Groundhog Day

 after-a-long-day-groundhog

With aching muscles and a tired mind I return to the keyboard again, a glass of wine and a worn out telephone beside me.  The last two days and a total of 20 working hours saw me organizing a former client’s home wine cellar.  The wines being stocked were nearly all from my old wine shop, so the back breaking labor of lifting case after case, time after time, hour upon hour was blessed with a sort of happy reminiscing; stocking this man’s nearly 300 cases of the world’s most beautiful wines took my mind back to those giddy days of 2007 when it seemed nothing would ever go wrong.

But the warm ear piece of the phone that now offers tonight’s glass of wine its company is a reminder that these days are repeating themselves.  My first two days of this week were like a vacation in some ways; allowing for my escape from the daily reminders of a career now ended.  These days, partially interrupted by the cellar stocking in my old friend’s new multi-million dollar River Oaks mansion, are indeed reminding me of that Murray film from so many years ago.  Only this set of Groundhog Days aren’t ending so comically.

Daily I work this old phone, followed by the visits with folks most inclined to becoming excited, or at least interested in, my new plan of action.  As folks across the Country talk of The People, as retailers and politicians alike gather themselves up with a pledge to protect consumers and their futures, this new plan I’ve forged surely should be attracting followers.  But even as our dollar becomes stronger just as our economy continues to weaken, it seems my theory for a purely consumer oriented and dedicated wine business has been born into a world of truly frightened buyers.

My daily discussions include talks with men who once thought nothing of parting with $3,500 for a case of wine.  Also in my call list are retired bankers, CEOs, Presidents of oil companies and many others who once buoyed a successful wine shop.  The words of praise and encouragement are many, yet the final sentence, in true Groundhog Day fashion, remains the same. 

I once penned an article dedicated to Roses & Tangerines, remember that one?  In that story I discussed the over abundance of happy-go-lucky tales flowing around in the blog-o-sphere.  Authors of these blogs, otherwise successfully employed OUTSIDE of the wine world, irresponsibly publish article upon article reflecting a “glass completely full” look at the world of wine.  I’d like to invite those same folks to participate in my daily routines.  If you can convince one of these potential investors that the situation truly is all Roses & Tangerines, I’ll offer you a 49% stake in my new venture.

Another dose of reality these days has been the advice and words of wisdom offered from business owners and top wine people I’ve encountered.  Local food writers, ever eager to keep you and I on the cutting edge, have taken to delving into certain eateries that require 60 minute drives or an incredible penchant for culinary exploration.  Having plenty of free time on my hands allows for visits to every new restaurant to make the pages, and I hit the road on an almost daily basis.

The stories remain identical.  Blips on the radar, attributed to recent upticks in press reviews, are recognized by some of the restaurants I’ve visited.  But the weeks of struggle that preceded those reviews, and for some restaurants the massive employee trimming that resulted, are feared as what will be the norm when the reviews subside and folks resume their cost cutting routines.

The fine wine world is indeed in a state of crisis.  Direct messaging and private conversations between the not-so-lucky confirm these sentiments.  Day upon day of Chefs moving out of places you once thought they’d be forever is another small sign that the local scene is suffering as well. 

But I have an answer for this crisis.

All it takes is a few serious listeners.

In the end, Phil and Rita, after what seems like an eternity of failures, finally have their happy ending, winding up together as nature seemingly intended.  Now if only that Phil & Rita scenario will play itself out for the wine folk of Texas….

All the best in wine and life,

Christopher Massie
Diplome D’Honneur de Sommelier
Houston Wine Idealist