A Life’s Work

It was the late 1980s… Our “unabashed Francophile” leader – as he has been described by the local wine writers in Houston – was just beginning his career in the wine business working in one of the most upscale dining establishments in the Dallas area – Riviera. Christopher Massie found himself under the wing of owner Franco Bertolasi, and by the end of one short year he had encountered tastings that included1982 First Growth Bordeaux, multiple vintages of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and verticals of Ramonet White Burgundies. Yes, the 1980s were a great time to be in the wine business and Christopher was indeed in a great place to cut his professional teeth.

Later that decade, Christopher attended one of the most important tastings of his career. This one tasting would shape his palate and guide his path more than any other he had yet been a part of. The wines being poured were all imported by Kermit Lynch and the speaker was the national sales manager at that time for this famous French Import Company. To listen to Christopher talk about that tasting – even today – will convince you of his dedication to artisanal, hand-crafted, estate bottled, naturally produced French wines. ESPECIALLY Burgundies!

Another moment in time came when Christopher was working retail for one of the giants of the industry – also in the Dallas area – and met the national representative for Vineyard Brands. At that time, in the very early 1990s, VB represented the absolute best of Burgundy. With a little help, Christopher was off to Burgundy for a two week meeting with folks such as Thierry Matrot, Mongeard-Mugneret and the late Monsieur Gouges to name but a few. Christopher would return to Burgundy nearly a dozen times more after that trip, sealing his love for this region and further developing his expertise for its wines. Visits to the cellars at DRC, Dujac, D’Angerville and more than 3 dozen others over multiple vintages honed his skills for understanding the differences in these terroirs and the subtleties of vintages.

By the mid 1990s, Christopher had established a relationship with David Hinkle of North Berkeley Imports as well. Further visits with the finest names of Burgundy as represented by this firm simply cemented a life’s love and work. Magnien, Arlaud, Raphet – the names read like a who’s-who of Burgundy. Naturally, there’s more to life than just Burgundy. Christopher’s passion for the best also includes studies of the greatest wines of the Rhone Valley, Italy and Spain. Not to mention the time he’s spent up and down the coast in California with some of the best names in Pinot Noir, Rhone Varietals and Chardonnay. This association led naturally to his involvement with, and love for, Biodynamic® and naturally produced wines.

In 1999, Christopher Massie opened his own retail shop, Christopher’s Wine Warehouse, which operated successfully in the Houston market for more than ten years. Christopher’s evolved over time from a “stack ‘em high and let ‘em fly” philosophy to a more focused, email and web-driven sales model. These ten years as a sole proprietor, tasting each and every selection personally before purchase, further refined Christopher’s palate and allowed him to develop a deep understanding and appreciation for Biodynamic and naturally produced wine. Christopher has dedicated many hours to blogging about Biodynamic wine, which has resulted in special recognition from Demeter-USA for his contributions to the Biodynamic® wine movement.

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A Tale of Biodynamics, Feiring and the Death of the Chronicle

 biodynamic

Blog Update #72 A Tale of Biodynamics, Feiring and the Death of the Chronicle

The power of the bio-dynamic wine movement first revealed itself as I witnessed a surge in my social network connections that can only be described as unprecedented.  On the 1st of May, I was leisurely working away on my latest business plan, content but far from satisfied at my less than 200 followers at twitter, where I go by the “handle” of Chambertin.  I made a decision that day to get serious about the business plan, motivated in part by the untimely announcement that my dear wife, too, had fallen victim to this current economy.  With both of us now out of work, it was definitely time to ramp up my efforts.

Those who know me, those who’ve read a blog post or newsletter from the past decade or so know: when I write, I have a LOT to say.  Writing, composing my thoughts, requires time.  And when I decide to share my ideas, ideals and passions through the written word, the pages begin to pile.  Lucky for me, that’s precisely the sort of handicap that works in one’s favor when composing a serious business plan.  The more expertise, devotion and research apparent between the covers, the better.  And I had just reached the section devoted to our product selection criteria.

This was when everything began to change for our new business venture.

I took to composing my views on the products we will carry with the same passion I had always tried to convey in our previous wine shop.  The full list of product selection criteria, known to us as our Mission Statement, may be viewed at the blog under the Philosophies tab (https://cepagenoir.wordpress.com/philosophies/).  Our aim with our new direct to the consumer business is to offer to the market these wonderful organic and bio-dynamic wines we’ve discovered over the years, direct from the wineries, with no middleman.  But first, I needed to describe in great detail, for the eventual readers of the business plan, precisely WHAT our wines would be.  That Philosophies section was born from the pages of the business plan.  So, too, was my next step.

I decided to begin searching the Internet for like-minded folk; authors, bloggers, wine-makers, wine-drinkers, basically anyone who shared with us this passion for the bio-dynamic world.  I began with one of my vinous heroes, Alice Feiring, naturally, for it was her book, “The Battle for Wine and Love” that convinced me in the first place that I wasn’t alone in this quest.  I began to link her updates to my twitter page, along with any others mentioning the bio-dynamic world.  The results were like nothing I could have ever anticipated in my wildest dreams.

Today is the 6th of May and I am taking a short break from the business plan to compose this brief blog post.  Not only to compose this post, but to announce that in this short span of a few days, while I have busily worked on the plan and posted bio-dynamic oriented newsletters and such to my twitter page, my followers have jumped from less than 200 to MORE THAN 1,000!  The bio-dynamic brother/sister-hood is one of the most active, real and tangible movements in the wine world today.  For anyone who remains a skeptic, you are truly missing the train!

Oh, and as for the Death of the Chronicle thing, I was referring to the local paper. 

Through the research and development phase of this business plan we’re in, one point has become increasingly clear: Bordeaux is dead.  The vast majority of the wine buyers today, the people who actually drive the industry, the people who truly fill the shopping carts and DRINK wine, are affectionately referred to as the “emerging” consumers.  Emerging consumers, according to studies we’ve read in articles by Forbes, WineBusiness and Silicon Valley Bank, simply don’t care about the $50 and up price point where the vast majority of Classified Bordeaux hangs it hat.  And the bio-dynamic world, so far as WE’VE found, hasn’t made a dent in this section of France (I’m open for corrections if anyone has any).

So it was with a chuckle that I opened my weekly Chronicle (Houston) to see yet another article written by the local wine writer on behalf of the behemoth local liquor chain.  In this article, the paper interviews the giant liquor chain, asking them their advice on Bordeaux futures.  I literally laughed out loud.  The advice quoted was worthless, so 1990s, completely out of touch with reality and the prices quoted SO over-priced (please, someone tell these guys about wine-searcher.com) that to even consider the piece anything other than “fluff” would render the reader numb. 

Dear Chronicle, R.I.P.

As I re-engage the business plan today, and begin anew the building of this bio-brother/sister-hood, I reconfirm our dedication to YOU, the intelligent, serious, curious, emerging wine buyers of America.  We will soon emerge from the cocoon of required re-birth.  And when we do, the beauty of the world’s most unique wines will once again be yours for the asking.

All the best in wine and life,

Christopher Massie
Diplome D’Honneur de Sommelier

Thoughts from Days Past as the Future Begins

cepage-noir_color-1

This blog is authored by a middle-aged man with more than 25 years of his professional life dedicated to the wine industry….in 1999 I opened a boutique wine shop after deciding my life’s passion had brought me to that point…now, as of 2009, I’m re-writing my entire plan, refocusing all my energy and  inviting those interested to come along on the next stage of this voyage…what are my credentials?  below you’ll find a few:

My history…(this was the original “About Us” page, first penned to offer our readers some insight to the original location’s offers)

I’m posting these old thoughts here today so they become a part of our archives…a new and revitalized Philosophy Page launches this afternoon…

The year was 1984. Our “unabashed Francophile” leader – as he has been described by the local wine writers here in Houston – was just beginning his career in the wine business working in one of the more upscale dining establishments in the Dallas area – Riviera. Christopher Massie found himself under the wing of owner Franco Bertolasi at times, and by the end of one short year, had encountered tastings that included1982 First Growth Bordeaux, multiple vintages of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and verticals of Ramonet White Burgundies. Yes, the 1980s were a great time to be in the wine business and Christopher was indeed in a great place to cut his professional teeth.

In 1988, Christopher attended one of the most important tastings of his career. This one tasting would shape his palate and guide his path more than any other he had yet been a part of. The wines being poured were all imported by Kermit Lynch and the speaker was the national sales manager at that time for this famous French Import Company. To listen to Christopher talk about that tasting – even today – will convince you of his dedication to artisanal, hand-crafted, estate bottled, naturally produced French wines. ESPECIALLY Burgundies!

Another moment in time came when Christopher was working retail for one of the giants of the industry – also in the Dallas area – and met the national representative for Vineyard Brands. At that time, in the very early 1990s, VB represented the absolute best of Burgundy. With a little help, Christopher was off to Burgundy for a two week meeting with folks such as Thierry Matrot, Mongeard-Mugneret and the late Monsieur Gouges to name but a few. Christopher would return to Burgundy nearly a dozen times more after that trip, sealing his love for this region and further developing his expertise for its wines. Visits to the cellars at DRC, Dujac, D’Angerville and more than 3 dozen others over multiple vintages honed his skills for understanding the differences in these terroirs and the subtleties of vintages.

By the mid 1990s, Christopher had established a relationship with David Hinkle of North Berkeley as well. Further visits with the finest names of Burgundy as represented by this firm simply cemented a life’s love and work. Magnien, Arlaud, Raphet, the names read like a who’s-who of Burgundy. Naturally, we’re about so much more than just Burgundy. Christopher’s passion for the best also includes the greatest wines of the Rhone Valley, Italy and Spain. Not to mention the work we’re doing up and down the coast in California with some of the best names in Pinot Noir, Rhone Varietals and Chardonnay. Bordeaux? You’ll notice we dabble in the “futures” market, too. Have been – very quietly – since the late 1990s.

So, why would you want to buy from us?

We think it’s clear. We handle some pretty exclusive stuff. The wineries and importers that we choose to work with are ones that Christopher has built a relationship with over many years.  If reviews from the most prominent wine critics on the planet are important to you, if they guide your initial decision making process, feel very comfortable. More than 90% of our hand selected wines have been, for several vintages, very well received by names such as Robert Parker, Allen Meadows; AKA Burghound, Steve Tanzer and other prominent wine writers. And while we do not necessarily seek out critical acclaim, we feel proud to let you know that it has been bestowed on the products we offer to our discerning clients.

When you purchase your wines from CEPAGE NOIR you will be completely guaranteed that we have taken great care to taste, research and fully discover each and every one .

We also think you’ll enjoy the fact that we regularly pull corks on these amazing specimens for the pleasure of experiencing the wines with our collectors and clients. We literally open between 3 and 5 cases of wine every month as we monitor the wine’s development and ageing curves. We consider ourselves experts here and experts are continually learning. We invite you to learn with us as we go along…

After nearly 25 years in this business, Christopher Massie opened the original Christopher’s Wine Warehouse in 1999 to bring all of this and so much more to the serious wine buying community of Houston and the Texas market.

In response to ever-increasing demands from the local and expanding markets, we launched a unique and highly effective approach to purchasing these fine wines to further enhance our services.  With our new approach firmly in place, we re-named our operation, selecting the name Cepage Noir Wine Co., to indicate our passion for the great Pinots and blended wines from around the globe. Cepage Noir Wine Co. now sells some of the most famous names of the wine world direct to the consumer at prices that are below retail, below those prices that even the “big boys” of retail are offering!  We now buy direct from the source and drastically reduce the percentage once demanded by the middle men.  Cepage Noir Wine Co.  is geared to offer the consumer absolutely untouchable prices for the most sought after wines of our time.

As with every item we select, as we have been from the beginning, we remain:

Dedicated to the discovery and enjoyment of the world’s finest wines.

Acknowledging the Nudges, Remembering Life’s Little Tales

Sunrise

I’ve been witnessing from my computer seat quite a bit of fury these past few days.  Along with that, I’ve left my mind completely open to every possible opportunity that presents itself before me.  The scenarios playing out are working both sides of my brain, rendering me both exhausted and yet somehow enthused.  And I’m hearing voices, as they almost scream some of life’s most basic lessons: “It’s hard to see the forest for the trees”; “Don’t wallow in the mire”; “People love a good train wreck”….

That last sentiment in particular is spinning virtually out of control in my mind as I view the blog world today.  That basic life moral also applies quite appropriately to many of the current situations I and my family face during these days, reported on through these blogs pages.  I had originally launched this blog at the beginning of 2009, after nearly a decade of composing letters to my customers, as a way of spreading the vinous news.  As a retailer of fine wine, with a passion for writing, offering literally a dozen new offers per week or more, presenting my thoughts via the blog-o-sphere seemed like the next logical step.

Taking that leap into the unknown opened my eyes to a world as of yet never imagined.  The world of blogging, in particular the world of wine blogging, is quite similar to a Houston or Los Angeles freeway at rush-hour.  For those of you experienced with that visual, you get the picture, for the uninitiated, imagine viewing millions of cars attempting travel on a road built for a few thousand.  As I began to explore the ocean of wine blogs out there, I wanted to find a bar and have a drink until rush hour subsided.

But I drove right on in, never deterred, never fearing.  This was going to be the year of my discovering, I was convinced.  Now, with nearly 70 blog posts this year alone (I told you I was passionate about writing), I have discovered some things.  Recent occurrences have me taking to the administrative tools within my blogs, these features forcing me to begin a closer examination of not just the blog world, but the wine world in general.  These examinations, born from curiosity, delved in to seriously – I have a LOT of free time on my hands – have me in a state of re-examination.

“Don’t wallow in the mire”.  I am by no means a highly religious guy.  Spiritual?  Yes.  But private and low key in that sense to be sure.  So when I go quoting statements from my grandfather’s sermons it’s a pretty big deal for me.  Lately, however, that little life’s lesson has been forgotten by not only yours truly, but a growing number of the folks I follow in the wine world.  And then today, as if in keeping stride with the little nudges I’ve been receiving these past two days – more on that in just a moment – one of the more recent folks I follow in the blog world connected me to a story.  This story, one of wallowing in the mire, has my thought processes running overtime.

In my 25 years plus in the wine business, I have most consistently focused on the upper end of the wine world: Burgundy (first and foremost), the best of the Rhone Valley, Alsace’s finest, Loire Valley treasures and the other most prized (by me and the critics) wines of France.  Also on my list of preferred wines have been the great wines of Piedmonte and Germany and a few of California’s treasured Pinot Noirs – the Pinot camp I’m in falls squarely at odds with most of today’s “Souper Pinots”, for the record.  There are certainly many other wines not listed here, but you get the gist; I’m an Old School Fine Wine guy.

The critics that I’ve followed throughout my career include the big names, you know who they are, I don’t need to spell ’em out.  And these top guns are now in what I might consider the twilight of their professional careers.  One in particular has faced medical down-time and other pressures, and while he would have the outside world believe he is as young as the day he left law school, we, his subscribers for the past couple of decades, have read his personal words and know the tale.  He has taken on many new co-authors to his magazine and the results have been mixed, receiving criticism from retailers, consumers, the blog writers and subscribers in general.  And while the magazine now boasts more than a hundred more pages than it did in the late 1980s, the content is under constant scrutiny.  But remember another of life’s morals: “Any publicity is good publicity”. 

Or is it?  That article I read this morning may be one of my mid-life turning points.  Published in Forbes, the tale shines a light on the impact of certain stories.  The Forbes author interviewed a man in question, a blogger, who had published a series of e*mail conversations between a certain powerful wine magazine’s co-author and another wine columnist.  I read that initial exchange, even re-posted it at my social networking site.  And then today I read the Forbes article.  As I said, that Forbes piece began some personal homework, and introspection.

Publishing that initial mini-brawl between the two powerful wine-writers brought a lot of traffic to the blogger’s web-site.  Like the moral preaches, “People love a good train wreck”.  But here’s the most telling tale.  The blogger openly admits that his one-day, busiest recorded traffic day to the blog was NOT that day.  In fact, that blogger’s busiest day came with the publishing of a story on growing moss in an empty wine bottle for parents looking for a unique chemistry class experiment for their kids.  That was another nudge, the first real push into this re-examination; “Wait a minute”, I thought, “let’s look at MY numbers”….

And there it was, just waiting for me to discover: my single most-traffic-receiving day at my blog so far was a day when I offered the public a positive, glowing review on a wine that I had recently discovered.  In that review I told my readers of my research using the internet to secure the best price in the country and I went into great detail covering the wine’s background.  I offered tasting notes based on my decades of tasting literally hundreds of thousands of wines – more than a million perhaps – and I followed up that report with an email to my list of readers.  That was my site’s busiest day.  And never once did a drop of mud hit the floor.

That Forbes article went on to discuss the emergence of the new wine drinking culture.  A culture born with computers in every room of the house, a group of young folks who turn ever increasingly to the internet for information on their wines.  I’m from the old school, admittedly.  I grew up with subscriptions to magazines as my learning tool.  Today, evidenced by an informal poll I’ve taken over the past 2 days, folks under 30 years of age, those folks I’ve casually engaged in conversation at local wine-selling retail establishments, either do not read the Wine Advocate, or have never heard of it.  Overwhelming, observation points to these young wine drinkers looking to their friends and trusted wine stewards for advice.  It is we “old-timers” who are keeping the big names of wine criticism alive.

But as a former merchant who once catered to the “old-timers”, I, and my now closed business are beacons the industry should pay attention to, just as this Forbes article mentions.  The “old-timers” (and that’s my vernacular, NOT Forbes), have all but ceased buying wine, having amassed collections of wine that they are ever-increasingly becoming aware they will never consume.  Add to that realization that we’re in a depressed economy for the near to possibly semi-long term, and one can see that the “fine wine” side of things is going no where, fast!

And if today’s wine buyers, the young crowd, the actual buyers in this market and economy aren’t interested in the big boys of wine criticism, and the folks who add traffic to the blogs prefer to read our blogs when there’s something positive to read, perhaps it’s time to truly reconsider my personal path.

Earlier on in this piece, I mentioned receiving little nudges these past few days.  I’ve been contacted through my social network site by William&Mary and the town of Short Pump, to name but a couple of the encounters recently.  And now, this Forbes article, forcing me to truly examine not only my methods of blogging, but the community of wine buyers requiring serious attention.  Where is all of this pointing?

The first and most obvious direction is a visit to Richmond, VA.  This forest of trees surrounding me has me slightly blinded to the signs so innocently nudging at me these past fews days.  From that point?  Remember another of grandfather’s sermons: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

All the best in wine and life,

Christopher Massie
Diplome D’Honneur de Sommelier
Houston Wine Idealist

for those interested in the Forbes article:

http://www.forbes.com/2009/04/23/robert-parker-squires-steinberger-vaynerchuk-opinions-contributors-wine-advocate.html

Notice of Tasting Cancellation – My Involvement at Least

 

rubber_chicken

Well, after bringing lots and lots of folks to Mr. Smith for free business through my many blogs and weekly emails, I THOUGHT he and I had agreed to begin working together.

I have an e*mail string here that I’m reading, trying to make heads or tails of Mr. Smith’s latest knee-jerk reaction, but alas, I’m completely at a loss.

After several phone calls and emails to confirm same, Mr. Smith of French Country Wines sent to me a price list, complete with a salesman’s commission offer, and a welcome note, seemingly, per all we had agreed to, welcoming me to his company. 

He offered to pay me a commission to sell his wines and told me he looked forward to our working together.

Yesterday, the 21st, I phoned once more, to clarify that I would be emailing all of you with an invitation to join Smith and I for a private tasting at French Country Wines this evening. 

He concurred, was quite enthused at the prospect of having dozens and dozens of my former clients showing up at his place of business for this wine tasting and told me to feel free to invite as many of you good folks as I wanted to.

I expressed to Mr. Smith that I would word the invite as a private invitation, that my clients would need to respond directly to me to secure a seat and that I would tell my recipients that they could expect discussions of the wines from both Mr. Smith AND me, if they’d like to hear tales of the wines.  After all, as I made mention, not only had I sent many of you in to meet the man and buy his wines (with never a thought of commissions nor any sort of reciprocity in my mind) but I was a paying client too.  I had bought some wine from Smith for my weekly blogs and having done some research, I felt that my talk on the wines tonight may add to the flavor of the evening.

Yesterday’s conversation between Smith and I, and the jovial nature between us, gave way to the invite all of you received.

And then, as if someone threatened him with knee-breaking for being “affiliated” with me, Mr. Smith sent this out today:

“Some of you may have recently received an email indicating that tonight’s tasting was being co-hosted by the sender of that email.  It further implied that there might be a new partnership between ourselves and the sender of that email.

Let us stress to you that there is no such partnership in the works and tonight’s tasting is 100% sponsored by French Country Wines, Phyllis and myself.  Had the sender of the email had the courtesy to copy us on what he sent out we would have alerted you sooner.

We look forward to seeing as many of you as can make it for tonight’s tasting!”

“Best wishes,

Phyllis & Tim

Tim Smith
French Country Wines”

So, I’m rescinding my invitation from yesterday, as I’m obviously NOT going to be in attendance at this event.

AND, seeing as I’m pretty sure that Mr. Smith won’t be keeping his word and paying any commissions on the wines my former clients may buy tonight – or ever – any of you that felt even an inkling of loyalty to ol’ yours truly may want to consider discontinuing your ties to Mr. Smith (but that’s YOUR call to make…).

I truly thought that Smith and I had an arrangement.  Never a partnership (and I NEVER used that word), but an arrangement for sure.  These emails between us and the many conversations and phone calls certainly pointed that direction.

I guess it’s my fault.  I should have asked more clearly what his definition of a commissioned salesman was.

Any of you wishing to discuss your opinions with me may email me back.

And if you have thoughts for Mr. Smith, he is available at:  tms @ frenchcountrywines.com

 

Christopher Massie
Diplome D’Honneur de Sommelier
Houston Wine Idealist

chambertin@sbcglobal.net

Tomorrow’s 1st Tasting at the “New Winery”

tastingwine

Afternoon,

Well it’s certainly been interesting out here for the past few weeks, that’s for sure!  I’ve witnessed countless hours of research, paperwork and travel, all aimed at the final goal of launching a new winery permit.  For the folks following the blog, you’ve come to understand the heartaches, the headaches and the occasional triumphs I’ve endured through this process.  I thank you all for following, and now I have an announcement – and an invitation.

Through my work to form this new winery, I have met a kindred soul.  You that have read the blog and bought some of the wines have undoubtedly recognized the similarities in taste between the offers emanating from Mr. Smith’s collection and the wines once so proudly displayed on the tables at my former establishment.  But what makes these offers from Mr. Smith even more appealing, and what has brought he and I together for our new found union, is the manner in which Mr. Smith brings these wonderful vinous specimens to the State.

I am pleased to announce that I have a limited number of seats to offer to the first 20 couples to respond to this letter – no later than tomorrow, the 22nd of April at 5PM.

Mr. Smith, owner of French Country Wines and I will be hosting our first private wine tasting together at his winery-licensed facility here in the heart of Houston TX.

This tasting of some of the finest, naturally-bottled, artisanal, (some 100% bio-dynamic) wines takes place tomorrow night, Wednesday the 22nd, from 6-7:30 PM at French Country Wines (2433 Bartlett, Houston 77098).

During this tasting, Mr. Smith and I will discuss the wines and the concept behind our mutual work together, explaining in greater detail the work being done to eliminate the antiquated 3-tier system that sets to punish the consumers of the State.

The wines will be offered for sale – AT DIRECT FROM THE WINERY PRICES – and you’d better be certain that these are wines that yours truly is already deeply in love with and currently stocking at home.

I have seating available on my ticket (read: free) for 20 couples – MAX.

To attend as my guest, respond via email, including your phone number so that I may call to confirm and establish your new account with the winery.

And do it now, seating at these events is always limited and the winery is always PACKED!

All the best in wine and life,

Christopher Massie
Diplome D’Honneur de Sommelier
Houston Wine Idealist
chambertin@sbcglobal.net

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