Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The world is conspiring to get me to drink Beaujolais

Ever since I read Dottie and John's column last week about Beaujolais, I've been craving it. It's an oft-ignored region in the Southern part of Burgundy, and concentrates solely on the gamay grape, which produces very soul-full, easy to enjoy, character driven red wines. The basis of their column was the recommendation that instead of buying one bottle for someone as a holiday gift, to give them a mixed case of Beaujolais instead. Incidentally, I think the idea is brilliant, and if someone were to present me with a present like that, the word thanks would not even begin to describe the superfluous gratitude that would gush from my lips.

Anyway, ever since reading the column, and being on this new re-discovering my palate kick, I've been dying to get my lips around some Beaujolais. Luckily, I have a wine-industry girlfriend, Lily, here in San Francisco that is also, let's say, under-employed at the moment and up for bopping around the city and checking out wine places together. So yesterday afternoon we hit Arlequin Wine Merchant in Hayes Valley to dish over coffee and peruse the shelves.

After chatting a bit with the knowledgeable and crush-worthy manager, I asked how they were stocked on Beaujolais. (By the way, I hope none of you are confusing what I'm talking about with Beaujolais Noveau, which drops any day now. Shame on you if you thought I'd go on a hunt for that stuff.) With a smile he led me to a three case stack at the front of the store that was so new into inventory it hadn't even been priced yet. I beamed at the simple, pretty bottle in my hand and left the store a happy girl.

Lily and I parted ways for a few hours, me to continue scouting wine stores, her to perfect a letter that would further her cause of being hired on by Huia to work the upcoming harvest in New Zealand. A few hours later we met back up to check out Terroir, a wine bar in SOMA famous for being ruthless in their pursuit of wines that, well, express the terroir of the region that they are from.

I got there first and sidled up to the wooden bar, drinking in the atmosphere. It was an incredibly cool space that reminded me of a modern saloon. There is pale wood everywhere, and the decor is masculine and rustic. Instead of a hidden iPod serenading the crowd, one corner is devoted to a collection of vinyl that the owners took turns changing and playing with.

As soon as I sat down the Frenchman behind the bar asked me "Red or white?"

"Red," had barely escaped my lips when he said, "How do you feel about something on the light side? This one is made from gamay..."

Damn if he wasn't pouring me a sip of Beaujolais.

The wine was the 2007 La Pierre from Morgon, a Kermit Lynch selection. It was ruby red and fruity, with a beautiful earth on the mid palate and an easy, pleasant finish. I sipped happily and quickly fell in love with the wine bar.

Tonight I'll be trying the bottle I bought in the store with the seared scallops and fresh veggies awaiting me at the boyfriend's place for dinner. Something tells me that this Beaujolais kick is going to be a good thing all around.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Yet another reason to hate Emril

In addition to the fact that his recipes are ridiculous, usually call for about 500 ingredients, and shamelessly promote his own seasonings...

And the fact that he is boring and brute-ish to watch...

I just heard him compare the Saddleback Ridge Petite Sirah to a pinot noir, saying that it had the same kind of herbaceous notes, or something equally stupid.

Now, in all fairness, I know nothing about the Saddleback Ridge wines, but I'm taking an educated guess that their petite sirah tastes nothing like a pinot noir. Unless, of course, they are doing something horribly wrong.

Bam, Emril. Take that.

Back to Basics

So as you can see, there's been a lot going on with me lately, career-wise. It's funny because only when deflating from the stress do I really realize how bad it was. Now that I'm officially done with my import job, I'm free to take a few breaths and look around. When I do that, I realize that I'd been feeling out of touch lately. Working for one company can come with some great perks, but you tend to get stuck in a rut of experiencing only their products.

Since acting on the decision to move forward, I've had an insatiable desire to just get back to basics, wine wise. Right now my absolute Utopia would be to work for a wine store again, wandering through the aisles, touching the labels, daydreaming about the stories behind them, and tasting regularly with the vendors who come in. I feel like my overall wine knowledge is slipping, and more than anything I just want to go back to where I started on this journey and quietly immerse myself in the scene out here. I want to taste, and read, and interact with people - customers and insiders alike.

I'm not sure where the job search will eventually lead, but right now I'm planning on doing just that. Kind of like a dancer who goes back to the barre, simply tasting and reading are the best ways I can think to rediscover my center.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A Rainy Day in Napa

I suppose it's apropos that on the day I drove to Napa to tell my boss, and mentor, that I had to start looking for a new job that it rained for the first time in the five months that I'd been living in California.

There were a lot of reasons that I had to throw in the towel with my beloved little company. Some were economy related, though certainly not all. The challenges that were presented with developing the lasting relationships needed to make a decent living with such a small, tailored portfolio were just not in my skill set. In short, it would take someone who can sell ice to Eskimo's, a true used car salesman, someone who is uber-aggressive, and has rhinoceros-thick skin to really make it work in this market.

I am not those things. I am a relationship builder. I am a customer service maestro. I am a person that people like, and who can make others feel good about the company that I work for - but I am not a hard salesperson. They knew that when I was brought on, and the position was originally tailored for me to be doing about 50/50 sales and distributor relationships. But unfortunately, in this horrible economy, those relationships that I was supposed to be nurturing are not even in existence, and I am left with just the cold calling, and a lot of frustration.

The frustration is not just felt by me. The entire four-person company is feeling the blow, and it looks like it will not be around much longer. Dreams are currently collapsing, finances are crumbling, and all four of us are going to be picking up our pieces and moving on. It is a hearbreaking, difficult, and just all around shitty situation for everyone involved.

So I am currently pounding the pavement and looking for a new job. But fear not for me - I am somehow actually excited by it. When I accepted the position with the importer I was fully aware that I was taking a huge risk, but did it happily because I was desperately needing a change. I knew that there was a chance that it would not work out, but was very happy to be positioning myself in the most dynamic place in the country to work in the wine industry. I am looking forward to exploring the endless career opportunities in this area. (Granted, my bank account is hoping that it will be a short search...)

So that's where I am right now. Job searching, a little bit stressed and nervous, but overall excited to find out about the next adventure that the universe has in store for me.