Notes from the Cellar: Giving thanks
by Jeff Cox, Beer and Wine Merchandiser
This article was originally published in November 2009
I’m a lucky son of a gun. In terms of buttering one’s daily bread, I count myself among some of the most fortunate beings on the planet. While there’s no shortage of reasons for this, almost none of them are among the most obvious.
Sure, the wine guy gig is supposed to be as glamorous as all get out — sipping fine wines, comparing and contrasting in refined jargon, nibbling on exquisite little “pairings,” often in exotic, foreign places. While that happens sometimes, the nuts and bolts of it aren’t nearly as sexy as one might think.
Hanging with the “Wine Spectator” set, living graciously, drinking and dining on all the right things in all the right places, hobnobbing with pinkies neatly poised isn’t even close to what it’s cracked up to be — at least not for this wine industry guy.
In reality, a day in the life of a wine guy is pretty much a never-ending process of separating the wheat from the chaff. For every kernel of whole-grain goodness, there’s a whole Palouse of chaff, often presented by a graduate of the Institute of Used Car Salesmen, complete with tassel loafers, pomade, PTQ ratios, pie charts, and PowerPoint presentations.
And then there are trade “salons,” where my mouth begs for mercy after the first hundred or so wines and the day is only half gone. After the next hundred, all I really want is a nice, cold beer. Heineken never tasted so good.
But then I shake hands with a Delphine Maymil, or Jean-Pierre Vanel, or Kay and Clay Simon, or Antonio Sanguineti, or James and Poppie Mantone and there’s zero B.S. I know I can take the handshake to the bank. They don’t have to tell me how good the wines are because the wines speak for themselves — and ultimately they remind me why I’m in this business.
I count my blessings when I taste wines like these: wines that don’t need a marketing campaign; wines that don’t try too hard; wines that are grown, not made; wines that are about a singular place at a special moment in time; wines that invite me to think and discover something new, take another sip, find another thread, another texture, another metaphor in their tale of sun, soil and love.
When I taste wines like these, I’m grateful for the labyrinth of divergent paths that led me to this moment with this glass in hand and the great fortune to be able to appreciate its contents.
Finally, I’m amazed that it’s my job to share the fruits of my labors, and astonishingly good fortune.