Tasting Notes From The Last Week: Wine #1) Fairly ripe on the nose, some peach and honey. Medium weight on the palate, getting some acidity but I wish there were just a bit more fruit.
Wine #2) Lemon rind and a faint bit of butter. Plump on the palate but the fruit is rather lifeless. Good acidity, maybe too much as there is nothing but prickle on my palate.
Wine #3) Smells zippy almost like it has been acidified, green apple tartness but super soft and missing brightness.
Wine #4) Damn, wish the fruit was cleaner, getting lots of cream and not much else. Tastes tanky, like it has been sitting around too long. Muddy finish, clumsy.
Wine #5) Simple aromatics of cream and red apples. I would finish the glass but never go back for a second.
One appointment and five wines I would never even consider taking home to drink but do they have a place in the shop? The wines… #1 Schlumberger Pinot Blanc #2 Marc Bradif Vouvray #3 Schlumberger Pinot Gris #4 Louis Roederer Carte Blanche #5 Louis Roederer Brut Premier
Randy had been talking to me not fifteen minutes before this appointment about the idea of bringing in some brands that might make people more comfortable. Now he had been talking more about the liquor department for the most part, but had mentioned that maybe we should consider a few wines with established names and reputations, well shit howdy how’s that for timing? So I ran through the wines, my boss’s words still bouncing around in my dome but my mind, my heart and my drive where so not on board. Sure I could put these “medium” wines on the shelf and hope that someone gets a warm fuzzy by seeing them and loads up their cart but….history has taught me something very different.
Our store is a destination, a place people have to make a special trip to come to. We are not in a mini mall and the nearest grocery store is blocks away. We are located in a somewhat industrial area across the street from a post office, no one is popping in for a bottle after enjoying a leisurely lunch at the restaurant down the street…dude aside from the post office and the bakery next door, (think cakes not crunchy baguettes) there is a gym and a gasoline refinery so not a lot of window shopping or unintentional foot traffic happening at The Wine Country.
So now what would make people walk past the wine department of their supermarket, get in their car and drive past the Cost Plus or BevMo that is located in the same center and drive all the way to our store to get that bottle of Roederer? Um, I tasted it and I wouldn’t walk to the other side of the room for it, it’s boring, flat, (not as in no bubbles as in no vibrancy) and inspired little more than a burp from me….and I LOVE Champagne. Tasting things like that, these big brand, well known, made in the millions of bottles, wines like those I tasted that afternoon left me passionless and kinda of wanting a cocktail.
I got home that night thinking about my conversation with Randy and how it coincided with a appointment where I tasted “comfort” wines and I found myself getting a little riled up…shocking I know. Now it wasn’t Randy that had me all prickly, he is a very smart man and he feels the same way I do about stuffing our shelves with bulk wines. Hell it was not too long ago, when the economy was just starting to take a dive that we listened to our suppliers…the bulk wine pushing suppliers…when they told us that people were going to be a lot more careful with their money. They were going to be looking for brands they knew, things they had seen before, brands they could trust. So we took a leap in the shallow end and brought in piles of big brand, inexpensive wines for our customer’s comfort. Yeah, they were comfortable alright, comfortable walking right past those stacks in search of something else. It was an amazing thing to watch and a very valuable and important lesson learned for us. We brought in a bunch of McWines, slashed our profit margin and the wines didn’t move. We ended up having to red tag the already cheap wines just to get them the hell out there. Randy took it in the shorts on that little lesson so he was in no way advocating that we do that again. He was talking about booze for the most part and maybe having a couple of offerings in each department for the brand conscience customer and he was right of course. And I know that he will do the same as I do when and if someone asks us what we think about them….offer another more exciting suggestion. Know why? We want them to come back.
When I taste wines like the ones I did that afternoon I am left feeling like Sisyphus, rolling my passion filled boulder uphill just to have some marketing department, restaurant wine list or glossy publication roll it right back down. When a consumer tastes a wine like that Bradif Vouvray or that Roederer, which are solid wines…not exciting but good, it isn’t going to inspire or ignite any kind of fire or passion for wine. Sure it will give them a buzz and I am all for that…not going to pretend to be one of those wine people that acts like the buzz in not part of the pleasure, bullshit, that is utter bullshit but you can just as easily get a buzz from a couple of shots of Vodka. I ache to have people taste things like H. Billiot Brut and Francois Chidaine Les Argiles Vouvray, wines that are not only brilliant but inspire people to explore, want to learn more and have the power to elevate a wine drinker to a truly passionate wine lover. That, that is why our customers drive past BevMo and Cost Plus, why they make the drive to The Wine Country and why they ignored our pile of McWines…it’s because of our Sisyphean efforts that they have been inspired to do so.
Proud, it makes me feel so proud each and every time a customer walks through that front door. I let that feeling of pride smooth my ruffled feathers, poured myself a glass of 2008 Chanteleuserie Cuvee Beauvais Bourgueil, marveled in its purity and expression…let the dark fruit and minerals remind me why I do this. So today is a new day and it is with great pleasure that I dig my feet (and palate) in, press my body against that boulder and begin my trek uphill again….