Wednesday I hung up my suit jacket in my office and went to make a copy. When I came back I saw this study in gray, my new office. Outside it was sunny and bright, and I would soon be out among them. But I had an early morning meeting, one I wasn’t really looking forward to.
For several weeks a gentleman had been trying to get an appointment with me to show me his Italian wines. Finally, I relented.
I read all the time about how if only the consumer sitting in front of the computer screen had access to all the wines the wholesalers didn’t have time or interest in, how much better the world would be for them. I really don’t buy into that line of reasoning. There are usually reasons why some wines will never ( and should never) make it to the market. I, for one, would not purposely restrict the flow of products, but the economics of scale and just the inability for every desired product to make it in the New World is just a pipe dream, at best.
So it was without relish that I and my colleague explained to this gentleman that he would lose all his retirement savings and spend what time he had left in life pursuing a dream that just will never be realized. Not because a wholesaler doesn’t care enough to sell it. Because the market can’t bear the weight of anymore products in an already saturated market. Somewhat of a depressing start to the day. That and the new little gray cubicle I call my office. I am sure someone planned it that way to keep me on the streets. And I am fine with that. So fine.
Fortunately, I had a luncheon appointment with Frédéric Panaïotis, the Chef de Caves for Champagne Ruinart, and Charlotte Duntze, the US Brand Manager for Ruinart and several of my younger colleagues. Champagne for lunch might salvage the day. We can hope.
The restaurant we met at was Stephan Pyles. Stephan was there and came over to chat. We had just spent a day or so together out in Buffalo Gap, and the experience was one of those joyous ones. So we relived a little of that before we got into trying the two Champagnes, the Blanc de Blancs and the Rosé.
But the back story, the one I didn’t tell on a recent post at The Blend, was the story of Bertrand Mure. Bertrand passed away a year ago at the age of 95. He was Frédéric’s mentor of sorts. Frédéric is his emotional heir. Bertrand lived a life few of us can imagine. His life should be a book, a movie. He lived large. Before WWII he lived in Southern California, teaching golf and dating a string of famous Hollywood starlets. That alone, living in the Golden age of American cinema, would be enough for me. But after the war he found himself back in Champagne helping a relative bring back Ruinart from devastation. The backstocks were gone, the vineyards were neglected. The world was in no mood for Champagne. They needed bread and water. But slowly, over two decades, he restored Ruinart, one of the oldest houses in Champagne. He created Dom Ruinart, one of the Grande Marques of Champagne. Then he sold Ruinart and stayed to work on for Moet Hennessey. As one of the directors, it was his decision to call Domaine Chandon "sparkling wine", not Champagne. He was a founder of Vinexpo. And God knows what else. I feel a book in this man’s life. I would love to write about it. What a life. What a story!
Frédéric, while still youthful, has the old soul inside him. I know that sounds cliché. But I sense his understanding of the position he holds for a company that is approaching their 300th year of making wine. He quoted an old Chinese proverb, “Find a job you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.”
At the end of the lunch, my grey suit was lighter, and my outlook much brighter from the stories, the bubbles and the potential to find one more story on the wine trail, this time in little old Dallas, Texas. Can you tell how much I love my job?