So I am readying myself to stand in front of a group of, (hard swallow) 25 people and co-host an Introduction to French Wine class. I am always a complete basket case before one of these events…nervous, tummy all flippy and just a general sense of doom. I can bear my soul, my heart, shit even parts of my body here but make me stand in front of a group and my mind is squishy and I am unsure if I am going to like hurl or pee myself. Really fantastic feeling I assure you.
Things have gotten better since Randy started helping me lead the classes; I feel at home when he is near me and I think there is a rather fun vibe between the two of us. Our banter flows naturally; we disagree on certain things and wholly agree on others. This helps, it really does but the whole standing in front of people thing, well I am just never going to get used to that.
So I am standing out back, having a cigarette before I face my firing squad and I feel something poking the inner part of my upper right arm. I ignore it at first, just too wrapped up to think much about it but the prodding continues and so I begin to investigate. Now I am not a picker by nature, I keep my fingers out of my nose and my jeans are always so damn big that my undies are never wedged where they ought not be, but I do have one picker issue…my goddamn bra!
I am top heavy, always busting out and I know I should be sized for a bigger bra but there is just a certain line that I so do not want to cross…anything beyond the first four letters of the alphabet and I am terribly uncomfortable. So I am standing out back with this obnoxious poking bugging the holy crap out of me so I start to investigate. Slipping my hand inside my shirt, pushing my breast around…my head craned and buried in my shirt. So it turns out the right side of my bra, (of course the one that holds the bigger of my two big breasts…ugh) has pretty much succumb. Just quit and crunched down upon itself…fantastic. So while I futz with myself trying my best to rebuild or bendy my bra to at least get me though I see a face. A face in the car right next to where I was standing….the car I assumed was empty.
Awkward moment of me trying to smooth out my shirt and pretend nothing happened before flicking my cigarette and going back inside….even bigger awkward moment when that face walks in the front door to check in for my class. Oh goddamn it. Now not only do I have to stand in front of 25 people I need to stand in front of one that just watched me give myself what looked like a breast exam.
Years ago we had a buyer at the store, a funny guy with an amazing gift for remembering all the shit I tend to forget; where the vineyard is, who the winemaker is, (now in my defense in my department this is almost always a family member so not that important to make stick…friggin’ name is there on the label and stuff) the exact percentage on each and every blended wine he had. So the thing was, as charming and talented as this cat was…he was a total dick. Rude to customers and down-right hateful to sales reps and winery representatives. It was gruesome to watch, standing by as he would almost gleefully tell a winemaker that his or her wines were no good, or worse. I never got that and I spent a good chunk of the time he was with us playing cheerleader in an effort to soothe hurt feelings and calm the waters. It was ugly, that part of him was truly ugly and I just never understood why he got off on being such a tool. I know he was not the only one, there seems or seemed, (sounds like things have changed a bit) to be a big chunk of wine buyers that think it’s cool to be shitty to people….
Last month I started writing a post about a perfect day of tasting. Not sure what distracted me from finishing it other than it was probably too short and maybe just a tad too Pollyanna for this place. I had spent the afternoon tasting with my Kermit Lynch rep Kate. Now to start off I adore running through just about all of Kermit’s wines, that is not to say I love them all but even the wines I don’t like are at the very least interesting, well made and have character. So I am always open to meeting with Kate, wines that make me think and a sales rep that is not only wicked cool but…well she’s just sexy as hell. Cool vintage look, mysterious blue stripe tattoo running down her arm, a sweet shyness that draws you close and just when you are feeling almost protective of her she hits you with a fiercely snarky swipe or remarkably astute comment about the wine we are tasting. She knows her shit, has a palate very similar to mine and she is just a pleasure to be around. Spending an hour or two tasting through Kermit’s new releases while chatting with a cat as cool as Kate, well that is a pretty damn fine afternoon spent. The conversation is stimulating and the wines are the kind that inspire, inspire me to think of my customers, think of the other wines I have in the same category and best of all….they inspire me to swallow.
The same is true of my appointments with Chuck, my Beaune Imports rep. The wines are thrilling, always vibrant, affordable (sometimes where the Kermit wines break my heart….but less so as of late) speak to my inner geek that loves wines that taste like where they came from and to top it off Chuck feels like family. I walk away from those appointments all bubbly and reminded why I do what I do, the love of wine and people.
There are however the times when it works the other way. When someone just rubs me the wrong way and I have to make a very concerted effort to not hold that against the wines. I get the smug jackholes that try to “explain” French wine to me, always with an exaggerated over pronunciation of the French names, often with a pinched up face and arched eyebrows over the eyes that are locked on me trying to gauge whether or not I am impressed….I am not. I get the guys that know dick about French wines but try and fake it by responding to my not wanting to taste a late picked Vouvray from a terrible vintage by saying, “2003 was the best vintage in the Loire Valley in twenty years. What your customers don’t like good wine?” shit like that is an automatic fail in the trustworthy department and will likely create a roadblock in getting another appointment for a bit. I get the over talkers, the ones that yammer away at me while I am trying to evaluate the wine in my glass, not a deal breaker but plenty annoying, as are the “Tell me what you think of this wine. What flavors are you getting from it?” dudes. Look I’m not a buddy and we are not sharing a bottle here, I’m working and have neither the time nor the desire to share my feelings with you. May sound harsh but I need to focus on the wines not geek out with some dude I wouldn’t likely be sharing a bottle with anyway. In these situations I struggle but do my best to ignore the sand-in-the-underpants feeling and just taste the wines, see if they have a place in the store and move on. Not my favorite kind of appointment but not the worst.
The worst is when I absolutely love the sales rep but deplore their wines. Oh man is that a heartbreaker. The wine business is kind of a industry full of recycled humans; people that jump from company to company either by choice or necessity and they show up with their new business cards and catalogs wanting to show their old friend their new wines…..not always a good thing. Had one of these the other day and as a woman that rarely feels uncomfortable sitting down to a tasting appointment this one, well this one had me futzing about and delaying planting my chunky ass down in that chair for as long as I possibly could.
I first met Laurent about two years ago when he was working for a tiny little importer based in the Bay Area. I had been working with the owner who would fly down once every couple months and meet with me but he had hired Laurent to work the Southern California market. My first meeting went extremely well, I already knew and liked the wines and he was, (still is) um, well he’s gorgeous. We got along like we had known each other for years, he has that French dude thing, the thing that finds me shocking but funny and I loved tasting his little Rhone wines while cracking his ass up. It was always a bummer for the two of us when we had run through the day’s lineup and had to say goodbye. Well as I mentioned the book he was selling was tiny, too tiny and Laurent simply could not make a living selling just those wines so he took on another book to supplement his income…..well Tiny Importer was not having it so they let him go. Really too bad but I can see both sides of that coin; the importer wanting him to focus solely on his portfolio and Laurent not having enough wine to sell in order to make a living. A sad but not at all uncommon thing in this business and one of the really difficult things for people like me in that situation is when the new book…..well when it really sucks.
Laurent is a Frenchman so when he brought me a catalog from the new company he was working for I could not help but cringe. “Um, what do you think of the French wines in this book?” I asked my dear friend and was impressed when he was willing to admit, “Not too much” but he assured me he was going to work with the importer on getting better French wines and would not waste my time until that started happening. The new book had wines from all over so I still got to see my adorable French buddy from time to time when he would visit some of the other buyers at The Wine Country. We set up two appointments and as it had always been with that book I hated all the wines. They were just the worst kind of French wines; boring, dirty, thin and lacking anything at all compelling. There are a billion of these kind of French portfolios, unscrupulous Frenchmen that prey on peoples lack of experience when it comes to French wines. They sell them to rinky dink liquor stores and use their contacts in French restaurants to dump this insipid crap on unsuspecting diners that assume a French restaurant is going to have good French wines. That shit right there ends up making my job just that much harder as I have to try and convince people that not all French wines taste like watered down dirt. Grumble…..
It had been awhile since my last meeting with Laurent so I agreed to meet with him but was fearful that I would have to look my friend in the face and reject him once again. As sat there nervously he poured me the first wine, a little stainless Chardonnay from the South of France. I picked up the glass feeling much like you do when you have to touch your car door during the Santa Ana winds, knowing you are going to get that, “Don’t touch that” shock. I was instantly soothed when I smelled a fresh blast of clean fruit, my shoulders softened and I gave Laurent a little grin before bringing the wine to my lips. Took a sip and honestly found the wine to be pretty nice, nothing super exciting but pleasant enough….just as a little Chardonnay from Languedoc should be. Wrote a few notes and then asked him the price….right back to being discouraged. “It’s $12.00 but there is a 10% discount when you buy five cases” he told me. I adore him but I could not help but look at him as if he had just taken a poo on the tasting room floor. I have Burgundies that retail for close to that price, Petit Chablis and wines from the Maconnais, wines far superior in pedigree and in flavor…what the hell were they thinking?
I mentioned that it seemed a little steep for the region and honestly, for what was in the bottle, “If it retailed for $10.00 then I could see it but I can’t expect my customers to pay like $15.00 for a VdP Chard” I said in as soft and friendly tone as I could muster. “Well, we have been doing really well with it” he replied in a tone that let me know that he was less than pleased with me. As we tasted through the rest of the wines he brought I could see why, that little wine was not only the best of the bunch it was by far the least expensive. All the wines were aromatically stunted, astonishingly thin and boring as hell. Not a chance, there was not a chance I would bring any of them in even if they retailed for ten dollars, they were that bad and friendship or not I was not going to subject my customers to what would ultimately be disappointment. Laurent might be cute but no one is cute enough for me to lower my standards for.
This business is very much about relationships, between supplier, importers, buyers and most importantly for us, the consumer. As important as I think it is to always be supportive and pleasant with our wholesalers it is most important for me to be faithful to the people that walk in the front door of The Wine Country and trust that we have found the most interesting and delicious wines in whatever price point they are willing and comfortable to spend. If I let my buddy buddy relationships dictate my purchasing rather than my palate then I am going to lose the only thing that makes our store different than any liquor store or box store….our credibility, just cannot think of any friendship that is worth that.
The bar has been reset and the good news, lower than ever before!
Wonder if "Fluery" is some sub-region of Fleurie and if Georges Dubouef is any relation to the Gallo of Beaujolais....the one that makes those banana flavored (or used to) Beaujolais, Georges Duboeuf? Fantastic.....
I had been hearing it in his voice; in the posts on facebook, the text messages and the occasional emails, my son was aching for a piece of home. His last visit home was the first time he flat out told me that he was not planning on staying in Louisville. He loved the school, the town and had made some of the closest friends he has ever had but….it just wasn’t home and he felt he needed to be closer to his family. So I guess it should have come as no big surprise when I spun around in the tiny footwear isle of Dick’s Sporting Goods and saw my son, my now 21 year old son running at me full speed, shoulders low and arms in his signature, “I’m gonna pick you up Ma” pose. I saw the flash of his big beautiful smile just seconds before his strong arms were constricting around my neck. Longest I have had my son in my arms since he was small enough for me to carry him. Trying my best to keep both of us from losing it I just whispered, “Well it’s about goddamn time”
As luck would have it we got there just in time for his dinner break so we were able to take him for a quick bite before checking into our hotel and on to my next blogger meeting. I had noticed a really nice looking sandwich on one of Tom’s facebook posts and seeing as I had not always had the best of luck with dining on my earlier visits to Louisville, (not that it was ever a mission or I really even looked that hard) I commented on the photo asking where he was eating. He sent me a message telling me that if I were coming to town he would like to meet for a glass of wine. Kind of threw me a bit as I didn’t even really think Tom, (Louisville Juice) really read my blog so I couldn’t imagine why he wanted to meet me but….hell I am always up for meeting new people, and of course a glass of wine so I wrote back telling him I would love to.
Dropped off our bags plugged in my laptop and sent Tom a message that I was in and running a few minutes late. He wrote back that it was not a problem and that he would wait at L & N Wine Bar and Bistro for me which as luck would have it was about ten minutes away from my hotel. Asked the hubby if he had gotten directions and after being assured that he had we were in the party van and on our way. Now it was less than two turns in before the hubby and his girlfriend were in yet another spat, shit. We arrived a bit late, me annoyed and the hubby still huffy at his woman but I was ready for a glass of wine and to meet yet another fellow wine blogger.
Tom was very gracious, direct and funny and set about making the snacks start flowing as he had another engagement in about an hour. We talked about blogging much more than Ben and Michael did which made sense seeing as he and I have never really “spoken” outside the occasional comment on facebook and the couple of times I commented on his blog after he posted a link to one of my um…..well one of my more saucy pieces. I felt instantly comfortable and it was really interesting to meet with someone that had very different ideas about wine blogging. He much more interested in linking to other pieces he likes and me content to just ramble alone in my little bubble. Great snacks, fun conversation and a couple of lovely little glasses of white wine….neither of which I can remember now, and we were saying goodbye and telling each other how we must do this again next time I am in town, Would love to and Thank you for the nibbles and chat Tom, had a great time.
Jeremy met us in the lobby of our hotel when he got off work and we hit up 4th Street Live, the kind of flashy “hotspot” or more touristy area of downtown to buy him his first legal drink…well with us anyway. He picked a Mexican themed bar first so the first drink was a margarita and a shot of Don Julio 1942, one of our favorites. I sat there clinking glasses with my baby, the man that will always be my baby and watched as he looked shocked at how delicious the tequila was. Guess it was a far cry from the tequila he would have been drinking had he been drinking underage. We walked out of the getting-louder-by-the-second cantina, the sweet almost vanilla ice cream like flavor of the Don Julio still clinging to my lips and sides of my mouth and headed to the next spot. The Makers Mark Lounge where we treated him to a Makers and Coke with a side of Pappy Van Winkle 15. Don’t think I have ever had a Bourbon so deep and inviting, reminded me of Kelt Cognac but with a little more caramel and sweetness and a creamier finish. We got caught up, laughed lots and made plans to meet for lunch the next day before picking up Amy & Sexy Bitch from the airport.
Spent the afternoon together laughing, Jeremy and I falling right back into our rhythm cracking on each other but especially picking on Call-o….he makes it easy at times and when he damn near choked on a wasabi pea at the swankiest bar in Louisville, (Seelbach Hilton) and spent like fifteen minutes coughing….well we didn’t have to say a word. We just looked from each other back at him and between coughs Call-o would squeeze out, “Would you two shut up”. Picked up Amy & Roger from there airport and headed right back to 4th Street, seemed a perfect fit for the group and that was where things like this happened…..
A quick stop off at Jeremy’s local bar….amazing all the regular spots the kid was able to find in the three days between when he turned twenty-one and our arrival, mad skills that kid and oh so committed. A couple of his friends met us there and a very cute little twenty-five year old girl bought us a shot just for being Jeremy’s parents….strange feeling that, taking shots with kids that think you are awesome parents. The act alone making you wonder how true that is.
Up early the next morning, slow moving but nothing too hateful, and on the road for the one hour drive out into Bourbon country. We arranged for a VIP tour of Buffalo Trace and I have to say if you are ever going to visit the area it is well worth the drive. Old, historic, amazingly friendly and with a dizzying array of truly fantastic Bourbons. We climbed the old rickety walkways, peaked into the giant fermentors, tasted White Dog Mash #1 which is the spirit before it is aged and becomes Bourbon…so um, moonshine and were treated to a tasting of Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare and their special Buffalo Cream. We were treated wonderfully and learned more about Bourbon then I ever thought there was to know. Amazing visit.
Next thing I know we are sweating in Jeremy’s kitchen and a steady trickle of kids just kept coming through the door, the fridge being stuffed with beer, (Pabst of course) the freezer with booze and the crowd hovering in the kitchen growing by the minute. Once the food was on the table Jeremy made an announcement, asked his crowd to give Amy and I a round of applause…you can only imagine how much I loved that, and gave a quick speech about how much this night meant to him. I picked at my chicken scraps (wanted to make sure the kids got enough) and stood in awe of my sweet young man. Amy and I drank Domaine Dragon Rose with the meal, the soft round fruit a perfect partner to the garlicky meal. Sipped Azo Petit Chablis…one of our wines. Took long satisfying sips of a wine that feels like family…doughy, apple rich family that is and even took down a bottle of Michel Turgy Champagne which tasted full, sexy, weighty and just the thing to make me feel as if my heart may just burst wide open.
Had an amazing night, met some really fascinating kids that were bubbling with passion about politics, awareness, food and let’s not forget drinking. Sexy Bitch found out that he is no longer twenty-one and while he napped the kids taught me how to play beer pong. I love them for trying but this really is a stupid game. Guess I am just too damn old but I am not waiting for some dork to toss a plastic ball in a cup before I take a drink. I adored their patience and their wanting me to play with them but….no.
Left the kids to play, (was told the next day that we kind of wore them out….party ended not long after we left) dropped Amy and Sexy Bitch off at their hotel and found myself not sober but in no way drunk, snuggled into my bed feeling lit up and loved in a way only one person can make me…Jeremy, “about goddamn time”
Met Jeremy at his place in the morning where he made us all lunch before we got back on the road for the trek back to Nashville to catch our flight. I tried with all I had not to think about leaving, about not feeling those arms around me and the one thing that saved my ass…aside from the gin and tonic I made from the leftover freezer booze was knowing that he was coming home in just over a week. Our conversation shifted from the events of the evening before into talking about where he was thinking about attending grad school….another saving grace, closer to home. When we had used up each last second of time we had it was time to hit the road and I felt the knot in my throat growing. “I’ll walk you guys to the car” Jeremy announced and that was when I began swallowing really hard trying to dislodge the grapefruit that was growing in my throat. I cracked jokes, told him to think of things he wants to do when he comes home and as I was belting out my last little bit of camouflage the arms were once again constricting around my neck “I love you Da Momma” his voice a whisper with just a hint of a crack in it.
As I tossed my left leg in the party bus and leaned out to grab the handle I took one last look at the lean, tall frame of my once three pound tiny son, his back strong and straight with protruding shoulders and a deep groove running down the middle…walking back to the house where he lives but the place that is never going to really be home for him. He looked back at me his eyes full, watery, sad and wearing my…wearing our separation all over them. In all the years we have been doing this goodbye dance I have never seen that look before, never even seen him look back before. I let my eyes lock on his, gave him a wink and climbed in the car where Amy and I both lost our shit completely. Cried all the way to the Louisville airport where she and I held each other tight before she slipped behind the sliding door to board her flight to Dallas and we got back on the highway, off to the Nashville airport and on our way home……
“This is eggplant stuffed with goat cheese” there were other ingredients but the slapping together of my eyelashes and pounding in my chest muffled the voice of the chef as he proudly rattled off the list of goodies he lovingly loaded into one of the world’s creepiest textured vegetables. Eggplant, hate it…I really hate it. Not the flavor so much as the slimy texture and that somewhat tough purple band that holds it together…ewe. There are few things I dislike more, well aside from freaking goat cheese. Dude….
It was at a dinner, the dinner that was put together in part because of my visit to a town that had everyone saying, “You’re going where in July?!” A dinner where I was going to meet “Perfect strangers” that were part of this silly wine blog thing that I do. A bunch of odd components and as I sliced into that “bunch of icky stuff sitting atop a slippery veggie” while sitting around a table full of people I had never met before, trying to not make the gag face as I brought the forkful of “Please don’t let me hork this back up onto my plate” to my lips….the weight of my brow forcing my eyes to take on a Basset Hound like droop. The back of my throat filling with saliva, my chest tight and my puppy eyes scanning the yard for a receptacle should the retching begin….the fork felt heavy on my bottom lip and I found myself swallowing really hard and taking deep sniffs through my nostrils in an almost meditative rhythm. I took my final exhale and flipped the fork tossing the eggplant and goat cheese nightmare onto my palate.
Smoky, meaty, green olive tartness with this wicked sexy balance of crunch and cream, (guessing the creamy part was the cheese but I chose not to think about it) and as for the vessel? Well when was the last time you noticed a chair that was cradling something you couldn’t wait to put your mouth on? Yeah, didn’t taste or even notice the damn eggplant. This one dish was absolutely one of the best things I put in my mouth the whole trip. A dish that freaked me out, a dish that I would never had tasted if given the option…if I had not been sitting at a small gathering with the person that made it….in part because I was there. A dish that was so much more than its parts…it took each thing in there to make it what it was, a mind changing dish.
Each time I thought about this little trip of mine I thought about that dish. Not just because it was delicious…absolutely delicious, but because it seemed like a perfect metaphor or the tip of a needle that wove a complex but thrilling thread that has stitched itself….it’s voices, smells, laughter, faces….memories into this silly chick that finds herself here now, thumping away on her laptop….missing everyone. Grateful to everyone.
I took a sizeable ration of crap from quite a few people when I told them where I was going for vacation this year. I got the horrified faces of those that could not comprehend what would compel me to travel to the south in the summer….even more “Say Wha?!” faces when I told them I was taking a few extra days to visit with (gasp….chuckle) blogging friends. Sure some could understand that I was visiting my son, their heads would do that “Ohhh I see” nod, their eyes sympathetic and mouths slightly pouty to show that they felt sorry for me. I could kind of understand but much like that eggplant dish….I could never know how wonderful it could be if I didn’t take that first bite.
After taking my much needed-too-many-martinis-at-lunch nap after my tour of Memphis ala Kelly, I woke still feeling fuzzy, reapplied my makeup and headed out to meet up with Michael and Kelly for….more cocktails. When we stepped into the Madison Hotel in downtown Memphis I felt like I was in the middle of a Steinbeck novel. White walls, super high vaulted ceiling, stark white but defined molding, low lights and giant slow moving fans. Walking in from the sweltering and heavy air, the hairs at the base of my neck sticking to skin, into this vintage postcard looking space I forgot for a moment where I was, what year it was. I stood there mystified and almost believing that those slow, groaning monster fans where drying my skin…cooling my pink cheeks. Of course it was the raging air conditioner that stopped those beads of sweat from slipping down the small of back, drying them into little salty patches on my skin but for just a second….I was standing in the middle of a novel.
Far too many drinks and just enough food later we were back at Kelly and Michael’s sipping the last little bits of wine left over from the night before. Picking up bottles, pouring little splashes in the glass…swirl, sniff, taste and conversation about how much they had either lost or gained since the night before. The Gruner had lost a bunch of acidity, (too much for my liking) the Chateauneuf-du-Pape had lost some wildness but gained a fierce spice and the Clos Rougeard Samur-Champigny had shed its funk and was showing dark red fruit with a plump but tangy finish. Somewhere in my haze I was able to look across the table at Michael, see the sweet face….the man that had been sharing himself with me, over the web but still sharing, for years…..the sum of the past two nights….far greater than its parts.
Woke the next morning truly feeling two nights of over indulgence, ass….I felt like ass. I pounded water like my life depended on it, which it may have and tried to shake my funky mood as we packed and loaded the car before the long drive back to Nashville. We somehow remembered a breakfast joint that Michael and Kelly told us we had to try and while my husband fought with his girlfriend, (Bing navigation system…..she is one mouthy bitch and she is often wrong. No wonder he loves her right?) I cranked the AC and tried desperately not to think about the long haul we still had ahead of us. The hubby was huffing and puffing, rolling his eyes and grumbling at his girlfriend but he was able to find Bryant’s. I was grumpy, sweaty and starving when we walked up to the counter, in no mood to try and pick what I wanted to eat so I was elated to see that they had a breakfast sampler. No matter that I hate grits, white gravy and have never been a biscuit eater, I didn’t want to have to think so the sampler it was.
Three eggs, pork tenderloin, sausage, two pieces of bacon, ham, potato cake, a pot of grits, a cup of white gravy (shudder) and not one, not two but three biscuits. Fuck. There was not a chance in hell I would be able to conquer the mammoth plate of food but at least I could take a few bites of everything….yes even the vile white, thick, brown flecked goo, and have a base in my tummy to get me through till Nashville. I have to say the meats were a little too cooked for me, not their fault just a preference of mine but the eggs were freaking perfectly cooked and that potato thing, um damn. I was wishing I had toast because you know…I needed more food, to sop up my oozing yolks but figured the biscuits would do in a pinch. I picked one up and I swear it felt like it weighed a full pound. I pulled it in half lengthwise and was taken aback that where most biscuits kind of crumble this one tore into two clean pieces. I spread a little butter on one of the half pound pieces and with trepidation brought it to my lips. My teeth sunk clean through as if the thing was made of air and it positively melted in my mouth…unreal. I shot my husband the first perky Sam face of the day and he immediately grabbed a biscuit and dunked it into his cup of gravy goo. We sat there silent, he scooping heaping wads of sausage gravy, (oh and I still hate that junk by the way…it’s just wrong) and me slipping slices of egg on top of the most perfect biscuit either of us had ever tasted. Ever.
We rolled into Nashville and neither of us really had the energy or heart to see the sights. Nashville was always meant to be a stopping off point for this trip so not getting to really see it didn’t bother us much. We checked into the hotel and grumpy Sam got even grumpier when she found out the internet was down and would likely be down for most of the night. Luckily Call-o can get the internet on his phone so we were able to find a neighborhood pizza joint for dinner. Some tapenade, white been dip, couple of slices of pizza and one beer later we were back in the room and so freaking ready to crash. So not only was the internet down so was our goddamn toilet…awesome. Called the front desk to hear, “yeah all our lines are down so we can’t really call a maintenance guy. Can you hold out until morning?”…um could you?! Call-o was able to procure a plunger but it turned out whatever ailed our potty had seemed to fix itself. I landed in bed with a hard thud, boozed out and in need of a good night’s sleep….so yeah when you are about to see your son after far too many months apart, well you get a little excited. Did not sleep more than two hours that night. No matter I was hangover free and going to see my baby!
Could not get in the car fast enough the next morning. Another long drive but again there was to be something truly magical at the end of it. Skipped breakfast to get some of the driving behind us but pulled off the highway once again when Call-o spotted a Cracker Barrel….I swear that hashbrown casserole has a Jedi like hold on his ass. Our tummies full of breakfast, the party van full of gas we hopped back on the highway and headed for Louisville. As the car hummed along I started thinking….
Had I not started blogging, had I not poured my heart out, had I not befriended “Perfect strangers” over the internet…had I not taken this “Bite” I would never have seen that picturesque hotel and had a Gatsby moment, the Statue of Liberation, the very spot where Martin Luther King was shot, been in a Target in Tennessee, rubbed my toes in the steamy post storm grass while woofing down eggplant and heard the voices connected to the keystrokes I had read a million times over. Vacation in Memphis in mid July may not be everyone’s cup of joe (not a tea girl) but….the things that met me there, the faces, the aromas, the sights….those unbelievably sweet people, that damn eggplant and those biscuits….the sum was by far greater than the parts.
“Wow, that’s wet” was all I could think to say when Call-o and I popped outside the Nashville airport doors for our post flight smoke. I stood there puddling and puffing more than ready to start the next leg of our journey encased in the much needed air-conditioning of our rental car/party bus. We arrived on Sunday evening and had been warned that Memphis would pretty much be closed by the time we made the drive from Nashville….oh and yes I am aware there is an airport in Memphis but there was a rental car issue, cost like three times more to rent a car in Memphis and drive to Louisville, the final leg of our trip. So Nashville it was, plus Call-o and I have never been to Nashville so we would be able to cross one more city off our list.
Loaded up the party bus, (um these minivan jobbies are pretty cool by the way) with our luggage and case of wine that I brought and headed out onto interstate forty agreeing to stop and eat as soon as we saw something, no matter that it was like three in the afternoon our time, I had been warned so I knew we had better get our grub on as soon as we could. Call-o spied a Cracker Barrel and pulled the party van off the freeway….sigh. We had been to Cracker Barrel before, for breakfast not sure what made me think, “Steak. I think steak is a fine choice” but trust me I was punished palate wise for such a ridiculous idea…should have taken that breakfast menu they offered. Live and learn right? Back on the highway feeling like I had giant chunks of crappy meat lodged between each and every one of my teeth we made the three hour drive into Memphis slowing only when the pounding rain made it impossible to see no matter how fast the wipers were flying.
Lugged the…well the luggage up to the hotel at around 9:30 on a steamy Memphis night and almost immediately sliced into the box of wine. Needed, needed a glass of Rose so badly it was almost as if my body was digging for water as I peeled through the cardboard layers of the shipping container. Call-o dashed down the hall to retrieve a bucket of ice while I was on my knees pulling out bottle after bottle looking for a Rose, that’s when it hit me….holy mother of all heartbreak, I didn’t pack a freaking wine opener! Call-o returned with his, “Look what I got you” swagger only to be met by a so not happy Sam face. Tired, feeling like I was covered in airplane stranger farts and sticky with no wine opener…pissed. I did however remember that I had snuck a bottle of Pastis in my case, Pastis with a twist off cap. Now God is big there in Memphis and I think I might have heard him that night, “Dig one layer further Yee Less Than Faithful One” that’s when I heard the angels sing. Well after a second glass, a bath and once I had my jammies on anyway.
Didn’t sleep all that well that first night. Never do in a strange place not to mention I was awoken at 6:00 am by lightning, roaring thunder and water pounding against our 7th floor window. Call-o on the other hand was knocked out which ended up being perfect as by the time he decided to get out of bed the storm was predicted to be just about over. We were both starving and made hitting up some BBQ the very first action of the day. Once fed and feeling the blood sugar come back into normal range we just drove around town, air conditioner fully cranked, and got a feel for the city. Pretty amazing that within a block you go from kinda hipster, artsy to desolate and impoverished. At home there is more of a “warning stretch” where you can feel you are getting closer to the dodgy part of town, not in Memphis it goes from, “Hey look how cute” to “Um, I think I don’t want to go any further down this street” I absolutely love getting to know a new city. One of my other favorite things to do in a new town….hit up the Target. Okay this is not so much a favorite thing as much as it is a running joke, I always forget something, always. This time I had packed a nearly empty bottle of conditioner and of course I was in need of a cork extractor so off to the Target we go. Got back to the hotel and began preparing for the real reason I was there, dinner with Michael Hughes (Midtown Stomp) and Ben Carter (Benito’s Wine Reviews) two fellow wine bloggers and two cats that I have come to adore….from afar.
I think the plan was hatched between Michael and I, just talking about how great it would be to meet each other after years of reading and commenting on each other’s blog and all the chatting on facebook. We just felt like we knew each other and it would be amazing to finally share a glass of wine face to face. I instantly thought of Ben as well, Ben is hands-down my longest reader and has gone above and beyond to help me, even designing the header to this blog for me. I had wanted to meet him for years and was thrilled when he said he would love to join us if I did indeed make it out his way. Could not wait.
I washed my face, reapplied the face junk and got dressed for my long awaited meeting and then, I got nervous as hell! Such a chick, I turned into such a chick about an hour before we were to be at Michael’s for dinner. I kept fidgeting, changing my clothes, trying on different necklaces…shit that I rarely do so therefore I do it poorly. Standing before the mirror wishing I had taken the time to like get plastic surgery or at the very least a new outfit, I sent Michael a text message confessing that I was a wreck. He lovingly responded, “Awww don’t be it’s going to be fun” and I was instantly soothed. I was never afraid that we wouldn’t have fun just stuck in that terrible fear that they may be disappointed in me in person. Like I said, total chick.
I barely had a chance to get out of the party van before Michael came bounding across the lawn, arms extended with a giant welcoming smile for me. Big tight hugs and “It’s so nice to finally meet you” and then I had my arms around Ben as well. Felt fantastic. We walked into Michael and Kelly’s home, warm and inviting with the swirls of savory aromas finding their way deep into my chest and within minutes I felt as if I had been there before, many times before. Standing there talking wine, weather, religion I had in fact been there before, maybe not with these cats but with other dear friends and this meeting felt just like that. So while we had never been in each other’s physical presence we had been reading each other so long that the voices just synced and all the awkward, at least for me was just gone.
We sat outside drinking everything from Champagne, Pouilly-Fume, Oregon Pinot Noir and Chateauneuf-du-Pape and eating the lovely meal Michael had prepared. Puppies at my feat, damp grass between my toes, melt-in-your-mouth lamb shanks, glasses of wine and Michael and Ben at my side, don’t think I could have dreamed up a more perfect scenario. Just as we had finished dinner the sky opened up and sent us all grabbling platters, bottles, plates and heading inside…..now this, this is where the night gets even more familiar to me. “So where we going after this?”
Next thing I know we are piling into the party van, well Michael and Kelly did Ben was smart enough or has been reading me enough to take his own car to Barie, the bar we were heading to for after dinner drinks. Very cute little joint that had a great selection of interesting cocktails and even had a tasting flight of Amaro! Ben said he was meeting us for one drink which I think may have turned into three and I of course was in full I-don’t-want-the-night-to-end mode….therefore super buzzy. Michael and Ben were both busy the next day so Kelly graciously and probably drunkenly agreed to meet us and show us around Memphis. Poor thing had to drag my hungover ass all over town, where we both agreed that cocktails would make this much easier….went on like that all day. See something, get a drink….see something else get a drink somewhere else. It was only after seeing the Lorraine Hotel that I knew I needed a nap, spent I was just spent. We dropped Kelly off at home making plans to meet again when Michael got home from work and Call-o and I were headed back to our room for some water and a much needed nap…..
“What a useless waste of space, if I should die before I wake” the words of Lauryn Hill, her raspy but precise voice groaning words of regret and self punishment. I chucked the CD in on my way home, a soundtrack that drags my range of emotion from elation to sorrow which is where Lauryn often takes me. The sentiment of this particular song pulls at this Irish woman’s core, well likely at the core of any people that have had the weight of parental, religious or societal oppression as a tool to install or impose guilt. I just so happen to be of a people that sin fantastically and I like to think that I have done my ancestors proud. Hard living, hard drinking, foul language and horny…yeah, sounds about right no?
“My guilty heart behaves so foolishly. This treason from within, that reasons with my sin, won’t be happy till it sees the death of me” …..Damn Lauryn. I’ve done too much of re-hashing of old stories as of late so I will refrain from bringing up what got me to this particular mantra that I live by but in short, I could be gone tomorrow and I would hate to, “go out” with a heart that is full of regret. I decided long ago to not be bound by the confines of anyone’s idea of what my life or behavior should be and in doing so I found that while some may worry that I am living my life too fast, others understand that life is in fact often far too short. You know those moments that you look back on and think, “Damn, I wish I would have” yeah well I have very few of those.
Life has seasoned me with the very real understanding that sometimes the light just goes out; dad dead at 26 and mom at 55. No warning, no illness, just gone. So much left unsaid, undone and never felt. I don’t know about you but thinking about being done without feeling all that can or could, well that threat seems far worse than any hangover, morning after conversation or little pang of fear of the unknown. I simply don’t want to wake one day and think, “Yeah I played by all the rules, played it safe and my whole life has been a spinning loop of Thursdays” as a matter of fact that scares me most of all.
So as I sit here the night before I board a plane, an act that I will confess makes me terribly nervous, I started thinking about the things I still ache to do. The things that I have yet to feel due to financial, timing or logistical constraints. All my sweet….and some not so sweet, little fantasies, the ones I drift off to sleep thinking about, the ones that chirp in my ear and tug at my heart, keep me fired up and full of desire. With Lauryn’s words still rolling around in my head, “What a useless waste of space if I should die before I wake” I thought of the things I would hate knowing I never got a chance to do.
I would regret never
Dancing with my son at his wedding
Holding my sister’s child
Spending a week in Champagne
Being in France with Amy
Drinking an aged Barolo….in Barolo
Playing one round of golf with my beloved husband, (his true love…not mine)
Making love on the deck of a sailboat at night
Spending an afternoon tasting wine with Ron Washam, two things I love
Laughing so hard I peed my pants….the previous might help with this one
Drinking a bottle of Montrachet
Having Tom Wark make me a cocktail
Tasted the perfect French fry
Feeling Charlie Olken’s lips on my cheek
Spending a week in Greece
Making The Wine Country the most successful wine shop in Southern California
Being able to just once look at myself and not feel like the ugliest woman in the room
Sharing a bottle of Pastis with John Kelly….in Beaune
Shaking Eric Asimov’s hand
Telling Chuck Morris that I truly adore him
Making Michael Sullivan laugh so hard he snorts wine out his nose
Finishing the books that Thomas and Chris sent me....their books
Meeting the people that read this silly crap I write….share a glass of wine with them
Making love over a barrel in a Burgundian cellar
Having my feet rubbed while I drink a bottle of Vogue Bonnes Mares
Had my true love drink red wine from the small of my back
Damn, better quit I could keep this up all night and I have some packing to do. By this time on Monday I will have checked a few of those reader meetings off my list.....see you Monday Benito and Michael!
Heading out the door to have dinner with some loved ones before my trip and I just happened to check my blog email.....melted.
I will not out you as you mentioned that you have your reasons for not posting comments but I have to tell you hearing, "You are right, you are not a writer you're a drug. I'm addicted and cannot stop checking to see if you have a new post up"....well that made my week.
Thank you Seriously I melted and now I am hoping I can find some time this evening so you have something to read. Needed that in the worst way! Giant Hugs Sam
So in the last addition of The Wine Country newsletter I secretly put some feelers out, wrote about some of my little geeky wines and waited to see if anyone would take the bait. They did. This was not as much of a “Let’s see if they go for it” thing as it was research. I’ve been wrestling with the idea of introducing some new wines to the store, these are not wines that you just toss on the racks and wait for people to grab them. Truthfully with wines this unusual just tossing them on a shelf could end up backfiring on me which is why I have been hesitant to bring them in….but I love them so.
So the thing that really did it for me, pushed me to pull the trigger, (aside from losing my mind while tasting one afternoon) was the overwhelming response to two of the wines in that last feature; the 2006 Jo Pithon Anjou, ($18.99) and the 2006 Domaine de la Charriere Jasnieres ($19.99). Two somewhat funky Loire wines made from Chenin Blanc that are not at all polished or really all that easy. These are wines with layers of complex flavors, lots of minerality and some fun funky stuff going on. People not only gave them a chance, they came back for more. I was astounded and encouraged by how much people seemed to adore the quirky nature of those little wines, made me wonder what kind of response we would get from some extremely “unusual” wines. I was still dangling the idea around in my head when I sat down with one of our sales reps one busy afternoon. Randy and I tasted through the wines and I knew it was time to quit “dangling” and put these wines in people’s mouths.
The region of Jura while gaining popularity with sommeliers’ and the ultra fanatic wine collectors of the world, is relatively unheard of in most circles and seeing as the region represents about 1% of France’s total wine production it is little wonder why. Jura is in fact France’s smallest wine region, it is located between Burgundy and Switzerland and has four appellations; Arbois, Cotes du Jura, Etoile and Chateau-Chalon. There are five varieties grown in the Jura the whites are Chardonnay, (the most planted variety in the region) and Savagnin (nope not a typo) and the reds are Poulsard, Trousseau and Pinot Noir. The reds are savory and light but it is the white wines of the region that have more weight, fuller textures, bigger flavors and from which is made their most “famous” wine, Vin Jaune.
Vin Jaune is made by taking the best lots of Savagnin and aging them in old Burgundian barrels but not completely filled and as evaporation occurs a beneficial yeast forms over the surface of the wine, (much like the flor in Jerez where Sherry is made). This yeast layer which is called the voile, (the veil and some wines are labeled, Sous Voile, under the veil) combined with the acidity and aging a minimum of 6 years gives Vin Jaune its signature tangy, nutty, faintly salty flavor and tremendous complexity. While reminiscent of Sherry because of the oxidative qualities of Vin Jaune, the wines are not fortified and have a deeper, richer texture and complexity that is pretty mind bending.
Not all the wines in the region are Vin Jaune, and many of the Chardonnays coming from the Jura remind me very much of great white Burgundy. There is a bunch of intrigue and tremendous flavor to be found in this tiny little region, time to get brought up to speed on one of the hottest, most geeked out on, hard to find, intellectually stimulating wines on the planet. Tiny region, funky grapes, not polished or pretty or inexpensive but very rare, untamed, wild, unconventional, haunting and really damn thrilling wines to experience.
2008 Tissot Arbois Classique Chardonnay $26.99 The very first thing that came out of my mouth when I smelled this wine was, “It smells like Meursault!” Amazing depth on the nose, roasted nuts, minerals and a bit of holiday spice. On the palate the wine is broad, full and again reminds me of great white Burgundy but maybe just a touch dryer and with a linger that goes on forever. Cannot think of the last time a Chardonnay under thirty dollars brought me so much pleasure.
2007 Tissot Arbois Les Bruyeres Chardonnay $36.99 The aromatics on this wine had me completely captivated, took me twenty minutes to notice that I had not yet tasted this wildly beguiling wine. Intoxicating aromas of salted nuts, butter, cinnamon hard candy and minerals kept unfolding with each spin of the glass. The palate reminds me of Blanc de Blancs Champagne or Chablis in that doughy, stony, mineral rich way but the finish is a blast of salted butter and another rush of roasted nuts. You taste this sexy wine long after you have swallowed and that linger keeps you wanting more.
2005 Tissot Arbois Savagnin $41.99 This was Randy’s head spinning wine. Unbelievably expressive on the nose. Nutty, salty, full of browned butter, roasted citrus. The palate is so expansive and full it seems to almost grow in your mouth and wrap itself around your whole tongue. Drinks like a sexier and more refined Sherry andf would be absolutely stunning with chicken in morel cream sauce or a wedge of the regions famous cheese Comte. Not to be missed if you wish to really get a feel for the wines of the region.
2004 Berthet-Bondet Tradition Sous Voile $28.99 Classic Vin Jaune. Doughy, nutty, salty and showing plenty of oxidized aromas and flavors. Nice and full on the palate with a savory wildness that is true to the style. Delightful wine that would be lovely with a bowl of French onion soup or a plate of cured meat and cheeses.
2002 Berthet-Bondet Vin de Paille Vin Liquoreaux (375 ML) $44.99 Produced much like Italy’s beloved Vin Santo, by letting the grapes dry on racks for about three months before pressing. The result of that drying time is a fiercely extracted and intense aroma and flavor. Made from Chardonnay, Savagnin and Poulsard this wine is packed with dried apricots and quince, salted nuts and the palate is very much like apricot jam. A wine to serve after dinner with nuts and strong cheeses.