Thursday, June 20, 2013

Might Be Too Much To Ask






“This is the last time, I brought full bottles this time and if you still don’t like them I won’t bring them back” a nervous sales rep that had made an appointment with me for early Wednesday morning but somehow failed to mention that he was also bringing his company’s import specialist/bully and a line of wines that he has been desperately trying to get placed at The Wine Country from like the second they landed the Fancy In The Pants brand, a line of wines I kicked out years ago…for a couple reasons. I grabbed my notebook, gave him a head-cocked grin and a shake of my smiling head as I made my way to the tasting room. Had to give it to the cat, that or feel for him as my guess was that he was getting some serious heat and pressure, big deep thumbs drilling his shoulders as to why this famed estate had no placement at The Wine Country….determination is a weakness of mine. You got it, I’ll at the very least listen and admire you for your RAWR.  






The last time I met with, oh let’s just call him Eric, he was freaking giddy as all get out, frothing at the mouth and such bubbling over with what I’m sure he thought were visions of dollar plums dancing in his head as he proudly, (poor fucker) sat across from me with those wretched half bottles of Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve and the famed Grande Dame as it were, the Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose. Big stoner-ish looking wide grin, little sweaty bottles puddling on the table before me, almost accusatory in their weird little curly-q shirts and just-missing-it hipster packaging. I let him talk, felt guilty as he rattled off comments like, “As I’m sure you know” in a tone that was as oily and confident as I’d ever heard from him before. I closed my eyes, took deep and frantically seeking sniffs of the limp wine in my glass. Spun it, spun it again and again, my nose open wide and pulling and aside from a creepy little dried cheese aroma I was left flat and still seeking….anything even remotely pleasing. “Going to have to take a pass” I told him with an unusually sheepish tone, “Pass on which one?” he asked assuming that there was only one wine that I didn’t quite have room for…”On all of them” I said with a scrunched face. Ever stabbed a stoner in the heart? Sort of sucks. 






We parted that afternoon and I did my best to console him, “Maybe it was the half bottles” I tossed his direction as he shoved the water beaded little cheesy bastards in his bag. “I think half bottles are the worst, the absolute worst for Champagne” I offered as he made his way out the door. It’s true, that tiny bottle is far from a proper venue for wines as serious, profound and sexy as Champagne. Oh sure, put your shitty Prosecco and Cava in them, hell might as well put Laurent Perrier and whatever mass produced bubbly in there too, kind of like a juice pouch anyway. Serious Champagne lovers, the real ones not the “I like bubbles in my wine” dorks, they would never even consider a half bottle of gloriously effervescent, palate staining, sensual and mischievous wine, be it bubbly or not.  Those tight quarters prematurely age the wines, plain and simple and if the quality isn’t already there, well how well is it going to hold up really? I mean, when was the last time you saw a bottle of DRC, Comte Lafon, Mount Eden, Lopez de Heredia, Bruno Giacosa or  Camille Saves Brut Rose in half bottle? Yup…long freaking time, if ever. Just too little of the world’s great wines to bother with the smidgen bottles and as a first class wine dork I can tell you, our people are in no mood for droplets of greatness, we want mouthfuls. That and as I mentioned, the wines show advancement in those wee bottles, and with the larger Champagne houses aging the wines in regular sized bottles then re-bottling in those little bottles, (not to mention we never know how long the wines have been sitting around)? Well the wines have been forced and exposed more than the 750’s, and it way too often it is evident in the aromatics and on the danky, tired palate. I have a handful of half bottles of Champagne in the shop, they are tiny production wines that are in fact aged in bottle rather than being aged and re-bottled and, at least to me, it shows. If you insist on a not enough bottle, well I can proudly say it is as good as the full bottle…those Billecart-Salmon halves….eek.






“I fell in love with Champagne because of this house” I told the woman that was gently in my grill Wednesday. “My world quite literally changed over a bottle of 1989 Billecart-Salmon Nicolas Francois. Those thick, toasty, baked stone fruit aromas, the weight that pried my mouth and heart wide open…I would not be here and in any kind of charge if it weren’t for that squatty bottle of Champagne. I don’t take lightly the importance of this house. That being said I won’t give it a pass any more than I would a lover or partner that promised unconditional love and slapped me in the face over and over again with conditions.” My whole heart out and open as I ran through the wines, notes honest and open minded…the wines are not worth what they are asking, period and it breaks my heart. Better than they have been in years seeing as the gray market issue is being resolved so the wines are far more consistent but…





“I don’t think I’d be asking for your to sell your soul to bring the wines in. You are the only store of this caliber that isn’t stocking the wines and you, with your Champagne knowledge…we really want to see the wines here” her voice firm but hopeful, my eyes darting and not ready to land upon her. Not asking for my soul? Have to tell you…really sort of feels like it. I’ve spent years, over a decade actually, selling, teaching, opening bottles, minds and palates, spreading myself wide open and exposing one of the only real things I own, my pride, to opposition and “why don’t you have?”….showed people that Champagne, the real Champagne is wine and I won’t settle in my bubbly wine department any more than I would or do in the others I manage. Sell my soul? Sell my soul to a house that carries with it perceived prestige or value…can I stand there and take $75.00 dollars for a bottle of Brut Rose Champagne that I wouldn’t pay half that for? Suppose I could but….might be just a bit too much to ask.




My soul, not for sale just yet…

15 comments:

Thomas said...

Sam,

I do love your attitude--immensely.

Your customers are lucky.

Samantha Dugan said...

Thanks Thomas. Not out of the woods just yet as I think my boss is considering bringing the wines in. When I told him what the woman said to me I could feel his heart strings being tugged a little, (such a softie that guy) and he agreed with her final effort of a comment, "Well, there are times you aren't here" meaning tat the wines will or can sell on label alone....which bugs the living crap outta me. Lets just say I won't be shocked to find a case or two of the Brut Rose on my next order. Totally his right, it's his store and he might be correct in that they will sell on their own, they are going to have to. When my customers are in front of me with their $70 I'm going to make goddamn sure they get their money's worth, which is to say I will be selling them something else.

Unknown said...

Thank you! Your integrity is more important than a rep making a sale. Glad you stood your ground. P.S., loved and laughed at the line 'ever stabbed a stoner in the heart'. Must say I missed out on that experience somehow...

Steve Pinzon

Samantha Dugan said...

Steve,
Great to see you yesterday by the way. I felt for both my reps and could tell that they were getting pressure to get those wines placed in our shop, and that in of itself is highly flattering but I think of things like Billiot Brut Rose, Coutier Rose, all wines made from Grand Cru fruit that sell for ten to twenty dollars less, and dude...I just can't do it. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the Billecart wines, just nothing all that right either and I didn't make what little name I do have for myself in this business by stocking and selling mediocrity.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,
Oh, boy, this made me miss my wine buying days. I always loved the pushy types, the ones who were "astonished" I didn't carry their "highly rated" wines.

I once had a winery sales rep whose '99 Cabernet had received 98 points from Parker, but it hadn't been released yet. He was pouring me the '98, which was fine, but was insanely overpriced. "We're going to allocate the '99 according to who buys the '98," he told me. Oh, I just love winery blackmail.

"Well," I told him, "the good news is I won't be seeing you next year."

I don't think customers appreciate (and maybe they don't need to) how much work and talent it takes to buy for a small wine shop. They appreciate that every bottle they buy from you is terrific, but they never understand how many wines you have to put in your mouth and stifle a gag reflex before you find those wines worth their price tag. But it's a tribute to you that your customers are spoiled, and that's why they come back to you.

Anyhow, thanks for the reminder of my past life. Your attitude made me smile. No wonder we're in love.

I love you so!

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,
Thankfully neither reps yesterday were really pushy so much as sort of begging and saying things like, "We'd really appreciate your support on this" over and over again. I felt a pang of guilt but it was nothing compared to how I'd feel telling my customers that Rose is worth $70.

Like I said, there was nothing wrong with the wines, in fact they were fresher tasting than the last time I had them but, well nothing to write home, or in the newsletter about for damn sure. Will they sell if Randy orders a little stack, probably but that doesn't make it right...

I love you too Honey, now get down here and kiss me!

webb said...

'The good news is i won't be seeing you next year.' The absolute best!!

Sam, your customers are so lucky to have someone with your integrity. Wish i were one of them.

gabriel jagle said...

Sam,

I really appreciate this blog post. I would buy the Billicarte Rose on reputation alone. Thankfully, now I know better. Not to mention tat I don't buy enough Champagne to buy anything other than Henriot once or twice a year.

We also made a little bit of sparkling pinot noir at my winery this year. We only bought a pallet of bottles. So if you don't like half-bottles, you will be happy to know I've got a five gallon keg of sparkling in my garage...

Samantha Dugan said...

webb,
I so wish you lived closer, you and I could have fun figuring out your palate together.

Gabe,
Just out of curiosity, what are you paying for the Henriot? Was it the Rose? I bet you I could get you a far better wine, for less money, with shipping included. Just sayin'....

gabriel jagle said...

i probably pay about $40 - $45 a bottle for Henriot. I'm sure a better wine exists, although it is hard for me to imagine...

Samantha Dugan said...

Gabe Baby,
I am here to help you. Next time you need/want/crave/must have a Champagne let me help you...I promise, I won't let you down. In fact I've been know to start a stir that makes those special purchases happen just a little more often. Honestly, I would love to hook you up next time you are in the market...would be so fun for me to share my world with you.

gabriel jagle said...

well, i've got five gallons of sparkling that i tiraged myself, and i got for the bargain price of free ninety-nine, so i'm not looking right now. but i'll keep you in mind for next time. i'm sure you've got some great wines up your sleeve. thanks sam!

Samantha Dugan said...

Gabe,
I figured you were set for a bit, just meant next time, when you need something truly special, I would sincerely love to hook you up with one of my little guys, i just know you will get it. Have a good night sweetheart...got a tummy and head full of El Maestro Sierra Oloroso 15 anos Sherry, a ponytail that keeps brushing against the exposed flesh between my shoulder blades each time I take a sip, the deep to the core shiver that shakes my whole body with each bend of my neck. Glass is nearly empty and I need to rectify that...

gabriel jagle said...

just took a peek at the wine country website...i see that you have Henriot on your list, so i didn't completely embarrass myself. It would be nice to see a Willamette Valley bubbly; although it is probably hard for you to get anything other than Argyle (which, by the way, provides great quality for a reasonable price, and employees some of the best winemakers in the valley). I'm looking forward to having an excuse to order champagne from you soon. The annual "post-harvest wine splurge" might be the perfect opportunity...

Samantha Dugan said...

Gabe,
No way you embarrassed yourself....not with me dude. The only time I mock people for what they drink is if they are total point sucking asswads that brag and act like everyone else's wine is shit when the truth is that they wouldn't know a good wine if it climbed up their chest and bitch slapped them. Henriot makes solid wines, not thrilling and in no way life changing in that, "Fuck me, I need to drink more Champagne" way but solid for sure. I'm always open for new bubbles but the folks have to come see me and taste me on the wines, hell even Roederer Cristal has to do that and yet...we don't carry Cristal. I like honest wines and like it even better when they are made by honest and hard working people but, well I don't buy for the store by reading, gotta be tasted or they won't be there. I'd love to have an Oregon sparkler, have liked the Soter wines in the past but those prices!!! Much like this here Billecart, gotta ask myself what I would recommend and at those prices I am going for Champagne. Would love suggestions though...maybe I could ask to be tasted on a couple things from time to time...