The Wine Drinker

This is the Dead Letter Office of my wine writing. These stories ended up not fitting on our company's Facebook page (Piedmont Wine Imports) or website,, for reasons that I think are clear once you scroll through a few posts. Less professional musings, impressions that ultimately never got past the rough prototype stage. Um... enjoy!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

I've been busy. It's been the good type of busy, work hours filled by tasting stimulating wines and selling them to good wine folk, a much preferable labor to the bad type of busy, the monotonous lifting of boxes and polishing of lipstick stains cemented to infernally fragile Austrian crystal glasses that break if you look at them intensely type of busy. Either way, it ain't coal mining and I remain thankful for this plum job. We've had guests! Neal Rosenthal (and his friendly associate Tony, but this story isn't about Tony) joined us for the last two days, and we ended up having a really good time. I shouldn't speak for our guest- I had a splendid time lurking in the background, sipping Rosenthal wines, pilfering appetizers and quietly observing as Neal did all the real work. It helps that Neal is so amiable. After close to 30 years of retail and importing he seems genuinely enthusiastic about meeting people, signing books, listening to opinions and sharing insights.

Tuesday night we screened Jonathan Nossiter's documentary Mondovino in the tre-modern and a/v-ready cooking school that sits above my office. Sometimes I feel it was put there by fat little succubi determined to keep me from any semblance of a balanced diet. Very distracting aromas waft down from its ovens and stoves, chicken stock being prepared, bacon frying. Lunch comes early in the wine office. I'll blame my digression on the little devils as well. Mondovino is as good a lightning rod as any for a much-needed debate in our sphere- globalization and homogenization have changed so many aspects of life/business/culture by 2005, and I don't think Neal and I, along with a collection of the movie's protagonists, are just curmudgeonly in our desire to see the diversity and inherently local character present in many of the world's truly special wines preserved. But I'm sure many of you are familiar with both sides of this fence. Rent Mondovino and see if you share Nossiter's take on wine and politics and dogs. In the near term I imagine the wave of international hegemony will continue to wash over us and polish away the rough edges and barnacles that make Bahama, NC different from Basigstoke, Hampshire, but that doesn't mean we should stop building a barrier around as many distinct wines as we can. Throwing spitballs at Michel Rolland and Robert Parker bores me and seems really irrelevant- I'd rather get on with ensuring the future of wines I feel are special, and they can continue living in a different world enjoying different wines. Wine culture can be big enough for a spectrum of philosophies, as long as one wine style/ideal/business model doesn't get out of hand and devour all others. Also, I peevishly kinda feel that if we pretend trendsetters like Rolland and Parker don't exist, then maybe they don't. . . . The genius of wine is that it is at once poetic and corporeal, and if we just enjoy it with food and a friend, and occasionally ruminate on the context and particulars that birthed it, the battle to preserve good wine is won. And it won't feel like much of a battle.

To that end, we had a raucous good time with Neal on Wednesday, drinking and dining with local, seasonal courses prepared by our new head chef Patrick Cowden. When the amuse arrived, pairing melon, NC "proscuitto" and Landuedoc rosé from Mas Cal Demoura, I got a feeling that the new guy is going to work out just fine. By the third course (duck, sweet potatoes and a peach glaze-type thing, if you're dining vicariously) the room had an incredible energy, and I think Neal and I were just along for the ride. But I enjoyed the ride, as the din built to a crescendo worthy of the sublime 98 Brovia Barolo Garblet Sue, a wine almost too elegant to speak of. It was nicely matched with the beef tenderloin, but I suspect Brovia could ably accompany most well-prepared, flavorful entrees. It was nice to feel like part of the crowd, and I think that resonated with Mr. Rosenthal as well. Free, jovial conversation and a evening that ends with berry semifreddo and sparkling red wine from Pavia- all evenings should be like this. Is that really too much to ask?

Next month I'll dissect my thoughts and generally pontificate regarding a number of Neal's new wines; we're tasting an array of Rosenthal Burgundies and Italians in mid-August, and I'm sure at least a few are destined for this store's shelves. Between then and now I promise to look up brevity in the dictionary- some of you have day jobs, and I'd hate to be responsible for a dip in you productivity. Maybe I'll meet an editor willing to work for wine. Thanks for tuning in.