Sunday, August 30, 2009

Packaging vs Substance

The oppressive heat sent the hubby and I seeking shelter in one of those, “Mc Funster” chain restaurants this afternoon. Neither of was feeling like anything in particular and the stickiness of the air was hanging on my back making food the last thing on my mind, so what did I care if we ended up eating some benign crap…it was going to be cool and I could get me a Gin & Tonic to soothe my heat induced crabby mood. We waited a minute for our oversized booth, ordered our drinks and looked at the cartoon riddled menu before opting for an order of chips and salsa to start.

We have been so tied up with other things that we have been neglecting spending any time together, just the two of us alone…not that we are that couple, the “we need to make time for us” couple. We are together all the time, shit he works from home, wish sometimes that he were gone more, the whole absence and fonder deal, but time away from our little “stations” at home sounded like just what I needed…yeah, so the Mc Funsters.

“Sapphire with a splash of Tonic, I made them myself” our slightly flirty waiter said as he plopped the drinks down before us, “You two ready to order?” We were, we did and I munched away on my too thick, needing salt chips and salsa. I took a few sips from my, “Whoa he aint lying” cocktail and felt my shoulders begin to loosen…..BLAST, a rush of screaming hot, wet air met the side of my face, “What the F@#&*!” I glared and my head snapped around to see just what, and whom had assaulted me. And there she stood, a cute little blonde girl in a sundress, she had just come in from the outdoor patio and was bounding over to the table where the, “grownups” were. “Oh okay” I thought and went back to retelling the hubby a story about a book I had just finished.

BLAST! Freaking heat wave was up in my mug again, oh and yes…it was little miss sundress again, this time going back out to the patio. I was mildly annoyed but tried to shrug it off and just chalk it up to 10 year old behavior.
Blast, heat…irked.

Blast, heat…irked.

Blast, heat…getting pissed.

This happened no fewer than 15 times during the course of a chain restaurant lunch, that’s pretty aggressive in the coming in and out department. I went from being irked to being massively pissed off, just who was in charge of this sundress clad, flame thrower? Why was this kid running in and out of the joint behaving like a puppy with an enlarged urinary tract? Was no one watching this little beast, making sure she like sat and ate her meal, oh and didn’t piss off the people sitting by the door….donde, donde the parents? Then I saw Mom…

You know those people that are, how best to say this….trying real hard? Mom was yellow blonde, deeply tanned…too tanned, she must have been late thirties early forties but the sun, well it had taken its toll…she looked like a Louis Vuitton bag. Her body was super tight though, real tight, like she had ripped in all the muscle her 19 year old, Latin American trainer could get out of her. Tank top, short shorts and wedgy heel things…she appeared a few times, each time I assumed to reel in her rug rat, yeah but she didn’t. She was just prancing around the restaurant, popping her head out the patio door, (yes, she was opening it too) to “holla” at her little fire starter….way to go lady.

I ate as much as I could stand and was anxious to get the check and get the hell out of there, the wee one had bummed my whole meal with her imposing her 10 year old will, and blasts of fiery hot air that came with it, upon me that and her Mom was just a reminder to me, a reminder of what I hate about packages.

This woman, on paper was the whole package. Blonde, lean, fertile and willing to do whatever it took to make herself attractive. After we got in the car I looked at the hubby and said, “I would rather be fat, ugly and barren, than be that woman” Carl chuckled but I could tell he knew what I was talking about. You can work out, Lipo, Derma-brase, diet and tan until the cows come home…but all that shit has an expiration date so you better have something of substance on the inside right? Know what I think is my most attractive qualities are, I raised a person that is better than I am and I am honest. No bells and whistles here kids, no wedgy heels, no pimpin’ my wares, just trying to muddle through and feel like the shit I have going for me is the junk on the inside. So the rub? Most people are dazzled by the shiny package.

It’s no different with wine, I cannot tell you how many times I have walked through the store with a timid customer that confessed that they knew nothing about wine. I point things out, explain why I think this wine would make a great gift, only to hear, “She loves cats, do you have a wine with cats on the label, that would be fun!” sigh, “Or you could go that way” is all I can say. Or the person that pays an extra $15.00 to have their $7.00 wine shrink wrapped into a basket, really….you wouldn’t rather spend that extra cash on an upgrade? I can stroll up and down the isles with people only to have them dismiss every recommendation in favor of, “Oh what a pretty bottle” If you are buying a gift for your wine loving peeps, don’t be dazzled by the package, find out what is inside from someone that has tasted it….trust me.

Those of us that are “really into it” could give two shits about the packaging, thick glass, deep punt, long corks and flashy labels mean nothing, Far Niente…just sayin’…..none of that means a thing when you have, “the rest of the budget” in your glass. You ever spent an evening with a beautiful retard…(okay for you guys, let’s make it a week, or a month) great to look at but down-right excruciating to try and find interesting. Shiny, flashy, showy and primary is only sexy for as long as you are “looking” at it, once you try and truly understand it, taste it, appreciate it well sometimes…there aint no there, there

The People Have Voted

“We just got a notice that we received an Honorable Mention for Best Wine Store in Long Beach. Honorable Mention…who won?!” it was Dale, (Randy’s wife) her face was so expressive, so readable, she was crushed. “Um, what publication?” I asked her, “Beach Comber” she replied, “Oh then Trader Joes is going to win” I blurted. I didn’t say it to sound like an ass but my mind shifted back to when The Press Telegram, (Long Beach paper…horrid, horrid rag of a paper) used to do, “The Best of” contest once a year….(shrugging) Trader Joes, Best Wine Store…always went to Trader Joes.

“If they win then it is because they have a bigger selection of cheap wine.” Dale said looking even more irked, “Exactly why they ARE going to win” I replied. So a couple of weeks later when Randy walked in with his crunchy little, been-left-on-the-front-porch-too-long copy of The Beach Comber I first asked, “Dude did you let the dogs wiz on it first?” as it was sporting a very wiz-colored patch, and then was not at all surprised to see the winner of The Best Wine Store in Long Beach was indeed awarded to Trader Joes. Seems like “good enough” took first prize again, Yay! As I looked over the other, “winners” I had to wonder just who the hell voted in this thing…Best Sandwich went to Subway and Best Breakfast went to Denny’s….freaking awesome.

I’m the first to admit for a big city, Long Beach has a near terminal lack of decent restaurants, seriously there are like 5, (and that is being kind) really good places to eat. Sure we have some fantastic ethnic food but anything above the walk up window and you are kind of shit out of luck, but Denny’s and Subway?! Well with that illustrious group I guess Trader Joe’s wine selection being The Best makes perfect sense…lots of “medium” to choose from, and fer real cheap! I mean who gives a crap if it’s interesting, you can have 3 eggs, 2 strips of bacon, 2 sausage links, hash browns and a stack of air-filled tasteless flapjacks for like $5.00 or 6 bottles of wine for under $20.00….what more could you want? Um, more, lots more.

Wine doesn’t have to be expensive to taste good or please you, there are many fantastic wines under $10.00, from all over the world…the $5.00 and under category might be a bit tougher and I have to wonder how many people think they don’t really like or get wine because they are limiting themselves to the grocery store, (and let us not forget that is Trader Joe’s thing, they are a grocery store, one that had a rich wine past but opted instead to stock cheap wines or wholesaler closeouts. They do have some “finds” from time to time but the majority of what they stock is less than interesting and you are getting what you are paying for) and that $5.00 and under sweet spot. Five bucks is what you spend on coffee, chuck in a few more duckets and the QPR is upped dramatically.

Randy and Dale get a lot more wounded by those “Award” dealies and I don’t blame them, they have busted their asses, bled and lost sleep over that store of theirs…I have too but I think seeing those people come through the door every day, coming to the tasting and classes, sending us Christmas cards…all that amounts to a lot more than some pee stained newspaper award. I don’t want to be Denny’s, Subway or Trader Joe’s, I love being The Wine Country. I love our selection, I love our staff, our customers, turning people onto funky little wines that have enough going on to bring them back...even though we don’t have those little pop in the microwave brown rice things. Wonder if they have a “Created More Lifelong Wine Drinkers” award…that one I am sure we have a shot at!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Um, Yum?!

You know, because bread makes you fat....

Now here's a KFC I can stand behind!

There have been marijuana dispensaries popping up all over Southern California of late, but this one is slightly different. Rather than tearing the whole thing down and starting from scratch, the proprietors of this alternative KFC decided to incorporate the design of the previous tenants. They have removed the official Kentucky Fried Chicken logo, but the rest of the building remains mostly intact.
So do they plan on selling hot biscuits with
THC butter? Can you order your Pineapple Express by the bucket? Do they offer family meals? "No comment." Hm. I suppose we'll have to take that as a no.

(Above photo and text taken from LA Weekly Blog) (Just the KFC building one and the text that is underneath it...those other gems, all me!)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Come A Long Way

“Yeah, but you’re not a regular girl” I hear this a lot, Randy being one of the most frequent slingers of this odd….slightly flattering, yet mildly “tweaking” comment. I can always tell when the phrase is uttered that it is meant as a compliment of sorts but, well….I kinda like being a “girl”. My Amy would hate this comment, she hates generalizations and stereotypes but I’m more of a, “some stereotypes are there for a reason” kind of person, so like I said, the comment is slightly flattering in a way.

Toilet seat, don’t care.

Hubby wants to eat ice cream and French fries for breakfast, don’t care.

So and so cheats on whomever, don’t care.

Shopping, dreadful.

Shoe shopping, even worse.

Feminine charms, dig it.

Making a man stutter, really dig it.

Being treated like a princess, love it.

Being an emotional caregiver, really love it.

I curse like a sailor, drink too much, talk about sex all the time, cry at movies, get all squishy around my 3 year old neighbor and I feed off that moment when I walk in a room and can tell who I am going to be able to make nervous….and I sit by them. So I get why I have been labeled a, “guy-girl” (Randyism by the way) but while I adore the fact that I can hang with the dudes and all…I love being a woman, well until some knuckle-dragging a-hole makes me feel like my lack of a penis is some kind of defect.

When I first got in the wine business around 13 years ago there were not that many women, some sure but not a lot, thankfully that has changed. Our numbers are increasing and I am happy to say that there are more and more passionate, savvy and talented females in the business each year….Yay! It’s a pretty balanced bunch of girlies too, split just as the guys are, some in it just to be in sales, some total geeks that can rattle off what elevation such and such was grown at and those like myself, that are seriously in love with wine, were seduced by what’s in the bottle and its place on the table. Never being a fan of standing out in a crowd, I was and am thrilled that there are more women in the wine business, makes me more comfortable, opens the door for others, and some of those chicks are really freaking cool.

For the most part I have to say that the male dominated wine business was pretty open to females infiltrating, least by the time I stepped in the pool. There was that feeling of, “Awe, that’s cute” at first, I was fine with that, matter of fact that part was kind of fun. “Here let me help you get to the front of the table” or “Would you like me to dump that for you?” the best part was how willing they all were to offer information….teach, they still are. There was never that macho, “I’m not sharing my knowledge with a stinky girl” crap, of course there were, and still are those crusty dudes that act like a woman cannot possibly know as much as a man…but I suspect they are like that about everything, not just wine. My entry into this business was a warm welcoming one…oh don’t think I am not fully aware that part of the reason is that men with a tummy full of wine tend to want women around them, I am hip to the buzzed horny guy part of it but for the most part the dudes took the rush of females pretty damn well.

The last hurdle, freaking customers man. Cannot tell you how many times I’ve helping a male customer and had someone interrupt us, look at him and ask, “Where is the Burgundy department?”….sure don’t ask the chick with the price gun and box cutter, ask the man that is asking HER for help, grumble. It has gotten better but it still happens, just this past Sunday Merritt and I were working at the shop and a guy, in his late thirties early forties walks in, “Who’s working today?” he bellowed. “We are” Merritt and I said in tandem, “That’s it?! You probably like those soft wines right?” sigh. After explaining that I was the French wine buyer and could in fact help him pick a Bordeaux he opted to wing it on his own….whatever dude, would rather not help someone with that kind of attitude anyway. The best was when he barked from the back of the store, “You know what, I’m going to let you help me pick a little Burgundy for the little lady”….tool.

My Favorite Exchanges

When working a Champagne dinner I was asked to walk around and talk to the attendees about the wines. I walked up to one table and over heard a discussion about how the wines were not cold enough, I began to tell them that we did not want the wines too cold, we wanted people to truly taste the base wines on those remarkable Champagnes and was told, “Sam, that is a really pretty lipstick you are wearing, you always have the best taste in lipstick…why don’t you stick to that” kick in the gut to say the very least.

A woman in her mid to late sixties was looking for a White Burgundy so I was asked to go back and help her. “You need help picking a Burgundy?” I asked. “Oh no they went to get me a wine guy thank you” she said, “Well that would be me. I am the Burgundy buyer” I tried to reassure her. “Oh no, I need a really good one, can you find me someone else?”…the penis being a honing device for great White Burgundy and all. I got her a guy, one that had started a week before, she was pleased.

A guy looking like he had just arrived from Florida, dark tan, loud printed, short-sleeved shirt…unbuttoned to just above his navel, gold chain…with an anchor medallion dangling in his grey chest hair, doused in Aqua Velva had been puttering around the store. He barked on his cell phone, yelled questions (to the men of course) across the store and was checking out just as I was leaving for the day. He walked out behind me and was putting his wine in the trunk of his car, which just so happened to be parked next to mine and he said, “Know what I think?” and of course I was dying to know what he thought….”I think you could use a few more swinging cocks in that hen house”…awesome.

Those types of exchanges are getting fewer and further between, I’m tremendously grateful for that, but more than anything I am so proud of both the women that followed their hearts and their passion and the industry that welcomed us with very open, (okay sometimes too open…horny drunk dudes, gotta love em’) arms. I love wine, I love the wine business and I am so grateful that I get to do what it is I love even though I have boobies and junk

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Check Out My Podcast

What?! Nothing there?!

Nor will there be.

To know me is to read me....not to see me.

Anyone else bugged? The second I see one of those window/link dealies I move on. You won't bother trying, I won't bother visiting.....

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Anxious About Rose

So tomorrow afternoon I get to be, “The Show” again, can I tell you how much I don’t love being the show…standing there, everyone looking at me, being extra perky, (helps to picture a scrunched nose and furrowed brow here) not sure you know this about me yet but, I don’t do perky really well. Really bugs me when people insist that you be all bubbly, “Smile this is a party” (Um really not, I happen to be at work) just bugs the crap outta me. I’m not a grinner; I don’t stand around with a vapid, insincere smile plastered on my mug, just not who I am. Hell it bugs me when I go into a store and someone that doesn’t know or give a shit about me shouts an uber bubbly, “HI!” at me with a fake ass grin, makes me trust them less from the get. Sure I will have my core customer base there and I love them, they make me feel more at ease, well that and they love watching me squirm to keep my overactive trap shut when I get asked certain questions. Having them there, well that will help but still here I am already dreading….

So tomorrow it’s our, (drum roll) 1st ever, 3rd Rose Fest….kinda makes yer brain stop doesn’t it?! We have been doing an annual Rose Fest for like 11 years, (we were way ahead of the curve when it came to Rose) and I think it was last year…maybe the year before when we added a 2nd Rose Fest to the tasting schedule. We just have so many that we cannot feature them all in one tasting, plus it gives those that were otherwise occupied an opportunity to partake in the Festivities. The 2nd event ended up being just as popular and now…well now there are three. We serve lamb, roasted veggies, aioli the whole shebang, it really is a fun event and is typically one of our best attended, not to mention…we sell shitloads of wine, so what’s not to like? I mean aside from the Gawd awful stank that radiates of all those garlic goo eaters…atrocious, and get like 80 of them in our small tasting room…all cramped and sweaty, wretched. The stank I can fight through, the thing that gets my crunders in a bunch….the questions.

This is so going to make me look like one of those douchebag wine people but damn…if you are going to be so tightassed about Rose, well maybe a little douchebaggery is in order. So here are the questions that inspire the “Your pissing me off” Sam face.

Are These Sweet?
Now I understand this one at the very beginning but after I give my, “No these are all dry Roses” talk while pouring the first wine and you keep asking….at every wine, “is this sweet?” by wine 7 I will be having fantasies about punching you in the face.

Do We Have To Go In Order?
Nope don’t have to, but it’s like my job and stuff to pick the lineup, but I’m sure you have a better idea about the order by looking at the labels…have at it.

What’s This Made From?
This one kills me, does it matter? Just because you have had Grenache or Syrah before I assure you, it’s not going to tell you a thing about this Rose. Best part….the ones that ask almost never listen. I confess this to you my five readers, last time this one lady had been asking the cepage on every wine, she would ask…nod blankly and move on, I knew she had no idea or really didn’t care what I was saying so I um….tested her, “This one is 60% Grenache, 60% Syrah, 5% Merlot, (she perked up at Merlot..but still vacuous at best) and 5% indigenous varietals”….nod, smile and move on. True Story.
It’s Rose folks and take it from someone that has had to write up 25 French Roses in one sitting…they are different, sometimes subtly, sometimes massively but knowing what’s in it, well that aint gonna help you figure it out. More importantly…doesn’t matter, it’s freaking Rose just suck it up, enjoy the season. These are not wines to marinate in, they are fun…refreshing and spunky, love them for that.

Not that many so it’s a really, wide valley of land mines, pretty easy to dodge those 3 bullets no? Come, (Cuzz I’m sure the people that do the aforementioned things are reading my every word) enjoy, squish around in the garlic goo, stab at the roasted potatoes, drink Rose…just don’t piss me off okay?

Friday, August 21, 2009



Date night, we still a few more weeks of date night before Amy leaves…I adore these evenings, this is where we let ourselves kinda pickle in one another…feed off of our shared, “Screw it, let’s do it” attitude. We drink too much, eat too much, and behave like chicks our age have no business behaving. Friday mornings…well they pretty much suck, painful, and many of our loyal Friday evening class attendees can attest to the aftermath that is Sam and Amy after date night. “How are you?” they gingerly ask and my answer is always the same… “Consistent” they know what it means, I’m dying. My eyes are swimming, my tummy is dodgy and my hand-eye skills, they are bumpy at best. It’s rough but oh so worth it.

So the way it goes is, it’s me, Carl and Amy…sometimes Merzie but most of the time, just the three of us. So with the looming “shit” that is the move to Texas, Amy’s hubby has wanted in on date night, we are all so interlocked that any excuse we have now…well, we are together. So tonight date night was at The Vortex, (Amy’s house for the newer readers…it’s where all good intentions go to die. Done more seriously “NO WAY…I did that?!” stuff there than anywhere, ever) and Amy cooked us dinner.


“Just come to the house. I’ll cook, we can just chill. It’ll be fun” was Amy’s perky little invite. A night at The Vortex is something one must be prepared for….you don’t just walk into this lightly…trust me. I was nervous as I heard the little chirp escape her adorable lips this morning, but true to date night form I heard myself say, “Yeah, that’s perfect. I’m in and I’ll bring that wine we were sent”. Spent the rest of the afternoon wondering what the hell I was thinking.


Amy and I were sent a bottle of wine, a wine we had never tasted, a wine that many have never tasted. The bottle was sent for us to share with each other before she left, sent by someone that knows how dearly we love one another and wanted to share one of his life’s pleasures with us…so freaking amazing. You know when you say something in passing and someone really hears you…like really hears you, well that is a gift in itself but to have that understanding spill across your palate…unreal.


Dinner was simple, baked chicken thighs, salad, baked potatoes and mushrooms…simple right? Yeah we left the complexity to the wines…Jesus the wines. So upon hearing that I would indeed be bringing the bottle of 1998 Chateau Rayas Reserve Chateauneuf-du-Pape we had been sent, Amy thought it might be time to hit the ol’ wine fridge again, 2004 Jobard Meursault En La Barre, just another Thursday night round these parts folks.

Dinner was ready, we decanted both wines and sat down to eat. First impressions, well we were digging the Meursault with the chicken, just seemed more together at the time…but the more we sat, the more the Rayas settled into the glass, opened…evolved, the more we found ourselves seduced by the fucking unbelievable, expressive, aromatically brilliant Chateau Rayas. I noticed the change about half way through dinner…it was opening. What had been kind of hot and brash had now become sultry, alluring and down-right heart pounding.



I said something over dinner, “Um, let it be…wait, something is happening here” and thankfully she listened. We sipped our “little” Meursault throughout the meal and moved the party outside…brought the glasses and decanter of Rayas. We chatted, made fun of one another and laughed as we always do, but I noticed something, something I have never in all my Amy loving years seen before…she left her glass of Meursault untouched while she fondled the glass of Rayas. Never….I have never seen that happen before, she is a white wine lover, she will drink a little red with dinner but once the meal is done...right back to white, always. The wine had gotten comfy, settled and was now showing us things, things like neither of us had ever experienced before. Unreal, it was silky, earthy, full of life…lots of bright red fruit, but there was a refinement unlike any Rhone wine we had ever had. “Dude, it’s like aged Burgundy…but with more um, nibble” was all I could think to say. Shit I still don’t know what to say…other than, “I get it”…”I get and how can I thank you?!”


To care for a wine, stash it away…love it and wait for the right moment to drink it, that’s cool and all but….to send that bottle to someone else…so they can love and understand it, well that is, well that is the greatest gift ever.

Unbelievably humbled
Thank you
We loved it
Thought about you while drinking it
Don’t know how to thank you

Selfless acts often go without praise or appreciation…this one has not. We both thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You made our night…made our year, we adore you

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Love, Lust, Crush…Who Gives A Rat’s Ass…Still Feels Good

My little core group of buddies and I have been talking quite a bit about this lately…always feel kind of like the biggest dork in the room with this freaking conversation comes up, so not good at this junk. The thing is, I’ve been blessed with great loves in my life, loves that consumed me, crushed me, elated and deflated me. The thing is…I still love them all, (well aside from one…what a fucker he was) for the time, passion, laughter, tears, love and even the broken heart. With each roll of the punch I learned something about myself, felt like my capacity to survive was greater…made me stronger. So here’s the deal, while I have had “great” love I’ve had very few of them.

Before you go feeling sorry for me let me clarify that, I’ve had few but it was by design. I tend to love with my whole heart so that window is very rarely open…got to protect myself and stuff right? Few have wiggled through the crack but the ones that managed to survive, (God only knows why they kept trying, such a pain in the ass) are there for good. Not acting like that’s anything special, I’m sure many people are the same way, just getting all nekkid in front of you and stuff, so you have the whole picture. So love, not an expert.

The lust thing leaves me in a constant state of, “What the hell?!” what inspires some people’s naughty bits to tingle is just boggling to me. Like The Real Housewives of Orange County, the fact that anyone is hot for those chicks…baffled. Like 90% of what I see sold as sexy or lust inducing, it so isn’t…least for me. Most of the “hot chicks” on television or in the movies, they all look the same to me….just in varying shades, yawn. The dudes, same issue I don’t know my Eric Bana from my Shia La Beouf, (and yes, I had to look those up…um and never google Hot Guys, I might just be scarred for life) must be my lack of appreciation for aesthetics but very little of that braded kind of sex appeal appeals to me. I’m “inspired” by talent, experience, intellect (the hubby raised my eyebrow because he was kicking ass in video trivia) articulation, (might just be the hottest one for me, a man that can move me with his words…tingly naughty bits) and passion…think Vincent D’Onofrio in Law & Order…Rawr.

I’ve never been led around by my lower half, my “junk” is directly linked to my dome and the tiny, gooey bits of matter that are working up there. I’m so aloof about that carnal lust stuff, (okay you can feel a little sorry for me now) only time I become aware of it is when it is in my grill, never a pleasant way to find out by the way…ughh. Not trying to yuck anyone’s yum, I’m still working that strip tease and all, I know how important it is that we bloggers are all transparent and crap. So love and lust…I suck at both, but I still have one card up my sleeve, (it’s like a three of clubs, don’t get too excited) crushes, I’m great at crushes!

I get tons of them, been lucky enough to inspire a few in others too, crushes I get. This little love makes sense to me, I even adore the fact that the name is the freaking opposite of what it is…crushes don’t really crush, they kind of tingle then go away, perfect! I’ve had crushes that lasted less than an hour and some that lasted years, none of them stung or anything…made my tummy flip, made me think, wonder, and confused the gooey matter controlling this train wreck but never enough to click things into the “lust” mode. So when the topic comes to crushes well then, then I can weigh in.

So I whole heartedly admit, my biggest crushes have been on chefs and winemakers…guess the way to a woman’s heart aint all that different huh? I adore getting lost in yarns about harvest, farmers markets, punch-downs and broken sauces…the thing I love? Watching this person, this person that was able to put this on my plate or in my glass, talk about how they did it…their fears and insecurities right there on their face…damn. So beautifully human that it just moves me…inspires me. I get to sit there, food on my plate or wine in my glass as this very exposed person spins a tale for me…urging me, pulling me closer to the thing that is already giving me enormous pleasure, hot as hell.

So much of the wine talk out there is so technical, so studious and I get that but….I just wish people would let themselves feel something. Fall in love, lust after, get a crush, just let yourself fall a bit…. it feels pretty freaking fantastic, and with wine…the winemaker wants more than anything for you to feel something. The thought of people just gulping down their wine without one iota of thought as to what it took to create it must just be, well….crushing.

We may not fall in love every time but…talk to us winemakers, a few of us are aching to listen, fall in lust, love or, (what is the pre word for crush?) really-kinda-dig with you…oh and the people that listen to us, they are ready too
. (singing) Let's do it...lets fall in love.....

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Mr. Parker, Might We Have Our Rhone Back Now?

So I was scheduled to teach a class Friday evening, a class devoted to the wines from France’s Southern Rhone. Wines known for their wild nature, being racy, exuberant, loud…fun wines full of bright tangy fruit, spice and wild herbs. Not refined or polished like the Syrah in the North…no these are, (ahem…were) Grenache heavy wines, saucy, unpolished, untamed, wild…the kind of wines you want to party with.

So guess who was home at like 8:30 on a Friday night? Had to cancel the class, for the second time, due to lack of attendance. See the thing is our little wild wines, well they seem to be losing their voice. Hell, I’m the French wine buyer for our store and even I can’t get excited about these “new” Southern Rhone wines, how the hell am I supposed to inspire anyone else to drink them? Where the hell did all the jammy fruit, inky extraction and brown sugar come from? What happened to all the spicy red fruit, medium texture and rugged tannin? What up with the sweet goo where my party friends used to be?

Call it Globalization, call it Parkerization the bottom line is, the wines…they aint what they used to be and even worse, they aren’t selling. Pretty freaking amazing to watch the scores and prices skyrocket and the sales go right in the crapper. That something they always talk about…well, it’s giving. So how do we fix it? Let’s tout another “greatest vintage in our lifetime”…awesome, one question though…to who?

I spent a good amount of time tasting in the Southern Rhone last year, my notes just mirrored what I had been feeling for a few years, but worse “Hot, jammy, sweet and rich” oh and now they are even more expensive, perfect just perfect. Seems like the folks in Chateauneuf-du-Pape are taking a page out of the Australian wine playbook, wicked smart that….

Getting harder and harder to find a balanced, typical wine from Southern Rhone..there are still some but the valley between insipid or boring, and new world styled wines, it’s getting narrower, and at least in our little corner of the world…people are noticing. Giant scores, higher prices and those jackasses that are impressed by either, well they have inspired a movement in the Rhone and from the piles of wine that I don’t even want to drink, I know what kind.

So funny thing about score whores and people dazzled by their own bank account, they are the first to STOP spending money on wine when the economy tanks, yup they are back to the 2 Buck Chuck or whatever crap they find at Costco…you missing your loyal, buy every vintage folks now? Welp sorry, you added more Syrah, got rid of all those silly, hard to pronounce indigenous vines, bought those new, heavily toasted barrels. You stirred your soup to sell to the unwashed masses. That ninety-whatever-the-fuck means dick when you have to offer deep discounting just to move your “product” no?

Damn, think this thing pissed me off more than I even knew. I’m always annoyed when the people that build a brand…a place, get priced out of the game, so not cool and absolutely unsustainable. Hey Gigondas and Chateauneuf-du-Pape, hang up on the folks Down Under, give the Burgundians a call.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Help Me Help You

“Sam line 3” I heard over the loud speaker, I made my way to the phone to hear, “Hi Sam, I need some pairing help again” one of our caterers calling to get wine pairing suggestions. I will admit I kind of dig that I have garnered a reputation for being pretty okay at food and wine pairing, Randy even consults me now….massively flattering to say the very least, but it aint always easy. People come in, often with something already in mind and can be rather unyielding about changing their scope. I had this very nice gentleman come in with a whole menu and he wanted me to pair wines with each dish, which is cool, I love doing that but man was he hardheaded! He let me lead him a bit but one dish, one dish he couldn’t jump the hurdle with me on….pork with cream and roasted pears. He came in thinking Pinot Noir and no matter how many times I assured him that Vouvray would be a better choice, he just could not unclench his grip on his pairing idea. “I have this Sea Smoke Pinot and I love pork with Pinot” he protested. “So do I” I told him, “but the pork is not going to be the dominate flavor in this dish, the pears are. If you were doing a simple roasted pork shoulder than yes, drink your Sea Smoke but with pears and cream? I’m telling you….try the Vouvray.”

He begrudgingly bought one bottle of the Vouvray, (he had been buying two of every other wine I suggested) and with a very troubled face said, “I’ll pour both and tell everyone that you said the Vouvray was a better match” I could tell he was saying it more in a “gonna blame you for this” tone, it was fine, the thing was, I had had that dish before, wanna know where…in Vouvray. He came back a week later to shop and give me a recap of how his dinner went, “Great job Sam, everything was spot on…except” I knew what he was going to say, I knew the second he furrowed his brow while reaching for the bottle of Vouvray…. “The Vouvray went really well, in fact the bottle was gone too fast, but I still liked the Sea Smoke” …..the empty bottle was all I needed to hear.

I think what troubled him was that the pork dish was the main course, for him main course meant red wine, I’m fine with that….always am, I am of the, “drink what you like” set but if you’re going to ask me, “what wine will go best with this dish?” then I’m going to tell ya and I um, can be unyielding too. My job, no my goal actually, is to make the customer happy. I will never tell a Moscato drinker that they can’t drink their beloved wine with steak or spaghetti, hey if it creams your cookie…go for it but I’m not going to suggest it to anyone else, nor will I nod or say, “Oh yeah” when you say, “Don’t you think?” um, if I thought it I would have said it, (such a peeve of mine…dontcha think?).

Ultimately the goal is a happy customer, it’s what we do, what we strive for and how we survive. If we give you crap recommendations or tell the “I don’t like bitter wine” customers to drink Sancerre rouge with their meal…because it’s what we “professionals” think/know it is a great pairing…people will either think we are high or give up trying to “get” the whole wine thing, and no one wins there.

We want to do our best to help you, whether it’s doing it your way….like helping you a pick a Syrah to go with your oysters, (gag, the thought of this actually made me gag) because that’s what you want, or doing it our way but oaky, so here’s the thing, if we are doing it our way….we are going to need a tad more information.

So I sit on the phone with the caterer and this is what I hear;
“The first course is clam chowder” that was easy…this is where it gets tricky.
“Then there are two salads, one chopped and one leaf”
“From there we go into the main dishes, a beef dish and a chicken dish, so what wines would you recommend?”

Um…gonna need a tad more information.
Salad…well the dressing is the issue, blue cheese, lemon-ginger, balsamic…they taste a little different right? Are there beets or fruit in it? Telling me the way it is cut won’t help me help you, “Chopped salad you say, well the classic pairing for tiny diced veggies is Cote Rotie”…see what I’m sayin?
Beef…just beef or are you doing something to it? Sauce? Braised? Prime Rib and Pot Roast taste nothing alike. “Okay, beef…red wine” that enough? Me thinks not.
Chicken…C’mon! Is it simply roasted, barbequed, in a Thai glaze…what?

Asking for a wine that goes with “chicken” is a bit like picking up the phone, calling your friend and asking, “What shirt should I wear with these pants?” (which has happened to me by the way. I was like, “Tard, I can’t see you!”) we need all the pieces to put the puzzle together.

So when you are asked to bring a wine for dinner, be sure to ask not only what you are having but how it is being prepared…makes a massive difference.

It’s not geekdom.
It’s not snobbery.
It’s what we do.
Or drink Syrah with your oysters…..(wretch) just DRINK dammit.