Friday, August 03, 2007

Ride-with cringe

"Oh my God. If someone I was riding with said that, I would fall through the floor with embarassment," I said.

Every once in a while, us wine reps will have someone in town who either works for an importer or directly for a winery that we represent. They will be assigned to us all day and will ride around visiting our accounts and tasting them on their wines. Usually the days are fun, but you always run the risk of riding with someone who is... ahem... eccentric, let's say... and you never know what might come out of their mouths. To your accounts. Who you are trying to protect and guard your relationship with. And not offend.

So when one of the employees at my biggest account on Monday was gossiping with me about another rep whose ride-with earlier that day had said that instead of aging in actual oak barrels, their winery ages in stainless steel vats and dips burlap sacks full of oak chips and cow manure into the wine for months, I felt for the guy.

"Erin, he actually referred to the process as 'teabagging'," he said.

I nearly spit out the wine that I had in my mouth. "You are shitting me!" He shook his head. "He was actually able to refer to it as teabagging without the slightest bit of irony and laughing? Wow." Needless to say, we all had a good laugh, and I felt inwardly sorry for the other rep.

Until the next day when it was my turn.

I had a ride-with yesterday with a very nice winemaker from New Zealand. His wines were showing beautifully and we were getting a decent amount of placements on them throughout the day. Sure, the Pinot Noir was still a bit young, but nothing that a few more years of aging, or a couple of minutes of decanting, wouldn't cure.

Mid-day found us back at my biggest account tasting with the two owners and the same employee who had told me the story the day before.

"Yes, the Pinot is still a baby," the winemaker said, "but honestly, the best way to cure that is to just pop it in the microwave."

I closed my eyes for two seconds and said a little prayer that this statement would just be glazed over. When I opened them and scanned the tasters, who had those blank what-the-fuck-did-he-just-say looks on their faces, I knew that there would be no such luck.

The winemaker saw those looks too, but unfortunately took it as reason to continue, not shut up.

"Oh yeah. 30 or 40 seconds in the microwave will open this one right up. You'd be amazed what a great trick that is!"

I saw the lips of the employee curl slightly as he made eye contact with me for a fraction of a second. The owner quickly poured out the Pinot in his glass and announced that he was ready to move on to the third wine.

I knew that that statement would make me an object of a few laughs later that day. Luckily, I'm pretty good natured, had a tasting scheduled in with them later in the week. I figured that with a few days for the shock to blow off and a tiny bit of self-deprication, I would be able to turn the situation around to my favor and we could all have a good laugh about it.

And I'll go ahead and get a muzzle for my next ride-with. Just in case.


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