Barbarians Manning the Gates

Sunday, September 30, 2012

So, this past Monday was an annual portfolio tasting of Capital Wine and Spirits, which was held in Philadelphia.  Now, they didn’t show all of the products that are under their umbrella, but they did show a nice bevy of different wines.  In fact, a couple of the people I had seen at tastings in New York where also showcasing the same products here.  To explain, how it works is that there is a three-tier system of importer, distributor and retailer.  In some instances, an entity might act in the capacity of both importer and distributor.  In any case, someone might import and then distribute in a certain state, but use another distributor for another state.  There’s a lot of this actually happening.

Well, the one thing that I always like to see, and I razz the reps until they realize that I am not a beginner in the world of wine, are the people pushing how great their wine is based upon the numbers that it’s doing.  Hell, a lot of people watch Maury and a bunch of crappy reality shows, but that doesn’t mean that it’s good television!  One such gentleman tried to peddle me the Middle Sister wine brand spiel, but we cut through that crap and actually had a couple of laughs (wine hucksters are equally as bad as politicians when they have a middle-of-the-road or lesser product; hmmm, the term “hammer-wines” comes to mind).

So, while at this event I run into a guy who [unfortunately] is in charge of his the wine list in his family’s restaurant.  Now, I like this restaurant, and it has been around for over one hundred years.  I had to basically “go up in his mouth” before when he told me that the jazz entertainment he booked, and which I witnessed playing, had the best keyboardist in Philly there.  Now, first off, I am also a musician, have an ex-girlfriend who is a superb jazz vocalist, and have worked with a number of jazz musicians, if not seen them play, or know them personally.  I don’t know where the lie started, but this cat playing keys I had never seen before.  Even more so than that, this guy was no where in the league of even claiming that title, and if you believed that crap, then I have not one, but several bridges to sell you.

Now, for the past few times that I have come into this restaurant, it is depressing to look at the wine list and see that everything on it is either of poor or lesser quality and that which is offered by the bottle isn’t worth trying to put down a full bottle.  I have joked with a bartender there for them to just buy a bottle from me, mark it up a couple dollars and sell it back to me at the bar, so I can drink it there,  Now, this time we are amidst a number of wines,; some exceptional, some great, some good, and the rest just stuff that is common quaff.  In seeing him, I try to direct him over to Cheri Vallance-Tucker, a Premium Wine Manager for Trinchero Family Estates, who has a nice bevy of affordable wines in her portfolio.  My purpose is so that he could choose some better wines for the list, and foolishly he replied that they have good wines in the restaurant.  When I disagreed, his next statement was that he is a wine drinker, hence trying to impart that he knows his stuff.  Well, that reminded me of the woman trying to impress her date with her wine experience who said that the wines she loves the most are from Spain, especially from Tuscany.  Did you just pick up on the problem with that?

As I have written in the past, and what will always be, is that there will be many places that do the customer a grave disservice in what they offer.  This is mainly because the person in charge, usually a “stupidviser” – I just picked up this word on an episode of Bar Rescue – knows really nothing, and won’t take the time to learn it either.  You only start to begin to know wine after probably tasting several hundred different wines, and with the most produced varietals (Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc) you’ll need to taste at least thirty different ones from different producers in different countries at different price points and of different vintages just to start to get an understanding of the range of the varietal in question.  Note:  Reisling is a lot more than what most people outside of Germany know it to be.

It will be interesting to see if, and what on, the wine list has changed.  Some places are simply lucky because the patrons either don’t know better, or come for something else other than what drinks are offered.  The main losses to the establishments in question is that either they lose potential customers, if not some repeat business, or just lose what they would make on the liquor bill altogether.  Such is life.

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Our Mission: The Black Winer strives to expose African Americans [and others] to wines, without the flair, stuffiness, and airs of elitism and snobbery that you get from sommeliers and high level wine enthusiasts. We believe in finding something that you like the taste of, outside of the basic brands that you have been force-fed over the years through a combination of ethnically targeted advertising, and what people in your family have historically been drinking.

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