Friday, April 29, 2011

Spring Has Sprung & Love Is In The Air

A rare thing occurred yesterday morning. I woke feeling down-right excited about one of the only parts of my job that I truly loathe, the trade tasting. I've bitched about them here before so you all know how I feel about them and as odd as it sounds to many that have never had to endure them, it aint all free snacks and drinking fancy wines...least not to me. The LA wine trade event is pretty much an Asperger's convention; a parade of hipsters in skinny jeans, hot guys wearing over-sized Buddy Holly glasses....trying to down play their smashing good looks, that or going for the "wicked hot smart guy" persona. The old guys in graffiti T's or fedoras, also sporting the skinny jean, that or the ripped up baggy ones. The perfume encrusted, tight dress and super high heeled teetering around on their wine wobbly legs because, "Spitting is gross" and toss in the grumpy know-it-all wine curmudgeon, often in a stained shirt, not wearing a name tag and always grazing at the food table and you get one pissy wine slinger with crunched unders. Not the way I like to spend the afternoon and really not the way I can truly evaluate wine.  Yesterday however, yesterday was different.

I met Randy at The Wine Country early so we could make our way up to Santa Monica for a tasting that neither of us would have missed, a tasting that has not happened in as long as I have been buying French wine for the store. When we pulled up to the venue my heart started thumping around in my chest, not only was I going to be sampling the wines from one of the world's most renowned French wine importers, poured by the winemakers themselves, I was going to be doing it there....on the breathtakingly beautiful shoreline in Santa Monica.

An elegantly, subtly furnished ballroom; tables swathed in creams and off-whites, set far apart from one another with ample room to move about and dodge the teetering non-spitters and curmudgeons with their cheese smeared wine glasses and Bordeaux stained grill....the sound and smell of the ocean faintly wafting in between stops at tables adorned with bottles of wines that make my knees weak, heart race, mind flash wildly with sensory dictation, the thickly accented voices filling me with that ache to revisit my beloved France and retell our customers about these wines, these estates, these humble but passionate people that make them. I may have woken excited but I could never have imagined just how perfect the day would be.

Randy and I had worked our way through the Champagne tables, rough as that was...when I heard Randy say, "Hey, is that Kermit?" turned my head to see, yes, yes it was Kermit Lynch. Without question one of the most important men in the wine business, one very responsible for the quality of French wines we have access to, paving the way with refrigerated containers ensuring that the wines he tasted and imported were delivered tasting the way they did when he had them in France. A man whose palate and passion brought those wines here and a man that can write, in one sentence, something so compelling that you ache to taste what he is tasting. It was his tasting and there he was, in the middle of this room of perfectness. It was, well even more perfect.

Randy had been Kermit's Southern California broker before starting The Wine Country, they have known and respected each other for years now and although I have met Kermit several times I still found myself a little star struck as we made our way over to him to say hello to him. Pleasantries and a bit of shop talk, we parted and Randy and I got back to tasting our way through the room only to find ourselves once again face to face with Kermit, this time at the Beaujolais table. Kermit pouring a deep glass and me with just enough Alsatian wine and Graves in my belly to say, "So Kermit, gotta tell you, saw you on Gary V, good thing you didn't have anything to say" which not only made him laugh but broke the ice. By the next time I ran into him and my adorable sales rep Kate tried to introduce us he stopped her, put his arm around me and told her, "We are already engaged." perfectness.....

The stunningly beautiful setting, the uncrunched aisles, the banter...that alone makes for a trade tasting far and above most but on top of all that, the wines were fucking brilliant! The Beaujolais from Jean Foillard both elegant and powerful proving that anyone that says Gamay is wimpy is an idiot. The Saint-Romain and Bourgogne Rouge from Christophe Buisson, so pure and loaded with vibrant fruit that, considering the price, makes me feel like we are taking advantage of him...which I will be doing when the wines arrive in May. Regis Bouvier's silky textured and explosive 2009 Morey-Saint-Denis filling my lungs with dark red fruit and smoked meat. The Loire wines from Domaine de la Chanteleuserie and Domaine de Reuilly causing my spine to shiver and flesh to be covered in tiny want inspired bumps.

I spent the afternoon waving my French Wine Freak Flag, wrapped up tight in the aromas and flavors, the people that make what I do, my job, one of the greatest there is. Cannot get over what an affirmation that trade tasting was....hipsters, high-heeled wobblers, table grazers and all. Cannot believe how fortunate I've been. And just when I thought the day couldn't get any better.....

Gifts, picked for me and tucked into my screen by the cutest almost 5 year old boyfriend a girl could ever have.

Finding myself splashing around in love again and damn, it feels amazing.       

Thursday, April 28, 2011

First Batch of 2010 Roses. Or What It Would Look Like If I Wrote A "Wine Blog"

2009 was kind of a retailers dream vintage for French wines. The press went crazy for the riper fruit, bigger bodies and softer acids, in short the wines from much of France in 2009 were a little more suited to the California or new world palate. Not a problem, the wines are delicious but as I started tasting the 2010 Roses from France I was thrilled to find the wines a bit more typical. 2010 appears to be another ripe vintage, just not as ripe so the wines while brimming with bright and generous fruit are just a little more restrained in the weight department and the acidity is just a bit higher. Been loving the more noticeable minerality and almost crunchy snap from this vintage and cannot wait to keep tasting more!

2010 Chateau de Campuget Costieres de Nimes $9.99
This ultra crisp Rose is a blend of Syrah and Grenache, the Syrah giving the wine a nice depth and the Grenache providing lots of spicy, juicy fruit. Light and racy on the palate with a clean and refreshing finish.

2010 Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Vin de Pays de l’Herault $9.99
One of the first of the Roses to arrive and the first three cases we ordered flew out the door. Fans of last year’s offering will delight in finding that the 2010 is packed with just as much lovely flavor; all that racy fruit and mineral that we adored about the 2009 but the 2010 is just a little lighter in weight and has just a bit more snap.

2010 Domaine de Fontsainte Corbieres Gris de Gris $11.99
One of the best vintages is recent memory for this tried and true estate. Vibrant berry flavors, amazing precision and leaves your palate vibrating with zingy acidity.

2010 Andrieux & Fils Cuvee Victoria Cotes de Provence $13.99
One of the deeper and more meaty of this year’s Roses so far. Dark red fruit, hints of banana, nice and full on the palate, almost round but not too. A go to wine for grilled steaks or strongly seasoned chicken dishes.

2010 Domaine Figueirasse Vin des Sables Gris de Gris $11.99
Something slightly grassy in the nose, grassy and reminiscent of watermelon rind. The palate is ripe berries and faint chalky minerality. Round and fleshy but crisp and dry on the lip smacking finish.

2010 Saint Roche Cotes du Provence $12.99
Not sure if you feel like a red or a white? Unable to decide if you want red or more green notes? Well we’ve got the wine for you. Gentle and herby on the nose with a soft powdery like floral note. The palate is crisp, bright, raging with tangy fruit and the finish is super clean.

2010 Le Cengle Cotes de Provence $12.99
Brand new to The Wine Country this charming wine has already stolen hearts around here. Very tropical aromatics, guava, wild flowers, herbs with a splash of zingy citrus. Explosive on the palate the wine pretty much grabs hold of your taste buds and refuses to let go. A show stopping Rose that we could not be more thrilled to add to our extensive collection.

Happy Now?!

Got two emails this morning, one from my son that flooded my heart with joy, (he's doing so well, last final on Friday, preforming in plays which he seems to love and got associate of the month at proud) and the other was in the email for this blog.
Started out nice enough, the person seemed to be concerned that I had been having a rough time the past couple months and then the letter took a turn.

"You know people don't read wine blogs to listen to the blogger complain about their life and it is very annoying when that blogger happens to be in the wine business. Tough job. I think you would be better served to just stick to writing about wine on your wine blog because that's what we come here for"......

Really? Well then, don't come here. Hate to sound like a bitch, okay that's a lie, doesn't bother me one bit. This is MY blog and can and will write about whatever I wish. I do write about wine, not as often or the same way as the hundreds or thousands, how many are there now.....of others and you know what, I fucking dig it that way.

Above is part of what I sent for the May newsletter for The Wine Country. It's what I do all the time and while I still love it, it is not what I wish to come here and write. After a day of my "Tough job" I rather like having a place to come and just talk, if you don't like it then might I recommend you bugger off? And I would pair any one of the aforementioned Roses, they are perfect with buggering, and for a musical selection, Ray Charles, Hit the Road Jack.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Getting Better

I would like to take a quick second to thank all of you that have been contacting me; the emails, letters, cards and facebook stuff. Your overwhelming support and concern has touched me on a level that now has me feeling a little ashamed for being so glum. How can anyone be so down with all this love and support? Well, sadly life does throw some wild crap your way and this one has been of those times for me. I felt bad about dumping it all here, or the aftermath of it anyway but I have always been honest in this space. Come here to share my loves, lusts, wants, my life and real life, well it isn’t always easy and it helps me to say these things out loud. That and I can’t help but think about the others that find themselves in these helpless and painful moments in life, those times when you are sure that no one can possibly understand….wanted to nakedly assure them, I do, we all do….I just so happen to be the queen of never-keeping-stuff-to-myself and so I share, sometimes at the detriment of my readership. Oh my gawsh, I just said, “My readership”…sheesh. Full of myself much?! Could I feel like more of a dick?

I’ve been vague in my posts and I will continue to be that way. My life I will share and give but not everyone else’s and when it comes to broken hearts, there will almost always be more than one involved. Old ghosts, humiliation, confusion and the loss of hope, life and love have been weighing heavy on me and sadly, for those of you that bother to read my trivial crap, you too have had to endure it on some level. I’m sorry for that. Truly. Things are beginning to settle, slow down enough for me to catch my breath and seeing that I am sick to death of feeling so goddamn depleted, well I’m getting my RAWR back….

I woke Sunday morning feeling a little fuzzy from my night of over indulgence. Not hungover per se, but not so fresh if you know what I’m saying. Made my sluggish shuffle to the coffeepot annoyed as shit that I was up before the set brewing time and wondering how I managed to get both the top and bottoms of my jammies on backwards. Hit the “go” button and grumpily made my way to my true lover, my laptop. Opened my email only to be reminded that whatever I had been trying to kill with booze the night before wasn’t fixed. Felt that empty sink in the pit of my angrily hollow tummy. Yup, things were just how I left them….crud. Slouched back on the couch in what has to be one of the most unflattering poses I have ever put myself in, any fuzzy headed notions I had about feeling better were quickly squished by looking down at the tag of my backward jammie bottoms resting upon the tummy that could use a few more days, okay weeks, sans filler….and looking at my nearly forty year old breasts as they tried to slumber beneath my freaking armpits. Oh goddamn it. This clearly wasn’t helping….

I tried to gather my boobs first and let me tell you, trying to “arrange” a pair of forty year old double d’s, real ones….well it’s akin to trying to herd pudding, handfuls of goo that don’t want to listen. Sigh. Heard the coffee grumbling, louder than I was if you can believe that crap and made my way to the restroom to give the jammies a spin before opening the windows and heading into the kitchen for that coffee. Settled back into my perch, this time my back straight and arms tucked in trying to contain the…puddings, one more glance at the heart-sinkingly empty email box before reaching for the remote. 

My thumb just a quarter of a second from hitting the next “go” button and I heard a high pitched squeal. Turned my head, peered out the window, no wounded cat or bird flapping about in front of my window, went back to mush my mind with television and again, right before hitting the button I heard another squeal, this time followed by gibberish and then, “I found the most!”….the wee’s next door discovering all the eggs, candy and gifts left by the Easter Bunny. I didn’t need to see them, hearing the astoundingly loud voices; from those tiny people….their sheer joy and excitement, uncontrollable energy, well it made my heart swell. Dropped the remote, cupped my hands around my warm coffee cup, took in deep sniffs of the magic elixir, remembered how much fun I had hiding eggs for Jeremy, the intensity with which that little bugger would hunt them down, the moment when the money filled eggs replaced the dyed “dropped by the bunny” ones. Thinking of him alone this Easter but alone writing the last of his fifteen page papers before graduating. Some sadness but mostly joy, amazement and pride.  Better…getting better.

Lounged around the rest of the morning, finding bits of understanding and wisdom in rhythm and lyrics, the crooned and lilted voices mirroring many of the things I’ve been feeling…not alone indeed. Each beautifully strung together line landing upon my exposed heart, “Does anyone know how to hold my heart cuzz I don’t want to let go, let go, let go”…. “I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain”….. “She gives me love, love, love, crazy love”…. “you and I together we could anything, anything” little bandages of comprehension, voices so sympathetic and powerfully resounding that aside from wondering when the hell Dave Matthews (Google alert goddamn it!) is going to finally realize that we are madly in love, made me remember that nothing I’m feeling right now has not been felt by hundreds of thousands before me and if the worst I have to endure is waiting for the other side of someday, well than I am actually better off than many. Better…getting better.

Readied myself for dinner at the in-laws, holiday meals always remind me of my childhood; the things my mother cooked, the smells, the perfect combination of scalloped potatoes, ham and peas balanced on my fork , the squish of rubbery cream-o-mushroom soup mushrooms between my teeth. In my better but still pouty state I thought of nothing on the drive over but the fact that this was to be one more family holiday, without any real part of me and my family there. Lamb instead of ham, no cream-o-soup potatoes, no Dugans aside from me. Tossed a grin on my grill and my loaded wine bag over my shoulder before walking through the laundry room which leads into the kitchen.

The house was still, no television, no, “There they are” voices coming from the living room, just a starkly silent kitchen full of a aroma that made me feel like I was eight years old, legs crossed in one of the kitchen chairs watching my mother set the table….roast pork. The subtle but knee weakening smell of roast pork stopped me in my tracks and much like the succulent fat on that roast, I was melting. One of my mother’s most beloved dishes, one that she did better than anyone, perfectly tender, subtly seasoned, thick slab of mahogany skin that she would thump with a serving fork to show me just how “almost ready” dinner was. 

I was speechless, just stood there, eyes closed, taking in as much of this familial aroma as I could. Opened my eyes when I heard, “Oh hi you two. I thought you were dad” my mother in-law. When her very animated face came into focus I almost lost it. For seventeen years this woman has been a mother to me, she is my family and here I was in an aromatic bringing of both worlds together in a way that made sense to me, one from the oven and a woman that made it for me. Thank gawd neither of us are huggers, would have grabbed her little frame right up…you know, if I were so inclined and probably would have been sobbing.

 “So let’s get to that Champagne!!” she bellowed. She does that, used to scare the shit out of me coming from the soft spoken home that I did. Her big New England voice, matter of fact manner of speech, exaggerated gestures and stealthy prison reach for any bit of food or bottle she has her eye on. What was once fear was long ago replaced with a certain admiration for her spunky nature and willingness to pop off to anyone, dig that about her and in that kitchen, at that moment, those smells swirling around my head and heart, my hand twisting the cork on a bottle of Agrapart Terroirs, well I loved her more than I even thought possible. Better…getting better.

She and I had damn near killed the bottle of bubbles before my father in-law got back from the driving range, thankfully my bag was well stocked and my partner in killing bottles, (that would be the father in-law) and I still had plenty for later. Kisses on my face, big smile and electric blue eyes, he jumped right into the already started party, the two of them and their banter….death wishes and love, cracking me up. My parents, Jeremy’s grandparents…not ours through birth or blood but by choice and love. Better….getting better.

I scooped broccoli salad, mushrooms (one of these days I will get that woman to tell me how she is able to coax the simple mushroom into absolute perfection) a popover and not one but three slabs of pork…making sure to snag at least one piece of the crunchy, caramelized end bit…before the prison reacher could, on to my plate. Poured the father in-law and I a couple glasses of Vajra Docetto D’Alba and before I knew it, I was eating….like a lot. Tender, subtle but, in more ways than one, powerful pieces of pork being washed down with pure, clean and perfect Dolcetto, the rich porky flavor of my past mixed with the bright, vibrant and earthy flavors of my now. Better….getting better.

I’ve been fed
In more ways than one…

Not quite full just yet but
Getting better

Sunday, April 24, 2011

How It Feels

To be a Lakers fan on Easter Sunday...

Getting It On

So as I mentioned a post or two ago things have been pretty shitty round this goofy chick’s life as of late. Not just that, “I’m bored” or “Someone at work doesn’t like me” kind of shitty. No we are talking the kind of steaming pile that makes even the tiniest task seem gargantuan, completely overwhelming and absolutely undoable. Work keeps me plugging along, the being there for the store and anyone else that might need me, well that I can manage but by the time I reach my doorstep I have dumped the store grin and clever quips, my steps seem to echo the way I feel, hollow and clunky, and I feel like I have gained about 400 pounds….all on my shoulders and around my heart.

Even my beloved eating has become too much of a burden. Nothing looks good, nothing sounds good… nothing even tastes good and the very idea of like putting a menu together…yeah, so not happening. Fuck, if I could just figure out what is I want maybe that would be a step in the right direction but after a rather stoner-like shopping for food moment, at the goddamn CVS, (I needed moisturizer and mascara and was not up to another trip) looking at my basket of crap; Velveeta Shells & Cheese, (and this is where I should confess, I don’t much care for Mac & Cheese, especially of the boxed variety, why it was in my basket I cannot tell you) Ruffles Cheddar & Sour Cream chips and a package of off brand boiled ham resting upon my overpriced “new” moisturizer…that will likely inflame my sensitive skin, and I could see that my two days without food had clearly made me stupid, that or was turning me into a teenage boy. Rad.

Got home and immediately stashed the boxed cheesy-goo noodles behind my husband’s cereal boxes, he’s out of town and will never notice, and tried to assemble something resembling a charcuterie plate with my “fromage encrusted potato slivers”, “rustic, boar” and leftover bits of cheese I had languishing away in my meat drawer. Flat, slimy, weirdly textured slabs of slippery meat, recently shaved of their hair growth bits of cheese on a plate with oddly orange, very coated with fake ass flavoring, chips. Needed something. Pretzels! Of course, pretzels were going to be the dazzle this dish needed to inspire me to eat. I stood in my kitchen, bag of bendy bread bits in my hand tossing them atop the saddest plate of food I have ever seen. Inspiring for sure. Inspired me to scrunch up my face, drop my last handful of dazzle atop the rag-tag bits of drug store food, place one hand on top of the other like a big X before administering the compression that would end that poor dinner’s life. Gross and not a chance in hell that whatever I needed to be “fed” was going to be helped by that meal.

Dinner plans dashed I opted for beautification, (shut up) washed my day caked mug and stood in the kitchen….cuzz that was where I left my CVS dinner bags, shaving-the-hair-off-the-cheese knife in my hand as I slashed and stabbed away at the fucking Fort Knox like packaging of, “this will make me feel better about myself” Youth Code moisturizer kit. Tiny tubes of fragrant cream and a packet, no, a book of instructions on how to look younger and feel better….fuck you. I blew off the instructions and slathered two of the tubes on my face, avoiding the “sensitive eye area”….which is where the fucking wrinkles kinda are…in a combination that I’m quite sure will either cause me to sprout a penis from my forehead, (kinda thankful I avoided the sensitive eye area now) or grow an extra set of meaty, earlobe like packets of flesh on my jaw line that will flap in the wind on my drive to work. Hot. I feel really fucking hot and better about myself now…

The night before Easter, everyone off doing their planning, traveling, prepping…hiding eggs, damn I miss that, and here I sit, in my sweats, smuggled boxes of food…”food” tucked behind the husband’s bran, four invitations to hit the town or come over for dinner somewhat…I hope, graciously declined, awaiting the tingle that is sure to be my forehead penis. Pretty sure I have been doing some shit wrong…so how’s about a drink?!

I confess that in my slump I have been avoiding all pleasure inducing liquids. Not sure why other than the gnawing in my belly assuring me that it’s not the best plan and…well, being raised in a family full of, “You shouldn’t. It might look bad” in my ear, often loudly at times like these, but tonight, much like the Youth Code instruction book I have to say, fuck you. Gonna get my sad girl drink on and I give two shits who doesn’t like it. Stupid and indulgent? Hells yeah and I’m here to tell you, after the month I have had this stoopidly improper and irresponsible night of drunkard is exactly what I need. 

Not fancy or sophisticated
Not for the texture or history
This bottle of 2010 Le Cengle Cotes de Provence Rose and all its curvy, sumptuous, tropical…unlike Provencal like lusciousness, well it is seducing the hell out of me right now. Making feel the tips of my fingers, the cushy fabric of the socks that hug my toes, the reminder that no matter how hellish and heart stomping things might be there is always wine.  I am rolling around naked in the plushy fruit and wickedness that comes from knowing that once this bottle is drained….I have another to splash around in. Can’t prepare a meal to feed my needs but I can sure as shit stock my fridge with that which satiates my soul. My 400 pound heart, and my desire to get lost beneath the moon with a glass of it in my hand…

In wine there is truth and the truth is, I just want to make the ugly, sad, mistake heavy mourning stop long enough to feel human again. The giggle I am finding as I reach the last little puddle of wine in my glass assuring me that those historic voices of caution could not know just how therapeutic this particular feeling is...

Will alert you of penile or meat flap growths and…hangovers.
Happy Easter to you all

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Um, Yuck....

Yeah, pour me a glass of whatever he's having.....
Orin Swift, hugely popular wines that I just don't dig and the packaging?! 
Prisoner & Machete and now this? What's next Booger Eater & Camel Toe?
Ugh...I'm out.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

To The Rescue

"Around 7-ish, you think you can?"

An email I got yesterday evening before leaving work. I knew I "could" but was worried that I might not be in the best mindset for it. Been in the middle of some seriously painful stuff the past few weeks and all my treading water and reminding myself that, "this too shall pass" has worn me out, left me deflated and last I didn't care if I did sink. Heartbroken. Just feels like I've been hit with one thing after another and just when I feel like I'm coming up for air....hit again. Tired, last night I felt so damn tired. Not tired as in I worked too hard and by body was worn out, no this is a soul and spirit crushing kind of tired that makes even feeling too much to bear.

Hate that. Hate feeling like I can't fight my way through anything. I know I will, it's not fear that has been weighing heavy on me, just kinda wishing that whoever is in control of these things would ease up on me a bit...just long enough for me to get my sea legs and feel strong enough to take on the next wave. Yeah, so it aint all Champagne and Burgundy for this wine slinger right now, last night wasn't even Pabst and Rombauer Chardonnay but, well someone needed me and something about that gave me a little blast of "Yes. Yes I can"

To the rescue....

My wee boyfriend and his wee-er brother. I was needed to babysit, something I have not really done in some 20 years and was a bit nervous about....poop, there could be poop and crying, gross. I didn't feel like I was up to it, like I had enough "grin and bear it" but....turns out spending the night playing with trains, stuffed dogs and watching a 2 year old dance to the same song, over and over again, well it goes a long way in helping to fill a recently emptied heart.

So while not completely recovered I am getting by with a little help from my friends.

Just saw this before leaving for work this morning, another friend and much needed lovins'. Thanks Charlie.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

At It Again

Okay so as many of you know I canceled my ten year subscription to the wildly popular publication Food & Wine last year. I did so for their complete lack of interest and respect to people that actually care enough about wine…you know that beverage that they splash on the cover of their magazine, to seek out actual information or at the very least pairings that are not squeezed through the tube of ad dollars and presented to the public ala a Lancome makeover for Wilbur. I had been smelling their fertilizer for a long time, big poo smeared pages of useless and horribly constructed wine advice that read like nails on a chalk board to those of us that are in the trenches, like selling wine to real people.

It was laziness that kept me from killing the subscription before, my credit card just renewed the damn thing every year and when the stupid thing showed up in the mail every month I would grumble, “Dammit! I need to call them”. On the rare occasion that I even opened an issue I would find myself lost in pages and pages of ads, many of which cleverly camouflaged as actual articles, before I would land on yet another dung filled piece of wine writing that made me cringe and bark, “What the fuck are you talking about?!”. Took their November issue last year to push me completely over the edge, I finally contacted them and made the idiocy stop. Took a bit of hoop jumping to remove that leech from my credit card but after sending a link of my somewhat pissy blog post to both the complaint department and the editor I was credited the remainder of my subscription and the plastic wrapped pile of steaming stupidity stopped showing up in my mailbox. I was free of them, or so I thought….

The other afternoon I was stocking my Champagne shelves when a very regular customer approached me. He has been coming in for years, mostly when he and his gourmet group have one of their get-togethers and he wants me to pair a wine to the dish he has been given to prepare. I happen to love this part of my job and it appears to be one of those things that I have a bit of a knack for. I am a total geek about these things, probably think about it way too much but I absolutely adore tweaking my flavor memories around ingredients and walking the isles at the shop until I land on a wine that I “just know” will pair beautifully with something. Yeah, like I said, total geek. So I am always thrilled to see this cat coming at me with his folded pieces of photocopied recipes.

Our usual “how are you?” exchange out of the way and I looked at his paper saying, “Okay kid, what have we got?” and was a bit bummed to hear, “Oh I need a Riesling”. It wasn’t the Riesling part, honestly many of the wines I have paired with his “foodie” groups, somewhat trying dishes have in fact been Rieslings. No, it was the fact that I didn’t get to play match-maker and that he didn’t seem to need a recommendation from me. Seeing that he knew he needed a Riesling I went to the best guy for the job….Randy. That man knows his German section far better than I do and I wanted to make sure that we continued serving this loyal customer to the very best of our abilities….you know, so he keeps coming to us when he needs wine pairings and junk.

Randy had been helping him for only a few seconds before I heard a bit of a grumble coming from the German department. I had been heading there to see just what Riesling Randy might give him but started moving a little quicker when I heard the rumblings. Got there just in time to hear, “Who are these people?” as Randy looked over the photocopied pages before he looked at me with a slightly annoyed grin, “Of course. Food & Wine”.

 The recipe was for poached pears and the Riesling the gentleman needed was not for pairing with the dish but for the poaching liquid and just what does this craptastic rag recommend for the task? Icewine. Not just an Icewine but a German or Canadian Icewine, 750 ML bottle to boot. Um, practical much? For those of you that aren’t quite sure what I’m talking about here, German and Canadian Icewines are  very sweet, very labor intensive and somewhat rare wines that are not only almost always bottled in 375 ML bottles, they tend to start out at around $50.00, some German versions upwards of $200.00. Recommending that a person spend over $100.00 to cook….cook a precious bottle, oh wait, two precious bottles into a sauce is the height of douchbaggery and so off the mark with regards to respecting your readers oh and let’s not forget WINE….assholes. 

We sent our customer on his way with a bottle of Domaine Piquemal Muscat Rivesault, a full bottle for $18.00 to poach his pears in, along with a lesson about complexity and nuance. The very idea that a wine focused publication would instruct their customers, (and that is what they are) to cough up the money for a world class wine and then tell them to dump vanilla pods, cinnamon and whatever else in it….and then cook it?! Well that right there is a gigantic FAIL and only perpetuates the idea that wine is for the uber sophisticates, “Mmmm yeess, I only poach my pears in Icewine” (helps to imagine a nasal heavy voice here) and people that have money to burn. Yeah, that’s gonna help…

Way to help Vodka sales….dickwads.
I still hate you
Hugs and Kisses

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Happy Birthday To You....

"I think it's been about four years now" I replied recently when someone inquired about how long I had been blogging. Kind of shocked myself and began to wonder when (I knew how, Nancy Deprez made me do it....blame her!) I started this silly hunk of was April 14th 2008. 

My beloved space to rant, share my love of wine, my passion for France, my education on the wines of the world. The place that I get to be me, like really me, and have people like me anyway. The place that brought people into my life that I know now I cannot imagine living without. This space is four years old today and I wanted to wish it a very Happy Birthday. Tell it that I appreciate all the late nights it was there for me, listened to me whine or moan about this and that, was there for me to pour my heart into and never once passed judgment or was too busy to hear me. This place is like a dear friend to me and I am eternally grateful...

Thank you all for letting me do this, for supporting me, reading my silly crap and for helping me find a voice, my voice. I'm humbled every single day that you come here to see what I'm up to and feel things with me. I feel more loved than I did four years ago and I know it is because of Samantha Sans Dosage.

Four years, shit maybe I should go out and get me one of those "Life" things everyone is talking about.....

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Asking For Help

“How could they do that?!” my panicked voice bellowing at my mother who was seated on the couch behind me. We were watching a made for TV movie about Theresa Saldana, a woman that was stalked and then attacked, in the street while people looked out their windows and did nothing to stop it. “People don’t want to get involved baby” my mother’s voice, soothing and oozing pride that her little girl would be so outraged by such acts of apathetic human behavior. My eyes welled up with tears and I felt a pulling in my chest, “I could never do that. How could anyone do that?” my heart sinking as I watched that poor woman struggle alone with a monster on the street while people closed their curtains, turned a blind eye and locked their doors fearful of both the monster and getting involved.

Walked into my home, me casa, the other evening, the slipping of my key in the lock a jarring reminder that I was on my own for the next day or two. I’ve gotten much better at this being alone business, better at feeling safe and secure in the house full of my aromas and the days worth of untouched dust that seems almost accusatory as I swagger in trying my best to act as if the silence isn’t screaming at me. No sweet faced man there to greet me as I walk through the door. Just untouched newspapers, the empty coffee cup still on the desk, windows closed up tight, the dank encasement of cacophonous aromatics that remind me that I’m not the housekeeper that I ought to be.

I move through evenings like this with stealth like precision, swiping up cups, running the bottom of my work shirt along the dusty surfaces, opening windows, pouring myself a glass of wine, the television and my laptop welcomed distractions keeping me from spending too much time in my own head, remembering when alone was the scariest place to be. Looking across the little patch of grass that separates me casa from my neighbor’s, seeing their lights on, the knowing that as long as they are in there someone is looking out for me, a feeling that keeps me from locking my door and windows as soon as the sun sets. A feeling they don’t even really know but one that lets me fall asleep, like really asleep which is a true gift and assures me once again that I am, if fact a very lucky woman.

“You stupid bitch!” a voice that was capable of turning my insides icy cold and made my heart thump so loud that I would swear it was at the top of my throat trying to leap from my chest in fear. I was walking out of the Dana Branch Library, my tiny son in his stroller drifting off to sleep, the mid afternoon sun blinding me for a second as my head swung around to see from which side the monster, my monster’s voice was coming from. The street was packed with cars, a group of people milled about in front of the restaurant across the street as they waited for a seat, the stream of cars and busses went mute and the whole street went black as my eyes fell upon the figure that was climbing from his red car, his face tight and eyes wild with rage, his rough hands wrapped around an aluminum bat as he slammed the driver’s side door and came charging in my direction.

I let my eyes drop to the stroller, past the bar that I had a death grip on and into the blanket filled carriage that held all my hope and belief in myself, his tiny fingers curled under, his eyes closed and soft little eyebrows scrunched as the sun threatened to disrupt his slumber. In one move I was able to pull one of the Winnie the Pooh blankets over his resting head, turn that safe little cradle around and slip it just inside the library doors turning around just in time to feel the first slam of that bat across the side of my face….

I couldn’t tell you how long this went on, how many times that hollow, cold rod made contact with my flesh, how many times I screamed or cried for help, how long I kept my forearms crossed over my head. It felt like forever and the only weapon I had was to keep my eyes on that library door, see that stroller and know that I had to keep fighting…for him. Didn’t hear another sound until the car door slammed again and he was gone. I was on my knees, face split open and bleeding, broken bits of tooth swimming around in my blood filled mouth but….it wasn’t pain I felt in that second, it was helplessness and embarrassment. Not one person on that busy street did anything to help me as I got to my feet and ran to my son’s stroller. No one even asked if I was okay, maybe because they could see that clearly I was not. I made my way to the Carl’s Jr. across the street to wash my face and spend half an hour locked in a stall holding my sleeping son, wondering just how much more of this I could take part of me hoping that some of the people that had seen what happened had gone. The shame and fear almost more painful than the blows from that bat.

I waited hours to go home that day. Just didn’t want to cause my family any more pain than I already had, spent years covering bruises and lying to avoid breaking their hearts as I fought to keep going and pretend everything was fine. The thing that kept me pushing and trying was their love and support, the knowing they would be there should things get too much to bear, my heart always sinking as I thought about the women that didn’t have that support and love to protect them. Even in the darkest and most terrifying times I knew I would be able to go home and feel safe again, for that I know just how very lucky I was.

Tonight at The Wine Country we are hosting a fundraiser for Su Casa, a foundation committed to ending domestic violence and helping the women and children that escape start over. To say that this particular event means something to me is an embarrassment of an understatement. These people risk their lives to protect others, give their time, money and hearts to the families that turn to them for help and just knowing that gives me a restored hope and faith in people. There are monsters, there are people that will lock their front doors and cross the street when confronted with horrific acts of predatory violence, these people….they aren’t them. I am so proud of our store, of our owner Randy Kemner for continuing to support these selfless and committed people by donating our space, time and wine so that these fearless humans can raise the money they need to continue giving these families the help, support and hope that they need.

To the courageous people at Su Casa there are no words large or powerful enough to truly or properly thank you for what you do. I will gladly donate what I can and just knowing that there are people like you and your team of volunteers out there, well it reminds me that I have nothing to be ashamed of. Reminds me to never give up hope in the human spirit and my belief in people. Your selfless acts shall never go unnoticed as long as there are those of us that can walk a little prouder because of people like you. Thank you….

It is truly an honor to be a member of Randy Kemner’s staff, to work for a man that would never turn a blind eye or close the curtain on someone in need of help. This event is just one more thing for me to love about him. Thank you Randy.

This cause is one that I hold dear to my heart, that I believe in and really does change lives. My scars are all healed, teeth repaired and I can now sleep soundly even when I am alone. I was one of the lucky ones, I’m happy, healthy and safe….ready to put my voice and story up for all to see, willing to put my money where my mouth is to ensure that even one more woman can turn the key on her front door and feel safe when she steps inside.

Thank you
Samantha Dugan
Survivor of domestic abuse 
Wine slinger
Hopeful believer....

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Power Of Print

“Yeah, you guys got Champagne in there?” a rather brash and curt voice on the other end of the phone. “Yes we have Champagne” I answered. “Okay I’m looking for a French Champagne” insert my heavy sigh and crunched, “redundancy” brow here. “It’s called Boo Pecoche” the voice responded between insufferable snaps of her gum.

I sat there for a second literally hearing my eyelashes slam together as I ran through my mental list of Champagnes. “Snap-snap-snap” like little nails being shoved in my eardrums as I said the given name over and over again in my head trying to figure out what she was looking for. Boo Pecoche, (pronounced Boo Pea-Co-Shh) Boo Pecoche?! “Oh! Might you be looking for Veuve Clicquot?” I asked feeling kinda puffed up for figuring that one out. “Um, NO!” she snapped, she not her gum wad this time, “I told you the name is Boo Pecoche! Gawsh!” Now I was no longer puffy chested, now I was getting red faced and a little pissy my own self but I gave it one more shot. “Does the Champagne you’re looking for have an orange label?” I asked somewhat hesitantly. “I don’t know!” she barked, “I’ve never seen it! Either you have it or you don’t! Maybe you should ask someone there that knows something about Champagne….the French kind!!” spittle, I swear I could feel and smell her gum scented spittle as she snarled at me.
“Nope. Don’t have it but good luck with your search”…..grumble.

“Ungst-ungst-ungst” the thumping of techno music blaring through the front door of The Wine Country. I was stopped in my tracks by the level of the volume and moved a little closer to the front to see where the offensive blare was coming from. That was when I saw him. Silver convertible, slicked back Pat Riley type hairdo, sports coat over a vest and white button up, sockless feet stuffed into loafers, cell phone fused to his face and, now this part stuck my as funny as hell, a giant, white standard poodle sitting in the front seat of the car. The guy was mid to late sixties if he was a day and he was desperately trying to bring back the Don Johnson ala Miami Vice look. I let myself soak it in before getting back to helping customers on the floor.

I was back in my French department when I was jarred from my tasks once again by volume but this time it wasn’t my ears that were alarmed, it was my nostrils. Mr. Miami had completed his oh-so-urgent call and was now in the shop, the other side from where I was mind you, his voice bellowing requests of the staff was no competition for the noise that was wafting off of him. He was positively swimming in the most wretched, cheaply sweet smelling….can’t even call it cologne, it was just stank. His smelly junk vice was spreading across the store like mushroom cloud causing people to stop and make bug eyed face, saw a woman make a beeline for the register and I stood there feeling like my nose hairs were trying to reach down and pull in my nostrils like shudders. The whole time I’m thinking, “Dude. You drove here in a convertible and you still smell like that?!” shivering when imagining how saturated he must have been before the wind whipped some of the stink layer off.

I tried to just plug along but the sheer volume of his stank was now causing me to not only taste the sickly sweet crap in my mouth, it was inspiring a pain right between my eyebrows that was beginning to spread around my head like a….well like a vice. I kept as far away as I could, on top of the cloud he was also very demanding, asked for “free” glasses of wine and stood at the register after his sale was complete, munching on a baguette that he had purchased while speaking loudly on the phone. Once he left and the counter was brushed clean of his crumbs a woman walked up and while plunking her bottles on the counter she gave me, “Oh My Gawd” face and simply said, “That was awful” she didn’t know the half of it. The guy came back in three more times! Once for another “free” glass of wine, once because he needed a “cheap Cabernet” and the third, well I couldn’t tell you because when I saw him turn on his loafers and head back in I took one look at my coworker and said, “I’ll be out back” when asked why all I could do was nod my head towards the front door and say, “The Perfumigator”…Ewe.

As much as those two bugged there was one more. One more exchange that went beyond annoying for me, it sent me into a rant that I am still trying to recover from.

“Do you do beginning wine classes there?” Now normally I love this question, makes me light up to hear someone wants to begin learning about my beloved elixir, it was what followed that delivered a swift kick to my gut…..

“I’m a food and wine writer and I thought I better start learning about wine” she said with a chuckle. I felt my shoulders slumping as the comment was akin to poking me with a big pin, absolutely deflating.  After giving her a list of our upcoming classes and hearing, “Oh I better start with a beginning class. I drink wine but know nothing about it” again through chuckles, I started thinking about all the times I had some poor consumer come in, thrusting some glossy magazine or newspaper clipping in my face and taking that printed word as an ultimate authoritative voice. I kind of get that, I guess, the thought being that if they are paid to write about wine they must specialists but…..I wonder, how many are, like the woman that called, a paid writer and wine just so happens to be the beat they are given and they handle the topic as they would with any other? Research is one thing but having real talent when it comes to wine, well that is another and reading crap that other “writers” wrote does not a specialist make….need I remind you about the crank yankers at Food & Wine magazine?! 

So you have some editor hire a decent, (sometimes) writer to write about a topic that they have no knowledge or passion for and in the end you often end up with three things; a flaccid bit of puff article like perfume and wine pairings, another dull piece about the Argentine Malbec and worst of all, the end consumer either bored or more confused after sampling through, “Suggested Wines for Vegetable Pairings. Beets are perfect with Cabernet Franc as they have very earthy qualities” an actual pairing I saw in a magazine….dude, gross but consumers are heavily swayed when it comes to the printed word so they try it, even questioning their own palate because of it and in the end that does nothing, absolutely nothing to inspire more wine drinkers.

Two examples. We had a woman come in last week that sampled a wine on the bar, a Gunderloch Diva Riesling that she loved and asked us to help her find. We took her over and there rested upon the stack of wine was one of little pink signs that lets people know the sweetness level of our German Rieslings, said “Slightly Sweet”. “Oh I don’t like sweet wines” she protested, face all aghast and flustered. “It’s slightly sweet, just faintly” we told her and pointed out that it was in fact the same wine she had enjoyed on the bar. Didn’t matter, she saw those words, in print and now she no longer liked or wanted the wine. Crazy. Another is goddamn Zinfandel and barbeque! Ugh this is a constant nightmare for me during the summer.

 Now everyone that reads me knows that I loathe Zinfandel, just something about the flavors that do not set well on my palate. Goes beyond alcohol levels and acidity for me, it’s a taste thing. That being said I will always, always sell people Zinfandel when they want one or love it. The only time I will tussle with a customer is when they come in with some Zin & BBQ article looking for me to pick the best Zinfandel for their grilled meal and I ask a few more questions only to find they are doing something like chicken or pork marinated in citrus or vinegar….that they are then going to grill. ACK! Gag shiver. Big difference between ribs slathered with a heavy tomato and brown sugar based sauce and like pulled pork with mustard and cider vinegar but that damn article clutched in their hands makes my job, and goal twice as hard and that right there, well it pisses me off!

 Enjoy that plate of pickled beets and Chinon if you wish but when your palate gets all muddy maybe consider hitting up a retailer who can ask a few more questions and find you something, due to their years of tasting and reliance on your happiness, that will be far better suited to the dish, and YOU. We may not all be writers, in fact many of us are not but we aren’t just selling copy. A good retailer is passionate and absolutely vested in making sure that you have the best wine experience possible. We need you to in order to fill our geeky little hearts and to be able to continue doing what it is we love, turning people on to this vastly diverse and truly beautiful beverage that has the ability to seduce, astound, elevate your meal and soothe your soul. We are not paid to write about wine, we are compelled to do so.

There. Okay, I feel better.
Please Print……

Friday, April 1, 2011

Freaking Issues

So first there was newsletter deadline, (saw the final issue last night, should be a very entertaining issue for those of you that get it) of which I was late fault. Just can't seem to kick my own ass into gear and amass articles and tasting notes throughout the month, always do it the day or two before it's due....and a day or two after, almost always on my days off as I simply cannot ignore what's going on in the store long enough to put together an article, not even a little
blurb really. One person walks through that door and my thought process has shifted from writing to customer service. A good thing I suppose, just not good for writing or enjoying my days off around deadline time.

Newsletter stuff completed so good, I can start thinking about and writing a blog post, maybe even about wine this time and....BLAMO, inventory. Head is all about counting and worrying, not the best place for blog pieces I assure you. But I tried...

Last night, after counting bottles and assorted food items I decided to cheat and re-post an old piece I loved but got very little by way of comments. I was hoping that was because people just missed it, (the alternative being that it was fucking lame) so I thought I would sneak it in and try and give people something new, or new to them, to read. Copy and paste and.....issues!

Same damn thing happened to my last post, when I paste a piece from Word it re-formats the whole goddamn thing into one giant paragraph! Dumped it, cut and paste again, happens again. ARGH! So with the last piece I just went through and created paragraphs and breaks where I had them when I first wrote the freakin' thing, kind of did the same last night....after counting bottles and woke this morning to find that my 2:00 AM idea of what was good enough, wasn't.

So those of you that get that email dealie, sorry about that....

Going to try and get to the bottom of what's happening. Haven't changed anything that I can think of, might have accidentally hit something at some point but being as I am a severe compu-tard I can't figure it out. Going to buckle down this evening, which is to say sit next to the husband incessantly whining until he hopefully figures it out.

Bare with me (yes, intended)
In the meantime, forgive my silence....