New Days, New Digs, New Beginnings – And a couple of New Wine Notes

 

Today marks the end of October, 2011 and the beginning of so very much more. Personally, the past couple of years have witnessed some truly tumultuous times in my life. Professionally, thanks to a reversal of fortune of late, I have witnessed a re-birth. As determined as I was to make a real name for myself in the wine trade while remaining on my home turf, I knew it was inevitable. The real players in the biz – those who truly change the landscape and alter the playing field – more times than not will find themselves doing so from California. And sure enough, just months before my 45th birthday, I would relocate to this Golden State (vinously speaking) to begin anew my quest to be the best.

 

With dueling glasses of my favorite beverage – Pinot Noir – beside me, as I once again contemplate penning a vinous note (or two), my thoughts drift to and fro; these past four months in my new locale have surely flown by. And while I cannot guarantee that time will allow for regular updates to this blog as it did it times past, I will consider the infrequent down times as opportunity to share thoughts as they pertain to my vinous encounters.

 

My new position as Buyer began in July. I was interviewed over the phone from my office in Dallas where I had taken a half day from my duties as Manager and Buyer from a recently acquired position for Central Market. I cannot explain how amazingly odd it felt to have TWO opportunities from which to select from in less than a few months span; this after two years of NOTHING.

 

In no time flat, I was on a plane (at 5 AM), in a meeting with the owner, and back on a flight to Dallas. By mid-July, I would board another flight – this one a 1-way flight – and my career would begin anew. To say that everything transpired in a whirlwind is quite the understatement! The family packed up, travelled across country from Texas to California, and we now call the Bay Area home. Transitioning has been easier than I ever imagined for my family; and I have settled into my role as Buyer – covering the wines of France and Italy for my new employer (a role I’ve come to know intimately these nearly 30 years in the trade) – as comfortably as I had hoped.

 

Today, I have before me two of my all time favorite producers. And while the procuring of the products from one of them doesn’t fall under my umbrella, the tasting of his wines most certainly continues to bring me pleasure. Comparing and contrasting these two wines is a fantastic study in the absolute differences between New and Old World – and the pleasures to be found in both.

 

2007 Scherrer Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

From Fred Scherrer, the man who brought to fame the great Dehlinger wines, we have this fantastically complex version of his multi-plot Russian River Pinot. The 2007 RRV is deep crimson red to the core and beautifully aromatic. This showcases classic Scherrer aromatics of sassafras, cola and dark Pinot fruit nuances all married to additional, intense and room filling aromas of black cherry. As with most Scherrer Pinots, this is immediately approachable, medium to full-bodied on the palate, with the cola and dark Pinot nuances from the aromatics being showcased on the palate. This is delicious now and promises another 3-5 years of continued improvement and drinkability. 90 points

 

2008 Domaine Perrot-Minot Charmes Chambertin Vieilles Vignes

DECANTED 72 HOURS EARLIER. Christophe Perrot Minot was first reviewed in these pages here: http://bit.ly/tZugMQ and has been a regular in my personal cellar since the 1990s. To say these are stunning examples of Burgundy is not an overstatement. Beautiful ruby, crimson in color. Clarity to the rim, no sign of oxidation in color or aromatics even after 72 hours of decantation. Stunning aromatics to include baking spices: clove, ginger, cardamom, star anise; and fruit skin: orange zest. Dark Pinot fruit combines on the nose with mineral and hints of slate to offer an unmistakable Burgundian impression, yet with the time in decanter, the sweetness of the fruit has opened up to suggest what this wine will be with a decade in the cellar. On the palate, this is still youthfully gripping and stern, but the sweet, dark Pinot fruit is prominent. The finish lingers a minute plus and the impression on the palate is stunning. A 25 year wine, easily. 94 points

 

In closing, I hope to find more time to share with my long time readers and friends some of the magical wines that daily come across my desk.

 

And I hope to hear from more of you with your thoughts and ideas as these days unfold…

 

All the best in wine and life.

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Of Politics and the Wine Trade – Moving Texas Forward 7 Decades Later

Current reminiscing has brought to the fore conflicting thoughts, as remembrances of my early days in the vinous industry are being mentally compared to the struggles of late. The 1980s, a decade that witnessed this author as a literal lad, stumbling upon a career in the wine business as most others do – perhaps more as a way to keep me off the streets than as a predetermined career path – were a glorious time to be selling wine in north Texas. Those days preceded all that the industry as well as society witnesses today. No “dot com” revolution for wine had yet been invented, no one embarked upon a daily internet search for Chateau X or winery Y, and your local liquor store’s wine selection – limited as it was, in no small part due to the state wholesaler’s ineptitude – sufficed. If it was a great bottle of wine a “serious wine snob” was in search of, 5-star restaurant wine lists were often overrun with such treasures.

Politics – locally, nationally, and most certainly as they pertained to the beverage industry, which was paying my rent – entered not into my thinking back in the mid-1980s. I was not yet 20, was single, was barely learning the difference between Sonoma and Napa, and had yet to crack the first chapter of a single book by Hugh Johnson. The fact that Texas liquor distributors controlled in a monopolistic fashion the flow of the world’s finest wines to consumers in Texas – a plight suffered by consumers in most every other state in the nation as well – never entered my thoughts. I was in the business for the pleasure of the learning (and the drinking of the stuff offered its moments of hedonist appeal as well).

Then came that defining moment; that fork in the road we all hear about, which forever alters what was once just a hobby or casual “job”. Call it an epiphany, dub it that “ah-ha” awakening, it arrived for me sometime in 1991, during my brief employ in New Orleans for a wine company known as Martin Wine Cellar. Back in Texas, while certainly relishing in the exposure to the treasures as brought to America by importers the likes of Kermit Lynch and Vineyard Brands – wine properties with pedigrees established centuries past carrying family names such as Raveneau, Chevillon and Cailloux or Beaucastle, Mongeard-Mugneret, and Ponsot – I had not yet been exposed to the evils of the 3-tier system. And it would not be until my tenure at Martin’s that the light would go on.

Fast-forwarding to the late 1990s once again finds yours truly back in Texas, this time a sole proprietor. Travels across America and Europe, advances in career, the formation of a new partnership and, finally, the dissolving of same, all seemingly driving towards the inevitable – that dream come true – launching of the small business enterprise that would carry my birth-name, ultimately brought the traveling European-certified-sommelier home. And once back in Texas, I was determined to affect change! The 3-tiered system – and the corruption, price-gouging, monopolies, limited choices for consumers and un-Constitutionality it represented – was my target.

That was 1999. Today, 2011, twelve years later, a failed wine business behind me, shattered dreams and all that once buoyed me now adrift in a sea far, far away, an article has awakened my senses. This Article, written by Tom Wark, one of the wine industry’s most-respected journalists, reveals just how disturbing and anti-consumer the 3-tier system of wine distribution is (particularly here in Texas). Reading this article – as I hope everyone in the wine trade as well as Constitutional enthusiasts likewise will – has again convinced me that there MUST be consumers in this state of mine thoroughly disgusted with the status quo.

And knowing that there exists in Texas a permit, written by a forward-thinking, now-retired legislator – who once reached the upper echelon within the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission – that allows retail wine businesses to operate in Texas without the need for reliance upon (or use of) redundant, out-dated, monopolistic liquor wholesalers, I find myself once again determined to launch THE most pro-consumer wine company this state has yet witnessed. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Texas: it’s time to stop the insanity!

Tom Wark’s exposing article on Texas’s vinous ways:

http://fermentation.typepad.com/fermentation/2009/06/the-threetier-system-and-consumer-access-to-wine.html