First of all I hope you both will forgive me my once a week, at best, posting right now. My life is not in total upheaval but between some emotional/personal wrenching, changes at work complete with brand spanking new hires, half the storage and back stock space I had last holiday season, and having to entertain the idea of piles of wine in the ladies room, the full court press from sales reps and importers needing to get their own ducks in a row and what has been a wonderfully full social calendar lately, well I simply haven’t had the time to devote to this place and the handful of you that come here to read, listen, lurk and feel me. It is a gift I never stop thinking about, please trust me on that. I am sure I am craving and thinking about you more than you are me but I can’t seem to muster more than the semi occasional, nearly always, mindless scroll and blurt over on Facebook these days. Killing me as that spot, while a fun outlet for my profound goofery, doesn’t bring me one one thousandth of the joy that being here does, readers and comments or not. Part of my whole being better to myself deal that I am building…or trying to build in the spare 10 minutes a day I have to devote to it right now. Pisser. Bugging me but not as much as another issue that has had me all arms folded and mouth shut lately…
“Yes, I’m calling from Texas and I was wondering, could you give me a recommendation for a red wine to serve with Thanksgiving?” a friendly enough caller that I was thankful was a slow talker so I could stand there hunched over trying to catch my breath seeing as I had to sprint across the shop to answer the ringing phone. I did explain to the nice gentleman that we wouldn’t be able to ship him any wine due to his state, (read controlling asswads) doesn’t allow us to but I would be happy to offer some suggestions anyway.
“Oh okay, well I am at the Target here in (insert whereeverthehell Texas city here) and I was hoping you could help me pick a wine from their selection here.” Sigh. Big huffy one actually. My mind was whizzing about with, “What the hell dude? How did you get our number? Why are you calling me? How can you have no idea how freaking nutty this is? You think my boss likes paying us to share the knowledge, he paid us to acquire, helping people spend their money somewhere else?” face scrunched into such a wrinkly mess I must have looked like a big fat walnut standing there. I was able to calmly (shut up, it was) clear my throat and say, “Sir, I honestly have no idea what wines they have there at the Whatecverthehell Texas Target” which I thought was pretty damned friendly for a sort of brush off. “Well it’s just your standard stuff, Castle Rock and Estancia” he continues….humpf. “Sir, I can’t help you. I don’t know those wines at all and wouldn’t feel comfortable giving you a holiday recommendation, from the Target wine department seeing as I haven’t had the wines in forever, if ever.” Once I hung up I had one of those moments where I stand still for like 5 minutes wondering if that actually really happened before I dash across the store, arms flailing, back sort of arched in a “Oh no he did-int” fashion as I track down whichever employee I can wrestle down first to share that story with.
Happened to be in Target, (don’t judge) a few days later and made a beeline for the wine department. I think I was just more curious than anything else and I have to say, at least in the Target I was shopping in, there were fewer big brands like Estancia and more, sort of silly labels. Lots of Mommy’s Time Out, Layer Cake, Ooh La La Pinot Grigio. I strolled through the aisle, (there was only one at my Target) very few things I’d seen before in front of me, feeling a little female pandered to, kinda cheesed out and that was when I saw, Fancy Pants Cabernet Sauvignon…yes! I whipped my phone from my bag and snapped a photo which I quickly uploaded to Facebook, you know, to share seeing as I had of course shared the Texas Target story there, with the caption, “Shopping the Target wine…depot”.
The whole thing stupidly cracked me up. The Texas guy, my reaction, my staff’s response, just the wonder of human behavior that is retail. The reason I posted the Fancy Pants Cabernet picture kind of a jab at all of us, including myself. Got home to find that I was being taken somewhat to task for “making fun of people that buy those wines”. Say huh?! I found myself scrolling up and down trying to see what would make anyone think I was mocking, there was nothing. It was merely the picture and the name that, in my estimation, had someone else feeling defensive or feeling as if those wines needed defending from the big bad French buyer lady. I was taken aback and after hearing “I would bet that most imports in the $8-$12 price point are factory made” when I had not once brought up, or even thought about imports, well I fell into the protective mode of trying to figure out what I did that was offensive enough to have someone telling me, “If those wines get people to drink more wine than I am all for it” and my own defensiveness responding, “I’m not convinced those wines do in fact create more wine drinkers. In fact, I think they do more harm than good.” Which just had us lobbing shit back and forth, and enough to pull some wanker in that couldn’t wait to point the, “You are being defensive” finger at me. Kinda hard to defend yourself and not come off…well, defensive. Especially to those that see every comment as loaded and from an import specialist, a nip on the neck. Not very unifying that….
Felt the same kind of kerfuffle, discomfort and bile loaded ugly offensively defensive crap when I read some of the reactions to a Kermit Lynch interview in The New York Times Magazine. It’s like those waiting to be offended folks were just aching for something to snarl about. Running each line through their tense and sensitive meters looking for something to get their undies twisted about. I read Tom Wark’s recap and it felt like we had just watched two different movies.
I read those answers Kermit gave, an eyebrow raised looking for those snarky and shitty comments I had heard swirling about and…um, not so much. I read things like, “I find myself asking sommeliers, “where’s that from?” it’s a treat. One of the most exciting things happening is sommeliers turning customers on to new wines” I’m sure he meant French wines and only French wines. He didn’t say anything even remotely like that but whatever. Noticed the “Pop wines” reference that got everyone frothing and seething and he didn’t once mention California wines in that part of the answer, in fact Tom tacked on a piece of another answer to that part of the recap which made it read that Kermit gave up on California wines because they were “Pop wines”. I don’t mean to imply that it was misleading, nope not implying at all, it was down-right misleading and funny there was no mention about the part where Kermit said that not drinking wines that were a certain alcohol percentage or higher meant you were missing out on great wines. Well shit no, couldn’t include that because that mucks up the whole hater image.
To clear it up, Kermit said he gave up on California wines when they started chasing scores, and even uttered a modicum of regret that he had missed out on some great wines because of that, which to Tom’s credit he did mention, as well as an appreciation for Kermit’s lack of dogmatic, “If you aren’t drinking this way you suck” which was a nice breather. There was a final bluster or rant about how higher alcohol, richly extracted wines sell and aren’t going anywhere and I agree, nor should they if they sell and make people happy but to completely ignore the fact that the more restrained and less rich wines have also always sold, continue to do so and have a growing audience, and increasingly so here in California amongst winemakers and consumers, well then you are selling your agenda and maybe being a little defensive. Oh and one more thing, anyone looking to Kermit Lynch for advice or commentary on the wines of California is “touched”. Just as touched as anyone asking Charlie Olken or Steve Heimoff about French or Italian wines. Go talk to Parker’s Wine Advocate, the Spectator, a great retailer, (ahem) or some other publication that has specialist in each region. Kermit has been a French wine advocate for 35 years. He is the reason those of us that love, no, need French wines, drink as richly as we do and to waste his time asking about California wines, even though he lives here in California, (also lives in Provence, just saying) is just, well sort of shady. He isn’t an expert on California wines, he doesn’t love them and personally I think pinning him to the felt and using the looking glass to inspect him is an exercise in nut tugging. Just as I would should someone pin Charlie on the wines of the Loire, Alsace and Burgundy. Why are we all this way? Really? Can’t people like what they like without someone else thinking it means we are calling their baby ugly?
Before anyone starts thinking I’m making myself out to be some fucking patron saint of wine drinking or appreciation, well just back on up off it. Just yesterday got myself tangled in a rat’s nest of bullshit and side picking. Dammit...beginning to wonder if I might need some industrial strength tape to press against my lips…to bind my fingers.
Found myself scrolling once again. Lost in the mindless flashes of kitty photos, memes, pictures of Pho and various political reposting crap over on Facebook, (fuck, am I selling that joint or what?) in an effort to not think about the go-jillion issues that have been pressing tightly against my skull and chest. Arrow up, arrow back down, click the like thingie, add an “LOL” where it applies. You can pretty much picture a drooling 5 year old and have a pretty clear picture as to what much of my time wasting Facebook stint looks like. That is until my puddling drool and thoughtlessness is brought to a screeching halt by a picture of two bottles of wine, both domestic, one Pinot Noir the other Grenache with a caption, “Two Burgundian reds”…everyone out of the drooling pool! Read that and felt like someone had slammed a 2x4 against the back of my skull. Literally felt like my brain imploded. Burgundian Grenache? Um I’m sorry but…what the?!
So of course I commented. Did a “???? Grrr” thing to start but goddamn it if I wasn’t sucked deeper into the lair of discontent. Found myself arguing with people whom I don’t know and have never heard of, (even the writer who posted I’ve only heard of via Facebook, never once has anyone in my 17 years mention her and I’m sure in her world no one knows me) had a newer blogger, (and someone that does it for fun, of course) tell me that I should read his post about why people use the term Burgundian to describe Pinot Noir, in an effort to straighten me out and got plungered into the spinning cycle of defensiveness that seems to weirdly encapsulate this wine stuff. Felt the fur on my neck getting all spiky with each, “Oh Samantha, you need to relax” comment that made me feel like I was uptight for thinking using the term “Burgundian" for Grenache, a variety not grown in Burgundy of course, is about as stoopid as “SonomaCoastian Chablis” and having a circle of jerks make me out to be the asshole while not one of them answered my inquiry about what Burgundian means and if it is the same as California Champagne? Think that was a fair question…I mean if it is a style then it’s a style and by using that term you just let me know you have much, much to learn about Burgundy. There isn’t one style and if you mean restrained, elegant, feminine or graceful…well guess what, there are other words that don’t fuck with the consumer (and make them look silly when they ask for a Burgundian Grenache…as opposed to what, a Bordelaise Grenache?) but once again when all the teeth left their mark and the jerking was over I was left with the slippery stain of elitism and snobbery because I am on “the other side”.
“What did you expect if you splash around in the kiddie pool other than diaper rash? They are right Sam, you need to read that bloggers post, it’s such an original idea that has never been discussed before he came to the table and written about Ad nauseam, by you especially. Time to cash in that first ticket to the rodeo and stand your ground.You do need a drink, might I suggest a glass of Burgundian Grenache? Why argue with the noise? Use your unique voice and power, your draw, to pull the people, like me, that are here waiting to hear.” The email in response to my sniveling and fussing. A wine business friend that does happen to be on the same side but is also one of the most fair and balanced humans I know. Like me he just wants us all to find a way to talk, buy, discuss, feel impassioned by and drink wine. I was tucked into his firm chest and cuddled by the comment, no matter how shortly. The fact that I was tugged about in all sorts of directions just reminds me how much I love this wine stuff. None of us have the right answers for everyone. The trick, if there is one, is to kick some of the mud off the path in an effort to make big broad steps and room for the next firm backed and strong hearted bunch of pourers, talkers, writers and teachers…
Hopefully with a little less offensive defensiveness, from both "sides"