Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Public Service

If you can't do this....

And feel that you must have one of these.....

The thing that lets you cook pasta in the microwave and has a handy steamer attachment so you can make baked potatoes...let me say that again, a steamer to make baked potatoes then....

You're dumb
Just sayin'

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I’m sitting here at my posting perch, sweat dripping down the center of my back, glass of ultra chilled French Provencal Rose in my glass…the heat in the room causing my glass to weep and send little droplets of cool water between my fingers, down the base of my glass and settling into the denim that stretches across my knee. My mind and my mouth full of stories from the past four days, my energy…my head and my heart making me weep and spill my droplets through stories to my husband and now here in my ever waiting, always ready to hear blank Word file. Home, I’m home and even with my face smelling of the proper skin cleanser, my ass snuggled into the spot that I’ve been molding for years, in front of the television I have on but ignore, even here I feel like I left part of my home when I got on that plane yesterday afternoon.

As a few of you might know I just spent the past couple days tasting, laughing….laughing a lot, learning and putting not only faces but gestures, voices, smells and “texture” to the names and people I have been so touched by for over a year now. Really kind of a strange thing about this whole blogging business, to be so close, feel so much love, adoration and admiration for a person or people whom you have yet to look directly in the eye…share a meal with or felt tucked firmly in your embrace. There tends to be lots of proclamations of “friendship” and “love” in the blogosphere and on Facebook, the words tossed about without all that much meaning behind them but….for me, with these four men, I can say that I truly love them and even sight unseen I would walk through broken glass for each of them. Trust is a very real thing for me, it is not something that I just give…gotta earn it and trusting anyone with my heart, well…something that is even harder. I can drink like a fish, curse like a sailor and talk sex without batting an eye but opening my heart, handing over something that is in fact, (no matter how “hard” I come off) very fragile…almost never happens and here I was sitting in my room at the Travelodge in Healdsburg slipping a sweater over my head before running downstairs to the waiting Ron Washam……..The HoseMaster of Wine. A man that long before I set eyes on him held my heart in his very gentle hands, the man that was to be at my side when I walked into a restaurant for the meeting with three other wine professionals, three other dudes that melt and also have a little slice of my heart.

“Well there’s Tom” I said as I gave my shirt one final tug before walking into the bar at Estate restaurant. Tom Wark, the one responsible for shining a little spotlight on this silly blog when he did one of his bloggerviews of me on his blog Fermentation. The cat that I talk cocktails and ideas with and someone that while not a reader per se has always been supportive of my voice here in this place. Now here he was hopping off a barstool, giving me a big ol’ hug and introducing me to his beautiful fiancĂ©e Kathy. After a few minutes of chit chat I hear Ron’s voice, “Charlie” (Ron had the advantage of meeting almost all of us before this dinner, popular thing that he is) and I turned around to see, finally see the face of Our Puff Daddy, Sir Charles…My Charlie. “There she is” he said just seconds before giving me the sweetest, tightest hug that I could have spent five minutes in. We all met Charlie’s lovely wife Terry and opted to be seated at our table while we waited for the last member of our party.

Boy girl boy girl seating implemented and then began the pulling of wines from wine bags that has always been the ritual when I have attended a dinner with people that are truly passionate about wine. I was first up with my bottle of NV Camille Saves Brut and as expected it was Charlie that was the first to challenge me. “Now Sam, how can you like this and not like California Chardonnay?” goddamn it Charlie. “This wine is as rich and as full as many California Chardonnays” he continued and thus began my favorite part of events like this…the debating and passion filled conversation.

As I was explaining to Charlie that while this wine was in fact rich and full it was not sweet on entry and did not have that oily feeling that I dislike about many of the Chardonnays I crack on I happened to see a tall, thin guy with bottles in his hand looking, well looking like he was looking for something. “John Kelly” I said as I jumped from my seat and gave him a hug. John, (winemaker and part owner of Westwood Winery) and I have spent many a late night, (we are both nocturnal) shit talking and behaving like those obnoxious kids in bunk beds whose parents are always yelling at to shut up and go to sleep. He has more than once told me that I am like a little brother to him, (yeah flattering that but whatever) so my banter and comfort with him was instantaneous. He slipped in beside me at the table, perfect…the bunk bed kids at the dinner table.

I popped the second bottle of bubbles, a 2002 H. Billiot Brut and once again Charlie was quizzing me. “Now why would you pour this wine second? The other wine is fuller” he said and that was when I figured out the difference in our palates. The Billiot was actually a fuller, richer and deeper wine but the entry was leaner, drier and more mineral and lemon driven. The Saves was all up front and full of baked apples and buttery crust but the finish was less serious, less layered and nowhere near as palate coating but that was what made me get it. Charlie is used to primary fruit, he tastes that first and then delves deeper into the wine where my palate is startled by primary and has a hard time getting past that in order to move on. Now before anyone goes thinking I am saying anything negative about this man’s palate just stop, nothing could be further from the truth and in fact I see it as more of a flaw in mine. Noticed it at many of the places Ron took me over the weekend, my palate would just seize up…and I hate to say this, burn a little and then from there I had a hard time trying to find the rest. Just different.

Before too long the corks were being extracted from bottles; the 1996 Edizione Pennino Zinfandel magnum, 1990 Fonsallette Syrah magnum, 1985 Stags Leap SLV Cabernet, 1978 Chalone Pinot Noir, 2004 (I think) Failla Syrah, 2008 Piuze Chablis and a 1970 Beaulieu Georges de Latour Private Reserve. Bottles open, glasses being poured, tasting, smelling, four or five different conversations going on around the table. “The 78 is fading” "I think this wine is corked” “No it’s not corked” “I can see why you like this but I prefer” “Charlie I brought this for you” (bottle of Pastis so he could pay up on his Boston Celtics suck bet. Oh and Charlie I would love to take the credit for that little maneuver but you have to know that had Washam written all over it) rapid but respectfully the voices locked and engaged while plates of food passed this way and that. Active, passionate, rambunctious, laughter, head shaking, more glasses more wine, more food….family. I felt as at home at that table, with those people, the way we all feel about wine, about each other…home.

I felt so full by the time we had to say goodbye; full of admiration for these remarkably knowledgeable men, full of adoration for the women that love them, full of wines that I would never had tasted had it not been for them….full from spending the evening with people that are holding bits of my heart. Full….my heart was full.

Sunday afternoon Ron and I had been invited to attend a blogger tasting, lie Ron had been invited and I was allowed to tag along…a vertical of Ridge Lytton Springs along with a couple vintages of Ridge Montebello. Quite an eye opening event for me in a couple ways. First of all these are wines that I have little experience with but had always wanted to spend time with. I know that they are considered by many to be some of the best and most age worthy wines in California, that appeals to my inner geek and I could not wait to try and get a better understanding of them. And to be there with someone that had such a long history with them, hear his take and have him help me…could not wait. We sat at the rather subdued table and I was quite honored that Christopher Watkins, (448 A Ridge Blog) took the time to welcome me personally, thank Ron for being there…he had the nicest things to say about both our blogs and seemed genuinely happy that we were able to join them. Christopher was a very welcoming guy, a snappy as hell dresser and not all that hard on the eyes if you get me.

We were on the third or fourth wine, my nose buried then leaning in and chatting with my internet husband about what I was getting, waiting to hear him share his impressions and while we were kind of low speaking…..we were the loudest ones at the table. I looked up and everyone was pounding away on their phones, ipads and laptops. We kept plugging along, the wines truly fascinating for me to taste and smell but I could not help but notice that at this table, the table of “friends” one of which has even poked me (whatever the hell that is) on Facebook….the one sitting right next to me and never once said hello or introduced himself, none of them were talking to each other. Sure they were sending messages out into the ether, know how I know? One guy finally said something to the woman, the woman with the same wine in her glass that was sitting across from him, “You haven’t tweeted in seven minutes” what....the.....fuck? You have these tremendously fascinating, these incredibly interesting wines in your glass, sitting around the table with people you seem to like and you are counting tweets?! I’m sure that was exactly what the winemaker had in mind when he was pruning, harvesting, crushing and aging these wines…a bunch of self appointed wine experts counting each other’s tweets. I simply don’t get it and truth be told it robbed me of all the bits about wine that I love. The sharing, the talking, even the arguing….the passion and emotion were replaced by thumping thumbs and tweet counting. Pissed, I was actually pissed at how little the wines and for that matter, the people at the table were being respected. Wineries really want this? This number crunching, this vacant ether puking to who….the other jackhole across the table at the same event?

Don’t get it, don’t like it and these two events were a perfect example of why. One night tasting, laughing, sharing, arguing, feeling with a group of people that have been wine experts, collectors and lovers for…well a couple of them for almost as long as I have been breathing, people that live in the moment they are tasting and drinking and then sitting around in a numbers crunching lab with people that feel more comfortable fondling their “pods” than talking to their neighbor. Just in case you couldn’t tell, easy choice for me. Just like sex it can't be just about the facts, feels empty without the passion and love and I just aint doin' it.

Had a fantastic trip and I would like to thank Charlie Olken, John Kelly, Tom Wark and their lovely spouses for taking the time, (those poor women) to meet me for dinner, to share such heart pounding wines, your time and your hearts with me. You simply cannot know what it meant and I am not writer enough to make you feel it. I love you all, honestly you are so in my heart that there are not words complex enough to describe how much that moved me, how much and how often you move me.

To Christopher Watkins for allowing me to expand my palate by letting me attend the tasting, so sorry if it comes off like I am trashing your event…I’m not. You were wonderful, the wines compelling and mind changing, and while the situation was not my thing, those wines absolutely were.

To Joe (Suburban Wino) for the invite to your late night backyard affair, you and your family are adorable, you and I agree on so much as far as the blog world is concerned and I rather liked your random ipod music. It was wonderful meeting you and just as you said to me, “you are exactly how I thought you would be”.

To Ron Washam for the driving my ass around, the hotel reservations, the tasting appointments, the dinners, lunches, laughter, musical stylings, the stories, did I mention the laugher and for showing me what the heart of a truly remarkable human feels like. It is an honor to live in that big heart of yours and an honor to love you. I love you with all of my heart and knowing you has made me a better person.

I sit here with these sweaty drops on my jeans, in my space, my home…feeling homesick.
Twas one hell of a weekend. One that I shall never forget.....

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Not Trying To Change Your Mind

Nine hours days, trying to fit in as much work as I can before I take off for a trip that has my heart both pounding and honestly…fretting. “Sam can you work the long shift on Wednesday?” my response, “Oh yeah no problem”. I am a product of my environment, my mother’s daughter and I will put off whatever needs attending to on my end when someone else needs me….but truth be told, part of that gives me a bit of an excuse as to why. Why I wasn’t dressed to the nines. Why my legs aren’t shaved. Why my nails are shaped like uneven humps and go unpolished. Why my teeth aren’t blaringly white….any why can be answered with, “I was just too busy”.

I started to feel the little nibble in the back of my mind, the little glimpses of, “How long have those deep scratches been on the lenses on my glasses?” the “Holy crap my clothes all suck” about a week before I was to leave for this trip. Felt it before I met Michael Hughes, (Midtown Stomp) and Ben Carter, (Benito’s Wine Reviews) as well. Just something about being yourself in front of people that don’t have all the information, aren’t given the option to give you a once over and decide if they want to continue that makes me a little uneasy. Makes me alarmingly aware of all my glaring outward flaws and that right there, well it makes my tummy feel all squishy.

Got home tonight and instead of carefully inspecting my clothing, mapping out my outfits, I had a couple glasses of wine and ran outside to hunt for crickets with Tyler. My loving and ever adorable Tyler that could give a rat’s ass what I look like, (although when I curl my hair he thinks it’s cute…he told me) and doesn’t bat an eye when he comes to my door at whatever in the morning and I am makeup-less and in my jammies. He is there to see if I want to play, if his Sam wants to play and the me that he loves is the same dressed, made up, in a cute little shirt or in a giant pair of ripped up jeans and sporting bed head. I think I was seeking his laughter and inquisitive chatter as a hug this evening, a reminder of sorts…it’s me that he comes to see. Not my face, my body, my clothes or my hair…just me.

“I would love it if you brought a Chablis that might change my mind” a comment from one of the people I am going to meet this weekend. One of the reasons I am still writing, still feeling vibrant and wanted. He was asking for something that for a brief second made my stomach cinch up and roll with knots. Could I change his mind? Could I bring a wine that I knew would shift his palate or in any way make him love what it is I love? No. The answer was no. I don’t stock wines that might shimmy between old world and new. Wines that don’t wear a place name or show each and every little piece of themselves and aren’t trying to be anything they are not. I walked my little Burgundy department and as I poured over my Chablis I knew…I couldn’t change his mind. The things he loves, the richness, the full texture, the succulent fruit, well those things are not…and should not be what shines in the wines I bring in the store. Just as I loathe hearing, “It’s Burgundian” when someone pours me a California wine, I don’t want to hear, “It’s Carneros like” when someone pours me a Chablis. It isn’t what it isn’t and we should love it for that.

It was so easy for me to just write back and say, “I can’t change your mind but I can bring you a Chablis that drives me wild, makes my bits tingle in the way its flavors remind me of spending a day at the beach” Just ask that he appreciate it for what it was, understand why it pleases me and be open to learning what it is that moves me. Knowing all that I do about him and feeling secure that while it might not be his thing he was willing and open to listen, to hear and feel me….just as he has been for, shit close to a year now? So as I stood in front of my closet, fussed over my basket of face goo trying to determine which things would show better, make me show better….make the quickest “impression” I had to laugh, like really laugh. I was making myself a nut job trying to “place” in a blind “tasting”. Stupid….

Chablis should never be judged for being a Chardonnay. It should be recognized, appreciated or not for what it is, a cold climate white wine that is lean, savory and often full of racy acid. It should never be called Chardonnay, it’s Chablis, has been for a very long time and while some in the region have lost their minds and tried to compete with the wine equivalent of the Kardashian’s there are still some folks that are in their jammies….without makeup and I for one, love them for it.

I just zipped up my suitcase full of my lame and ugly clothes and I have this boarding pass in my hand. A warm climate woman that is…just what she is, about to board a plane and finally be face to face with some cats that have read, known and seen her just this side of bare naked but never seen her before. I can’t let myself be held up to some unrealistic standard, never have here and not sure what or why, (other than being a woman) I let this plague me. Let this trip make me fearful and insecure. They have felt my footprint, know my history and something about all of that makes them adore me anyway…

I’m on my way guys and I just wanted to say….thank you. Thank you pushing me, challenging me. For reading and writing me even though I don’t quite fit. My odd shape, my um…mug, my clumsy attempt at girlie, my French leaning palate. You still come, still read, still comment and your support of me and what it is I do here, well it made me feel like that bottle of Chablis I am bringing to share with Charlie. It is, I am…what it is.

Cannot wait…..

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Guess Who's Coming?!

“Samantha, in what year were you born?” the voice sharp, crisp, slightly accented and so very gentle. I looked up from the simple but beautifully presented plate of roast beef and stained golden brown with butter potatoes, the long table before me lined with faces, most of which I had never seen, voices locked in conversations I could not understand but had been thankful for them for keeping me company and distracting me from feeling like I was about to cry….even more thankful to hear my name and have the question be something that I could in fact answer, “Um 1971”.

Volnay, I was sitting at a dining room table in Volnay on what had been a very trying day at the beginning of a very long trip. It was my fourth day in France and while not in any way grueling, (as later trips would show me) I was having a difficult time fitting in with my fellow travelers, their understanding of this culture, the food, the wines….especially the wines, so far above my comprehension that I had been feeling like some kind of bumpkin. Top that with a day tasting young Pinot Noir from Burgundy, their lean bodies, tart fruit, high acid and tannin ripping the lining from my untrained mouth and having my first attempt at being “playful” with the leader of our group misfire completely which had me getting snapped at….on the way to this dinner no less and yeah…really shitty place.

“This is Samantha Duggan” Michael Sullivan saying my name wrong once again but seeing as he was no longer shaking his finger at me I just let it go. I had been so embarrassed by my misunderstood joke tanking that I didn’t even bother asking where we were going for dinner, just climbed my chunky ass in the car and sulked until we pulled into the gravel lined driveway. I was pulling my notebook from my bag when I heard my name, well sort of my name and turned to see two sweet faces grinning at me. “Sam, this is Hubert and Etienne de Montille”…perfect.

I knew very little about Burgundy but the name de Montille was one I did know and after the greetings and as we made our way into their home….my knees feeling as if they may give out at any second, my head gnawing on scenarios all of which made me look like a total jackass; spilling wine on my white sweater, dumping my plate in my lap…or worse, one of those dude’s lap, tripping, opening my mouth to eat and having the world’s largest burp explode from my chest. I could hear my heartbeat echoing in my ears and I just told myself, “Sam, just lay low, keep quiet and DO NOT draw any undue attention to yourself” this was my plan and for half a second I had regained a bit of confidence. That was until, “Please Samantha, sit here next to me” Etienne de Montille with a sweet smile and somewhat impish gleam in his eyes….holding out a chair at the head of the table….merde.

My edge wore off somewhere in the middle of dinner. The warm slightly orange glow from the light fixtures casting a softness to the large room. The voices engaged in quiet conversations adding a soundtrack to the meal and silencing the thump-thump-thump in my head. Etienne leaning in and asking me questions about where I worked and about my family…the savory aromas from the plate, the quiet seduction in my glass. I was now beginning to understand. A bite of perfectly cooked and simply sauced roast and a sip of wine that while light in the glass took on a weight and power in the mouth…the black cherries, the smoke, the roasted coffee and that sexy as hell tingle, that snap, that leaves you aching for one more sip. The wine was removing more than my edge, it was slipping off my armor and working its way down to my jeans. I was being completely seduced and it showed, I looked away from my glass just long enough to see Michael shoot me a knowing grin, give me a nod of his head and a quick wink before returning to the conversation he was in the middle of. Feeling like I just got caught with someone’s hand up my shirt, my cheeks got a little hot and dropped my eyes to my plate, “Samantha, in what year were you born?”

I sat at the head of the de Montille table while Etienne de Montille pulled the cork on a bottle he had collected from the cellar, no label just white paint on the bottle…1971. I had no idea what I was doing there, no clue what it was I was drinking but….I understood the gesture and as the still very lively wine spilled across my now more ready palate, the earthy, mushroomy depth, the meaty, gamey sensuality and the achingly delicate fruit, the man that would pour this for me simply to welcome me into his home. It became part of me that night and is part of me still. I began my love affair with Burgundy that evening, found a bit of confidence in myself and my palate and it was the beginning of my adoration of Etienne and my passion for the wines of Domaine de Montille.

A lot has changed in the seven years since that night, Michael and I have become very close friends…his patience with me, his admiration, his belief in The Wine Country and me, well these are some of the most cherished things I own. He is one of the most beloved pieces of my life and I am forever in his debt. Etienne and I have met several times over the years and I have managed to keep the jackassery to a minimum (just the one time, pretty buzzy in the parking lot of a restaurant in Los Angeles where Michael and I just HAD to show Etienne that I had Beaune Imports tattooed on my body. Michael and I with a serious case of the giggles, “Michael I should show him my tattoo!” Michael giggling even more now, “You should!” me bending over…sigh…pulling up the back of my shirt while these two inspected my backside. Jackass) and have been honored each time is sweet face lights up upon seeing me. The last time I saw him he was pouring his remarkable wines and charming the hell out of our customers in the shop. We had people telling us for weeks after his visit that his table was the highlight of one of the best tastings we had ever put on. He is a tremendously gracious man and his wines….well both the Domaine de Montille and the Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet (where he is the winemaker as well) are without a doubt some of the most thrilling we have in the store.

So guess who is coming for another visit? Both of them! Gonna have both Michael Sullivan and Etienne de Montille at The Wine Country. Michael will be conducting an evening devoted to another brilliant Burgundian, the wines from Domaine des Comtes Lafon, a whole class with the focus on this one masterful winemaker whose wines we get in tiny, this many or that many bottles kind of allocations. Well seeing as they aren’t flying out the door these days we figured we might as well offer people the opportunity to taste those $100-$200 a bottle Meursaults right? So Friday October 29th for $65.00 a person we will have Michael Sullivan here to explain why the wines from Comtes Lafon are so rare, have people taste for themselves some of the most sought after wines in all of Burgundy. Then on Saturday October 30th from 1:00 – 4:00 PM for a mere $20.00 we will once again be joined by Michael but this time with Etienne de Montille as we showcase wines from both of Etienne’s projects; Domaine de Montille and Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet as well as some of our all time favorite wines from the Beaune Imports portfolio.

An unbelievable weekend full of brilliant wine and two of the sweetest and life changing men I know….cannot wait!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Your Turn

So I'm sure all 14 of you have noticed that I have been a tad quiet the past week or two and I can tell you it is not that I am suffering from my bouts with writers (oh and that is with these " " jobies) block. No I am just wondering what it is going to take to get you folks that read and never talk to me to me.

I've tried it all; shared my stories, my bits of knowledge about French wine, bore my soul...shared my tears and joy. Hell I even wrote you all naughty letters and still....silent. I'm naked here kids, pounding away on my crusty little laptop trying my best to entertain you and I see you visiting, notice when you stop by but you look upon my nakedness and walk away without so much as a word.....sigh.

So I've decided to go on strike. You shall not hear (um, read) a single peep from me until at least one of you, (Connecticut I'm looking at you) quiet kids says something. Doesn't have to be here, if you go to my profile there is a way to email and no one will ever know....but just know that when I sit up until 3:00 AM bearing myself and you just look and walk away...well it gives this already neurotic chunky girl even bigger issues.

So there you have it regular readers, if I don't return, if I go by way of my beloved HoseMaster of Wine, (damn I miss him) then you know who to blame.

So there.

That or I've been on deadline for my real job and simply have not had time to post....

One of those two reasons is why I have been missing in action.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Appreciating The Relay

I have a confession to make. Nothing all that shameful, the shameful I have no qualms admitting but the mildly embarrassing or things that make me look like a bigger dork than I already am find me stuffing that little nugget of information about myself far down in the gallows of, “None of your bid-ness” but here I go, letting my cat out of the bag once again. I watch a tremendous amount of absolute shit television. I don’t know how much I really watch per se but I always have some mindless garbage buzzing away behind my laptop. Law & Order while not absolute crap is still mindless and seeing as I have seen every freaking episode like fifty times….which stands to reason as it is always on somewhere, is probably my most viewed program and has more than once had my hubby laughing and saying, “Are you kidding me?! You can barely work the flipping remote (he’s so clever) and somehow you can find a Law & Order at any time of the day” why yes, yes I can…got mad skills in the Law & Order department. Another one, and this one might actually fit into the shameful category is reality television which is as far removed from any reality I know that it simply fascinates me. Oh I don’t watch the crap on MTV or anything. None of the Big Brother, Survivor (is that even still on) or Great Race stuff, we are talking things like City Confidential and the entire crime story shit. You know the ones where we all know the husband killed her but spend an hour hearing how and why? Yeah that stuff is perfectly suited to my not-paying-attention television viewing. Since I’m all spilling and junk…(sigh) I do loves me some Housewives. Not all of them but give me those New York and Jersey chicks and I have a whole hour of “Oh shit, what is wrong with these people?” but even those I can miss. There is one however that I watch religiously, DVR if need be and have been known to watch the same episode back to back.

Top Chef. I am all over Top Chef. Addicted and have even (oh yeah big dork confession coming) been known to turn down dinner plans so I could go home and watch it. Bad, I gots it bad but these people actually have talent (or least it looks like it) unlike the cheesedicks over on The Food Network and that Next Food Network Star stupidity. I admire what those chefs are able to come up with in such a short time and seeing as I fancy myself an okay cook I just love it. One of the challenges that came up this season that I don’t remember from any other was a relay. Now they have done relay races of sorts; things like peeling and chopping onions, shucking oysters, breaking down chickens and things like that but this one, well this one was different.

The chefs were separated into two groups, and four out of the five in each group was blindfolded while the first chef up was given the opportunity to rush to the pantry and fridge gathering components for a dish. The object was for that first chef to make clear through ingredients and starting prep an outline of a dish they had in mind. The blow of a whistle and the first chef steps away, the second one pulls off their blindfold and has only second to scan the items either chopped or simmering and continue with their leg of the dish before the next whistle. The success of the challenge is only as strong as the next chef and their comprehension and that is the nature of the challenge but there was just something about the exercise that I found captivating…interesting. The part I dug about it was the fact that each person was not only showing off their skills, they were also adding a little bit of themselves to the finished dish…each one adding a layer of complexity or seasoning that can either make or break the dish. Kind of a eye-opener for me.

I am in no way a control freak, not in the least. As a matter of fact I am sometimes too go-with-the-flow for my own good but where I can and do fall short at times is when I feel it would just be easier to do it myself than try and explain to someone else how to do it. It’s not that I feel like they are not capable as much as I feel like by the time I tell them how I could have had it done. This is something I am working on and the more I just give things over to someone else to do the more I learn that sometimes that new eye, that different vision can end up making the finished product even better. So after watching that relay thing on Top Chef and realizing that the guy we pay, (far less than me) to do busy work can and does make a mighty fine looking cheese tray…sometimes even better looking than the ones I did, it came as no big surprise when I read a quote from my dear friend and much respected importer Michael Sullivan.

“Benjamin Dagueneau took over the domaine following Didier’s untimely death two weeks before the harvest of 2008. Amazingly, he has brought new energy and precision to an operation that many considered the absolute summit. This vintage is a revelation of the younger Dagueneau’s abilities. These are some of the greatest wines ever come out of this winery. They show richness backed up with enormous acidity and tension. The precision and clarity of both fruit and mineral are stunning.”

Now being lucky enough to have a very close relationship with Michael Sullivan I know how much he both admired and loved Didier, how much Didier helped Michael’s company, (Beaune Imports) and knowing that the loss of one of his most valued confidants, beloved friends was a very painful and powerful thing for him and yet…here he was able to taste theses wines and see that the addition of new eyes and a fresh passion had in fact created an even better wine. I was a bit taken aback by the quote, mostly because as a true believer in Didier’s vision that he could make world class wines, those that would rival those of the Cote d’Or, out of Sauvignon Blanc grown in Pouilly-Fume. A believer because I have had the good fortune to spend a tremendous amount of time with those truly regal wines pressed between my lips, filling my mouth and leaving their complexity and volume all over my palate. Sure the wines are expensive but in no way out of line on pricing if you consider the breadth of flavor, the richness in texture and the long life they have to offer. Expensive for Sauvignon Blanc but if you limit yourself to that kind of thinking, to an assumed or perceived value of a single grape rather than the actual value of what is in the bottle, well then you are doomed to never discover what this man was able to do. So as I was saying, as a true believer I just could not imagine that anyone else would be able to accomplish what Didier had, why would I…no one else before him had and now I hear that young Benjamin was able to take all that his father taught him, add his layer and new intensity to the wines and the finished product….more complex and better wines than ever before. Just typing that I got a little shiver and forearms full of goosebumps. Unreal….

The 2008 Dagueneau wines arrive this afternoon and even though we got more than anyone else in Southern California we got very little. The wines are so limited with 2008 being a brilliant but short harvest, that there is only so much to go around so I thought I would give our loyal readers and Dagueneau devotees a heads up, give them the information before the wines hit the internet and are long gone….

2008 Dagueneau Blanc Fume de Pouilly $64.99 (plenty to get and from what I hear a wicked value as there is some declassified Silex and Buisson Renard in this cuvee)
2008 Dagueneau Pur Sang $84.99 (only 12 bottles)
2008 Dagueneau Buisson Renard $87.99 (only 3 bottles)
2008 Dagueneau Silex $109.99
2008 Dagueneau Sancerre Le Monts Damne $109.99 (only 3 bottles and only 120 bottles on the west coast)

So while Didier will be…already is for some of us, greatly missed it is heartwarming and kind of thrilling to see that his trusted son has taken his baton and is running with it. I will be taking home a bottle of Blanc Fume de Pouilly this evening at the request of my beloved Michael, “Sam, take home a bottle of that wine, I will replace it but you have got to try it” and thank you Me Miguelito, I will be. Teaching a class this evening but once I get home I will be kicking off my shoes, peeling off my socks and snuggling in with a glass of newly “Dagueneaued” Dagueneau. Remembering the twinkling blue eyes, the long mane of wild hair…the overalls and bandana clad man that was not only an iconic winemaker but a visionary and a friend. Cheers to you Didier and cheers to young Benjamin.
I will never forget what was but look forward to seeing what can be….

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Heads You Win. Tails....Try Again

I recently recommended some wines for a new friend whom I knew loved wine but I had no idea what kind of background or experience she had. What she had tasted and loved or hated before. This is always a rather uncomfortable situation for me, no one wants to give a new buddy the third degree….especially when one of us, (that would be my chunky ass) is in the wine business and the other is not. Until I am able to gauge your palate or you feel comfortable enough, (also where the whole wine business, chunky ass thing can be a roadblock) talking wine with me then there is little above trial and error for me to work with. Kinda sucks for everyone really, the one forking out the cash money for the bottles that they end up not caring for and for the “wine professional” that looks like they don’t know what the fuck they are talking about. Just a slightly bumpy road at times but once the lines of communication are open ala, “That sucked. Can’t believe you told me to buy that” and the “Okay she doesn’t care for soft acidity…try this” things can and will fall into place. Takes tremendous faith and trust and I know, after getting burned a few times that can be a lot to ask but…trying again can bring you so much pleasure if you are open to it.

I spent last Sunday evening with a woman that I have only known for a short time but something about her voice, her spirit, and her not invisible pain drew me in…I knew her. I had seen her before, seen that tight shouldered, head straight but head cocked…listening for the steps behind her speedy stride. I knew her, knew her like I was slipped into those flip flops walking briskly with her. I know her so well….

We sat together Sunday afternoon, chatting and sipping Pastis, (her first…not sure she loved it. Can’t blame her) letting that mildly awkward welcoming of a relative stranger into your home and dropping off of your overnight bag in a relative strangers home, feeling settle as the calming effects of the booze started to slow down our anxiety. Once the glasses were drained I offered her some red wine and made my way to the living room wine fridge with that little pang of, “Oh shit, what to pick?” nibbling away at my side. I went safe and grabbed a bottle of juicy domestic red. I figured we were not eating so the soft, plushy and seasoned nicely with oak flavors would be pleasurable for her. Hoped it would be anyway. Our conversation shifted to wine…go figure right? This, this was when the comfort level was elevated, thank you hours of reading each other and a bit of Pastis. She asked a few questions about the wines I like and before I knew it I was back in the fridge and grabbing her a second glass to do a side by side. Poured her a little Cabernet Franc from the Loire and our geek flags started flying. Her handing me both glasses asking me to describe what I was smelling, me admitting that I could not get much off the domestic wine due to its blast of ripe fruit and creamy vanilla oak notes.

Now before you California wine lovers jump on my neck I have admitted over and over again I do not see this as a flaw in the wines as much as I see it a flaw in my skills…I get blown out by primary. It’s a defect and I am willing to admit it…and just as willing to say that I find that kind of a turn off, much like I find a man that is swimming in cologne, I miss out on all the savory and sensual underneath. Give me salty, gamey and earthy everyday over polished and primary. Just a preference, what makes my heart pound and gets my juices flowing.

We went back and forth for a bit about the wines and I left her with her two glasses of red while I sipped away on my most loved Chidaine Touraine. Talking, sniffing and then just talking and before I knew it she was at the bottom of one of her glasses. “Which was that?” I asked her secretly already having a sinking suspicion which it was. “Oh, it was the Bourgueil” she responded in a slightly surprised tone. Damn I love it when that happens. It was not that she liked one better, as a matter of fact she was quite open to both styles but in that setting, two women opening up to each other…lost in those exposing ourselves conversations, well the little cabernet Franc was just friendlier to sip on. Not better. Not tastier. Just willing to take a backseat to the situation…not unlike how they play with the plate. Just sayin’

I stayed up until 5:30 in the morning chatting with this no-longer-a-stranger, stranger. Her little frame tucked into one of my oversized chairs, her jaw strong and defined…I marveled in her strength and courage. Listened and with each telling of selfishness, hatred, anger, arrogance and domineering and controlling behavior I noticed I was seeking comfort…both by hearing her not unlike my story and in my glass. Drank too much. Squished down all the picked off scabs with glass after glass of wine. I wish I would have said more to her but hoped that she found some kind of relief in seeing the same fight, the same fear and frustrations had formed my jaw too….hoped even more that she found something to hold on to in my retelling of my own struggles and where I find myself now. Life, love, wine…it’s all a flip of the coin and heads you win, tails….you have to try again. Giving up and settling will never give you what you deserve after fighting so hard. Trust me. Thank you for spending the night with me…you are a person I long to know more about, hope to know for a very long time and…admire.

I woke yesterday morning to a very sweet email from Charlie Olken. “Hey my new blog has launched you should check it out. There is a new post that should be up soon, if it’s not go back later as I think you might find an interesting read” I had of course seen The Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine blog, I adore Charlie and even if our tastes are vastly different I know that there is much I can learn from him. Well that and I completely and wholly adore him. A fair, balanced and giving of his heart and support man like that is very rare…feel lucky each time I see his name either here on my blog on in my email.

Popped on his new blog and read a fine article about wine critics, sent him an email telling him how much I enjoyed it and went about enjoying a day of recovery after a boozy and somewhat emotional couple days. Got another email, this time an alert from this blog telling me that someone had left me a comment….on a post that was months old. What the hell? Read the comment and followed the link the commenter had left me….to Connoisseurs’ Guide’s new post, the one I guess Charlie was nudging me to see. I sat there, one hand pressed firmly across my mouth while tiny tears bounced off my fingers. A tribute of sorts, to me…from one of the people in my business, in my life that I respect most of all. With my heart thumping away in my chest I wiped my eyes and let him know how humbled I was by such an honor.

As the day went on I went back a few times to see if he had responded but instead of his voice…there were others. People who have been touched by my words or by the wines I have exposed them to, it was simply overwhelming…or so I thought. Just when I thought it was too much there was another voice, one that had been silent for weeks and one that I missed so much that just seeing the name made me gasp…literally gasp. Ron Washam…HoseMaster, my internet “husband” and my partner in anti-wine blog wine blogging. He had stepped out from behind the now silent voice of the irreverent, hilarious, blisteringly talented HoseMaster and here he was…lifting his veil of silence to say loving and wonderful things about the stories, my voice…the me that I share here.

I spent the remainder of the day thinking about choices, the good the bad, the truly destructive…the ones that save you. I spent the first half of my life…shit more than that entwined with men that were nothing but cruel to me…dismissive and down-right evil. Some of them just lost and suffering from wrong choices of their own. A grandfather that thought that pointing out each and every flaw was the funniest thing ever. A father that would blow pot smoke in the face of his five year old daughter right before he nodded out from his last hit of smack. A man that was suffering from a sexual identity crisis that would make me stand before whatever group of hot young guys he just picked up at the bar and laugh at me as he told me no one would ever love me…how ugly I was. The way I sought out men that treated me in the same way. The fear, the running, the lowering of my head, the decades of fear, broken teeth, broken bones, broken homes….the finding of the love I wanted and needed, the feeling important, beautiful and special for the very first time the second I had the tiny fingers of My young son resting in the palm of my hand. Heads you win, tails….try again.

After pulling myself off the floor and actually letting all that had transpired over the past few days settle around me I looked at my sweet husband and said, “I need you to book me a flight to Northern California. I need to see and touch these men that have touched and changed me” and just like that I had a ticket in my inbox and a plan. I’m coming guys. Ron, Charlie, John and Tom…you four have been so supportive and loving of me and what I do here, of my silly voice and rambling. You are now like tiny fingers in my palm, I feel you in my heart and now I need to actually wrap my arms around you, be able to recall your scents when I see your name just as I do with the wines that captivate me and steal my heart. Your openness and willingness to adore me, well it has made me willing to…try again. Thank you. To these men, to the woman that sat up with me, drinking wine…being open to my suggestions even though I stumbled a bit trying to figure out her palate, for sharing her life with me….none of you can possibly understand what this means to me but…you have my heart wide open to trying again.

Heads you win
Try again

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Timing, Either A Bitch Or....Perfect

I walked into work the other day; eyes puffy, soul weary and feeling sure that if one more thing…no matter how small, were to land upon my shoulders, to be my fault or need me more than I felt capable of giving myself to that I would surely crumble. Just dissipate like one of those random dropped ashes that I blow off my side table without even thinking about where the pieces might land. My pieces just barely being held together after a night that should have been written for one of those asinine movies that encapsulates like the worst 24 hours of some jackass’s life. Yeah, that was my night.

So you know when you get home from a particularly grueling day, one full of you being “on” shaking all your bits to be charming, insightful or at the very least funny…the result of which is often not at all what you intended? Your, “This wine is sexy as hell” somehow twisting in some lonely, suspender clad, smells like a pile of dirty laundry guy thinking you are flirting with him? Your, “This wine is a wicked value” comment being misconstrued into, “Well I’m not cheap if that is what you are saying” or saying, “Oh are you going to an eighties party?” to a crimped hair, neon wearing customer when…they are not? Then coming home to share a story with your partner, a story that has kept you sane all day…finding a way to giggle at the silliness of the whole thing and forgetting that you are missing that filter that separates the shit you should say from the shit you ought not? That was my night.

Two hours sleep, a bruised top of my foot from storming out of the house, feeling like I just couldn’t win and, “Hi Samantha”….her.

“Hi Samantha” I looked at the face and while it was familiar I could not quite place it. It was about two months ago and I was in my normal pre-tasting frenzy that is my every Thursday. I was buzzing around and as I watched the woman that had so graciously greeted me…by name, glide around my French department then I saw a face I did know for sure, her son’s. I felt my cheeks go warm and as I bent over to price a Cotes du Rhone I watched them…saw their feet coming closer. I stood grabbing the empty case box I had just merchandized and I was face to face with her.

“I read what you wrote about me” my face getting hotter, little beads of sweat slipping back into my hairline. “I just wanted to thank you” now my eyes welling with tears of…of I’m not sure. Were they tears of shame? Pride? Guilt that I had written about her breathtaking courage here in this silly place that I thump away all my stupid rants and lustful wants or were they merely tears of awe and admiration? The woman that came in and shared her story of battling breast cancer for the second time, exposed her elation that she was going to be able to enjoy her wine while she fought this tremendous fight…that she inspired me to drink the same wine she was going to and share that with all of you, and here she was, after all that she had been through, thanking me. Tears.

I found myself stumbling and nervously pulling at the waxy trail of spent price tag tape that was dangling from my price gun as she told me how she had found my blog post, how it moved her, made her proud….telling me that her son had found it and said, “Mom I think she is talking about you” the second the words left her lips I could feel my pulse in my neck. A woman that had the strength to battle a monster that can and has devoured so many was now before me telling me about her four mile walks and tugging on her hair asking me, “Can you tell this is a wig?” took everything I had not to lose it. That’s a fucking lie, the second she left I did lose it, not for her…she took my breath away with her quiet courage, it was her graciousness and sweetness, the bit of pride that she wore in the face of seeing me, the woman that had written about her. Lost it while I drank yet another bottle of Azo Chablis in her honor, in the honor of knowing such a woman and in the heart thumping connection that she and I were and are going to share, forever.

“Hi Samantha” she was back and just as she was like a magical gift that first time she pulled my head out of my ass and reminded me of what is truly important, the second time when she filled my heart with pride and now…the morning after a horrible evening of self imposed drama, she was here again. Fairy Godmother for sure. We chatted a bit, the lift and light in her voice straightening my sulking spine, pulling my tear stricken lids wide across my eyes. “I finished my last round of treatment and look, I’ve got new boobs!” she chirped. This time, well this time I let my eyes…no matter how tired and sad looking, fall on her…no price gun tape, no feeling uncomfortable that I may have crossed some line. It was she and I, a rack of wine between us and I wanted nothing more than to wrap my arms around her, cry if she would let me and most of all, thank her.

Tonight my beautiful partner in Azo…I am drinking Our wine. Thinking of you. Admiring you and most of all, thanking you. You inspire me, make me proud to be a woman, make me feel like I have this strong and light gathering creature that is just outside my door and ready to heal me should I need it…I shall never drink this wine again without seeing your face, wig pulling and sweet lips thanking me. I should have told you that first time, it is I that owe you a thanks and I that will forever think of and remember you in the faintly doughy aromas, steely cut and fierce acid of Our Chablis.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Welcome Home

God I missed you
So nice to have you home
Where you belong
Here with me

I think you ought to know
Be made to fully understand
Just how evocatively you affect me
How simply thinking about
Indulging in
Feeding on
My time with you
Can make me feel like there are soft fingertips slipping across my exposed shoulders
Then slowly down the center of my back

Eyes closed
Our first meeting
Travelling fingertips
Breath sucked violently deep into my chest
Back arching
Aching for more

The sense of comfort I find in your gentle
Unpolished nature

The unyielding sense of urgency when I think of having you

God I missed you
Welcome home

Slipping clandestinely out my screen
Past closed doors and windows
The sound of my own breath syncing with the patter of my bare feet
The stream and its soothing gurgle
My heart thumping in my ears
Head pounding with memories

My lips finally open
My tongue saturated with you
My warm soft hands changing you
My throat and heart open
The stream
The moon

Once again dancing beneath Our Moon
What a fabulous night for a moon dance
With you
My Love….

Welcome Home
I missed you