Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Might I recommend Hesh.

                                      (Image courtesy of

When traversing your local wine shop, how's about NOT saying these.....

“I’m not a wine connoisseur” (Always said with an exaggerated emphasis on the word connoisseur)
 ~ I think it is that exaggerated, mocking,  nasal-rich tone with which this often delivered that bothers me the most. As if being into wine makes you a snob? Do car collectors, stamp collectors or art collectors have to deal with that? I think getting rid of the word connoisseur might help. I think wine lovers are some of the most generous and least snobby people I know, they share their wine and knowledge freely and want to teach others about this thing they love. There are those “wine snobs” and those are the people that think Sliver Oak is the only wine worth drinking….they are not wine connoisseurs either!

All real wine is red” 
~ Tell that to a bottle of Montrachet you twat. This type of dismissal of all things white is not only ignorant but tells me that the one that utters such a comment, doesn’t drink as much or as richly as the rest of us. Saying you don’t care for white wine bothers me less, that's a preference, (and I will be asking which white wines you have tried..they don’t all taste alike you know, and if they do to you, your palate might be a bit,damaged.) and doesn’t belittle or make white wine seem lesser. I hear it all the time from those comb-over guys or the aging chicks in the sparkling "Mommy's Sippy Cup" shirt, the ones with a glass of red wine made out of sequins, (aren't those a fucking hoot...sigh) "I started with white wine, I've moved on". Oh you've evolved have you? Moved right on up to stupid and closed minded. Always baffles me that the ones with the closed minds are almost always the ones with the wide open flapping mouths. Shut it Benjamin Buttons. 

“It’s for a woman so probably something sweet” 
~ Again, it might be the tone with which this delivered, that little pang of condescension. First of all some of the greatest wines in the world, the most expensive and sought after are in fact sweet, so if the “little lady” is into that, her palate may be better than yours, so watch the tone there tough guy. Secondly as a woman that drinks dry, crisp, “sour” wines I have to say….don’t make assumptions based on gender, you could very well be wrong and it makes you look like an unenlightened tool. 

“It tastes Burgundian”

 ~ No it doesn’t.

“Price doesn’t really matter does it? That is all just hype right?”
 ~ This is a tough one because there are wines out there that are sporting super inflated price tags, bloated to cartoonian laugh ability but when someone asks me to find them a wine that tastes like Meursault for $10? I'm really sorry but it can’t be done. In some cases you do get what you pay for. Dropping fruit, (low yields for you connoisseurs) so the vines don’t over produce, time spent in barrel, the barrels themselves, replanting, harvest, labeling, staffing, these things all cost money, so that cost is passed on to the consumer. Sometimes grossly, I guess but for the most part, I think wineries are honest folks looking to get a fair price for their out of pocket, and make enough money to take care of  the people they employ. They aren't looking to screw you over, (well maybe Caymus, might just be paying for what they "gave away" for years) and there isn't a crazy margin on most wine. I can happily find you a tasty as hell $10 wine but I assure you, won't taste like Meursault.

“I don’t drink anything rated less than 90 points”
 ~ Party on (insert snobby sounding voice here) connoisseur. But you might want to pull your head out of your…errr..magazine long enough to taste something and evaluate it yourself. If I tell you that I gave a little Quincy, (region in the Loire that has some fantastic Sauvignon Blanc that almost NEVER gets rated) my personal 96 points, (I never use points but for this argument I might) would you drink/try it? Whose 90 points are you drinking….does it matter or is it just the number? If you are so numbers driven how's about I pull out a giant Sharpie marker and draw a big 0 on your forehead. Buttwad.

“The bubbles in Champagne give me a headache”
 ~ Do you get a headache from the bubbles in your soda? No? Well, then it is probably not the bubbles that are giving you a headache, it's the cheap stuff that can give you a headache. It is poorly made, from crap quality grapes and usually has a butt load of sugar, that could contribute to the, “After free “Champagne” brunch” headache. If you are drinking the real deal followed by two bottles of Paso Zinfandel….well, that too could give you a headache my friend, don’t go blaming the bubbles right off K?

“Friends don’t let friends drink White Zinfandel”
 ~ Friends don’t judge, let them drink what they want. Dammit.

“Red Burgundy is thin”
 ~ Argh!! Just typing that one out pisses me off! Pisses me off and ties into the earlier, "It tastes Burgundian" bullshit. They are NOT thin, they are as they should be, light, elegant and loaded with tremendous flavor. If you have made up your mind about the amount of flavor by looking at the color then you will never get it, which is fine but don’t go throwing derogatory words, like thin around. Those wines are not opaque, or richly extracted and that is not a flaw, they don’t go around saying things like, “It’s very Oregon in style” or "Sonomacoastian" right? There is something to those wines, if you don’t dig it, right on more for us but stop trying to compare New World Pinot Noir to Burgundy. This ones seems to be getting worse among some "wine writing" circles but thankfully I hear fewer domestic wine makers saying it, which is so refreshing to me as those hard working folks should be touting and bragging about their own wines, of their place. Comparing Pinot Noir from Burgundy to Pinot Noir from anywhere else is not only crusty as fuck, it's apples and Oreos. Just quit it. Be proud of the wines and their specific place...and just want to point out one thing, when you hold one up as the "model" it's actually you that put one wine above another. Just sayin'

“I need a recommendation, where are the wine guys?”
 ~ My favorite response to this one is, “Being their boss, I gave them the day off”. I have to say in the last 10-ish years or so this has happened less and less but it still happens. Having breasts does not impair one’s sense of smell or taste, in fact there are some people that believe that women have a more sensitive sense of smell. I’m not sure about that but I do know that there are lots of women in the wine business now and they have laser sharp palates. I cannot tell you how many times I have been helping a male customer and someone will come up, interrupt us and begin asking him questions. The worst offenders…and I hate to admit this, older women! Come on ladies, where’s the solidarity? People that shop at The Wine Country on a regular basis are used to “wine girls” at one time we had 7 females and only 2 males, a fact that prompted the worst customer exchange I have ever encountered. An overly tan, cologne saturated, shirt unbuttoned...way too low, wanker in his mid to late sixties, total Florida by way of Jersey dude, comes in and after watching my mostly female staff hustle about, paying just a little too much attention if you get my drift, this cheese dick says, "Hey, looks like you could use a few more swinging cocks in this hen house." No shortage of dicks that day that's for sure. Ugh. 

"I'd like something buttery, with a smooth taste."
~ Smooth is a texture or feeling not a flavor! Holy shit does this one feel like fucking Chinese water torture to me now. It may be a small thing, the whole smooth flavor thing but fuck all does it get my feathers all fluffed. Now buttery? This is just a hot mess of confusion. We get people that instinctively ask for a "Buttery Chardonnay" or the other end of it, "I just don't want a buttery Chardonnay" and even, "I'd like a Merlot, a buttery one." Took some contemplation and lots of, "So you want a wine that tastes like actual butter or?" to figure out that most of them mean one of two things. They are talking about a richness and caramel note which does in fact make a little sense in terms of butter, you know, seeing as caramel is like made from actual butter and junk. The other, and the one that I've found most often to be the desired "butter flavor" is creaminess. Again the texture being the important component for the customer standing in front of me. So while it makes me flinch like someone has a rubber band outstretched and pointed at my face, this one has in fact been a fairly valuable lesson, one that has, over the years, shaped the way I talk and write about wine. Flavors can be highly subjective, I mean it is taste which it takes only one trip to a music store, restaurant, movie, play, to prove that it is in fact all that, "in the beholder's" stuff. But just try telling that to the "I only drink 90 points" zero.

Retail man, it has its massive ups and crazy-ass lows. For the most part, even after 17 years I have to say, I can't think of another job I'd want or be as good at. Oh I'm a few light years away from having any kind of real handle on things but more often than not I can smile, clinch, and even put up with the...swinging cocks that feel the need to pipe up and offer their unsolicited suggestions. The holidays are slamming down upon us, I'm feeling it that's for sure, (why the fuck is it when I need the most sleep is precisely the time I stop doing just that?! Ughh) and today was sodden with people that are beginning to freak out, just a little. Have you ever watched a 93 year old try and pick a shade of free tissue paper that perfectly matches the two gift bags she's buying? For the bottles she bought somewhere else? After about 10 minutes watching me and my very readable face turn all bright read and scrunch, one of my coworkers, one that deals with seniors, stepped in and relieved me. Ever watched a God-fearing, church-goin, sweet angel of a woman (not me if you couldn't guess) grab one sheet each of fifteen different colored tissues and practically beg an old lady to, "Just take them home, they're free" because she too was red and scrunching after 15 minutes, (yes, a total of like 25 minutes for gift bag tissue)? It's a hoot I assure you.

The holiday topper on my day yesterday?

I walk up to an older woman and ask, "Can I help you?"
Her- "Is the lady with the short hair here?
Me- "Laurie? No, I'm sorry, she's off today"
Her- "She's the one I normally work with"
The whole time I'm thinking, "Can't be that often if you can't remember her name, she offers it at nearly every greeting"
Me- "Well, I'm sorry. She will be back in tomorrow, or I can help you if you'd like"

Her face gets sort of pinched, she huffs a few times while shifting back and forth in that kind of way that lets you know, this lady is not a fan of not getting her way.

Her- "Well, (sigh) can you help me then?" with a painfully dissatisfied look.
Playing the scene back in my head I seemed to recall offering to help her twice now but lets go for lucky number three...

Me- "Of course. What can I do for you?"

She goes on to tell me that she is having a large party, maybe 100 guests over a three hour period. She would have two kinds of punch, some spirits and soda but needed some wine, maybe in the under $15.00 price range. Not a problem, in fact a generous price range for a large function, and I set forth into domestic land, Laurie's department, to pick wines for her. I can feel her huffing behind me and at this point, were I able to pull Laurie from the spot in my ass where this huffster thought I was hiding her, I would have done so, gladly. 

I wasn't sure why she was so suspicious or uneasy with me but, well these things just happen and sometimes for no other reason than off chemistry. But seeing as I am never going to be one of those, "You know, I have been doing this for (however) many years longer than ________" people, I just let it go. Until...

She rises a bit stiffer, brows arched in that, "Don't you know who I am dear" fashion and that is when she says, "You know, she (still not remembering her name huh?) gives me 15% off my purchases, do you have the power to do that?" in a tone that was dripping with condescension and....what do they call that again? Oh, that's right, bullshit. 

Me- "She does? That's odd, that has never been our policy and seeing as I am her boss, this should have come through me"

She was instantly thrown off. I looked at me with shocked, almost childish looking sheepishness, placed her hand over her mouth like she just spilled a silly little secret, and began to try and untangle. 

Her- "Well, it's because I run a non-profit. This party wasn't for that but I thought it was worth a shot."

I assured her that even for non-profit it is not our policy to give discounts. We make donations in the form or baskets and tickets to our tastings but being a small, independent, family owned retailer we just couldn't afford to lose that much profit ourselves. She sort of nodded and the whole time I stood there thinking, "You just tried to use your non-profit, whatever it is, to get a discount on your party wines, by lying, at Christmas time. Maybe you are too full of yourself to be ashamed, that's okay, I'm ashamed for you. 

Of course I confirmed with "The Short Haired Lady" that it was a total lie. She had never received any discounting, ever. Nice. Real nice.


Much as this stuff bugs, here I sit, 1:30 AM, shaking my head and chuckling about it all. 
Bring it last week before Christmas....
I'm ready and waiting for you.


Thomas said...

Ha! My staff used to keep me away from customers during such times of the year...

webb said...

The fact that you have not yet punched out any of the above-mentioned folks proves that you are way better suited to retail than I am. I would be in the local women's prison by now... murder still being illegal in Virginia.

Hang on, Sam, it's less than a week now. You can do it! Just be sure you have at least 10 bottles of the good stuff on hand for yourself.

Samantha Dugan said...

Which is why I still do this and you don't!

I was considering picking that tiny old lady up and putting her outside. She was THAT crazy making. Most the stories of our customers are nice one, that's because most days my work is a pleasure...but sometimes?! Mother f'er.

I am hanging on lady and I managed not one but two open bottles of grower Champagne last night so you can bet your bippie I am taking care of me!

Marcia Macomber said...

Another winner! Loved this. My, you have the patience of a saint (but not the disposition, thankfully)!

Back to Burgundy - yup, suuuuuuuuuuureee tasted like it. LOL

Hang in there. Only a few crazy days left (before the New Year's countdown begins)!

Samantha Dugan said...


Like I said, I mostly share the good stuff because that's what I get most of the time but I am still given to my very me rants. Thankfully for me too. I wouldn't be buying all that, "It's all wonderful" bullshit either. Not me and so not true. Not sure if you read before or after but I added a bit to the end of this post tonight...a woman that actually sort of inspired the post. Yes, worse than the old lady I ached to shot-put!

Thanks for popping by lady, and for commenting. Always nice to hear from you. I've heard this post in being shared and have seen it linked all over Facebook but writing when no one says anything is like making love to someone that makes no noise...uninspiring as fuck. So thanks for keeping the light on for me Marcia! I am hanging in, and for the most part, enjoying it...the days I don't, I buy Champagne!

Sara Louise said...

This might be my favorite post of yours ever. I'm sorry that you've had to suffer through holiday season retail hell to give it to us so I wanted to say, thank you for making my day :)
P.S. And this --> "Tell that to a bottle of Montrachet you twat"... freaking awesome.

Samantha Dugan said...

Oh, I'm not suffering too much. Just the usual toil of retail or service...hell talk to a server at like Olive Garden, they have to have some stories! Can't even begin to imagine.

Thanks for the comment/groan...and twat is a far too ignored word that I am hell bent on bringing back. Happy holidays to you, Fifty and Gregory. Love you sweet lady.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,
The best part of this hilarious post is that I can sit here and comment and not have to go to work at my retail wine shop after. Man, do I remember all these folks. Restaurants have their own set of snotballs to deal with, but retail, at Christmas, tops them all.

One of my favorites--a guy wanted his bottles gift-wrapped with price tags "accidentally" left on the bottles. Only he wanted us to put $24.99 price tags on $11.99 bottles. Yup, so WE looked like price gougers. It's one thing to be cheap, it's another to ask folks to conspire so that you don't seem to be. He's the guy slipping slugs into the Salvation Army kettles.

Hang in there, Gorgeous! I love you!

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,
"Snotballs" can I quote you on that? Ah yes, the "Keep the price tag on" and "Hey, could you put a higher price on their" folks. Still happens Love. The latter say it like they are joking but when I say, "I can do that" they always have me do it. So bloody tacky, not to mention stupid. You hand someone a bottle of say, The Prisoner with a $60 price tag and they are thinking, "What an idiot, he/she paid that much for this?!"...wankers. Oh well, I married into one of those families too, my mother in-law always leaves the price tags on and always checks the back of greeting cards...such weird fucking behavior to me but, so it goes.

I'll try and hang in here handsome, even when I feel like my bits are hanging out! I love you too!

Charlie Olken said...

Great column. So full of truth.

This is where your story-telling abilities meets the wine floor.

Thanks for reminding us that wine is wine.

And happy, happy and merry, merry.


Samantha Dugan said...

Charlie My Sweet,
Why thank you dear man. I'm such a chick but these little strokes from you remarkable dudes, well it goes a long way in making me a happier and more confident woman. So thank you for the years of all that there. My very best to you and your loving family Sir Charles.