Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Beauty And The Beast

I’ve said it a million times. I’ve written about it here, bent customer’s ears and frankly bored the shit out of the people that spend any real amount of time with me with my almost compulsive need to point it out over and over again. I site it when I make my arguments about blind tastings, about any tastings really and have seen with my very own eyes people change their mind about something they thought they knew because of it. Wine is almost never just about what is in the bottle, it’s never that simple and for me that is one of the most compelling, interesting and sexy parts about it. What you are eating, your mood, the people you’re with….each of those things can add another layer of, seasoning if you will. More complexity, more intensity more “flavoring” of what is in the glass by what is on the plate or who is around the table. Sexy as hell to me but every once in awhile that element of trying to pair a wine to a situation….well it can backfire.

I recently had a long awaited moment, a profoundly important meeting an intricate blending of complex personalities that I felt warranted an equally complex and important bottle of wine. I even picked a restaurant kind of known for its simple, (read bland but fine) food…like an old school prime rib joint, one of those places that still serves shrimp cocktails and texturally unsound side dishes. I chose it because I knew there would be nothing on the menu that would interfere or fight to steal the attention away from the wine or the conversation, a place where the people and the wine would be in the spotlight. So yeah….backfire.

You ever one of those moments in your life where you can hear and feel yourself saying and doing things that are so unlike you, so hurtful and cruel that even while the hum from saying them is still vibrating in your chest that you simply cannot believe what is happening? Like some tweaked out, demonic brain cells have taken over and everything that passes through your ears gets so twisted by the time it reaches the little bastard that has taken over your brain that is has been turned into something completely different...something that causes the demon cells to flip that switch from civil to evil? Well it has happened to me maybe three times in my life; this long awaited night was one of them.

I brought one of my absolute favorite wines, a 1993 Hubert de Montille Pommard Rugiens a wine full of grace and regality….a wine so lovely and pure, a wine that was everything that I was NOT that evening and a wine whose delicate nature was obliterated, destroyed and eventually lost beneath the bile and ugliness of the situation. I was horrified by my behavior, my momentary loss of my sanity and civility…still am actually and to this day I cannot tell you what inspired or triggered my lunacy, not sure it matters really…it happened and there is nothing I can do to change that.

I have since been forgiven for being a nutbag that evening, matter of fact it seems that I was the one most hurt and the most devastated by the way that night unfolded, the way I unfolded and I am doing my best to just chalk it up to a, “Well everyone loses it once in awhile” thing. I’m working on it but little flashes of my snarling, snapping and frankly being a wicked bitch still flash on me along with pictures of my beloved wine being basically chugged down, used for its numbing abilities….trying to act as anti venom to the fierce flick of my tongue. We might as well have been drinking Rodney Strong Cabernet for all the attention we were paying….ugh.

My wine sacrificed to a situation…
Like I have said a million times, wine is about more than what is in the bottle and even a remarkably beautiful wine, a high scoring wine, a much coveted bottle of wine cannot compete, make or save every situation. Poor little Pommard….

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Least It Is Not My Unders That Are Twisted This Time....

Okay now I still might think the finger plate deal, this one…..

Might be the stupidest and most ill conceived gimmick I’ve seen, (Um, what’s gonna happen when you take a sip of that wine huh?!) associated with wine but, I was recently sent an email from one of my bosses Dale Kemner with the title line, “More stupid wine tricks”. Dale does all the accessory buying for the store so the catalogs full of useless crap she gets to flip through is staggering.

I have to admit that I am a rather practical person in general. I don’t spend a lot of money on clothes, shoes, jewelry or kitchen gadgets….even less time thinking about them and when it comes to my enjoyment of wine there are very few things I need. A glass and it doesn’t even need to be “The Proper Glass” I’m never going to be one of those people that bring their own stems to a restaurant. A wine opener, waiters opener is always preferred….those regal looking table top numbers are just too fancy for me and honestly, more often than not I end up doing it wrong and wind up standing there….wine all over and the cork shoved in the bottle, something that brings my father in-law hours of entertainment. Sometimes a decanter is nice but if I don’t have one it’s no big deal, plus those suckers can be a bitch to clean, and those too have fallen prey to the “Stupid wine trick” folks. How ya gonna clean this sucker?!

Glass charms, those temperature gauges that you attach to the bottle, the self filling wine glass, the wine bra and beer belly….all things that make me shake my head and wonder who the hell uses that crap?! Well whoever they are they have a new “Must Have” item to prove just how into wine they are….sigh.

Underpants. Wine glass underpants, well who the hell doesn’t need that?! I mean this is a very useful garment wine being known for its incontinence and all, not to mention you can impress your friends with your matching abilities, “Hey look my shirt matches my wine glass’s panties”…ugh. I’m going to have to veto and will not be purchasing any Woozies, (fantastic name by the way) as I know I would be wigged out by my lips hitting that neoprene shit each time I took a sip of my wine…that and they are profoundly stupid and junk.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

An Exception To Every Rule

“You’ve got to be freaking kidding me” my response like ten years ago after tasting Havens Albarino. The geek side of me was absolutely intrigued by an Alabarino from Napa, the whole “Well that’s kinda cool” deal and the wine was good, not profound but good as is typical of my feeling about Albarino. The thing that had me making the “I’m sorry, are you high?!” face was the price, it would retail for around twenty dollars. “You are aware that you can get like the best….from Spain, for about half that right?” was my crinkled face comment to our sales rep. “Well it costs more to grow it here” our rather Eddie Haskell like sales rep quipped giving my boss the she-doesn’t-get-it face, “Well maybe they shouldn’t then” I snipped while walking away from the tasting table.

That exchange would start a long string of moments much like it, me scrunching up my face and thinking, “Just because you can does not mean you should”. I know there are winemakers that like to play around in the vineyard, grow and produce different things, I get that but I just think they should keep a couple of things in mind not the least of which is, “Are they making this wine as good or better somewhere else for less money?” if the answer is yes than maybe keeping it in the wineries tasting room is the best option. In the tasting room you have an audience that is there to taste your wines and having an Arneis or whatever is wicked cool. You can charge $20.00 and sell it all day but as a retailer, when someone asks me for the best Albarino I’m taking them to the best and I’m sorry more often than not it aint from Napa.

Now this is not me railing against domestic wines, I am not talking about Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah or any of the many varieties that thrive here in California. Those wines have a place here and a market that is thirsty for them but if you are going to grow varieties that much of the market knows nothing about, either price it accordingly or make it exceptional. The “Oh that’s cool” curiosity thing is only sustainable for so long. Chenin Blanc is a great example, the best Chenin hands-down comes from the Loire and it seems like growers in California figured that out and either ripped up their Chenin and planted Chardonnay or kept the price equal to what was in the bottle….we can sell a tasty little under $15.00 Chenin from California all day long, but price it at $20.00 and off to France we go. Like I said, “Are they making this as good or better for less money?”

Just to show I am all fair and junk I also point the same knock-it-off finger at the Old World, get all pissy with them as well but the one thing they are doing right is making it cheap. Sure they are cranking out a crap load of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (labeled as such) from the Languedoc but at least they are charging what they are worth…like $10.00. When someone comes at me with a “Ultra Premium” (and a quick word about that stupid term…it sounds like gasoline or maxi pads when you say that) bottling of Languedoc Pinot Noir….which means oaked to hell and sappy AND sporting an over $20.00 price tag I give them the same, “Are you high?!” face.

As with any rule there are exceptions. I have recently fallen in love with the wines from the Palmina Winery in Lompoc and I admit they are making wines that I would normally scrunch my face at, “Italian varieties grown in Lompoc?! What the hell?!” but here’s the thing….they are making them so freaking well and at very fair prices. The wines are so pure and fresh tasting, they haven’t been “Ultra Premiumed” (or maxi padded) and I truly believe their Dolcetto is on par with anything coming from Italy….and for about the same price, so very fair and I can easily recommend them as I really do find them, well exceptional.

Now aside from Italian grapes being grown in California the other panty twister for me has been Chardonnay grown in Italy, ugh why bother? Sure you can but….damn, most of it is insipid at best and usually kind of pricy. I mean if I want to spend $30.00 on a Chardonnay there are any number of Chablis or Macon I can choose from and for my customers I either go there or to California, the wines just offer more richness and complexity….you know the stuff that you expect to find in Chardonnay. If you just want a light white then Italy has quite a few other options but Chardonnay? Pass. That was until….the exception.

“Damn, that smells like Puligny-Montrachet” I was floored, even more stunned three days later when I retasted the open bottle and the wine seemed to be even fleshier, sexier, rounder and giving up even more for me to wrap my lips around. Never thought I would say this but this $33.00 Italian Chardonnay is one hell of a bargain.

2007 Vie di Romans Ciampagnis Vieris Chardonnay, ($32.99) is a wine that Randy opened when we were trying to find a partner for Piave, a cheese that was proving difficult to pair….a wine that knocked me on my ass, (and off my soap box might I add) and haunted me for days, still haunts me really. This is the kind of wine that scares the shit out of a white Burgundy buyer and finds me split in two when helping a customer. Do I kill a $50.00 Burgundy sale by introducing my French wine lovers to this brilliant Italian wine? Kinda have to, they have to taste it…feel it spread across their palate, taste the roasted pears, spice and toasted nuts. Let the long, sumptuous, caramel rich finish linger upon their palate and have them say, “Fuck, this is from Italy?” Not just an exception, truly exceptional.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Not Drinking The Kool Aid

Okay kids seeing as my email has been flooded with questions and comments regarding Ron Washam’s (The HoseMaster of Wine) taking a leave of absence from the wine blogosphere I figured I had better say something about it here.

Let me first thank everyone for contacting me, very sweet of you all and it seems my relationship with Mr. Washam, our fun little banter and flirtation has forever linked us in many of our shared readers hearts and minds. I am not only okay with that, I’m honored.

Ron and I have never met, our somewhat different wine blogs brought us together and in him I have found a dear friend that I love very much. The HoseMaster’s voice was a big one, lots of opinions and a fiercely sharp wit but…it was a voice. The man behind it is very sweet, very gentle and remarkably kind, and he is still very much alive so while I appreciate all the warm wishes and “are you okay?” messages I am beginning to feel like a widow over here. Ron Washam is alive and kicking people and while it is true that I, (and many others) will mourn the loss of a voice that has brought me hours of laughter I have not been handed a Dixie Cup of Kool Aid. No suicide pacts and this blog aint going nowhere!!

I had mentioned in an earlier post that I had been considering shutting Sans Dosage down so I can see why so many people contacted me when they read about The HoseMaster but as for now, right this second…my plan is to keep writing. This blog will be affected it won’t be the same without HoseMaster’s comments and I too may change a bit, I’ve lost my partner in this big bad blog world. The HoseMaster left me and I am going to have to get used to kinda standing out here on my own…damn I’m going to miss that voice and big shoulders that I got to stand on but as they say, all good things must come to an end…..and what we are left with is the stupid crap I write here.

I do want to thank everyone for the emails and all the encouragement, it is very much appreciated and I thought it was so damn sweet.

Thank you all
Not going anywhere
You’re stuck with me for now…..

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Line Of The Day

Okay, I love our customers. I feel the need to make that clear before I divulge this little gem. This nugget of “No you did-int”

I try really hard to be a tolerant person. I don’t get all pissy or snide and I never make fun of people when they don’t know something about wine. I mean if they knew everything about wine they wouldn’t need us right? I am always compassionate when people come in with their papers printed out from the Internet or scribbled notes from their “Wine Friend” I’m there to help and I actually really appreciate the fact that they had the courage to come in and ask. Okay so the people I like admire and appreciate, so not this guy….

“Himalayan salt? Well it’s about time they started exporting something besides earthquake victims”

Um, fuck.

Now the dude was not wearing his sunglasses on the back of his neck, (big douchebag red flag) but he was sporting the Pat Riley, slicked back, heavily gelled….can see every tooth mark the comb left, hair…and he was grinning ear to ear. I stood there trying to figure out if he actually thought he was funny or if the half wit that rattles around in his vacuous dome like farted or something.

I’m sitting here hours later still unsure if it was the stupidity or sheer lack of compassion that stunned me more. Just another one for the “People Are Magic” file…..

Monday, March 15, 2010

Humbled By A Goddamn Piece Of Cheese

So The Wine Country’s Wine & Cheese Fest is one of our biggest tastings of the year…well seeing as Randy has taken it from an annual event to a couple-times-a-year event, I guess I should say, “They” are the biggest tastings of the year. We always have a massive turnout, people piled atop one another before giant wheels of cheese, picking and smearing while we pour them the wines that I have chosen to pair with each. Loads of fun for the customer, (aside from it being packed) and a very labor intensive day for me and my ever hard working helper Merritt. She and I are elbow deep in cheese from 10:00 am when we open, this is when we start hacking into the giant wheels…chopping, chunking and plating on heavy slaps of granite. We plate the last round at about 12:50, ten minutes before the tasting starts and then we are there pouring, chopping as needed and explaining what it is people are eating and drinking until 4:00….and then it’s time to clean up and wrap the leftovers. By 2:30 she and I are both giving each other the, “Holy crap my back is screaming” look and taking any spare seconds we have to bend over and try and stretch out the cheese chopping induced “T” of pain that runs across the top of our backs and then shoots down the center to right above our rumps. Like I said, labor intensive but that is actually the easiest part…the hardest is the pairings.

“No one really cares or can even tell about the pairings” a cynical employee’s comment when I was compiling my cheeses for the event. “Well first of all I disagree, I think they do care and as someone that has been doing this event for almost ten years now I can assure you that many, if not most people do get it” I snapped. “Secondly, I happen to care very much. This is my event, this is something I happen to be pretty good at and if it has my name on it I am going to make sure I have done everything I can to make it as flawless as possible. I love watching that little light go on when people taste a pairing that just “works” or better yet, sings…I live for that shit and it makes me happy…so shut up”

Now I will be the first to admit that there are people that come to this event to just drink and eat massive amounts of cheese, they don’t pay attention to what is going on in their mouths. They blissfully munch cheese, chat with their friends while slurping whatever is in their glass, they don’t care about the pairings and I’m okay with that…but the majority of people that turn out for this tasting are in fact interested and totally into it. I know this because they are asking me a million questions throughout the event and the gush their compliments all over me for hours and even weeks afterwards. I’ve even seen some of those munching slurping folks make the, “Damn that’s good” face with a few of the pairings….that’s when I know I’ve done good as it were.

The question I am hit with the most often during these tastings is, “How do you know?” and the cheeky answer I respond with is, “That’s what they pay me for” which is in fact true. My job is to know and understand the subtleties and the primary flavors of the cheeses and wines I order….the skill part comes in when you are putting the two things together. It’s pretty easy to take a beautiful wine and put it with a great cheese and have it taste fine, but you see….you have just reduced “beautiful” and “great” to fine, not really all that successful in my book. When you can take two things, put them together and make them even better….well that is the shit that I love and what I strive to do with these tastings.

So I’m not sure if I have mentioned it or not but I have one peeve about this business…okay that’s a giant lie, I have many but one of my biggest undie tweakings comes from those that spout off about the shit they think they know or barf up old, no longer relevant information or praise. This drives me batshit…please spare me the crusty adoration for wineries that were once the shit but have long since been surpassed in quality. Sure Jadot, Jobard and Joguet were once the best, (that you could get at the time anyway) but when was the last time you tasted them and what else have you tasted…lately?! Not knocking those wines per see but as someone that has her mouth around some of the other wines that are being imported, admittedly thanks to the afore mentioned opening the door for them, there are some other wines that are doing it cleaner, fresher, cheaper and winning the hearts of those of us that don’t have import blinders strapped to our heads. I have no problem giving a nod to those that came before, appreciating them for paving the way but….please, just get caught up and stop tossing about information that may no longer hold weight in the here and now.

Yeah, so my very own peeve came up and buried its seething fangs into my ass this week. Fucking Piave, a cheese I thought I knew, a cheese I had tasted a billion times, a cheese I actually ordered as an “easy” pairing cheese for Saturday’s event….argh. So Friday afternoon I was putting the final list together for Saturday’s Cheese & Wine Fest, just feeling all smug and ready when I thought, “Oh I had better pick a wine for that Piave” and opened a piece as a refresher…mother effer! Um, this was so not the cheese I remembered, where was the kick and intensity? Where had the rich tang that I remembered gone? I sat there with this faintly fruity, crumbly, pretty mild cheese glaring at me and pointing its mild little finger at me…”Ha ha, you do it too” it mocked. Bastard, Piave is a bastard.

Somewhat vexed I let the cheese warm up to room temperature, thought warming it up might bring it to life…bring out all that flavor I thought I remembered, sigh. While there was bit of a bump in flavor from the leaving it out for hours the cheese was still lacking that little spank I was relying on…dammit. I finally went to Randy, “I am having a problem with this cheese” I alerted him. He took a good sized chunk and said, “This should be easy. This is a great cheese” and charged out to the front of the store to begin making his recommendations. He pointed out wines he thought might work, many of which were already being showcased. “Well okay let’s start trying some things” he announced and this was one of those moments when I could in fact rest on my memory. Watching Randy light up, bounce around the store, yank bottles and pull corks…break off pieces of cheese, taste them with the wine and then venture back out onto the floor looking for something that might fill the gaps that the last wine left. These are the memories of my wine youth, the inspiration for my willingness to tell my coworker to shut up, the reason I am never happy with, “good enough”…Randy. He is the reason and my inspiration, he will never settle, never let a wine rest on its history…neither will I.

We tasted about fifteen wines that afternoon, chunked off pieces of cheese, sipped and were out on the floor once again. There were moments when we shrugged our shoulders, “It’s okay” but Randy’s determined face and wish to make this event as thrilling as possible, sent him back out and popping more corks…my admiration of his determination and years of training by him had me shaking my head and having the courage to say, “Nope, that’s not it”. After about an hour we were started going back to some of the wines we had first thought might work, mostly sweeter white wines which are often the best choice for any cheese course. So here’s the thing…yet another thing about our business that drives me to crunched up crunders….with each wine we tasted adding a layer of seasoning to our palate our perception or astuteness to each little flavor was changed, affected and not as clear as it had been fifteen wines earlier. Had me festering about how useful tasting panels and reviews written after tasting multiple wines are to the person that is popping that cork and consuming the whole bottle….without the pre-seasoning. Humbling, this whole ordeal over one goddamn piece of mild cheese was so humbling and a giant reminder that we don’t know it all, we don’t have all the answers and no matter what we think we know….there is always time for a refresher. Easy pairing my ass….

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Chablis Celebration

Not sure if anyone has noticed but I have been stuck in one of my “What should I write about?” spirals. The interviews have been helping a great deal, they are fun for me and to be honest…it means very little writing on my part. I just ask my silly questions and wait for the cool ass folks to answer them. I really do enjoy doing them but it has been pointed out to me that while they are or can be funny, some people miss hearing my voice. I think part of it has been lack of sleep. I’ve been living a life of little catnaps lately; wake up at four of five in the morning wide awake and my mind going a mile a minute. I get out of bed because I cannot tolerate the whole tossing and turning thing, just pisses me off…and I spend my morning with MSNBC, coffee and my laptop. Go to work feeling wide awake and ready but find by around four I am starting to wind down, feel sleepy. Get home to make and eat dinner and then I find myself nodding out on the couch around nine, not sleepy enough to go to bed but not able to keep my eyes open. Little naps keep me awake until one of two in the morning, stumble into bed and sleep until….four or five, think it’s getting to me.

I will confess that I have let this blog consume me a bit, when I am not checking my counter thing I am responding or playing around on one of the other blogs I spend time on. Work is the one place I am able to just leave the blog alone…I’m still thinking about it but in a less than consuming way and I do allow myself to check stats or respond while I am eating my lunch but for the most part I’ve learned, (and this took some time) to just let my obsession with this place be something I indulge in when I get home. Once home I am in full on stat checking and wracking my brain for topics that people might be interested in, that might pertain to wine and I can write about mode.

So I had been struggling a bit already and then I saw the announcement of the Wine Blog Awards…sigh. Now last year I was painfully addicted to watching this thing unfold over at Fermentation. My dear friend Benito of Benito’s Wine Reviews was kind enough to nominate me last year for one of the writing categories, I was so flattered and so aching to be taken seriously in this whole wine blogging business that I let myself get swept away a bit. Now I knew I would never win but was hoping to make it to the finals…well I did not of course and this year, a year later I am not only aware of why I did not….I’m comfortable knowing that I should not. These awards are for blogs that are much more wine related than Samantha Sans Dosage, sure I write about wine but there are just as many posts here that have nothing or very little to do with wine and you know what, I’m comfortable with that. I no longer ache to be included and rather like the fact that my blog has become a place where people come to read about something other than wine reviews…they seem to come to visit me. In that I have found the true award/reward. No little badge to post on my sidebar, no my award is found in the comments section of my posts where people not only respond to my stories they share some of their own, love that.

I was talking to my husband the other day, telling him that while I love having this place, adore the people that visit me here…that this blog may have run its course. I was feeling guilty about the idea of shutting down but feeling even more guilty that I may not have anything compelling enough to give my loyal readers. Totally stuck and leaning towards shutting down for a couple weeks just to think it over, that’s when my husband sent me a link to a blog ranking sight and one of my posts was very high on the list…not even sure what that means by the way but it was a very sweet gesture. I was still pretty sure it was time for a break at the very least when I woke up to find a couple new followers and a couple new comments, one from a brand new reader…now what to do?

I gave myself a few more days to think it over, just to make sure it wasn’t PMS or me just feeling lonely or some other crazy chick behavior…posted my latest interview and told myself to just spend a day or two away to clear my head. So I was working yesterday afternoon and a fairly regular customer of ours came up to me with her cart, “Can you help me find this wine?” she asked and I took her to find it. “While I have you here can you help me find some everyday drinking wines? I love your French wines and you always find me the tastiest daily drinkers” feeling all flattered I pulled the end of her cart around my French section depositing my latest discoveries into her cart. Clink-clink-clink the bottles landing upon each other as I “Oh you have to try this” and moved on to the next stack. “Oh and I need a good bottle of Chablis” she told me with a serious but strangely lit up face. “I am celebrating and I want to do it with a great bottle of Chablis” she continued. Now I always assume when people tell you that they are celebrating that they want you to ask them why, I mean why else share that right? So I did, I asked what she was celebrating….so did not expect to hear what I did.

“I have breast Cancer. I had it ten years ago so this is my second occurrence and they are going to have to do a mastectomy” I stood there, heart thumping at my ribcage, eyes filling up and with no words. “Now I know it might sound weird that I want to celebrate but everyone had been telling me that I would have to give up my wine” still no words from me. “I just talked to my surgeon and he told me that even though the surgery is invasive I will still be allowed to drink my wines, I’m just so grateful that I can still have that” I didn’t know I had been holding my breath but when she said that I felt and heard a loud exhale escape my body. She gave me a very wise look and I helped her pick a Chablis worthy of her celebration, the celebration of true courage and finding a silver lining. When I was ringing her up she held the bottle in her hand and said, “I will drink this tonight and think of you” I stood there feeling like I had just found my fairy godmother. “I should buy one too and drink it thinking of you” I responded. Spent the rest of the afternoon with busy work, getting stuff ready for this weekend’s big Cheese & Wine Fest, preparing to go to a trade tasting and putting up wines that had arrived during my days off…the day got away from me but that woman’s words, the spirit with which they were delivered did not. I did not buy that same Chablis but pulled one that had been resting in my little wine fridge from the same producer, Herve Azo 1er Cru Vau de Vey. Last night an older woman drank a young Chablis to celebrate her good fortune in the face of enormous loss and this slightly younger one drank and older Chablis to celebrate courage and wisdom. Cannot think of anything more unifying…

Cheers to you dear woman. Thank you for sharing…your story and courageous attitude, and the glass of Chablis. Reminding me how profoundly powerful that combination can be.

Guess I'll keep plugging away, sharing with my readers and hoping I can inspire them to see that wine is about so much more than what's in the bottle....

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wine Biz Interview #7 With Sales Rep Michael Parra

I knew when I started this interview series that I wanted to include a sales rep or two. These people are in the unique position of having to sell wines that they didn’t select to people that may or may not want them…super fun right? I have a tremendous respect for these people, (well some of them) and watching the hoops that they have to jump through helped me decide that it is a job that I could never do. Michael Parra is one of my favorite sales dudes, he is not pushy, he never wastes our time and as someone that was “under the tabled” by him I can say….the guy can hold his booze.

How long have been “On the streets” as it were?

5 years with Maddalena, 1 year with a small, now closed distributor.

What would you say is the single coolest part of your gig?

The wine, spend the day in great locations sipping some ridiculous juice, doesn’t suck.
The routine is the same but everyday is different, if that makes sense.

Hardest part?

Staying patient. Sometimes the buyers will drag their feet to buy, sometimes legit other times it’s because their losers and the only thing that makes them feel cool is jerking around a sales rep. Once you get experience you become pretty quick at separating the players from the punks.

Do you have any buyers you hate but are forced to deal with?

Not really, they may not buy from my portfolio but that’s cool, it’s not personal, and if they keep it professional than it’s all good, for the most part I like all my buyers. If they act like an ass I walk away, plenty of business to be done with cool people.

Are you afraid I am going to ask you which one?

No, everybody knows I am straight forward, I’d tell ya.

Hangover cure of choice?

Good old classics, Aleve, water, greasy food, when in doubt, more booze

You tend to stammer when we meet, do I make you nervous?

No not at all. Quite the contrary, your one of my favorites. Probably hungover

You are The Wine Country’s “crack” dealer, (Stella Rosa, sweet sparkling red) and I know how much of that we go through…just how much crack are you selling on the streets?

Its embarrassing, ridiculous amounts.

You ever flirted to make a sale?

Only if he was cute!!!
Guys have to be careful with that. The line between flirting and being sleazy is pretty slim

I’ve heard horror stories from reps about wine buyers, are we really as douchebaggy as we are often labeled?

Some are. Mostly the guys. They find it to be there only avenue to getting laid. It’s never a matter of buying or not as long as it’s handled professionally. It’s like the kid that gets beat up in high school that becomes a cop just so he can be a dick. The Winecountry crew has an excellent reputation, FYI.

Airplane reading: Playgirl or Cosmo?

Neither, I’m a sports guy.

What percentage of the people you sell wine to actually know a thing or two about wine?

Most do, probably 80%, but the good buyers are the ones that know what is gonna sell in there establishment. The jerk offs that annoy me are the ones that only buy wines they like. They just don’t get it.

You have a sort of Jersey vibe about you…are you offended by Jersey Shore?

Mom is Italian from Queens, but I get what you’re saying. I saw part of an episode of Jersey Shore, laughed a lot, I knew a lot of those girls, and they still make me laugh. New York’s equivalent to valley girls or surfer dickheads. They have the “Situation” Cali has “Moondoggie”. The lifestyle is the culture much more than their ethnicity.

Have you ever sneezed while peeing?

Yes, disaster for the guy next to me

Vacation: Texas or Tuscany?


Playing rock star in the car...who do you pretend to be?

I am more of an R&B guy….probably some Marvin,but not opposed to doin some 80's hairbands, look how well things worked out for Brett Michaels.

Which do you find more effective? Dropping off a bottle or opening and tasting with the buyer?

Taste with the buyer, I like to get reaction to the wines good or bad. Leaving a bottle usually doesn’t work. How many of my bottles do you still have lying around?

Have you ever been shitfaced with a customer?

Hell yes! It’s the fun part, plus I’m really good at it.

If yes, did it help or hinder further sales?

It never hurts, although you haven’t bought anything in a while.

Finish this sentence, “I freaking cringe when a buyer says….”

I was hoping it would have more butter.

You sell a good clip of sweet wines, fruit wines and wines with names like, “Velvet” do you find that those wines sell better in certain markets?

Downtown Absolutely. We developed the wines we did in large part due to the wineries location. for better or worse is a cultural crossroads and the sweeter style wines have always done well with certain ethnicities. What we didn’t expect the crossover appeal to be as great as it’s become.

You are aware that just putting “Is” as your status on Facebook is annoying right?

It’s funny because I don’t do it on purpose but I get the most reaction from everybody when it does happen. If I put that I was on “FIRE” nobody would give a shit, but if I put “IS” all hell breaks loose.

You have been known to say things that make me blush, are you trying to get me to buy your “Sweet Berry Wine?”

NO! The Sweet Berry Wine will sell itself, making you blush is for pure selfish reasons.

If I told you that you make me laugh often, your “Just drunk” text split my sides and I think you are one of my most favorite sales people…would you do a chocolate cake shot with me?

As long as I don’t remember it the next day.

I just want to thank Mike for taking the time out of his Stella Rosa pushing day to take part in this interview. Dude you are one cool ass cat, you make me laugh I admire your attitude and I adore you!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

This Beholder's Eye

“There’s just something about you”

I’ve never known what this means, sure I know what the words mean but I have never been all that sure whether this is a compliment or an accusation…maybe it’s a little of both. But it is the thing I most hear from others when they are talking about me. I always sit there and smile, search their face for more information but in the end I end up letting it slip away as quickly as it was uttered and giving it just as much thought as it was delivered with, not much. Always kind of struck me as the anti “If you don’t have anything nice to say” like they are trying to think of something nice but nothing really stands out.

Maybe I’ve been lucky to avoid the constraints of traditional beauty; it was never going to be me so I never really spent much time thinking about it or trying to be. I went from being the ugly girl that was taunted by my brother’s father, to being told I was “unusual looking” which when you’re sixteen means freakish to being whatever it is I look like, or people read or see in my face and my body now. I learned long ago to not put much validity into what is basically the luck of genetics……..and has a shelf life. I’ll take interesting, funny, sweet or even annoying over pretty any day, those things are more real and sustainable…to me anyway.

There are times when I feel beautiful but again, probably not in the traditional sense. I was alone this afternoon, the hubby off cleaning out a storage unit full of dusty bits of a life that we had both packed up, affixed a lock on and pretty much forgotten about for years. Old books, games, pieces of my mother’s furniture, Jeremy’s old bookcase and boxes and boxes of old papers. When my husband first asked what I wanted to do with it all the first thing I said was, “Toss it. We haven’t even thought about that stuff in years” I think we were both a bit taken aback by my willingness to just throw away or give away those bits of my history but I’m just not nostalgic or romantic in that way. My life, my mother’s life, they don’t live with those dusty and broken bits of furniture, not in faded art projects or yearbooks. Our life, our history is beneath the skin of anyone we were or are able to touch, move or make feel loved.

My son, my Amy, my sister, the people that still tell me how much they loved my mother, all you people that find something compelling in my words. These things are the things of true value and far too powerful to pack away in a box and be tossed in a storage unit. I feel something when I see that some sentence I strung together, some story I shared, some expression of passion for wine…something I said spoke to someone enough to make them leave a comment or has them coming back over and over again to read more. To know that my words, my fingertips, my thoughts….my heart, my life…when I share them they seem to matter to some of you. That, well that makes me feel more beautiful than any genetic jackpot ever could.

My idea of beauty has always been more of a feeling then something I see or something that is detectable right away. Maybe I am just to protective of my heart but I just never have my head spun by “Hot” or “Pretty” it takes more than flash to make my heart thump and my girlie parts tingle…substance is beauty, a story is beauty, selflessness is beauty…courage, resolve, talent these things make my heart pound, make my eyes water and inspire my want.

A perfect rendition of Someone to Watch Over Me, a voice that grabs at my heart, makes me feel like I am being lifted off the ground…..pulled in and feeling her ache….

There’s a somebody I am longing to see
I hope that he
Turns out to be
Someone to watch
Over me

Fills my eyes with tears for her as her voice, her desire, her need to be cared for fall upon my ears…make me visit that secret spot inside of me where I too am wishing for someone to watch over me. Crisp and clean like Alison Krauss or raw and soulful like Lauren Hill, (Never heard either of them sing this particular song but it is the stuff of my dreams) doesn’t matter…a pure expression of femininity that is truly beautiful to me. Fuck Beyonce and her, “If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it”….it?! If you are willing to reduce your importance or worth to “it” you are so missing the point and your shelf live is showing.

Stepping out of Wrigley Field on a steamy September afternoon and hearing the “thump-thump thump-crack-one-two-three” and having my eyes fall upon a group of kids across the street. All black males sitting on and banging away on five gallon plastic cans…except for one. My eyes landed upon a man…a young man, maybe nineteen or twenty years old that was not sitting on one of the plastic cans and wore the face of a lifetime of hardship. He was sitting in a wheelchair, missing a leg and his dark black skin that was stretched across his high cheekbones and broad nose, bore these little skips….these raised glossy scars that assured me that this young man had suffered a multitude of hardships, the likes of which I could not possibly fathom. But there he was drumsticks firing away in perfect unison…big grin on his face, making my whole body vibrate. The thumping, the scars, the missing leg…the flailing arms, his music moving my feet, my hips, my shoulders…my heart. He was truly beautiful in a way I shall never forget.

Watching a man kiss his son. A man willing to drop the bullshit “be a man” crap and give himself over to true love in its purest form. Putting his big man lips on the face of his little man. Beautiful.

Smelling history in a glass. To feel where a wine came from, who it came from and the year it came from…feel it all through my nose and tongue. To taste the aroma of a specific place in a glass, to feel a winemaker’s shyness or larger than life personality and to taste what each year bestowed upon the vines…good or bad, in each glass, fucking beautiful. I think those that proclaim vintage superiority or deficiency are also missing the point. Missing the point and missing out on the beauty that is a hand crafted expression of each harvest. I don’t think any vintage should be affixed with a lock and forgotten about, each one should be celebrated for the bits of history they hold…beautiful.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Stepping Out

This past two weeks have found me running in circles. I had one employee in Europe and two out sick, that left me with Merritt and a couple part timers at the shop. Had a six day week and a couple nine hour days…not bad as I love my job, love the store and it makes me feel good to be there for Randy and Dale whom on top of having horrible colds that knocked them both out for like a week, lost a beloved family member. Not to anything more tragic than time but losing a parent will always be a painful and somewhat life changing experience. No matter the age or relief that things did not drag out, it hurts and makes you feel a little more alone, my heart goes out to both of them.

So one guy eating and drinking too much in Spain on an importer trip, (yes they are work people, fun but grueling) the Kemners ill and taking care of the things that you must in times like these and the rest of us at the store running to keep up. Last week was simply crazy, we get by with a pretty tight staff…take a couple key players out and the ones that remain are going a little batshit. By last Saturday I was getting punchy, I had that “Need to be here to help” fire in my belly so I was in a great mood but….the series of events that unfolded that day had us all bent over in stitches laughing. We kept a running list of the insane questions, requests and odd behavior, I was going to list them here but when you read them back none of them sound that bad…put them all together and it left us all looking at each other like, “just who the hell is testing us?” and it had us all in giggles. I mean when your day goes from a request for you to import “hot and spicy” cheese from Holland, a woman breaking down because she simply could not believe someone would send her to pick a wine for a gift, a guy that loves stouts and porters wanting a German beer that’s like that, a woman asking me for a good wine, “Oh I don’t know, something from Europe like a Malbec from Argentina”….and ends with a transvestite on one crutch carrying a giant white cockatoo on her, (or his…there was some debate. I say her) arm, well all you can do is laugh right?!

Got through that day with a sing-song taunt to my staff, “I’m off for two days”….so fate, he’s a fucker. I was called in on Sunday, had Monday off but was right back in the wine slinging saddle on Tuesday with another nine hour shift. This week has been a little tougher, still love the job and all but dude…I need a break in the worst way. I would like to say it’s almost over and I have a couple days off but, I’ve learned my lesson, “you hear me Fate?! I got it” just taking each day as it comes. This week has me feeling a bit spent, run down and less apt to laugh at the silliness that occurs when you work retail. I could feel the tightness in my jaw all day yesterday, awareness that I was not quite myself. When a stood there with my face all scrunched up, eyebrow raised in that, “No you didn’t” face after a customer had the nerve to tell me, “You’re kinda hot” I knew I was suffering from too many days syndrome. Black zip-up hoodie with Arrogant Bastard across the front, baggy jeans, black Vans, silver choker necklace, sloppy pigtails and red lipstick….this is the look I went for yesterday morning and I get all indignant when someone lets me know I might have accomplished the look I was going for?! Yeah, too many days.

So the one thing that kept me lighter on my feet yesterday, kept me from snapping and pulling out my hair at its much-lighter-now roots…I had a date. First the hubby and I were going out for crab legs, (this would come back to haunt me later) and I then I had a little rendezvous planned for later in the evening, a new love, a secret love.

You ever met someone that just changes your mind? Someone that is able to chip away at your armor, knock down your barriers and open your mind to things that you had long ago either given up on or never even really considered in the first place. Well I’ve been lucky enough to meet quite a few of those kinds of people. I learned about wine from one, learned about food from one, even been lucky enough to fall in love with one of those people that chip-chip-chipped away at my idea of what I wanted or thought I knew. Been quite lucky in the old mind expansion department and each time that sucker gets cracked open it seems to loosen the hinge for the next attempt.

The latest cracking of the hard headed vault happened right here, here on my own blog. The place I come to express MY opinions and MY thoughts and this is where my own beliefs and ideas were challenged, poked at and in some cases…..changed. I must confess I adore that, am humbled by the fact that anyone that visits this site not only sticks around but there a few that even seem to want to teach me things, share with me, help me broaden my mind or at the very least show me that there is more than one way to look at things….seriously humbling.

So after months of listening to some fiercely passionate dudes spout the praises of wines from a place that I had stopped drinking, even tasting really…years ago, well I felt compelled to take another look and this time with their words acting as a crowbar popping the vault open. I’ve made a very concerted effort to taste each bottle of California wine that is open in the shop, I approach them as I do my beloved French wines…spend time with my nose in the glass, let the wines roll around my mouth and take a bunch of notes. I’ve been trying, I really have and while I still find the wines a bit too primary for my palate, there have been a couple that have blown my top clean off.

It started with Rhys Pinot Noir, a wine that kind of kicked the shit out of one of my Burgundies one evening at dinner. Now the Burgundy was from a warm vintage and seemed to be lacking a bit of its sultry complexity but that Rhys, seduced the hell out of me. That wine was the one that had me cocking my head and wondering just how many other wines I was missing out on. Westwood Rhone blend, Dehlinger Pinot, Alesia Pinot, Aubert Chardonnay, these wines all prying the top off my closed mind and leaving wanting to know more, taste more.

So I did, have been and like I said earlier, I still find that most of the wines from California I have been tasting…well they just aren’t doing it for me. Are they out of whack, out of balance and too sweet? Some of them are but not most, I just ache for bright clean fruit and the kind of acidity that compels me to pour glass number two….and three. I find with a good number of the wines I’ve been running through; Cabernets, Zinfandels, Chardonnays and even Pinot Noir just kind of give it all up in the first glass and that there just aint my thing. My palate is no fan of vanilla, or heavy toast. I don’t much care for tropical fruit or chocolate. I don’t think finding those things in wine a flaw in any way, just not something I wish to keep wrapping my lips around.

I don’t mind big fruit, matter of fact I have begun craving just a bit of that but once my craving is satisfied I tend to just move on to something just a little bit snappier. So while stumbling along in my California wine re-discovery I happened upon a couple things that have not only suited my palate, they have become regular players in my wine buying cycle. Hear that you two crowbar wielding dudes, I am not only tasting and drinking some California wines, I am freaking buying them now.

2007 Fleur Pinot Noir, ($14.99) is a new favorite for its uber light body and bright snappy fruit. I’ve now learned that grabbing one of these bottles is just a joke, always gonna need two. Tangy red fruit, slightly floral and clean as a whistle on the finish.

2008 Palmina Dolcetto, ($17.99) the first time I brought this wine home the bottle was gone so fast I was almost embarrassed. Full of fresh dark fruit, no wood and airily light on the palate. Like I said, gone wicked fast.

2007 Hug Sauvignon Blanc, ($16.99) this wine fills both that primary craving and that snappier thing that I long for. Tons of guava that seems tamed a bit by citrus with nice weight and a long but really bright finish.

This wine was the wine that saved me yesterday…kept my mind focused on having a new love swirl around in my mouth, give me things I could not find in what I already had and gave me that little naughty tingle you get when you smear up the boundaries.

2008 Bebame, ($16.99) dude, I am in love. This wine just pinged off all my sweet spots and lit me up. Cabernet Franc and Gamay Noir, yeah no wonder it sings to me…Loire, it feels and has that snappy fruit that I so adore about Loire reds. I was wrecked from my first sip, still intrigued and longing for more after my last. I drained that first bottle and was left wanting more, just one more glass….one glass lead to another bottle, and another. Must be love…..

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Facebook Note From My Son

So I had this little red flag looking at me on Facebook this evening, "Jeremy Dugan has tagged you in a message"....

Was in no way prepared for what I was to find when I clicked on that red flag. My son, My Jeremy saying this...to me, to every one of his pals on Facebook.

So when describing my mother to people I put it pretty simply "Imagine me 5'5" 1/2 (can't ever forget the 1/2) and white, she's my mini-me". And really that is a real good description of my mother. Because folks, this smart, shit talking (but funny), cocky (but only on the outside), good looking brother you see in front of you today wouldn't be around if it wasn't for Samantha Dugan. She taught me a lot of what I know now about life. She taught me to look at my skin color and her's as no different, how to make light of the subject of race. She's also taught me what the real world was like, even though it is a mother's natural feeling to protect her child(ren) from all the bad things in the world, she let me out into it to see how I would do, and if I needed help; she was there to help me, if I messed up; she was there to correct me. And even though I call her my mini-me, my mother is the person I want to be.

I see her in her life right now; she works at a job she loves (it drives her crazy sometimes but she is doing what she loves so she takes it all in stride), she is writing and getting love from everyone for it. And in both of those areas she is loved, people that have been in those fields longer than her look to her for answers, admire her, want to see what she is doing, and best of all, she has a loving partner there with her every step, that is what I want when I get older. I want to be a history teacher (yea I know a lot of you think that's boring but hey, this is my life) that is damn good at it, I want people that have been teaching for as long as I've been in high school to tell me that I'M changing the way history is taught, coming to ME to get advice.

When I think about it, I want to be my mother’s bigger-me. Now some of y’all reading this are going to ask “why is he doing this over the internet, why not just tell her all this?” You guys don’t know the Dugans then, what’s really on our minds is something that comes out in few forms so when you can get it, take it. Also, that’s how we roll; my mother and I have a bond, a bond that isn’t the same as most mothers and sons, it’s different in a good way. We have this connection that no one can break (and even if they tried we’d break them), a connection that people who don’t know I’m her son or can’t tell that I am, can see that we have something, something odd to even us but we go with it. So why am I doing this over the internet, I’m just trying to be more like S.A.D, the pro writing blogger who is taking the wine blog world over by storm.

Okay this is Sam now. Is there anyway, anything that can make you feel more proud…not just of your child but of the stumbling-through-it that is parenthood than this? I am so proud of my son….turns out, he is proud of me too. I wish there where words, there just aren’t. I was brought to trembling tears by this beautiful expression of love from my sweet son…shared on Facebook for all his friends to see.

Jeremy, your words melt me. Your pride inspires me and your faith pushes me. You are my light young man, you have saved me, honored me and your love is the single greatest, most profound in my life. You and I kid…we did it. I love you.

Damn I could use one of those "My baby" scented hugs right now...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Wine Biz Interview #6 Winemaker John Kelly Of Westwood Winery

The first time I saw the name John Kelly it was in the comment section of this blog. It was a million years ago and he was and still is a very active and supportive reader/commenter. As I baby stepped my way around the blogosphere I noticed that this fiery, opinionated but fiercely passionate cat was a regular on some of the other sites I read….funny how that happens, like minds and what not. I always love it when a winemaker jumps in the conversation and is willing to voice an opinion from their side of this crazy business of ours, few do it better than John.

Where are you currently making wine?

Westwood Winery, in Sonoma. I own part of it, with some out-of-State investors. I’m making 100% estate wines from 37 acres we started planting in 2001: Pinot and red Rhones – no whites.

Have you made wine anywhere else?

Yes. Interned at RH Phillips back in 1987. Then got my break with Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars that ran 5 years. Had a brief stint at Duckhorn before settling in at Sonoma-Cutrer for 6 years. For me Westwood started as a nights-and-weekends thing in 1994 while I was still at SCV. After I left SCV I worked at Vinquiry – the analysis and supplies company – for 3 years. Then I consulted for another 5-6 years before I stepped up to making Westwood my full-time gig.

What inspired you to become a winemaker?

I needed a job, and the internship was available… I’m not sure how far back to go here. It’s not like I wanted to be a winemaker when I was a kid, though my parents did get me interested in wine – we had a good bottle on the table at nearly every family meal when I was growing up. In college in Texas I didn’t know anyone else who had a couple cases of wine stashed in a closet – I was into food and wine even back then, though I had no money. I had worked in restaurant kitchens before going to college, so I could cook too. But career-wise I was focused on academic research, and so I came to Davis to get my doctorate in biochemistry. I picked Davis for my graduate work in part because it was close to Napa, and I spent nearly every other weekend during my studies visiting wineries. After I wrote my dissertation I started to think that I was not really temperamentally suited to be an academic. I worked in a fine wine shop for a couple of years, which got me interested in finding a job in production. The rest, as they say…

You are very active in the wine blog world do you think wine blogs are important?

Well, I think MINE is important. Oh… and yours, too! Important? Like ending hunger or promoting social justice important? – No. Wine blogs are more like” inevitable,” given that the technology to publish weblogs made all things possible for all people.

Hangover cure of choice?

1) Red Bull and aspirin, or 2) lots of Taco Bell and more drinking if #1 fails.

I’ve noticed a new burst of posts from your own blog, what got you back into writing it?

Really, the blog has been sort of an intermittent self-indulgence from the get-go. I’m not a five-posts-a-week kind of guy. But yes I lost interest for about 6 months recently – I had some other stuff going on in my life that demanded my full attention. But I’m back, baby.

How many wine blogs do you read?

Wine-related blogs? I’ve got 16 set up in my feed reader.

What is the single most satisfying part of making wine?

Seeing “that smile” when somebody connects with my work for the first time.

The single most heartbreaking?

When I screw up something promising in the cellar. It happens!

Do you have a favorite vintage? If so why?

Of my wines? Or in general? I could say something sappy, like: 2002 and 2004, the years my kids were born. But for my wines? – nope. Come to think of it, not generally either. Too many regions and wines within them to have to keep track of favorites for each.

Have you ever been like super buzzy, up late at night and fallen asleep at your computer while futzing around on Facebook?

My wife found me face-planted on the keyboard of my laptop one night some time ago. Shame, but since I promised you I would answer all your questions thoroughly and truthfully, that would be a “yes.”

Vacation: Kentucky or Kuwait?

Kentucky – at least I expect I could get good Bourbon there without potentially violating the sensibilities of my hosts.

Where do you stand with the current nonintervention trend of winemaking?

On my head, with my fingers circling my ears and my tongue sticking out blowing a raspberry at the crazies.

Have you ever said something to a critic or customer that you wish you had not?

Um… sure. But it’s not like they didn’t have it coming. I will say I’ve mellowed with age, and I’m always working on upgrading the filtering software.

Are you afraid I will ask you to whom or what you said?

If you did, and I answered, that might be one long conversation.

Have you ever sneezed while peeing?

No I don’t think so – though one time, in college, I think I sneezed, belched and farted all at once. My recollection is a little hazy, so I might have been drunk at the time. I think I recall my date being not all that impressed.

You and I share a very real lust for Burgundy, what wine was it that first slipped beneath your skin?

In all honesty, it was a California wine that first turned me on to the grape: a 1975 Hoffman Mountain Ranch Pinot. It was an amazing wine, and cheap – important on grad student pay – because the winery had gone out of business. But once I discovered red Burgundy I was wrecked for life – wrecked I tell you. It was a Maume Mazis-Chambertin from the early 70’s that gave me my first O-face from wine. There have been many since.

Boxers or briefs?

A gentleman never tells. Mostly boxers and a couple pairs of boxer-briefs.

Are there any varietals that you will not grow?

Pet peeve here: a varietal refers to the wine made from a single variety. So I grow varieties, and “raise” and “refine” varietals. (OK… I’m an ass.) But seriously, give me enough money and I will grow anything you want. As for what I want to grow – of the varieties that interest me, I have the right ones planted at the site we own now. If fate is kind, one day I might like to grow and make Negro Amaro, or Sagratino on the right piece of ground. So long as I am in California I probably won’t grow any Zinfandel, or Chardonnay. But if some long lost relative were to leave me a little clos in Chablis…

Finish this sentence, “I want people that drink my wine to…..”

go home and make babies.

Worst over indulgent wine night ever?

Worst in what way? Gave me the worst hangover? Caused me the most humiliating walk of shame? Cost the most money and left my suit covered with body glitter? One of the funniest was celebrating the end of harvest with a bunch of interns from South Africa at my house. We drank all the good bottles and then went back and drank the not-so-good ones. I was playing DJ with the old vinyl when it caught up with me and I fell asleep [ahem] on the living room floor. They put chopsticks up my nose and took pictures – I had my fingers laced together on my chest and the most angelic smile. Ah… good times.

I’ve tasted some of your wines, (thank you for sending those to me by the way) and noticed that while they are up there in alcohol there is NO trace of it on the nose or palate, how you do that?!

I could tell you but then I would have to kill you. Let’s just say I understand yeast at a deep and carnal level and will do whatever it takes to make them happy, and leave it at that.

First or last on the dance floor?

Last, if I’m out there at all. Rocking my awkward terminal white-guy overbite.

When playing rock star in the car who do you pretend to be?

Robert Plant. David Byrne. I know you were hoping I’d say Dave Matthews, but I can’t pull that off.

If I were to tell you that knowing you always have my back, knowing that you are one of my longest readers, (Ron My Love, he saw me first!) and seeing that you linked my blog on one of your comments and having you tell me that you find reading my blog as pleasurable as reading Kermit’s newsletter made me beam with pride and always strive to entertain you, would you share a bottle of Pastis with me?

Of course. Flattery will get you everywhere. In fact I’ll have you know that in honor of our shared obsession with this widely misunderstood beverage, I have been sipping my way through a very tall Pastis all during this interview. Slainte!

Thank you John. Thank you for the interview and for the hours shared here. Knowing that you are reading makes me try harder. Reading your comments have made me very proud, laugh out loud and once or twice...cry. You are wonderful person that I feel very lucky to know.