Sunday, April 13, 2014

Beat boys

Today makes it a full week, well I guess the days/numbers might be a bit askew seeing as I flew out last Sunday night Los Angeles time and it is now a quarter to 2:00 in the AM here in the tiny picturesque village of Hautvillers in Champagne. Landed in Paris Monday night with 2 other of my travel mates, including the importer that asked us all to come, met with, had dinner with the final of, “The Four” in Paris before we all packed, (and I am talking PACKED as all of us are on two week plus trips here) what was to be our chariot and headed to Angers, a stunningly beautiful village in the Loire. So by the time this post posts it will be Monday there so in some jacked up way I think that makes a week. 

I had many a grandiose plan of writing about each and every day I’ve spent here. Recap the adventures, and misadventures, (don’t worry Josh and Jim…and One Armed Steve, your secrets are safe, for now) packed with stories that gushed with wine knowledge, tidbits on what’s been happening here, the silky textured cheeses and wine soaked sauces we’ve eaten, the caves we walked through and the young vibrant wines we drank but, well as is always the way with these trips to Europe shit happened like drunk and no internet access on the days or nights when I wasn’t….okay on the night when I wasn’t. Most nights we didn’t turn in until way after that fifteen minutes of clarity that seems to happen right before you crash, full-bellied and perfumed with wine, into your pillow, or next wrong decision and the nights that had us behaving in a fashion that might allow the buzzy mutterings of how I was getting along, well there was no internets. Pisser for me as I have down-right bursting at my already tight seams to share and junk. I know both of you that follow must be terribly curious….. 

I have this splendid 15 minutes, an actual table to type on, a glass of 2011 Aliane Morgon Cote du Py Beaujolais at my side, the interwebs at my fingertips and the ache in the pit of my tummy that reminds me how much I miss this space, and both of you, when I’m away too long. In short, a quick update before washing my pudgy face, climbing into my jammies and falling asleep before my alarm starts screaming at me, in less than five hours from now, that I have to get up and stuff my girth into something incredibly wrinkled and head into Reims for a series of Champagne tastings…the real reason I’m here.

When Aline asked me to join her on this tasting and research trip to Champagne I was, of course, first flattered and second like a dribbling idiot, mouth watering like that creepy rapey wolf in those old Loony Tunes cartoons. How could, or would I pass this up?! Well then all the other stuff comes flaring up. Can I get the time off? Can I afford the flight, hotels, dinners and being away from the store? Where else are we going? Is anyone else invited…and when I heard there were to be two other, very prominent retailers on the trip? Will we get along? Will they like, or better yet, get me? Took the leap and by the time we were on that long drive from Paris to Angers in the Loire Valley, that very first night we were already in fits of laughter that would only grow louder, and deeper. 

I’ve spent the past five six days with the most incredible group of honest, funny, crazy and hilarious people. I can’t think of a time I’ve laughed as loud, for so long and even up to the very last few moments, us racing down a nearly empty French beltway to get half of our little road trip family to the airport on time to catch their flight to Bordeaux, Aline and I moving on to our little Champagne adventure, our theme song, “Give me the beat boys and move my soul, I wanna get lost in the rock and roll” bouncing through the cabin of the car, our voices in unison, hands clapping…pulling off the road for one last photo, in a field of yellow…me trying to wipe the tears from my eyes before anyone noticed.

I’ll write more when I can, I've got many a story, wine and food, lots of stuff about France that you ought to know...and then there is still Champagne but tonight, tonight, “Give me the beat boys and free my soul

Jim Knight and Josh Hoover, thank you so much for the laughter, the alcohol induced brain damage and the memories that will be part of who I am forever. Not only are you fiercely talented in your field, you are simply superb humans and I love you now, like it or not. 

Please, don’t drift away…  

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Orange Soda

“Um, how much is it?” my face down-turned, eyes looking up from the seat I was stuffed into, tummy flipping about beneath the ill-fitting and slightly stained shirt that stretched across my awkwardly changing frame. “I’m sorry doll, I can’t hear you, what did you say?” the heavily sprayed, willowy flight attendant now bending down closer to my face, her perfume filling my nostrils as I once again asked, in response to her, “Would you like a soda?” with, “How much is it?” this time just a little louder.

It was my first time on an airplane. I was terrified but in that way where you can’t quite tell if it feels horrible or wonderful. The idea of vacation as foreign as another language to me. Vacation in my world meant an extra paycheck for Mom, which meant the brakes would stop making that horrific scraping sound, or we would have a week or two off from the endless calls from bill collectors. A vacation from our “situation” was something I knew but a vacation as in locking up your apartment, sleeping in a hotel or getting on an airplane? Well that was never a topic of consideration as it wasn’t ever really a possibility. Travel was a thing my mother did before she had kids. Yet another thing we robbed her of, a story of long ago and not something I knew how to feel about, I mean other than guilty. 

“Oh sweetheart, that’s precious” the flight attendant resting her warm hand upon my shoulder as I held open the envelope I was handed by my mother before I boarded. The paper wallet containing the sixty-five dollars that was, in my mind, going to keep me fed and housed for the next two weeks. A bent finger brushed beneath my chin and a sweet whisper in my ear, “They’re free honey” and I was sitting back in my seat, plastic cup full of ice and orange soda on my tray, nervous heart screaming about under my shirt as our plane split through the sky taking me to a whole other state and to visit my mother’s sister and the cousin I didn’t really know. In some strange version of my reality, this trip was the biggest thing that had ever happened to me. Forget that I’d run barefoot through the blazing hot sand of summer on Mexican beaches and lost a parent, no this big metal tube sailing through the air and the exotic Colorado my destination, this was as big a deal as there was. My first vacation was spent with total strangers and for the weird little blonde girl that felt alone in most situations, it was perfect. 

The next summer would find me once again on a fancy flight to far off Colorado, the relatives a touch more familiar but no closer to knowing, or caring to know me, not that I was aching for them to or honestly, all that interested in knowing them. Their mountain top life almost storybook like to me and their….protection, of their own business and feelings keeping me from having even an inkling of what their lives were really like. It was that kind of familial distance that screamed kinfolk to me, which is why even now that word “Family” holds with it an arms-length connotation. Two summers on a plane, the second time having the shoulders-back confidence to order my orange soda knowing it was free. A little more life and information behind me and when the third summer came round and my mother spoke to me while stroking the incredibly soft locks of my sweet baby sister as she let me know that my days on flying metal tubes were over because she needed me to stay home and help watch the baby, the zipping up of luggage, of baggage that would pluck me down from the clouds of far away and remind me, vacations are brief escapes from our situation, nothing more.


Some years later I would meet a man. One that was raised on another planet than I. One that was treated to plane rides, walks on the beach that didn’t come with the churning tummy of fear and loneliness that I had known, but came with another set of situational vacations that sent him running into the arms of beckoning trouble and danger….but his came with a strong set of maternal arms that dug him out and eventually set him on the path that led to me. This man at 21 years old would wrap his awkward arms around a tiny biracial boy, buy him the BIG water guns, pepper his brown face with kisses and let Jeremy call him “Dad” way before I was ready to even commit to being a couple. A man that would leave me frustrated and dumbfounded that he couldn’t feel my feet dug in, hear my “Leave me alone!” screaming and silently, stealthily just showed up over and over again. This man came to us with a routine and desire to see new things, take a break from our situation and he taught both Jeremy and I to seek the new. No matter how scraping the brakes no matter how late the credit card payment….we learned through his patient touch that we needed, needed and deserved that break and would grow as people by just handing over the paper wallet and buckling in for the ride. 

“Would you like a glass of Champagne before takeoff?” a question I will be hearing in just a few hours. I’m boarding a plane and headed to Europe for the 8th time in 11 years. I’ll fly over states that my real family and I have traversed and investigated, the most of the United States checked off my internal growth chart, the world now feeling like it is in the soft warm center of my palm, the knife of my desire and curiosity slipped beneath its shell, my wrist ready to twist….my palate wide open and prepared for the next bite.

“I’ll have an orange soda”

See you on the other side…





Nuits Saint Georges


Here I come, paper wallet wide open, take what you need. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Tell Me

A story...

I need inspiration 
Heart Racing

Favorite Birthday Gifts
The Loss of a Beloved Pet
I Need...
To Touch Me

Monday, March 10, 2014

Quit Pushing

"I'd like to get in to see you with my Roses before you pick your set for the year" More than one, in fact more like 7 of my sales reps and importers looking to make an appointment with me to taste the brand spanking new 2013 February. What the hell people?!

Seems each year the push to get in and taste me on Roses starts earlier. At one time we were the only real game in town when it came to French Roses, only a tiny smattering of restaurants and a couple other retailers bringing in a.....a, Rose here and there compared to our huge wall of hundreds of cases, but now? Everyone has caught on and the mad rush to import dry Roses has been rather insane to watch. Distributors finally catching on to what my boss was saying 18 years ago, that Rose is the perfect summer wine, weighty enough for charred foods retrieved from smoldering backyard grills, the crisp produce and layered salads we tend to eat when everything else seems just too heavy...and it's just fun as hell to fill a glass with icy cold, pale pink wine and drink it under the pounding sun, and what the in-the-know importers were doing all along. The phone and my email box get blasted each year as the Wine Country Rose buyer and this year, sooner than ever before.

Each year my experience gets taxed a bit more while being seated across the table from a sweaty bottle of pink wine, often with the vintage changed via magic marker. I smell these samples, swirl and try and shake off the baby fat, try and imagine where this wine is going to be, you know, when it's ready to be consumed, and do my best to make notes on the stuff underneath the gangly bits that tend to be the most aggressive when wines are sampled weeks or months before they are going to be bottled. I know there are critics out there that write notes on wines still in barrel and as someone that has done this for 17 years I cannot begin to image just which dark crevice of their asses they think this information is good for or who it's going to benefit....

"Dude, what they hell?!" my frustrated garble after swishing the thirtieth backward 2013 Rose around my palate, feeling the daggers of pissed-off-and-not-ready digging deeply on my tongue. I pushed the glass away from me and looked demanding into the big, sympathetic brown eyes of one of my beloved French importers. "I know, I know Sam-mon-ta, but what am I supposed to do?" his thick accent full of as much annoyance as my stinging palate. He went on to tell me that the retailers and restaurant folks here in California were demanding that they get sampled on the new vintage Roses by February and early March, at the latest, so they could make their buying decisions for the year. "But, but these wines aren't ready" my scrunchie faced protest. He nodded and shook his head, I could feel his confusion and trepidation as he said, "Yes, but to have my wines considered I have to show them now. I'm sorry and I know you guys get it but...well think of all the people here that buy strawberries in November, not everyone does. They don't taste right, or even good but they are here and that's appears to be what matters." Argh!

Hard enough to evaluate wines that aren't even bottled yet. Even harder to do so when they are being rushed to market...lets toss in a vintage that had record rainfall, grapes picked a month later in many regions, (ahem, like Provence) and saw production numbers down 30% and more, well lets just say my notes are a bit like pin the tail on the donkey. Why the hell are we once again forcing wine to do what it isn't ready or able to do? Just to have your Roses lined up that are not going to taste a fucking thing like the wines you took notes on, months before?! Helpful that. How the hell does this make sense and what is it doing to our credibility...or is that something we, as wine professionals, have just tossed in the air and said "Fuck it." about? I have wines lined up, notes nervously taken, and a shitton of Rose tasting appointments still left to go. You want to know what to think about the 2013 vintage Roses? Well here, there's this..



The wines while young do show plenty of promise. All the pieces are there and given just a smidgen of time I know they will come together...just wish we weren't rushing them! Let them settle and kick off their awkward teenage gangle. Can't help but think we'd cultivate a lot more, long lasting Rose fans if we let the wines finish before we shake them from their evolutionary slumber and dump them on the public while they are still stumbling around on baby legs trying to settle into their own flesh...

Ready for ready Rose...
Your palate fatigued Wine Slinger

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

One Last Kiss

I had been thinking of you all day, thinking about the fact that last night was to be the last night I would have to see you, touch you, smell you….it was been a long day but I hated to watch the sky turn that cold shade of blue that let me know that the day was almost over and night was coming, our last night was coming. While I knew the day would have to come I had been pushing the thought out of my mind, sailing through my days with blinders on but always with a tick-tock buried deep in the back of my cluttered head, flinching the once or twice I even let myself drift to the thought of being without you….

My drive home was a schizophrenic, I let myself remember you, think of how I longed for you, the way you touched my lips in just a way that would make me suck the air deep into my chest…not wanting to exhale, not wanting that one second of sheer pleasure escape my body. As if holding you there would make the moment last forever, or as long as I could have it. The way my fingers would run along the length of your frame and I remember, even now how even though you made me feel warm there was coolness to you, like even my fingers knew that you would not, could not be mine for long. 

My mind then shifted to the many times that even though I loved you, I would let my desire wander, look to others to please me and how each time we were reunited you reminded me that although others may be “fun” there was something serious happening here…. We were never perfect together but somehow it just fit, I understood your feral nature and you filled my heart with comfort and my body with delectation. 

But last night, we had to let it all become a memory, a memory that makes me smile, ache and wish that I could see you one last time…..knowing it will never be will only remind me of how special you were, worth remembering worth longing for, worth missing…..I see myself years from now rubbing my fingers across my lips, picturing you, remembering the way that you move and wishing I could taste you one last time. I will miss you more than could ever possibly fathom. 

As I pulled you out
Ran my fingers along the length of you
Felt the insides of my mouth begin to water with want 
Could hear my own breath and heartbeat as the soundtrack
Of our last night

The next You
The newest You
The "best" You
Will never taste or feel as sweet
Never be better than you were last night...
Only different

Wine not unlike people has personality, each vintage a little different…not better or worse, just different and the more we drink them the more you can decipher the subtle touch that each vintage lends to what is in the glass. Love each vintage for what it is and look forward to the next like you would a first kiss from a new love.