Sunday, November 01, 2009

On Any Given Sunday: A Three-Tier Crusaders Gamebook

Oh yeah, it’s like, Sunday in the Fall. Meet the Press, Football, World Series, all kinds of diversions. What it is for us three-tier crusaders, though, is one down, two to go. The traditional O-N-D (October-November-December) holiday season is 1/3 over. And we’ve got miles to go before we sleep. All across the country, the wholesalers, retailers and their customers are gearing up for a season of festive cheer. To the three-tier machine, it’s just one big party, festooned with real pirates. Arghh!

I called my 95 year old mom tonight when I got home at 6PM. It was dark here, but in California she was looking at a sun setting over the golf course outside her home. “Oh, honey, are you working today? Did you put up your displays?” My mom has always been “into” whatever her kids were “into.” She used to sit there and listen to baseball games and we’d listen to Vince Scully and Jerry Doggett announce the Dodger games, back when Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale and Larry and Norm Sherry were on the team. Scully announced the Dodgers when they were in Brooklyn and is still on the job after 60 years. Now that is a crusader. Anyway, where were we? Can you tell I am dead tired?

Like I was saying, I met up with one of the old-timer salesmen, Joey the Weasel. We were heading over to Sausage Paul’s, to help clean up the shop after his year end sale and inventory. As I walked in, Paul was firing up a triple cream latte for me, and he had a big grin on his face. His brother Mike was already out the door, a couple of eggplants in his arms and what looked like a pair of tickets to Hawaii or Tahiti. Whatever. We still had work to do.

I polished off the latte and Joey the Weasel walked in with the biggest vacuum cleaner I had ever seen. He was going to get all the dust. Joey was still smarting from his Italian harvest “boy’s trip” to Tuscany. But if anyone is a third-tier warrior, the Weasel is a future Hall-of-Famer. So while he was sucking up dust, I amused myself with re organizing Piedmont, then the Veneto and then Puglia. Federico II, Garibaldi and Il Duce couldn’t touch me; I was burning through regions faster than Berlusconi in a Ferrari. Even Luca Zaia would have been amazed by my ability to regionalize Italian wine regions in such a fast and methodical manner. “No Pineapple, No Zaia”, that’s my motto.

I spied a Lacrima di Morro d’Alba squatting in the Piedmont section and proceeded to return it to Marche where it belonged. A day earlier I had corrected an over-confident wine salesman about the provenance of the wine, but I reckon he, or someone like him, scoffed at my expertise and placed it in the Piedmont section. He had also lectured me on the EU DOP (or PDO, which is more proper). “Now, there will be a Barolo DOP and all the DOC wines will be under it. So you will have Dolcetto and Barbera and Moscato and Gavi and all of those wines under the Barolo DOP.” Oh really? And we wonder why the regular folk think Italian wine is so hard to figure out? Well, I am here to tell anyone who wants to know, that just ain’t gonna happen. Jeesh.

So where were we? Yeah, we got the placed vacuumed, and searched out any wines that needed to be “red dotted” (50% off, and it’s out of the park!) so Sausage Paul could make room for the wines that will work in the new economic reality. And besides, he also needs room for Panettone and Burrata. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

After all that, we hastened to a local trattoria for some pizza and to get the order written. Over a bottle of Insolia (which was heading South, fast) and some calamari, Sausage Paul started handing Joey the Weasel sheets of paper with marking on them. Joey was typing furiously away, trying to get everything in before a 4PM cut-off. Meanwhile a pizza was being placed on the table, and we all had to stop what we were doing to eat the pizza in its perfect state- fresh and hot.

Mission accomplished – re: the pizza. But the cutoff deadline was looming. A hearty espresso kicked Sausage Paul and Joey the Weasel into high gear and they started tearing through the pages, ordering left and right. It was pure poetry to see how those boys worked so beautifully together. And those mean-spirited bloggers who knock the good old tried and true three-tier system, what do they know? They are all sitting on their keisters drinking God knows what (but we’ll hear about it on their blogs, I am so sure) sitting in front of a big screen TV watching football and if they are still sober (or awake) maybe a little of the World Series. The Boys of November, they are a so formidable faction.

Not to sound like I have hubris on this matter, but even in the back row of this kerfuffle, I know the team I am on has a deep bench. We have been called a conspiracy, and blah, blah, blah. Go turn on Fox News if you want to hear the talking points, they’re close enough. The world I live in is competitive and it is constant with change. Don’t like it? Don’t get into the ring. This isn’t a place for whiners and short-timers.

Oh, and for those who say it’s about choice and it’s about giving consumers wines that they couldn’t get in the stores or through the established (three-tier) channels, let me invite you to the store we just spent all Sunday in: there are two tables of Red-Dot close-out wines that consumers didn’t choose – and now those wines have to go away. No conspiracy, no lobbying, no dark passage, no envelope with unmarked $100 bills – just wine that didn’t make it in the real world of commerce. The wineries made their money, so did the importers. The mom and pop store? He's just trying to make room for something that will work.


Marco Cortellini said...

I thought that you were doing the vacuuming. But no, you were re-arranging and touching. You 3-tier guys sure have it easy. You work for 25-30 years and you are still stuck in the stores on Sunday. 20 years of schoolin' and they put you on the Sunday shift. Watch out kid...

Anonymous said...

...Don't matter what you did
Walk on your tip toes
Don't try "No Doz"
Better stay away from those
That carry around a fire hose
Keep a clean nose
Watch the plain clothes
You don't need a weather man
To know which way the wind blows...

Unknown said...

"I bet it's a lot easier to dust those lower shelves now that you have those fancy gusseted jeans, no?!"

Alfonso Cevola said...

better than dancing at the Lonestar Ballroom, although with jeans like those I can dance all night!

Marco Tagliatelle said...


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