Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Read To Avoid Wankerism

I don’t think we do enough public service junk around this here wine blog world. Oh we sure as hell like to make lists and tell people how they should be thinking and drinking, why the other guy is wrong and not drinking as well, but the actual assisting others while on their "journey" into this whole wine discovery thing, yeah not so much. What’s up with that?! If we aren’t helping our fellow wine peoples then what the fuck are we writing this free shit for?! Fame? Fortune? Blobber badges? To get The HoseMaster to make fun of us? Well maybe it is for some and it might just be the vagina but I’m too emotional for that nonsense. And getting caught up in the argument of the hour, as in the likes of that Parker and Galloni business? Let’s just say that watching, listening or talking about a couple rich white dudes arguing over money, it’s about as relevant and imperative to us lowly wine lovers as watching super models give each other puppies. I’m over the bickering and squawking until blue in the face about things like points, natural wines and whose palate is more evolved, (such a smug comment that) old world or new world wine drinkers. Over it is a wickedly gross understatement.

 Teaching, tasting and talking about wine is my chosen profession, (well I guess it sort of chose me, I think if given the real option to pick what it is I do all day there may be some form of job title that involves me making sure Dave Matthews is relaxed, like all the time) so I think I should be making a bit more of an effort to assist those looking to me, (you poor fuckers) for help. I can make lists too dammit. Oh I won’t do those goofy, “Wine Predictions for 2013” or “My Top 10 Wines for Der Wienerschnitzel” or any other such noise but I got a helpful tip or two up my sleeve.

Wine Store Survival Guide:

  So I know a lot of people are a bit intimidated when they walk into a wine store, all those options, wines you’ve never tasted, things you’ve never heard of, weird labels with words like Quincy or Bourgueil rather than Sauvignon Blanc or Cabernet Franc…that’s a lot of “don’t know crap” but toss in the fear of wine people factor, well then it can be down-right panic inducing. As someone that works in one of those stores the idea that anyone might be afraid to walk in, well…it just makes me sad. I want everyone to feel comfortable about shopping for wine, and if you are buying your wines at the grocery store because of your fear of the unknown, then you are missing out on some really thrilling, interesting and passion inspiring flavors.

Don’t fear the wine merchant, don’t let what you have yet to learn keep you from advancing your palate. Don’t assume that the wine store is only for those “special occasion” wines or a place where only very knowledgeable shop….trust me, many of our customers don’t know shit about wine, and many of them don’t want to, they are there to have us find wines for them, you know so they don’t have to bother with gathering information they don’t feel they need just to find a yummy bottle of wine. That’s what we are here for and a great wine merchant will take the time to develop a relationship with you, learn what you love and teach you more about wine…if you are so inclined, the goal of a great wine shop is to have more people drinking, and enjoying wine, they want to give you pleasure…..well, that makes it sound like a whore house but I think you know what I mean.

                                                         (Much has changed in 11 years)

Now a quick word about wine professionals, to say that there are no self-inflated, information withholding, looking down their nose at you, blowhards would be a lie…they are still there, but their numbers are dwindling. Those tight asses are being replaced by a very passionate bunch of wine….well, wine dorks really. Wine dorks are just like any other variety dork, we gather information, collect, document our findings, basic nerd stuff right, it just so happens that the source of our particular dorkdum also gives us a buzz….sweet.

So I polled the staff, asked them which behaviors or comments made them cringe, not in an attempt to piss and moan but to help…help those of you that may be nervous or unsure how to behave in a wine store…we came up with a list, two lists actually, one specifically for attending tastings. So here you have it, The Wine Store Survival Guide or How To Not Look Like A Douche In A Wine Store.

1- Don’t ask, “Is this any good?” it implies that the retailer may have crappy wines in the store.

2- Don’t assume they are trying to screw you, they need you to come back so they wont intentionally sell you a bottle of crap wine.

3- Don’t ask, “Is it like a Merlot?” about every red wine you have never heard of. It’s not like a Merlot, it’s Sancerre rouge, I just spent 5 minutes describing the flavor profile, did it sound like a Merlot? If it did, then yes…it’s like a Merlot to you.

4- Don’t hit on the women working there, it’s not Hooters, show a little respect. Unless of course you are that tall glasses wearing guy that makes my heart jump about, then by all means...

5- Don’t bring in The Wall Street Journal or Consumer Reports and tell a retailer that they should have those wines. We taste wines and bring them in, not read about them and bring them in.

6- Don’t say this, “I had this great red wine on vacation, I can’t remember the name, but it was red and really good. Do you have it?” They have hundreds of them, they will need a tad more information before they can help you.

7- Don’t let your wee ones push a cart in a wine store.

8- Don’t wait until your wines are bagged to ask for a box or to have the price tags removed, we will gladly do both but ask before we went through the trouble of bagging everything…saves everyone time.

9- Don’t say “Only chicks drink white wine” not only is that incorrect it makes you look like a jackass.

10- Don’t ask why they don’t carry something….unless you are ready to hear the real answer.

11- Don’t be afraid to tell them what you want to spend. They aren’t sizing you up or judging your bank account…they need to know in order to find you the best bottle in “that” price range.

12- Don’t go in, confess that you know nothing about wine and then run the wine specialist ragged by saying, “Okay what else” to every wine they recommend.

13- Don’t tell them that you saw such-and-such wine at BevMo for less money. Sure it happens, (lots of reasons for the price difference not the least of which is that BevMo can buy hundreds of cases…a small retailer cannot) but telling them that is not going to change the price and does little more than make you look like a douche.

14- Don’t say, “Isn’t that pink shit for women?” first of all, that “Pink shit” is drier than your Merlot and secondly there are no wines just for women…don’t be a Neanderthal.

15- Don’t ask them to hold the wines you bought at BevMo behind the counter because you don’t want them getting hot in your car while you attend their wine tasting.

For Wine Tastings

1 1-   Don’t wear smelly junk! It messes with everyone; they are there to taste wine, not you.

2- Don’t tell the person pouring that the wine was shit. You may not like it but it isn’t shit, someone liked it enough to bring it in the store…could just be the person pouring for you.

3- Don’t treat the person pouring like a server, because last I checked, you’re not tipping them.

4- Don’t hit on the women pouring…it’s still not Hooters.

5- Don’t ask, (while being poured) “What does this wine taste like?” taste it and decide for yourself, we may be wine dorks but we don’t live in your mouth.

6- Don’t be a slob, mind the schmeg on your glass…cuzz, ewe.

7- Don’t ask for more wine or a bigger pour of the most expensive one, makes you look like a greedy beast…and lets us know that you are likely one of those people that makes the Costco sample carts your favorite lunch joint. .

8- Don’t bring the kiddies, not that we don’t like them but we cannot have them in the tasting area…not OUR law, but the law.

9- Don’t grill the person pouring, if you really want to know something, then ask but don’t make them give you the history of the estate, the case production and the winemakers name…especially if you have no intention of remembering it, it’s okay to just taste.

10- Don’t say, “Can I try number 6 again, I just want to make sure that is the one I want to buy” we’ve heard that one before…a billion times, might I suggest taking notes? We have a one taste per wine policy not to be dicks but because pouring extra of any wine throws the bottle count off and that costs us money…..something no wine shop can afford.

So there you have it folks, a little cheat sheet of things to avoid when shopping for wine or attending a wine tasting….hope it’s useful!

Don’t fear the wine merchant, shit…even if you committed every flub on this list they will still help you find a great bottle of wine and the really good ones, they will wait until you leave before making fun of you or calling you a douchebag. (Grin)


Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,
I pretty much think everyone writes just so I'll make fun of them. I'm certainly way outnumbered.

And as for being a wanker--well, you know how I love that.

This piece took me back to the days when I ran wine tastings at Mission Wines. A woman used to frequently attend, park her butt in front of the cheese nibbles we provided, and eat like a bulimic rat. Or have you ever had people pour their own tastes when you're otherwise occupied? I'd toss those bums. And let's not forget the people who tell you how to run your business--"You should do more Pinot Noir tastings." Crap like that. The Great Unwashed Public, gotta love 'em. Sadly, the biggest offenders are the ones who never learn, no matter how many posts we write.

OK, back to wanking. I love you!

Thomas said...


You forgot my two of my pet peeves at tastings--

1. don't wear lipstick

2. after you get your taste, get out of the way so that other people can taste.

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,
Well I know I certainly did all I could to get under your skin but I have to say, I am grateful to, as of yet, avoided being lampooned by you. Shudder to think, in fact I'll just go back to thinking about your love of me shudders in a whole other way.

I was hoping some of you that also deal with the public would add your no-nos to the list, I know there are tons of things I missed. Thanks for adding love, and for not stabbing me with your pointy...stick. I love you, man do I love you!

Forgot the planters! How could I forget that one, I HATE that. Lipstick not so much...

webb said...

First, Thomas. I promise - promise - it never occurred to me to dump the lipstick. My ego is sodamn fragile that i re-apply all day long. Am promising YOU that i will stop,'cause wine tasting is about my favorite sport.

Sam, great info. Truth is since we started our pilgrimage to visit every winery in Virginia - have i mentioned that there are more than 200?- we have learned a baotload about wine and, more importantly what we do and dont like ... to the point where iactually have a favorite red.

One thing tho ... i'm having weiner schnitzel next week ...

Thomas said...


True story: a woman once asked me in my tasting room why all Finger Lakes wine she was tasting reminded her of strawberry.

I asked her to check the flavor of her lipstick, which it appeared she used the whole damned tube that morning.

You guessed it.

As for Va. wine, great progress has been made there in the past decade. There's a new one in Middleburg that uses the same name I used for my ex-winery: Cana Vineyards.

Have you been there yet? I know nothing else about the winery or its wines.

Samantha Dugan said...

Can I just tell you how much I adore your excitement and enthusiasm for the wines of your state. Truly is fun for me to see that and now you have me wondering love, what is your favorite red?

Seriously? Whadda twat....sigh.

Thomas said...


Seriously. The toughest part of my work back then was trying to serve the consumer after having been responsible for making the wine. The pain was accented by my intolerance for cretinous pronouncements.

gabe said...

that was fantastic. you forgot my personal least favorite "which wine is the best?" this isn't the 100-meter dash, that's a bit of a loaded question

Samantha Dugan said...

I often think about that, about having the luxury of not being the one that actually made the wine because then it might be more than I could take listening to asswads make big, bold, sweepingly stupid pronouncements. Hard enough for me just being the one that bought it for the store, when someone has the nerve to say something like, "That one sucked" rather than, "I preferred the other" I get my nickers all sorts of twisted, can't imagine if I had made the wine. No sir, don't think that's for me. The other side of course is I never get that prideful moment either. Was out to dinner a couple weeks ago with a winemaker friend and no lie, the table right next to us, a woman having her 40th and the wine, his Syrah. I know he felt funny but good...

Yup. Or when I'm pouring like my sparkling wines or all French and some wad asks, "Which is your favorite?" I bought them all...I love them all. Bugs me but I think it is just human nature. Thanks for weighing in Glue Kid. I was hoping people in the business would add, so this helps!

Thomas said...

Glue kid?

Did I miss something? Is Gabe on airplane glue? Buzz, buzz, buzz...

Samantha Dugan said...

Yeah, sorry, it was carry over from over at The HoseMaster's place. Playground reference...

Daniel said...

I haven't worked in a wine shop (grocery retail, distributor, importer), but I've poured at enough tastings to fill a book with stupid questions...and yet I agree with Gabe and you that the absolute dumbest question I hear at every tasting, public or even trade is "what is your best/favorite wine?". This is a variation on the question I am ALWAYS asked when people find out I'm in the wine business; "what's a good wine?"

At tastings I tend to handle it two ways; either pour them the wine they are least likely to ask for, (German Riesling, Albarino, or some other fun interesting white) or ask them what they like. They almost always say "big reds, you know cab, merlot..." and I remind them that cabernet is just a grape, and you could make a rose out of it and it wouldn't be 'big' at all.

As for "What's a good wine?", I always ask "What's a good song? What's it for? Saturday night party music in not what I want for a romantic dinner or sunday brunch. I love Mozart, but not to keep the party going!"

and I think perfume and cologne should get you thrown out of tastings and branded with a scarlet "I" (idiot!).


Samantha Dugan said...

Thanks for the input. My #1 answer to, "What is the best wine?" is always, "Best for what?" followed, (quickly because I don't want to look too much like a dick)by, 'The best wine for steak is not the best wine for halibut". Seems to work most days. Don't even get me started on the Cab/Merlot the ones that makes me bunch all up is when I'm pouring a Cotes du Rhone, and they insist on knowing what's in it, and when I tell them half the grapes they've never heard of so they say, "Well, is it like a Merlot?"...bat-fucking-shit. Kind of ran with an agenda last week for a Thursday afternoon tasting, pushed their comfort level and I cannot tell you how many light bulbs I saw going off! Way fucking cool...think I am going to write about it.

Thomas said...

"Well, is it like a Merlot?"

The drawback of varietal labeling. Many people don't know these are grape names--they think they are brands.

I know why varietal labeling was (and still is) favored in the U.S., but I wish it wasn't. It would have made marketing regions and producers more important--in that order, and it certainly would have removed some of the dumb questions--I think...

Samantha Dugan said...

Precisely why you might have found me adorable and junk last week. Guess I have my next post waiting. Fun day for me for sure.

Thomas said...

You are always adorable and junk.

Samantha Dugan said...

You sir just gave me the 3rd case of pink cheeks this afternoon! Good day for me. Thanks kid. xoxox

Marcia Macomber said...

Fabulous, m'dear! I hope you're going to blow up your lists poster-size and mount them to the wall of the store.

Gotta agree with Thomas about the lipstick and the non-step-awayers being annoying. A good prodding stick might help there... :-)

Anonymous said...

Question- I was at an in store tasting where the dist. rep was doing the pouring; the owner was with other customers in the store at the time. The wine in my glass was obviously cooked and I mentioned it to the rep who was pouring, out of earshot from most of the tasting crowd. Maybe 2 or 3 people heard it but didn't know what I meant by it. Reps response was that was the way it was supposed to smell and brushed me off. I didn't make a scene, just went to the owner at another part of the store had him smell / taste and he agreed with me. He (owner) discreetly pulled that open cooked bottle and had another one opened so that customers wouldn't be poured anymore of the cooked wine. Other then mentally "hulk-smashing" the rep and handling things with the owner, how else could I have spoken up so that everyone saves face and I avoid the mantle of douchery? I hate to think of those customers who were suffering through cooked wine, smiling and nodding having no clue what the wine was supposed to taste like. But also the wine rep was probably losing sales and didn't even want to consider the opinion of someone he sees as a random guy who knows nothing about wine.

Anonymous said...

Is hitting on wine store employees ok if you have a cool wine related line like-

I like my women the way I like my wine- with cherries, leather, and a bit rough on the tongue. I would like a bottle of Brunello and to know what you plan on cooking me for breakfast tomorrow morning...

gabe said...


we always get good stories at our tastings. another one i hear a lot is 'i'm allergic to sulfites'. i always just want to say, 'don't take this the wrong way, but you have no idea what you're talking about'. but i think they might take it the wrong way 8-) at least there's no sulfites in paste!

Unknown said...


I essentially tell people the same thing, but emphasize the "allergy" aspect. If you have an actual allergy to sulfites, you will have the same reaction as if you had a peanut allergy and eat peanuts. You will have a noticeable reaction, difficulty breathing, and would probably require medical attention. So in the end, they do not have a sulfite allergy and they do not know what they are talking about. Same as poison ivy.

More times than not they are talking about getting a headache after drinking 2 glasses of charles shaw or yellow tail or any other one of the mass produced swill brands and I explain to them that those are more chemicals than grapes. That's what's giving you the headache.

Anonymous said...

That last post was from me, aka Da'Knurd. Not sure why it didn't post my ID.

Samantha Dugan said...

Let me first say that you gave me my biggest, and first chuckle of the day with your comment over at HoseMaster, so thanks for that. Okay, now...

In the case of a supplier, winery rep or distributor type dude pouring a bad wine I would say you did the absolute right thing by getting the retailer. I would flip, and likely ask to leave, any sales rep that was pouring and defending substandard or fucked up wine, period. There are times at bigger functions when I can't taste each and every wine or next flight of wines, due to timing or being too busy pouring/opening other bottles, so when someone in the know can alert us to something being amuck, well I actually appreciate it. Let some "sales guy" try and tell anyone that shops at our place that the wine is supposed to taste that way, you would see me pull out the red tag gun, in front of them and sell it off as cooking wine for $1.99....never to return. You did the right thing dude...or chicka.

As for hitting on wine store employees with those lines, yes. My answer is yes...hell you gave me a little shiver of, "Damn" and I was the one saying don't do it.

Those planters are truly awful and now I wish I had fingered them in the body of this post...dammit. Lipstick, still not so much. Thanks so much for sharing this post today! Very sweet of you.

I always ask them, "Do you have the same reaction when you eat dried fruit? If not it aint the sulfites and chances are it is either histamines or alcohol" and now thanks to The Knurd, I can add the chemical comment as well. I mean come on, you suck back three, way too big by the way, glasses of a wine at 15.9% and you blame the sulfites? Fucktard...

Thomas said...

With some exceptions, I never had distributor reps pour the wine at my store: many had little wine knowledge, and others were too pushy or slick. I always preferred customers talked directly with us.

As for the way you handled the situation, knurd, seemed fine to me.

I once encountered TCA at a trade tasting. When I pointed it out to the sales rep, he told me that I did not understand the wine. Since there was no one to bring the issue to beyond that guy, I told him, "You are right, so I'll just move onto wines that I understand."

The sulfite allergy subject always drove me nuts, and after encountering the dumb stare following my explanation, I wound up suggesting the person see an allergist instead of listening to his or her friend--oh, and move along; there are people behind you...

Samantha Dugan said...

We almost never have anyone pour either. There are a couple reasons, like the ones you point out but mostly it is a layer between us, our message, and the customer. Has to be someone we really trust/like or a winemaker, but that's a whole other thing.

My favorite is when people get back from Europe and tell me that they didn't get headaches there...because they don't put sulfites in the wine. Then I'm forced to do the, "Oh no, they have sulfites too" often met with, "No. We checked the label" because, you know, all the world is bound by the labeling laws here in the United States...argh. I remind them that they were on vacation, probably taking a long time to savor the bottle, maybe a long walk back to the hotel, sleeping in, all the little reasons, aside from sulfites, that they didn't have headaches while on vacation. Never know if they believe me but...

Thomas said...

Yep. The Europe sans headache thing came up so often I started to go to Europe just get away from Americans.

Anonymous said...

I wish tastings would move the damn spit buckets away from the tasting area so the wankers that want to sound smart to the wine celeb behind the table move outta the way to spit.

Love the way wine store customers wander aimlessly and when you ask if they'd like help finding something they say no they nervously say no. Then 10 minutes later they ask you where the vodka is!

What did they think would happen if they asked earlier? I'd sell them some Gin I was stuck with?

Thomas said...


Wankers don't spit--they drink it all.

Samantha Dugan said...

Even worse are the ones that shrug off my attempts to help them but the second one of the dudes asks they have all kinds of questions. What? Does my vagina frighten you? Or is it the fact that I have one that makes you think I couldn't possibly know as much about wine?! Assholes.

You're right, unless of course we are talking about the Industry Wanker...those guys spit, preferably at far distances and they too plant themselves, in front of the fucking bucket. Ugh! Another big peeve of mine.

Thomas said...

Oh, the industry wanker: that person usually holds the bucket for about an hour.

Samantha Dugan said...

Holy shit...had nearly every one of these assholes at my tasting today. Off to dunk my head in a bottle of Burgundy! Argh!!!

Thomas said...

Obviously, they aren't reading your blog.

Samantha Dugan said...

Obviously, fuckers. Hey Kid, have a Happy Easter. Big hugs sent your way.

gabriel jagle said...

ok, I'll admit it. I'm the guy that kidnaps the spit bucket. I'm sorry!

Anonymous said...

What wine do you recommend with vagina?

Pink of course! Hee hee.

Sorry just drank an entire bottle of 2001 Lopez de Heredia Reserva because Mrs. Knurd is expecting! Drinking for 2 I suppose, but couldn't be happier!

Anonymous said...

It is odd that the Hosemaster hasn't had at you, in public at least, if one can call this public. I suppose he feels that you're inimitable, or immune to parody. Plus he'd have to do some real work and include pictures, which often raise your innuendo( if you'll pardon the phrase ) to greater heitz,. Dammit,there I go doing it!

Anonymous said...


I hope you don't wear clothes you like if your between me and the bucket!

Samantha Dugan said...

I think the reason The HoseMaster hasn't gone after me is twofold, one because he has taken pity on me and knows I am too sensitive, therefore likely to get my feelings hurt, especially if it were someone I admire and care for so much making fun of me....which actually says something about the man he is because he has mentioned to me, over and over again, how easy it would be to parody me, so he is sparing me, for me and I am grateful. The other reason is honestly, I'm just not popular/famous, (whatever that means) enough to make it funny to most of his readers. Not too funny when the people are sitting there going, "Who is this supposed to be?" right? Kind of the good part for me not being too bogged down by being called, or behaving, like a wine blogger...I avoid a lot of wine blog readers! My readers tell me all the time that they don't get half of what Ron does over at HoseMaster because they aren't in the wine business so they don't know the people he talking about, or they don't read other wine blogs so the same thing applies. Like I said, I'm in this weird little niche, in fact I think I probably have few industry readers anymore, more customers or people that stumbled in and stayed for the writing and stories, even though they are often about wine, kinda dig that as it gives me a false sense of teachery. Thanks for chiming in kid.

To everyone else, sorry I've been lying low around here. Couple things going on, not the least of which is I've started writing another blog, not about wine, at all, and I've also been doing the whole T-Rx thing during the stoopid and pointless wine blog awards nomination process, if I am quiet and don't move, maybe no one will see me! But I'm missing everyone so I suspect I will be back here sooner rather than later...was in fact thinking of this place and a piece I wanted to share while my mind was racing at 3:30 this morning....ugh.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous George,
It's actually been quite a stretch since I've parodied any wine blogger. Though I've had an itch lately to mock one in particular. As for Samantha, I find that if I'm too close to a person, too admiring of their work, then when I write a satire of them I tend to pull my punches and the satire falls flat. Many would argue my satire usually falls flat, but that's another story. And I never aim to hurt anyone's feelings, though I have. But if that person is a public figure and desires to be "famous," then that goes with the territory they've chosen, and I'm fine with that. It's the job of the Fool to tear at the foundations of the high and mighty.

There are others I've steered clear of lampooning, for personal reasons. But Samantha is in a special category--she's a woman I deeply love and, though, as she noted, I know she would be easy to satirize, someone else would have to do it.

My Gorgeous Samantha,
I know what you mean about the Poodles. I'm unhappy with the idea I may get nominated, but I leave that to the whim of the universe. I'll never win because I don't have the necessary FaceBook, Twitter, networking power to drum up votes even if I wanted to win. The Poodles are all about that. I wonder if I can "gift" any nomination I receive to someone else... Are those Corks and Caftans dimwits still around?

I love you so!

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,
So I sort of had it right...and thank you for popping in to answer in your own voice, and thank you for being so sweetly sensitive to my feelings. Because I love you so deeply, admire and love you, it would in fact sting far too much to hear you point out what I'm sure to everyone are my very obvious flaws and silly bullshit. Makes me admire and love you even more, wasn't even sure that was possible. You have the very best heart My Love.

Anonymous said...

I had no idea you two would get all oral on me like that, but I did have to smoke a double corona afterward. thanks for letting me watch.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of T-Rexes, no doubt some share my view that both of you are among the apex predators of the web. In a nice way, of course.

Samantha Dugan said...

Any excuse I can find to oral up to Ron, well you can bet your ass I'm in!

Thank you for the kind words regarding this silly place. I shan't partake of anything Blog Awards, won't even vote at all this year, (only did last year to oral up to Washam anyway) because I don't believe in them, what they're doing or how they measure talent. It's a farce and I can't even bring myself to care enough to hate them...just find them stupid and those that beg for the votes and nominations, sort of sad. But then I'm kind of a dick so whadda ya gonna do? Thanks again for the kind words, and for watching!

Chris said...

How can I find your other blog?

Samantha Dugan said...

Sorry, not sure how I missed your comment but I did wish to respond to your question. The other blog is written completely anonymously, and I need it to be so I can write, spill, pour my heart, sexuality and well as the other 3000 emotions I have been going through, in it. If I had the fear that someone I knew, or really anyone for that matter, were reading it, it just wouldn't be as open and honest. I do however thank you so much for being interested, does my heart good to know someone out there wants to read me!