Sometimes things seem more seductive than they really are. Two out of the last three weekends I have been in Northern California for conferences. Right before the Bloggers conference ( I could not take the time to go) in Napa I spent three marvelous days learning about information, networking and meeting old and new friends at the WITS conference. The past few days I have been in Sacramento for the Society of Wine Educators conference, met Jancis Robinson, did my seminar on the Italian influence in California winemaking, bought a Flip video camera and drank a lot of great wines with some fantastic people. Great life, good career, flying around, uh huh. But today, back home, I got up early and headed to work.
Mission: Reset a wine shop.
I was rested and ready. The store was closed, so no distractions. What is a guy like me doing on a Sunday resetting a wine section, when everyone else is at church in their Sunday best? Well, it’s not just any store. It’s one of the best Italian wine stores I have seen in all of the Southwest. Italian wine only. From all regions. Even Valle d’Aosta. And it is closed on Sunday so we could get a lot done in a little time. It is with a great deal of respect for the wines ( and the wine god) that my colleague and I set about making sense of the set.
You know I can be a big picture guy, but sometimes you have to zoom in on the macro and get down to the root. The floor. And that is where I was, on my knees, in my seersucker shirt, trying to get all the wines in their proper places.
A word about the average salesperson. The average salesperson is just that, average. They come in a store, try to find something that's out of stock that they can get an order for. So they bury a case or two in the cold box. Maybe there’s a case of Barbera that has been sitting in the corner for a few weeks. It isn't hurting anything, and there’s no more room for another wine in the Piedmont section. And there it stays. And stays. But the salesman gets his piddly little order and slinks out to find another victim. All the while the wines made by the hands of the Italian man and woman finds their last stop in a little store in the corner of America and there it sits, their life’s work, their heart and soul. And the soul of their ancestors. History kicked under a stack of Pinot Grigio and forgotten. All because some salesperson was too damn lazy to help find it a final home.
Our reset went slow. In fact we never quite got out of the white wine section. We kept finding 2003, 2004, 2005 white wines from Italy. And we aren’t talking Fiorano or Valentini or Gravner. These were Pinot Grigios from the Veneto, old (and very falso) Cortese wines, tired Rabosos with no more spritz in their frizzante. You get the idea? So our client and friend who, owns the store, now has a beautiful white wine section and a table of sale wines. There are some surprises in there, but the real shocker will be when those average salespeople walk in the store and see more space and try and fill it up with more of their lost soul wines, the ones they never tended in the first place. They’re like pimps, with no real concern or love for the wines they are schlepping around. Pity.
Sometimes a shelf set begins to look like an Escher drawing or an optical illusion. All these Italians standing on the deck of the ship waiting to dock so that can be taken to their very own spot in America. That’s what the wines in the Tuscan section scream to me when I walk by them. Chiantis and Super Tuscans, Morellinos and Vino Nobiles. Brunellos are bulging and declassified Brunellos are also peering over the edge wondering when anyone will take them in. They aren’t tired and they aren’t poor, but they sure are the huddled masses. Like our client said, “There will be more Sundays.”
Personally I am looking forward to that seersucker Sunday, my Fellini-esqe escapade, on the beach, where everything is young and fresh and willing, and there is another Sunday following it, not a Monday. Wouldn't it be loverly?