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Untangled Vine

An attempt to sort through all things wine. Specifically of, and about, but not limited to: Food and Wine in Toledo, Ohio. Plus the day to day musings of a Wine Distributor...


Monday, July 31, 2006

Earlier this month, Michel Richard CITRONELLE in Santa Barbara closed their doors in favor of a new concept called Fresco's. For me, this is a very sad turn of events. I relate it to finding out your childhood home has been leveled. I spent 3 years as Sommelier at CITRONELLE, and for me, it was the most intensive and fascinating span of my wine career. It's not that the restaurant was the best restaurant (it was quite good to be sure) it just provided me with a forum to learn a great deal about wine. We had a 500 bottle California/ French list, so, I was well versed in the old school vs. new school dichotomy. It also taught me just about everything I would ever need to know about how buyers feel about distributors and salespeople, and provided me with cue on how not to be that guy. I dealt with an ass of a French chef that makes Gordon Ramsey look like royalty (Felicien Cueff, I curse you wherever you are, enjoying your strange fetish), and a prince of a celebrity chef, who was mostly occupied by his top notch D.C. venture by the same name. I served wine to many celebs, including Julia Child, and I had to throw coked-up dotcom-ers out of a winemaker dinner. Let’s face it, restaurant life generally sucks, long hours for no pay, but, It was where my Career found it’s voice. It was the springboard for everything that would happen professionally from that point forward.

I still stay in touch with some of the good people that I worked with there, and have likely forever lost touch with many others. I have had meaningful wine jobs before this experience, and certainly since, but this span was an epiphany. The first moment I began to succeed and excel. It was the time I built relationships in this business that continue on to this day. It was the time that I fell in love with Santa Barbara wine country. Although I am sad that the Restaurant no longer exists, I know that I will always think back to those days and situations, and continue to learn from the past.

Nah, I'm just gonna watch...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I have become focused lately on a pet peeve of mine that seems to be growing in the wine world. Men (not to be sexist, but it’s always men so far) attending tastings, and not interacting, just scribbling notes. And sometimes, they run home to post their findings on Squires bulletin Board. Now I don’t really care that these people feel like their opinions need to be heard for no especially good reason (Hey, I have a blog, who am I?). My problem lies with fact that by painstakingly scribbling down each note, the mini-Robert Parker in them is missing something altogether. Wine is a participatory activity.
The term social drinker exists for a reason. There is a whole swath of wine drinkers that exist solely to put a number on something. I am one of the worst wine note takers in this business. But, I don’t need to access my notes like retailers or restaurateurs. I sell, I don’t buy (except for personal consumption) I have noticed that when I do take notes, I remember the wine a little better, so that may be an area I work on. But I digress, the point of all of this is the dichotomy between the observer and the participant. By choosing to observe wines from afar in as sterile and pure a circumstance as possible, these people are choosing analysis over enjoyment. If they are enjoying the experience, beyond just the wine, they are not following scientific observation guidelines, and should be immediately discredited. The flip side, is, if you just embrace it, who cares if you can reference your 20 year old Lafite notes, it’s always been good, it will always be good. By trying to analyze and describe every nuance these people are completely missing the boat. The best wines I’ve had in my life have been in the company of others, and I am sure this amplified them. That scene in Sideways where he drinks Cheval Blanc from a cup just kills me. Not because of the setting, but because he’s alone. Here’s another movie reference, In Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character is sitting in a coffee shop reading and listening to classical music. At one point, his character is so into the music that he looks around for someone to share the moment with, but finds no one. Incidentally, I once came up with a theory that said the most telling quality about a person was whether or not they loved Groundhog Day.
Sometimes the wine helps to create the moment, others, the moment creates the wine. If you don’t set out to enjoy both the moment and the wines, you should probably take up a more solitary activity.

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