Yesterday I had to get up early to catch a plane for a wine dinner down south. The restaurant had asked me over a month ago, they were new and needed a little love, Italian style. So I agreed to catch a plane and stay in a hotel to help them promote their new place with an Italian wine dinner.
They don’t know me and I don’t know them. But that’s what we do in the channel I work in. A lot of it is on faith. I don’t charge for it, although the restaurant agrees to buy the wines for the dinner. But it is a service I cheerfully offer. And hopefully there will be 20-30 or more people there.
Last week I did a wine showcase at my local Italian store, Jimmy’s. I love doing events there, because people know they will come and have a good time. And Paul, the beloved owner, will buy a stack of wine and often when the show is good, people will head home with 3,6 or even a dozen bottles. Last week we knocked ‘em dead. The stars were aligned and everybody had a good time. And it makes all those no-show moments disappear.
Years ago I was scheduled to do a wine dinner in New Orleans at a restaurant near Lake Ponchartrain. I had never been there and went blindly into the event. The hotel room I had reserved (over the internet, also never seen) was a shambles. I couldn’t stay there, so I headed straight to the restaurant. When I got there I was told that they only had 6 people for the dinner. Of the six one was the owner and two were myself and my local representative. So we had three people. But next door I found a great little bed and breakfast, the Rose Manor, that I called home whenever I went to New Orleans. When Katrina hit, the B&B was flooded even though it was on high ground. It was also near the broken levees. An acquaintance, Herman Leonard, the great jazz photographer, lived nearby and his place was ravaged. Many of the photographs he made and collected were lost. And Leonard moved away, forever.
The point I was trying to make was that even though you set out to do something, it doesn’t always work out like you intend. But that doesn’t mean the opportunities are lost. It’s all a matter of perception.
Yesterday when I landed, my representative let me know that the restaurant hadn’t been able to get anyone to the dinner. It was priced right (under $60) and there was a great lineup of wines. And yes it is the beginning of the school year and everyone is getting back and settled into their routines. I chalk it up to inexperience on the part of the restaurant and hopefully in the future they will learn how to promote an event to better showcase their food, their wine and the available talent. After all, I killed them last week in Dallas. I was suited up and ready to knock another out of the park. They just weren’t able to get the butts in the seat.
I write this not to complain about the situation, although when I first was told I wasn’t a happy camper. I’m over that now. It’s August and this is the time to plant the fall garden. The harvest will be in December if things move forward in these times.
But it got me to thinking about my Italian colleagues, who are just packing up their beach gear and getting ready to leave their seaside places and head back to the vineyards. They have had a month in the sun. We have too, out here in flyover country. The difference is that we have stayed in our vineyards and worked through a hellatious summer of changes. If our work is in any way successful it will further insure that when the Italians pack their bags to come to America to work in September (and to show off their tans and buy clothes at the outlets and sales) they won’t be booking their planes to nowhere.
Because no one likes to till in barren fields.