Sunday, October 13, 2013

Robert Parker's Winopause

For the past couple months since Parker has sold out to a group of Asian investors, the wine world has been buzzing with pros and cons about it. Some go as far as declaring that his influence on the American palate has been declining for over a decade, some are pissed off about it and some wanna hang the guy for selling out. I say, good for you Bobby. It's the quintessential American dream, you start a business, you build it, you work your ass off. Then you sell it to the highest bidder, retire to Florida and spend the rest of your days playing golf and annoying the waiters in the local restaurants with your 5 o'clock dinners. Let his, now ├╝ber rich son, worry about future.
Has he been a huge influence on the market? Hell yes!!! Do I like the guy? I used to, up until a few years ago, when he went the way of the WS magazine and started awarding points to whomever had enough cash to either buy a crap load of advertising in his magazine, or sponsor a nice little vacation to their chateau in Bordeaux. Listen,  as far as I'm concerned, the guy is awesome. He introduced South American wines, Oregon and Washington wines, he had the decency to not sell advertising to kangaroo wines. But in the end, as it turns out it was a business, and as much as people hate to admit it, he made money. A boat load of it. God bless.
I'm not a big fan of selling wines based on points, but it sure helps. Shelf tokens, case cards, posters whatever helps. 9 out of 10 people that walk into a store to shop around, can be influenced because of points, and if anybody ever tells you that the points and the package don't help selling the wine, he's full of it.
Luca Malbec, is one of those. Parker gives the 2010 vintage 93 points. If this bottle went for $1 a point it would still be worth it, but instead it's around $30. It is made by Laura Catena, who's name should ring a bell to anybody who ever had a bottle of wine. I'm not gonna talk about elevation and Argentinian areas, or how they collect rain water. I'm just gonna tell you that it tastes like berries and black fruit, even espresso. It has an unbelievable long finish and a dark almost ink like colour. Get one and find for yourself.
Pairing? This one reviewer on line said Irish Stew. I'm all over that, I just need to find a good recipe and get cooking. If I can't find a recipe, than I guess we are having steaks tonight.
Parker? God bless him! there should be more people like him.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Merry Brunello

So, one of the parts of being a wine rep in Texas, is to actually work the shelves of your accounts. Y'all Yankee reps have no idea how good you have it. I've spent the last 3-4 weekends hanging out in my accounts talking about and selling my wines. Which is kind of funny considering that I already sold them once, to the account!!!
04729b.jpgIt's actually kind of fun though. You get to see what your customers deal with on a daily base. Like the guy that comes in and goes "I want a really good champagne, but for under $10. And I know my champagne, so don't try to fool me!" Or the lady who said "if I buy this $9.99 bottle, will you give me your number?" no ma'am you have to spend at least $14.99. Or the guy who spent $900 in 10 minutes on Christmas Eve, because he decided to start his own wine collection. And after selling him a bunch of awesome wines, he decided to top his cart with a bottle of Cupcake. "This is for tonight, I don't wanna open anything nicer." Are you kidding me?!
Let me tell you, retail is not easy. It's fun but not easy, you are on your feet all day, deal with all sorts of people and at the end of the day, when you are exhausted and fed up with jerks, you still have to smile and be helpful. A couple hours on weekends, no problem, I got this. 7 days a week? No frigging way.
Anyway... after a long day on Christmas Eve, a couple of us got together in one of the accounts and had a couple bottles of wine with the store manager. Awesome stuff, but it just got me started. I got home, headed straight to my wine rack and grabbed a bottle of brunello. 2006 Terre Nere. I used to sell this stuff in New York and have been a big fan ever since. You can't find it in Texas, so I had to have a few bottles shipped. 2006 was a good year in Italy, so most brunellos have scored well in WS, even the ones that DIDN'T buy advertising in the magazine. Crazy!
Brunellos are awesome wines, but I feel like here in the south, people don't know them well. This one guy, self-proclaimed wine guru, big cork-dork if you ask me, said to me "Sherman you ever heard about this brunelli thing? Cause if it's expensive I should get some for my cellar". He actually pronounced it Brunelli; no buddy, go with the damn Cupcake wine, you don't wanna buy brunelli.
It tastes like mushrooms and wood, but also cherries and licorice. You can age it, and it will get better. Not the least expensive wine but not crazy either, $40-45. If you are tired of drinking Cabernet  (I know I am),  get a bottle, and if you can't find Terre Nere try another one, it's hard to find a bad brunello.
Pairing? Pasta with mushrooms, steak maybe some hard cheese. Versatile wine, and with this one every sip tastes different. Which to me is awesome.
Screw Cupcake!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Spam and Pinot

So....been out of touch for a few months now, but hey!!! we had a baby 5 months ago. Our life hasn't been the same since, and writing on my blog has been the last thing on my mind. Spencer is an awesome kid though, sleeps like nobody's business, both mother and kid are perfectly healthy, home sound and safe. I come home with a big smile on my face every night.
That smile disappeared a couple of months ago when my email account and all my info got hacked in. Yahoo, has this really cool feature, that allows you to see, where in the world your account got logged on. So I found out that somebody in Japan was responsible for me spending the next 6 hours resetting all my passwords, forgetting them and resetting again, convincing every one on my contact list that I do not sell beach front property in the Bahamas. Thank you very much mr. Jerk-Off San for putting me back in contact with people I lost touch with. And reminding me that I have a blog to write.
I've had a bunch of good bottles of wine since last time I wrote. Even had a couple of bad ones. Since then the Wine Spectator came up with the Top 100, hoping to get us to buy what they think we should. The only good thing in that issue was an article about Rajat Parr. Rajat started his wine career as a busboy, became the head buyer for the Mina Group, and later started his own winery. The American dream!
Sandhi wines.  Amazing. All of them. But I am only gonna ramble on about one of them, Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir 2010. I've first had it at my company's portfolio tasting. And since Rajat never bought advertising in the Wine Spectator, they only give it 88 points. It is an amazing bottle of Pinot, ugly-ish kind of label, but who cares? It's all about what's in the bottle. It is bold and crisp, it bursts with aromas of plums and raspberries. Mineral but not overpowering, just like a really good Pinot should.
Pairing? Lamb chops, roasted potatoes and asparagus garlic and oil. at least that's what I had the second time I had a bottle.
As for Mr. Jerk-Off San? Try figuring out my new passwords. I'll even give you a hint, this time are in Romanian, even a little Gypsy language in there.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

So, in a couple of days, we are going to have a baby. My wife is due June 12th, and our doctor decided that Mandy is going to be induced on Tuesday. This kind of takes the surprise out of the whole water breaking, crazy driving to the hospital, breathing, Lamaze thing. But hey! not complaining, just want to make sure that my wife and my son are OK. I guess best place to  be in preparation for the birth is a hospital room.
Nervous? You bet I am. Actually a little more than my wife is. Nervous about the birth, nervous about their health, and plus I really don't like hospitals. But the part that scares me the most, is a couple days later when we will come home with the baby. What are we going to do then? Everybody has some advice to give us, and I know we are not the first people to go through this. But I bet that all these people giving advice were just as freaked out when they brought their first baby home. It's not the diaper changing, feeding, no sleeping, crying, it's the fact that this person depends on you for everything. And for the rest of your life.
In any case, my wife can not wait to have a drink. I am not into the whole cigar smoking with friends thing on the night the baby is born. But I will open a special bottle when she comes home.
A while back I got as a present a bottle of Corton Charlemagne. I am not going to tell you the producer, since it's a 1974 you won't find to buy it anyway. Corton it's my favourite white wine ever. I once tasted an 1981, and afterwards I told myself that if I ever hear somebody telling me that you can not age white wine, I am gonna slap him. It was the most amazing wine I ever tasted. So, if the '74 was kept well it should be even better.
Corton is basically a hill in Burgundy. It is not a big hill, the production is very small, and that plus the quality of the wines, influence the high prices. Current vintages should not be to crazy expensive, but if you have the chance to drink an older one, go for it. Amazing wine.
Pairing? Anything from scallops to, even steak. These wine can hold their own against anything. But since my wife missed a couple things through her pregnancy, I think I'm gonna let her choose the menu.
And the baby? Can't wait to meet Spencer, I already have an idea what he will be drinking.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Kick off to summer, wear white, drink rose

So, it's not even June 1st and already the thermometer is at 99. This stuff wasn't on the "move to Texas" brochure I read last year. Sure... less taxes, bigger house, more money, but you can't go anywhere and spend it when the outside is an oven. What do you do? How many beers and Starbucks ice coffees can one drink in one day? How do you keep cool?
You don't. Not unless you become a hermit and never leave your house. Jump in the pool, cool off, come inside the house, have some ice cream, change the AC filter. Open a bottle of rose.
Why are people still afraid of rose? Not long ago, wine shops could not GIVE this stuff away. You could walk in the fanciest shop, and all you could find was, maybe, some crappy white zinfandel. Nowadays, the same stores have entire aisles dedicated to roses. What happened? If I were to guess, I would say El Nino happened and everybody started realizing that roses are actually really good, delicious and refreshing. And white zinfandel is crap. As you can tell, when it comes to white zinfandel, I have some anger in me.
It is Memorial Day, 4th of July is right around the corner. Everybody is running to the neighboring state to buy some fireworks, and hopefully NOT blow their hands off. Me, I'm stacking up my rose stash. But today I couldn't wait any longer and I opened  one.
Michel Chapoutier's Bila Haut. Otherwise known as ambrosia. Made from a blend of Grenache and Cinsault, it tastes like strawberries, but with a dry finish. It hails from Languedoc, an area known for producing ass-kicking roses. There were only about 1000 cases produced, so if you do find it in the store, it won't be more than $15-16.
Pairing? Since it's a holiday weekend, (and we don't like blowing up fireworks so my grill is still standing), we fired up the grill and threw some chicken breasts on it. I put rosemary, garlic and thyme on my chicken, dumped some couscous next to it and sat down for dinner. Then I realized that while I was cooking I already finished the bottle.
Phew... luckily I have another one chilled and winking at me. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Golf and Chablis

This time of the year there is always a big golf tournament on TV. Masters just passed, the PGA is on this week. The TV is 24/7 on the Golf Channel, the grill is hot, the wine is chilling in the fridge. Even my wife, who a few months ago had no interest whatsoever on the game, is glued to the action. The only ones who don't seem to care are Tucker our springer spaniel and Tiger.
What happened to this guy? He is the one who put golf back on TV, who all he had to do to win was show up. Lee Trevino put it the best on The Feherty Show: " he is the best ever at the game, why does he need to change things? Give me five minutes with the guy, all he needs is a good slapping around not a new swing". Me, just like other Tiger fans, I am left wondering what could have been, and drowning my sorrow in a glass of Chablis.
But then again, I can go for a good glass of Chablis any time of the year. What is Chablis? No, it's not that crap that comes in gallon jugs and it is used by restaurants for cooking. It is the name of a region, in the north of Burgundy, and the wine is a Chardonnay. A delicious, fruity, dry and acidic Chardonnay. It can be aged, but who has to time to? Open one now and drink it, you can thank me later.
A few days ago I tasted with a customer the Billaud-Simon 2010. Wow!!! I waited a week and took another sample out of the warehouse, cause I didn't want to share with anybody. As opposed to other Chablis I had in the past, this one was soft and round almost like a good Chassagne. It's mineral, which you expect from a good Chablis, but it tastes like peaches and pears with a crazy long finish.
Pairing? This is what I have planned for tonight. Dozen Blue Point oysters chilled and winking at me and a piece of trout which is heading for the grill in a little bit. A little salt, pepper, squeeze a lemon.Par for the course.
I hope Tiger can do that.
I got yelled at the other day by one of you guys cause I didn't write in a few weeks. I know and I apologize, hey! even Tiger missed a couple lately.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Edge cabernet

In my industry, a big part of been successful is having a good relationship with your buyers. I have never done different sales other than wines, but I really doubt that other buyers can be as bad as the wine buyers. What is it about being a wine buyer, that makes a good guy become an a...hole?
Don't get me wrong, I have met some really nice guys as well. With some, I became friends, some I can't stand, some I respect for their knowledge, and some I just take an order from. It is amazing to see the transformation they go through once they become sommeliers. You have to make an appointment weeks ahead, confirm it three or four times, and once it gets closer to your allocated 10 minutes to see the guy, you are sometimes told that he has no time. Really people? You are not saving any lives, or putting people on the moon, you work in a restaurant! 
Since moving to Texas, I met a buyer with a different system. Let's call him John. What John does to see his reps is brilliant. Once a week, all the sales people, their spouses (if they want to come), get together for dinner at a BYOB restaurant. Everybody brings 3-4 bottles, John passes them around, and we all taste them. You are not allowed to bash somebody else's wines ( if you don't like them, keep it to yourself, is the first thing John tells a newbie), taste, enjoy or not, learn something new every week. Spit cups are provided, everybody is pretty tipsy by the end, John picks 2-3 new wines every week. How awesome is that? nothing fancy, no stuck up sommerlier ( even though John is one), bunch of people enjoying and learning about wine, the way it should be.
At one of these tastings, a salesman brought a bottle of Edge Napa Cabernet. Since I used to sell the wine in New York, this was like meeting an old and dear friend. Since he doesn't like to put his name on the label, I am not gonna tell you that it is made by Ray Signorello, one of my favorite Canadians. Ray also owns the Signorello Vineyards which produces The Padrone, wine that has been in my Top 5, ever since I tasted it, about 6 years ago.
Edge is 100% Napa grapes. Big, Napa cabs command a big Napa price, but not this one, it will cost you around $20. I once poured this wine in a $80 bottle of Cabernet,  and actually had a client buy a case at that price. It's that good. Wine Enthusiast gave it 91 points (they give it over 90 every year), and according to them it tastes like blackberries, blueberries and cedar. I don't know, I never ate cedar before, but to me it tastes like an excellent Napa cab should, big, round, lots of fruit, not crazy tannins. Go get a bottle and send me a line, I would love to see what you think.
Pairing? Since it was one of my favorites, I used to take a "sample" at least a couple times a month. So, I had it with everything from pizza to steak. And it delivered every time. If I have to choose a meal, I am gonna say veal. Big, milk fed veal chop, grilled with some portobello mushrooms, big bowl of broccoli rabe, mmm.... Slap your mamma good!