Sunday, December 23, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Maybe I need a career change.
I love to write when I am confronted with the urge (like right now). It usually means that I have done or experienced something that has stirred up the pen-holding gremlin that lives in my brain. Unfortunately for my gremlin, I have not been a very good host with regards to doing and encountering "gremlin-worthy" things. Is this a "pre-New-Year's-resolution"? I should hope not.
Resolutions are a way for people to shed guilt over things that they either wish they had done (or not done) or over failed attempts to live their dreams. What I like about blogging, is that there are no resolutions, only gaps between entries. I am always confronted by these gaps, and subsequently reminded that "between this time and this time, I didn't do anything noteworthy." Wow, thats kinda rough.
Currently, I am working on a plan to get back into the gym to recapture my marathon body that I was in possession of just two short years ago. No resolution, just resolve. Sounds the same, very different. I could blog about the sweat and the self-loathing-turned-admiration-all-in-one-hour routine of my workout. . .but I've already gained all of the personal gratification from that and I don't think that its particularly interesting (if I am wrong, and you are riveted by thoughts of my working out, please leave a comment and I will be happy to ask you about your last mental health evaluation).
Which brings me to inspiration. If I am not inspired by my daily life, should I be seriously considering radical changes to the way I spend my time? I am thinking so. I love the thought of writing about the amazing food experiences I share with my girlfriend, the obscure wines that I might have and opportunity to try, or the stupid walk that I took, that turned into an adventure. The thought is then crushed by this overwhelming despair that is generated by my 3 hour daily commute and pointless job. Under most circumstances, this would be waaaaaay more than enough for me to split. But there is something keeping me here. . .and I am not sure what it is.
Which brings me to execution. . .Office Space style. That might just be the solution.
In conclusion, I am not the kind of person that will attempt to find inspiration amidst the mundane, routine, or drab (though I know that there are those of you out there that can, and this is no way meant to dispairage what you do or where you get your inspiration.) That's been the weirdest part about this job, is the lack of a trigger to set me into "jump off of this ship" mode. Like at other companies, I could get into an argument with a "supervisor" and immediately know that "Your vales and my values are obviously not in line. You aren't budging and neither am I so, Peace, I'm outta here!" and immediately be on to something else, usually having another job by the end of the day. Here, its so completely mutable that when I say "My values and your values are apparently not in line. . ." the response is more akin to, "well gee, what can we do to accommodate your values and incorporate them into what we do?"
Uh, um. . .well, you could listen to my suggestions, for instance. Done. You could try to incorporate these new things into the plan. Done. Whoa! Hold on a damn second. . .you are supposed to tell me how to do my job, not bend to my idea of what we should be doing. If thats the case, I need a new title, like CEO.
OK, breathe. I got a little off topic, my apologies. Perhaps I just needed to say that. But the issue remains the same, I am not finding inspiration in the way that live my life. In the next installment, we will explore potential solutions and their consequences, or I will have just quit and liberated myself in the brash and fierce style of my youth. Either way, I win. Thanks for reading. Peace, I'm outta here!
Sunday, December 9, 2007
The Spindrift Hotel was incredible. Literally feet from the ocean and equipped with a wood burning stove and squishy, king-sized bed. It wasn't difficult to forget about San Francisco.
This post will focus primarily upon the fireplace. How many of you have a fireplace, and either never use it or light it and pay it no more attention afterwards? I'd say most (myself included). This is part of what made our trip incredible. . .the TV was in a cabinet with doors, and the fireplace took center stage, complete with comfy chairs that would make a Starbucks jealous.
It was immediately captivating to my girlfriend and I, who converse often, but usually not at length or without distraction. After leaving our tourist-[over]priced seafood dinner (if you go, venture into Monterey's downtown, its much more rewarding) the only thing on both of our minds was the fireplace and the wine be had brought.
We arrived at the fireplace near 6:30 PM, and didn't leave again until noon the next day, save a small break to sleep. Words flowed like water and for tow people that see each other every day, there was a delightful sense of rediscovery and interest in what the other had to say.
This will become a tradition for my birthday.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Thats all, I promise. You guys are doing wonderful work, incorporating real life with virtual.
November 14, 2007
On his 32nd Birthday Gary cracks a few wines with a Special Guest. This has all the makings of a classsssic episode of WLTV! bubbles, sweets and a red wine. Join in today!
Having trouble viewing this video? Try the Quicktime version.
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Happy Birthday to one of th…” by DannInNH
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Wines tasted in this episode:
|Coutier Brut RoseFrench Brut Rose|
|2006 Rochioli ChardonnaySonoma Chardonnay|
|Chambers Rosewood MuscatAustralian Dessert Wine|
Links mentioned in todays episode.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
The view leaving SFO at 7 am is spectacular. The red sky and misty mountains are reminiscent of the opening scene of Top Gun. There is the same feeling of solemn and singular domination over the earth that one receives as they place the first footprints on the fresh grass of a golf course at sunrise. Brutish acceleration and a brisk climb over the skyline brings the entirety of the San Francisco isthmus into view. Its incredible to have the opportunity to place buildings by sight and know that your house is but a mere block away, and that you made this connection from 15,000 feet in the sky. As you climb, ever higher you see the landscape as it awakens; deep purple and reds like a glass of pinot noir. The rivers reflect the pre-dawn sunlight and the fog rests sleepily over the rapidly disappearing houses. You have just left your life behind you at a staggeringly fast 1,000 miles per hour and will soon be arriving in a place that was once home. Four hours from now, you will return to the ground, as a new adventure waits.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Ultimately, looters like wholesalers and their Washington-men, depend on the labor and creativity and drive of the American Industrialist to survive. The only means by which they can generate income (the term "make money" actually refers to the uniquely-American ability to turn productive effort into revenue) is to strangle the individuals that actually do make money.
Imagine, if you will; that you are a winemaker in Virginia. It is the end of August and you are enjoying a fantastic crop and making the best wine you have ever made. You sell your wine in your tasting room for $20 a bottle and people really want to buy it. You are approached by the Virginia representative of Southern Distribution Co. (The largest wine and spirits wholesaler in the country) that tells you, "you won't sell all of this wine."
"You should sell it all to us and let us sell it for you. That way we can sell it in other states. But we are only going to pay you $7 a bottle."
Ummm, what? You will sell my wine for me and give me 35% of what I think that its worth? No, that's OK, thanks for the offer. I can send it direct to all of my customers from last year, and they will love it.
And with that, Southern Distribution activates it's Washington Man (that's you, WSWA) and starts throwing money at judges, claiming that "there is no credible way to verify the age of the purchaser through an anonymous online sale, and because carriers have repeatedly failed to ensure that deliveries to minors are prevented." Right, that's why Southern is bent out of shape. How could I have been so stupid?
It couldn't possibly be because every winery that sells direct-to-consumer threatens the system by which every distributor and their Washington Men skim from the best that winemakers have to offer. It threatens the elevated price points that the American consumer has to deal with, just so that the winemakers make a pittance from their sales. It threatens the grip that distributors have held over industrialists since Prohibition. It threatens the credibility of politicians that receive the favors of lobbyists like the WSWA. It threatens the "American Way of Life."
But what do we hear from them? "Combating the abuse of alcohol generally, and underage access to alcohol specifically." It sounds to me, that you are the ones abusing alcohol.
Friday, August 24, 2007
To make a long story short, after Dash joined me, we stayed until 1AM (6 hours) and our conversations finished with:
". . .So in effect, society is built upon a solid ground of fear and cynicism, and is only progressed by the occasional burst of independent, fearless thought-turned-effort. It takes one person to come along and refuse to believe that their idea is flawed or impossible, and to be fearless enough to go forward with it. That person proves it to others, which in effect ameliorates their fear and doubt of the now-not-so-unknown and adds greater plausibility to the idea; it now becomes a concept. The next step involves transmuting the abstract concept into a concrete product, hence production.
The difficult part is now attempting, with product in hand, to change the minds of a large part of the population. Depending on the desired effect, there are a certain number of forces working in direct opposition to the product.
The first two, as previously stated, are fear and cynicism. On a basic consumer product level, these are represented by examples such as:
- Surgeon General's (government) Warnings.
- Popular media taking a stance on the product/concept/idea.
- A perceived lack of "sameness" from easily recognizable brands.
- For products with severely disruptive properties (i.e. alcohol, drugs, guns), agencies (in this case, the ATF) and legislation are created to specifically control and monitor their usage, and to use force against their "misuse" when necessary.
And even further, when an Idea is the focus of the marketing, the movement by those in power is to suppress that idea, once it is determined that the idea is contrary to the doctrine set forth by the rulers. Ron Paul, the outspoken but blacklisted candidate for the Republican nomination for President get no media attention, is branded by government as certifiable, and is ridiculed by the peons for his ability to think independently.
The bottom line is that ideas are the greatest threat to any governing body, whether it be civil, occupational, or even family. The only thing that can upset the status quo is the successful execution and realization of a contrary idea. Animals in nature tend toward homeostasis, effectively rendering the idea process unnatural. However, everything that has been achieved by humans, is as a result of bucking the system. The natural homeostatic quality of humanity is fear and cynicism. I make this assertion in the hopes that, at this juncture in my life, I can use this to constantly remind myself the the only rewards in life will come as the resut of an uphill, hard-fought battle against every other human in existence.
The above is what happens when you engage two 50+ year old bartenders in philosophic and political rhetoric-sharing over a half dozen pints of Harp lager. Cheers.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Yesterday's double blind tasting featured two chardonnays: the first being Grgich Hills 2005 Estate ($40, Napa Valley), and Carmella Vineyards of the Snake River appellation of Idaho ($18). The Grgich was easily recognizable as being from California: ripe, canned pear juice and bananas caramelized over an oak log, with the distinct smell of hair perming solution. The other, had everyone through a loop: Sea breeze, lime, and funk; like sitting on the beach in Baja as a drifter offers you plastic chochkies for a dollar. We were sure that it was chardonnay, but couldn't figure out: A) if we liked it, B) If it was done on purpose, and C) where the devil was it from?
The answers to A and B were both yes. The style was unique and there were definite elements of terrior coming through on the wine. The wine had only 12% alcohol, compared to the 14.2 from Grgich. This wine was intriguing, no doubt; but where was it from? Guesses ranged from Michigan to Sonoma Valley to Central Coast. And then everybody was looking at me. Er,- Idaho?
The puzzled look on everybody's face was priceless. It said simultaneously, "they don't make wine in Idaho" and "How did you guess that right?" There are some really neat things going on in Idaho, with wineries like Sawtooth, Carmella, and Parma Ridge. They aren't like the fat and slovenly chards coming from Cali in the same price range. These are lean wines with limited oak, and a lot of motivation to get their name out.
Check out the Appellation America link (on your right) to read up on the Snake River appellation and if you can make it, go drink some wine with Gary in Idaho. Me, I'll be in Atlanta visiting my folks; but guess who is bringing some Idahoan wine with him?
Thursday, August 9, 2007
That was my reaction to losing my blog post, just before my anniversary date with my girlfriend. Apparantly, everything worked out great. I went with the '98 Chardonnay and bought a bottle of red Burgundy from the restaurant. The Bourgogne rouge was refreshingly tannic, but was completely eclipsed by the butterscotchy deliciousness of the 1998 Michaud Vineyard Chardonnay. I couldn't believe how well this wine had aged. The oak develops seamlessly into the wine and creates a rich, heady experience that had us in silent smiles. It was the kind of good that makes you offer it to the waiter/sommelier. The bast part, this wine is available for purchase directly from Michaud, as part of his library selections that also include '00-Current Pinot Noir.
Bottom Line: It shouldn't require this much of my effort to pick one stupid bottle of wine, let alone from a selections that I already was comfortable enough to buy in the first place! Coastal Italian fare; game meats, cheeses, and fresh vegetables.
You know what? To hell with all of it, I'm bringing the Chard becaus thats the one tha I am most excited about opening, and if its corked, they wont charge me the fee. Whew!I'm glad thats out of the way, now what am I going to wear? Just kidding.
I am really excited that it's my second (ever) anniversary and I get to spend it with her in San Francisco. We had so many neat little places in Atlanta, that it's releaving to find a place that we are both equally interested in trying, that looks like it will fit in with the desired fare. It would be fantastic if this could be a semi-frequent dining experience.
Honestly, thats why we have been reluctant to venture out into the city's dining forum. Most of them just don't quite make it to what we want. Please don't misunderstand, I am not that guy that scoffs at Bennigans because its inexpensive family dining, I'm the guy that skips scoffing because he can't make up his mind on the wine list. We like restaurants for so many reasons that when we find a great one, its as if we struck gold, but inversely find ourselves feeling betrayed at the realization of a failed prospect. So Bennigan's definitely has it's place.
I have my finger's crossed.
Friday, July 27, 2007
An example is Parkinson's disease. When the brain recognizes a change in stimulus, it sends a response to the muscles to adapt to the given stimulus. In a Parkinson's patient, the brain and muscles do not adequately communicate, and thus the visible symptoms of Parkinson's result. This disconnect is just as present and life threatening in business. There comes a time in every successful business when the next generation must lead. There are definite pros and cons to this necessary progression, however that doesn't preclude the necessity of succession planning, adaptation and foresight.
There is, I believe a common misnomer surrounding the "Tech Industry." Most businesses refuse to believe that despite their Internet presence, they are not and will never be a "Tech Company." This is a fatalistic mindset that establishes an unwillingness to adapt to the very market you are working in. Basic economic principles, right? Make no mistake, if you have a website you are a "Tech Company." And if you don't have a website, you had better have a damn good local customer base.
The current upstart of Internet Wine Companies are convinced that a creative application of Internet technology will change the way wine is sold, marketed and embraced, and who is to tell them they are wrong? Apparently, making an obscene amount of money and generating enough traffic to drive a Fire Marshall crazy on a "hare-brined, internet scheme" isn't good enough. It is this ridiculous death-grip on the brick-and-mortar business practices that means a death-sentence for wishy-washy, old school tech companies. Web 1.0 happened already, and almost everybody died.
The companies that are forward-thinking are already raking in market share by being forward, and abandoning traditional models for use on the Internet. 20 and 30 somethings are buyers too. Adapt: that is the blunt message delivered to wine industry. . .by a young, outspoken New Jersey wine retailer who said the industry needs to embrace change or die. Sound familiar?
Monday, May 7, 2007
So many people allow themselves to qualify wine based upon a 40 point scale that accounts for a handful of "expert" palates. From a web development perspective, it then becomes very easy to market wines based solely on their score. However from a real perspective, why should anyone be so distrustful in their own tastes to subject themselves to a demagogue? The point is this: If wine becomes a quantifiable commodity, the door is left wide open for wine to be homogenized. The film Mondovino does a disturbingly good service to the effect of scores/ globalization/ homogeneity on the wine industry at large.
The main motivation becomes, then, how we grow big and stay small (thanks, Howard Schultz) as an industry? Imagine, if you will, in twenty-five years if all wines labeled Cabernet Sauvignon tasted the same (basing the idea of a "good" wine on a handful of palates.) Now imagine if every cup of "good" coffee wore a Starbucks badge. Now imagine trying to discern a difference between a McDonalds cheeseburger, a Burger King cheeseburger, and a Wendy's cheeseburger. The latter are examples of homogenization.
"Constructive disruption of older models" is the only way to effectively combat the fusion of every unique and different product produced, into a grey, bland, homogenization of "acceptable" and "satisfactory."
Friday, May 4, 2007
Justin Baldwin and Doug Beckett agree on one fundamental issue: this is all about “my grapes are better than yours.” It’s an Eastside vs. Westside battle of pride. Notes Baldwin, “Only 10 percent of all the grapes in Paso Robles are grown on the Westside. Let’s not miss the main theme of the plot here. It’s not where the lines are: it’s all about the quality issue.” Doug Beckett couldn't agree more. “In fairness to everyone, what is behind this? Soils? Bunk. There’s a lot more to this issue than people realize.”
This is where my dots are disconnected: We are talking specifically about an issue that pertains to soil, and the subsequent wines produced; and somehow, the above mentioned grape growers have found accessory meaning to the concept of appellate boundaries. This brings me to an analogy:
Grape growers in Paso Robles' "Westside" are to appellation consciousness, as the medieval Church was to the spherical nature of the Earth. Staring at your feet, it is very easy to assert that the Earth is flat. Equally, it is very easy to set self-motivated terms, under the banner of tradition when it is your backyard in question. You cannot effectively gauge a situation that you are in too close a proximity to.
What the grape growers in Paso need to figure out is whether or not they are comfortable with the idea that sub-dividing the appellation may have positive and negative consequences. Napa made the mistake as defining their appellation as a marketing device, proven over and over by the currant of over homogenized, median priced cabernets sauvignon that flood the market. Regional distinctiveness suggests a quality that is chosen by a wine maker, not imparted by one.
In the same regards, wine makers that can buy regional distinctiveness have no need to produce great wines if they can pass them off as produced in a region that makes great wine.
The appellate designation should be held as an immovable constant, not a flexible marketing tool. The moment it is bought, it becomes worthless. If the TTB were concerned, they would contract geologists and an unbiased tasting panel to look for distinctive qualities in the wines of Paso Robles. Until then, we have a pissing contest. Wine makers, please take care not to taint the wines.
Thursday, May 3, 2007
I recently spent a few hours with a winemaker at a tasting of his wines. At first he was noticably anxious, having his wines dissected by a panel of discerning tasters. Not many people noticed, but he also wasn't spitting, again, much to his credit. It takes a very special person to be able to put every ounce of their effort into 750 mL bottle and sit by as it is broken down to its base. He did it with grace.
It was to everyone's surprise, save mine because I had invited them; when the "Sugars" walked into the tasting to be introduced. The "Sugars", or women of Popsugar.com are a diverse and charismatic bunch from the 6th floor of our building. These lovely ladies immediately put our tense winemaker immediately in his element. The concept of Popsugar is really intriguing. It is a comprehensive portal to everything cool and relevant to the modern female sophisticate, and these women were its very essence.
Our winemaker was in tasting heaven. The "Sugars" answered with polite eye-rolling (sorry, Stacia). All in all, it has further engrained that which I already believe, that winemaking is a culture, occupation, and lifestyle all to itself, and 100% for me. Nothing sappy, just good wine and great people.
Until we meet again,
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
In addition to identifying the regional characteristics that make every wine distinctive, should we also define the regional characteristics that make each buying region distinctive? In
First observation, savvy, as it pertains to market allowances, is unfortunately relative. In a market that opens its doors to well-known and obscure wines alike, buyers are more apt to follow their own course. Using the example of Newspeak as was set forth by George Orwell in his masterpiece, 1984; we understand that by limiting the vocabulary, or in this case the selection, the “herd” or buying populous is essentially forced into a mold, created by those in power in order to keep the status quo of buyer/seller relationship in check. To offer greater selection is to risk losing your clientele to their individual powers of choice. The less fearful side of the equation is to offer a selection of wine that is based on a selection of choice products and to meet the challenges of the market with an invitation to explore, rather than acquiesce to the greatest common factor.
To understand how a regional savvy is affected, we must look at the potential factors influencing the market. In a savvy market, a buyer will possess a plethora of market resources, human and publication. If a buyer has the opportunity to consult a variety of sources prior to making a decision, the likely outcome is a purchase made in the absence of great fear of the unknown, ultimately a purchase of greater value. For example: Customer A is at a wine shop with a shelf tag describing each wine with 15 words and a score, 1-100. Customer B is at a wine store with hand written descriptions of each wine and a knowledgeable sales person to assist. To ask Customer A to qualify a wine based on a vague scale of 1-100 is to first ask the customer, “Do you know who wrote this recommendation?” And to follow with, “Why do you trust that person?” The dangerous part of that line of questioning is that the path of questions leads away from a very core issue: “Why do you not trust yourself to make a decision about the purchase you are about to make?”
To tie this back, it is in the best interest of the small-minded merchant, and the power-minded merchant to keep the buyer at all times with a sense of fear about the purchase that the buyer will soon make. It forces the buyer to choose from a limited selection, based upon limited information. However, if the buyer is not aware of the intention of the seller, or his agent(s), the buyer will not believe otherwise. Regional savvy is foremost and primarily affected by the constraints placed upon him, unwittingly, by the merchant.
To answer question two, taking into respect, the answer to question one; then the market may be effectively divided between two segments: the segment that is knowledgeable and dictates is own selection via buying power, and the market that has never seen the alternative to having its choices dictated to them via a distributor. The latter is equitable to asking a cowboy to describe surfing.More later.