I am sitting here alone tonight. Feeling more alone than I have in a very long time, the voices that normally fill this space….my space, either out of town or simply silent as they are attending to whichever parts of their lives need them more than I do. Finally looking at having a couple days off after a crushing six day week complete with finger almost sniffing and a rather disgusting battle with the brownie like textured goo that affixes itself to the underside of our drain covers. We have these covers, (that don’t come off by the way) that have holes just a touch larger than the ones in my shower head….cannot get anything down there, well aside from disgusting bits of softened cheese, bread and the chunky bits, (gagging) of backwashed wine. Somehow this crud builds up so I have to take a bamboo skewer, poke it in the holes to dislodge it and then keep poking and picking until it finally washes down the drain. This is a vile task and I do in fact gag a few times while doing it. Once completed I feel great, accomplished and like I did good for the store, yesterday was no different. I was admiring my work, watching as the water raced cleanly down the drain. No water filling up the sink, it was awesome, I was all, “Check me out” that was until I noticed that I could not hear the water dumping into the floor drain….fuck. I turned around to see water overflowing all over the kitchen floor. So yeah, I successfully dislodged the goo….and sent it in a big nasty blob right into the drain of the floor sink. Lots of gagging, wet knees and loads of frustration later I cleaned up the mess I made while cleaning and was on my way home.
Walked through the door, no wait…unlocked and then walked through the door. This almost never happens when you have a husband that works from home, the door is always just open and walking up to a closed front door was just another reminder that I was on my own. The next reminder was dinner, it was a non-issue. No conversations about what to have, no shopping lists, nothing, just me. Standing in front of the fridge grabbing this cheese, that cured pork bit slice and a jar of olives. I am a food freak, shocking I know…I mean have you seen me?! I love food and food plans. I am one of those people that will stand in line for Korean BBQ tacos…..from a truck no less, and take the 10:30 reservation at Mozza, (Mario Batali’s joint here in LA) on a Monday night. I adore the scene, the passion and while I cannot put away as much food as my tiny friends, well I love picking and tasting, but when I’m alone after a long ass week….I can literally live on crackers, olives, cheese and salty pork products.
Handful of crackers and chewing on a pickled carrot I flipped open my laptop to check my email. Dammit. Two facebook notifications alerting me that two people I don’t know made a comment on the post of someone I barely know. Alone. So blaringly silent. I opted to just enjoy the quiet, let myself be silent as well….no talking, no typing, no I love yous. Just still and feeding my bone weary self on shit television and salty snacks. Listened as my white trash neighbor cooed her love song to her more-absent-than-there, jailhouse tattooed, droopy, shirt off, beer drinking while smoking a “grette” with the same hand, husband…”Johnnie, if you are going to go out please tell me! I woke up, (which means emerged from passing out) and you were gone, my heart fell out of my butthole!” now that’s love people and I had to listen to this while sitting alone. Sigh….
The more screaming the silence, (after the lovebirds went inside) the more I was back in my goddamn head. Fuck I hate that. Poured myself a long, deep glass of Domaine de la Fouquette Cotes de Provence Rose, one of my favorites from our Saturday tasting. The aggressive aromatics, sharp and damn-near snarky…lime rind, fresh herbs and a touch of that white tangy, wet, crunchy bit from a slice of watermelon. The wine possessing just enough “stuff” to pull my head out of my….errr, head and making me feel what it is I was longing to, attention. It wasn’t that I needed attention to be paid to me, I was looking for a place to rest my attention and this wine was able to handle me. Took me in line and pulled me along with each deep and soulfully satisfying sip. It was to be my lover for the evening and I was more than ready to shed my bullshit and simply give myself over to it.
As I emptied the last little drops into my feed-me-more glass I wondered if it was wrong for me to drain a bottle of wine alone like that. To let my mood influence me, let lonely move my wrist and pour another sip. Amazingly I found the answer in that last glass of wine. The answer came to me as the last few drops spilled upon my waiting palate. Nope. Not wrong at all….
Is It Wrong….
That I refused my husband’s many requests to have me fly out and join him on his Vegas convention trip? Nope because you see, had I gone I would not be making love to this wine right now. Would not be here talking caked sinks, gagging and Rose with all 14 of you.
Is It Wrong….
That I ached for time alone but feel pangs of lonely when it is given to me? Nope because you see, that is part of the “crazy” that is me. I am here and now I’m fucking rhyming…damn you pink wine and silence. Damn you.
Is It Wrong….
That I pontificate about fancy food, how important it is to eat local and fresh but find myself falling into the “easy” and noshing on like Chex Mix for dinner? Nope because you see, to love and truly appreciate anything is to know and taste it all. To fully understand how brilliant a meal is you must dip your toes in the…other stuff. To truly appreciate how lovely it is to share a meal, well you must eat a few alone.
Is It Wrong…..
That I shit talk on wines that are too sweet but have been known to suck back a few glasses of Plum Wine at my favorite Chinese restaurant? Nope because you see, these glasses are often a gift from the house….a thank you for being a good customer. The kind of customer that is remembered and watched, The kind of customer that is brought a tiny tea cup full of water after the place is closed, and told, “We know you smoke, please enjoy your cigarette and your wine”. The kind of customer that will remember this and be back over and over again.
Is It Wrong…..
That I talk openly about sex and sensuality? The way everything from words to wine can begin the purring, the soft spine….the deep, chest filling breaths while keeping my “body count” below ten in the twenty-seven years I have been, um…partaking? Nope because you see, I find real humor in how seriously people take themselves. Their wants and desires are not that set apart from what the rest of us want, long for, ache for but for some reason everyone gets their crunders in a twist when you speak of slippery, pulling, pulsating…mouth watering. Wine, food, sex all things that when fed properly…will have you coming back for more. When, “fed” the right way, the natural unpolished and unpretentious way, from any of the above…I giggle. I chuckle when someone plunges a piece of perfect food between my lips. I laugh when a wine slips inside me and I can feel its fingertips bubbling beneath my skin and the other…well, a deep guttural, raspy giggle will let you know…I am pleased.
Is It Wrong….
That I let the sensual part of wine be my guide? Let the feeling, the texture and the stories surrounding the estate move me? Nope because you see, without lust and passion it is just a product. Wine is and deserves to be so much more than a product. The sore backs, the cracked and dirty fingernails of the winemaker, the sweetly shy way they take our praise, all of these things should be at the table with you. In the glass as you open your lips and take their works in. They made something…grew and molded something, for you. Let yourself feel it, taste it, be lit up and buzzy by it…but remember there is someone, somewhere hoping against hope that you are enjoying it…damn, how sexy is that?
If any of this is wrong, well I want to meet the judge and jury. See if they can sway me. Change my mind…make me see it any other way, because as I sit….right now all buzzy on my Rose, listening as it fills in my missing pieces, soothes my crazy days….fuck I just want to wrap my fingers and palate around another glass. Scraping goo, sniffing fingers and being alone, all made tolerable, laughable and desirable when there is something vibrating between my lips….
So sometime last year I wrote a quick post about a woman that was looking for a specific wine glass. She was a housekeeper and had broken one of her employers Riedel glasses and came in to replace it. The problem was she had no idea which line and even worse, which style of glass it was that she had demolished while trying to clean. We went round and round and then she popped on the phone to try and get more information from her boss. I heard her over in the glassware area talking and started to get nervous when she started with the, “Okay. Okay. Hold on” and started walking up to me.
So I have a little, “thing” about talking on a stranger’s cell phone. Just kind of grosses me out, the oily skin residue, the makeup, the dried stranger spittle and hours of breath…ewe. I try to avoid it as much as possible, doing the talk-you-through-it dance trying to keep the phone owner in between me and that spittle coated, face oil contraption, and this almost always works….well either it works or they can sense the “Oh God don’t make me do it” vibe that I am tossing off along the with little bits of terror sweat. It’s just one of my many quirky behaviors….there are many I assure you.
So as much as I tried to avoid and deflect this woman was just hell bent on getting me on her cell phone to talk to her boss. I wanted to help her so I just had to suck it up and flinch as I pictured the layer of ewe that was about to touch my face. Yeah so I damn near lost my shit when she pulls a piece…..out of her ear and plops it in my palm. Call me a freak but asking me to shove a piece of anything that just came out of any of your orifices into my own….well that’s just kind of a lot to ask of anyone let alone a perfect stranger working in a wine shop.
I had thought that was one of the most awkward personal space issues I had been involved in for a while at the shop. Sure I have the folks that finally work up the nerve to touch me, (I don’t throw off a terribly warm, come cuddle me kind of vibe) and it seems that once they jump that hurdle they can’t stop….petting me, (shudder). I’m just not built that way and when these, (and there are only a couple of them) people start rubbing me I flash on Of Mice and Men and fear one of them is going to have a Lenny moment. I tolerate it, never want to make anyone feel uncomfortable but it is a bit of an issue for me when I see someone’s paw slowly moving towards me, feel my shoulders get a little stiff as I feel their unwelcomed meat mittens rubbing my back and arms….like I said, I’m just not a snuggly person so strangers rubbing me, I assume in an effort to comfort me….well it has the total opposite effect.
For the most part I have been very lucky in that there have been very few people that have asked me to do something that was, in my opinion, a little out of the scope of what I am willing to do for my job. Oh they say and suggest plenty of shit that causes me to step back but on the whole talking front, well I can kind of hold my own there. No problem what so ever shooting down the, “You guys should use the Hooters business model” and the, “Sam if you guys set up a free kiss with each bottle purchased, I would buy a case a week”….gotta love buzzy dudes, but what happened yesterday, well that one might just take the cake.
“Smell my finger” I stood there my neck elongated, head jerking backwards, eyes wide and fighting the mass of eyebrow that was scrunching down upon them, looking at this woman standing in my French department with her arm extended…two fingers being offered for me to take a sniff of. Now even with the people I love this might be a bit much to ask, I would likely do it but, “Smell my finger” from a stranger?! C’mon dude. I must have looked like someone just gave me a Brazilian because this woman’s husband appeared like Superman just as she started to bring her fingers to my “is this really happening?” face. “Honey don’t make her smell your fingers!” he said sharply but with a bit of a chuckle in his tone, he’s lucky I am not a touchy person because I may have had my very own Lenny moment trying to express my gratitude.
The woman wanted me to pick a wine to go with the marinade she had just made, the marinade that was clearly still on her hands and she thought it would help me to smell it rather than just hear what was in it. Not a bad idea I guess but there are just certain things you simply cannot expect people to do and….smell my finger is pretty high on that list. I picked a beautiful little Cotes du Rhone to go with the assembled in my head and not sniffed from her fingers marinade and went back to helping others on the floor. A few minutes later I could see the finger lady and her husband standing at the register ready to check out.
I rounded the corner of the counter and was met with a very red-faced woman. “I’m sorry I asked you to sniff my finger” she said with a nervous giggle. Turns out this woman was born in another country and whatever civil place that might be seemed to miss out on the smell-my-finger playground antics. She and her hubby were in full fits of giggles as I rang up and bagged their wines which in turn had me in giggles too. “Sorry again” she shouted as she headed for the door, “Oh don’t worry about it, least you gave me the best story of the day”.
Mr. California vs Ms. France These two titans in the wine writing world Okay one titan and one chick with a very small but supportive following Battling for pride History And in an effort NOT to puke
Ms. France rooting for her beloved, oh and we should mention….defending NBA Champions, Los Angeles Lakers
Mr. California waving is faded 2008 Champion t-shirt is support of a team from some town where they talk funny.
Mr. California, when (ahem) if his team loses will be forced to drink a glass, (at least) of France’s beloved anise flavored beverage, Pastis. Much adored by Ms. France and she is sure that he will love it once he acquires a taste for it.
Ms. France, on the off chance that her team loses the foul calls and half her team, (not unheard of…did you see game 5?) will have to ingest one of California’s most over extracted and profoundly out of balance Chardonnays. A wine that Mr. California is sure she could stomach with curry or spicy Thai….Mr. California while simply adorable is flawed, in his alliance to a funny talking town's team and if he thinks she would be able to choke that wine down with coconut milk…that just made her throw up a little.
Thursday It all comes down to Thursday Mr. Olken Cannot wait Oh and I am nervous as hell!
So I was/am all on board with drinking less, trying to cut back and preserve my liver rather than pickle it. I have been really good….well, I’ve been trying really hard to be anyway but how the hell am I supposed to stick to my un-pickled plan when there is stuff like this at my fingertips?! Damn you Joguet….damn you.
I adored this wine last year, so graceful, delicate and almost ethereal so I could not wait to try the new vintage. Popped the cork the other night for a little something to keep me company as I slaved, (read dropped basil, green olives, Parm, olive oil and garlic into the blender) over dinner. I noticed right away that the color was much more electric than last year, almost neon pink wine resting behind that fantastic orange label and one sniff confirmed that this is a very different wine indeed. Gone were the delicate aromas of wet stones and minerals and in its place there is explosive floral aromatics, almost like violets and this shocking blast of super ripe melon. Perfect weight and texture on the palate with more violets spreading across the palate and hanging on for dear life. Powerful, rich and palate staining but with that classic Loire freshness that leaves you aching for one more long delicious sip.
Now last year I slowly worked my way through the better part of a case of this wine and pickle plan be damned I will be taking down even more this vintage! Badass, these 2009 French pink wines are simply badass and the Joguet Chinon Rose is must. Oh and get at least two, that first bottle is gone way way too fast and once this stunning wine has taken your palate for a spin it’s hard to transition into anything else.
So what would have me out walking the apartment complex on a sleepy Sunday morning.....
"Sam" said in a whispering tone but not a whispering decibel level, "Yets go look for the ducks".
"No I can't I'm in my jammies" I protest
"It's okay I am too, no one will see us" again with the implication of whispering but not really whispering at all.
Screen and heart open I emerged from my apartment and did something I have not in as many years as I can remember, walked around outside, in the daylight. My aging breasts not lifted and supported, my face naked, hair still wild from its snuggle with the pillow. Me unpainted, unprotected...sans everything but my absolute adoration for a tiny, big voiced kid in jammies with puppies on them holding a piece of bread to feed the ducks.
We walked, talked, stuck our feet in the still wet grass and made footprints on the pavement. Weaving our way through the complex his voice booming and leading the way as we passed others out exploring on a Sunday morning....in our jammies and pillow hair. Only for him, only with him would I do this. Only because of him do I feel so safe, so adored, so comfortable without my layer of protection....my little bits of armor. Destroyed, any little bit of badass reputation that remained was destroyed by a four year old in puppy jammies.
So in the comments section of my last post fellow blogger, (not wine blogger…there are others, did you all know about this?) AnotherDayofCrazy alerted me that she had tagged me on her latest post. Once I realized that she had not covered me, a photo of me or this blog in graffiti I remembered that I had seen this tag thing once before on my beloved Sara’s blog, Sara In Le Petit Village, (again those linkie things, gotta get me a lesson on how to do that, but she is on my blogroll). So the deal is, someone writes a post about something then they tag a couple people and now they have to, (well you don’t HAVE to but it’s kinda douchey not to) do their own post on the same subject. They then tag a couple folks and so on and so on.
Now I have yet to see this in the wine blog world, but seeing as I only read a handful of them it may in fact be happening and I am just clueless. That or we wine folks are so encased in our little bubble that we have no idea this is happening in the rest of the blogosphere, but seeing as my goal has always been to reach out to people on the other side of the bubble….well I’m gonna play dammit. But Holy-mother-of-all-things-that-make-me-feel-like-more-of-a-freakish-chick why did it have to be shoes?!
There was a time, a time long ago that I was in fact a shoe freak. I was about twenty and making my own money for the very first time. Each dime that did not go to my son and his care went to shoes….the latest, hottest, most worth dropping triple digits on shoes, Nikes. I was a total sneaker freak. I bought pair after pair of white, they were always white, Nikes and would give the “No you did-int stare to anyone that dared to step on my kicks or ding them with their shopping cart. It was an addiction that needed to be addressed. It was ugly, the sweats, the vomiting, the shakes but I was able to emerge victorious and free of my “just a little taste” monkey, the one that would have me sniffing around the Foot Locker scratching my calves, biting my lip and begging to, “Just let me put my toes in for a second”. I would love to say that my family was unscathed but I shamefully admit that my son, my dear sweet son was touched by my habit. He has been working at Dick’s Sports Goods for two years….in the shoe department. He seems to be able to use better than I did but I do get horrendous pangs of guilt when I get the text messages with pictures attached, “Ma which ones you think? These or (second photo) these?”….sigh.
Since kicking my habit those many years ago I pretty much own one pair of black shoes, one pair of brown shoes and a pair of flip flops. I wear them until they literally fall apart, my last two pairs of black shoes ended up splitting across the sole before I finally laid them to rest. Oh and did I mention my toe thing? Okay so I have a “binding” issue. I don’t like things that hold me too tight, this goes for clothes, under garments, men, and shoes. Fuck I waited until my eleven year anniversary to even marry my husband….kinda hard to hold on to and if you hold too tight…doesn’t fit. My clothes are always at least two sizes too big, jammies are often closer to four sizes too big and when it comes to shoes…..well I now buy the right size but I always buy men’s. The very idea of having my toes pinched (shudder) together and crammed into some against nature point…well it just aint ever gonna happen. My mother used to love telling everyone that I would stop dead in my tracks and begin crying if I had a wrinkle in my sock. No words, just a two year old Sam wailing because something in her shoes was making her feel funny…not much has changed in thirty seven years.
So okay AnotherDayofCrazy here we go….
My Brown Shoes I love them but fully understand why some, (read men) hate them. They are dinged to hell, the backs are structurally challenged and the heels wear the fact that I rest my weight on them. Cannot remember when or why I bought these shoes but remember clear as day walking down the steps of a tiny hotel in Cadiz….feeling shy and so not ready to join my massive group of travelers. The females noticing my chunky, squared shoes first…the guys being distracted by my slightly too big brown suit, pumpkin shirt and brown tie. Alliances were formed that first night; me against all the girls and while it pained me I found comfort and acceptance with the dudes that never thought to look at my shoes and loved pulling me around by my tie. As our little gang of divided travelers moved on to Alsace there were more females leaving the nasty shoe-shit talking pack, tired of stumbling around on four inch heels through the cobblestone streets and after a very drunken night in a gay bar in Colmar where somehow my shoes were removed and I tried to force them back on, (thus destroying the spine of my beloved shoes) before cramming my ass in the ONE cab in all of Colmar, with three of my once snarling and whispering female travelers. Drunk, shoes wrecked and the four of us laughing our asses off. Fast forward three years, my next trip to Europe and I am meeting the only other woman on the trip. “I love those shoes” she said as we shook hands, in love…I was in love from that point forward. Broken, scuffed, squared and so very me. These shoes are mine, they wear my life on them and I stand so proud and so confident when my feet are in them.
My Flip Flops Being from Southern California wearing flip flops is just part of the deal. It is the uniform and what we all deem acceptable footwear for anything from hanging on the beach to four star dining. Love it or hate it that is SoCal and I personally love it. I adore getting all glammed up, curling the hair, laying heavy on the eyeliner, wearing the, (too close for my liking) form fitting shirts, curve hugging jeans and hearing the slap-slap-slap as my flip flops accompany me to the hostess station at whatever new hot spot is on my list of, “must see”. Sure there are some fancified versions of the flip flop but these…these are my chosen ones. One look at the underside and you might figure out why…
Bottle opener. My freaking shoes can open a bottle of beer…dude, I am so in.
So my favorite shoes, the ones that make me feel the most sexy, the most sass and the most comfortable…it’s these….
My skin, my toes, (they need a painting I know) but no shoe, no manufactured piece can make me feel more alive, more sexy and more me than these. Living in my skin, looking at the little bits of growth, the rough patch on my big toe that reminds me that I used to dance….the way the veins run down the length of my foot…the way I can cradle my whole heel in the palm of my hand. Sexy, just seems sexy to me. So my most beloved “Hello Lover” shoe thing, well it comes from touching my bare feet…my skin...feeling all the weight and texture...those little rough bits, it's just me.
So now I have to tag someone, keep the game going and see if my beloved wine bloggers can intermingle with the rest of the world so...Ron and Charlie, you're It!
The last couple of days have found me deeply introspective, last couple of weeks really. Just spending a lot of time in my head thinking about what I want, what I should do and what I need to live happily in each and every second of this life of mine. It may have begun percolating when I started writing about my mother, maybe after the wine blog awards dealie, the ex-boyfriend, the visit from a friend I miss terribly, the birthday before forty….maybe it was all of it, but something began the tiny bubbles that now tickle my ears. The bubbles dancing along my jaw the way they do when I plunge my big body deep into the tub, the sizzle as the spheres explode each one whispering some faint concern, condemnation, worry….laugh.
It starts as it has for the past two years, here with this blog. Me wondering if anyone is listening, if anything I say matters and why the hell I feel so drawn to share myself with all of you. Even now as I hear my nails tapping across the keys I wonder who my words will land upon. Are their eyes rolling, am I whining, being a punk, feeling more connected and important than I have any right to be? It’s so funny, everyone praises me for being so fearless to open myself here and the truth is…I am here seeking. I give a piece of myself, chunk by little chunk and hope that somewhere out there someone is picking up one of my pieces, dusting it off, listening to it, caring for it and in some far off distant way, caring for me. Not fearless…needy.
So I pull away from this space when I feel myself spiraling into that cycle. I retreat deeper into my head, begin undressing my mind. Pulling away all the little bits of long ago, of right now, unraveling them like a bandage, letting each piece drop beside me, each strip tattered and wearing a layer of me. My time, my thoughts, my energy….my want. All sitting beside me on the couch like some tiny volcano…each peeled off segment a curvy piece holding my puzzle together. As I sit amidst the little untangled bits of time, energy, memory, lust, love, pain, loneliness, fulfillment…I start to sift through them, picking them up, inspecting them and discarding the ones that are no longer useful or wanted. I found, as I always do when I do this kind of clean sweep of my soul, there was one sticky piece that seems to gum up the rest. One gooey chunk that kind of oozes its power all over the other areas of my life, clouds my vision and knocks me off the path I set myself upon years ago and much like gum in my hair it needs to be cut out in order for the rest to continue growing.
Usually the sticky tangling bit is another person, someone distracting me, stealing my attention and focus, my drive and desire to just be content with what I do have. This time it is in fact a rerun of that old happiness robbing habit, but this time it is not one person…..it’s a bunch of them only they are not the ones causing me grief, it’s my incessant and somewhat juvenile need to please them. As someone that has kind of prided herself on being her own person, following her own rules….well that shit there is simply debilitating and down-right infuriating.
I’ve always felt that this blog is really good for me, it’s a place for me to explore my voice, rant, expose my passion and get myself intertwined with some of the most interesting and amazingly supportive people. It is still that for me but it can also feed the ugly, oozy gunk that messes with my focus and once that starts to set in it begins to wrap its nasty hands around my throat and chokes the voice that I was just beginning to have control over and even beginning to be proud of. I find myself bending my words as not to offend, trying to think of topics that might make people talk no matter how little I personally care about them. At one point a couple of days ago I was so frustrated that I went to the blog and typed in: Parker, Points, Social Media, Interstate Shipping….Talk to me. Pathetic right?!
After the horrible game last night, that loss adding another grumpy chip on my shoulder, I grabbed my ipod and just hit play… “It’s why I am”
“Unlikely to agree”
“It’s why I am”
“Climbing out of my monkey tree”
“It’s why I am”
“The one to make you smile”
“It’s why I am”
“A snake in the woodpile”
“So when my ghost comes to take me from you”
“You can remember the fool that I am”
“Don’t cry Baby. Don’t cry”
“Why I am”
“Still dancing with the Groogrux King”
“We’ll be drinking big whiskey while we dance and sing”
“And when my story ends it’s gonna end with him”
“Heaven or hell, I’m going down with the Groogrux King”
Dave. It was Dave Matthews once again saying the most perfect thing at exactly the right time. I’m telling you Mr. Matthews (goddamn it Google Alert) you are the cure for just about anything.
I hit replay and listened to the song again, lets the words sink in, let them absorb all the yuck I had been feeling and let Dave Matthews remind me that I don’t want to, never wanted to be anything other than what I am. I will not live my life by some standard or ideal, my mother and grandmother were both that kind of woman, they died unhappy, unfulfilled and with years’ worth of stuffed away emotion and desire…fuck that. Not going down like that, not in life and not on this blog.
Gonna just keep posting whatever it is that pops into my tiny brain, not let the number of comments discourage me and see the ever growing number on my stat counter, (thanks for that by the way) as proof that someone is in fact finding my little chunks, listening, caring for them and in the tiniest way for me. Fuck I feel better already.
One rant down God only knows how many more to go….. Faithfully Less Sticky and As Always Yours, Sam
“Well I might be into it if it all tasted like this!” the response from a customer/friend upon taking his first sip of Camille Saves Champagne. We were just about to close Sunday evening and one of my much loved customers stopped by to wish me a happy birthday and maybe share a glass of wine with me. We ran through the wines on the tasting bar together, the ones left over from our Italian vs Cal-Ital tasting on Saturday, and while I found most of them delightful and interesting I was just aching for something a little more….special. I mean this dear man came all the way over to the store just to wish me a happy birthday, the Lakers were going to win, (ahem…dammit) and we were done for the day, that’s pretty much the trifecta of “it’s time to open a bottle of Champagne” right?
I had first poured him some Jean Milan Carte Blanche Blanc de Blancs that was left over from Friday night’s tasting and while it was indeed lovely it had lost some of its sparkle and didn’t quite have the power I was looking for….the power needed to change a, “I don’t really like Champagne” mind. One look in the cold box and I knew instantly which wine was needed, which wine would flip his switch and which wine would wipe the bad taste that was left in my mouth by an appointment earlier in the week.
“We use no Pinot Meunier like they do in Champagne. We know it’s an inferior grape. Been there, done that, didn’t work” to which I explained that there were many houses in Champagne that do not use it either and was rebutted with something like, “Well Moet does” said in a somewhat snarky and accusatory tone. “Well I wouldn’t know as I don’t carry any Moet” I responded and went back to tasting the wine he had poured for me.
“Our Rose gets its color from skin contact, we don’t add still wine for color like they do in Champagne” I sat there tasting and taking notes on the wines which were quite pleasant actually, but he didn’t need to keep reminding me that they were not Champagne, it was apparent. I just sat quietly and listened as this guy did his sales pitch, it’s his gig and he was just doing his job but after the fifth, somewhat incorrect comment that gave Champagne a little bitch slap I felt my feathers ruffling and pointed out his error. This just ended up making things a little worse and once again I was tossed a handful of names; Veuve Clicquot, Mumm, Charles Heidsieck and Taittinger with the same tattletale tone as I got before. “Been there, done that, didn’t work” I responded. I finished tasting, shook his hand and assured him that his wines would continue to have a space in our sparkling wine department.
The whole thing just bugged me. A couple of things about it bugged me really; how about taking a stroll around our bubble department to get an idea what we are all about huh? You’re not making your best impression by rattling off the problem with Champagnes that I don’t think highly enough to stock because um, duh who ya tellin’? Secondly how about not trying to badmouth a region to a person passionately in love with that region….again maybe a stroll around the department would have tipped you off here. I’m sure the guy sees all kind of buyers, the score chasers, the anti-bubble knuckleheads, the people that only drink sparkling wine when they are sitting in an appointment like the one I was in. I’m sure his job is not all that easy and that he was not intentionally trying to irk me but….well he did. Is your wine better than Mumm Cordon Rouge? Maybe, I would put it in the same class as anyway but is your wine better or on par with Camille Saves, hells to the mother effin no. Sorry dude, not even close.
I have been told from time to time that I should include things like Mumm DVX and Schramsberg J. Schram when I write about amazing sparkling wines. I understand that people view these as the best of the best from what California has to offer, and if you say it that way, “You should write about the best sparkling wines from California” then I might consider it but to suggest that I include those wines in the same breath as things like Agrapart Cuvee Venus, H. Billiot Cuvee Julie, Pierre Peters Les Chetillons, wines that fall under the same prestige cuvee umbrella, well I have to tell you, “No dude. Not even close”
I’ve been amazingly lucky in that I get to taste a lot of Champagne and sparkling wine, I not only taste them but I drink them, often. More often than most and in my ten or so years as the buyer for the sparkling wine department I’ve been introduced to the world of difference between the standard and the exceptional. The standard is serviceable, people like it well enough, especially people that occasionally drink bubbles but once you taste exceptional, much like my beloved customer did on Sunday night….well, it changes the scope and the playing field is no longer even.
When I first began my love affair with sparkling wine I was able to slip in a Prosecco, a Cremant d’Alsace or California sparkler once in awhile, just a little something bubbly to hold me over until I found a good enough reason to buy the real stuff. Pretty soon I started getting the same feeling I do when I taste some mass produced yellow label crap, “Not even close” so why bother? You can buy Agrapart and R.H. Coutier Grand Cru for about ten dollars more than Schramsberg, in the case of Agrapart less than ten dollars. Thirty five or forty bucks and you are getting exceptional. The weight, texture, breadth of flavor, the finish that goes on forever, these are the things that simply cannot be copied. I try really hard not to compare sparkling wines from anywhere else in the world to those of my beloved grower Champagnes. I taste each wine and keep in mind that they are not and should not be the same….damn, that is part of what is so sexy about wine but when I get some sales dude in my grill telling me or implying that his wines are in some way superior, well now you are forcing me to compare them and if you had taken a look at my Champagne rack you might have figured this out but…you lose. Are your wines comparable to those from the estates whose names you tossed at me, yup, might even be a little better or at the very least, fresher tasting, but are they better than the wines I champion, stock and drink on a regular basis….no dude, not even close.
As a buyer I try and to be fair, I offer an open palate and space on the shelf to any wine that I think has merit and might please my customers. I do not buy just for me or only wines that I wish to drink, I mean I carry Coppola Sophia for gawds sake and I think that stuff…for me, my palate, well, ewe…. but it is well made and people seem to love it so on our shelves it lives. I don’t hold California sparkling wines to any higher standard than I do my Champagnes when I am thinking about placement; they must be well made, clean, fresh tasting and be able to hold its own with what I already have. The wines I tasted that afternoon do and will have a spot on the shelf for as long as they keep making wines the way they do but….should I flip my rack, mix the sparkling wines from elsewhere in with my artisan bubbles from Champagne….start comparing them to one another the way this salesman was trying to do…sorry dude, not even close.
So I woke this morning feeling a bit cranky, noticed it yesterday too but it was clearly worse this morning. I was getting even more angry at what I perceived as irrational behavior on my part. I hate that crap...the whole being pissy for no reason thing but here I was trying to enjoy my don't-have-to-be-at-work-until-late morning and I was steaming. I read a couple blogs, those really set me off, the crap selection on television was enfuriating me, my morning emails left me feeling less than fulfilled and I got on a tirade about feeling like no one gave a rat's ass. It was out of left field, out of character and absolutely stupid.
The longer I sat the worse I felt and that was when it hit me, I'm not in a bad mood.....I feel like crap. Went to splash some cold water on my face and that was when I noticed how red my cheeks were...oh, oh no, dammit....I'm getting sick. I tried to eat, nothing tasted good. Tried sipping tea which just made me hotter and started the shivers. It was amazing, it was like the second I admitted to myself that I was sick, well the cranky went away and was replaced with a sore throat and slow dull ache in my head. Yay.
I called, (read texted) work and let them know I would be a couple hours late. Why not take the day off you ask? Um, yeah so guess who has to lead a tasting, a Champgane tasting with a throat that feels like I swallowed fire....goddamn it. Not sure what I am more pissed off about; being sick or not being able to enjoy my little grower bubbles. Okay just thinking about that is bringing the cranky back a little....
I’ve been tossing and turning for the last hour and a half. Rolling around beneath my covers trying desperately to avoid making eye-contact with the alarm clock knowing full well that once I saw that it was 3:30 am I would start the countdown in my head. Lie there and calculate how many more hours I would have to fall back into that all too elusive restful and quiet place…sleep. The clock won, the bastard and so here I am trying to purge myself of the thoughts that began slamming themselves against the sides of my melon, flashing little photos on my tightly closed eyelids and leaving me wondering why the fuck I was thinking about shrimp scampi at 4:00 in the morning….oh what the hell?!
Got home from my long and painfully slow day at work yesterday feeling pretty much like someone had put me through a meat grinder; my thought processes were fragmented at best, my grin and sass were missing in action and my body sore and covered in “where did that come from?” bruises. Someone had in fact put me through the proverbial wringer, it was me.
Friday morning I woke with this schizophrenic feeling of elation and doom. Thrilled that my beloved Amy and her husband Sexy Bitch were going to be in town, been missing them something fierce and no matter how many emails, calls and text messages there is just nothing like wrapping your arms around someone you love. The doom part was coming from the fact that I had agreed to meet with an ex-boyfriend, (the one that showed up at The Wine Country after twenty years….the one that Googled me) to listen to what it was he HAD to tell me. This was freaking me out far worse than I was willing to admit. After our brief chat in the store the calls and messages on facebook started coming fast and furious, we are talking back to back cell phone calls followed by calling me at work….he wanted to meet again. The intensity felt like it was coming out of left field, I mean it had already been twenty years what couldn’t wait a week or two? And I felt my tummy knot up with memories of another ex that demanded I pay attention to him, demanded it by breaking into my home, running my car off the road and taking a bat to the side of my head on a public street. I swore years ago not to let that fear envelop me again, promised myself that being fearless was to bring me far more than fearful ever would but….well this was feeling a little too familiar.
I knew I had better handle the situation sooner rather than later, if there were a bunch of crap built up it was probably better to just face it head on, listen, explain and let him get it off his chest. Did not help that my loved ones and coworkers started to freak out a little too, “You’ve been through this once already don’t do it again” Randy warned when I told him about it…yup, that helps thanks. So my plan was to scoot out of work a half hour early and meet the ex at the same place I was going to be meeting Amy and her hubby, brilliant right? They know me there and my troops would be arriving soon, safe it felt safe. I ended up getting there about ten minutes before he did, a wreck…I was a nervous wreck. So how does one combat those nerves while sitting at a bar, yeah the ten minute martini is how. I let the icy cold gin warm me from the inside out, soothe me and yeah okay it was total liquid courage…not healthy or smart but in the moment it felt like the right thing to do. Got my second martini and had just begun to sip it when he arrived.
I was all lubed up by that first drink and slowly sipped on the second as this blast from my past started telling me what it was that had him blowing up my cell and mailbox, he was sorry. Sorry that he treated me badly when we were teenagers. I sat there listening, thinking it was sweet and all but also found myself wondering why he was feeling this burden. I never saw it as anything more than teenage bullshit, the shit we all endure and somehow survive….”Um, you were far from the worst” I tried to assure him but he just went on and on, think he might have practiced the whole speech or something. Just when I thought I had surely stumbled upon, (or was having it forced upon me is more like it) someone in the middle of one of their “steps” he ordered and rum and coke. Nope, just wanted to say sorry. Once purged and nearing the end of his own lubricant he was far more relaxed which in turn took the last little bit of my own edge off. How best to celebrate, yeah more drinks.
It was fantastic really. The getting caught up, the laughing at old stories, the slight flirtation that happens when an old love resurfaces, just fun and as the sauce kept flowing the rest of my party arrived. Now this was the only real hiccup of the evening, the blending of two very different lives is not always smooth sailing. It ended up being fine, least to me but three martinis tend to rose color your glasses a bit. I stayed true to form and avoided the whole eating thing…always a problem for me. If I don’t eat early I just skip it which of course is helpful when you are already three martinis in…ugh. To say that I felt like ass Saturday morning is a gross understatement.
Got into work Saturday morning, fuzzy and beyond queasy but needed to ready myself for my tasting of wines from Chablis and Macon. I pulled the wines, chilled a few bottles of each and began popping corks to pick the order. Now I’m not sure if any of you have ever had to taste Chablis at room temp with a raging hangover….rough. I stopped spitting after the third wine, not for the whole hair-of-the-dog thing but because the bending over to spit in the bucket was just pushing it. Got the wines in order and pounded water and iced coffee. Was a bit of a crappy turnout for the tasting which pissed me off and made me even more committed to that whole Mission Not Impossible deal. I am sure the holiday weekend didn’t help, the store was kind of slow in general but I took it personally that no one cared to taste my beloved Chardonnays…got to work harder to change their minds. The people that did show loved the wines and it was the Herve Azo 1er Cru Vau de Vey Chablis that took the rock star spot for the afternoon. Brilliant, deep, doughy, expansive and with a finish that went on for-ev-er.
Began feeling better around three and was on my way home by a quarter to five to watch my Lakers close the Western Conference Finals. Very quiet evening as Amy and Sexy Bitch had plans with other friends. Recovering, I spent the evening recovering. Sunday morning was full of tasks and seeing as I was a grown up the night before it was a productive and easy day. Now Sunday evening was going smooth enough until I met a wild kid named Frankie at our Sunday watering hole/dinner spot….he was from Ireland. Any guesses as to how that went?
Monday morning up early and on our way to meet Amy & Sexy Bitch for breakfast at our beloved Tracy’s. Now Tracy’s is a bar but the food is really, really good and they have this gawd awful breakfast dish called The Mess that Amy simply loves. This thing is a split biscuit topped with grilled onions, bacon, hashbrowns, scrambled eggs and covered….covered in sausage gravy. Makes me gag just thinking about it, (I am so very anti white gravy….shudder) and top that with a night of Frankie and Jamison shots…yeah not so easy that. We sipped away of a magnum of Pierre Peters which was stunning with my Eggs Benedict; added a yeasty almost saline like complexity to my rich breakfast, perfect. I was beginning to feel human again when we all piled in our cars to head over to Merritt’s for a lounge in the sun. We had a few more hours before Amy had to board a plane back to Dallas and we took full advantage of the lovely afternoon and her well stocked liquor cabinet.
A teary goodbye as my dear friend climbed into her rental car and headed to the airport, the sun, the excess of the past couple days and I was simply spent. Came home and fell right into bed only to have the hubby wake me up, “Honey it’s time to go” he urged. ‘Oh okay I am up” I responded thinking it was Tuesday and I needed to get ready for work…um, nope dinner with the neighbors, still Monday…..whimper.
Woke up yesterday not at all hungover but simply exhausted. Too much, the weekend was way too much and you know what….I’m too old for that shit. I hate to admit it but that thing that happens when you get older, that less resilient thing, well it’s is happening to me and here is another thing…I’m okay with that. I didn’t party when I was younger, never had those crazy college days or bar hopping thing in my twenties. I was raising a child and took that job very seriously, there was no, “Momma be back” at our house, I was home at night with my son and skipped/missed that period when people seem to have learned their lesson or got the party out of their system. I didn’t even have my first martini until I was in my mid thirties…late bloomer I guess and while I still love them, will still partake from time to time I am just getting too old to party like an aging rock star. Think it is time to hang up the shots and move on….
Saturday I am ringing in the last year of my thirties, I am turning thirty-nine and this is what was looping around in my head at the wee small hours of the morning as I twisted and turned beneath the sheets. I’ve been remarkably lucky. I know that some of my past has been tainted with ugly but each year of my life seems to be paying me back for all of that. Sure it was a fight to get here but a fight I would chose again given the option. The things I’ve learned, the people I have met and the richly complex relationships I now find myself in….well, it was worth it, worth all of it. I welcome each new vintage with open arms, a wide open heart and now, well now with a much clearer head.
Make no mistake I am not taking the cure or giving up drinking, not even willing to say I won’t still find myself in the throes of excess from time to time, I mean who am I kidding but I do find that with each year I get more pleasure in the things that engage me rather than things that fuzzy my receptors. The past year has seen me back away from my once crave-inducing margaritas opting instead for gin martinis straight up with pickled onions. Even my Pastis time has been peppered with things like Amaro, Chinato and Pimm’s….preferring the long slow sip to the guzzle. Finding that I get lit up by the “Holy crap that’s interesting” rather than just lit. This weekend was just a confirmation of sorts, no going back and truth be told…I don’t wanna!
So there you have it, the confessions of a weekend warrior that left her desire for that kind of “party” on the battlefield. It’s not fun, my body punishes me and frankly there are much cooler things to spend my time and palate space pondering. Happily as I roll into this next stage the store has been finding a bunch of wicked cool new spirits, things made from violets, ginger and cardamom, new bitters and a bunch of my now much beloved digestifs….and this soon to be thirty-nine year old is ready to be stimulated.
This now ends the early morning ramble....sheesh, sorry kids!