Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Dump That...(Speakers Required)

Zero, (or as I affectionately call her, Dumb Shit)

And get with this

Hero, Fred. 


Music from the heart and watching this, it done my heart lots and lots of good. 

Vertigo is better and I am in full newsletter mode so time in the only thing spinning outta control right now. Just wanted to to share this beautiful story, let it touch you in my stead.  Now off to buy Fred's song on itunes! 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

You Spin My Head

Right round, right round, like a record baby, round, round, round, round.

Only wish it were a wine. No, this time I am being spun by a pretty severe case of vertigo. Sucks far more than I can tell you....mostly because sitting here looking at this screen, all bright with letters darting across it, well it just adds to shit that is already whizzing by my head. 

So please forgive me if I am silent for a bit.....and wish me luck, got not one but two nights of sold out fried chicken and Champagne tasting to not only speak in front of, but pour for....whimper. Send all the good vibes you can folks, I'm gonna need it.

Spinny McBlonde Girl.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Gruner Schmooner

Once again my lack of appointment book, and desire to actually get one, found me cringing when a supplier stood in all his tall, and quite handsome, glory in front of me, big, not too shinny grin on his olive colored face, young man at his side with his arm extended in my direction, tight fitting clothing and firm confidence assuring me he wasn’t from around these parts. I heard my coworker Andy ask, “You here to see me?” while scrolling through the appointment book he has on his iphone, (now there’s an idea….one that I shan’t use) slightly panicked and embarrassed look on his face. “Nope, we’re here to see Sam” Oh goddamn it.

“It’s nice to meet you and yes, I am just 21 years old” the first words I heard from the slightly freckle-faced and virile young man that was shaking my hand fairly aggressively. His name Alexander Sattler, his age as he pointed out, (and yes, I would have asked as he looked like a baby) merely 21 years but he had been involved with winemaking at his family’s estate since he was 14. I made my way to the tasting room, shuffling behind my sales rep and the eager young winemaker, my note book tucked in my recently shook palm, the whole time trying to remember if I even had an appointment with this rep and noting to myself that the young man didn’t sound or look terribly French. I flipped open my notebook, grabbed us three wine glasses and settled in.

“As I said, I am 21 so no need to worry” Alexander began as bottles were being pulled from chilled wine bags full of ice packs, his thin fingers grasping a cork and pouring me a glass “my family has been in Styria since the late 1800s but it was my father that really took charge, way before I was born” he said with a beautifully toothy and sheepish grin, “and with determination and listening to the land became a pioneer in our region. He knew Sauvignon Blanc was what we could grow best in the southern region where our vines are planted on very steep slopes” the words rolling off his tongue in perfect English and while there was an accent it was becoming quite clear to me, this young man was not French. “We are the furthest south wine growing region in Austria and that is where Sauvignon Blanc grows far better than Gruner Veltliner” the words still falling off his lips and I began getting my bearings. Okay, not a French tasting appointment, this was an Austrian appointment and…wait, Austrian? And we’re tasting Sauvignon Blanc?! What the Veltliner?!

The Austrian department at The Wine Country has seen several faces. We once had a very eager buyer, well I should say, a very eager sales person, in charge of buying for the tiny region, she was also our German buyer, (which just seemed to make sense as many importers deal with both as well) and one hell of an ass buster. She grew the department, stuffed it full of interesting and geeky wines, wacky reds and rich sexy Gruners that sported price tags often well over $50 a bottle. It was quite the conversion I have to say and there was not a store within 30 miles that could come close to offering the number or scope of wines from Austria that we could. We saw a bump in sales, obviously but…well even that driven woman couldn’t move a bunch of $75 Gruner Veltliner in Long Beach so the second she alerted us she was leaving to work for a German wine importer Randy got out the red price gun and got to slashing. Since then He took over buying for Austria but seeing as he finds very little time in his busy schedule to meet with suppliers, (although I know he must miss it a little, not that Chamber and Rotary meetings aren’t a blast and all…..) he asked me to step in. That meant one thing to the woman that works the front and is privy to all the, “Yes, where can I find__________’s?” cut it some more. I reduced the department to one red, a Zweigelt, in liter bottles that is grapey, fresh and delicious, a Pinot Blanc and a couple affordable Gruners, at least one of those is liters too. Not saying there aren’t great Gruner Veltliners out there, (although I confess to never having my mind blown by one) but I will say that the prices for some won’t be supported by our market so it’s best to just keep it simple. But…..

The Sattler family have become known for their craftsmanship of nature, for letting their land determine what to grow in order to offer the very best and where they are located and for the Sattler’s of the deep south, it’s Sauvignon Blanc that thrives, flourishes and as a store that has a real passion for beautifully constructed white wines, especially those made from the racy and nervy Sauvignon Blanc variety, well I could not possibly be more thrilled that forgetfully ran into young Alexander and the heart-racing wines from his family’s estate.  

2010 Sattlerhof Welshriesling ($19.99)

An ancient variety of white grape, unrelated to the Rhine Riesling so many of us know, this crisp white is loaded with fresh green notes and has none of those peachy, floral notes we tend to think of when we think Riesling. Fierce acidity and bright saline flavors are all over this exciting refresher of a white wine. Bring on the shellfish people!

2010 Sattlerhof Sauvignon Blanc Classic ($26.99)

There is this sexy intermingle of tropical and austere that some of the greatest producers in the Loire Valley can coax from Sauvignon Blanc, folks like Crochet and Dagueneau and it was those wines that I flashed upon when I stuck my nose in this glass of wine. Ripe guava, cold white rocks, flecks of lemon rind and the fleshiness of grapefruit all in one lip-smacking glass? Yeah, sign me up for another long, deep pour. Something here reminds me of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc way back when, serious, firm, ripe but tongue gripping….perfect. Look out Sancerre.

2009 Sattlerhof Kranachberg Sauvignon Blanc ($46.99)

The Kranachberg vineyard is the last picked, or latest harvested by Sattlerhof. They like to let the fruit get as ripe as possible, draw from the limestone rich soils and feed on the royalty of this particular slice of land that imparts upon the finish wine a mind-bending texture, enormous length, and layer upon layer of dumbfounding complexity. Anyone that thinks Sauvignon Blanc is not a noble variety has never tasted this Kranachberg Sauvignon Blanc from Sattlerhof, period. Herbs, citrus, minerals, salted pineapple, oyster shells, pink salt, basil oil and with a round, curvy texture that slowly splashes around the mouth, taking over just before finishing all fresh and vibrant, leaving the palate both worked over and wanting more. Too pricy for Sauvignon Blanc, that’s okay there were only like 10 6 packs brought to the west coast and I was only able to nab one so…

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Flavor of Time

Last night was maintenance night. This is the night once a month that I try and cram all my girlie shit into an hour or two. File down my freaking talons…my fingernails are like cement weeds, they are thick as hell and grow super long, fast. My sister got the killer laugh and amazing hair…I got the fingernails and ample rack, sigh…so not fair. I toss a coat of quick drying polish on them, piss and moan that my keyboard, “feels funny now” and then move on to the most hated maintenance day event…dying my hair.

I think coloring your hair is much like addiction, had you known going in that first time that it would be something that you have to feed even though you now hate it, well you never would have tried it in the first place. I thought it might be kinda hot to be that blonde that is just this side of platinum, no warm honey blonde for me. Nope had to go uber blonde and now I’m stuck with a goddamn root monkey on my back…dammit. Now when you are like a trained sniffer, one of those people that has a highly sensitive sense of smell, well maintenance day is a full on assault. I sit here in my living room, my now stiff and unpleasantly aromatic hair piled atop my head and glare at the microwave clock…”Fuck, it’s only been seven minutes?!” it’s wretched and the best part? This lovely chemical stank is shampoo resistant, get to relive the nose assault for a couple days…awesome.

Stinky nail junk, stinky hair junk, the smell of lotion, (which I needed after my get-this-crap-off-my-head shower) and I just knew it was not a wine night. Poured myself a tall glass of tonic with a splash of gin…trying to take it easier, and hunkered down in front of my laptop. I checked my regular blogs, made some adjustments to The Wine Country’s online store and settled on stalking Facebook. I was less than pleasant, offensively aromatic and wishing I had put more gin in my drink. Comment, scroll down, comment and that was when I saw it. A buddy, (I separate my Facebook people into two groups, friends & buddies, the later being people I actually know and talk to on a regular basis on Facebook or otherwise) had posted a picture of the meal he was eating, Boudin Noir.

Just looking at that glistening, darkly colored tube of pork bits, fat and blood, (shudder) and spices and I was transported to a tiny cafĂ© in Paris. It was ten years ago and my first night of my first trip to France. I was with relative strangers, sleep deprived, had been crying in my room before dinner; feeling out of place, being away from my family, terrified of what the next twenty-five days were to hold. I was melancholy as we rushed through the Metro doors, Michael Sullivan barking at me to keep up, my fellow travelers appearing so much more…prepared, together, grown up. Part of me was aching to get left behind, preferring to sit alone in my hotel room than be the-one-that-didn’t-belong that was likely going to make an ass out of herself at a dinner table in Paris. I found a sliver of peace when we were seated in the low lit back corner of the bistro. Still feeling more alone and afraid than I had ever felt before but comforted by the soft lighting, the warm orange glow of lights reflecting off the restaurants copper light fixtures, the lulling hum of people enjoying a meal and each other.

Such a wildly different dining experience that first night in that tiny bistro, a world away from any life I had even thought of before. There was a palpable intensity to the diners a civility, a romantic rhythm to their conversation and appreciation of a meal prepared for them and shared between them…this is what stole my heart and attention.

My head was spun, my heart captivated, I was longing to melt into those dusky walls…be a part of every meal shared in that space…warm orange glow, gentle hum, the smell of freshly prepared food, herbs, freshly cut flowers, wine kissed mustard, decades of cigarette smoke, wine and Pastis dripping from the walls and straight into my veins. How could I have existed before I knew of this place?

“Sam try this” the sound of my own name pulling me back to the table, our table the reality staring me in the face and holding out a forkful of black sausage. I took the fork from Michael’s hand unsure if I was to deposit the oddly colored hot dog on my plate or be so bold as to put my mouth on his fork….I made the deposit. I so wanted to be cool, act as if I were not at all perplexed by the weird color and mealy texture of thing that I was being asked to ingest. Not wanting to be one of “those people” I speared the piece of offered food with my fork and brought it to my lips, the smell of iron and spices wafted through my nose and tried to prepare my palate for what I was about to taste…it failed, there was no way in hell I was prepared for the gawd awful flavor and texture of Boudin Noir.  

Not sure if it was my eyes watering or the over exaggerated puffing out of my cheeks, (you know when you are trying to hold your breath and chew without having the flavor of whatever it is you are trying to force down actually touch your tongue) that started Michael’s laughter. “So what do you think?” he asked through his trying-not-to-laugh laughing. Now there were two ways to go here, I could have kept trying to be cool….pretend that it was fine or worse that I liked it but my fear of being handed another slice had me going with option number two. I swallowed the chewed-enough-not-to-choke, food and answered, “Yeah, that was pretty fucking gross…might just be the single nastiest thing I have ever put in my mouth” I said while reaching for my glass and taking a long mouth cleansing glug of Chablis. That was the beginning, me sitting across from a Michael I had just made laugh, a scene I would see hundreds of times again. Boudin Noir, a taste of things to come.

Always amazes me how the mind works, how we remember not only taste and texture but how those things can be and should be connected to something bigger, more important…a shared evening, a laugh, a night of self indulgence. Food and wine, the taste memory of both acting as snapshots, moments in time captured on the tip of your tongue. These are the things that matter, the things that can never be reduced down to a shelf talker or numerical score. What number should I give my Boudin Noir? On taste alone it would score very low but that moment, the friendship that began that night…immeasurable.

Jean Milan Carte Blanche Blanc de Blanc, the lip of the glass being titled against my collarbone…cold Champagne running down my bare skin….a mouth waiting to capture the, “Samantha seasoned” drops.
Agrapart Rose, six of my favorite people…big loud room, roasted duck, Amy excitedly picking away at beef noodles, shrimp dumplings and pork, “donuts”…Merritt’s birthday and Amy’s first dim sum.

Alliet Chinon, pan seared steak, salty batch of white beans with sage….a rare night alone and a meal prepared just for me.

Gosset Brut Rose, seafood tower…lemons and creamy dill flecked mayonnaise…three women…an order of fries…lots of giggles and a second bottle.

Tempier Bandol Rose, Randy and Dale’s backyard… aioli and grilled lamb....the whole Wine Country team….my son tasting with us….his proclamation that this “Is my favorite”.

I’m not trying to rage against the machine here, I’ve long since given up on fighting the point system of wine evaluation. It’s here to stay and I get that there are some folks that find it useful, my only hope is that people see it for what it is. I mean unless you are tasting that bottle in a lineup of others like it, sipping, spitting and jotting notes before moving on, then your experience is likely to be very different and it should be. Your meal, the rhythm of your own conversation, your moment, your “picture” of an evening or an afternoon spent with a bottle of wine, these things are worth far more than any score…   

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Giving Them Something They Can Feel

“Sam, seriously?” I could feel her absolute disappointment slipping past my head on the heavily expelled huff that my, apparently silly or annoying question inspired. “What is a blouse, exactly?” the huff inducing question I had dared to ask. I’d heard the word used thousands of times, maybe even used it myself, (but I doubt it) from time to time but I was never quite sure what the word “blouse” meant really. “It’s a woman’s shirt” the words puckered up with the vinegar of annoyance from my coworker once again peeved by my somewhat dramatic lack of girl sense. “Oh. Okay. Well I didn’t know if it was a specific kind of shirt…like the up top version of coolots or something.” My eyes sort of scrunched and appley bits of my cheeks just beginning to turn warm, and pink as the “you suck at girl” hammer once again thumped at my noggin and yet, “Well how come they have to use a different word than shirt, and what the hell does blousy mean then?!” went and got my vinegar going too. Stupid clothes. Never got any of that junk, pretty, “blousy” and stylish doesn’t speak to me, never did actually, least not in the more traditional sense of the word.

Late August trips to the Gemco near the house we were living in meant two things to me as a preteen, time away from that awful place and putting down payments on my back to school goods. I would deal with the drudgery of having my mother hold clothes up to my husky frame, cock her head, stand back and watch as I wriggled into corduroy pants and had her own huffery party as I whined and winced, pissed and moaned about the weird sound the pants made when I walked and as I bent in half with my hands shoved in my crotch area, voice cracking as I tried my best to convince her that my chunky thighs, in those pants was sure to start a fire from friction alone. Endured the shoe shopping, the grabbing of the plastic tube of day of the week crunders that we had to buy every year and counted the seconds with each screech of a metal hanger as my mother scoured the sale rack for my back to school finery. I put up with it for one reason and one reason only, to get to the aisles that were packed with Trapper Keepers, boxes of aromatic #2 pencils, stacks and stacks of spiral binders, Pee Chee folders and bin after bin containing my two most cherished items, colored pens and sheets of lined paper in varying sized widths….nirvana. Trips to Gemco were always welcomed as a way to escape the nightmare of a dream house we were enslaved in but in August, it was an excuse to visit those rows of school supplies and fantasize about sharp pencils, crisp paper and the ripping sound of Velcro as I tore into my Trapper Keeper to fetch a clean sheet of college ruled paper and a sharp pencil just waiting….

Now one might think from my love of school supplies that I was a fan of that whole school business, like I was looking forward to getting my learn on and was an eager student but the truth of the matter was that I loathed school, like a lot and it was just the freedom of that blank sheet, the pens or pencils in my hand and the mere idea of being able to create something, anything that made my heart sail and filled me with hope. I would hoard paper, not wasting them on pesky homework assignments or anything, save them for the nights I couldn’t sleep in that house, when I could hear people walking around, their drunk and drugged out stumbling echoing through the tragically empty halls like ghostly creatures, keeping me from sleeping or ever feeling safe. A radio gently whispering and a stack of fresh paper at my side and I could find a tiny slice of peace. The music pulling at my body and the wide open space of paper pulling at my soul. I used to write my thoughts, share my day and speak out loud through the written word, that was until I discovered my mother would read, share and loudly mock me for my pubescent mutterings, took to hiding my journals of scrawled on sheets of paper but she always found them. One night after walking down the hall to hear my mother’s smoky voice laughing my words into the wall mounted phone I decided that writing wasn’t my medium, or a safe one anyway and I turned to forcing my feelings into the pounding of my feet to music, figuring out how to lure with the curve of my hips, the bite in my lips and the occasional drawing of my flowers.  The stillness of my lines, the crazy mixture of textures my voice, my yelling, my begging and my feelings all spilled out in patterns and colors. 

“You again?” my words sort of greeting a dazed looking customer that was standing in my Burgundy department. He had been in that same spot less than ten hours earlier, his fingers laced around the neck of two bottles of wine, his grin the kind of articulation that words could never even begin to encapsulate, “I’ve never spent this much on a bottle of wine….and now I’m buying two” the last words I heard from him the night before as he headed to the registers with two bottles of Grand Cru white Burgundy tucked into his arm. Now here he was again, still looking a bit shocked, dumbfounded and wistful, back at the wine store that introduced him to the wine that was still haunting him. His smile and sort of goofy, mussed hair a tell that he hadn’t even bothered to wash before heading back to our store to get an extra copy of the list of wines we poured, and to just be there, surrounded by the bottles holding all that luscious complexity and texture…I swear I could feel his heart pounding just standing next to him.  

“Those weren’t just Chardonnays” he told me, each word full and saturated with wonder, “I’ve had lots of Chardonnay but those? They are a whole other thing, and I feel like I can still taste them” I stood there nodding trying to contain my chuckles as I watched a young handsome man fall madly in love with something….beyond pretty and easy to taste. His hands falling on and fingers rubbing the labels we had been exposed to the night before, his energy nothing short of contagious. “I guess I didn’t think white wines could do…..that”  as a big toothy smile spread across his face. We spent twenty minutes discussing minerality, Premier Cru and Grand Cru, the power of place but mostly we kept landing on the way those wines felt in his mouth, the richness and volume, the spreading that would get right to the point of over indulgence but was pulled back by mouth tingling acidity…how that dance made the wines just that much more compelling. 

Once we’d said pretty all there was to say I took a glance at my watch and knew I had better start preparing for the next tasting that was to take place that afternoon, I bid good wishes and gratitude to my young wonderer and headed to the kitchen to pick the cheeses for the tasting. I glanced back over my shoulder to see the young enthusiast once again walking the aisle, shaking his head, fingers tracing and sides of his mouth turned up into a surprised half smile. I walked into the kitchen, reached below the counter, using my fingers as a hook I removed one of our big bowled wine glasses from a clean rack, pulled open the door of the fridge, stuck my arm in, the cold air stark and shocking against my skin as I rummaged around clinking bottles and sliding big hunks of cheese out of the way. “There you are….” The glug-glug-glug of fiercely textured Grand Cru white Burgundy falling upon itself in the glass, the spin of my wrist causing the oily texture wine to roll up the side of the glass, the aromas of fresh cut white flowers, browned butter and roasted nuts sneaking out the top of the glass in waves that seemed delicate at first but within seconds had my mouth watering…demanding me to take a sip. Took everything I had to resist but this glass wasn’t for me. This glass of wonder, power, textured stokes, it was for the dreamy-eyed youngster that was hovering over my white Burgundy department…my blank sheet of white paper just waiting for another stroke of my pen.

 Fuck, I love my job….