Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I was helping a lady with glassware today, she was a housekeeper that had broken one of her bosses glasses...thing was all she knew she needed was Riedel, "Let me just call him" she told me and I went back to the counter to finish an order I was working on. She returns and says, "Oh he needs to talk to you"...now here's the thing, I'm not one of those germ freaks, I can pee without a seat cover and all but...I do have a little, "thing" about using a strangers cell phone. Not sure what it is, maybe because I see all the oil and makeup that gets on my own phone, maybe it's the stranger spittle...dunno but it kinda skeeves me out, so I felt myself making the crinkled brow, "oh please don't make me do it" face and that's when she handed me this

Duuuuudddde, you want me to cram this ear bud, that you just yanked from one of your orifices into MY ear?! What I wouldn't have given for a greasy, makeup and spittle covered cell phone. I looked at her in complete shock and...lied. "I don't know how to use these" and tried to hand it back to her, "Oh you just pop it in your ear" she relpied handing the damn thing back to me.

Those Small Things...They Matter

What a month, I feel like I have neglected so many areas of my life this month….including this blog and my 16 readers have been licking the fuzzy end of a my-life-is-turned-upside-down lollipop. (Ahem) I am so sorry and will be back to my mouthy self here pretty soon, fuck I hope so anyway. I even got a call today from one of my bosses, I had screwed up and not ordered something for a customer, dude…sucking at doing a job that I love just stinks. My mind, heart and attention have been split wide open and pulled in two very different directions and I feel like everything, is crashing down on me and I am in way ready for it.

So I just spent two full days completely hammered, not saying that to brag or illicit an, “Awe poor Sam” just stating the facts here kids, been seriously bummed and locked into this, “We are so not going to talk about it” pact with the very best friend I have ever had….the one that’s leaving. I so wish I were able to articulate how rare a gift Amy is to and for me, we are both the tough, unaffected girl…we play hard, laugh hard, make no excuses for our behavior…finding her and letting myself love her with my whole heart has made me a better person, I like myself more now than I did before I met her. I’ve watched her change too; she still makes those “Ewe!” faces, burps like a trucker and would sooner watch football in her crunders than like do yoga or some junk, but she hugs us all more, has become a tender, loving soul…she is wearing her sweetness all over her actions and being part of that makes me feel so lucky….

So yeah, been thinking, or not trying to actually think about her leaving…might want to get over that seeing as I am going with her right…..and at the same time I have found some new, richly textured, amazing people that I find myself in the company of, just wish I were in a better spot to show them how much I appreciate their entry into this “life already in progress”. Always hard having new people enter your life….exciting and captivating but still hard. Trying to shift all the little pieces, make everything fit…and fit well is hard enough, but doing it in my current state, really rough. Thinking about how truly lucky I am when my beloved friend is venturing off into the unknown, the no-one-is-here kind of unknown…feels like I have been carrying a locomotion on my shoulders.

Amy, I know you read this stupid blog so I want you to hear me now….don’t be sad, picture my hands on your adorable face when I tell you, “You have forever changed me. I have never met anyone like you. I am honored that you love me. Will do whatever it takes to make sure that you always do. I am here, always here for you, no amount of time will ever change that. You are so stuck with me darling. I love you and feel everything you are feeling right now, it is sitting here on my chest, my shoulders and my very full but sad heart. I feel you sweetheart you are here with me in my swagger, my giggle and my bark. I have never felt more alive, more vibrant and more accepted than I do when I am near you, not sure what I did to get you but I would do it all again, a million times over for the hours of laughter and love you have given me. Thank you My Dear Friend…thank you. Our visits will be many, I will ache to hear all that you are experiencing and I will drive you batshit with emails, calls and texts. I love you girlie”.

So I finally took a shower after like 2 days….ugh, so vile, and found that some weight had been lifted once the frothy cloud of conditioner washed down the drain…..my pain and distraction is all being caused by love….how lucky am I? Yup I am hurting, yes I am falling crazy in love with some new people and I need to let myself feel okay with all of it. Jesus is this still a wine blog?!

I had my dinner tonight with my little boyfriend, we went to our place…Mario’s, crappy Mexican food, great chips and wicked stiff drinks. My little buddy opted to sit next to Call-o, they played a bit but after a trip to the potty he landed next to me. We spent 30 minutes blowing bubbles in our water with our straws….30 minutes of unadulterated, water all over, laughing time. The light in his face, the freedom of his chortles, his willingness to let the water cover his tiny frame, just reminded me that these are the moments worth living for. With each, “One two, three, go!” my heart raced, my decibels elevated and I felt like it was okay to laugh. I sat there, water all over my glasses and sweater, laughing at his tiny water speckled face….his reaction to my willingness to act a fool, just what I needed.

Love is a many splendid thing, so powerful, so captivating but you never know from where it might come, never know what face might me across from yours, eyes watering, bent over with full belly laughs…never know who’s heart is ready to be touched by you or who’s heart needs you…I for one am ready for more.

Amy my sweet friend, you and I are forever linked by nights of confessions, foolish behavior and mornings of, “hahahah well that happened” this next chapter in our devotion to one another will be just one more layer of who we are. Tyler you adorable little thing, you have wrecked me, my tough girl image is so over….you make me laugh, laugh really hard and remember what that pure joy of living feels like. Two tiny people, one in size one in age have so softened me, so made me feel….thank you. One more week and I might be full of passion and rawr again!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Counting Down....

Seven days, in seven days I will be working the Zinfandel tasting, (my personal favorite) at The Wine Country and then hopping a plane to Dallas Texas with my girl, my muse, my Amy. She moves out of her home on Wednesday night and into mine for a few days while Sexy Bitch drives their dogs out to Texas. I offered to fly out with Amy and the cat so she would not be alone and to make the whole thing a little easier on her….and me. I’m sure we will have a blast the 4 days that I’m there; the wine has been picked and will be driven with the dogs so it will be there, cold and waiting for us when we land. She and I will see where they are to live, (temporary housing) for the first time together and she already has a list of the spots she found on previous trips, for us to check out. Gonna be fun but I fear that I will be a mess when I board my flight home….leaving her there.

So right now we are on full speed, cramming as much fun and wild behavior as we can into the week we have left. Trying not to crumble into bags of weepy sadness, that has never been what we are about….even though the sadness is very real, and very painful….but we are focused on having these last few days be full of what made us all love each other in the first place…inhibition.

Wednesday night while properly pickling ourselves at Interlude we hatched our next plan. What could we do that would personify our quirky little gang of “personalities”? Where could we go that would be very Us….self indulgent, buzzy, not quite fitting into the “this is what you should be doing” mold. Didn’t take long to come up with it, can’t remember who said it first but like dominos, we all fell. “I’m in” has become my infamous answer to damn near every absurd, shifty, blindly stupid thing Amy has ever suggested….we are convinced that we are going to kill each other one of these days…so when our outing for tonight was suggested, I was the first to shrug and say, “I’m in”.

Right after I post this I will be jumping in the shower, drying and curling my hair…gotta pimp the curls for such an occasion, buttoning up my oversized man’s shirt and slipping my favorite tie over my head, maybe even a swath of red lipstick might be in order. Heading over to The Vortex, (that had its final walk through with the new owners today…boo) for some Agrapart Brut Rose, Herve Azo Petit Chablis, mini meatball sandwiches and other assorted snacks. We will drink, laugh and try to avoid looking nervous as we all climb into the van and head out for the evenings destination….Le Bar de la Boobage, awesome. Me thinks that Sunday shift I have to work is going to be rough….

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Why Come Yer Buggin'?

You know, sometimes even having 3 days off cannot prepare you for….the Wednesday afternoon shopper, sigh. I used to think Sunday was the, “freaks are out” day but Sunday seems to bring in the old folks and the super needy, which is much easier and can be fun in a way. I kind of like the gherkins, (affectionate name for the oldsters) now. Took me a while but watching a little old couple, (and they almost always come in pairs) shuffling throughout the store one just slightly in front of the other, almost like they are tied together by some invisible thread…a lifetime spent with one another, guarding against pickpockets, fear of falling, whatever but I find something sweet about it. I adore the spunky ones, spunky playful is great but I even admire spunky grumpy. I used to hate the cranky, old, “Get off my lawn you kids!” gherkins but now, well now I feel a kinship…I am so gonna be that mean old cat lady. The needy can be trying depending on the grade of my hangover and lack of sleep, (cuzz you know Sunday comes right after Saturday…why would they put that there?) but mean as I am, I do like helping people so I just try and take it as, “they need me more” and feel gratified when the sale is finally over…like crossing the finish line or the finishing of a tattoo, sure it was painful but now it’s over and I feel great.

Not sure why but Wednesday afternoon seems to bring out the worst in people, despair that the week is only half over, out on a Wednesday afternoon because you are on a “medical leave of absence” dunno what it is but damn. I always work Wednesdays and now with a shoestring staff it’s just me and Merritt, (thank God for her, least we can shoot each other that, “Oh my God what a freak” look) with the Kemners working in the back, so avoiding the parade of bizarre behavior is unavoidable. Yesterday it started with a phone call.

“Yes, someone there left me a message that a wine I was looking for was in” the voice groaned at a painfully slow pace. “Okay” I replied unsure why she was calling…just to let us know she got the message? So I press on, “Which wine was it?” I asked “Oh…..I don’t…..know” she answered in a trickle of words that had me wanting to pound my head against the desk, is it too hard to like have your thoughts together before you call? I was looking at Merritt with that, “just shoot me” face waiting for her to think of the name of the wine, “Hello? Are you still there?” she chimed after what felt like 5 minutes. “Um, yes I’m here” I answered in a slightly confused sounding voice, “I was waiting to hear which wine you were looking for” I told her. “Um I don’t remember but it was a white wine” she said. Now I know patience is a virtue and all, I try, I do but C’mon, what am I going to do with this nugget of information?! “Well now we’re getting somewhere” I lobbed…balls in your court now lady. After an eternity we got close enough, it was a LA Times Wine of the Week and….freaking thing wasn’t even in yet, the call was to let her know that it was coming and how many might she want, grumble.

Now I could have recovered from this, might have even been able to laugh about it if, things didn’t just keep piling on like some freaking test of my intestinal fortitude, oh and whomever is holding the voodoo doll with my likeness, I am so sorry, yes you can have a second taste of the most expensive wine on the table and/or I would love to come to your home and conduct a private tasting…just make your Wednesday torture less.... havoc wreaking.

“My daughter is breast feeding, I think it’s odd that she is still breast feeding when the baby is 4 but her husband is German and I think that’s what the Germans do” sigh. “I want to get her a gift but she can’t really drink that much, plus they like beer…do you have beer, no maybe chocolate, but I think you shouldn’t have chocolate when your breast feeding.” Oh Gawd. “They are into gourmet food, they go to Olive Garden twice a week so I can’t really get anything too cheap but I’ve never liked her husband and I don’t want him to have anything too nice.” Shoot me. “When she was little she didn’t even want kids and I think they are trying for a second, oh maybe a gift basket would be best” I let my eyes wander outside, where I was longing to be…far away from this obviously “touched” older woman and that’s when I saw freak number 3.

Kinda hard to miss, she looked like a porn star, a low budget one but still. Funny when you see chicks like that close up, their faces and stuff up close I mean…not so much good really, funny you never really notice the “spackle” that is holding that mess together when they are like working and junk. She walks up to the front door and this is when problem number one happens…she couldn’t figure out the door, awesome. She goes to the wrong side of the door and finds no handle, now one would think the next option would be to, I don’t know…look at the other side, nope this train wreck stuck her fake nail sporting hands in the hinges of the door and tried to pry her way in…dude. I mean I know doors are like hard and stuff but really?! I swear you could hear my eyelashes slapping together, best part…our door swings both ways, (she might too but who am I to judge) so she could have just pushed the damn thing, unreal.

She tackles that whole door issue and prances in sporting that very uncomfortable fake confidence that women like that tend to, in short….kinda bitchy. Tiny frame, too tiny for the big ol fake boobies she had, bleached hair, (me too, this is so the pot calling the kettle black but I need to paint the picture right) blue contact lenses perched in her clearly augmented eyes and she was so working her, “pout” poor thing went a tad nutty with the lip plumpin, she looked like a duck, a cartoon duck. She walks right up to Randy who was in a meeting, didn’t want to deal with one of us, “I got the same junk you do girlie” girls, got him to assist her and graced me with her presence at the counter, but not before walking right in front of a poor woman wearing one of those burn victim sleeves….I shit you not. I let her cut in line and put her bottle on the counter and then motioned to the woman that had been cut off to meet me at the next register…yeah, I left miss, “look at me” standing there while I rang the other woman up. Felt smug when I left her standing there, even more so as I was wearing a man’s shirt unbuttoned just enough to flash a glimpse of my, very real ample boobage…soft, real, and I get to wear the snarl of the “I came this way”.

“Vut are your tastings about?” she asked when I came to ring her up, “Not sure I know what you’re asking” I responded. “You’re tastings tell me about zem” she demanded in her eastern European accent. This is how that went

Me- Well we do three tastings a week they are..
Her- How much are they?
Me- Well as I was saying, we do multiple tastings a week and they are all different pric
Her- Do you have a schedule?
Me- Yes those flyers on the counter have a list of all of our
Her- I want one list.
Me- Well there are different flyers for each of our events because
Her- I want one list with all of zem, is this too hard?
Me- Let me show you why I can’t give you what you are asking for.

I gathered all the flyers and explained, rapidly to avoid being cut off once again, that we have eight dollar, twenty dollar and thirty to seventy-five dollar events which is why there is NOT one flyer, we have a Thursday tasting flyer, a Friday tasting flyer and a Saturday tasting flyer. This time it was her lashes I could hear, that and the wind chimes clinking in her manipulated melon. She shot me the look of the mildly annoyed and sighed at me, I let her know she could find everything online….wind chimes. She futzed with the papers and her bottle, like she couldn’t figure out how to manage both…I wanted to flick her in her head and was so happy when she made her grand, swishy, click-clacky, high healed exit…we were not in love she and I.

“You guys have a lot of salt, what is that about?’ the burly jumpsuit clad gentleman asked, seriously…just who did I piss off?! “I’m sorry, not sure I know what you mean” I replied with the face of the truly punished. “Why salt in a wine store? I mean you sell wine what’s up with all this salt stuff? Explain yourself” the explain yourself went right to my spine, which went stiff and to my nostrils which flared…explain myself?! I spoke through my clinched teeth when I responded, “Well food and wine kind of go hand-in-hand so people that cook like these high end salts…Sir” I managed to choke out, could not bear a smile though. I shot Merritt “the look” and she nodded.

“The look” is what I like to call the Martini Face, it is a wistful look, the look of the truly longing, the desperate in need of guaranteed relief….I so needed a Martini. Just when I swore I could not take one more freak waving their flag of freakdom I got a text, “Going to Interlude for a drink, wanna meet us?” Amy and Sexy Bitch. Any images that the name Interlude might conjure…yeah, that’s the place. Nasty ass bathrooms, old dudes that have been drunk since like noon, mean ass bartenders, popcorn the whole nine….this place, this place is an oasis of, “Let’s kill the pain” and just what this Wednesday warrior needed.

I sat at the bar, my people around me, free from imposed freakdom, eating a bag of Doritos and sipping on my third Gin & Tonic, thinking least I have Sunday to look forward to.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Just A Thought

18, we had 18 people turn out for a Merlot tasting two weekends ago, 18 people in 3 hours…that’s a record for The Wine Country. Never in our 14 years have we had a crappier turn out for a Saturday tasting…never ever. We advertised that we were pouring Duckhorn, the most asked about Merlot, (now I said asked about not purchased) like, ever and still 18. Unreal. I don’t think that stupid movie caused this irrational aversion to Merlot….cause you know they all taste alike them Merlots, “Try this little Chinon” I say, “What’s it like? Is it like a Merlot?”gawd I don’t even know what that means. No I think that movie was just that final nail dealie, Merlot was losing favor because of the ever trendy, “I don’t like it cuzz it’s trendy”.

Poor little Merlot quickly catapulted to the number one spot, probably by some hotshot sommelier looking to be the first to suggest something hip, cool and what all those in the know are drinking. “Cabernet Sauvignon is fine but for my money I think Merlot is much more food friendly and it’s the hottest thing in the Napa Valley….SOLD! Merlot goes from second or dare I say 4 class citizen to the most purchased wine, the most popular in restaurants, the wine everyone knew how to pronounce, (well there were a few Mer-lotters) and pronouncing that they was gonna get them some. Ah to be number one, to be the most beloved, ordered and consumed…such a lovely feeling, so powerful, so appreciated so….intoxicating, kinda hard to have that NOT go to one’s head huh? “Everyone wants me. Make more of me. Make me faster, crank me out, and stop bending me. I’m huge, my adoring fans await!” ask and ye shall receive. The market was awash in wishy-washy, thin, green tasting Merlot, um…”Yay”?

So okay, now we have tons of less good Merlot that everyone and their grannies are drinking, so what do the trend setters do next, yeah that’s right…start another fucking trend, ugh! Starts with the younger generation sommeliers and retailers, rallying against the wines their elders promoted, denouncing them as passé or, “so over” and hoisting Zinfandel and Syrah on the slightly more “sophisticated’ or “adventurous” wine consumer. All the while the occasional, just-at-a-dinner-out or “I’m taking a bottle to a friend’s house for dinner, so I’ll take something I know, something I’m comfortable with, I’ll take Merlot” crowd were blissfully sipping away while the chatter started sprinkling down from the, “Top”.

Just kind of snowballed from there. The, “looking for the next hot thing” people, tons of crappy quality, mass produced Merlot with off or thin flavors which then causes the professionals to chime in and well, you get Miles from that stupid movie leading the rest of the masses to turn their nose up at Merlot…18 people in 3 hours, it’s the new trend to hate Merlot. You hear that you young whippersnappers, all us old folk and uninformed masses are anti Merlot now so it’s time to get your hipster asses out there and make Merlot cool again, start the next anti-trend trend…by the time you’re finished it will be time for the next set of trendsetters to bail out Gruner Veltliner. Or we could all just um, I don’t know…drink what we like, not give a rat’s ass if people sneer at us over their upturned noses. Just a thought….

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Repost In Honor Of (From September 17th 2008)

This post was written just over a year ago....felt compelled to repost it.

I got off of work early today to rush home, change my too tight pants and get some last minute shopping done for my up and coming trip to Chicago, just like me to leave things to the last minute, (leaving early in the am tomorrow). I rushed through the door, ripped my laptop from my bag and plugged it in to answer a few emails before I hit the dreaded mall, that’s when I saw it, the “did you hear” email from importer Michael Sullivan in my inbox.

Thinking nothing of it I clicked, “open”….was not at all prepared for the very brief but very crushing message, Didier Dagueneau died today….honestly even now an hour or two later I can’t remember the rest of the message. The gasping and slapping of my hands to my mouth along with the steady stream of tears that began right after, today, (and are still with me now making it difficult to type) were all I could hear even with the television blaring.

I met Didier 5 years ago on my first trip to France, and truth be told he was one of the biggest reasons I was terrified to go. I had seen pictures of him from Randy’s trip, overalls, wild hair, bandana and plaid shirt; he looked like a Grateful Dead roadie, not a winemaker. I had also read about him and how he had turned Pouilly-Fume on its ass, mocking his neighbors for their vineyard practices and bulk wine mindset. Taking a stand and standing behind his decision to make wines from the Loire Valley that would rival those of the Cote d’ Or, wines of power, wines of richness and wines made from the, “humble” Sauvignon Blanc that would not only survive in the cellar but would flourish with age. Unheard of before him and one can only hope that it will be his legacy…

I slowly walked into Didier’s winery being very conscience of the crushing sound of the tiny stones beneath my feet, (felt like an ogre) and stood in his beautiful, spotless barrel room tasting and admittedly, not spitting thinking, “I cannot believe I’m here, in this place, with this man, tasting these wines” I didn’t say a word through the tasting…just in awe of him and his wines. After the tasting we were led into the kitchen where Michael Sullivan got busy helping prepare dinner. I found a corner in the living room area and tried to keep to myself but found that after the wine, (that I didn’t spit) and the euphoria of being there found their way into my system I was drawn into the kitchen.

“This is my moment” I told my buzzy self, “I am so cool enough to be here” the liquid courage led me to believe…. "I’m going to just talk to him” I puffy-chestedly announced to all the other voices that were swimming around in my head…..I opted to use the food as an opener. I had eyed a really large chicken looking thing on the counter, pointing at the very large uncooked bird I asked, “So Didier what is that?” he slowly looked from the large bird and back to me, his icy blue eyes never losing their twinkle and he answered, “Capon”…that was it. Taken aback at first I pressed on, big smile on my face, “Well, okay what is a Capon” I pushed…again looking from the bird to me, he held his gaze on me, stared in my eyes with a confidence that was palpable and said, “It’s a really big chicken Samantha”. I dug him from that moment on, he was bustin my chops and I loved him for it, I felt at home and welcome.We began the dinner that evening with a lobster and Foie Gras dish and things just got better from there, steaks cooked in the fireplace, my first DRC….a dream night really and I found myself tucked into the little guest bed straining to keep myself awake…didn’t want the night to end.

The last time I saw Didier was two years ago when he and a bunch of other “rock star” French winemakers were down here to do a tasting. We had been invited to meet with them all for a late dinner the night before the tasting. Kelly McHugh-Lopes and I drove up to Venice with our sales rep Chuck, we were nervous and drained a bottle of white Bordeaux before they even arrived…by then we were loose and ready to charm! The winemakers, (Francois Chidaine, Eric Bordelet, Christophe Peyrus and Didier Dagueneau) looked weary but ready for a drink. I hopped up and ran to the bar to order 5 Margaritas, (one for Michael Sullivan) and while they sipped away on their lime scented cocktails we popped corks left and right.

The food came and was devoured while we all slurped and got into heated conversation about the wines we were drinking. The restaurant was closing and we were all in super relaxed mode on the patio…not wanting the party to end we began chatting up the servers trying to figure out where we should go next….everyone was talking and Didier was sitting off by himself. I pulled my chair next to his; he looked peaceful, pink cheeked and calm….time to strike. I was spellbound by his wild mane of hair, so long, so curly and so uncontrollable, it suited him….there was a voice in my head that said, “Just touch it”.

I was trembling, the woman I was before the trip where I first met him would never even talk to him, now here I was a woman that had been changed simply by being in his presence and being accepted by him and the others on that voyage…. "Just touch it”.

I reached into my bag and pulled out a hair tie, scooted my chair even closer, reached my pudgy hand out and let my fingers plunge into his wild hair. I let my nails scratch his scalp and started pulling that cacophony of hair into…..a ponytail. He was weak from wine and travel but I could feel his chuckle shaking his shoulders as I played hairdresser. His hair slapped against my palm with each twist of the hair tie and before I knew it I was sitting on a patio in Venice Beach California with Didier Dagueneau in a ponytail.....that he let me put there. Poor thing I can’t even imagine what was going through his mind, and there I sat puffed up with pride that I had the courage to do it…he must have thought I was an idiot but he never let on, wore that damn ponytail for the rest of the night and even returned my hair tie the next day after the tasting.

Today we in the world of wine have not only lost a great winemaker, we have truly lost a great man. A man willing to fight for what he believes in, make fun of those that sneer at his vision and a man with a sweet impish soul….you will be greatly missed Didier and I thank you for….the wine, the laughs, the comfort….for everything.

And here we are a year later, I still think of him, still miss the idea of him and am even more thankful for his gifts.

Appreciating The Not Typical

Thursday night, date night, and we had plans with our Beaune Imports rep Chuck Morris. We were heading over to Benley, our favorite Vietnamese place, the Pho is wicked, the fried cuttlefish perfectly seasoned and topped with a tangy sprinkling of lemon dressed herbs…served as the chef prefers, with no dipping sauce…just a dusting of course salt. The place has a very French lean, (so imagine why I love it) the food is simple, clean and very focused on fresh ingredients and is remarkably refined, one of the best restaurants in Long Beach for sure. Chuck was in charge of bubbles, Amy the white wine and Call-o and I were in charge of red…one bottle each just to be fair.

Call-o and I were the first to arrive and were broken hearted to see the restaurant nearly empty but were reassured by the chef that while things have been slow, they are doing okay, it was just an off night. With bubbles in mind we ordered the starters; fried cuttlefish, eggrolls, (they come with big leaves of basil and mint to wrap them in, yum) and fried shrimp with aioli. I asked our server if she wouldn’t mind opening both bottles of red that I had, “We will be starting with Champagne but I just want to taste these while we wait”.

I was living up to my end of the, “Let’s wreck our cellars” pact and had brought a bottle of 2003 Domaine De Montille Volnay 1er Cru Les Taillepieds and a bottle of 2006 Rhys Alpine Vineyards Pinot Noir. Yes you read me correctly….I brought a domestic Pinot Noir, a bottle sent to me by a friend that wanted to know if it would please my “Burgundian palate”. Always cringe when I hear that by the way, “Oh it tastes Burgundian” no it doesn’t, nor should it. Thankfully my friend had not stepped on that land mine, he just thought it might be a domestic Pinot that I would enjoy drinking.


I poured myself a taste of each and buried my nose in glass number one, ripe fruit, dusty minerals and a faint spicy note. Grabbed glass number two, took a sniff and…ripe fruit, dusty minerals and faint spicy note, “Um…which one is which?” I put the glass down, my eyes blinking rapidly while I retraced my steps and looked at the fill on each bottle, had I mistakenly poured the same wine twice? I pushed both glasses away from me and let them sit while I greeted Amy and Chuck and we cracked into the Champagne. Seemed that 2003 was a bit of a theme that night, Chuck brought the 2003 Agrapart Mineral for us to try. The Mineral was weightier than previous vintages but was still packed with tangy green apple, brown butter and fierce acidity…lovely and a damn fine match for the crunchy cuttlefish.

We opened Amy’s offering, a 2002 Pillot Chassagne-Montrachet, the wine was too cold to get much more than oak on the nose at first, besides I was dying to get back to my Pinots. I pulled my glasses close to me again, worried that my nose was not up to snuff, I had lost my voice earlier that day but was feeling fine and was able to pick out two corked wines from our tasting at The Wine Country that afternoon but... I spun the glass on my right and lowered my nose to the glass, the wine had been sitting for about 30 minutes and now it was clear that this was the domestic. The nose was more assertive had a bit of ripe plum, warmer fruit and I was getting some faint dill way in the back…a green note but not the same kind of stemmy green that I find in Burgundy. I then smelled the glass on the left and it too had settled and it was giving me more aromatics…thing was, they were pretty damn close. The one big tell for me was that sexy smoky thing in the Volnay which I had either missed when I first smelled the wines or wasn’t ready to show itself when we first popped them.


I went back and forth a few times, smelling, tasting and getting a feel for both wines. The Rhys was full of big flavors, big sultry flavors but was very restrained on the palate….seriously elegant, with minerality unlike any Pinot I have had from California, so not typical. The De Montille was from an “off” vintage and was not typical either, the fruit was a tad more cooked than usual, the texture was rounder, the layers were fewer and the acids were pretty soft. It was still delicious don’t get me wrong, still a great wine but….I preferred the Rhys. Now that, that’s so NOT typical!

The Volnay was still lovely and I love wines that speak of where they came from, wear that footprint of place AND vintage and I truly appreciate wines that are not mucked with to cover that. This was what the vines gave the estate that year and this was what a skilled winemaker was able to make from that. I loved it and appreciated it for all that it was, still dug the Rhys though.

We went back to the Chassagne-Montrachet which had warmed up and was now exploding with pears, caramel and browned butter, so sexy and weighty in the mouth, absolutely beautiful wine with a relentless finish. Chuck brought a 1997 Riesling, now I love Sherry and all but this was just dead…poor little thing. We finished dinner and I did something I have never done…I noticed there was about ¼ of a bottle of the Rhys left, I put the cork in it and took it with me…leaving the Burgundy behind. There was just something about that wine, it spoke to me and I wanted to taste it after it had been open overnight. Tasted it Friday morning when I got to work, damn what a wine. Even more complex, even sexier fruit and just seemed to whisper across the palate in the most beautiful way. I think I can safely say it was the most beautiful domestic Pinot Noir I have ever had, the best Pinot? Um, no sorry I have been blessed with some tremendous tasting opportunities in Burgundy and my palate is definitely French favoring but I would drink, buy and taste Rhys Pinots over and over again.

A domestic Pinot Noir trumping a Burgundy and me adding a California Pinot Noir to my list of “must have” wines…so not typical.

Formal Letter Of Apology To Amy (Not a wine post)

Dear Amy,

You know those times in our lives when we do something so monumentally stupid, so profoundly inexcusable that there really is no way to truly say you’re sorry? No words big enough, no amount of screaming and crying will ever make up for the wrong that was done? Broken hearts, broken trust, broken families all of it your hand and you are left owning the very real pain caused to everyone? Yeah…me neither.

You and I have trust, complete understanding and absolute openness, not to mention if we were to commit such an infraction it would be buried beneath layer upon layer of Pommard, Champagne, Martinis and Sancerre…we probably wouldn’t notice and likely wouldn’t care. “You slept with my husband? Hahaha me too, just another thing we have in common” that’s just who we are, we don’t judge each other and we don’t look for tiny bullshit to hold against one another, best friends of the rarest form and I adore you for that. So here’s the thing….

You once made me watch Snakes on a Plane. “You have to see this movie Sam, it’s awesome” I heard you tell me over and over again. You pressed, you pestered and you were relentless…I watched it. I lost an hour and a half of my life, I can’t get that back Aims. I sat, watched with my mouth agape thinking I would rather have someone pluck my pubic hairs out…one-by-one than go through this again. Call-o kept urging me to, “just turn it off already!” but I was steadfast, I knew there had to be something there…why else would you have me watch that steaming pile of a movie? They sprayed snake pheromones on the flowers in the cargo hold Amy……….snake pheromones! I should have exited when the, “mile high couple” were going at it in the plane’s lavatory and the girl was bitten on her big fake boobie, dude. But I didn’t I persevered and for what? I’m sure you remember the strongly worded email I sent you when that piece of shit finally ended.

So you know I have never really forgiven you for that, for leaving me with the memory of the single worst movie I ever had to endure. It was your fault and I always had this one thing I could hold over your head, “Snakes on a Plane Amy” and you would shoot me that big grin and say, “Okay! I thought you would like it” and back down. Well now, now I have to shamefully hang my head and say, “You are so off the hook”.

I passed on hanging with you tonight as you know, I was feeling tired, body was aching and my throat was killing me…not to mention the 5 bottles of wine you and I took down over 8 hours the day before…dragging, I was dragging, so when I got your text I was whimpering, just had to take a night off to regroup. Got home and nestled into my little corner of the couch, no emails, no one to chat with on facebook…a night off. Poured myself some Minet Pouilly-Fume and fondled the remote a bit before settling on a movie, I went with The Mist…sigh

Snakes on a Plane was The Grapes of Wrath next to this gawd awful film. I watched the whole freaking thing as a form of repentance for my taunting and endless snide remarks. After 20 minutes I longed to flip the channel but something inside me made me press on, I now know it was so I could free you from the shackles of, “worst movie picker ever”. I now own that title, it is my cross to bear, and trust me…I am feeling the pain.

(So I would warn that this is a spoiler but it's not...I'm saving anyone who reads this)

So there is this couple you see and they live on a lake with their son and there is a big storm, they go out to assess the damage and find that their much hated neighbors dead tree has destroyed their boat house…the hubby, (and soon to be “hero” of this abomination of a movie) goes over to swap insurance information with the hated neighbor. Long story short, they make nice and agree to take a ride into town, the tot in tow, to gather supplies. Anywho…the wife stays behind, the power is out and a bunch of shit goes down while these cats are in the market like buying Mac & Cheese.

Okay, so best as I can make out the townsfolk like lock themselves inside the market because something in the evil mist is ripping people apart, (they heard that from one frantic old dude that came running in the store screaming that they needed to lock the doors cuzz the mist ate someone or something) and no one knows what's happening. There is a new to town bad ass blonde that teaches the handicapped, (of course she does) the “hero” dude and his kid, the neighbor, some army dudes, a fanatical, and mean might I add…church lady and a bunch of other people.

So night falls and these creepy bug looking things start attacking the windows at the store, they all rally and fight them off…so cool. The church lady starts thinking it’s God’s will and he wants blood to pay for everyone’s sins and what not…oh and is she starting to get recruits…oh yes, yes she is. The “hero” dude and bad ass blonde are kicking ass left and right, setting those creepy bugs and even creepier dinosaur things that are trying to eat them on fire and stuff…there is sexual tension, palpable sexual tension, as there would be in such a situation.

So two camps form, (oh and by the way the neighbor…an integral part of the beginning of the story, breaks apart from the pack and gets eaten or something) the church lady camp and the sane people trying to do good for all camp…well, no good can come of this right? Yeah…fuck this was horrible. Anyway the good people, all 4, (5 if you count the kid) of them escape the market and take their chances, (well there was more than 4 but only 4 made it to the 4 seater car they got into…sigh) only to find that the “hero’s” wife was dead…(and they spent a good 2 seconds letting him weep for his beloved wife, I mean how much more did he need now that he had the bad ass blonde in tow) and the monsters had invaded and destroyed everything. So our “hero” he had this gun, they could suffer the painful death they would have to endure at the hands of the monsters, (that they find out were created by the Army, not sure why or how...might have been cool had they bothered to splain that one) or…our, “hero” could kill them all and end the suffering. Everyone in the car gave a somber, knowing nod and BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM, he killed everyone, including his son that he spent the whole movie trying to save, in the car…the last bullet was for him. He pulls the trigger and…drat, out of bullets. He gets out of the car ready for the monsters to eat him, but wait….it’s the military!

He killed them all for nothing and had to live with it…freaking awesome.

Amy I am so sorry for busting your balls about Snakes on a Plane, what I wouldn’t have given for some fake boobie biting and snake pheromones this evening.

Humbly Yours,
Samantha Queen of Bad Movie Picking.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I Wish I Could But....I Just Can't Stop


Much like everyone else on the planet I’ve longed to love, longed to be loved….yearned to feel that overwhelming sense of acceptance for all that I am, good and bad, the safety of true unconditional love. That place where just seeing each other can make you smile before you're even aware you are doing it, like your body is more keyed into that bubble of happiness than you are. The grin, the compulsion to be close enough to touch, the way your shoulders loosen and all the tension in your chest escapes in a giant exhale ….just from something as simple as laying eyes on one another. It’s pure, safe, beautiful and tremendously comforting.

I have had more than my fair share of this kind of love, I get it from everywhere, feel it all around me all the time, and have been lucky enough to find a way to let it all sink in so deep that I am saturated in it….and dripping it on others. I am grateful everyday for these gifts, these smiles and these full chest releasing expressions of true love. No complaints, no regrets and no lack of room for additions, the problem….I need more.

You know how it feels when you see a really unusual face, the way, (if you like it or not) you are intrigued by it, can’t quite stop looking at it…trying to figure out what to make of it? Well for me, I crave that feeling, it spins me, it haunts me. Think about that moment when you are in a crowd of people speaking your language, it’s comfortable….safe and familiar. You move about chatting, smiling, thinking of the list of shit you have to do the next day….coasting on that puffy cloud of, “Yes, this is what I am accustomed to” and then from the back of the room you hear an accent…a loud rugged one, a soft lifting one or one unlike any you have ever heard before…you can’t help but notice it right? It stands out in a sea of loving comfortable sameness…yeah those moments, I live for those.

As much as I live to be loved, safe and nestled into my own little cloud of comfort and am committed to protecting and nurtring that is just as much as I crave……crave being uncomfortable, long for something so not what I’m accustomed to and ache for another language to fill me. I’ve tried to shame myself into not thinking about them, telling myself that what I want is selfish, what my body is telling me each time my eyebrow is raised and my heart starts pounding, that those thoughts are for the weak, the uncommitted. I’ve tried, tried to ignore this passion that churns in my tummy, this fire that makes me tiptoe on the line of right and wrong, that all taught me something, I’ve got pretty good balance. I’m sorry but …I just can’t stop wanting more.

Maybe it’s my mid-life deal, (and I have a theory about mid-life…happens when you hit a point in your life, not a certain age) but I find myself taken by fits of want too strong there is no way for me to ignore them. I need more. I will no longer stuff this desire away, will not pretend that I can get all I need from one place, it may work for most…it’s not working for me and I’m fucking tired of limiting myself, punishing myself and living up to what others think should be enough. You float on your cloud, be happy…I’m happy for you, but I want this fire, I want the tiptoeing, I need to smell, taste and feel…more. Fill my body with the flavor of the unfamiliar, fill my mind with discovery and own the memory of each heart pounding, body vibrating second of it. I’ll marinate in my secret moments, relive them over and over. I’ll wear the swagger of a woman that has tasted the fruit of another…and relish in it.

France, you have my whole heart, you will forever be my greatest love…but, Barolo, Rioja and Sherry….there are a few spots available….just sayin’

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Oh Gawd Please Tell Me I Don't Sound Like That

“Yes, I was thinking about bringing a group to your store for a tasting, is there a back room or something where we could have something like that and could someone there lead the tasting?” the slightly fake, hoity sounding voice groaned on the other end of the phone. “Well we don’t really do private tastings here at the shop. We have a tasting room where we conduct tastings if that’s what you mean.” I replied. “So if I brought in a group they would have to just do the same tasting as everyone else…the one that you are already doing, really?” he snapped back. “Um yes” I said feeling my back get rigid. “Well is there some kind of deep discounting for large groups? See the thing is I write a blog, I’m a blog writer” flinching….I was flinching.

“So I write this blog” he continued leaving that little space before he began his next sentence, presumably for me to ask him what kind or the name….I didn’t. “My partner and I write it and our friends read it” um, no der….who else reads these stoopid things? “And we recommend things for our friends on our blog” for those of you not counting, that’s 4 times already, blog had been tossed out 4 times…we are not even 3 minutes in here, ugh. “They ask us for specific wines so I was wondering if you could get me a price on them” Okay, now we are dealing with something I can help with, “Sure which wines.” I asked….should have known, “Rombauer Chardonnay and Kendall Jackson Private Reserve Chardonnay” he lobbed, I craned my neck to see who might be screwing with me, I was alone so I knew this was for real….awesome.

I put Mr. Fancy Pants Blogger on hold and checked the vintage and price of the Rombauer Chardonnay least I only had to check one as we do not carry KJ anything. “It’s the 2008 vintage and it is $31.99” I relayed in my most forced, sunshine voice…helps if you picture a scrunched forehead and a wrinkly nose. “And there is still no discounting if I mention your store on my blog?” he asked again, (as if somehow I had come to my senses in the 40 seconds it took me to look the wine up) this time sounding even more snooty than before….maybe it was just the crunders creeping up my ass that made him sound that way. Don’t know, don’t care his voice and tone were nails on a chalkboard, I swear I could see his nose lifting, pursed little lips and head inflating with each, “blog” that dropped out of his mouth.

“Okay well” now there was a long pause here, I’m assuming to let me know is displeasure with my lack of bending over backwards to kiss his blogging ass. He even let out a few little, “Don’t you know who I am” snickers, took all the strength I had to not to laugh at him. “There is another wine they are looking for” let me repeat that for those still not fully awake, “There is another wine they are looking for”. “They are looking to buy First Growth Bordeaux” he said it as if it were the name of a wine…. ”Um, which one?” I pressed…. another long pause, “What have you got? These guys buy cases of this stuff”…um, stuff? Really?! “And they are not loyal to any one store; they just want the best price. If I put this information on my….blog, I want it to be useful for them” he snarled. Well shit howdy, why didn’t you say so?! What wine store doesn’t want another non-loyal cherry picking customer? By all means send them our way!!

I so coped out, “Our Bordeaux buyer if off until Thursday but I can have him return your call and you can discuss First Growth Bordeaux with him” this time sounding genuinely cheerful, I was unloading this jerkwad on someone else…hooray! Freaking bloggers man.

I am asking any and all of you that read this nonsense that I write, if I ever….I mean EVER, sound like that dude, promise me you will take me outside and pummel me about the head and shoulders. Hi my name is Samantha and I am a blogger….sigh.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sometimes you Gotta Just Say Screw It


This past week has been a trying one, I had newsletter deadline and as always I found myself wondering what to write about, you know…that I hadn’t already done recently, and true to form I was struggling with a bit of writers block. So hard to write with two hats on, here I get to just be me, share my silly bullshit, oh and curse of course, without any real pressure to sell anything. If people read something here that inspires wine sales at The Wine Country then that’s awesome, but sales are not the goal of this blog, actually have no idea what the goal of this thing is. For the newsletter I need to be tighter, more focused and we need to sell wine from that….pressure.

I end up finding myself feeling guilty about not giving those people that have been so gracious as to compliment me on my style of writing, that mouthy kind of thing they had come to enjoy. But there is really no place for jokes and all my babble in the most expensive advertising tool we have, that and not everyone gives a shit anyway. Some folks, probably most of them, just read to read about wine, hell half of them think Randy writes the whole thing as it is…..um, yeah that’s another killer of inspiration right there by the way, which is why I am so grateful for this blog and having an outlet for my rants and random crap. Here I get to just love wine, gush over the ones that rock me and well, just be me and not have to think, “Is this going to sell?” But during deadline week I feel guilty writing here, there are other things I should be writing and it also blurs that, “blog voice” and “work voice” even more….double pressure, Randy waiting and blog readers waiting….ACK!

So all of that has been weighing heavy on me this last week, I’m not a trained writer, I can’t just sit down and write, I lack discipline….shit in every aspect of my life, but seems really bad with the writing. I will sit for hours in front of the laptop and nothing will come, it sucks…big time. So the other issue there is that I have been blessed with a very rich social life, we are invited out all the time, I have 2 standing dates a week, (Monday is with the neighbors and Thursday is Date Night with Amy) but are out more like 4 or 5 nights a week. We have begun a very cool friendship with my cutie pie neighbors parents, so we are all either hanging outside with the kids or hanging at my pad, and that is pretty much 6 times a week. During the height of, “fuck I need to finish” nightmare I even had to tell my little buddy that I could not play with him and he could not come to my house, man did that suck.

I was getting more and more down on myself, being a whiny bitch for sure, when 3 things smacked me right in my overinflated head. A new friend, (but one I have come to care about quite a bit) shared some very painful news with me, Amy had a real meltdown about moving and I read The HoseMaster of Wine and his tribute to September 11th, (so moving) and it all reminded me how very fragile we all are, how quickly it can all change, that’ll flip the, “Quit yer bitching” switch pretty damn quick.


I found a balance for the newsletter, used some of what I had written here, (to those of you that read both…sorry for the repeats) cleaned up of course, and got it in on time to Randy….for once. I vowed to pester my new friend that is dealing with some very serious shit, every chance I get and signed on to fly out to Texas with Amy when she goes. Things came together nicely and I was able to have Sunday off with no worries or stresses looming over me. The best part? The harsh but absolutely needed kick in the ass.

Okay Sam let me get this straight, you are stressed that people enjoy your writing, you have to write about wines that you adore, and you have too many friends that want to spend time with you, is that about right?! What an asshole. I get to do what I love, taste things that most only read about, I live….loudly in my life, have the coolest albeit craziest friends on the planet, am madly in love with some of the most amazing men…ever, and some of them even love me back. Oh and let’s not forget I live across the way from one of the most adorable kids ever created, he shares his toys and we hunt crickets with the flashlight. I am beyond lucky.


I woke Sunday morning stress free, no hang-ups, nothing to do but let myself feel loved, let those I love know it and get my wild child on over at The Vortex. I won $75.00 on football pool, probably could have done without the “pool master” cramming it in my bra but whatever, he was feeling is happy place too right? I drank way too many Bloody Mary’s, ate too much, hung with my girls and had a much needed…..


Today I feel more like me than I have in a week, the hangover that came with it….consistent.