Friday, February 20, 2009

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sorry about the last venting post!

Wow a lot of venom came out there! Where was that from? I did not mean for it to get so out of hand!

But I guess it had to get let out, because after that I had a really good day of sales. So go figure.

It would have been a great day but for two things - one: I got the news that Tom Leykis' show is going to go off the air - now I know my readers may not be huge fans of Tom Leykis, but this is my entertainment in the afternoon on the radio..... all these callers and Tom with his unique approach to life.... I can't believe HE is being laid off due to this crappy economic environment.

The second thing is that I heard from my friend who works for one of the big food wholesalers, and she actually told me that HOSPITALS are defaulting on their invoices, ie. not paying their bills. I guess health care is not immune to this current economic suck-hole.

Okay there I have gone on to the negative side again. Sorry!

But seriously, there is still a lot of great stuff in life, life is good, life is awesome, there are a lot of great people, and I am very grateful.

Cheers everyone!

Wine Comments that Drive Me Crazy

Funny thing, I stole this entire title from my friend Samantha's blog (Samantha Sans Dosage).... she wrote a great list of wine comments from customers that are just simply difficult to respond to - stuff like "I need a wine recommendation - where are the wine guys?" and "I'm not a wine connaisseur."

So I decided that I probably have a list of some of mine that I encounter in my job in wholesale selling German wine. Here are some that come to mind:

"You know, German wine doesn't really sell."

All right then, should I just go home and go back to bed?

Or my other response in my head: making a funny face and thinking - "What the hell? I've been in retail the last three years and nothing sold better in my hands than a bottle of well made German Riesling. And after a little introduction, I even got people to ask for German Spatburgunder by name. What do you mean German wine doesn't sell? Oh you mean you actually have to do your JOB and show your customers something a little different, something more than what they already came in knowing? Wow! I'm sorry!"

"You know, Riesling doesn't really sell." or its cousin, "We don't sell much Riesling."

Really? Shocking. One of the greatest noble grapes of the world which expresses its terroir in the most transparent way... why would this sell? Oh, I'm sorry, you mean you have to do your job. Pardon me.

Seriously though, I know people are going to order their Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. I know. You don't need to tell me. I already know. I'm just saying that having some Riesling on your list or in your repetoire may be beneficial for rounding you out and making you differentiated from all the other joints that are your competitors. You are in the wine business. Have you no creativity or love for wine? Or do you just try to put J. Lohr everything on your list and call it a day?

"You know, I love German Riesling, I really do, it is great, it just doesn't sell."

Again, sorry. Tiring comment. All this means is you don't know how to sell.

"We are looking for a $10 Riesling that we can pour by the glass (and charge $12 a glass for.) But we don't buy anything you can buy in stores."

Oh, you want an inexpensive Riesling but just one case a month, but I cannot sell it retail. Thank you for thinking this way. It takes reality into account.

"That's sweet."

Really. When you drink Orange Juice do you recoil in horror, saying "That's sweet!"? When you bite into a fresh apple, do you grimace and say "That's sweet!"? What else are you tasting in the wine? Anything? Anybody? Bueller??

"That's all you sell? German wine?"

Yes. We are importers. We try not to diversify too much. Just like you are a Japanese/Italian/Steakhouse restaurant. Focusing is good. It makes you an expert in the field.

"We're in bed with Southern. They print our wine list and everything."

And you admit that out loud???

"We get too great a deal with Southern. We don't deal with anybody else. Sorry."

Great! Should we all go back to bed then? Thanks!

Honestly, their Riesling comes out of a factory. Ours comes out of family owned estates that date back for centuries.

"Can I just order one case of wine? No, I can't pay the delivery charge."

Okay, let me hand deliver it to you. It will be my pleasure. I love loading docks. They excite me.

"But the wine I am now serving by the glass is just $6 for a 1.5 L bottle. Yeah, people seem to like it."

I have no words.

"You know, I just don't Riesling."

So..... why did you ask me to come down here and open bottles for you?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Winter Vineyards

A stark contrast to what one sees in September, say, but beautiful nonetheless.

Schnaitmann vineyards in Fellbach, Wurttemburg:

Rudolf Furst vineyards in Franken:

The Brauneberger Juffer, view from Fritz Haag winery:

View out the window from Wegeler Mosel:

View out the window at Karthauserhof in the Ruwer:

A view outside the Meyer-Nakel winery in Dernau in the Ahr Valley ("Are we Dernau?" Joke credit goes to Brent Wiest)

Urziger Wurzgarten in the background, with the Monchhof winery in the foreground:

Not tourist season, as you can see, but wow, the pruning is certainly a ton of work!

Winery Soups

Nothing warms you heart and soul like homemade soup at a winery in Germany. When tasting those high-acid unfiltered barrel and tank samples in the dead of winter, what can neutralize that empty feeling in the gut? Oh, I already told you: winery soups.

Here is a wild boar soup from Rudolf Furst, the Pinot Noir specialist in Franken:

Here is my second bowl of soup from Zilliken in the Saar. Note the little dumplings and things:

The following two soups were made and consumed at Gunderloch. The first was a multi-bean soup that ate like a chili:

And the second soup was the first course at dinner - a classic German potato soup, delicious with 2006 Gunderloch 3-star Auslese, a dry-styled Auslese that is fantastic with food.

There were also soups at Pfeffingen (a goulash-type soup) and Schloss Lieser (cream of asparagus) which I did not take photos of, but you get the idea.

Wine Personalities

Christophe Graf & others at Von Buhl, along with Rudi Wiest:

Norbert Breit at Wegeler Mosel:

Christophe Tyrell at Karthauserhof:

Hanno Zilliken of Zilliken, standing next to Rudi:

Bert Simon of Bert Simon Winery:

Max von Kunow of Von Hovel Estate:

Robert Eymael of Monchhof:

Werner & Mieke Nakel (father and daughter) of Meyer-Nakel:

Volker Raumland of Sekthaus Raumland:

Gunter Kunstler of Kunstler Estate:

Fritz Hasselbach of Gunderloch, Agnes Hasselbach behind him:

Rudi & Erna Wiest of Rudi Wiest Selections/Cellars International:

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The State of my Physical Being

I ran the half marathon on Feb 1 quite well, though of course the last few miles were a struggle, but not too big of one. It was good. Completing it helped me complete one quarter of one of my new years goals, which was to complete 4 half-marathons in 2009.

With the help of Johan, I was able to scoot out of the race at the end, after receiving my finishers medal, and dash home, shower quickly, then make my way to the airport (yes, Johan drove!) I was the first one of my group to get there, and then found out our plane was an hour late.... in other words, we did not need to rush so much!

But the important thing is I got here. Mission accomplished.

Since being here, tonight is the only evening I got to take a walk. Walking for just a half hour through the small town of Mulheim was a pleasure. The weather was fair - it had been raining lightly during the day, so the temperature was well above freezing - in the evening there was no rain and nothing impeded the walk.

It was the first time I got to move my legs. I was reminded of how much I needed the exercise.

It is exercise that keeps me sane often, keeps me from feeling like a lump loaded up with heavy food. I have been getting too little of the former, and too much of the latter, so the equilibrium is off.... perhaps I can get it back on track very soon.

Not likely that soon though, since tomorrow night, the plan is to dine at 2 star Michelin restaurant Steinhauer in the Ahr...... maybe I will get up earlier tomorrow morning and have a walk before breakfast......

Update from Germany

I'm still in Germany here, and this particular hotel in the Mosel has a computer with internet access, which is very nice. The keyboard is not as difficult to manage as those in France, with their major differences compared to the ones back home. The German keyboards mainly differ in their placements of the letters z and y, and a few other ones.

It is Saturday night here and we have had an intense week of tasting, beginning on Monday, as soon as the plane landed. We hit Furst in the western part of Franken, then drove to the eastern part of Franken to Wirsching. After that it was bang bang bang all the way through Baden, Pfalz, Nahe, and then the Mosel. Today was in the Mosel's side rivers of the Saar and Ruwer. We tasted a lot of wines, the majority of which are the 2008 tank samples (most are unfiltered and look like Wittekerke beer or hefeweissen) and the rest of which are 2007s and some cool older wines. For example, today at Karthauserhof we tasted some 1969 and 1971 vintages, which were pretty awesome.

So far, our view of the 2008 vintage is that it is a classic vintage, harking back to the old school before vintages 2005, 2006, and 2007 gave incredibly ripe wines that made everyone fear that Kabinetts will no longer be possible out of Germany's vineyards. 2008 is in some ways like 2004. Great acidity, especially for those who love high acid wines. Lots of Kabinett and Spatlese, while very little high pradikat wines, which perfectly matches the state of the economy since lower pradikats sell at lower prices and this is good for everyone right now.

In sum, the 2007s will still show like rock stars, with their incredibly long hang times and clean, clear fruit, but those who crave more acid in their German Rieslings will appreciate 2008 for its classic acid profile and its lighter, leaner structure. There is still great ripeness in these wines, just not the level seen in the past 3 vintages. Which is a bit of a relief for many.

As for my favorite estates, they are:

Becker - for their Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc wines - easy to like

Fritz Haag - for the best Mosel Riesling for my taste

Karthauserhof - for wines with such a unique profile, such delicacy and grace, and the ability to age for decades

So far, that is it for wine. We have been having wonderful German food, especially homemade soups at the various wineries. We had soup at Furst, Pfeffingen, Zilliken, and Schloss Lieser. Soup makes a great lunch in the middle of winter.

The other notable thing for me on this trip is how the wineries are all getting remodels that are so fabulous. The modern fixtures are fantastic, and I have taken many photos of these. I love the clean lines, and the mixed use of glass, wood, brush metal and slate. Many decorating ideas here. And of course, all these are a great contrast to the old cellars.

I will post some pictures upon my return.