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 fiancée 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.....


Jimmie Schnipke said...

Sam ~ Glad you kids had a great time. Wish I could have been in the backyard with all of you.

Valerie said...

Love times like this - rare, memorable, and never saw them coming or know when (if) there'll be another. I agree - social media is a little out of control, ironically, in social situations. I'd rather enjoy the moments and people, and relive it later in writing, as you just did.

Thomas said...

Make me jealous, go ahead...

Re, the blogger tasting: yuck +20

Samantha Dugan said...

Think you would have much preferred the dinner to the backyard deal seeing as the "gang" was at the dinner but thank you. I did in fact have a very wonderful, absolutely memorable time.

I've been lucky enough to attend many of those geek/collector dinners and when you love wine in the way that I do, they're simply magic. Yeah the social media thing just floored me, and trust me I am hardly making sound worse than it was..."You haven't tweeted in 7 minutes"???? Lame.

You would have most definitely rounded out the group darlin'

chris said...


Hear the clapping? That's me, clapping my hands in glee for you and your friends, the wine, and the memories. Guess this proves the old adage that "home is where the heart is."

Welcome home!

Ron Washam said...

What My Gorgeous Samantha manages to ignore is that Charlie, Tom and John were very excited to finally meet her and that the entire dinner was arranged in her honor. She is uncomfortable with so much adoration, but, believe me, the place was positively oozing with it. I think some got on my pants. It is quite an experience to sit at a table and talk about older wines with people whose accumulated experience with wine comes to about 150 years, even if 100 of those years belong to Charlie.

Christopher Watkins was kind enough to invite me to the Ridge blogger tasting claiming he was a fan of my late unlamented HoseMaster of Wine blog. I decided it would be a hoot to attend with Samantha, see the Poodles in action. It was disheartening and enlightening at the same time, and made me grateful I'd never attended a Wine Bloggers' Conference. It was a startling contrast to the dinner with all of Samantha's Adoring Men (S.A.M.'s Club). However, there is something satisfying about watching Samantha taste nine Lytton Springs Zins in one day! It's kind of like the Russian Roulette scene in "The Deer Hunter."

Samantha and I had a raucous, amazing, hilarious, wonderful, life-affirming, loving, crazy, intense three days. I am not the HoseMaster, but Samantha is most definitely and most beautifully Sans Dosage. I dropped her off at the airport and all the way home marveled at her sprawling and penetrating intelligence, quick wit, passion, and love for wine and life. I've never met anyone quite like her. All that is good about the world streams from her heart.

Thank you, My Gorgeous Samantha, for your luminous and brilliant company, and for loving me despite my many weaknesses and endless introspection. Come back soon. I miss your giggle.

I love you!

Samantha Dugan said...

Thank you dear friend. It was quite the weekend and I hope with all of my heart it does not take me another year to do it again.

Ron My Love,
I know you are staying away from the blog world and feared that you would feel compelled to post because of my mention of you...okay my gushing on ya. I am beyond moved that you broke your silence and I assure you I meant every word of what I said. Oh and goddamnit, it is not my SAM'S Club you jackass, they were there for each other just as much as they were there for me!

I adored spending so much time in your presence, listing, laughing, getting to know all about you...all of makes up the brilliant and loving man that you are and I would not change one single thing about you. Well aside from that Zin loving bullshit.

Thank you so much for taking so much time, sharing so much and working my damn abs, cannot remember when I have laughed so much, so hard and for so many days. You have my heart dear man and I love you.

Thomas said...

Funny that you should mention the Deer Hunter, Ron.

When I first read Christopher Watkins' name in Sam's post I read it as Christopher Walken.

John M. Kelly said...

Like I said over at Charlie's blog - I really hope we can make this get-together an annual affair. Four hours in a noisy restaurant was just not enough time to spend with the people I have come to cherish and respect through this emotion-deficient internet - not to mention the distraction of all that great wine. Do you think the servers had a good time with the remains after we left?

I'm laughing at your reaction to the twitter tasting. Yes - exactly. See my comment above re: the emotion-deficiency of the internet.

It goes the other way too: somm friend of mine was pouring at a reception for wealthy collectors the other day at one of those Napa cult wineries that makes a horribly expensive cocktail Cab. She was pouring 1998 CWC Pol Roger as they came in, until someone asked for a wine I will decline to name: an over-oaked, overripe, fat, flabby, high-alcohol New World blend of Viognier and Rousanne (you know who you are you guilty f**k) and EVERY guest started raving about it. Every one. Poof - no more Winston Churchill from one of the best vintages in 100 years. WTF? Call me an elitist snob if you will... I can deal with it.

Samantha Dugan said...

Oh c'mon....name names, some of French wine drinkers have not a clue what you are talking about. Would in fact be very cool to have some kind of meet up once a year, would love it. When I got home I told the hubby that I would be making a trek up that way at least once a year now, if not more so count me in kid.

Joe said...

Can't say thanks enough for popping by our little rat nest on Sunday night. Was great to meet, as we didn't get to chat much at the Ridge event. It was definitely different doing wine country with the wife and a baby, but everyone was so accomodating to them, and I don't think the kid scared anyone off.

Funny thing, those blogger events. I think there are two sorts of folks in the "blogger" world: the ones who write stuff and the ones who are "social media ninjas". Sounds like we agree: I'd much rather discuss, rant, and argue. But then again, I'm not very prolific on the social media. I'd rather enjoy the moment and write later. Honestly, I think I sent out 2 "tweets" the whole time. However, I don't think things were as dire as you say. At least on my end of the table. Sure folks were taking notes, but there was also a lot of conversation.

To me, the lack of passionate argument comes more from the spitting and dumping. Wine (and politics, and religion) always becomes a heated debate with a couple glasses in the belly.

Again, lovely to meet you. I look forward to another meeting soon!

k2 said...

Sounds like it was quite the evening. And you should revel in the affections you receive Sam, you really get to people just by showing us what being a wine lover really means - being fearless, uninhibated, adventurous and generous, with friends, family, and strange souls you just happen to run into here on the Interwebs. Cheers!

Samantha Dugan said...

The rats...or your reaction to were hilarious. I thank you again for having me and it was so nice to chat with you and your wife. Your kid scaring anyone off? Don't think that sweet little thing made a peep the whole time I was there.

The event may not have dire on your end but damn, on mine...gack. Maybe I have just been marinating in the other way so long that I just can't wrap my head around that kind of thing..."You haven't tweeted in 7 minutes" infamy, that will go down in infamy.
Don't forget to send me your address kid, I owe you a Camille Saves Brut and while I may not be a lot of things I am a woman of my word.

Dude, why you gotta make me go blush and junk? Not sure I own any of those kind monikers but am flattered beyond belief that you would think so. Just a silly chick that loves wine, the others that love it and kind of digs living in each and every second. If that speaks to you then I am very proud.

Samantha Dugan said...

Oh goddamn it, could I have more typos, missing words and random spaces in one comment section? Fuck. Going for more Barbera....

vickibarkley said...

Thanks for the post...It's making me smile, and giving me a faraway look, as I let your description of your geek dinner love fest wash over me. You do understand that those four words strung together constitute highest praise?
I think that events and meetings like your weekend make the world a better place.
And you are generous for sharing it so freely.
I love you,too.

Samantha Dugan said...

Awe Vicki, that is too sweet. Still cannot believe it when you crazy kids thank me for sharing....it is I that should be thanking you for reading so, no...thank you.

Charlie Olken said...


Ron is right. It was the our own version of the Sam Club.

Just to be sure, I liked both bubblies, but I simply would have poured the Billiot first because I prefer subtly before directness.

As for the Camille Saves and CA Chards, as Ronald Reagan once said, "There you go again". You have again said dry wines are sweet. They may be fruity; they are certainly far more open and opulent than Chablis, but they are not sweet--at least not most of the Chards that are worthy of a second glance. And, the Camille Saves is sweet. It has measurable sweetness and it tastes sweeter than most CA Chards. It has higher acidity--all bubblies do unless they are hopelessly out of balance.

And of course, the discussions like these, in the midst of a rollocking good evening, are what makes being in this biz so much fun. We takes our wines seriously, but we take each other with understanding, passion and respect.

And yes, love. I am with John Kelly on this. We need to do it again. And next time, I'm not drinking any Pastis, thank you.

winebookgirl said...

Not to pick a fight, but as I was sitting across from you at Ridge. . . Ron tweeted the exact number of times I did and not a single person there commented on my lack of tweets at the time or since.

Samantha Dugan said...

Charlie Love,
We so need to sit down in a quieter venue and discuss perceived sweetness...as in how I perceive and how you perceive it. I know there are ways to measure actual sweetness but what I find sweet you simply might not, no way to know until we sit amongst a bunch of bottles and learn each others palates. Deal?

I will fly up there for another meeting in a heartbeat. Loved it and cannot wait to do it again. I do think a slightly more audibly agreeable place might be in order...

Oh and Sir Charles if you are part of my "club" then I might even join. I adore you.

Okay first of all you were delightful and I enjoyed chatting with you very much. It must have just been me but that kind of setting while drinking wine was like fucking with your clothes on to me. Just not my thing. It's not wrong, just absolutely not what fires me up about wine. Oh and Ron only tweeted because you made him but that was funny as hell to watch and someone alerted me later....someone at the table tweeted about the HoseMaster tweeting....just sayin. Very much enjoyed meeting you and hope to do it again!

winebookgirl said...

It was lovely to meet you.

I was thinking about people's tweeting at such events last night because of a discussion I had with my daughter. I had a list of items for her to gather. She would find one and then come back saying she did not remember what was next. I then wrote the list down for her and she did all of them without a problem.
(Point coming, really.)
I know that when I am at events like the Ridge tasting, I find that I need to take notes, though with pen and paper or I will forget everything. It is the way I learn. Ron could tell me 10 times about a growing season and 5 minutes later it would be gone. I like pen and paper, because, well, I'm old school. I work in publishing after all. But maybe the tweeting is just a more social way of writing information down? I suppose it also allows one to communicate with someone sitting at the other end of the long table.

I don't know. And I may be over thinking it. Because I like to tweet, though generally from my desk. But these are the things I ponder when insomnia strikes.


Dave said...

"that kind of setting while drinking wine was like fucking with your clothes on"

Darlin' Sam, classic, dare I say approaching the late HoseMaster's unique ability for making the English language his bitch, god rest his sole [sic]. Hope I have your permission to use, abuse, and subvert it, I can visualize SO many uses and applications.

ABC, like you I'm old school, just recently gave up chisels and stone tablets for parchment and quill (damn granite got too expensive). The past several years having been involved with putting on large gatherings with speakers, etc, I've observed a good percentage of the audience, younger mainly, totally ignoring the proceedings and shooting twits (or is that the twits shooting tweets?) throughout, looking up occasionally at each other to give a facial high 5 or fist bump for their "perceived" bon mots.

I've always been the early adopter on the technology front but now I find myself heading for Ludditeville. Ready to say fuck the cellphone, not going to send a tweet, register for facebook, etc, but will keep the email (for now). Hell ask Sam, only reason I'm here is because I stumbled across Ron, prior to that I'd sworn to never open a bottle of wine blog (glad that one bit me in the ass though).

Social Networking... the term conjures up shades of 1984, where the Ministry of Peace is actually the war department, etc, etc.

Love all you guys, finding a touch point for reality seems to be getting tougher and tougher.

Cheers, and pass the wine

Samantha Dugan said...

I understand that but I have always worried that we let too much of this technology bullshit further mushy our minds, and for all the brain cells I kill with drinking I insist that I work that tiny muscle whenever I can. When my son was little, (like 100 years ago) I started challenging his memory, (coincidentally my mother did the same to me) starting when he was tiny and I used to read to him every night. Rather than pick short books I would read him books with chapters and when we would snuggle in for his bedtime and it was time to start reading I would ask him where we left off...if he couldn't remember, (or didn't want to answer) I would close that book and reach for another telling him that if he couldn't remember he must not have been enjoying it. Well Charlie and the Chocolate Factory worked his wee mind and he would be able to tell me everything that happened in the chapter from the night before. Steel trap now, the kid has the mind of a steel trap...freaking majoring in history it better be.

Dude. Dude you have to know that is like a massive compliment to me...don't have one tenth the talent Ron does but I will swim around in that little chest puffing compliment for awhile.

I can attest to the fact that Dave was avoiding wine blogs and for the most part, why wouldn't you? He sent me an email at work telling me as much and I am to this day very flattered that I somehow hooked him too. Oh and I can also speak to the shunning of technology on his part....he sends me checks for the wine he buys from our store. Vintage, cool ass vintage that. (whispering to Dave...I write checks too)

I for one am thrilled you found Ron and in turn me, seems to work that way and that too is a source of great pride for me. Can't wait to see you at the end of the month!

Ron Washam said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,

You and I have far different talents. Once upon a time, I made people laugh. Well, that or I made them angry. Your talent is storytelling, and your unique ability to show us the connection between loving wine and loving life. You have far more than a tenth of my talent. Hell, I only have two percent of my talent.

As to the Ridge blogger tasting, when folks are on Twitter they are simply not present at the event. Instead of focusing on the wines and the astounding voice of Lytton Springs that Paul Draper coaxed from the grapes year after year, they're focused on their own insipid bon mots and are imagining the breathless hordes awaiting their next bit of mindless drivel. Shameful, honestly, but it's the next generation of wine gurus at work. Wine boiled down to 140 characters, 120 of which are about the Tweeter. Yes, Amy and you and I spent a lot of time talking, but the rest were focused on tiny machines. An ironic mirror to their own minds.

Dave, thanks for all the kind words. You were a great supporter of my foolishness, and it was for folks like you that I wrote the crap in the first place. That it led you to Samantha is lucky for you. She was always my Internet bride, and I know she's still mourning the HoseMaster's disappearance.

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,
No Love, you touched people just as much...fuck, more than I do. I don't pretend to have your gift Baby but I will forever admire it and you. You are right, I am mourning my internet husband but even if I am out here in the ether alone I know that you are tucked away safely in my heart and no amount of distance or silence can take that from me. It was my great honor to be your internet bride, your partner in pointing the finger at the fake and the posturing...knew it the first time I read you, "This guy is for me" know it still.

So while I am the salt missing my pepper (or is it the other way around) and my beloved HoseMaster has been hushed he has been hushed by the even more interesting Ron Washam and after spending a few days with that guy I have to tell you, I like him even better.

You brought me laughter as HoseMaster, a partner in non wine blogging, you brought me Charlie, John, Jimmie, Thomas, Dave and many others...would not be this place without you and I will never be the same after you. Not sure I have ever thanked you publicly and it is high time that I did Ron...thank you. Thank you for all the love and devotion, all the support and the hours you spent nurturing me. Your gift is not only your talent, it's your heart...a place I am lucky enough to call home.
I love You!