Oh wait, I forgot....don't give a shit. You know what bothers me most about this topic, the fact that it is one of like five subjects that wine bloggers talk about. Jesus. Horse is dead already and you my friend, are looking a little blue in the face. And now there is some retarded online manifesto? So you go on and vow to never use points to buy or sell wine again...or what? They will remove your fake ass signature from their website, proclaim you a weenie and kick you out of their virtual fort?
“Oh this thing is so fucking retired!” I snarled as I ripped the tight fitting, “Fresco Pollo” shirt over my head. I had been awoken by a call, “We are all waiting in the bus” and found myself, naked, aside from the bright yellow with the cartoon drawing of a chicken t-shirt and my bra twisted around my wrist like a bracelet. Perfect. Did the wriggle dance of the fantastically late and truly hungover; brush ripped through my bed-headed hair as I stuffed my doughy bits into whatever clothes were within reach while somewhat gently running a toothbrush over my teeth, trying to convince myself that I was not going to barf.
Exactly seven minutes later I was on the bus, compact in hand, fingers feverishly picking at the crusty bits of eyeliner that had gathered in the corners of my eyes. I was there, not the last on the bus but feeling like life had just caught me in bed with its husband and was hell bent on punishing me. “Samantha, Nick is still not here and he’s not answering his phone…would you go up and get him?” one of the trip organizers asking me to run up and fetch another missing member of our crew. Fuck, why me?
The four of us had met up in the Madrid airport. Me, an ex-rep of mine, a semi-retired retailer and a California wine specialist from a competing wine shop. All Southern California retailers on our way to Cadiz to learn about Sherry. We had a massive layover and as any self respecting wine specialist would, we ate and drank ourselves into oblivion while trying to kill the five hours as we waited for our flight. There must have been others there waiting, others about to embark on our same eleven day excursion, but we were huddled up; Guillaume, (a French dude that used to sell me wine but was now a retailer himself) Nick, (shop owner looking to retire) and Michael, (California wine specialist for a competitor) in our own little play group and starting the trip off on the very wrong foot. Loaded with whatever salty bits of pig we could find and Pastis in volumes that would make mere mortals quiver in our wake. Um, yeah….who’s quivering now?
“Goddamn it Nick, open the door!” me and my day old makeup, hair pulled back as to not alert everyone that I had not showered, mix-matched outfit…head pounding in rhythm with my knocking on his hotel room door. Now unless you have ever seen a Thai dude, in his sixties, with a massive hangover, in his underpants while glaring at you with the, “How fucking dare you?!” face, you cannot possibly understand the nightmare that had befallen me. “No. No Sam, I’m not coming” Nick’s protest as I muscled my way into his room. Without thought or reason I began grabbing whatever clothes I could find while nodding my head in a, “Yeah it sucks but we gotta go” fashion. He was cursing me and pitching a royal bitch fit but I was not about to be the only crusty, unwashed, suffering mother fucker on that bus. He had been my partner in sucking back the local…flavor, the night before and I was taking his cranky, still drunk, ass with me for the next leg of our journey. Like it or not. His option was not but he begrudgingly followed me downstairs and, gave me shit the whole fucking way.
“No it was a bad mussel” he reported to everyone that had been waiting, not so patiently might I just add, on the bus. Here this cat that I had watched the night before drink Brandy from a glass the size of a salad spinner, was now telling everyone that he was not hungover but had a ticky tummy from one of the mussels in the batch of paella that was cooked for us. After picturing the giant pan, about the size of my dining room table, overflowing with yellow rice, chicken thighs, bits of sausage, shrimp and, the offensive to Nick, mussels and trying not to reproduce it right there in the isle of the bus, I gave him a sharp elbow in the side and narked his sunglass clad ass out. “His cup ran way the hell over” I quipped while giving him the, “don’t make me tell everyone I saw you in your undies” face.
“I really liked that shirt on you” the reptilian Russian guy on our trip who just so happened to be sitting in the bank of seats behind Nick and I. I was already feeling vomit was in my very near future and now, with this slippery voice, full of lust and saliva, purring his slimy compliments at me I could feel the bile rising in the back of my throat. I considered burping and then blowing him a stomach acid and Brandy scented kiss but thought better of it, knowing that if I allowed the burp my queasy tummy would view that as an “it’s on” and I would have far more than being late and crusty eye boogers to be embarrassed about. “Yeah well, that thing will never see the light of day again” I snarled back at him and as the “day” part of the sentence fell off my tight bottom lip there it was again, the click and flash as the fucker took my picture….again. Ugh.
The “baby chicken shirt” a novelty t-shirt I picked up who knows where but hugged my bits in such a way that not only did it get everyone’s attention, it made me feel like a sexy beast and caused me to behave in a manor rather unfitting of the classy bitch that I am. I can still remember the first time I wore it; dark washed jeans, the tight tee, a man’s sport coat in chocolate brown…sleeves dangling to just above my fingertips, my favorite scuffed up brown shoes, pigtails, gold rimmed Elis glasses, (from my wedding in An Elvis Chapel) and dark red lips. The day began with a wine tasting but denigrated into me with my hands on a dear friend’s knees, pulling his legs apart….slowly and while not breaking the “Fuck I want you” stare we were locked in, asking him to smell my neck and tell me if he could tell what kind of soap I used. Poor fucker, wasn’t me…it was the shirt. And now I found myself suffering, once again, this time on a bus full of people, hangover the worst I had ever had, longing for ice water and sleep but….
“Okay guys we’re here!” one of the organizers alerting us that we had made it to our first stop of the day, Sandeman where I was to taste about twenty Sherries….whimper. “That shirt is so fucking retired” my grumble as I lumbered my booze soaked body off the bus and made my way to the….tasting room.
"Oh hey Sam, somehow we ended up with an extra seven cases of that Rose in the warehouse. You want them?"
My Beaune Imports sales rep alerting me that the wine I thought I had taken the last five cases of, the wine that we have been sailing through...like five cases a week, the wine that has been driving me fucking insane with pleasure....that wine was still available and I was being offered first crack at it. Um.....what to do? I started doing the math. There were twenty-five cases brought to the west coast, I took three at first, spent the night with the wine and nabbed another five. Those five blew out in less than five days so I took another five and now here I was, looking at two lonely little bottles left on the shelf. Could I be so greedy? Should I be so greedy? Only two left?! Oh no....what am I going to.....
"I'll take em!!" The words flew from my lips before I had even finished doing the math, (takes a little longer for me that math in my head thing, think it's a side effect of bleaching your hair) the numbers finally rolled into place, after using my fingers of course, twenty, The Wine Country greedily gobbled up twenty of the twenty-five cases available.
I thought about feeling bad but the, "Unh! Take that bitches!" feeling won. The last of one of the best Roses I have had in years will be slipping in through the backdoor, hopefully this afternoon. Almost hate just calling it a Rose, it's more than that, it's one of the most thrilling wines I've had in a very long time. The color is fun and all. The label anything but serious but what is inside the bottle...
A day off. A much needed and earned day of rest and relaxation after a week of harried working the sales floor, alone for some of the day, crazy-ass and damn near incoherent phone calls, dudes like the afore mentioned Leroy and yet another busy weekend working with one staff member too few. Wrecked. Been physically wrecked for the better portion of the week and while I love being busy I was so ready to just puddle on the couch yesterday afternoon.
Still in my jammies at 2:00, unwashed beyond the late night bath I just had to take after too many martinis at my beloved Tracy’s, (um, note to self, remove razor from tub before buzzy bathing. Drunk girls and razors are or can be, in my case, a rather unfortunate combination…it will grow back but…dammit) chili dog sinking in my gut and plumping out my already inner tube like middle, hair pulled back in a wild mass of steam and bed gnarled curls, glass of pink wine sweaty at my side. Off to a good start right? One would think….
Just settling into my flow of uber annoying facebook statuses when I got a message. A message from my brother once again asking me, giving me shit as to why I have not friended him there. I read the message and felt the shift of the chili dog as I twisted and squirmed a bit trying to figure out how best to handle this, again. My brother and I share a sister and nothing else. We did not really grow up together and the few times he was submerged in my life it was absolutely awful. Drug addicted, drunk, thief, the only badges my brother has ever really earned in my life. He doesn’t see it that way of course, he thinks blood is thicker than water or whatever bullshit but to me the not brief enough time my brother was involved in our lives this is what I knew. He will never own what he has done to all of us and will forever feel a sense of entitlement as the “elder sibling”. Okay, fine. I will give him older but nothing else. Might sound terribly harsh to many of you, I know he would be pissed to hear that and would likely tell me that I owed him some level of respect because we are family….again, I don’t subscribe to that bloodline nonsense. My brother was very bright, shared my mother’s gift for drawing, was a soldier and became a father right around the same time I became a mother but, he chose or let drugs…and all that they entail, be the only real drive he ever had, over everything else and I consider our relationship one of the casualties of his personal war.
I learned early and the hard way, that helping him only resulted in hurt, both emotionally and often times, financially and the “help” never really did. One of the few times he was actually working he needed but could not get a bank account, I let him use my savings account to cash his checks. He swore he was clean and on the right path, I gave him a chance and he took every penny I had along with some of my pride. Had to ask my mother to buy milk for my son….even though I had been working to support him and was very proud of that. Never once, even when he was clean apologized for that, referenced it once and blamed the drugs and that was it. There are hundreds of stories and anyone that has dealt with addiction has been through it. After so many years of it, of having things stolen, being lied to, having the landlords from our old apartment call me, at work and tell me that if we didn’t get the furniture and garbage out of the apartment, (the job my mother paid my brother a healthy sum to do) that they were going to hire a cleaning company and send me a bill. Walking into the apartment that I had fled from, cases of empty booze bottles, bags of putrefied food and maggots….cleaning up my brother’s mess once again, well I didn’t have any more in my heart to give. No hatred and no rage, just an overwhelming sense of ambivalence. Sure I still have pangs of sympathy, just as I would with anyone that was leading such a sad life, but much like I have to just pass those people by, heart sinking and all, I have to just keep my brother at a distance. He doesn’t understand it and at times, he gives me some shit for it….price I have been willing to pay.
So the message was alerting me that he had requested my friendship and if I had rather not then just say so. The thing is, I had said so, four times before this message and while my brother is no longer on drugs, he still drinks….heavily and must have no recollection of the four previous times I had, very nicely explained that my friends on facebook are either connected to my job or this blog and I didn’t really want his snide, or what he calls, “funny” wine snob, and “taking his sister down a peg or two” comments all over my page. I don’t want him offending anyone and I sure as shit have no interest in listening to that crap either.
My chill morning of chili dogs, ponytails, being rather cartoonish…dancing about, making cracks and in turn giving my husband fits of giggles, all of it was gone with the click of a cursor on facebook. Shoulders tight, breath now heavy as I pushed it from my lungs, my just seconds before grinning mug now wearing the years of history, his war, my sympathetic soul trying to see something, anything redeeming or honest in his request, my memories too vivid and the end of this particular rope, gone long ago. So for once, I thought not of his reaction, not about him calling me a “snobby bitch” yet again, not of hurting the feelings of someone that never thought about mine. I just wrote. From my heart…..
I hit send on the short note that condensed many of the things I have been wanting to say for years. Let my, somewhat softened words explain to this stranger that I would not be accepting his request, that we chose different paths and while I’m sorry it may never make sense to him, that I was unwilling to put within his reach all that I have worked so hard for…even in a place as silly as facebook. I reached for my sweaty glass of pink wine only to find that it had been drained as my fingers and our war, was playing out in the message box of a social media website. Took a deep breath and got up from my much adored couch perch, walked away from the laptop that had me feeling like it had betrayed me by allowing this little crack for him to slip in and wreck my much needed….and earned day of rest. Looked for tasks to busy my mind and body so as to avoid the nasty and sophomoric response I knew was to come.
Kitchen floor, found distraction on my hands and knees cleaning the kitchen floor. The sweat slipping beneath the waistband on my too-big-for-me jammie bottoms, the smell of Pine Sol swirling around my head as I scrubbed and over scrubbed the residue and buildup created by a woman that finds comfort in the chopping, the wiping of my just-dunked-in-sauce fingers along the side of my jeans. The butter, olive oil, fierce sear of meat, the overzealous stir of white bean and Kale soup, all of it there, on my kitchen floor. Food, flavors, textures, all things that speak to me, bring me pleasure and even in its…less than savory and pleasurable form, the byproducts of my comfort were once again…comforting me.
Hoisted the bucket of now grimy water, still scented with Pine Sol but now dark gray and floating with bits of coffee bean, somewhat alarmingly large dust bunnies, dehydrated nubbins of carrot, celery and onion and more cilantro, (what the hell with that stuff? Sticks to everything!) than I could have ever imagined. Watched it all go down the drain and felt a little relieved both in channeling my oft absent OCD cleaning woman and knowing that the next time I step to my stovetop that none of that shit would be sticking to my feet. Returned the bucket to its home under the sink and decided that I had earned another glass of whatever that pink stuff was that went down so easy.
Grabbed the handle on the fridge and my eyes were distracted by a new piece of paper, attached with a magnet, right beside the picture of me and Tyler making funny faces. “Adult male, 18-64 from Louisville Kentucky to Orange Country California. August 1st” an itinerary, my son’s itinerary for his upcoming visit. My eyes quickly filled with tears and I scanned the freshly washed floor around the stove, smiled as I thought of all the splatters and spills I would be creating when my baby comes home for a visit. While I comfort him with the aromas, textures and flavors of home. Let myself laugh out loud as I thought of him biting into his beloved yeasty rolls stuffed with cream cheese, rolled in butter and cinnamon sugar and baked together in a syrup of more butter and sugar. My smile even broader as I thought about the fact that my son and I speak the same “nose, mouth, heart” language. Comforting…
Opened the fridge and saw the open bottle of Rose that I had been letting keep me company but after the message, the end of my rope, the cleaning and the itinerary, I wanted something more than company, I was craving that feeling of having arms wrapped around me, the soft kiss of someone I loved…I saw the bottle and grabbed my corkscrew. Clos Marie Rose. This fucking wine is now like a lover I cannot get enough of and while I’ve been trying to restrain myself, the day had shifted and I was ready to be made love to, touched and comforted….again.
Sat on the couch letting the oh so sensual body of that wine wrap around my tongue, tingle the sides of my mouth and force itself down my throat no matter how much I longed to hold it, almost tortuously in my mouth. Each trickle past the back of my tongue, each fleshy drop seeping inside me, each tiny hair inspired to pull away from my skin and stand on end as this meaty, chewy, mineral rich wine filled me. My lips, my tongue, my mouth, my throat….comforted with the familiar touch, taste and texture of true love. Two glasses of seduction later and I found myself moving my cursor, clicking on the response I had been trying to avoid.
“Good point and very well put. Our relationship is what it is and it is probably my fault but it’s cool” now that might sound like much to many of you but, from my view of this particular “front-line”, more than I could have ever hoped for. Like ever. An inkling of accountability…comforting.
Clean kitchen ready for my son’s visit. The afterglow and giggles of a day spent making love to a wine as sexy as I have come across in a very long time. The pride in letting my voice protect…my voice. Fuck relaxing, I choose this….
So we have been working with a very lean staff for the past couple months, stretched super thin and trying to make due but upon learning that a staff member is leaving us to spend some time in Mexico the bosses knew it was time to toss some hooks in the water. Hooray!
I was thrilled when I saw the Help Wanted fliers on the counter when I walked through the door Wednesday morning, even more excited when I saw we were looking for not one but two people, and damn near exploded when I heard that they had run both adds in the paper. That was until the phone calls started. Holy shit.
I thought we were short handed before?! The phone has been ringing non-stop and the calls are coming in faster than Randy can keep up with. There have been a few nibbles on the online orders and shipping job but it’s the stocking and general maintenance position that has them coming out in droves. Unreal. And I’m trying to think of the kindest and least asshole way to say this but….some of these folks can’t even handle the calling to leave your name and number process of job hunting. I’ve been standing there with a pen and pad of paper in my hand, just trying to get their number so Randy can call them to set up an appointment. Line of customers waiting to get rung up for their purchases, delivery guys waiting to get checked in and people milling about in various departments of the store looking for wine advice and here I am, stuck on the phone with someone that finds phone number too hard. I’ve had them ask me to hold on while they get it…um, huh? Even had one guy pass the phone to someone else to give me the number, what the hell?! This general manager has been in full on flop sweats just thinking about half these folks working in the store. I have a new found appreciation for teachers, (well I always had it but it has been magnified the past two days) and people with basic people skills.
Just so you don’t go thinking that I am being too hard on folks or exaggerating, I submit to you, and actual resume that was handed over today….
On an index card
Playing on the B side
The guy was fifty if he was a day. Worked a whopping 18 years of those 50…merde.
I will preface this post by saying that I know it will likely land me in the doghouse with many of the people that I have grown to love and respect in this business of mine. I know it and yet I still feel compelled to sit here, nails clicking away, mind a blustery mess of opinions and rants, heart kind of deflated by the vitriol and, at times, simply venomous words that are being launched…both in retaliation and preemptive, at others about something as civilizing and subjective as wine. I shall refrain from silly abbreviations and ask frankly, what the fuck?!
I was recently watching a new Law & Order Criminal Intent. The story was based around a wine collector that was found dead in his, bursting-at-the-seams and much envied wine cellar. This is where I confess, (once again to my long time readers) that I am wholly addicted to all things Law & Order. I watch them all; SVU, Criminal Intent and even the plain old regular ones. Love. It is true love and I can say that I have wasted whole days watching marathon upon marathon of this particular show. So imagine my elation when finding a whole show with my beloved wine as a backdrop for an episode, with Vincent “Smoking Hot” D’Onofrio to boot. Watching the tall bunch of smart and inquisitive picking up glasses of wine, burying his nose in it….spinning my business all around all while all the while getting into the head of the suspects he is after. Well shit howdy, color me one tickled pink wine slinger.
I was about ten minutes in and my giddy heart simply sank. Douche bags. Every wine person in the show was an absolute douche bag! I shit you not. Each one loathsome and repugnant, full of their own stuffiness and insider speak. Everyone from the young rich dude, with the mansion and phone call about Bordeaux futures he was unwilling to excuse himself from in order to talk to the detectives to the over the top wine critic, called “The Nose”…of course. The guy that was super effeminate, had his nose insured by Lloyd’s of London, for like a trillion dollars or whatever the fuck, and was given into fits of haughtiness that had him spewing zingers like, “Oh you don’t know your Bordeaux from your Burgundy!” what a burn! Take that mother f’ers! Ugh. Add some cloaked hobbits and wizards and we got us a Super Dork Asshole convention. Rad…
Just could not believe that wine people were still seen as such snotty and exclusionary dickwads. What with adds everywhere, more wine showing up on television and movies. More cultures than ever coming to the wine drinking table and still, wine professionals are still being depicted as uber rich, old white guys banging young twenty somethings, (um, Ron…hesh up you) that get whacked by spiking their Comte de Vogue with Viagra. The only chick they had in the whole show was a woman from India that was on her 100th level of WSET or something. Dude. Horrid. Horrid and quite honestly, embarrassing. I thought about boycotting Law & Order, because you know my fifteen hundred hours of viewing a month is keeping them alive but more than anything I had to wonder, “Where are they getting this shit?”
Didn’t take much digging to figure it out.
Now I have stayed pretty neutral on this ever growing, Us vs. Them, Old World (to some this will read east coast elitist) New World, (to some this will read beginners or unenlightened) Wine War. I’ve been silently tucked away in our little store watching it all. Loving many players on both sides of the bickering and mudslinging and at a complete loss as to what either is hoping to prove or moreover, win. My eyes so feverishly searching for a reason that they cause my brow to arch into that stern look that used to make my son quiver…the insecurity of my own voice keeping me from speaking up but now, now I would just like to ask everyone with some bone to pick or point to “prove” (and you know you never will right?) to shut the hell up and start thinking about what really matters. How the hell are we going to grow this business of ours?!
I sit here with my crave inducing Dave Matthews, (Oh come on Google Alert!!) groaning in my ears. Words like, “I like my coffee with toast and jelly but I would rather be licking you from your back to your belly” making me dizzy, making me….want, knowing all the while that one of my most beloved and closest friends hates Dave. Like a lot. She thinks he is horrible and is much more of the Bon Jovi, (sigh). I don’t get it. I think she is high and is missing the sensual and subtle nuance in a line like, “Kiss me won’t you kiss me now, and sleep I will inside your mouth” and she doesn’t get why I don’t’ get lit up by, “I’m a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride. I’m wanted, wanted dead or alive”. Do I think she’s wrong? No. Not for her she’s not. Now if she is trying to seduce me, well then yes but for now she’s not and we are both content and extremely happy listening to our, very different crooners. And while I might never understand what makes her throw up the metal sign and nod her head to Bon Jovi, she will likely forever find my devotion to Dave’s sticky and dripping with sweat verbiage, “not the real way dudes talk”.
Is My Amy wrong for thinking Jon Bon Jovi is hotter than Dave Matthews? Am I wrong in thinking that no matter how many times I am taught and schooled on classical music that it just isn’t for me? Is Ron Washam wrong for not loving Pinot Noir Rose? Is Randy Kemner wrong for not embracing Zinfandel? Is Charlie Olken wrong for defending Rombauer Chardonnay? Eric Asimov, Jon Bonne, Robert Parker, James Suckling, Alice Fiering, Alfonso Cevola, Steve Heimoff, Samantha Dugan….(check me out like putting my name in there where the fancy wine folks are, my blog goddamn it) we are all wrong when we perpetuate the insufferable wine snob and are unwilling or able to see anyone else’s point of view….and respect it.
Drink what moves you
Alice, get your natural freak on
Alfonso, I beg you…write what inspires you
Charlie, teach us with that loving heart of yours
Randy, show them all what I have seen…what made me love wine
Ron, just write….anything
Amy, I still don’t get it but we can bicker over a glass of something icy cold and from the old world
Eric, I get you.
I crave more wine at the table. More people walking through the doors of The Wine Country. More people knowing what it is to cave and surrender, feel your throat expand and swallow, the shiver and “one more sip” of whatever wine speaks to them.
(and a little of this. Damn....rawr.)
Now how do I get the producers of Law & Order to feature a funny looking, oddly shaped blonde chick that swears like a sailor, is not quite comfortable in her skin and wears glasses but is a wine geek of first order, to squash that “Nose” fucker…..
“Six? We really only have six people signed up for this class?” me as I flipped through the nearly empty pages of reservation sheets for our Rhone North to South tasting last month. I was feeling a little heartbroken but truthfully, not all that shocked. France’s Rhone Valley has been in the middle of an identity crisis for the past few years, thanks largely to tweaking their wines to dazzle a few press palates and the result sadly has been wines that no longer taste of place or whisper an accent. No, the wines have been largely, well large and taste as if they could have come from anywhere. Got them some press alright and for about two vintages that moved the wines quickly enough but eventually pushed away many people that had fallen in love with the flavors of that specific place; the beautiful spicing in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, the flowering violets in Cornas, the fragrant herbs that run wild through Cotes du Rhone. And from as much as I can tell, the only thing wineries can count on when it comes to score chasers is loyalty isn’t really a factor in the game and eventually those cellars, (and palates) will be stuffed to overflowing and those folks are instead now looking for wines to drink every day, at the table.
Rhone is far from alone in this momentary loss of sanity. Alsace, Bordeaux and Burgundy have fallen onto the same loss of their way and stores, like ours, that have no interest in “International” style wines react by trimming those departments, seeking out the guys that aren’t looking to score 98 points and are steadfast in making wines that showcase the name they proudly display on their regional driven labels. We wait out the storm and as has been the case with Alsace, Burgundy and Bordeaux, wait for the pendulum to swing back before loading up the shelves once again. Makes the hunt a bit harder for us but when I taste a wine like I did the other day, one from Chateauneuf-du-Pape that is bursting with chocolate covered cherries and coconut, a wine that made me think instantly of the Molly Dooker wines from Australia, well I just assume that if anyone wanted Molly Dooker they would buy Molly Dooker so therefore that wine has no place in the French department. We don’t buy wines that are red or white, we buy wines that show why that place is like no other growing region and that actually say as much about where it comes from as what it is made from.
We fired off a couple emails that inspired a nice turnout for our Rhone event and I set about picking the wines and the order with which to pour them. “Now why would you pour the most expensive reds right away?” a curious and observant class attendee asked as we were getting ready to start the event. “Now conventional wisdom, and marketing for that matter, would tell me to pour the most expensive wines at the end of the night, prove how special they are but the thing is, these wines are not conventional, at least not in the way we are used to judging wines here. These aren’t the big, massive, toasty, rich wines that tend to be show stoppers…..at the end of a tasting fourteen other wines.” I was referring to the rare and powerfully elegant wines of the Northern Rhone. I chose to start with white, poured in flights of two with one being from the north and one from the south. Just wanted to start the wheels turning and education as to what weather and soil can do to essentially the same varieties, even in from the same region.
From white we jumped directly in to the Syrah based wines of the northern Rhone. Starting at the very top of the region with Cote Rotie then moving south with Crozes-Hermitage and on to Cornas. As we poured these pricey wines I explained that the cooler climate and treacherously steep vineyards were where Syrah was capable of reaching truly noble status. These tiny areas so perfectly suited as to coax a perfume, density and power that could be found nowhere else on the planet, not for Syrah anyway.
As we progressed south we explained that this is where those narrow slopes open into more of a valley floor, where the sun baked pebble and stone loaded vineyards are more suited for varieties like Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault along with Syrah, (used far more in blending in the south) grapes that long for the warm sun and flourish in the warm, rocky clay soils. One sip of these juicier, more rugged wines and the crowd could tell why I chose to end with them. The fruit is more playful, spicier, exuberant and aggressive and they simply would have trounced or masked the subtlety and grace of the cooler climate wines of the north. I took a poll at the end of the night, asked everyone which area of the Rhone they preferred and although I went against the convention this crowd absolutely got it, the hands raised in favor of the north were something like ten to one.
So while filling a class and selecting wines that reflect the true taste of France’s Rhone is more of a struggle than ever before we are still finding wines that scream of place, regionality and purity and more importantly, finding new faces to fall in love with them all over again. Was a wonderful class and a very welcome taste of the Rhone that I fell in love with.
2009 Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage Blanc $29.99
Rhone whites, be they from the north or south are not always the easiest wines to wrap your head and palate around. Big in the mouth like Chardonnay but nowhere near as fruity or long. This Roussanne and Marsanne blend is heady with green herbs, peaches and anise. Light on the palate as far as weight goes but leaves a linger that makes it perfect for an aperitif.
2009 La Cabotte Cotes du Rhone Blanc $10.99
Have to admit that this is one of my favorite little whites in the Rhone department right now. A blend of Clairette, Viognier and Grenache Blanc all in equal parts, the wine has a blast of super fresh fruit upfront but finishes with a nice dry bit of minerals. Grilled fish and chicken would simply sing with this value driven white.
2008 Domaine Mucyn Crozes-Hermitage $22.99
I had tasted this wine just a week before our Rhone class and knew it had to be included. Such an old school hand at work here. Rustic nose of roasted meat and cracked pepper but the palate is so pure and delicious. You get some subtle floral notes but it’s the pepper that carries through on the very long finish. Grilled lamb or steak needs nothing more than this wine.
2007 Patrick Jasmin Cote Rotie $55.99
Without question my wine of the night. Even thinking about now makes the tiny hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Deeply saturated aromas of roasted coffee, dried violets, minerals and fresh berries. Silky and luscious on the palate with tannins so fine you barely notice them, An astounding offering from one of the greatest estates in the northern Rhone. Buy one, you will not regret it.
2008 August Clape Cornas $91.99
Felt a little bad opening this wine so young and feel that on the evening of the class it was showing a little shy. Still expressing place and beautiful purity but it seemed to be aching to express more. Well when I ran through the wines the next day, it had come out of its shell! Still showing plenty of tannin assuring me that this wine has years to come around but all that purple fruit and flowery elegance was staining my palate. A wine for the cellar or one that needs some serious decanting. Hold on to this for about five years and you will have a bottle of wine that will no doubt blow your mind.
2008 Domaine les Pallieres Gigondas $33.99
This wine seemed to straddle that line between sumptuousness and balance. Dark black fruit, and allspice kind of note and a blast of dried lavender and rosemary. Big and full in the mouth, brimming with both sweet and savory flavors this wine would hold up to strongly seasoned meat dishes but has enough sheer yummy to drink on its own.
“I can’t do this. I know I can’t do this” Me sitting up in bed, tears of absolute fear and utter panic flowing down my face as I sat, in a puddle in a dark room just down the hall from my mother.
I had been awoken from my sleep, my much coveted and dearly needed sleep. My body resting upon the wad of pillows that I had shoved between me and my sagging, ten year old mattress, trying desperately to alleviate the wretched combination of the worst heartburn I had ever experienced and a pain in my lower back that was akin to having the weight of the world digging its heels in and resting upon my kidneys. I ripped the comfortless comforter off my body to see my legs, the ones that had learned to dance, learned to run and had carried me each and every time I longed to flee…those legs still and wrapped in the pale pink pajama bottoms that I had slipped into before kissing my mother goodnight but now, now the pink was almost peach colored as it clung, wet and slippery against my skin.
I sat in my dark room alone crying. Eighteen, I had just turned eighteen and here I was, wetting the bed. I assumed my loss of bladder control had something to do with the heart stopping fear that I had been living with. The pressure of figuring out what to do, how not to alert my mother that I was doing it and how…how to live with the fact that I was pregnant and in no way ready to raise myself let alone another human. Her voice in my head, that, “If you get pregnant you are on your own” mantra that had been snarled at me for as long as I could remember. As I ripped the saturated sheets off the bed, the pajama bottoms that hung heavy and see-through to my thighs, the dribble of the bathroom faucet as I rested my forearms on the counter and wrung out the washcloth that I would use to clean myself up. “I know I can’t do this” the soundtrack as I wrapped my sink washed bottoms around my fists and twisted with all of my might….
The task of covering up what I had been hiding becoming my mission. If I could just buy myself a little more time I could figure this out. Figure out how to tell her. Tell her that I had messed up but was working on making it better. Showing her all the families that were aching to take the child that I wasn’t ready to care for. So quiet the apartment that night, I could hear my mother and sister snoring, their shifting and heavy breathing and there I was, wet from wrists to ankles, washing up and covering up. My fear and inability to handle this being washed down the sink and hanging over the shower door to dry. A little more time….
The bladder control continued to me by nemesis. The leaking from within and constant reminder of the “situation” I was unwilling to face. The face of my disappointed mother that I was unready to…face. I was guilty of everything she warned me of; falling victim to a predator, being careless with my love, seeking touch and affirmation from places and people that preyed on girls like me. I fell for all of it and now, now I was staring down the barrel actually dealing with, knowing, the life that she had already researched and failed for me. If I had been able to hear her, feel her, our lives would have been very different.
Twenty-two years ago, today, my water broke and thus began the life of a young man that was unwilling to become a statistic and taught me all that I currently know about strength and tenacity. I had not wet the bed that night, Jeremy threw his first punch and that was the first time we met. Me fearful and soaked, him willing to hold his breath until I pulled my head out of my ass and stopped thinking that I was the victim. He spent a week in my body, hanging on and fighting as I stupidly tried to fit a square peg in a round hole. Tried to make my life fit into what others had hoped I would be.
“I can’t believe he made it” the doctor that delivered Jeremy. A week struggling, kicking and making my back ache even worse as he fought the thick walls that were closing in on him. His fight and unwillingness to quit an inspiration to a just-turned-eighteen-year-old. I thought of myself scouring to cover the “stain” of a late night that got me there, the soaked, dancing legs that barely held me up as I washed myself clean of his first hello. And now, now I can’t imagine that I would be capable of the pride that I own because of him.
I first met my son twenty two years ago today. He got my attention in a way that no one had before. Inspired me to be the woman that you all seem to dig now. I believe in giving credit where credit is due and I know my beloved son gives me far too much. Jeremy, you are the reason I can walk in any room and feel like I matter. If you own nothing else in your life, own that. A freaked out eighteen year old was transformed the second your gasping for air, tiny body emerged from inside me. You were, and are, everything I could have ever dreamed of and I love you more than you can possibly…for now, understand.