So as someone that spends a lot of time tucked away with other wine professionals, spending most of my time dining with, drinking with, reading the language of people who do this wine thing for a living, it can be easy to forget that the average person either doesn’t know or doesn’t really care about half the stuff we rattle on and on about. I can stand there with a customer yammering about flavors, aromas and textures and I can literally see them glassing over. “Yeah, but is it good?” often what I hear after a five minute description of a particular bottle of wine. Hard to reel it in at times, especially when you are charged with writing something that will compel a consumer to try it. What do they want to know….I mean other than “Is it good?” the history, the flavors, the texture? Hard to know and honestly much like everything with wine, it’s all subjective.
I’ve gotten to where I love dealing with both the, “Tell me everything” customer as well as the, “Just give me something yummy” ones and all the ones between. Hell, I get to either wax rhapsodic about wines I dig or get to plunk a bottle in someone’s hand and save the verbiage for the newsletter and shelf talkers. It’s all good but there is one particular kind of consumer that I’ve yet to learn how to really deal with….
“Do you have that Almond Champagne?” a customer looking for the very popular Almondage sparkling wine. Hey, I don’t judge, people love it and I love selling it to them. Sure the word Champagne following the word almond might make me cringe but she’s not asking for a lesson, she’s looking to get her sweet drink on. So I lead her to the sparkling wine section and as I put the bottle in her hand she says, complete with eye rolling and heavy sigh, “Oh and can you show me a Chenin Blanc? I have to get one for a friend, she knows nothing about wine” Um….really? She doesn’t know anything?
“Oh this is a vanilla flavored wine” a customer reading a shelf talker in our Zinfandel department. “This would be perfect since I add grape juice to my wine when I drink it” kind of frozen with fear here. Do we step in and let her know it’s not flavored, that the vanilla note is merely a flavor profile not an actual flavoring or do we sell her the bottle hoping that she likes it well enough with her grape juice? In this case we waited to see if she was actually going to grab the bottle before “correcting” her….she didn’t and moved on to the Rose section. Here we go again, “Oh this would be Steve’s department” again with the rolling eyes and hoity voice. “He likes these kinds of wines” and she laughs! She laughs, vanilla grape juice lady is laughing at her friend who I am assuming drinks White Zinfandel . Awesome.
Yeah, I have a real problem with the whole wine snob business; always have, but the wine snob that has no business trying to be one? Well I’m starting to figure out how to deal with them…bite my tongue until it bleeds. Let someone else call them out on their bullshit. I can just sit back, revel in the joy that can be retail wine sales and hell, even get a little post out of it.
“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.....
It happens at least once a month if not more often, “Are you two sisters?” the question that leaves both Merritt and I completely baffled and wondering what the hell? Now I adore Merritt and think she is simply beautiful but c’mon….sisters?! Merritt is not only a coworker but one of my closest friends and most trusted confidants but I’m damn near old enough to be her mother, a fact that was pointed out years ago when her own mother was conspiring to try and hook her up with my son, (he is in fact a wee bit too young for her and she was totally weirded out because she sees Jeremy like a little brother. See? Insert close enough to be her mom thing here) I would love to look like Merritt but the truth is, we couldn’t look more different.
We’ve spent a couple years now trying to figure out just what might give people the impression that this blonde, green eyed Irish chick and a half Japanese girl with black hair might be related, and not just related but so closely related that our parents might in fact be one in the same….did they take turns or something? Did the sixteen or whatever years, (yeah that’s me NOT counting) in between rejuvenate pop’s sperm to finish coloring in the lines? Did the years of fermentation cause the darker hair and brown eyes? It’s crazy and it has been bugging us for awhile now…
So here are the facts at face value; Merritt and I are both thick bodied and have lots of junk in the front, (Merritt also has the junk in the trunk and of this I am forever envious) neither of us exude that “come hug me” vibe and we both wear square, black rimmed glasses. As far as aesthetics go that is where the similarities end. Sure we share a snarky sense of humor, hers much more adorable, mine a little more raw but for the most part snark is what we do well and saucy is not at all unfamiliar to either of us but still….sisters?
I’ve often kidded and called my glasses my Clark Kents but it’s only now that I am beginning to see just how camouflaging they actually are. I had no idea that those frames, hers and mine could hide or deflect so much. Cover so much. Or that people are so short sighted that they call off the memory and investigative dogs so quickly. Kind of depressing really, to have two so different and complex lives reduced down to big boobs, a thick body and black frames.
Merritt’s dark wavy hair, often studded with a bunch of flowers tucked near her ear, stark and noticeable against her pale white flesh and enhanced by her big, very round and tremendously expressive brown eyes. A remarkably beautiful girl that wears her father’s frame, her father’s calm, her father’s comfort and knowledge with all things electronic. A life spent in a machine shop fondling tools while her driven and passionate mother worked in kitchens making herself one of the finest chefs many of us has ever known. The fortitude for hard work that came from helping that mother prepare and serve many a dinner in strangers homes….a sweet face that grew up knowing both the revelry of foie gras and the feeling of scrubbing the counters before slipping off and letting the “hosts” enjoy the rest of their dinner party. A comfort in her skin unlike any I have ever known in a woman so young, or many twice and thrice her age. She is not only a friend but there are parts of this young girl that make me admire her on a level that is simply impossible to articulate. Half Japanese, half Pittsburgh…all her. She deserves more than to be lost behind Clark Kents or reduced to just another Sam.
I took a second to look at my face before coming here. To really try and see what it is that others see…hard for me as I am not a fan of spending too much time in the mirror but in the interest of giving this post its due, I did it. Behind my Clark Kents there are green eyes and long features, the ones that were a constant reminder that I was unlike my siblings. I don’t look like the rest of the family, I look like my father. My long nose and full mouth, the green eyes and very straight hair….those were all him and while I knew very little of him I can remember my mother telling me that he was the sexiest and most crave inducing man she had ever met. I recently heard one of those things that maybe we aren’t supposed to….the fact that my grandparents wanted my mother to leave my father and move to England where they could help care for the two of us and while I let myself feel a little guilty that the man that sired me was so intoxicating to my mother that she wouldn’t or couldn’t leave him, there was some pride in the fact that I can see her in my face too. My smile is hers. My gestures all her and I find now that rather than feel guilty that she didn’t snap up the chance at a better life for herself…she followed her heart and even if she never knew it, she inspired me to follow mine. Did not work for her but her heart and face are here with me always.
My scars, I see those right off and while many never even notice them I wear them in my walk, the way I speak and sadly at times, the way I guard myself. My heart, spirit and pride were once twisted upon a tightrope, hell I was twisted up there too and while I’m not sure I would love reliving the break ins, the broken face, the whimpering soul, the fear, well as odd as it might sound I would do it all again if it would get me here. I slip on my glasses every day but behind them is the face of a woman, scars and all, that just aches to be loved and accepted…wearing the walk and snark of a woman that has been challenged and has done the best she can. Not raised in a machine shop, not brought up on lug nuts and leftover lobster. I’m not Merritt and big tits aside, she’s not me.
“Oh Yummy” what happens every time I pour some deeply extracted wine for a customer. Forget that they haven’t tasted it, haven’t even smelled it but that dark color in the glass is all they seem to need to ensure that the wine is “the best thing ever”…grrr. Get the same kind of deal when I pour some little Pinot Noir from Alsace, “Oh it’s thin” what the hell?! You haven’t even tasted it yet, how the fuck can you make any intelligible deduction about its texture or weight when you have yet to put it in your mouth? Has this really happened? Have we all become so blinded by flash and shinny that we have all become magpies? Blinded by the first little sliver or impression and not willing or able to see beyond that?
We have a wine at the shop and seeing as I don’t wish to ruffle any feathers I shall leave it nameless but, well it is quite frankly like cough syrup in the glass. Deeply purple, sluggish to move around in the glass and as saturated as any wine I have ever come in contact with. So we pour this freak of nature and everyone losses their shit over it. I get to hear what a massive and huge wine it is and I stand there, behind my Clark Kents, wondering what the hell they are talking about?! Yeah it’s a chunky wine but it’s also flabby, profoundly soft and as far from my idea of big as you can possibly be. Big boobs and black rims….dig deeper and I promise you, there is much to learn.
I love Merritt and think she is as remarkable a human as I have ever met but, she’s not me, I’m not her and if you won’t or can’t get past the first impression….well, you are missing so much with people and with wine. Judge each my their merits and trust me, they each have a story worth knowing and a soul worth sharing…..
“So you leave for Italy in like two weeks right?” “No. It’s like a month or something…..right?!”
“Holy shit. I’m leaving for Italy in like two weeks.”
This was the conversation I had this afternoon before leaving the shop. I have no idea why I thought my departure date was still a month away, maybe it’s the fact that I am still disbelieving of the fact that I am going. Being invited, and not just invited but being taken, to Italy. To swirl around the north eastern hills of Friuli…tasting, smelling, learning soaking in yet another country’s wild scent and accent, well it not only feels like over a month away, it seems unreal to me, like it must be someone else’s life. I get to sit away here late at night, early in the morning, buzzy, hungover, ranting, loving, making love to the wines I adore by retelling their story here, the tap-tap-tap of my nails against the keyboard of my beloved laptop keeping me company and not only do people read it….respond to it, I get an email asking me if I would consider travelling with a few other wine bloggers to Italy, a guest there to taste the wines of the region and share my impressions. God, how did I get here?
Vacation only meant one thing to me when I was growing up, it was an extra check that helped pay the bills once a year. We never went anywhere; maybe had a dinner out that week but there was no going, no packing, no camping, not ever. My “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” papers where always the same, they were a recount of watching my little sister and reruns of The Honeymooners, (and ahem…Maury Povich. Don’t judge, I just HAD to find out which of the 12 men tested was that woman’s baby daddy) Wasn’t horrible, was just the way it was and travel never even really entered my consciousness, in fact….in all honesty it scared me in some ways so it was something I rarely even thought about. That whole, “don’t look at it and it shall not exist or ever come up” thing…always works that.
I began baby stepping my way around the US once I met a man that was much more fearless than I. A sound and quiet man that booked travel like an agent and held me when I felt like my heart and body were about to leap from my airplane seat and pry the doors off the plane in an effort to save my life….or preserve the dangerously fragile barrier that kept me just as quiet and satiated in my life of up and down the same streets, to and from point A and point B. The life I knew, the foods I knew, the nameless faces of the rest of my fearfully safe crowd. Seattle, DC, Georgia, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine….each flight just a little longer, each taste just a bit more comfortable and each step in a new place a fingerprint resting upon the flesh on my back, pushing me to take the next step. The next deep breath of air that didn’t smell like home, smile in the face of someone’s verbiage I didn’t quite get…to feel a life, if only for a moment, that was thousands of worlds away from any I had ever tasted before. Each time leaving me more ready, more wanting and more eager for the next hesitant step….
So here I sit, almost every state in our union and 4 trips to Europe under my belt about to climb aboard and hear the cla-clunk as yet another stamp is added to my passport. Surreal. Fuck, I cannot even begin to express how humbling and not even close to real, this feeling is. Cannot even begin to imagine what I’ve done in my life to deserve this, wishing I did as I would not only do it again…I would pass whatever it is along as I would give anything to share this with all of you that have made this next adventure even possible. Without you, your visits and comments, my silly blog would have never been noticed and this rather clumsy voiced, thick bodied, goofy, ranting, somewhat inappropriate girl…turned woman, would not be boarding that plane in….fuck, two weeks! I’m tucking you in my laptop…come with me. I need you.
So I’ve been scanning my fellow travelers blogs. Been checking out their tone and I gotta tell ya, kinda sucks knowing…before we even leave, that I am likely going to be the worst behaved. (sigh) I’m starting out with three strikes: 1) Fat 2) Smoker 3) Can’t pee while standing
None of those shall be changing before the trip. I can get me some less than ghetto shoes and stuff but I aint about to shed like…erm, a hundred pounds, give up my much dreaded but so adored huffing habit or grow some tubage that will make my pee deficiency better. These are truths that no matter how I ache for them to go away, shan’t. So the next worry on my list of shit that makes me a nut job before one of these trips, you know aside from hoping I don't fall out of the sky and junk is…..who shall be my partner in crime? Now on a bigger trip I do what most do, I look for the girl…seeing as that is me on this here wild ride, well I am kinda screwed there. I once relied on the kindness, (read horniness) of one of the hotel workers….long story, very bad plan and very expensive cab ride. Ugh.
I can’t help but wonder who will sneak out of our luxurious accommodations, go on the cured meat, the one more glass run with me. Who will be clinking glasses of grappa when Sussudio or Baby Got Back comes screeching through the jukebox or is spun on the wheels of steel. Who will give me that, “Oh I hate you” glare at 11:00 AM when we are picked up to begin our day…
So okay, I know I share a bunch of stuff here in this space, you all know far more about me than I am guessing you would like. I stand before you naked time and time again, my life, my friendships, my overindulgence…my heart; it is all out here on display for you all to read in between my miscellaneous wine posts or rants about this and that. Not sure if that brings you closer or runs you off, guessing it is a bit of both. Some stay, follow me along in my quest and self exploration and others will flee in search of something more wine focused. I get it and don’t blame the ones that bail, adore the ones that stay and support me on my baby-legged stumble to find my voice in this big wine blogging world. For those that stay I continue to share, share my stories, my inspiration and myself…the only thing I really have to give to thank you all, all those fingers in my back, those eyes on me, that drive that pushes me to continue talking, oozing, waxing rhapsodic about whatever it is that bounces into this wacky head of mine…
So this evening, all alone in my home, I started thinking about sharing, how lovely, how codifying, how powerful it is but….sometimes, well sometimes it’s better alone. I’m willing to confess that sometimes pleasure is best served for one…especially when you are serving yourself.
Don’t go acting all shocked, don’t act like you don’t do it too, I know you do..you all do, we all do, and sometimes there is nothing better than the pleasure one can derive than that from one’s own hand, one’s own voice and from one’s own purring sounds. Sure, the Internets assist, they lead us, toy with us; make us think of things that we might not have considered on our own. Offer scintillating photos of what we want, what we secretly ache for, make our mouths water for, “Just a taste” and then we are left to our own devices…our own will, our own want. Tonight I “wanted” more than I have in a very long time….alone or not, I was going to, have…take, and fucking feel…what I wanted, me and me alone.
To be alone with your, self seduction, the way you can feel the little hairs stand up on the base of your neck, the way the skin around your most sensitive parts seem to constrict, tighten and the way that feeling runs up the base of your spine. To have a room so silent that you can hear the groan of pleasure escape your lips, how sexy that echoing silence can be. Just you, your thoughts, your will, your want, your need…your nose caught up in the cacophony of scent, your palate wildly flicking away…bouncing, fighting to taste every last drop, the way your throat seems to expand to take it all in. There is nothing like it. Sharing is sweet, it’s wonderful but this feeling…unlike any other.
So tonight I pleasured myself, I’m not afraid to share that here. It felt fantastic, my hairs erect, my throat open, my heart open and me here, with all of you…exposing myself once again, sharing my self exploration with you. I opened a bottle of 2000 Paul Chapelle Meursault and drank the whole damn thing…alone. No one in my ear yammering about texture, length or premature oxidation, just me…alone in my library smelling home. Face washed, jammies on, little hairs tingling the base of my neck…
Great wine is best shared with people that can appreciate it, I have to agree….for the most part, but once in a while, there is nothing that can compare or compete with the knee weakening, heart pounding…….head spinning pleasure that can be had with a night of, “self pleasurevation”…
While cleaning out my undie drawer this morning I came across this brittle and somewhat crunchy scroll. The handwriting I recognized, the mastery with which it was written familiar, the power and fierceness of opinion nearly palpable....I knew it was something that needed to be shared, a forecast from Our Beloved HoseMaster of Wine of what lies ahead for 2011. I knew it was my duty to share them with you all...oh and Mr. Washam, no need to slink around my pantie drawer, email works fine. Don't even want to begin to imagine why this thing is so crunchy.....
The beginning of the year brings out the prognosticator in all of us, and since I’m over 50 I had to have my prognostate checked. Everything came out fine, if slightly sulfurous around the fingernails. I have an amazing ability to predict the future of the wine business. Most of you will remember that for 2010 I predicted that HoseMaster of Wine would fold. And that Bret Favre would retire. And that Constellation would sell off its Australian wine portfolio because they found out there aren’t any Mexicans in Australia. So as you read my predictions for 2011 keep my uncanny accuracy in mind. Now, if only my prognostate exam had been un-canny.
President Obama will serve a screwtop in the White House—Speaker of the House Boehner.
Our quaint little print wine publications will start to slowly disband or merge. It will be revealed that Stephen Tanzer is actually Allen Meadows the Burghound, who, in turn, is actually a pseudonym for Stephen Hawking who tastes every wine submitted via an enema. The hard part is spitting. Ironic, considering his name. Robert Parker finally admits that he’s dead and points to hiring Mark Squires as proof of an EEG flatter than sales of Syrah. Connoisseurs’ Guide, Wine and Spirits, and Wine Enthusiast merge to form “Connoisseurs’ Guide to Enthusiastic Spirits.” Richard Simmons gets Three Poofs. Wine Spectator is sold to Riedel which then breaks it up into 29 different publications, each dedicated to only one variety. Riedel argues that the size of the print and the quality of the paper determine how much sense the ratings make. Consumers fall for their bullshit again. Mutineer Magazine turns out to be an elaborate hoax perpetrated by Mormons seeking to turn people off to all forms of alcohol and writers with talent.
DNA evidence will show that Gruner Veltliner is a cross between Riesling and a durian.
An article in the “Journal of Psychiatry” will use wine blogs as a resource for studying megalomania. “Wine bloggers,” the authors say, “ exhibit the classic signs of megalomania—an unshakable belief in their importance mixed with the conviction that they and their opinions are special and powerful despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.” The only cure, the authors conclude, is to be “…forced to read their own works aloud.” Except for the HoseMaster, who should be “lobotomized. Again.”
Pinot Noir’s popularity will begin to wane in the wake of the discovery that many of the most popular brands were made from expired cans of Cherry Coke. This is discovered by a Denny’s waitress at a blind tasting of Marcassin Pinot Noir. Helen Turley appears in a Super Bowl ad for Pepsi. Grenache replaces Pinot Noir as the red wine of choice for sissies, and everyone proclaims New Zealand the best place in the world to grow it even though no one believes it to be true. Constellation buys every New Zealand winery.
I’m not sure how this started. Can’t quite pinpoint the exact moment when I first felt my tummy flip, my insides flinch and pull with uncontrollable want just thinking about you. Don’t know when this shifted from a playful flirtation, a fun but respectful flash of bare skin, giggles…lowering of the eyes just before things get too intense. Not sure how we got here but here we are and….I need to be with you.
I’ve gone over all the reasons why it’s wrong, sat in my comfortable bubble of familiar…tried to find resolve in the touch and smells of my commitment but now I find even when I’m safely tucked against the chest of my chosen one….you come to me. It seems that no matter how tightly I try and board up the little gaps you seem to find a way in, some little crack, a tiny unseen and unsupported doorway and there you are again. My eyes tightly closed, the fear of losing my way, my heart writhing and pounding against my chest….my breathing becoming more labored and desperate with each imagined and painfully ached for touch.
I’m afraid. Afraid of being found out, afraid of letting myself slip into a relationship that from the beginning has been based not on mutual understanding or paths to the future but on a primal, animalistic craving that holds me hostage to thoughts of devouring every inch….to draw from your well until this insatiable thirst for you is quenched. Afraid that once I surrender and first take you between my lips, feel your power land upon my tongue, afraid that once I swallow that thirst will become a part of me that I will never be able to completely quench…your moisture the only cure. I’m afraid but….I need to be with you.
So here I am....
I don’t care what anyone thinks…fuck, not even sure I care what I think but….I’m ready and I need to be with you.
On February 5th I board a plane at Los Angeles International Airport, the first step on this thirst quenching adventure that will have me landing in Venice Italy and from there, along with five other American wine bloggers on to the Eastern hills of Friuli to taste, explore and feel this new lover of mine.
Okay so those of you that have been reading this silly blog for any length of time are fully aware of my somewhat odd aversion to almost everything sweet. I drown my fruit in lemon juice and salt, I avoid dessert and dessert wines like I owe them money and I am one of those freaks that has absolutely zero love for chocolate. Earlier this year I was kind of challenged by a friend’s wife when I mentioned that I hated chocolate. She seemed perplexed and even more so when I mentioned that maybe once or twice a year I would get a craving for peanut butter and chocolate ice cream….something I threw out in order to keep from looking like a total freak. “But chocolate tastes its best at palate temperature. When it melts in your mouth” she explained and as I sat there trying not to look like an ass I thought, “Exactly. It gets more intense, creamier and in my opinion more flaccid when it’s warm which is why the only way I can and do crave it is in its chilled and rigid form” it’s not that I don’t get it, I just don’t like it…flaccid and palate coating sweetness just doesn’t do for me.
I prefer Madeira to port and cream sherry, finding that bit of savory almost beef broth like and citrus thing in a Bual Madeira far more enticing and craveable than berries, cassis and caramel. I will happily trade you my dessert for your cheese plate, I find many new world wines a little too sweet upfront (Charlie, I said many and that in no way implies all) and the only cookie I really dug as a kid was Gingersnaps…but with a little pile of sharp cheddar cheese to wash down each bite. Just a freaky quirk I’ve had for I don’t know….the past thirty something years. That being said I am a wine buyer and wine specialist so there are times when I do have to suck up my preferences, like when I was taken to Spain with a group to learn about and taste (like a million) Sherries and where each estate fed us not one but two desserts at each meal….dude, you would think I was working the New York Stock Exchange with the amount of trading I did there. But like I said, I have to forget for a moment what I like personally to taste things I’m either presented to bring in the shop or to educate myself on the things we already have. Part of the job and it’s not like I have to drink them.
New Years Eve, the final hoorah of the holiday season. The flow in the shop was steady, everyone in a fantastic mood, (which by the way was most of the season…that was truly awesome) and with each hour that ticked away the light at the end of the very long tunnel was getting brighter and just that much closer. Randy had been in a long and somewhat nostalgic conversation with one of our favorite customers; a lovely French woman that comes to us for Pastis, Chablis and a few other things she misses from home and can’t find most anywhere else. They had been talking dessert wines but somewhere in the conversation they had moved on to spirits and were lovingly pointing to and chatting about this liqueur and that.
Randy had been telling her about two very rare items that we have in stock; a prune brandy and a chestnut liqueur by Louis Roque. As he was describing them to her he would call out to any of the staff that happened to be near looking for confirmation and or our opinions on the stuff….that was when he discovered that none of us had tasted either of them. As the night wound down, customers gone and staff gathering and purchasing bottles for our end of the year celebrations I saw Randy grabbing a rack of glass and walking off into the tasting room, knowing him as I do I knew there was going to be a little staff training as we closed up the shop for the last time in 2010. If Randy is anything he is a very passionate teacher, he thrives on showing people new things and seems to love doing so with his staff just as much as with customers….guess that makes him a passionate teacher and smart as hell.
I was counting out one of the registers when I saw a few staff members streaming out of the tasting room, this was my time to strike. So here’s another quirk of mine, I find it damn near impossible to not show on my face what I think of something I’m putting in my mouth. It’s a terrible habit, one that my beloved Ron Washam aka The HoseMaster of Wine can attest to….poor bastard drove me around Sonoma where I tasted a bunch of Zinfandel, my least favorite of all wine varieties, and he experienced firsthand the Sam, “No sir, don’t like it” face. Okay being fully aware of my facial issues I thought the best time for me to try a prune brandy and chestnut liqueur and NOT wear my face on my sleeve was doing so after the others had left the tasting room.
I slipped in the tasting room trying not to attract too much attention, pulled a glass from the rack and started with the Louis Roque La Vieille Prune ($45.99) the prune brandy. Something made me think that I might have at least smelled it before and my memory was that it was kind of rugged, thought it best to start there after all the “sweet” comments I heard about the chestnut stuff. My first sniff was blemished by a big ass blast of heat, habit had me spinning the hell out of the stuff in one of our big glasses which really just inflamed the alcohol, but once settled down I took another sniff and got a very unique, almost floral burst that was quickly followed by a plumy, distinct prune aroma. Pretty, the aromas were delicate and pretty so I took a sip….this is where I should tell you that I’m not a lover of brandy. The flavors mirrored the aromas but there was a very powerful and chest warming….very brandy like aggression on the finish. I can see why people love the stuff but much like warm chocolate, not my thing.
I moved on to the Louis Roque Liqueur de Chataigne ($23.99) and my “face” started as the thick, uber thick liqueur lumbered into the glass, slowly falling upon its big bodied self with the consistency of motor oil, yeah insert “face”. Spun the chunky golden liquid in the glass, tapped my foot while I waited for mass of liqueur to move and took my first sniff, my “face” was instantly replaced with a raised eyebrow. There was something so alluring about the aromas, sure there was clearly a nutty thing but it wasn’t the dominate aroma. The nose was loaded with wild honey, cinnamon, clove and allspice, reminded me of the incense my stoner friends would burn as to not alert their parents they were smoking pot…wicked smart those stoners. I took the glass to my lips and again found myself a little impatient with the speed at which the thickish stuff moved up the glass and into my mouth but fuck, once it got there all was forgiven. No doubt the stuff is sweet but just for a brief second really as all that clove, sandalwood, cinnamon and allspice, this massive middle of warm cooking spices becomes not only the middle of the liqueur but the center of attention, you can feel it coating the inside of your mouth and creeping up into the nasal passages. Never had a wine or spirit do that, not so intensely anyway and to call the finish haunting is an almost criminal understatement. As unique, alluring and sexy liqueur as I have ever had the pleasure to taste. Before I knew it my tasting pour had been drained and I was wishing I had bought a bottle to take home.
Was back in the shop on Monday for inventory and when I was finished I hunted down the sexy elixir to see if it was just a post holiday euphoria that had me thinking about, dreaming about this sweet but not too sweet spirit…wasn’t and before I clock out tonight I will be buying a bottle to take home with me where it will tease and taunt me until I give….have a glass or two. I give it two weeks, tops. Damn…..wild stuff but it sure as hell found my sweet spot.