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Nice write up. I might disagree with you though on what makes for a good wine experience. To me, a good wine, regardless of the price point, tells you something about its region. A rhone will have that earthy sense while a tempranillo will bring the smokey sense of the waning summer and imminent fall. A cabernet will be a little too much of everything, yet (somehow) all in the right balance, while a white burgundy will remind you that the French, for all their faults, continue to set the standard that the rest of us look on with not just a little awe.

Interesting that you bring up Montelena. This is a producer that I must admit I've never gotten; and I am in the minority on this one. I've had all their price points, and I find that somehow their best wine is never quite American enough, as in big bold taste, nor is it old world enough as in subtle sense of place and earth. Oddly, it occupies a sort of in between world that I don't find particularly satisfying. Your thoughts?

By the way, speaking of Montelena, I just saw "Bottle Shock" last week. It is good, not great, but certainly gives you the sense of what it must have been like to be a pioneer in Napa back in the 70's. Coolest thing? At the end of the movie they show the Time magazine cover that had the story of America's glorious win. Totally remember it, as it was the iconic picture of the military guy with his fingers crossed behind his back in the "West Point Cheating Scandal". I recommend it.

Assistants? You have assistants now or were you talking about your lovely wife and what...a sister?

You must forgive me but it doesn't sound like you are having any fun with wine anymore.

I'm having way fun with wine. People come into the store, we talk about great food and we set them up with wines that work in their budget. Then we talk about whatever interesting stuff they've been into relating to work or fun. It's a really pleasant way to conduct business and I learn a lot about other fields from people who are passionate about their own work. Trade tastings on the other hand, are about pressing the flesh and making deals with the wineries. The wine is important but a lot of it is about the numbers.
I always have a few great people working with me. Usually still in college but often they stick around for a year after graduation as they figure out the next step. My two fully-trained guys left within a few months of each other, one to run a start-up wine shop in Montana, the other to go to culinary school, so I have three newbies who won't be up to speed until after their baptism under fire during the holiday season. Hence the 7 day a week schedule. This week on local trade tasting in Des Moines and then a Jorge Ordonez tasting in Chicago. The Ordonez event is tough because my choice is to spit all his wonderful wines so I can drive the four hours back afterward or to enjoy the wines and then kill time until the effects wear off four hours later and drive home in the middle of the night (midnight-4AM) Yuck!
Retail is truly the best end of the wine business. Growers are at the mercy of the weather. Wineries need to sell their stuff whether they are happy with it or not. Wholesalers have to carry entire portfolios and they have to try to sell wine to grocery store managers who just don't care. Good retailers only buy wines they like and sell them to their friends and neighbors.

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