Now, for the second question- ‘How did you wind up doing a radio show?" this one is a little more entertaining. I started out in the business 20 years ago in retail. Selling Sutter Home White Zinfandel was the highlight of my day.
I was energetic enough to warrant a move to the wholesale side of things (selling wine to your favorite bars, restaurants and mega marts).
One way or another, I managed not to strangle any customers or supervisors and moved my way up the food chain, until I was "upper management" with a very large wholesaler. For the record, this is where the wine business finally got fun. Part of my "upper management" job description, which finally included strangling customers or sales personnel, was to educate the public and conduct large tastings. This put me in a fairly public light. Because of this fact, when the President of the radio network starting doing homework for a lifestyle wine show, he polled local restaurateurs as to a mouthy female who could speak about wine, and my name was top of the list. (Poor man, I still don't think he knows how badly they all set him up).
Now, there are two things to remember about lifers in the wine business. The first is that they are cynical to a fault and are suspicious as hell of any good intentions directed their way. The second thing to remember is that if you wish to have a serious discussion with anyone in the wine business, do not expect to do it after 7:00 on a Friday night. True wine people are either conducting a function, or have had to sample their wares repeatedly to get over the week that just occurred. The president of the studio, unaware of the two bits of wisdom above, dialed my cell phone number at 7:45 on a Friday evening in late October.
To this day, I too am amazed I have a radio show. Convinced as I was that it was a fun loving competitor on the other end of the line playing a clever joke, it is amazing that the Wine Crush is a place I call home today. Fortunately for me, despite my sardonic commentary, my flippant responses and all out rude behavior, the studio President thought I was a perfect fit to get his fledgling wine show off the ground. Although I have to admit, I do wonder if he drank as much as he does now before he made that fateful phone call. So, it holds true, people don't decide to be in the wine business, it usually decides for them.
There are two primary questions that I have been asked since the Crush started: The first- "How did you get in the Wine business?" and the second " How did you wind up doing a radio show?" I have to admit, depending on the tone of voice when those questions are asked,
I do wonder if the person inquiring is simply interested in my background, or just shocked that I am representative of the wine trade. Either way, they both pave the way for interesting conversations.
The first question is easy, and is something that is good for all wine drinkers to remember. Unless you are from a First Growth Family, no one consciously makes the decision- "I want to be in the Wine business when I grow up". If you talk to 99 out of 100 people in the business, you will find that all of us fell into the business.... or we did something really evil in a past life and this is cosmic punishment.
There are people who aspire to be in this business... until they realize that it is not nonstop 100 point tastings, black tie every night, and rubbing elbows with the elite while eating caviar all the time. In fact, the only thing glamorous about the wine business is saying "I am in the wine business". In reality it is a 24/7 job dealing with some of the most temperamental people on the planet. There is an old saying, "Never approach horses or restaurants from the rear". Violation of that, is, in essence your job description when you commit yourselves to selling wine.
I have been doing the wine thing for about 20 years. Thank God, I fell into it when I was 18, or I never would have had the energy to tackle this lifestyle now. Looking back, I wouldn't change a thing, but if I had to start over again, I would look for something less stressful and more rewarding....perhaps in the field of Air Traffic Control. I will tackle the second question next time!
On the nights that I am home (about three evenings a week), my wife and I almost always have a bottle of wine with dinner - sometimes more. The other night, I committed a cardinal sin. I ran out of cheap wine. Normally, I have a stash of about 12 red and 12 white wines that I consider to be my "house wines".
These are nice quality wines in the $9.00 to $15.00 range that go particularly well with simple homemade meals. But I found myself completely out of cheap red wine and I chose a medium priced bottle that turned out to be spectacular.
I opened a bottle of 2002 Torbreck, Factor. Torbreck has an excellent reputation for making outstanding wines but I had almost given up on the winery as it seemed that over the years, their wines had grown stronger and harsher as my tastes had seemed to have moved towards wines that were not so over the top. The wine the other night was sublime. In today's vernacular, it was "perfect". Believe me, I'm not one to use the word perfect often, however this wine was without flaws. It had a wonderful balance of acid and the fruit had changed from being overly jammy to very complex. It had European-like flavors with excellent body.
I had tasted this wine many, many times, but never had I given the bottles the time needed to bring out all of the wonderful flavors. My advice to you is that when you read about a wine that is good now but will improve over the next 5-7 years, buy enough so that you can drink it over the next 5-7 years. You will truly be rewarded for your patience.
My beautiful co-host Laura would tell you to "drink what you like, not what you are told" and for the most part, I would agree. However, there are many times that you should drink what is served and remember how it tastes, if only to remember to never order it again.
Whether the wine is made from Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc, you should taste them all because each grape variety tastes different and with practice, you can identify what is in the bottle. Beyond that, these wines should be tasted, not only on their individual flavors, but also for their ability to pair well with particular foods.
Last week, I observed a server training course where the manager conducting the tasting actually spit out one of the better Sauvignon Blancs made in the US. The wine was from Rociolli and the manager had just eaten a mint. To him the wine tasted sour and way too tart. Later that evening when he tasted the same wine with a freshly grilled scallop served with parsley pesto, he was completely won over by the outstanding blending of flavors.
So I'm suggesting that you should you taste every wine you can get your hands on. If it happens that you find an excellent food match as well, you will be on your way to cultivating a skill that you will enjoy for your entire life.
In Vino Veritas,