Suburban Wino 2: The Wordpress Experiment

Sales 101

January 29, 2013
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I used this image in place of the descriptors on a presentation sheet for a very important tasting tomorrow (well, at this point, today):

I’m pretty confident it will pay dividends.  While I don’t necessarily always like to “dumb down” wines that deserve some respect, I really think the people tasting know what they’re doing, and there’s no benefit to saying that the wine has, “whispers of ripe-to-underripe Israeli persimmon, with masculine undertones of femininity carrying through the tart lychee-blossomed finish.”
Of course, that’s exactly what I smelled and tasted on the wine, and then visions of this creature materialized.  So, it’s pretty much a slam dunk.
That’s how you do it.  That’s how you sell wine.


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Stuff I Missed…

January 7, 2013
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‘Twasn’t the most verbose year in Suburban Wino history.  Those who know what I’ve been up to the past year understand why I wasn’t left with gobs of time to sit in front of the computer and painstakingly craft (mostly) coherent posts.  However, that doesn’t mean that this year was devoid of exciting and interesting happenings in the world of wine.  More accurately, in MY world of wine.  Sure, it’s less relevant to the general wine-drinking public, but I’ve got an ego that needs to be stroked, so we’re gonna talk about me.  Okay, we’re not gonna talk about me, per se, but about stuff that I experienced in 2012.  Not sure what else to write about.  I don’t care about what James Suckling or Emilio Estevez experienced, and you shouldn’t either.  Maybe there’s something relevant here after all:

The Wine Business is…

…not at all less glamorous than I expected.  I’m not surprised it’s tough, because I know the climate and have known the people in it for a while.  Now, a grizzled veteran at one year’s experience, I have to say that it is (if I may paraphrase Denny Green) “what I thought it was”:  work.  Not a lot of sitting around, drinking wine, visiting exciting locales around the world.  More accurately, the wine business is- at least initially- hard, HARD work for very little pay, involving long hours, intense competition, aggression, a parade of disinterested and jaded buyers, and even further disinterested consumers who buy on scores, cute labels, and low prices (the latter, I suspect, perpetuated by the laziness of retailers, distributors, and the consumers themselves).  Brushing with a broad stroke here, of course, but wine is held in a much lower regard by so many than one gets swept into believing when dug into the blogging world.  In fact, I’ve had two rather sobering realizations during my short time in the trenches:

  1. 90% of the wine-consuming public DOES NOT GIVE A DAMN about wine as anything more than a means to get drunk.
  2. Fear of the unknown and unfamiliar is extraordinarily prevalent in the consumer world of wine-buying, and the comfort of a consistent experience drives buying behavior heavily.
When we are so passionate about something, we tend to not understand why others don’t share that passion.  We so badly want others to have the epiphany we once did; that “aha” moment when we took a sip of the wine that changed our view of the world forever.  But many (most) will never experience that, because they don’t have enough desire to allow the experience to occur.  Rather than lament those who will never have interest, I’ve enjoyed the zeal of the other 10%.  Those who love wine the way I do, eager novices, seasoned collectors, evangelical buyers, beverage managers, and total nerds… teaching them, learning from them, sharing incredible bottles with them… all of that has been completely satisfying.  I can’t say I’d have been able to meet those precious few without taking the leap into this endeavor.
I think I could live in Oregon…

…based on summertime visits, at least.  They say it’s a cold, rainy, miserable place, but I’ve only experienced Portland and the Willamette Valley twice:  June of 2010 and August of 2012.  Beautiful, warm, and gloriously unspoiled (the suburbs of Portland don’t just seem to bleed and bleed into the country like they do in the massive sprawl of Atlanta).  Okay, the beach was cold, but I’m super-pale by nature anyway, and terrified of sharks, so I don’t need a hot beach.  There is good wine, great beer, lots of fresh produce, seafood, meats, and cheeses.  Houses in wine country are cheap.  The restaurant options in Portlandia are magical.  I got a fried pie filled with macaroni & cheese and bacon from a food truck.

There’s and ideal vibe:  city living, but small-city living, with wine country and plenty of access to wholesome ingredients for cooking.  It just seems right.

Downsides:  no NFL team.  But I could watch the Falcons at 10 AM and consistent get out of going to church.  Perhaps the schools are crappy.  Taxes might be bad.  Oh, and my wife grew up in Phoenix.  That’ll be a tough sell…

Former (and current) Atlantans make some wine…

Great to see pals Hardy (former Atlantan) and Matt (aka “Rowdy”, current Atlantan) release their first wines.  Good stuff will silly labels, and I wish them much success.  These two have showered extraordinary generosity upon me in many ways over the past few years, so I am eternally in their corner as they grow a business that is damn stinkin’ hard to make thrive.

Also excited for buddy Ed Thralls (former Atlantan) to release his first Pinot Noir from his new label, Thralls Family Cellars.  I tasted an early bottling (admittedly, while my palate was not its sharpest), and I expect big things.  Likewise, the Thralls have been wonderful and generous to me.

Not necessarily making wine (that I know of), but proud to see another friend- Matt Mauldin (former Atlantan)- working with Joe Davis over at Arcadian in Santa Barbara County.  Maybe the seemingly even-keeled Matt can keep Joe in line a bit, but it could be tough.

Happiest Place on Earth?

The EPCOT Food & Wine Festival took the proud tradition of the World Showcase Pub Crawl to new levels.  Kiosks are set up in the park, featuring food and drink from not only the 13 countries with permanent outposts, but probably 30 others interspersed.  I expected clichéd dishes like “shrimp on the barbie” from the Australian kiosk, but was pleasantly surprised with EPCOT going out on a limb a bit:  France, for example, was serving escargots.  Can’t beat snails-to-go.

Beer was represented heavily, and the wine flowed freely (but not “free” as in the sense that it didn’t cost a pretty penny).  Many of the wines were the widely-distributed, usual suspects, but gems could be found (Selbach-Oster Spätlese Riesling found deep behind German lines).

The festival runs every November.  If you need to erase the haunting jingle of “It’s a Small World” from your mind, $200 and 40 drinks can do so quickly.  Bring in-laws as a quick fix for babysitting the little one(s).

What about 2013?

No idea what to expect.  But I feel the path down which life is taking me is starting to clear, and I think- for the first time in a while- I’m getting my feet beneath me.  No matter what happens, to all those who have supported and encouraged me to take an easily ill-advised leap of faith, I sincerely thank you.

Now excuse me while I go stalk Emilio Estevez on Twitter.

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Well, now what am I going to do?

December 21, 2012
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Perhaps it is hubris for me to assume- post 12:10 GMT- that we are all in the clear.  Given the fact that the Mayans had no abacuses, TI-85’s, crazy 80’s Swatch watches, or even rudimentary search engines like Ask Jeeves!, I suppose they could have been off by a couple hours.  As soon as I walk into my favorite local Quik-e-Mart to discover they have, indeed, run out of Tahitian Treat, then I will know that shit is going down and I exhaled far too soon.
But, in the far-more likely scenario that the Mayans- like any myriad doomsday soothsayers- were a bunch of wackadoos, I’m left on this brisk Friday morning with one burning question:
What the hell am I supposed to do now?  I had an action-packed day planned of jumping over lava flows, escaping crumbling metropolises with my family in a conveniently hot-wired sports car (daredevil, hair-pin turns aplenty), and smashing zombie heads with whatever blunt-force objects were available.
Not to mention this extensive list of things I always wanted to do before I die:
  • Punch the “Napa Know-How” guy in the face.
  • Get a giant checkerboard, with one set of checker pieces being McDonald’s “Filet-O-Fish” sandwiches, and the other set being Krystal cheeseburgers.  Upon jumping over the opponent’s checker piece, it is quickly consumed.  When you get the other end and are to be “kinged” (since the captured pieces are already consumed), you instead get a high-five from King Curtis.
  • Buy several intangible services (like massages and psychiatric evaluation), then ask to return the merchandise for refund, because I “have the receipt, and it hasn’t been 90 days since purchase”.
  • Grow an impressive parsnip garden.
  • Jump high in the air, fist pumped to the sky in celebration (as if at the end of a feel-good 80’s movie), and have everything freeze-frame.
  • Watch an entire episode of the WB’s Reba.
  • Throw a pizza like a frisbee to be fetched by a life-like robotic dog.
  • Live to see if Svedka really is voted the #1 Vodka of 2033.
  • Go to jail, and then when the biggest, baddest guy in the prison asks me to be his bitch, I slap him in the face with a fresh, dolphin-safe tuna, then yell “beep beep” and speed out of there like the Roadrunner.
  • Finally finish that last, tearjerking chapter of Jesse Ventura’s I Ain’t Got Time to Bleed.
  • Watch all the 2-D movies in existence while wearing 3-D glasses.
  • Eat an entire, live pig in the manner a python would.
Well, I guess I can still do all this stuff.  But, in the proud tradition of procrastination and regret, I suppose I will wait until the next doomsday prophecy.

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October 19, 2012
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When is a wine really dry?  What is dry?  
There are dry climates, meaning that humidity is relatively low.
There are dry senses of humor.  Steven Wright has one.  Jeff Dunham does not.  Incidentally, Jeff Dunham doesn’t have humor, either.
In wine, however (or beer, or spirits), “dry” refers to the absence of residual sugar in a drink.  To simplify, take the classic kid-making-Kool-Aid example:  to make a batch of delicious Kool-Aid, one combines the tiny packet of purple with 2 heaping cups of sugar and 2 quarts of water.  However, as I kid, I didn’t realize that anything beyond the packet of purple and water was needed.  I ended up with purple-colored acid water.  Sure, I tried to sell it as “Kool-Aid Dry”, but my 5-year-old friends had really unsophisticated palates…
So far, so good?  A wine without the presence of residual sugar (meaning actual fruit sugar left over in the wine that was not converted to carbon dioxide and alcohol by yeast during fermentation; or, sugar added to a dry wine after fermentation, as in the case of süssreserve) is “dry”.  Otherwise, a wine with sugar present might be called “off-dry” or “sweet” or “Arbor Mist”.*
Yet, in my very important day-to-day business dealings, I have many folks tell me that dry wines taste sweet, and many others are extraordinarily dry.  In the case of the former, a wine with a great deal of ripe fruit flavor can be perceived by our palates as being sweet.  However, said fruit-forward wine may contain little or no residual sugar, therefore- technically- it’s dry.  ‘Tis a very difficult concept to explain without making someone feel like a dumb-ass or coming off like a jerk-ass.  But a very fair observation for any fledgling wine lover to make.
An extraordinarily common misconception is when a person thinks a wine is “dry”, when, in fact, it is “drying”.  Remember:  in wine terms, “dry” is the absence of sugar.  But when drinking a wine makes one’s mouth lockjaw like a rusty nail to the foot, that is a product of tannin.  That fuzzy feeling in your mouth after drinking a young Cabernet Sauvignon?  Tannin.  
Tannins are basically astringent compounds that exist in grape seeds, skins, and stems, and in wood (like oak barrels).  They add structure to wines, pleasant bitterness, and lend to color.  However, tannins bind to proteins and precipitate.  As human saliva contains proteins, these tannic phenolic compounds basically bind to our saliva, giving the sensation of drying out our mouths.  So, if you are someone who is insecure about your “wine speak” (and 99% of it is B.S. anyway, so don’t be uptight), the formula is simple:
Refer to a wine in which you sense no presence of sugar as “dry”

Refer to a wine which dries your mouth out as “tannic”

Of course, anyone who gives you a hard time about using the proper terminology when discussing wine should get a Champagne cork to the nuts.  But, I understand it’s import for people to feel comfortable with their wine, and this is a nice, valuable tidbit to know.
Another tidbit:  don’t feed your cat Arbor Mist.
*I don’t mean for this comment to suggest that sweet wines are of poor quality.  Some of the finest (and most expensive) wines in the world are quite sweet.  

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Is Georgia Willing its Teams to Lose?

October 12, 2012
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No, it’s not a wine-related post.  But, the subject matter has certainly led to a bunch of drinking.
Last Saturday, I witness my then-fifth ranked Dawgs get absolutely bulldozed on national TV by rival South Carolina.  I haven’t felt that uncomfortable viewing since I took Dad to see Brokeback Mountain because I know he’s fond of Westerns.
Only 24 hours earlier, I poured another drink to unsuccessfully stave off the déjà vu of Atlanta Braves collapse in the MLB postseason.  The best defensive baseball team in 2012 committed three crucial errors, including one by lame duck future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones.  Everything that could go wrong did, including a freak show, phantom infield fly rule.  But, somehow, I knew it would happen.
source:  Associated Press
These are scenarios that have become all-too-familiar for sports fans in Atlanta.  Even the resurgent Falcons can’t win in the playoffs, even when they’re the #1 seed- like in the 2010 season- and always seem to run into a buzz saw; a “team of destiny”.  In the past four seasons, the Falcons have made the playoffs 3 times, played teams with much worse regular-season records, and all 3 of those teams ended up in the Super Bowl, and 2 won in all (Green Bay in 2011, New York in 2012).
Some may dismiss my claims.  “But your teams are at least making it to the playoffs, or having winning seasons.”  But honestly, is it worse to be perennially terrible, or just terrible when it really counts?  Great teams keep winning.  Bad teams get fixed.  Mediocre teams get mired in staying the course and hoping the ball bounces the other way next time.  It’s maddening.  A local sports radio host made a great analogy:  Georgia sports teams are Lucy, pulling the football away from the fans’ Charlie Brown every time.
Who is to blame?
Not the teams.  On paper, they have all the talent.  Not the coaches… they’re not the ones on the field.  Certainly not the officials, no matter how the hell an infield fly rule can be called in the middle of the outfield.
No, the finger is pointed squarely at you (and me), the fans.  And my reasoning, much like biodynamics (shameless wine reference), is, admittedly, a little “cosmic”.
Search the web, and you’ll find thousands of references to the concept of the Universe in synergy.  Even Einstein suggested that we are all connected.  The mysterious power of Prayer has been exalted by millions.  Often, it sounds like a bunch of hooey, but if the best measure of a concept’s credibility is its popularity, then the critical mass is there.
So, what if 6 million people in Metro Atlanta truly believed that their sports teams are going to eventually fail, “just like they always do”?  Is it reasonable to suggest that the fans are projecting negative energy onto the gridiron or the baseball diamond, and the teams are absorbing and converting those bad vibes into bad play?  One of the biggest cliches and most common sound bytes heard from victorious athletes is that the team “fed off the energy of the fans”.  No matter how rollicking the crowd in the stadium, perhaps the majority outside is superseding any good energy, somehow- in some weird metaphysical way- causing these teams to inevitably lose.
It’s time for good vibes.  Georgia fans:  you are needed immediately (well, you have a bye week to choke down this astrological jive, but then it’s time to get in line).  The Braves, Falcons, and Hawks have some time, so start depositing those positive thoughts in the good vibes bank, and prepare to withdraw when the time is right.  What have we got to lose?  Nothing but disappointment.
And for all those insisting on being negative, there are plenty of Cleveland sports teams selling stylish and affordable merchandise.

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Mixing Kids and Wino Weekend Warriors

October 11, 2012
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Back in August, I solicited the interwebs for insight on bringing a toddler out to wine country.  I was about to head to Oregon’s Willamette Valley with a motley crew of parents, kids, wives (well, wife… she’s put forth ZERO effort to find any sister wives).  Having made the trip to Sonoma with an infant who, well, pretty much slept the whole time, I was unsure how accommodating an industry of escape-from-the-day-to-day would be towards a critter bouncing off the walls.

Turns out, it can be done.  In fact, quite easily.  Granted, the trip has to deviate a bit from bacchanalian booze cruise, but no one wants to see you naked and dripping with wine anyway.  Okay, I do, but for the purposes of this family-friendly post, let’s say I don’t.
Got kids, but love wine travel?  Here are some tried-and-true pointers that make the trip as harmonious as Champagne paired with chicken nuggets:
1)  Do a little research.  Visit the websites of Vintners’ associations in the respective area you plan to tour.  Many offer lists of the number of “family friendly” wineries.  Some places are just more laid-back than others.  In my experience, places like Sonoma County (CA), Willamette Valley (OR), Eastern Washington, and Santa Barbara County (CA) are more down-to-Earth, so they’re not as uptight about kids running around.  The Napas of the world are great to visit, but may be a little high-strung.  Of course, that’s a sweeping generalization, so you can always…
2)  Call ahead.  Find the wineries you want to visit, and simply call ahead or email to make sure they are kid-friendly.  Some are very sensitive of their adult guests, and don’t want toddlers running around and screaming.  Granted, I’ve seen plenty of adults running around and screaming at the fifth tasting of the day.  Not me, mostly because I can’t see myself.  Anyway, a quick conversation with the winery can eliminate all doubt and apprehension about showing up to a classy joint with a kid on a leash.  You don’t use those kid-leashes, do you?
3)  Rent a house.  There are tons of wine country homes for rent on websites like VRBO.  By renting a house, you eliminate the need to have to eat out for every meal, so there’s no need to worry about kids behaving at swanky restaurants (though there are many family-friendly ones around).  Bonus point:  wine country is an agricultural area, so there tends to be extraordinary produce and other vittles available.  By renting a house, you have access to a kitchen.  Just don’t screw up those lovely ingredients if you’re a terrible cook.
4)  Bring activities, and abuse technology.  Got an iPad?  Invest in Netflix streaming, and some good 3G service.  You can plop your kid in the corner with a few Disney movies and let the babysitter do its magic.  There are also special earphones for kids with noise protection.  Are you a hipster who hates technology?  A bag full of coloring books can do wonders.  I recommend the markers that can only write on the special paper in the books.  Crayon draws anywhere.
4)  Solicit traveling babysitters.  I know not everyone can do this, but I bribed my parents into coming along on the trip.  We rented a big house and they helped chip in to watch the little one.  The wife and I even got away for some tastings by ourselves.  I only recommend this move if Thanksgiving is a joyful experience for you.  Otherwise, there are lots of websites like that can help you find a local babysitter.  You can trust that sitter with your kid, but hide those good bottles of wine.
5)  Mix in some non-wine tasting days.  Wine Country always has so much besides wine to offer.  Working farms, nearby oceans, berry-picking, festivals, farmers’ markets, breweries, balloon rides, hiking, etc. seem to always offer creative alternatives to spend your money.  We spent a full day out on the Oregon coast (most of it winding through that damn coastal range), and didn’t miss wine tasting a bit.
Look at that happy tike.  Still not convinced it can be done?  
Have fun in Disney World, you flake.

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Wine [Country] for Kids

August 8, 2012
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Back in 2010, the wife (for legal purposes, “the wife” referring to either current wife or any future wives thereafter, as to preserve the legitimacy of said post) and I headed out to San Francisco for a wedding, 4-month-old in tow.  After the wedding, we sojourned to Healdsburg in northern Sonoma county for a few days to soak in the wine culture.  As it was early September in the Dry Creek Valley, temperatures soared into the 100’s, leaving us with no choice to abandon our original plan of leaving the kid in the car to sleep while we attended tasting rooms.

…geez, I’m kidding.  We weren’t ever planning on leaving the kid in the car.  I post a picture of a kid slugging from a wine glass, tastelessly joke about leaving my infant in a hot car, and suddenly I’m flagged as a “terrible parent”.  Sensitivity!

In actuality, we knew touring wine country with an infant was a gamble.  Truth be told, many Napa tasting rooms let me know ahead of time that we would not be welcomed with bundle-of-joy attached.  Fortunately, she was a trooper, spending most of her time sleeping in her Graco Snugride® 22, while we sampled the wares of Northern California.  And, since you already think I’m a dreadful parent, be assured that I was always maintaining sobriety during the daily tours, as to safely squire my fair ladies around the Dry Creek and beyond.  Such a gentleman.

Admittedly, infants are pretty easy.  You keep the diapers changed, supply them with a bottle, and they pretty much sleep all the time.  Furthermore, they can’t move, especially at 4 months.  If you put an infant in one place, she stays in place.  They’re like tiny versions of video gamers.  Our gamble paid off, and the experience was both wonderful for us and not upsetting to the little one.

However, as we head back to wine country next week (Oregon’s Willamette Valley in this case), the 4 month old has blossomed into a rambunctious 2+ year old.  Full of energy, rarely napping, and always looking for something to get into.  Don’t get me wrong:  she’s one of the best-behaved 2 year olds I’ve ever seen, and does very well in our favorite hotels and restaurant-type places.  But… she’s two.  Take my mental capacity and immaturity and put it into a small body with boundless pep.  Trouble brewing…

So, as I am in the wine industry, I do wish to be especially respectful of those in the tasting rooms and vineyards.  I assumed the best course of action is to just call ahead to any places I’d like to visit and make sure that they’re fine with kids.  That said, I don’t like to stick to an itinerary.  There are certainly articles on the web documenting the most “kid friendly” wineries, but I didn’t find many that seemed to serve “jaded, snobby, wine rep- friendly” wines that I desire to try (okay, I’m not that bad, but most seemed to be places that are already well-distributed back home, and I want to try new things).

To this end, in a brilliant stroke of persuasion, I’ve invited my parents to join us on the trip.  Mostly, I wanted to share the wine country experience with them.  As a pleasant side-effect, they’ve offered to act as babysitter when necessary.

With all the scenarios in place, I’m reaching out to those who have had the wine country experience with toddlers.  I love sharing vacation experiences with my whole family, but would we be best-served leaving our child with my parents and tasting alone (my wife and I)?  I don’t want my folks to miss out on the experience either.  Do we visit some places alone, and bring the kid to others that seem like they can handle it?  Or, do we skip wine and enjoy Oregon’s… uh, I don’t know… marionberry farms?

Ultimately, I’m not worried, and I know the whole adventure will be wonderful.  But I am interested and eager to solicit any insights from those with prior experience.

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Trying Something New

May 31, 2012
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Familiar is comfortable and safe.

So are turtlenecks.  And Volvo station wagons (are station wagons even around anymore?).  I imagine a pair of British Knights offers both a cushioned sole and adequate ankle support when one wants to comfortably- and safely- dance the Roger Rabbit to the latest hip-hop stylings of Color Me Badd.

But guess what?  After dressing warmly in my ribbed turtleneck & pumped up kicks by BK, then taking to the streets in my 245 DL, I figured out that the conservative route elicits little adventure, and even less sex appeal.  No hot rod will challenge a Volvo off the line at a stop light.  Cops don’t glare with apprehension- and a bit of admiration.  I don’t need to run faster than anyone’s bullets in my British Knights… nobody wants them.  And no sexy American foxes are coming after me when a turtleneck shrouds my bulging biceps and even more impressive liger’s mane of chest hair.

Let’s get as real as the kids say they are keeping it these days:  California Chardonnay is the turtleneck of wines.  Folks who only drink Napa Cabernet also happen to wear British Knights (look at their feet next time!  Seek out that huge “BK” on the side of the shoe, staring you down like a Cali Cab drinker’s scarlet letter).

But I understand it’s tough to deviate, especially to those who are just starting to drink wine.  Many of us started our adventure into adult beverages with 6 and 12 packs of beer.  For the price of a halfway decent bottle of wine, we were getting 12 drinks.  And 12 is more than 1… 1 bottle of wine, that is.  It was always hard to justify- unless trying to look cool and sophisticated in front of a lady for whom I had a fancy- buying only a couple drinks when I could get several.  Alas, I suppose alcohol back then was a means to an end, not something to be considered a compliment to the meal.

So, when the time came to pony up, it was important to go with what we knew.  What had tasted good before.  Its like being in a foreign country and going to McDonald’s.  I think the instinct is to avoid risk and go with consistency.  We’re all guilty of it.  In business travel, I’ve eaten a hell of a lot more Taco Bell in my days than popping into the local place.

With wine, the choices are endless.  Dizzying, even.  And so many don’t know what they may be missing.  I’ve tasted more people on torrontés and bonarda (among others) in the past 5 months who had never even heard of the grapes.  They’ve walked past the bottles a million times, but didn’t want to risk a bad experience.  After tasting, at least 8 out of 10 expressed excitement and favor towards these “new” wines.

Next time you go out to buy, try something new.  If you’re shopping at a good store with knowledgeable wine folks, they won’t steer you wrong, and they probably won’t put a bunch of junk on the shelves anyway.  I rarely buy the same wine twice.  There’s just so much out there.  It’s a great way to learn about the hundreds of grapes and regions that turn out fabulous juice.

Be sure to still wear those British Knights, though.  Most shops require shoes.

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The Madness

April 26, 2012
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I have about 10 unfinished posts sitting in limbo: uninspired, unfocused, drunken louts stumbling into the night’s air, seeking the next bar after all the bars have closed.  These posts are half-complete; blog versions of Return of the Jedi Death Stars.  Where the metaphor falls apart (as they so often do) is in the fact that these posts- unlike incomplete Death Stars- are not able to destroy planets.  Planet destructing ability is the Waterloo to so many potentially great metaphors…

So, left with an inability to put cohesive thoughts together, well, for the past 3 months, I decided to default to the only reasonable alternative:  turn on Iggy & the Stooges’ Funhouse (at a reasonable volume… there are kids in the house, for pete’s sake), drink not one, but two La Croix flavored sparkling waters, and just start writing.  Whatever comes to mind.  Death Stars?  Really?  I dunno, but it came to mind.  Just put something down on paper so that I can jar something meaningful loose.

And who the hell is Pete?

Call it stream-of-consciousness, I suppose.  Every writer (term used extraordinarily loosely) gets his William Faulkner moment.  And not that I’m trying to compare myself to Faulkner.  How could I?  I never understood a damn thing he ever wrote.

And then, there is wine.  That’s why we’re all here.  And by “we”, I mean me and a bunch of Russians who accidentally ended up on this site through a search engine because I’m pretty sure I’ve reference Ivan Drago many times.  Maybe something like Argentine Malbec being the Ivan Drago to Rocky’s Cahors.  At the time, it probably made sense.  To my Russian friends:  Ivan Drago was a fictional character, but I still toast you.  Nostrovia, comrades!  And if that toast is too Anglicized, then На здоровье!

photo credit:

While we’re toasting, let’s talk about wine.  First thoughts about wine that come to my head:

That didn’t work.  This stream of consciousness thing is tough when your mind is a complete blank.

Anyway, go drink some wine.  It’s good.  Made from grapes.  Vitis vinifera, which translates to “wine grapes”.  I’d ask a Latin-speaker to confirm that, but they’re all dead.  At least the real ones.  Not the posers who teach it in high school and tell buyers to beware.

The end.

Or, perhaps the beginning.  Of what?  I have no friggin’ idea.  Bear with me here.

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"Here’s to Crime"

March 22, 2012
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It’s not something I’m uttering because I might’ve eaten an olive from the olive bar at the grocery store today.  Nor, is the title indicative of the fact that I drove 37 in a 35 yesterday, and got away with it, to the chagrin of hapless coppers.

When I say, “here’s to crime”, I say it as a toast.  A toast to this man:

That’s my grandpa, Louis F. Herrig, who finally decided that he’d done all he could do in this life, after a tidy little run of 103 years.  He passed last Thursday, leaving a legacy untouched by any family member I’ve ever known, along with the template for long life:

– The daily Vodka Martini (Gramps was never much of a wine guy, save the splash of dry vermouth in his martini)
– Red meat, pan fried in butter
– An occasional cigar
– Hard Work
– Faith, and Family
– Humor, in every situation

All of it, as he prescribed, in moderation.  Seems to have served him well.  I was also taught by Grandpa- along with the moderation thing- not to let anything cause stress in my life.  Admittedly, I can occasionally stray from the principles of Moderation.  However, I’m not going to allow my deviations to stress me out.  Perhaps Grandpa’d be proud of my loophole.

While it’s easy to say that sadness is not protocol for those mourning someone who had lived so fully, the fact of the matter is we were given that much longer to get to know him.  Hence, the loss is so greatly significant.  His loved ones had become accustomed to Grandpa always being around; his gruff and self-effacing exterior merely shrouding tenderness and a fierce love for his family.

However, my title for this post does not insinuate that his leaving us was a crime.  Grandpa stole not a single one of those 103 years.  He lived each and every one with purpose:  causing us to laugh ourselves dizzy, imparting unparalleled wisdom, making new friends, and outliving his enemies (if any).

Rather, “here’s to crime” is a toast Grandpa used to pronounce to us when glasses were raised.  Quite simply, during Prohibition, it was the jovial and defiant salute given by patrons of the speakeasys.

Something about that always made me smile.  And though Louie has left us for the great Unknown, the stories and the memories will always remain.  They- themselves- will be shared, passed on, toasted, and embellished upon…

…in moderation, of course.

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