Thursday, April 15, 2010

Intense Week Part I: Day 1: Arrival to Northern California

The past 7 days have been a concentration of some of the most excitement I have experienced in a while - too much excitement - lots of ups and downs, of the type I would never have experienced in my previous profession in the health care biz.... the week was quintessential exciting wine biz stuff, for sure. We're talking tastings, winemakers, travel, dinners at high-end restaurants, schmoozing with known entities, the whole bit, all the things I wanted to experience back when I was trudging my way into the hospital day after day, putting on my white lab coat, and thinking, hey, I'd rather be working for a European wine importer.

Well, where there's a will, there's a way. And what I wished for and made changes toward, here I am.

Let me start with the period Monday April 12 to Wednesday April 14. Just three little days, and I put on some serious miles. The plan was to be up in San Francisco for the first two days to work the market, then be there for the Dry Wine Tour tasting with our 6 winemakers on Wednesday.

The Dry Wine Tour is a tasting tour that goes across America, with Rudi Wiest at the helm, and 6 growers who specialize in dry German wines. This year, we had Rainer Schnaitmann of Schnaitmann Estate in Wurttemburg, Fritz Becker of Friedrich Becker Estate in the Pfalz, Hansjorg Rebholz of Rebholz Estate in the Pfalz, Gunter Kunstler of Franz Kunstler Estate in Rheingau, Marcus from Heger Estate in Baden, and Uwe Mathius from Hans Wirsching in Franken.

Monday morning I was up at 5 am, and was driven to the airport by Johan. I flew into SFO from Long Beach Airport via JetBlue, my favorite airline right now. JetBlue flies out of Long Beach and previously only flew to Oakland and Sacramento, but now has recently added San Francisco. Super convenient, this airline has been great for me, and they serve delicious Terra Blues chips on the flight with bottled water.... lovely - a perfect distraction for a flight that takes about an hour.

It was my first time flying to SFO, and it was my first time using a small carry-on sized cheapie piece of luggage. It took a ton of time getting out of this very huge airport (it felt much bigger than OAK), but after I finally maneuvred myself to where the shuttle was that would take me to my cheapie car rental place (Ace Rent-a-Car), and after I finally got my cheapie rental car (Hyundai - no power door locks, no power windows), I unzipped my checked luggage to find that my trustie GPS device was BROKEN.

This was very traumatic. I was at an airport I had not flown into before in recent memory, I had no idea how I was going to get to my appointments all over the Bay Area and beyond, and my security blanket was gone. And no, I had no back-up, no maps...

I dragged my cheapie car to the Shell station to buy a map of SF..... and improvised the rest of the day until the next day when I found myself an AAA to pick up more than 7 different maps for all the different areas I was going to...

Long story short, over Monday and Tuesday, I managed to make it to all of my appointments except one; I was late to some, but managed, and I succeeded in navigating myself using MAPS! I patted myself on the back. I got myself from San Francisco to Napa and back more than once (sometimes not using the most efficient route, but I did it)... I got to places I had never been before, such as the Blackhawk neighborhood of the city of Danville... overall, I was happy with my success in the navigation department!

There's a nice feeling of accomplishment that I get when the going gets tough, like when I'm in a foreign town, and the weather is not all good, and I don't know where I'm going, and there's pressure because I'm running late, and there's pressure because 6 winemakers are coming and I had better make sure there are clients that will be at the tasting. Little feats I accomplish feel extraordinary at the time.

Monday evening, after a stressful day, I had dinner plans with my coworker, and, after finding out that several restaurants (Zuni Cafe, Bar Crudo) we wished to go to were closed on Monday, we ended up at the famed Gary Danko Restaurant. This is a place that I wanted to check out from the bar, because I wanted to go here with my husband. So we went there with the full intention of sitting at the bar, having a drink and some food... we ended up a with a table in the intimate dining room, and had an amazing dining experience. Pampered was a good word for it - the service, the wine, and the food were exceptional.

I neglected to take pictures of the food, but everything was artistically plated and delicious, from the lobster salad and the seared scallops to the cheese plate to end the meal. Extra special was the glass of Amarone they recommended with the cheese plate; we expected a recommendation of a white sweet wine with the cheese, but instead got this full-bodied, deliciously balanced red instead, which was indeed a great end to a satisfying experience. So Monday had the big lows of dealing with landing in SF with no GPS and driving to Napa and back in the rain, contrasting with the highs of having an exceptional dinner experience and catching up with friend and coworker, and enjoying the enlightening experience of Amarone paired with cheese at the end of a meal, a pairing I have heard of and agreed with in theory, but never experienced in practice. Now I have a story to go with that etched in my mind.


Noel DLP said...

Great story Nancy, I enjoyed reading it and will be awaiting the next part.

Nancy Deprez said...

Thanks Noel! Thank you for reading. :)

Dr. Christian G.E. Schiller said...

Very interesting. I will post all your reports on my Facebook Page "Drinking German Wine in America". When will you come to Washington DC?