“I just want to get in and taste you on the wine, I know timing is everything with you and Rose.” I agreed to the tasting appointment being requested by the presumptuous jackwad on the phone but immediately felt the pang of regret after I did. Now I had to sit with the idiot. Dammit. There are very few sales reps that I dislike, most are cool enough, do their jobs and don’t bug me in the least. There are a couple that get on my nerves, for a myriad of reasons, everything from them not knowing anything about the wines they sell to just having off chemistry, but this guy, this guy I loathe for his misguided sense of familiarity…man do I hate that shit.
“I know how much you like Montel Williams” my moron of a brother one of the last times we spoke. Montel Williams?! I hadn’t watched Montel Williams in like two decades, and I actually didn’t like him much back then but here was my know it all brother acting like he knew everything, or anything actually, about me with some stupid and very beef-witted comment. Montel Williams, shut the hell up. Much like the above mentioned sales rep, my brother doesn’t know a thing about me and was resting upon some foggy memory of his drug addicted or drunk off his ass self being subjected to watching Montel Williams while he was tweaking out on the computer or passed out on the couch. I guess in his defense, (not that he deserves it) his life hadn’t changed much in, oh I don’t know, the past twenty years, but mine sure the shit had so how’s about not pretending you know anything about who I am. Sort of like when I walk into a new restaurant and the server tells me about a dish and adds, “I think you’ll like it”…peeve, big peeve. You think I’ll like it huh? Well seeing as you know dick about me your opinion on that matter, what you think I’ll like, well it means just that, dick. Tell me it’s good, tell me you like it, but tell me, a stranger to you, what you think I’ll like it and now you one gone and pissed me off. I would never do that to a new customer, sure I might add, “I hope you’ll like it” but never with a new person would I act as if I have some sort of comprehension as to what they are about…
“Just arrived yesterday and I’m getting things ready for your visit. There is a coffeepot here, as well as a bean grinder, but I will have some freshly ground coffee waiting in the fridge, as well as some halfway decent wines here to get you all started. I’m going to leave the good knives, the ones we normally lock up, out in the dining area for you to use and will have more tips and insights as they come to me over the next week or two.” Just reading the words in the email brought tears to my eyes but in that very best of ways. Here was a letter from someone I adore, admire more than most and who helped me figure out who I wanted to be in this here wine world and here he is, writing me with tips and information, (the email held lots, lots more tips on markets, where to eat, the best wine lists in town…) for my upcoming stay in his home, in Spain. His knowing me and what I might need spilling out in his sweetly excited for me letter. He knows me, what I like, will likely need to know, what I might be interested in doing an seeing while there and he cares enough about me to make it a priority to help me. Unlike those servers or that sales rep that know nothing at all about me, or my stoopid addled minded brother who only knows a me from twenty years ago, this man knows and understands this me and he not only gets me, he seems to like me and junk. Foolish but I’m grateful as all get out.
“We’re starting with the 2011 L’Avenir Chenin Blanc, ($14.99) from South Africa where they often call the variety Steen.” Me starting some folks out on the first wine in a flight of six all Chenin Blanc but from different places and with starkly varying styles. The L’Avenir brisk, tangy, raging with acidity and mouth-watering refreshment, then on to the 2011 Domaine Brazillier Vendamois, ($11.99) a wine from just outside Saumur-Champigny that is all mushroom, unripe pears and lemon rind. A wine for meaty white fish or roasted chicken and not suited to everyone but showed extremely well to those of us that crave intrigue. From there we sailed into the 2011 Husch, ($8.99) from Mendocino Valley, a slightly sweeter style Chenin with super soft acidity and a friendly, creamy mouth feel, the crowd staying with me and very vocal about their opinions as well as their impressions on just how different the wines were. “Now you we’re tasting Chenin from its most famous appellation, where they’ve been growing it for ages and can do with it what it seems no one else can…good or bad” as we were seguing into the other Loire Chenin Blancs, the Montlouis and Vouvray.
The 2011 Careme Vouvray Sec, ($20.99) was redolent with eastern cooking spices and freshly cut pears, mouth coating and powerful but with a seriously snappy finish. The 2009 Francois Chidaine Les Choisilles Montlouis, ($23.99) bone dry but oh so sumptuous. Honey, cooked pears, cinnamon and some balancing minerality but opulence was evident and as we sold out that afternoon, the crowd was digging it. We finished with the 2010 Huet Demi-Sec, ($37.99) a sweeter wine for sure but the mouth cleaning acidity made the wine appear less sweet than the Husch from California, plus it had like three times the body and texture but was also nearly three times the price. So as I poured and discussed the final wine with each person I asked them, “So now that you’ve tasted them all, which one tastes like Chenin Blanc?”….crickets. Slack jaw and crickets. As each attendee went on and on about how astoundingly diverse the wines were, how profoundly expressive and unlike one another, maybe with the exception of the last three Loire wines which bore broader bodies and deeper complexity, it was as if they were trying to praise me which while sweet, wasn’t the point. I didn’t mention to most people in the beginning of the event but in picking the wines and the order in which I poured them, I had a twofold agenda. One was to show people just how undervalued and underappreciated Chenin Blanc is, the second was to point out how useless varietal labeling is when you are talking the world stage of wine, “So which one tastes like Chenin Blanc?” making a roomful of light bulbs go off.
Much like people grapes are influenced by the things around them, changed by weather, the hand of the winemaker, the soil and experience. There isn’t one me that each person that has ever met me knows and understands and there isn’t one expression or flavor of Chenin Blanc. Each hand that touches me, each shared laugh, each patch of soil that my thick clumsy feet walk across, they change and influence the person I am and the same can sort of be said about grapevines, the place and the people that make the wines far more important than the kind of grape it is….variety might give you an idea but it doesn’t begin to tell the whole story and in many cases, assuming you know what it is going to taste like because you think you know, well it can leave you looking like as asshole.