Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Wine vs Whine!

Wine, wine, wine, whine, whine, whine!

This post is especially for those of you that have shared in the updates that were sent before the blog was started. I am fulfilling a promise made to you well over a year ago about my background with wine and the selling of my wine collection. I had said that when the time came I would give you the whole story. The time has arrived.

When you first asked what I ended up doing with my wine you may remember that I whitewashed the whole subject with the statement that my wine collection was sold and would be replaced by a pool I would have here in Mexico. It is in fact what I did, and I stand by the decision. It is a wound that will never totally heal and it is one of those things in life that comes under that heading of “Ya’ gotta do, what ya’ gotta do”! Debi and I have been enjoying the pool very much! I can’t imagine being here without a pool especially in the summer months! However, a fair trade it was not - but a needed mental exchange at the time it certainly was.

Since I am going to tell this story allow me to take you back to the beginning. I caution you that this story is about a passion of mine so it will not be short and sweet, anything but! After all, it is all about me! LOL!

I’d like to let you know that wine is alive! It has a very complex existence from the time the grapes start growing thru and until you drink it. Its environment and each step in its life changes it for good or bad so it is forever in a constant state of change. All the vintners and wineries in the world have my complete admiration for their efforts, dedication, and creativity! They have helped to make the world civilized!

I was raised in a non alcohol drinking home with one exception which was one case of Rolling Rock pony bottles bought every Christmas by my Dad. He would have a couple and my Mom would have one and as company stopped by they got the rest. My sister and I would get a sip from time to time. I started enjoying wine when I was in my early twenties. Albeit Boone’s Farm, Riunite, Yago Sangria, and Lancer’s complimented by a couple of tokes. Regardless and as it is with many things you must start somewhere.

The two major events that had a profound affect on my future in wine happened in 1995. Those events were Wine Spectator magazine and a local liquor/wine store going out of business.

Early in the year I had purchased a subscription to Wine Spectator magazine. I had previously bought a few issues off the newsstand and really enjoyed reading everything in the magazine. I was amazed and enthralled that this enormous wine world existed. I also had purchased a few books on wine at one of the book stores. My knowledge was rapidly growing and the trips to the liquor/wine store were more frequent and the cart was always loaded as I approached the check out register. Not big expensive wines but wines that I could use to develop a taste for different varietals and slowly understand them more. Some were consumed and some were poured down the drain. I was learning what I liked and what I didn’t. Then one day I found that the liquor/wine store was going out of business. As the sale started the prices were discounted nominally. It was your typical sale and as the sale progressed the prices were reduced more and more. The wines started thinning out and as in most sales the only ones remaining were upper tier wines that were pricey. Be it good or bad they weren’t moving that well. For those of you that know me I smelled a deal to be had and I moved in. (Similar to the twenty-one chain saws I once bought!) The wines were still pricey for me but with the recent knowledge I had gained from WS magazine and the books I read combined with an unsinkable attitude I dove in. Without going into great detail I ended up with some fabulous wines at great prices, many of which were first growth French Bordeaux wines and big California cabernets! I then had the opportunity to drink wines that I would never have had the opportunity to had it not been for these events. I was overwhelmed; I was taken away by aromas, flavors and never was I the same again. I began to realize how complex but yet simple wines were. It was a great opportunity for me. However, it was a double edged sword in that I then knew what more expensive wines tasted like. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the more you pay the better the wine will be because I am not. But it did allow me to peek over the fence and see how the others live! There are some wines that cost a bit more that will reward you many times over. Having said that let me also say that there is no doubt that ‘knowledge is power’ and knowing what wines you like and the vintners that do it the way you like it best will trump money every time!

Throughout my wine adventure I developed a passion for finding wines that were $10. or less and that were outstanding wines and capable of holding up against the more expensive wines that were being touted on the wine scene. After a few years I had to change “The Hunt” to bottles that were $15. or less. I had even given thought to opening a wine store that only sold wines that were $15. or less. I never did it but that idea has been put into reality in many cities across the US.

Some of the wines I purchased at the sale were consumed and the others were sold and became the seed money that got me started. After that I continued learning and gaining understanding of where to buy and where to sell, etc.
I started making inroads with numerous liquor stores and being invited to wine-tastings put on by the distributors. My education progressed at a wonderful rate and I was very happy with my advancement.

While buying, trading, and selling I was making many wine friends locally and on the net. The ins and outs of various wines and what was going to be hot and what was not was the constant banter. It is certainly like playing the stock market. You listen for the hype and sift thru it all and hope to buy when it’s released or before it gets popular and then sell when everyone wants it. (My wife has said of me on numerous occasions in regards to wine that “The Hunt” for me is the thing I like the most.)
I need to say that I was not trying to make a living doing this. My soul purpose besides “The Hunt” was to lower my cost per bottle. It was fun, exciting and I loved it.

These actions necessitated a place to hold wines as I started dealing more and more and my collection was growing. If you are going to start collecting and thus cellaring wines you must have a proper area in which to keep them. I built a room with wooden wine racks in my cellar that held two hundred bottles. That was great but I found out quickly that if you have space something comes over you and you’ll do your very best to fill that space! So the cellar was only good for about a year. Once I got tired of moving cases of wine to get to the racks of wine I decided I needed to expand so I bought a commercial wine unit that held another two hundred and fifty bottles. After emptying the boxes of wine that had been stored in the cellar wine room I found that I had only filled half the new unit. About six months later I don’t know what happened but I woke up one morning and it was full! So boxes of wine started getting stacked back down in the cellar.

As time rolls by my network has expanded and I have contacts from NJ to Fl to Ca. I had become a known wine person and trader on a couple of wine internet sites. Again, the words that come to mind are “The time of my life”! It was a blast! My passion in wine had exploded beyond where I thought it would. The wines I had the chance to taste and collect would make any wine lover smile! (Please note that I did not, have not and will not use the word connoisseur as I am not. I am a wine lover that knows what he likes, that’s it plain and simple!).

My next purchase was another commercial unit that held four hundred and fifty more bottles. At this point the cellar was for whites, the smaller commercial unit was for my personal wines that I was collecting, and the big commercial unit was for the coming and going wines.

By this time I had made some super friends - they remain very close personal friends to date. Randy will forever have me in his debt for soooo many wine reasons but also for just being a friend. He would invite me to the store he managed for tastings and we’d taste and talk and share and it was wonderful. I purchased many if not most of my wines thru him. We often commented “there were so many wines and so little time”! He certainly helped me along the way! Going out to lunch was great as well! One of the best all round experiences was going to Gary’s house for food and wine-tastings. All the invitees would bring something interesting to eat and at most every gathering Gary, who is an excellent chef, would handle the main dish(s). What was interesting is that it was agreed that we’d each have to bring a bottle or two of wine that we would all blind taste. The wines would be bagged and numbered and no one knew which wines were which except one person. We’d talk about the wines and write down what flavors and smells we thought we got and what type of wine it was, etc. This was not a contest nor was it to show who knew the most but just for fun. After tasting each bottle we’d expose it and then we would talk about it some more. It was amazing how we perceive a wine when we can’t see the label! It was a great time! I don’t believe that I ever guessed correctly out of all the times we did the tastings! LOL! But I also never had such a good time with my fellow enophiles. Those are times in my life that I’ll cherish forever.

By 2003 the big wine cooler ended up being the one I used for my collection.

One of my loves was and is Port wine. I fell in love with Port wine from my first taste. It didn’t hurt a bit that my most wonderful friend Gary (different from the previous Gary) introduced me to Port and I was hooked. In the end, my collection had in excess of 110 bottles of Port starting from 1970. My collection was heaviest with cabernet sauvignon. Out of all the different varietals this one is the best in my mind. I have been taken aback by more cabs than any other wines I have ever tasted. The complexity of this varietal is unbelievable! Some people feel that they are too big and bold and when pairing with a meal and they can overwhelm. I learned quickly that if you are showcasing a particular wine then the wine should be the center of the meal and the meal should not be in competition but nicely accompany the wine. The opposite rings true if you are showcasing a meal, the wine should definitely be in the background but again be a nice accompaniment. I however have come to like, love, desire one particular wine vs food fight. As a carnivore I cherish, no, no let me change that to covet a great steak and the same goes for a big badass cabernet. My idea of a perfect meal is having a flavor power struggle going on in my mouth between a steak and a cab! I have yet to be disappointed in staging one of these fights. But never doubt that both the steak and the wine must be up to the task! When it’s right ecstasy is the only word for it!

This finally brings us to the selling of my wines and the cooling units. By this time my collection had grown to just over 900 bottles. As we made plans to move and once we were 100% sure I sold as much as I could on the net and to the people I had been dealing with over the years. Remaking contacts and saying good-bye was a mixed bag emotionally. But of course being dealers they were only interested in the wines that would sell or that they liked personally. There were no mercy purchases. After that flurry of sales I still needed to sell more than 500 bottles. During this time I was trying to decide which ones I would bring with me and how many. I had a hard time with this decision as these wines were like my kids. Some of which I had had since the beginning of my wine life. After heart wrenching decisions I decided that I would take the chance and bring 52 bottles with me into Mexico. Quite a risk since between Debi and I we could only bring 6 liters, which was eight bottles. And needless to say all but a few were my most cherished bottles and not replaceable. The risk paid off as all 52 made it thru! The majority of the remaining bottles were sold to a couple that also took the bigger cooling unit. The rest was sold to an individual along with the smaller cooling unit. These were heart-wrenching negotiations that cut deep. Almost all of these wines were sold at my cost or below my cost. It was a hard pill to swallow but we were leaving and it had to be done.

As the last bottle was carried out the door I think I felt empty, possibly similar to a parent whose children have left the nest. I’ll never know that feeling but staring at the imprints in the floor left by the cooling units made me sad. The years of friendships, collecting, hunting and dealing along with the labels of the bottles I so much wanted to keep and that I thought I would sometime get to drink rushed by in my mind! I was frozen in time and space! Then as I stood there I thought I heard something. Did I? I did! I know I did! I slowly started hearing something far off in the distance and it was drawing me out of that melancholy place I was in………..something magical, something familiar………….magic,…..……..it started getting clearer, it was magic………….”Magic marker, where’s the magic marker, we need to label this box!”



reggmc said...

Hi guys! It's amazing to learn something new about people and how much you have in common. While our small townhouse wouldn't accommodate nearly as much wine as you finally had, we manage to store several cases of the best stuff that we find. The rest, well, we manage to drink a lot of wine. And we make a point of finding local varieties wherever we travel.

Lately, initially influenced by the Argentinian wines sold at the local Costco (Merida that is) we've been buying and trying a lot of Argentine wines. Some of it very good.

Actually, I can't wait to stop in when we get there later this month to see what's available. There are also a few good Mexican reds as well.

On our way back to the states last summer, I had four bottles from the Merida Costco in my luggage that I really looked forward to trying. So what happened - my luggage was lost! Maybe somewhat wanted that wine! I was really bummed about losing it -- of all the stuff in the bag.

So we've got something else to talk about when we get together. Best wishes.
Reg and Deb

Theresa said...

Hi Tom! Now I know who to ask about wine! I got tagged and now I am tagging you! You can read the rules on my latest post.