’s deadline, but procrastinators force me to work pretty hard for four or five days to sew the whole thing up. There have been too many times when I had only two hours before deadline to edit, typeset, add graphics and make sure the page count is in multiples of four. I hate when that happens.

You ever want to say something in the pages of your newsletter but scrap it in order to remain politically correct?

It isn’t being politically incorrect I’m afraid of—I’ve always liked tweaking convention. It’s pissing off customers. Of course I’m always tempted to call out the loonies, but I learned the hard way that political convictions have no place in my newsletter unless it pertains particularly to wine consumers’ interests. Any other blathering isn’t likely to change any minds, but it will alienate customers. A lot of them these days. A reader told me that as he cancelled his subscription.

How do you feel about wine blogs?

I think it’s a lot of work for so little gain. Most of what I’ve read is pretty trite—there are few insights, a lot of popping off. I prefer learning from people who actually have a life

You ever thought of even considered starting one?

I don’t have the time to learn how to work the store’s cash register, let alone chain myself to another time-consuming obligation. Besides, I don’t have that much interesting to say.

Besides mine, (thank you by the way) are there any wine blogs you visit regularly?

No. Yours is the only wine I’ve found with sex in it. Somebody told me about the Hosemaster of Wine, but I haven’t been able to find it.

Is there any area of your store, any department that the wines just don’t do it for you?

I’m really overdue for an infusion of inspiration from the New World. For now those wines hurt me when I drink them. Too many Spanish wines have followed the high-alcohol, sweet fruit suit. High-brow southern Rhones are too strong anymore. And white Rhones have always been difficult for me.

So I was wondering, all those years as a piano player…dark lusty bars in the seventies, women openly exploring their sexuality for the first time, like ever so….drunk chicks proceed with caution or fair game?

Hey, I was the young guy then. Who screwed who?
Single worst bottle of wine you have ever had?

There are a lot of damaged wines I’ve encountered along the way, but I really remember the foul aftertaste after I drank a cooked, over-the-hill bottle of Bouchard Bourgogne that was pretty foul. More recently I was served a glass of Clos du Bois Chardonnay at an art reception and wondered who in the world truly likes this wine.

Best bottle?

I can still remember the aroma and flavor of the ’64 Latour I drank in 1970. But I don’t know if it was any more earth-shattering than a Tempier rosé on a hot day with a Grand Aioli. And the aged Vieux Télégraphe we had with cheese that evening. And the Paul Bara Rosé Champagne after my last wedding. There really aren’t any best bottles—there are best moments with wine. Unless you count red burgundy. And aged port. And…

Those bags of Hershey minis, which tiny bar do you reach for first?

It’s a tie between Mr. Goodbar and Krackel, the one with Rice Krispies in them. I’ll give away the dark chocolate pieces unless I’m desperate. If the package has Hershey’s almond minis, they win. I’ve been known to down a whole bag of those, but don’t tell my wife. She thinks I’m on a diet.

You have railed against scores and Mr. Parker, ranted even….you ever wish you had just taken the easy road and bought wines based on print media scores?

Early on I thought about it. What convinced me to reject the idea was the possibility I wouldn’t be able to sell all the 92 point wines I owned. Then I would be full of a store with wines I didn’t know about, didn’t care about and probably didn’t like to drink. The thing I feared most was a customer asking me what I really thought about a wine and all I could do was smile stupidly, shake my head and say, “Well, it got a 92.”
Have you ever been shit faced with a customer or your staff?

I’ve been happy with customers and staff, but my shit-faced days ended when I shit my pants after an afternoon wine binge. It wasn’t pretty.

One wine pairing that everyone raves about and you think is stupid?

Chocolate and Cabernet springs to mind. Viognier and anything. You can find ridiculous pairings in just about every magazine that writes about such stuff. Wine and spicy-hot food.

Hangover cure of choice?

3 big glasses of water and two aspirin at bedtime. More water when you get up to pee.

How do you feel, as a retailer about states restricting shipments of wine to their residence?

I think it is backward. And unconstitutional.

Now that I have you here, you always tell me, “Well, you’re not a regular girl” care to tell me just what the hell that is supposed to mean?!

You are the kind of chick guys like to hang out with. A truth-teller with a fast comeback, a great sense of humor and two big…

Airplane reading, The Wine Spectator or The Star?

Definitely the Wine Spectator. I like to see how rich people live.
Are you aware that you stutter when a woman in a tight shirt talks to you?

Yes. I tried all kinds of therapy and all it did was make me blush some more.

You often bemoan the state of California wines, the high alcohol and sweet fruit…do you think the wines have changed or you have?

Everyone changes, and I’m no exception. But California wine is not close to being what it was, nor is it as fun to drink anymore. Napa wineries used to make juicy, inexpensive generic house wines. Now they make cheap, dull versions of their master varietals, which are expensive dull versions. In those days you could drink a bottle without getting a headache, and red wines were dry.

What one touching story do you retell the most about one of your exchanges with a customer?

My high school history teacher, well into his 80s, used to come in and talk to me about current world events. He was a proud ex-Marine who fought at Iwo Jima, but he hated the Iraq war. When he died, his widow called to ask if we could have a memorial service in our wine shop. Over 100 people showed up to pay their respects, and we sent him off to Valhalla, all of us sipping some nice wines that evening. Weird, huh?

What one annoying customer story?

I had a regular customer quit coming in because I refused to give him a dollar off a bottle of a case of Zinfandel he wanted. He was an optomologist earning four times what I made. He was infuriated and stomped out the door. I followed him into the parking lot shouting, “I’m a wine merchant, NOT A RUG MERCHANT!!”
Then there was a time when I gave a big donation to a local charity and the guy had the balls to ask me for a discount on the wine he bought right afterwards.

Now you were a musician before you entered the wine business so while playing rock star in your car….who do You pretend to be?!

You forget, I was a rock star. I don’t have to pretend. Well, not really. We really tore them up at the Fandango Club in Montclair for awhile. Honestly, I never wanted to be anybody else.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of opening a wine store right now?

How does losing your life’s savings sound?
You’re having a big luscious, fatty steak what are you drinking?

Simple Loire red wines like Chinon and Bourgeuil. If I want to feel happy, I’ll drink Clos Rougeard Saumur-Champigny.

Gruner Veltliner; amazingly complex and interesting or overpriced and the next cautionary tale?

When Gruner Veltliner is crisp and refreshing, it is an attractive regional wine. When it tries to be profound it is amazingly lead-footed. It was more popular awhile back for not being Chardonnay than being an expressive wine.

Are you ever going to learn how to work the registers at The Wine Country?

It would make life easier for customers who have to wait at the counter while certain staff members are, uh, out for a smoke. But my simple brain is so full of useless stuff, it’s hard to make room for the useful.

You have changed the lives of many people that have worked for you…your passion for wine, your devotion to your customers, your gift for writing, you ever take a moment and reflect on that?

I’m very happy to hear that. It’s nice to be well thought of. But right now I’m getting a herpe worrying about next week’s payables.

Who are your favorite importers and why? (Um, Randoo…I love you and all but please keep this list manageable. I know you are going to want to list everyone so lets keep it to five or less)

Beaune Imports has a leader with great integrity and I love his wines. Kermit Lynch is a pioneer with many important wines. Cellars International has a great German portfolio and I’ve come to love the Italian selections of Marc de Grazia. There are too many good Spanish wine importers to mention—Classical Wines of Spain and Jorge Ordoñez are dependable. I look to Terry Theisse and Becky Wasserman for Champagne.
Riesling is too sweet for some of us…you ever going to be okay with that?

Is dry Riesling too sweet for you, too? And what do you mean by “too sweet?” That isn’t in my lexicon. But you don’t eat your three servings a day of fresh fruits, do you, Samantha?

The music selection at The Wine Country, a source of discussion and sometimes contention amongst the staff and customers…what thought process goes into purchasing music for the store? Pickin’ On the Beatles….a CD with banjo renditions of Beatles songs, just sayin’…

I think Pickin’ on the Beatles is out of the rotation now. Music, like lighting, is a critically important factor in providing an appealing shopping experience, and in some cases has proven to influence certain purchases, French music stimulating French wine sales, for example. Music should follow the natural rhythms of the day—not too frenetic in the morning, building more energy as the day goes along. It should not offend or draw attention to itself. Chain saw guitars are out. I prefer instrumentals because you don’t stop to listen to the words. Light classical music like Mozart and Vivaldi are more appropriate for shopping than Mahler and Richard Strauss. Store music isn’t for the people who work there, it’s for customers. It’s another way to provide an attractive and subliminally stimulating environment for people who shop there.
Have you sneezed while peeing?
That's what those spots on the wall are...

You have always employed a lot of women in your store, on purpose or fluke?

I love women. I always have. That’s why I’ve been married four times. Women are good communicators and don’t intimidate customers as much as the typical head-up-his-ass, know-it-alls you usually find clerking wine shops. They work harder than most men and are more creative. Besides, every once in a long while, I get some accidental boobage from turning the wrong way at the right time. I dream about it afterward.

What three things would you say you are the most proud of as the owner of The Wine Country?

I’m proud when a stranger comes up to me on the street and thanks me for simply giving them a good wine store. I’m prouder when a customer walks past me to ask the advice of one of my staff members. I’m proudest when I beat Trader Joe’s in a reader’s poll of the best place to buy wine in Long Beach. Which is yet to happen, by the way.

Do you read any wine magazines?

Only when I’m waiting to get my teeth cleaned at the dentist’s office.

Your want to have caramel popcorn at the shop, customer-inspired or it’s-a-snack-I-want-inspired?

To me, caramel popcorn is one of the great joys of life. Isn’t it so for everyone? Doesn’t everyone like what I like?

How often do you read my posts and cringe?

I wish you wouldn’t drop the F-bomb for punctuation. I’d have you use it very sparingly and only when you need to go nuclear. Other than that, I’m an admirer of your extraordinary gifts, wherever they take us readers.

Now I know you and I drink more white wine than red for the most part, this is something you rarely mention in the pages of your newsletter….how come? Do you believe that consumers are biased or somehow believe that red wine is serious wine and white wines are not?

I hadn’t noticed I was neglecting white wine, since I’m the store’s designated German wine writer. In a recent issue I had an entire sidebar praising the profound pleasures of the affordable Manciat-Poncet Macon-Charnay. In the store I often show customers the white wines I drink when I first come home from work and my favorite white wine to serve with Oeufs en Meurette (Azo’s Petit Chablis).
As for the red wine hierarchy, do people really think that wines with names like “Sin Zin,” “Bad Dog Pinot” and “Bitch Grenache” are more serious than Touraine Sauvignon?
There have always been biases in wine and most of them are due to too little information or sweeping generalizations formed in bygone eras. Biases, by definition, aren’t fair. And I’ve read the asinine slogan, “All wine would be red if they could.” Do you think a Bernkasteler Doctor really wants to be red?
Still, red wine offers more stuff, and there are people who want a lot of stuff in their wine.
People who reject an entire class of wine—like white wine—are a bit like people who only listen to one kind of music. They may be sweet as hell, but boring as a fence post at the dinner table. And dinner is where white wine can really make a difference.
I drink certain types of white wine, but not the type that most restaurants and banquets serve. I completely understand people who say they never drink white wine if all they’ve experienced is cheap Chardonnay. Or expensive, oaky, buttermilk-y Chardonnay. I’m sure that if most of them spent a month living with Chablis, Sancerre and Vouvray they’d change their attitude toward white wine.
And maybe not.

Zinfandel people: crazy or just drunk?

This is a subject I’ve studied and written about for a very long time. To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Zin drinkers, they are different from you and me.” They are superhuman. And it is still surprising to see petite women pounding down glasses of high-alcohol Zinfandel, which goes on more than I realized. They are truly great women.

What would you say is the most eye opening thing you have learned by dealing with the end consumer in the wine world?

There is no substitute for human connection, especially when it comes to wine. At its best, wine is a shared experience. And wine people are more generous, cultivated and intelligent than beer people. Just ask one. And all the push-ups nowadays are pretty eye-opening.

This interview has been hard for me….can you tell?

What else is hard for you?

How often on an average day would you say you think about boobies?

I never think about boobs except when I see a woman. I try not to stare, but sometimes they get the best of me.
Now let me ask you a question. Do you think cleavage is fair? “Here you are, fellas. I got these magnificent babies, but if I catch you looking at ‘em, you’re toast.” Every impulse in my body tells me I want to dive right in there, but I’d get in serious trouble. Is that justice?

You are aware that sometimes women just get cranky, it’s not all hormones….right?

It has taken me 60 years to answer that question and I think I’m getting close.

I don’t think in all the years I have known you that I have ever seen you dance, what up with that?

I think it was George Carlin who said that the most oppressed people in society make the best dancers. It’s a great release and a joyous way for non-musicians to express themselves to music. Dancing is fine for people who like to sweat, but I never like to sweat. Also, you have to practice to be good at it. And practice makes me sweat, so there you are.
If you’re talking slow dancing, that’s another subject. (See boobies, above.)

Boxers or Briefs?

Briefs. My package needs the support.

Vacation; Lodi or Somali?

Wherever you don’t have to get shots first.

If I told you that you will forever be one of the most important, generous and life changing men in my life would you share a bottle of Sancerre with me?

Sure I will! Will you share some goat cheese with me?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Inspired By My Elders...

If it's good enough for Heimoff then it's good enough for me....


Ink, I'm sharing my ink....damn I must be seriously blocked and some junk...


Now I know Steve provided some compelling verbage with his ink sharing...yeah all I can add is please forgive the Bedazzled jeans, they fit great and I always wear a shirt that covers all that bling. Try and ignore the stretchmarks and yes that is a magnum....

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Your Wine Fool....

So after making a complete jackass out of myself; both at my important dinner and then in retelling of my jackassery here, it got me thinking of some of my most painful or embarrassing wine moments of all time. Now I have only been doing this wine thang for about fourteen years so there are only about two thousand times I have humiliated myself but I figured rather than make some shit up in honor of this holiday of hilarity I thought I might as well stay true to the spirit of Samantha Sans Dosage and offer myself up to the sacrificial gods of foolishness. Now some of these may not involve wine directly, they may have happened on a buying trip or as is often the case…after too much wine but in the interest of time I will keep it to wine or The Wine Country related junk.

My first trip to France was in March of 2003. It was a twenty five day trip that I was dreading, terrified of taking and was in no way emotionally prepared for. So how better to ready yourself the night before such a trip? Pack maybe? No too practical. Spend quality time with the family you will be away from for the longest time you have ever been apart? Nope too touchy feely. Organize your carryon, fill it with things to keep you occupied for a eleven hour flight? Yeah, not that wise. No this ever stable chick got stinking drunk, drank a bottle and a half of Champagne by myself….on a too-nervous-to-eat stomach. So imagine my puffy, head thumping dismay the next morning when I found that the clothes that I was packing…for the twenty five day trip to chilly France, would not fit in the two bags I had. Hubby made a quick dash to Target and got me two slightly larger bags that I was able to stuff my fat girl winter clothes in…yay.

To try and quiet the spinning and pounding, both anxiety and booze induced I opted for the only sane cure…more booze on the plane of course. Sipping, nodding, slurping, squeezing my chunky ass in and out of my seat, more sipping and I managed to finally drift off to sleep….about twenty minutes before we landed at Charles De Gaulle, awesome. Stumbled off the plane and immediately lit a cigarette in the airport, this was France they all smoke here….um, yeah not so much. I stood there with my fearless leader Michael Sullivan looking at me like I must be “challenged” as I puffed away while leaning on a No Smoking sign. Found the nearest trashcan and after a final, “Oh my Gawd I needed that” puff I extinguished my cigarette and made my way to the baggage claim with the rest of my group.

As the plane booze and sleep deprivation retardation set in I began my first bout of insecurity based paranoia that would visit me often during that trip. I tried to steady myself, stand straight and act as if I had not been saturated for the past twenty four hours, these fancy pants wine folks were eyeballing me…wondering what I was doing on such a trip, (ya know because I was their biggest concern…fuck insecurity is kind of arrogant no?) wondering if I was drunk or just goofy. I watched as they hoisted their sizable bags from the revolving belt and felt my heart race when I didn’t see my bags comin’ round the bend. I felt the first trickle of sweat slip down my lower back after ten minutes and was in a full on flop sweat after the next ten…where the hell were MY bags?! “You sure those aren’t yours Sam?” Michael asked after watching like four bags roll around on the belt for the umpteenth time. “Um no. I know what my bags look like and those aren’t them” I snapped in a “shit my buzz is gone and I feel like ass” tone and began looking around for the little office where you go when your shit is missing. I was near tears when Michael stepped up to the orphan bags and checked the tags, that was the first time of many I would see the head cocked “Are you serious?” face from Michael. He pulled my bags off the belt and gave me a long stare before saying, “This should be fun”….fantastic start.

After one night in Paris we were off to our one stop in Champagne, Agrapart. I was still hazy as hell, not from booze but from pure physical and emotional exhaustion when we stepped into the cellar at Agrapart. My eyes glazed over as Michael and Pascal chatted away in French, my heart just wasn’t in it and my bits were beginning to freeze. My nose felt like it was stuffed and I watched as big plumes of white air came huffing warm from my lips and into the icy air, I was mesmerized as I watched them drift away from me and seemingly disappear into the frosty air that surrounded me. After tasting through the base wines used to make their lovely Champagnes we were escorted to the much warmer tasting room to taste some finished wines. I shuffled behind my group and found a small area of the tasting bar to rest my notebook upon so I could take proper notes. I brought that first glass of much wanted, long awaited Champagne to my nose and took a deep, powerful sniff….so here’s the thing, not as cold there in the tasting room and the force with which I took that first sniff…the kind of sniff that was required in the icy cellar….with the base wine, tad too aggressive. I literally sucked bubbles and wine right up my nose which induced a couching, and gagging fit that had me hunched over and fearing I was going to bring up my breakfast baguette or wiz myself, not sure which would have been worse. Day two and Michael face number two…rad.

Couple of days in and we are in a tiny little bistro in Beaune for lunch. I was feeling more rested and a bit more comfortable in my skin. I was sporting my “No one told me not to” white sneakers and they were wearing the splatters from me spitting some of the world’s most amazing wines on the cellar floors from whence they came…Clos Vougeot, I had Clos Vougeot stains on my kicks. So this afternoon I thought it was time to try and take my lunch ordering into my own hands, I didn’t read a word of French but figured that everything I had so far, (blood sausage that was forced on me that first night in Paris not withstanding) was pretty damn good, how hard could this be? Thankfully there was plenty of Raveneau Chablis to wash down my sliced pig snout with a side of lentils….dude.

Had two shining moments while visiting Eric Bordelet who arguably makes the world’s finest Ciders. “Eric is running late so feel free to take some time to decompress and just relax” Michael told us as we mulled around outside the car at the Bordelet estate. As we all wandered off to find a place to chill Michael called out, “Be sure to watch out of you should choose to sprawl out on the grass, the stinging nettles around here are pretty fierce”. Not sure what it was I heard, maybe it was just, “Grass” that sent me to a nice sunny spot of lush green where I set about stretching out, lacing my fingers behind my head and resting my travel weary body beneath the sun. After about four minutes the burning started and from there…it just got worse. “Um, Michael…if someone were to stumble upon some of that nettle junk what would it look like?” I asked trying desperately to conceal my flaming hands, “The skin would be all red, bumpy and burn like hell” he answered. I flipped my hands out in front of him to hear, “Yup, just like that. Nicely done”…Michael look number fifteen.

Later in the evening that same day, my hands somewhat healed we met Eric Bordelet for dinner at the restaurant that was located in our rather swanky hotel. I was in full on party mode at dinner seeing as we didn’t need to travel to far to make it back to our rooms and still recovering from the sting of my idiocy I figured what the hell. That was until I felt that brick wall of “Holy shit, I’m hammered” fall upon me and I decided it was time to say goodnight. Now I’m not sure if I have ever mentioned my direction deficiency before but I was born without a sense of direction….seriously cannot find my way out of a paper bag, add a bunch of wine and Calvados and I’m basically fucked. But I was a world traveler now, been weaving my way, (led that means I had been led) throughout France surely I could find my way to my damn room…..sigh. After slinking around in the belly of the hotel, winding up back in the restaurant for the third time my fellow female road buddy took pity on me and helped me find my room. Got the call in the morning, “Shall we send a Sherpa or will you be able to find the car?”….sigh.

While sitting at a rather awkward dinner with some people that I hardly knew I watched the evening turn from fun wine night to full on political debate. Things were beginning to get really ugly and I found that the bottle of L’Hortus Rose I had brought was getting dangerously low, I either needed to defuse the situation, (something I can be good at) or get my hands on another bottle of something just to untie the knot that was starting to form in my gut. I didn’t really know these people, they invited me because I was like a wine person and stuff and there I sat quietly as this casual get together became a full on fire and brimstone argument. I poured the last little bit of Rose in my glass, primed up my proper wine professional self and waited for just the right moment to ask, “So the butt, exit only or revolving door of fun?”….situation defused and you guessed it, I was never invited back.

So much jackassery so little time.
Need to ready myself for work and who knows maybe I’ll have a Part II list by the time I come home today….