Friday, January 28, 2011

Out Where I Belong

“We take Sam!” first picked. I was first picked, this meant only one thing, fucking dodge ball. Ugh. What sadistic asshole thought this was an appropriate game for grade schoolers? Just sayin’. So as the chunky kid I was rarely picked first for anything when it came to schoolyard games, I was the girl that mastered the rings. I could swing my heavy body through the air, weightless and free for the whole recess period. Yeah, just one more thing those little snots gave me crap for, “Oh No! Sam’s first in line, we’ll never get a turn” yeah that’s right bitches.

The bell would ring and I would bolt, fat little legs motoring, shorts bunching up on the insides of my things…the way they do, you know, when the flubber gets to shaking…the outside of the short legs are fine, impervious to the quake that is apparently happing between the thighs. Huffing, face beet red, sometimes a little snot bubble escaping as my face and lungs felt like they were about to explode. This particular look, well looking back now…not so much my favorite but at the time, worth it. I just needed to get to that wooden plank that hovered above the sand, my launch pad, before anyone else did. Once those blistering hot or icy cold, depending on the season, rings were clutched between my calloused and blistered palms….I was, if only for fifteen minutes, alone in my skin and in my head. My feet off the ground, my body pulling and swinging, moving forward, the clank of the metal ring I had released hitting the one I had left just before….my arms reaching for the next. Those countless minutes, those complied hours on those rings taught me a lot about balance, about not looking back and about just how good it felt to be weightless and flying.

Now dodge ball. This was just another reminder that I didn’t quite fit. I was always picked first for this brutal game. Always chosen for my brute strength…I could sail that red rubber ball like Randy Johnson, and for my very clear rage. You fuck with the snot bubble, calloused hand, often yanking her shorts from her crotch girl enough…well she is gonna lose it and hurl a big rubber ball at you, and when taunted enough, she won’t miss. I played, I hit hard and I always helped my team win but I never felt good about it…okay that’s a lie, Lisa A, you deserved it. But for the most part I was kind of like one of those gentle giants, like a cross between the Chunk and Sloth characters in the Goonies movie. I didn’t want to hurt anyone and never really relished in winning at the expense of others. That being said, felt really fucking good to be picked first and to have, “your friends” (or those little bastards) see you as good at something for once.

Dodge ball was always a required, as in a physical education thing, never picked it and as would be the pattern for the rest of my schoolin’ days, I loathed P.E. Couldn’t use the “I have cramps” bullshit in 4th grade so I just sucked it up, pummeled my fellow students, went back to class…3 minutes the hero and then things were right back where they were. I was still the poor fat kid, they still poked fun at me while I stared out the split windows at the rings waiting to feel my feet come out from underneath me. Weightless and alone in my skin…..

So I began “Wine blogging” three years ago, damn…cannot believe it has been that long, hoping to shine a little light on The Wine Country, maybe get some attention for the store that has for years been my…well, my grown up set of rings. To talk about the wines that make me swoon, the winemakers and importers that have touched me, to make wine more human….touchable. Not some fancy beverage that requires years of study to understand. I wanted people to see the connection between the soil, the person that tends it, the soul that imports or distributes it…maybe the silly snot bubble girl that picks it for the store. The dinners, the stories, our customers, their love and loss…I’ve told those stories to remind anyone that happens upon this silly blog that there is a very human and honestly, a very loving side to this somewhat indulgent and buzzy making elixir.

The late night rants. The posts written after a bottle consumed alone, its purr still making me hum and its fingers in my back as I spill my lust and adoration through my fingertips. It’s what I’ve done and while I often wondered if I’m actually reaching anyone, I’ve just tried to stay on track…my couch my launch pad, the laptop keys the rings against my palms. Sailing along trying not to get sucked into the same old same old. There are hundreds of wine blogs where people can go to read the latest wine business news, win tickets, talk about phonologic ripeness and the hundred point scale. No one needs me to do that and truthfully its part of this business that has never interested me nor has it made one iota of difference to my customers. Hell, the only people I know that read most of the wine press is other industry people…you know the ones that like to tell me, “Oh this got *# points” while they are trying to sell me something. Means fuck all to me. I need to know the wine…feel it and have it tell me if there is someone I can sell it to.

So while I swung my way around the wine blog world I met and fell in love with some people whose opinions and intellect I found so compelling that I was aching to explore the world they loved and spent hours spilling about. Explored, tried to learn and embrace, feel them through a shared wine moment. Plugged along doing just that, tasting, travelling, expanding my palate and while I appreciate that part of the exchange I always felt as if I was being picked for dodge ball again. Everything is just fine just as long as I am smoking from the same pipe but should I interject with my comments about balance, ripeness or a plain affirmation of, “Yeah I hate that” and I am back to snot bubble girl with short pant legs creeping up my thighs. Anyone have a big red rubber ball?

I’m not only irked, I’m quite frankly embarrassed to be a part of this. I lost my shit about Food & Wine magazine and their…ra-tar-did-ness and now the smug and “I know better” bullshit that I have read in wine blogs this past week make me want to just hang it up. Okay I can “open my mind” to the stuff you dig but should I disagree or god forbid, (insert very snobby gasp here) drink and appreciate beer…well then I’m stupid. Nice….

Very progressive
Very liberal

Very exclusive….
One big red ball in the face and it stings like a mother f’er
Should you need me, I’ll be playing on my set of rings
Out here where I belong….

Still "writing"
Still sharing wine stories
But caring less about being picked first.....


Alfonso Cevola said...

There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission.

Step away from the blogs, Sam.
Start packing.

Make sure you pack either a hat or a wacky wig and some crazy porn star shades.

We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to the outer limits.

Jon said...

Look closer, we're out here with you. To hell with idjits and their pretensions and dogma. Those who get it, well.... get it. And those who don't.... we'll keep on drinking and selling to good shit despite them, and for ourselves.

Damn, how I hated that ugly red ball and the sound it made thwapping against flesh.

Thomas said...

One way I've separated (in my head) my blog from wine blogs is to not think of my blog as a wine blog.

Certainly, I don't think of it as a place for ticket giveaways and other borderline ethical concerns...

...and yes, most of us in the biz have to read a lot of stuff, even stuff we don't like is still information to those of us who try to impart information.

I would take Alfonso's advice and chill for a while. After the trip, you'll have a thousand reasons to make solild blog entries without thinking about the rest of the pack.

Later today, I'll have a recipe on vinofictions that I made up last night. Take a read.

Samantha Dugan said...

I fixed this post a little. I fear it sounded as if I was hanging up blogging and that is not the case at all, just going to be trying less to fit into the wine blogging world.

Porn star shades? Those people have faces?! See I'm learning from you already.

I know, I know. Just stings when you spend so much time trying to prove to people that wine professionals are NOT a bunch of snobby jack wagons. Kind of makes you want to just crawl away but....I won't, not sure I can anymore. I love this place and the people that come here....

I will check it out for sure. Just promise there is not a big red rubber ball waiting for me!

chris said...

I never could master the playground's steel rings, I just didn't have the strength.

Sam, don't underestimate yourself. You did and you do have the strength to swing to and from life's steel rings.

Start packing, don't forget your waterproof boots.

Samantha Dugan said...

Gawd you say the sweetest things. Oh trust me, if I tried to hop on the rings now, (do they even still have them?) I would rip my arms right out of their sockets. Just got to find some other arena for my "strength" as it were. I've yet to get those pee boots but I will search them out next there a section for Odd Toilet Survival at the shoe store?

Valerie said...

Oh, honey - I was the, skinny, sickly, weakling kid always picked last for any sport that involved balls. Go figure. Now, I got a little set of my own. I could probably kick the asses of those horrible mean kids and ohbytheway spend months studying wine whenever I feel like it in places in the world some of those folks will never get the pleasure (and I mean pleasure) of spending more than a few days. SO - my mid-coffee point? (besides Karma, baby) You, my dear, not only kick some ass, you've replaced the red balls with a fine brass set, and the PLEASURE? Is all yours now. Go get you some! I can't wait to read about these amazing whites you are about to put your lips on.

John M. Kelly said...

Was it something I said?

Samantha Dugan said...

Oh girlie paired up we would have made a perfect least we would look like the number 10 while standing next to each other. I always worry when I write a piece like this that it sounds like I am whining about my childhood...not even close. Took that shit to grow this (as you put it) set of balls and I am fine with all of it. Just sick of the bickering and exclusionary crap that can sadly occur in this business. Should never be what this about, least not for me.

I can't wait to get my white wine on and share them with you!

Samantha Dugan said...

Nah, you didn't say anything love. In fact you and (most of the time) Charlie are that super wine professional that can feed both the technical and passionate folks...I admire that.

John M. Kelly said...

WHEW! I thought for a moment you were peeved at me because of the exchange I had with Charlie about acids, pH and phenolics. I couldn't fathom it.

Can I ask your indulgence to use your comment space as a safe-ish place for me to go off on a little rant? Usually I'm immune, but every now and then it gets under my skin - all these "experts" blah-blah-blogging about what makes wine taste like it does as if they know a fucking thing about it.

They don't have a clue. Heck, a lot of winemakers don't have a clue which is why I made decent money in the years when I was consulting. And I don't claim to know all that much.

But I have been studying, thinking, practicing, breathing and living this grape growing and winemaking thing for almost three decades. And so it frustrates the shit out of me when someone know-it-all who has read a book or two pronounces something along the lines of: "this wine is fat and flabby - the winemaker should have harvested at lower sugar and added some tartaric to get the pH down."

For three months out of the year I sweat, bleed and occasionally cry into every lot of wine I make. The rest of the year I struggle to keep the wines sound while I bust my ass to pay the bills, grow our revenue, and shrug off the indifference of the marketplace.

But every morning (well, almost every morning) I wake up energized to create. I feel the joy and excitement of watching the vines go through the seasons in the vineyard, and of the wines turning sublime in the barrels and bottles.

Often it is enough to give me goosebumps, and I'm happy to be able to share that feeling with the smart people who make the effort to find our tasting room. The other evening fellow wine blogger Tom Mansell showed up with some of his friends, in NorCal for a conference of biomechanical and biochemical engineers. I felt comfortable enough with their level of science to totally geek out - to reveal just a little of what is actually going on in my head all the time when I am engaged in my profession. I think they were a little freaked out.

So yeah sometimes it bugs me when I read the crap written about how we "should" be growing our grapes and making our wine. Millennials like Leah Hennessy and Jennifer Thompson ask why more winemakers don't keep their own blogs and engage more in social media. Many make the excuse that they don't have the time, or that they don't write well enough. I think the truth is that most fear engaging would break their hearts.

Samantha Dugan said...

Rant away amigo! I think you make a very valid point and upon hearing that I've already offended someone with this post I am in total agreement, the interacting can be a hardship at times. Guess we all just have to trust that whatever friendship and understanding we have been able to gather will, in the end work things out.

John M. Kelly said...

Thanks for letting me vent. You have not offended me - I get what you are saying - and I hope I have not offended you. And if Jennifer comes across this - sorry about the "p" - slip of the finger - I know it's "Thomson" and she is a little touchy about it.

webb said...

Sam, I don't understand much of anything you say about wine, but I love the honesty of your blog. I get so much from you... even the desire to learn more about wine.

Have a great trip, but we will be here when you get back and you will still be our Sam.

Like Valery, I was the one you were throwing at - and I forgive you - altho she seems to have turned out better than I. I'm still the weak sister on my tennis team, only now I don't care. Travel safely. (Actually, I thought you left last week!)

Samantha Dugan said...

Awe lady, that was terribly sweet of you to say. Thank you so much and should you ever want a little wine education, well you know who to email.

Ron Washam said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,

In a blogosphere filled with emotional children crapping in their own sandboxes, your ability to soar on your own set of rings is inspiring and, more importantly, actually interesting to observe. Especially when I can see up your skirt. I spent a couple of years harassing wine bloggers and having fun with the wine business, and it was tough sledding every inch of the way. Which is what I get for playing in a sandbox loaded with shit.

And, John, you should know better than to listen to those barking Poodles. And, anyway, the whole point of wine, it seems to me most of the time, is that it generates stupid opinions faster than it generates yeast colonies. Mine among them. Always better to see that as comedy instead of tragedy. And I didn't have a damned clue what you were talking about over at Charlie's blog, but I'm guessing it wasn't that far off from what Samantha is saying about dodgeball. Or maybe not.

We take all this wine crap so seriously when all we really want out of it, at the end of the day, is to alter our consciousness, escape the doldrums of our sober minds, find some courage, or find some peace, but with the best tasting drug possible. All the arguing and smallmindedness and foolish scores and wrongheaded opinions don't change the fact that we love wine because it makes us drunk, makes us better people, and makes us more interesting people when we borrow its mystique and claim it as our own.

More than anyone I've ever read, Samantha speaks to what we genuinely love about wine. How the love of wine changed our lives. How overindulgence makes us human, and makes us act more human. How loving wine is a way to love yourself when you didn't even think that was possible. Samantha writes about all this, and more. We can all articulately argue about wine all that we like, disagree politely, throw around our credentials like so much confetti, but we come to Samantha's blog for what really matters--honesty, love, laughter, and big boobs.

I'm babbling on and on. Maybe I should get my own blog.

I love you, Samantha!

Anonymous said...


You are right. You can say what you want about a wine. Any wine. Any time. Whether it is from Napa, Alsace, Russian River Valley, or Champagne. Charlie Olken is wrong. You can say what you want about a wine.

As someone who has said this in another place before, (I have been referred to as Queen of the Douche Chills by the Chief Connoisseur of California Wines) Charles Olken is at least as pompous and unable to examine himself as he portrays Dan Berger to be on his own web mouthpiece. He is an Orwellian character who inflates himself by poking holes at others whose opinion differ from his own.

The worst part of this, I would say, as one who follows the soap opera of interesting wine blog personages, is that you have previously professed your love for this creature who has now chosen to eviscerate you because your palate is not in lockstep with his own.

Keep doing what you do. Don't give in to forces of the market which would ask you to fawn over shitty wine as the afore-mentioned has done for years. Keep it real. That's why we all keep reading you, and why his bullshit propaganda is never taken seriously by those of us who know a decent wine when we taste one.

Samantha Dugan said...

Well I can now say I have written a post that has made ME cry more than anyone else. I'm just in from my Rose Champagne event, I'm tired, mildly buzzy and now....heartbroken. I have never before deleted a comment, (Okay once but it was explained to the poster and seeing as you have chosen to post without using your name, well there is no way for me to contact you and explain) but I must warn you, after sleeping on this I might just delete yours.

I absolutely appreciate your support of me, my voice and whatever it is you find here compelling enough to follow and for that I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I just hope you know and understand, from reading my words and what I talk about here that...not only have you gone after someone that I do in fact still love, very much...but you have also hurt me by doing so.

Charlie Olken and I will never see eye to eye on most wines, I know it and he knows it. That is a fact that has caused a few bumps in our road but I assure you, Charlie is a very fair, open and extremely balanced human and I consider it an honor to call him my friend. Period.

I don't know what issues you two have had in the past, in fact I have never heard Charlie go "after" anyone in the way you describe, not saying it didn't happen...just saying I have no knowledge of it so all I can say about that is, I'm sorry. I'm sorry for whatever happened between you two but I can't have that play out here, especially seeing as you didn't use your own name. He can't defend himself and that just isn't fair.

Lots of people jumped on the defending me side when we had our little exchange over on his blog and while I have to say once again that I appreciate the support, Charlie was not trying to attack me. I commented, he responded and as with many things in this ether world we play in....things were kind of misunderstood and blown way the fuck out of proportion. I look at Charlie and I see a man that has gone out of his way to love me, talk about my silly blog and even went so far as including me in his latest book....not one thing he has ever done leads me to believe that he is anything but loving and at my side. Never. Sure I was irked by our exchange but it never changed my feeling for the man that he is...period. I respect all that he knows, the way he shares and the way he loves me....even if once in awhile he shoves little spurs under my saddle.

Like I said, I'm way tired and I might have to delete your comment, just wanted to respond to you while the sting, the one that you gave me, is still poking away at my heart. Saying the things you did, about someone I love so was crushing to read. I hope it made you feel better because the truth is, you made me feel worse. I hope my tears are a testament to Charlie...I love him now and I will love him always.

Anonymous said...


Making you feel bad with my comments falls in the category of unintended consequences. Please do delete my rant. Sorry.

John M. Kelly said...

Ten seconds with google reveals that "queen of the douche chills" posted on Ron's blog ( anonymously there as well. And took heat not just from Charlie but also from Ron and from everyone else who thinks anonymous commenting is the pinnacle of douchiness. Dude, stop it or go away.

Sam - blogger dashboard, settings, comments, who can comment - set it to registered users and you will cut out the drunks, abusive commenters, and folks without sufficient courage in their convictions to sign their name.

Charlie Olken said...


No reason for Sam to delete your comments, but a couple of reasons for me to comment.

--At no point have I ever said that people are not entitled to their own opinions. Not sure how you got that wrong, but do have a look at my blog entry for last Monday entitled The Threat of Intolerance. Sam and I may disagree, but that is part of the wine discussion fabric. I isn't personal.

--I have no idea where you get the idea that I called you or anybody else a "douchebag". More than anything else, I find that accusation bothersome to the point of asking you to show where it happened or to retract the accusation.

--I post my comments in my name. Funny that you have made all these nasty comments while hiding behind an anonymous shield.

Samantha Dugan said...

Thanks for the tip (and for the real reason you came here to post...I adore you my friend) but the thing is, the point is and the ironic part about all of this? I don't want to exclude anyone...what this whole post was about in the first place. I decided to not delete Anon's comment, let Charlie have his say and now, well I'm going to wait for the bell and hopefully find something to write that will once again make me feel like I am sailing through the air reaching for the next ring.

Sara Louise said...

I don't read wine blogs but I love reading your blog; a blog full of witty, wonderful, well written, honest, funny and touching posts with some tidbits about wine. Don't change a thing xo