Tuesday, August 31, 2010

An Open Heart & A Shut Down Wine

I sheepishly checked the work schedule the second I saw the “Going to be in your area” email from friend and fellow blogger Another Day of Crazy http://anotherdayofcrazy.blogspot.com/ . I had been reading her blog for a couple months and she has been kind enough to be doing the same with mine. We had a very clear kinship and some freakishly similar parallels in our lives, not the least of which was a passion for wine and she had mentioned wanting to come by The Wine Country to do a little shopping while she was in town on a mini vacation of sorts. I of course was absolutely elated and wanted to spend some time with her….problem, her only time to visit was Saturday. Crud.

Saturdays at The Wine Country are our busiest day as I am sure it is with many retailers, the store is packed, we have our tasting and it is the day when all our buyers have the opportunity to tell people about their new discoveries and assist with gift buying, food pairing and whatnot. It’s a day when all hands are “on deck” as it were and having a lean staff means that taking a Saturday off is just a little too difficult…for everyone. Once I remembered that one of the team had a class that afternoon I knew that taking the day off was simply out of the question, the good news however was that I was not scheduled to close so I would be able, assuming that there was nothing needed of me, to cut out early and spend the couple free hours Another Day of Crazy had before her next commitment. Yay.

We made our plans and somewhere in the dash of back and forth emails there must have been some sort of mix up. I had mentioned that she should pop by around 3:00, that would give her enough time to taste through the wines we were pouring and seeing as the store is much more manageable after 4:00, when the tasting ends, I would be able to leave with her when it was over. Um, so like I said….little miscommunication and she arrived shortly after 1:00…when the tasting was just beginning. I felt a little pang of “Oh no” when I saw the tiny frame and sweet face come marching through the door. Head spinning and seeing a smirk, much like my own…go figure, spread across that face when she laid her eyes on me. I knew it had to be her, (She has no picture on her blog so she had to be the one looking for me not the other way around) and with my heart racing…both with the slight nervousness of coming face to face with someone you kind of know but have never met, and with the tiny bit of panic of knowing this poor woman had come all this way to meet me but the store was going to need me for at least the next three hours, I handed her a glass and simply said, “Welcome girlie”.

It ended up working out perfectly. Another reader/customer/friend was there and took my wee buddy under her wing a bit; introduced her around, took her to the table where the snacks were and as a long time taster just seemed to make Another Day of Crazy feel right at home while I was busy pouring and chatting up other customers. Before I knew the tasting was coming to a close, my visiting buddy was savoring the Barolo we were pouring and the mayhem was beginning to clear. Perfect. A quick scan of the sales floor assured me that I was fine to punch out and begin a real visit with the woman that had come there to meet me. She and I walked the floor a little and she picked up a couple of bottles of wine to take back with her but…well I just thought an occasion like this deserved a bit more of a celebration and I wanted to thank my other friend for being so welcoming to my newest buddy. How best to extend my gratitude to both of them, yeah you know what’s coming…Champagne.

I recalled Another Day of Crazy mentioning that she was not really a Champagne fan in response to one of my posts, but being the bubble lover I am I simply took that to mean that she had not had the good fortune to taste a really good one. Quick scan of the cold box and there it was. My Golden Ticket wine from a couple weeks ago, an icy cold bottle of NV Pierre Peters Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, fate I saw it being there as fate. I had just written about it, she had read it and my other buddy is an absolute fan, like I said fate. Standing there in the now nearly empty tasting room two Champagne lovers and one “Not so much a fan of” clinked glasses and toasted new friendships.

Absolutely thrilling for me to watch my wee buddy spin and sniff the Champagne out of one of our tasting glasses which is basically a Bordeaux glass, (and damn near bigger than she was) see her take it between her lips, watch as her eyes grew twice as wide. Shocked, she looked completely shocked. Now I suppose she could have just been yanking our chain when she told us how much she loved it but something in her face…the energy in her voice had us long time lovers of the bubble feeling like we had just witnessed a birth. As someone with a real passion for our little grower Champagnes it quite literally makes my heart soar when I can shine a light on or turn someone on to how truly fantastic they are. The Peters was showing brilliantly; roasted citrus, buttery pie crust, faint seashells and a very precise and powerful finish. One hell of a very serious wine….

“You know what she needs to taste now?” my other bubble lover said with a grin that assured me that I was in for quite the evening, “Billiot”. Knowing that Another Day of Crazy’s time was limited I asked a staff member to put the Pierre Peters and a bottle of H. Billiot Brut Rose on a hold ticket for me to pay the next day, poured the rest of the Blanc de Blancs for another customer that was milling about the tasting room, (was he elated) and for the staff as a refresher, chucked the Rose in my purse and we all headed over to, yeah you know what’s coming…Tracy’s.

Another Day of Crazy and I arrived first and chatted over cold martinis before the others got there. Truly amazing how reading someone’s blog does in fact build friendships, I felt as if we had known each other for years and our conversation shifted from niceties to the very personal seamlessly. Guess the Champagne probably didn’t hurt either. Other players now tucked in beside us at the table we got an ice bucket and flutes for the Billiot Rose….fucking flutes. Another toast, a quick sniff…nada, got nada on the nose, and a little sip and I was right back in my martini. All the sumptuous, curvy, mind-bending, sexy as hell, palate seducing fruit in the Billiot was reduced to fizzy pink stuff in a pretty shaped glass. Not only was the nose smothered the flavor in the wine fell way short when sipped through that tiny opening…sucked. For me to leave half a glass of one of my favorite Champagnes…like ever, choosing instead to sip away on the much more expressive gin in my martini, well if that is not a testament to glassware making a difference I’m not sure what is.

Another Day of Crazy, it was so very lovely to meet you, taste, laugh and talk with you. You are a very down chick and as was my assumption, I dug ya. Thanks for making the time to come visit, shop and taste at The Wine Country and for what I am sure was the ration of shit you ended up hearing after being late because you were playing with me at Tracy’s! You are absolutely adorable and I cannot wait to do it again….next time it’s Billiot out of big glasses for us.

Friday, August 27, 2010

You Just Never Know

“I like right bank Bordeaux, I think it’s the softer fruit and less tannin that I like…can you help me pick one?” a sweet faced, slightly nervous customer’s answer when I asked if he needed any help. I directed him to the 2008 Chateau Falfas Les Demoiselles Cotes de Bourg, opting to key into the flavors and texture that pleased him rather than the place. As we stood there he shared a story about being at a blind wine tasting (insert rolling eyes here) and he confessed that he got every single wine wrong. “It was just guessing the variety, not place or vintage or anything. Just guessing the grape and I got them all wrong” he told me. I could tell he was a tad embarrassed so I tried to soothe him as best I could, “I think I would get many wrong too. Plus you never really know how or why certain wines were chosen, I mean they could have slipped a Cabernet Franc from the Loire or a Sauvignon Blanc from Tuscany into the mix…that can throw off your guessing for sure” I said while watching his nervousness slither off leaving in its place a beaming, reassured dude. “Know what was funny?” he asked “My favorite wine of the night was a Cabernet Sauvignon. I always thought I didn’t like Cabernet” he grinned as we walked up to the counter. You just never know….

I used to have a friend that was very…set in her ways. She would not try new foods, talk to new people or even go out very often. This always perplexed me so one day…being the super cool friend (insert rolling eyes here) that I am, I decided to ask (read challenge) her about it. She was painfully looking over the menu at a restaurant that we had been to like a billion times before. Just woefully weighing her options, rattling off things like, “Maybe I’ll get the________ this time”. I sat there watching her, seeing the fear and mild panic set in. I laid my menu on the table, sat back in my chair and said, “You’re going to get the cheese enchiladas. You always get the cheese enchiladas. Why do you put yourself through this every time?” this moment marked the beginning of me pulling away from a “friendship” that had long since run its course.

“I like them. They are always good and what if I order something that I don’t like?!” she snapped back. “What if you order something you like better?” I said the irritation in my voice matching hers. This very uncomfortable but much needed “Ladies lunch” went from a somewhat phony (on my end) civility to me just drilling her and her lashing back at me with a flurry of “What ifs?” kind of ugly but I just didn’t get it. I let the inquisition fly, this woman was older than I was, like I said, very set in her ways and I knew even as the questions flew from my snarling lips that I would never really get an answer, never change her, (not that it is my place to do so) but I think I hoped that I would, at the very least, alert her or shine a light on what I saw as very limiting behavior. You just never know….

These thoughts we racing through my head this morning, 5:30 AM and this…this is what my mind feels like doing, ugh. I tried to trick my brain into going back to sleep but the squeezing of my eyelids wasn’t fooling, um…me. I just could not get out of my head all that I would have never tasted, the people I would have never met or love that I would have never felt if I never tired. I once met a man that would show me the most spiritual, the most overwhelming, the most frustrating…the single most powerful and beautiful love I have ever known. The situation or situations I should say, that surrounded the relationship marked it for failure from the beginning. I knew it, I’m sure on some level he knew it too but, fuck sometimes reason is no match for love and this one…well reason never stood a chance. That one year of my life would teach me so much; things that I learned to love about myself, hate about myself, an expression of sensuality and sexuality more intense than I ever thought possible…pain that at one point actually made me feel like my heart was literally going to rip from my chest just to be near him, my breath seemingly holding me hostage…refusing to leave my lungs until I let it go.

I thought of him this morning, let his smell, his touch, his laugh slip back inside me and as I felt the tears wriggle past my firmly closed lids and dangle from my earlobes I asked myself…knowing all that I know now, would I give myself over to him again? Relive the longing, the loneliness, the abandonment, that heart stopping pain? Absolutely. The answer was absolutely. It was a truly remarkable love….to experience that amazing feeling, I had to take that chance, live with what happened, all worth it.

That first terrifying trip to Europe, meeting blog readers, swallowing that first oyster, taking that glass of Alsatian wine in my “non-wine drinker’s” hand….all things that were way out of my comfort zone, things that could have had a different outcomes…but if I hadn’t tried my life would be very different now. You just never know…..

I finally gave up on sleep, slipped out of bed and walked into my dark and quiet kitchen. My reliving great love eyes red and puffy, I began gathering the week’s bottles to dump into the recycling box. My fingers laced around the empty necks of the wines that shared themselves with me. I dropped them one by one into the bin and as the labels flashed past me I saw them; Chateau Canorgue Luberon Rose, Zaca Mesa Z Gris, Piron Brouilly, Chidaine Touraine, Bebame, Joel Delaunay Touraine, Ken Volk Pinot Noir….three out of seven domestic.

“I don’t much like California wines”
You just never know….

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sometimes It's Stoopid Not To Keep It Simple

So after all this tomato bread talk I walked into work yesterday and saw another bowl of Dale’s vibrant and utterly perfect tomatoes sitting in a big plastic bowl atop one of the stainless steel counters in the kitchen. I saw this as a sign and a much needed and oh so appreciated, easy out as to the, “What should I make for dinner” question. A big platter of crunchy, chewy grilled bread bathed in summer tomato juice and bits of pulp with a side of some sort of animal flesh, the hubby not thinking it is dinner unless a beast of some kind gave their life for it and all. Freaking sweet, one less thing to nag away at me while I got caught up after three days off. I am always a little stressy when I jump into work mid week, one would think having three days off would leave you all relaxed and junk….and if it were say, Saturday through Monday I might be but for me Wednesday morning means many a deadline for placing orders in time to get them there by the weekend. Stressy.

After a thirty minute, and frankly absolutely adorable conversation with my boss I looked up to see one of my reps walking towards my desk. Now I love this cat, have often called him my favorite sales rep but…..well let’s just say urgency aint his specialty. Funny when you think about the fact that he was there to get an order from me….by a certain time so it could make it down from Northern California by Friday. I sat there amidst my to-do lists, little Post-it notes with, “Look into. Find” or “Call” from my Randy conversation creating a little frame around my packed calendar when he pulled up a chair beside me and said, “So what’s up? You need anything from me?” if I didn’t love him my head may have exploded. “Um, you think you could do an inventory for me?” which most other reps do before coming to me for an order, “Just behind the eight ball a little this morning” I told him while scribbling out a cheese order for the lady that was bound to call any minute. “Already done” he said with a grin while flipping out his little organizer dealie. Turns out that he had walked the floor and seen what was depleted over the weekend and compiled a list while I was on the phone with Randy. Freaking sweet again!

The rest of the afternoon seemed to fall into place like that, just when I was beginning to wig out something would just slip right in and smooth things over, love it when that happens. Even the appointment, (the one I didn’t know about) that walked through the front door with what looked like two suitcases stuffed with open bottles of wine, my eyes searching the calendar and trying to place the face. “Samantha, hi it’s” flashback to a week or so earlier when Randy told me, “I have a friend, old restaurant guy that I used to sell wine to, well he is working for an importer now…” oh dammit, why today?! Now knowing that Randy must have made the appointment without knowing that my day was going to be packed, I walked from behind the counter, big grin (and not even the “the back of my head is about to explode” eyes bugging kind) and extended my hand to the man I was going to spend the next….shit, least an hour looking at the size and girth of those bags…with. “So nice to meet you” was still falling out of my mouth as this guy grabbed my extended hand and brought it to….his lips. He kissed my hand. Dude, talk about getting off on the wrong foot.

While I might be able to look back on the ultra dusty file-of-shit-chicks-dig, that often sits dormant for months on end and appreciate the gesture…the whole exchange just skeeved me out and left me feeling like I was covered in cheese, and not the yummy artisan kind either. “Okay well Ronnie is finishing up his appointment so when he is done we can start tasting” I said while backing away and trying to process what had just happened. Okay first of all take a look around dude, dirty cardboard boxes, price guns that are fondled by many and money, these are things I have been handling….with my hands all morning, not even I, as its owner can tell you where that hand has been all day. Ewe. Secondly I don’t much care for being made to feel like a “Little Lady” when I am the one that is about to decide whether or not you are going to be getting a paycheck from us. If I were a dude would you have slapped my ass or something? Think not……so let’s just take gender out of the equation alright? Skeeved and irked, fantastic start.

There was about thirty minutes between the, mouth on hand action and me actually plunking down at the tasting table. I was a bit less irked and trying not to hold it against the guy. Pen and paper at the ready I began taking notes on the first wine, then the second, third….and as I was working my way through what turned out to be some very nice wines; solid and very fairly priced I noticed something, the kissing bandit was doing exactly the right things. Speaking briefly not chattering, pouring me a rinse on each wine….also dumping that rinse into his own glass and swirling it before dumping, something very communal and warmly professional about that to me. No pomp and circumstance, just two people tasting wine together. His conversation was tight and precise, nothing flowery or over the top and he had the aire of someone that had been on my side of the table for a very long time. By the time we were finished I had some new wines to bring in the store and a new found respect for him. Almost freaking sweet! He did however kiss my hand again on the way out…dude, hope you are prepared for the bawl breaking you will be getting on the next visit.

The rest of the day kind of went the same way, minor freak outs that ended up working out perfectly. The big sale of some high end California wines, the one that I rung up, the one that we figured out I made a mistake on while doing a random….almost never done inventory check. The one we were able to fix without harm or foul, inventory corrected and customer’s card credited without him even knowing. Me grumbling while merchandising a coworker’s five high case stack of “Why does he need so much of this $26.00 Merlot?!” to have another coworker figure out that it was a special order and us pulling it off the floor before selling any. My hectic day taking me off my “A” game but a team that works so well together that we avoided any missteps….freaking sweet!

I clocked out for the day and strolled around my department, stopping here and there to dust off a bottle or straighten a case stack while searching for the wine that would not only pair with my animal protein of choice, pig…went with the hubby’s beloved pig, but would match the mood and feel of the day. Easy, Beaujolais. My once hated, “How can you drink this crap?” wine that was able to sway me…teach me. I was always able to pick a Gamay out right away, even the times when Randy would try and trick me. “Sam come here and try this Anjou rouge” long before I had any idea that they grew Gamay in the Loire Valley, nose in the glass and an immediate scrunched ick face. I hated it, just hated all of it but one day, the right day it all clicked for me.

I had spent five days in Burgundy tasting nothing but super young, highly acidic and down-right gum stripping wines. My teeth were aching and my palate was just crushed by the time we made our way into Beaujolais and the very idea of having to take red wine between my lips had me cringing…wincing. Seeing as I was on an importer trip not tasting was, well it was NOT an option so I ran my tongue across my teeth, giving them a little, “I’m so sorry” hug of sorts and reached for the glass of faintly purple wine that was placed before me. The second that supple, easy blast of fresh fruit skipped across my acid worn palate it was as if I was getting a hug too. Pleasure, it was a pure pleasure to feel, to taste and happily swallow. Switch flipped. Got it. Still get and am now in love.

As I tore into the smoky, crunchy, slightly oily, dripping with fresh tomato, piece of bread I reached beside me…slipped the stem of my glass between my fingers as not to muck it up with my oiled encased digits, I brought the 2007 Domaine Piron Brouilly to my lips. The blast of fresh fruit, the suppleness, the completeness of its simplicity, the massive amount of tart red fruit uncomplicated by oak or tannin, gentle…inviting, easy. Each grapey gulp washing away the layers of my complicated but in the end….very good day. Sometimes, well sometimes it’s just stoopid not to keep it simple.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Seeking A Little Balance

“Oh Gawd Ma, that is so good” Jeremy back in 2003 when I made him a batch of one of the best things I had eaten in Spain, tomato bread. Now Jeremy was never a fan of the slippery little fruit, in fact outside of salsa he never ate them and as suspected it was a texture issue. I once had a friend that was completely repulsed by tomatoes and whenever asked why he would say, “They don’t seem like they’re finished” that comment always made sense to me, I happen to love them but I can see how one might see those goo covered seed deals as like tiny tomato embryos or something….ick. Truth is I have my own issues with them, when they are out of season they simply suck and I can’t use them, when in season they can be a little sweet to my highly sweet sensitive palate. Easy enough to fix, I douse them in lemon juice and a good clip of salt, all that lovely flavor without the sweetness. So I never forced Jeremy to eat them and could tell he was dreading the Spanish tomato bread the second I announced I was making it. Poor kid I am sure he was picturing something like Bruschetta but even back then the kid was ever supportive and kind of a foodie (yeah I hate that word but it is the one most used so I am using it) so he was willing to give it a try. Imagine his elation when I brought out a plate of crispy grilled bread that had been brushed with olive oil, rubbed with a cut clove of garlic and simply smeared with the cut side of a fresh tomato. Crunchy, spicy (from the fresh garlic) and cooled down, revived by the acidity of the tomato juice. That one plate of my newest loved food would set in place a palate that would forever seek balance and a precedence…always make a double batch of Spanish tomato bread.

I’ve been struggling with balance a lot as of late. Balance in time, energy, love, friendship, work, this blog…feel like I have been walking a thin, fine wire about to be knocked off at any second which I must confess has left me feeling a little panicked, exhausted and afraid to make any sudden moves but…a move needs to be made before everything snaps, including me. So I’ve been doing what any sane grown up does in this type of situation, ignoring it. Choosing instead to pout and retreat a little….which of course makes me feel lonely. Crazy, feel like I have been living in Crazy Town the past couple weeks. After my forced shut down the other night and the subsequent, “Oh man, me too” comments I heard after I knew it was time to stop avoiding, start facing things head on and deal with any snappage when it comes. My first attempt was a complete and utter failure.

I had the opportunity to have a quick visit with my beloved Amy, she and her hubby were in San Diego for a work thing but they had a few hours Sunday morning before they flew back to Dallas. We had planned on her driving up to meet at our much loved Tracy’s but her hubby thought there might be an issue with her getting back on time so vetoed that via text message as I was getting ready for my early morning date. I walked into the kitchen, face half painted, still in my jammies and poured myself a Pastis. Best idea so early in the morning? No. Smartest thing considering I had been walking a tightrope for weeks? Absolutely not but it’s what I did. Truth be told I was trying to spare the hubby the boo hoo fest that was beginning to puddle against my lower eyelids. You know you are in a crappy place when your husband emerges from the shower and makes his way to the kitchen stops to look at you and says, “Fuck you are so beautiful” and the first thing that sputters out of your mouth is, “Oh please. You’re high”….funny he didn’t mention how charming I am right? I told him about the cancellation and felt his little funk follow him back to the bedroom to get dressed. Again he emerges and says, “Well we could go down there and meet them”….have I mentioned he should be sainted? So turns out booze on an empty belly, anxiety and loneliness are a treacherous combination….any thought that I had of unloading some of my crap and having her help me sort it out went right out the window the second we popped a bottle of Chidaine Rose…before lunch. The wine went down so beautifully sitting there in their open and airy room at the resort, seeing their faces, being close to them….tears. So much for keeping my shit together or trying to talk about my issues…failure but not yet ready to quit.

I felt the same bullshit weighing heavy on me this morning. The feeling like I need to get back onboard with the whole social media thing, not knowing how or where to start... not as much for this blog…although it has always been written with The Wine Country in mind, but to find ways to promote our store…make people notice. I hopped on a few other blogs, tried to read them but for the most part could not, cannot see the point of chiming in with “Great post X!” after scanning the uninspiring marketing chatter of someone trying to sell themselves. I don’t have a problem with them doing so but they don’t need me, there is a virtual sea of others skimming and congratulating each other…I’m not buying, I’m not a magazine editor looking for the next new yawn inducing voice and with their boxes of free samples they aren’t looking for a place to shop. Minor breakthrough in the balance of time, only visit that which you actually enjoy reading, learn something from or might actually do the store some good. Hooray.

The heat was driving me nuts but the hubby was hooked up to his phone for the whole afternoon and not feeling at all like making a lunch run I scoured the freezer and fridge to see what I might be able to come up with. Found some sausage, white onion, beer, stock and buns….perfect. Sliced the onions while the beer and stock came to a simmer, plunked in the sausages and onions and covered them until they were cooked through. I removed the lid and while everything thing was getting brown and toasty it hit me….sweet onions, rich sausage and soft buns….out of balance. Had nothing in the crisper, no veggies to add so I looked to the condiment section of the fridge. A little mayo, finely grated Parm, big splash of lemon, Dijon mustard and a couple shakes of hot sauce. A feisty sauce to combat the richness. I stood there assembling sandwiches for Call-o and after my sandwich updates on Facebook, for my neighbors and I felt really grounded….like my mind was clicking in the right direction and my focus was coming back a little.

My life is about balance, finding time to love all those that I do with as much as I have. Learning how to balance my snarky sense of humor with working the sales floor. Writing here for this blog and for the obviously more professional newsletter…learning how not to feel guilty when one needs me more. Being a growing public voice while still being a spokesperson for The Wine Country….being sensual and being a mother….selling wines that I may not love but to those that absolutely do. All of it requires balance and as I sit here, my toes gripping the thin, fine wire once again, glass of 2009 Chateau Canorgue Cotes du Luberon Rose bringing life to my heat weary palate, the fruit, minerals and fierce acidity making each little sip a perfect one… letting the little beads of condensation formed by the sweating glass slip down my chest….I feel like I can take each step forward, arms extended, little bounce in my step, swing of my hips…flip of my snarky lip and proclamation of, “you are going to love this” even when I don’t. I can do this…fuck I need this and I’m just not willing to give any of it up.

Friday, August 20, 2010

That's The Ticket

With the loud buzzing and furiously huffing hot air from my blow-dryer scooping up batches of my damp hair and depositing them warm and vibrating across my brow, along the back of my neck, dangling along my collarbone I saw it. I stood there in my jammies, my eyes tired….weary, my body feeling like I had been training for a marathon, (um, okay that’s bullshit, I have NO idea what that would feel like. I mean c’mon who are we kidding but I was physically spent) drying my hair after taking a much needed and appreciated moment of quiet in the shower and the reflection in the mirror over my left shoulder there it was, my bed. I clicked the off switch on my now hot and abnormally loud blow-dryer, spun around and took a couple steps closer to the place that I begrudgingly stumble off too, often far too late in the evening/morning…the place that since childhood I had seen as an enemy, a place you ended up surrendering to and….well it looked so damn inviting.

The pillows still squished and askew from the night before, the bedspread in a lump at the foot, the sheets crumpled but swaying a bit in the breeze that was coming off the fan in the open window…the moon casting a bright but soft light on the deserted basketball court, and the faint smell of warm cement catching the wave of outside air, skidding across the quivering sheets and inviting me to come closer. I glanced at the clock and literally felt my heart sink deep in my chest, 10:30. “I can’t go to bed at 10:30! Hell there are nights when I am heading out to meet someone for drinks or a glass of wine at 10:30. What am I eighty?!” But I didn’t walk away. No in fact I took another step closer….and another and another. The sound of the television in the front room now just faint enough to keep me company, the early morning meeting, the eleven hour workday, the foiled attempt at hot tub time, (not so relaxing when a couple twenty something Euro hard bodies, in Speedos no less, a couple in shorts and t-shirts…and beer bring their 3 kids to your stolen moment of bubbling hot water, wine and relaxation under the moon) the screaming-to-compete with the fan television in the front room and yet another failed attempted at communication which resulted in a fight with someone I love very deeply. All of it now standing behind me, the accumulative weight of each feeling like two giant paws now resting squarely on my shoulders, the sheer mass of it all slowly pushing me closer until, I surrendered.

It’s been one hell of a couple weeks for me, some of it good and some not so much but rolling with the punches is an art I learned to master years ago. Things rarely get me down for too long and I can ride those high times for weeks on end but lately the yanking of up and down has been so dramatic. Almost violent spikes of elation and deflation often leaving me wondering if I am right side up or upside down…trying desperately to find a still second to figure it out. Last night that, “Still second” asserted itself, demanded that I shut down for just one evening….just shhhhh. It started with my body, me feeling as if it was moving without me, taking each step closer to the place where it was to lay, still, untouched…not wanting to be noticed or even to expend one more ounce of effort…..shhhh. Next it was my mind, one minute it was buzzing in fragmented blips, none coherent or complete enough for me to make any sense of it….to solve, fix, and prepare for anything. My mind slowly began shutting down the open tabs. One by one the projects; the things I wish I had said, the orders I need to place, the email I was drafting….each one shutting down one after another….each one vanishing into the shhhhh.

When I woke this morning I found myself still safely tucked away where I had left me, curled up on my left side, the sheets weaved between my thighs, the too-soft-to-rest-your-head-on pillow pressed closely to my chest, my arms tightly hugging it close to me….still in the shhhhh, for a minute. The second I moved my body my mind began opening the tabs once again but somehow…somehow they seemed a little more in focus, a little easier to make out and manage. As I made my way to the kitchen to jump into a cup of coffee I passed my little wine fridge, its gaping holes a reminder that I need to do a little shopping and as I breezed by a little gold caught my eye. I stepped back, took the second to look instead of promising myself to check it out later and to my surprise I saw something that will be my high to ride for the rest of the day….my golden ticket, a bottle of Pierre Peters Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs tucked away and forgotten about. I yanked it from its hiding spot and slipped it into my fridge, no matter what the rest of this day holds for me….I am going to spend this evening touching, loving, admiring and tasting a truly great love…….

Bring it
What you got?
I have a grand night’s sleep and
A Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Doing It Again And Taking Orders

Re-posting, not ala summer reruns but because I have been getting requests for re-orders of this wicked elixir. This is by special order only so if you want some....gotta reach out kids. Let me know either here or in my email and as your ever ready wine slinger....I will get you some but do not expect to walk through the door and find it. It's wicked, it's badass, sexy as hell but the opportunity to get your hands and lips on it is rare. Taking orders through the rest of the week and then....sorry, sold out.

It was with me on my drive home from work last night. My stomach had been a little upset all day, not horrible just a little off, I slammed a little Marvin Gaye in the CD player….something soothing, comforting, distracting. I turned my little red car onto Westminster Blvd, “Make me wanna holler” creeping its way up my back and delivering some much needed relief to my way too tight shoulders…damn, just something about Marvin. I was letting my thoughts of work slip safely into the back of my mind as Marvin’s soulful voice carried forward what was next, “What should I make for dinner?”

Ran down the list of requirements while my head swayed back and forth in time with the music, “Not too complicated. Not too rich. Something that won’t further upset my touchy tummy” this was when it popped into my head for the second time of the day….”I would love a little digestif” I happen to be a great lover of digestif, hell I even make my own when I am lucky enough to get my hands on large bunches of aromatics herbs. Last year Randy’s wife Dale brought me giant sacks of herbs from her garden…Lemon Thyme, Lavender, Tarragon, Basil….I had mason jars full of luscious herbal delights in varying shades of green taking up all the room in my freezer. I would sip them alone or fill a tall glass with crushed ice and add equal parts digestif and tonic water, drank those all summer long….dig em.

“So did you ever get in that Amaro you were talking about a couple weeks ago?” it was Kate my Kermit Lynch rep looking at our booze department yesterday afternoon. When she had come in for her appointment a couple of weeks ago she stumbled upon a very lit up, very chatty, extremely spun group of wine professionals. We had just tasted something so unusual, so stunning, so fucking alluring that we could not stop talking about it….well, I couldn’t anyway. I had been involved in my own little tasting when Randy approached me with a glass in his hand, “Sam, you have got to smell this” I took the glass, gave it a spin and was guessing by the oily way the wine slipped up the sides of the glass that it was some sort of dessert wine, usually not my favorite. I held the base of the glass between my fingers and brought it to my nose, “Holy shit. What is that?!”…

“Varja Barolo Chinato” a voice from the other tasting table announced, I turned my head to see that the guy that brought it in was wearing the shit eating grin of someone that knew they had something truly remarkable. I tore myself away from the nose…killed me, I literally could have just kept the glass by my side picking it up, spinning it and spending hours in its beguiling, intoxicating aromatics. Just thinking about it now is giving me that, “Ahhhh” feeling, you know, like when you slip into a warm tub. When I finally took the thick liquid into my mouth a blast of sweetness met the very tip of my tongue followed by an intense floral and spice flavor and then it came…that balancing bitter thing that seems to fill your mouth and gently lay over that syrupy sweetness….damn.

“Oh God, we have to bring this in” I said in an almost pleading tone. Randy asked the price and gave me a slightly painful shake of his head, I was crushed. Experience has taught Randy that there are certain things that no matter how much we yammer about them, no matter how many lines we dedicate to them in the newsletter and no matter how enthusiastically we talk about them, that people are just not comfortable spending their hard earned cash on. A $65.00 Amaro, (bitter digestif) made from Barolo is probably the definition of such a thing. I’m sure Randy could just see us red tagging this thing that we all flipped out tops for after they languished on the shelf for a year in a half. I could tell he was pained as he told us all, “I just don’t think we can sell it. It’s amazing but I’m not sure there are enough people willing to drop $65.00 on a curiosity” He was right of course but as I took my last sip of the liquid that would haunt me for weeks the rep leaned in and said, “Hey Sam, just so you know….we sell that by the bottle, you wouldn’t have to buy a case”…wise man.

I tried to put the stuff out of mind the way you do a lover that you know you can never touch again. It was lovely but way too painful to keep thinking about something that you will never be able to attain. I had just gotten to where I was only allowing myself one tiny little lustful thought a day and then goddamn Kate comes in asking for it…damn you woman. That was it for me, I looked her in the eye and told her, I’m going to order myself one, I just can’t take this anymore. She let a grin spread across her face and she said, “Order me one too. I have not been able to get that stuff out of my mind since you told me about it” As I jotted myself a little note to get a hold of the importer that brings it in I heard Ronnie, who had been listening in on Kate and I say, “Order me one too”

So in a couple weeks your girl here will be indulging her lustful want, letting my palate be washed away with sweetness, Anise, clove, rose petals, orange rind, coriander and ginger…letting her nostrils flare, take in some of the most shiver inducing, haunting aromas she has encounter in a very….very long time. Having that sexy as hell bitter flavor wrap around the sides on my tongue…letting a $65.00 digestif made from Nebbiolo, grown in Barolo, macerated for thirty days with herbs and spices, a wildly enticing, “curiosity” be that lover that I do in fact get to touch again. Cannot wait.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Got Milk?

Um, maybe her bra broke too....

Friday, August 13, 2010

Am I Just A Snob Or Is This Just Wrong?

"Sam I have a new post for you" Dale told me as she handed over the sample of The Wine Diaper she was sent. I'm not against the idea, rather fond of my wine arriving in one piece and my clothes not wreaking of Sauvignon Blanc but....really? Nothing? Nothing else came to you when thinking of a name for what is really a rather useful contraption? What's next for release the tampon bottle stopper?!

Honestly, swear to Bacchus the first thing I thought was, "Well isn't that handy, a carrier and port-a-potty"

Gonna have to toss this in the Veto pile and stick with......


Slightly less stupid name and far less image provoking for me.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lovely To Look At, Nice To Smell But...I Need To Feel You


Walked in the front door this evening already knowing what was to greet me on the other side, silence. The kid on his way back to Kentucky and the hubby on his way to Texas for some work deal. I’d had a pounding headache all day so the sound of my key unlocking the door, the whoosh of nothing….well it was deafening. Plunked my computer bag and purse down on the nearest chair and made a beeline for the kitchen. The pounding in my head all day had left me feeling a little nauseous so I had only been able to nibble on little handfuls of Chex Mix. It was now 6:45 and along with the thump-thump-thumping in my head I was feeling a little light up there too. Checked the fridge and aside from a crap load of beer, (thanks for that Jeremy) there were a couple cheeses….sadly no bread and some hot dogs left over from the kid’s last bash. Fucking hot dogs. Whatever I was starving and beginning to feel a little shaky so I filled a pot and plunked those little bastards in.

Hit the tinklelatorium, kicked off my shoes, ripped off my socks, (always a violent pull, not sure what’s up with that…I guess I hate being bound) and dizzily grabbed my laptop from its case, plugged everything in and as I went to lay my only company for the evening upon its usual spot on the coffee table I saw it. A single sheet of white lined paper, red marker, Jeremy’s handwriting….dude. He had left me a letter; left it in the one place he knew I would be sure to see it. Little bastard. Let’s just say any illusions I had of not losing my shit by walking into an empty house that was still heavy with his scent, well they were flushed the second I read, “Momma, I know you hate these days but part of me believes it has made us both stronger. Just know that I love you with all of my heart and I will miss you like crazy” shit…lost. There was more but will spare you…and me from having to go through that….again.

Blew my now very red nose and woofed down two hot dogs, (I NEVER eat two, I’m a one dog kinda gal) without so much as breathing and braced my blood sugar correcting, snotty nosed, dizzy headed, heart sore self on the couch while all my bits tried to find one another and put me back together. I was like Humpty Dumpty with her doughy encased dogs acting as king’s horseman. I was shaken from my haze by a text message, “Safely landed in Kentucky” followed shortly by, “The bastards broke my Tequila” the baby was safe and pissed about losing some fairly precious cargo. This rage at the loss of high end Anejo would have normally brought a tear to my eye but I was fresh out and just so damned happy to hear my beloved son was on the ground so I just found my giggle and had my first real smile of the day.

Once I was all leveled and snot free I sipped away on a glass of white wine, a simple and easy to drink white wine. I would never say it is a wine I love, (and yes I am leaving the name out on purpose as it is a wine I sell and drink fairly often) but it’s pleasant and something I need not spend any time thinking about. Pop the cork, wash down the day’s yuck and am left with a clean little zip. Easy wine. Just like my stooped hot dog dinner was easy. Did I love it? No. Would I eat/drink them again….sure. Could I write some opus about it…hell no. There is a place for these things, these foods that fill an instant need and wines that do little more than offer something palatable and in my case, fresh tasting. This is part of the reason I get my knickers twisted when I read some blogger’s post about something like Bogle Chenin Blanc. Stop it. It was free and it can serve a purpose but c'mon, lets not make it sound like the second coming.


So I mentioned a couple posts back that I had plans for dinner that were squished by traffic and issues with mobility. I surrendered to the god’s of crap food and knelt before the alter of Der, Der Wienerschnitzel. Yeah yeah yeah, Ms French wine and fancy food is not above eating the shit that comes in a steaming brown sack that is loaded with tiny packets of accoutrement. I confessed my snotty nose so I will now share that I have three joints of the fast food genre that I frequent; Jack In The Box (only breakfast items that are served all day and those egg rolls) Del Taco, doesn’t matter what it is I get but those fries are wicked and Wienerschnitzel…do not judge me my mini corn dogs. Don’t eat them all the time but they will do in times of need or when time is NOT on my side. I can eat these things and appreciate them for what they are but they simply cannot make me feel anything other than puffy and logy.

So the night I drove home with the smell of sweet, sweating summer tomatoes; the ones I envisioned chopping and bathing in lemon juice, salt and slivers of red onion, I ended up eating a chili dog and an order of fries. It was fine, held me over and what not but the soft bun, dense meaty sauce and snap-less dog looked good, tasted good enough but….I wasn’t feeling anything.

Had the same feeling the other day when I ran through the wines from Joel Gott winery. They were affordable, easy, not at all unpleasant but frankly they were like a lazy lover….just filled a need, laid there and no matter how nice they looked and smelled, well they left me aching for something . Each splash of those wines across my palate left me flat and while I can understand that there is a time and place for that easy thing, I need wines that are kind of lippy and willing to claw their way up my chest and make me feel them.

Once done with the Gott wines I popped or unscrewed a bottle of 2009 Lafon Macon-Villages, the nervy acidity and sassy fruit was wrapping its sharp fingers around me before I even took my first sip. The life slipping through that quarter sized opening was shaking me and my mouth was watering, my back stiff, my nostrils wide…feeling, I was feeling something just from the nose of this wine. Life. There was life in this wine, a vibrancy and intensity that took control of my wrist and forced me to pour another glass…and another. All my senses awake and vibrating; my mouth wet and wanting, my nose searching, my mind engaged. Felt almost like someone had removed the layer of cling film from my tongue and now I was really tasting.

I finally got to make my tomato dinner, a giant bowl of ripe chopped red, green and yellow flesh…lemon, salt, red onion and crispy chunks of sourdough bread that I had crisped in the oven with butter and herbs de Provence. I watched as my college budget son, the one that lives on boxed, lifeless food piled up a mountain of buttery, crispy bread chunks and poured all that nervy lemon scented, just ripe and pulsating with life tomato juice into the bowl and actually groaned with each lightning bolt of freshness that not so gently landed upon his ready palate. I sat there sipping my Lafon Macon-Villages, its exuberant spine waking me while I watched my son’s palate light up with the life of summer produce…and Momma cooking. The two of us being lit up with nervy acid and a blast of freshness.

I sat here alone tonight, hot dogs bringing me back to life but doing little to truly feed me. I let the past two weeks roll through my head, all the laughs, cuddles, crazy scheduling and abundance of love wash over me and I had to shove the cork back into the "hot dog wine" and get myself a glass of something that was capable of making me feel less lonely. Something that could make me actually feel something....oh yeah, I was once again slipping my fingers around a bottle of Comte Lafon Macon-Villages. My heart thumping rather than my head, my mouth filling with excited expectation the second I heard the snap of the seal breaking on the wine. Damn, I needed that...

Friends, family, love, food and wine...It’s lovely to see you, so nice to smell you but….I really need to feel you.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Last Night Of......


For a bit.

Stinks but all the "ouch" just reminds me that I am lucky enough to love my son so much that....well that it hurts a little at times. We have had an amazing visit and I can now start looking forward to picking him up at the airport in December. Those welcome homes are so much more heartwarming than the goodbyes.

Jeremy began signing all his emails with FFL way back in middle school and it is a thing that he feels tremendously committed to.....


It means Family, Friends, Life and these are the things that my adorable son thinks are the most important. So in these difficult moments of goodbye and see you later, these moments when I feel like my heart might just crack wide open I can think back on the time we spent and know that he has spent the past two weeks embraced by those things that mean the world to him. This, this makes all the weight that sits upon my chest so worth it. More than worth it.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Reshuffling My Deck

So I confess that I have been consumed completely the past couple weeks. Vacation, the work load that comes after that and now fully entrenched in the love bubble that is my sweet son being home for two weeks. My time just keeps running out and I find myself with just not quite enough of it to properly feed this blog which of course makes me feel like poo. This has been the first visit in years when Jeremy has spent most of his time at home with us, before he would be gone all the time visiting with friends but this time....this time he seems to need to really feel home and has been spending most of his time here. I'm sorry that I have been somewhat missing but I can tell he needs my attention right now and I mean really, this is just a silly blog and you guys are probably visiting me more for me than for you anyway right? Not sure why I am feeling guilty but I am.....

So I got off of work half an hour early today, the shop was well staffed, all my wines put up and ready for grabbing, orders placed and I had given the hubby a shopping list for the dinner I had planned around the jackpot of tomatoes that Dale had brought me from her amazing garden. Smug, I was feeling smug and like I had all the time in the world....yeah. Took my regular route home with a bag of open Loire samples I had been given from my Henry Wine Group salesman and a Tupperware bowl stuffed with red, green, yellow and tiger striped tomatoes that were simply teasing me with their aromatics as they sat in the passenger seat of my warm from the sun car. I flipped the stations on my radio as I sat in the abnormally long line for each light I usually sail through every other day of the week. I was fixated on making dinner for my family, those sweet beginning to sweat tomatoes making my mouth water each time a rush of air passed over them....that was when I was able to get the car going enough to generate any gusts. After twenty minutes I began to sense the doom that would eventually be my drive home.

The drive that never takes me more than thirty minutes took me over an hour and a half due to a big rig flipping over on the 405 closing four lanes of traffic...oh mother effer! Now I happen to be one of those people that does not get upset about this kind of thing, when I hear that an accident is the reason for the delays it kind of breaks my heart and reminds me that someone is having a far worse moment than I am. The thing that pisses me off is all the assholes that behave like selfish fucks in the wake of such events; cutting people off, driving in the bike lane and then leaping in front of people trying to make a left hand turn and those cheesedicks that block the intersection making it impossible for everyone else to continue moving forward. Dammit!

So I got home way late, face all flushed and jaw tight from the "Oh no I am not letting your ass in....I've been here for thirty minutes" glare that I had to flash all the way home. The kid had made plans for dinner with friends, plans that involved driving so the hubby was unable to do any shopping until I got home. By now I was deflated, hot, cranky and the last thing I wanted to do was cook some elaborate meal for two. We opted for creepy fast food and I jumped into a very tall glass of Pastis, (Ahem Charlie) which turned into another tall glass which turned into....crashing fulling clothed on the couch. All my good intentions of a family meal and writing something entertaining for you cats to read melting into the ever increasingly squished cushions of the couch right along with my weary flesh. Yeah, I suck.

So I woke up about twenty minutes ago and felt like I should offer you loyal, kid voting for folks something and seeing as I have learned how to do those linky dealie things....well here are a couple things that have entertained me in the past couple days. I offer them to you fully acknowledging that I am a lazy freaking blogger and seeing as there is like no wine, probably the worst wine blogger ever. All that being said I hope that you all forgive me, know that I will be back in full form here soon and at the very least...I hope one of these makes you laugh. I really do love and cherish you all. I see you logging on and trust me the pangs of guilt are upon me but I have to be with Jeremy, catch up on work and sling some wine kids....but I promise you this...or maybe threaten is a better word, I'll be back.....

Crazy People File



Feeling Like I Am Doing My Part


Just Crack Me Up....





Now I am going to wander off to bed.....

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I Need Your Help....Just This Once I Am Asking For A Favor


Those of you that have been reading this silly blog for any length of time have heard about my Tyler. The tiny little beast that lives across the way, melts my heart and has completely destroyed my badass image with his big blue eyes, silly faces, giant voice and….well and for the fact that he seems to adore me for no other reason than I am me. Such a rare and lovely gift that….

It started years ago, I tried not to notice how damn cute he was but once he started belting out sounds, little hands pressed against his chest seemingly fascinated with the vibrations. His tiny frame on the other side of his screen playing quietly…well quietly for Tyler or banging away on one of those giant tin tubs of popcorn. I could sit and watch him for hours, did as a matter of fact and there were a number of times that I was late for newsletter deadline because I was captivated by the squishy little one.

So it turns out that screens work both ways and after awhile Tyler’s parents could tell that the not-so-friendly chick across the way was puddling over their little one so what do they go and do….they taught him my name. “Hi Sam!!” and the ever so melting, “Sam Sam Sam” always lilting and like a song would come floating across the patch of grass that rests between our apartments, land squarely on my heart and make this hard knock life girl get all teary and gooey…dammit.


Now I am all in. I am completely in love and have the pleasure of sitting next to this adorable young man every Monday night at dinner. We blow bubbles in our drinks, stuff tortilla chips in our mouth and talk to each other while the little bits of broken chips fall from our lips. We play fire truck and, “ambe-blance” we laugh and hug….a lot. No matter what kind of day I am having I can be brought back to life by something as simple as this 4 year old coming to my door to see if I wanna play with him or hearing his big voice yell at me when I am on the phone, “C’mon Sam! Come outside. Who is more important than me?”…dude, not many.

There is no way for Tyler to understand how much he means to me, not sure I can really make anyone understand it but….well there was a very large hole in my heart when my son left for school and while he will never take Jeremy’s place his genuine affection and adoration of me…the way I can make him smile even when I am in my jammies with no makeup….the way he makes me feel comfortable enough, loved enough to be outside that way, well that little hand on my heart has soothed my ache, made me happier and I am forever in his debt. So this is where the favor thing comes in….

Tyler’s mom has entered him in a Most Adorable Preschooler contest, it’s a contest in our local paper and the award is like $100 or something. The award means nothing to me, (sorry Todd and Lisa I know it would help you) but I would love to be a part of anything that makes Tyler feel, if only for a second just as special and wonderful as he makes me feel all the time. I would never ask my readers to vote for me for something as ridiculous as a wine blog award but just this once I am asking for your help.


I’ll never know if you do it or don’t so there really is no pressure but it would mean so much to me to have all of you that have been touched by my stories about my adorable wee boyfriend take the time to cast a vote for him….make us both so happy. Him for winning and me for being able to in some tiny way repay him for loving me the way he does. You don’t have to do any registering or anything, you can log in under either of these names and passwords:

sdugan Password muchbetter
tmccrory Password tyler

For those of you that do take the time I thank you from the very bottom of my very full heart.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sunday Sermon

An extra thick line of jet black eyeliner

A bit of smudging around the eyes

An extra five minutes spent making my hair look like I just spent the last 30 minutes pressed up against a headboard

Red lips

Jeans frayed and two sizes too big

Top tight and three layers too thin

Going to worship at my alter

The alter of overindulgence……

Heading up to LA to Canter’s

Hot bowl of Matzo Ball Soup


Then home to make a batch of aioli before heading out to The Wine Country’s Grand Aioli

With my beloved son

Please forgive me my sins…..

Please grant me the strength to do them over and over again