Thursday, January 31, 2008

Country Club Erin

Ce soir, I am speaking at a wine dinner at the Country Club of Virginia.

The Country Club of Virginia, people. CCV to those in the know.

Over a century old, this institution is located in the center of the old money section of my city. Tennis, golf, scotch, blue blood - this place has it all. Tonight's dinner will feature a selection of Australian wines from Epicurean Imports, and will be presenting a rather daring regional menu including kangaroo, emu, and Australian lamb, among other delicacies. Eighty people have signed up, with about twenty more on the wait list. Apparently, it is the place to be.

If you were to assume that I do not exactly fit right in with a crowd whose median age is 60, and whose average vehicle is worth more than my entire life, you would be correct. But - I didn't major in theatre for nothin'.

I can yuk it up with the snobbiest of them, for a few hours anyway. My Southern accent will turn a bit more posh - which means that I will stretch out the drawl and actually slow down my speech (not easy for me). I'll address everyone as Ma'am and Sir, and name drop with the best of them (for whatever my names are worth).

But coming up with the costume was the most fun part. A delicate balance to strike, because technically I'm working, but I still have to fit in with the crowd. Pearls, naturally, on the ears and neck. Sleek black pants over heels, and a black and gold cropped brocade jacket that I picked up at a ridiculously low price during the after-holiday sales finalize it. My blonde hair is curled, and slightly pulled back. Pink lip gloss, and I'm done.

I look like Country Club Barbie.

When I told my mom that over a quick late-afternoon email exchange, she fired back, "No, you're CCE!"

Perfect. At least for tonight.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Erin's flu stats

Days quarantined: 4 (so far)
Maximum temperature reached: 101.8F
Times vomited: 0 (Thank God)
Sex and the City episodes watched: 15
Movies screened: 3
Magazines read: 3
Blogs read: lost count around 100
Cans of soup consumed: 2
Tissues used: about 30
Visits to the Dr: 1
Prescriptions filled: 3
Calls from parents to check on progress: 12
Liters of Ginger Ale downed: 1
Bendy straws used: 7
Appointments missed: about 10
Times vowed to get that flu shot next year: infinity

Friday, January 25, 2008

I'm alright... Why can't you just let me be?

As a rule, I am wary of middle-aged suburbanite men. For (I think) obvious reasons. However, lately I have been feeling much more at peace with a lot of things, and along with that peace my knee begins jerking into a more open-minded direction. I've started engaging in conversations that before I wouldn't have, and started actually listening to what people with whom I seemingly have nothing in common with have to say.

Tonight I worked at a tasting for a client until about 7:30, and after I left decided to stop into another client's restaurant bar where I've become good friends with the head bartender. It's a great little neighborhood place, where you can be totally comfortable grabbing dinner alone at the bar, and I love talking to the employees. Perfect, huh?

So there I am, minding my own business. I chatted with Meredith, the bartender, during her down times and read a magazine in the meantime. Soon, the middle-aged gentleman sitting two empty seats down starts chatting. Against my better judgement, I entered into what started out as a relatively pleasant conversation. But soon...

"So... so, Erin, let me ask you this," it began. "Here you are, past the... well... well into the marrying age... very attractive, nice figure (at this I immediately start to tense up), how come you're not married yet?"

Where to begin?

I won't bore you with the details of the rest of the conversation, where somehow I was forced to defend my life to a complete stranger (who, incidentally, also decided to give me unsolicited advice on saving for retirement a few minutes later). I'll fast forward to when he finally left, and Meredith approached.

"Ugh, what did he want?"

"You know, the conversation actually wasn't that bad until he started in with the 'Why aren't you married yet?' crap."

"You are shitting me? What is wrong with people?"

"Thank you! I wanted to be like 'I actually don't ever think about it until people like you bring it up out of the blue.' I mean, seriously. I came here tonight to get a quiet dinner, catch up with you, and read my magazine. Why is it impossible for a woman to do that without having some nosy stranger bother her? See, now I'm perturbed."

"He sucks."

"You know, I try to give people a chance, but now I remember why I hate people of his demographic."

"You're telling me. I talk to people like that all night."

"Ugh. You must've been really glad to see me when I came in, huh?"

"Girl, you have no idea," she grinned. "More wine?"

"Need you ask?"

That's it. Open door policy is shut. Turns out I was right - middle aged suburban men have nothing to offer - even in the way of innocent chit-chat. I'm going back to being aloof.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

You probably didn't know

I've spent the last two weeks or so in relative hibernation. Not on purpose or anything, it just kinda happened. I needed to stop spending so much money for a few weeks, and the cold weather made it easy to cook at home, rent movies, catch up with friends on the phone, and generally be cozy for a few days. It was glorious. And then it got boring. I decided not to count the number of reruns of "Who's the Boss?" I watched. I got to the point where even reading a book took too much effort. Who wants to go to the gym? Writing? I mean, what would I even write about?

The hibernation was good, though. My bank account is certainly happy. I'm glad I got some down time. But it's definitely time to come out of it. So here I am, socializing and posting again!

Getting back to writing will be kinda like getting back to the gym - I'll need to stretch first. So the first post is blatantly ripped off from This Fish, because I think it's a really fun idea. Here are some things you probably didn't know about me:

- I'm good at keeping things neat, but terrible at cleaning.

- Sometimes I talk to myself while driving.

- My cat is named after a Fraiser character.

- I hate when people nickname foods, like slaw and kabobs.

- I still get intimidated my really cute boys, and really popular girls.

- I like my legs.

- When I was 23 a palm reader told me that I already knew my soul mate. I have always believed her, but still do now know who she was talking about.

- I hate having to decide what to wear every morning.

- I was obsessed with Sex and the City, but now think that it was a bad influence in some ways.

- Half of the time when I talk about characteristics that a wine has, I'm making it up. (And know that everyone else is too. Don't let them fool you.)

Your turn! What do I probably now know about you?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Que Syrah?

Nestled deep into the suburbs of Richmond, I have a client who runs a pretty neat little coffee shop by day/wine bar by night, complete with the cuvee systems that gas the wines, and a decent little by the glass selection. As many are wont to do, right after the New Year they were looking to switch things up a little bit, so the other day we tasted a few things.

They have a regular who deems himself pretty important to the operations of the place. Slightly creepy older gentleman, but completely harmless, so I have no problem with allowing him to feel important and taste with us and offer his skewed, but again harmless, opinions. I generally feel that it is in my best interests to agree with whatever the client or people that I am tasting with say, because validating their egos and making them feel right is good for relationship building.

"This wine is great! So smooth!" the regular declared of the Castle Rock Sonoma Syrah.

"Yeah, I'm glad you like it!"

"I mean, this is perfect for anyone who comes in here and asks for a smooth Syrah!"

Domestic Syrah is one of those notoriously impossible sells. It's the wine that buyers and wine geeks love, but for some reason consumers can't wrap their mind around. Every client that I have could sell Shiraz all day long, but couldn't get a Syrah in people's hands if their life depended on it. So while nice of him to say, the thought that someone would come into this little wine bar and verbally request one is just... well, it would never happen. And I couldn't help myself.

With a big fake smile plastered on my face -

"Well, you're right, it would be perfect for that. But I've got to tell you, if someone walked in here and actually made that request, I would pass out right on the floor!"

The other tasters gently laughed in understanding, and the man wasn't insulted or anything, just maybe a little confused. Afterwards, I considered my response, and wondered if I should have said it. Usually I would have stopped after the first sentence. Maybe I'm getting a little more cynical, or a little less patient.

Que sera, sera, I suppose.

Monday, January 07, 2008

That doesn't mean it's not hard...

Tonight I got home from an evening of seared tuna steaks and Monday night TV with a friend, and after checking email skipped over to a few of my favorite blogs. I found a post on Charming, but Single, that really moved me. She ran into an ex in the supermarket with his lame new girlfriend, and their newborn baby.

Over the last few years, I've dated... um... a lot of men. None of them have even come close to working out. Most were very short-lived, the longest lasting for a mere two months without even a declaration of exclusivity. Some of the mini-relationships have ended because of my choosing, some because of theirs. Some weren't a big deal, some were utter disasters. I've done my best to stay strong, and usually do a pretty good job. Actually, it's not even a job. I genuinely feel good about who I am, the position that I am in my life, and that I am not with these men, because I really do know deep down that some were not right for me, some came at the wrong time, and that some I should never have been involved with in the first place.

But that doesn't mean that it's not hard to think of them being with someone else when you're not. That doesn't mean that you don't break out into a cold sweat at the thought of bumping into some of them at a restaurant, or at the gym, or any other innocuous place that you may visit during a normal day. That doesn't mean that it doesn't make your face harden a bit to think that instead of you they have landed with someone who isn't as pretty, or doesn't have as much ambition, or doesn't treat them as well as you could have.

That doesn't mean that you're not over them, or that you haven't moved on. It just means that it's sometimes still hard. And that's human. And honest. And ok. And kinda beautiful, in a realistic way.

(Oh yeah, this is supposed to be a wine blog, right? Tonight we drank the 2005 Alamos Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina. I was happy he had picked it up because it had been a while since I had tried it. Just like I remembered - fruity, structured, easy to drink. Perfect with the seared tuna. Two very enthusiastic thumbs up. Fine holiday fun. (Travis Birkenstock, anyone?) )

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Delicious Reading: The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry

Elizabeth Gilbert says it best in her quote on the back cover of The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry - "I can never get enough of true stories about people who stop in the middle of their life's journey to ask, 'What do I really want?' and then have the guts to actually go get it."

I couldn't agree more. I can't stop reading memoirs right now. Kathleen Flinn was in her mid-thirties when she realized her dream of completing a culinary degree at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Her story of the year she spent living there is fun to read and inspiring. Some of the stories told have a poignant meaning, and some are merely to relate a tale. At first I found this a bit confusing, and found myself wondering what the point of that page and a half was, but then I just let it go and enjoyed the slices of life. The best part of the book is definitely the last few chapters when she is completing the journey. I found myself tensing up at just the right parts and almost crying with relief along with her when it was all over. The book is peppered with recipies, several of which were dog-ear worthy, and the characters that she encounters at the famous school were entertaining and memorable.

Definitely worth reading!

The Ghost Winery

"Ugh, I'm doing a tasting with four Silver Ridge wines tonight," I moaned to my coworker Kim over glasses of wine yesterday afternoon. We took a quick lunch at one of my restaurant clients after a particularly long sales meeting to refuel and gossip.

"Yuck, that's boring."

"Seriously. It's not that the wines are terrible, it's just that there's no story, nothing to say about them. I end up just pouring and looking at them - 'Well, here's the Merlot... what do you think?'"

Silver Ridge is one of our - hmmm... let's say, everyday value lines from California. Which is fine - those are the lines that pay my rent. The frustrating thing is that for whatever reason, we have absolutely no background on this winery. None. I don't know who makes them, how long they have been around, no fun trivia, no stories to tell, or even where they are located, except that the label says California. (Seriously, Google Silver Ridge Winery and see if anything substantial comes up. I'll give $100 to any reader who finds something that I can actually use.)

This lack of information makes it a bit difficult when you are trying to get people to buy them. I like to have something to say besides, "Well, here it is. Nothing special, but decent and cheap. So do you want to buy some?" With a client you can get away with that more often - they know what they need and that everything has it's place. However, when you're pouring at a public tasting you need a bit more of a shtick. The people want to hear more about it, where it's from, the quirky background of the owners, the name of the winery dog - whatever. Anything to make it seem a bit special, and to give me something to chat about when the tasters are standing two feet in front of me tentatively sniffing their glasses with blank looks on their faces.

"Eh, just make something up," Kim quipped.

"Good call." I slipped into my playing-for-a-crowd-of-strangers voice, "Silver Ridge is the name of the horse who saved the family from a fire twenty years ago when the entire farm went up in flames! Luckily, the vineyards were spared, and that's why you get a hint of smoke on the finish of the Cabernet..." I dramatized.

"Ha! The winemaker is a beautiful, brilliant lady named Kim who has won numerous awards..." she started.

"Totally! Maybe I can even figure out a way to slip a fake accent into the story. I've always wanted to rock a fake accent."

"Don't go overboard."

Could my inner bookworm BE any happier?

I've been sans Book Club for almost a year now since my previous group disbanded when we realized that the older we got, the less we had in common. So I am very excited that the wine blogging community has stepped in and filled the void for me!

Good Wine Under $20 is leading the charge and organizing the Wine Book Club, and I'll be purchasing the first book this afternoon. And soon I will look like this:

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Goals for 2008

I think it's funny that so many people balk when the topic of New Year's resolutions arises. The general consensus is that by making a resolution, you are setting yourself up for failure in the New Year because you will inevitably not follow through on it. I can't help but wonder why people are so hard on themselves? Failure? Isn't that a pretty strong word? Are you really going to deem yourself a failure just because you didn't go to the gym three times a week, or didn't finish one book a month?

I actually think that resolutions are good, because it means that people are being brave enough to think towards the future and set their sights on other challenges that they want to overcome in their lives. So what if the resolution doesn't end up exactly the way that you planned for it to? Something good probably came out of the effort and the thought process that went into it, and that is what should be encouraged. Trying. Thinking about more. Going for it - to any degree. Celebrating success of any degree, no matter how small, and not even acknowledging a failure, they aren't important. When you start looking at it in that light, you'd be surprised how much can be accomplished.

But, since "resolution" really has turned into an evil word in our society, let's think about them in another way - a goal. Things you'd like to see happen as you look forward to the next year of your life. So here are two of my several goals for 2008:

1. To travel to two places that I've never been to before. The first will be New Orleans the second weekend in February for my birthday - tickets are already booked! The second will hopefully be Italy - details pending.

2. To sell more of my portfolio. At work I feel that I have fallen into a bit of a rut with the wines that I sell, so I want to be sure to diversify a bit more this year and play with some of the more obscure and wonderful treasures hiding in our warehouse.

Of course, I know that this coming year will be about much more, ultimately, than those two things. But I feel good about setting my mind on them for the immediate time being, and look forward to the results of that.

So how about you? What are your goals for 2008?