'Current Affairs'

“Man that toast was too short!” (Said nobody, ever)

Want to show some appreciation for friends and family at upcoming Holiday events?  Read my ten tips for Toasting Success and you’ll be remembered as a pro.

  1. It’s not as hard as it seems.  Although public speaking is intimidating for many – telling someone “Thank You” in public is what most of us have been trained to do since we were three!  And a toast is just a formalized extension of that – just stand, clink your glass for silence, and say some sort of extended version of a simple Thank-You… “I think we all owe our hosts a big thank you for such a wonderful time, such great food, and for having the wisdom to invite such an interesting group of friends tonight!
  2. Know Your Audience.  You’re unlikely to give the same toast at a gathering of old school pals as you would at a work event, right? To avoid falling flat, or saying something inappropriate, remember those you’re inviting to raise their glass will be unlikely to do so unless your words are pleasing to their ear.
  3. Toast, Don’t Roast.  I once listened to a Best Man describe how he and the groom once stole a refrigerator from a neighboring apartment. It was the most inappropriate toast I’ve ever heard at a wedding, and was not appreciated by anybody, leaving many of the celebrants in a state of shocked protest when invited to raise their glass. This is not the time for the risky or risqué!
  4. 60 Seconds, Tops. One reason people can feel nervous before giving a toast is the false belief that every toast needs to be a speech. Quite the opposite – as long as your toast conveys your heart-felt gratitude, it’s a success. Your best bet is to shoot for 30-60 seconds, from the first word to the invitation “… so please join me in raising your glass to…
  5. Follow This Proven Outline. Having listened to and studied with some of the world’s truly great public speakers, I don’t think you’ll ever be disappointed when following their outline for a good toast:
    1. Thank the host and/or acknowledge the guest of honor
    2. (Totally optional, but recommended) Describe a shared experience from the past – light, and either humorous and/or touching.
    3. Invite all to join you in raising their glass to the honoree(s).
  6. Do It Early. Those who hate speaking in public find it preferable to procrastinate. But a toast is best when it sets the tone for an event early on – after everyone has been seated at the table and the first wine has been poured, for example.  Just before dessert is also a great time, but comes with the downside of, well, see below…
  7. Don’t Drink Too Much First!  For obvious reasons.  We are never as glib as we think we are after that second or third glass of wine!
  8. Eyeball-to-Eyeball.  Look each other in the eyes as you raise your glass. I learned this important lesson from an Italian winemaker who was aghast at my very American tendency to look at my glass as we clinked, instead of looking at the man who had just honored me with his toast. A toast is a sharing of our humanity, a celebration of it, and as we raise our glasses around the table, it will mean much more if each participant recognizes the others by looking them in the eye as they clink glasses. (This is easier when in a small gathering, of course)
  9. Standing Is Best. Standing at the dinner table as you propose your toast makes it easier to get started, as heads will turn to see what is happening. Clink a water glass (no, not the crystal one!) to gain attention, and dive in, or simply announce “I propose a toast!”.  If standing is not possible for any reason, simply raising your glass can be effective, though it does not convey the same gravity – which is often preferred for casual situations anyway!
  10. Sources of Inspiration. There is no substitute for speaking from the heart. But there is also a long history of wit and wisdom that may lend a humorous launch pad for your own creativity. I’ve collected some of my favorites over the years, and you are welcome to view them here

“Drinking Alcohol Causes Cancer!” (Whoops. Not!)

Alcohol cancerThis week, two UK publications used attention-grabbing headlines like the one seen at left.  They quoted a ‘study’ published in the journal “Addiction”.

They had but one problem.  There was no study.  Only the wishful musings of a neo-prohibitionist writing in the publication’s “For Debate” section. You may have seen the headlines making news – such is the nature of our state of journalism today – and I’m posting this to argue that moderate drinking is still more likely to lengthen one’s lifespan than to shorten it.  

Of course, being employed in the wine industry, that’s what you’d expect me to say, right? So I will leave you with a link to this more reasoned consideration of the debate.

Happy Sipping!Just Dave

Dave “The Wine Merchant” Chambers

 

Does Your Wine Cause Cancer?

During the course of my many solar orbits, I’ve observed broadcast news shift from dry, informative information to content that offers entertainment that shifts between feel-good stories embedded between warnings of the falling sky.  Such is the destiny of today’s deregulated marketplace.

So I wasn’t too worried when I read the headline “Weed Killer Could Be Lurking In Some CA Wines”.  But if one follows the “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” it does seem as if Monsanto’s ‘RoundUp’ is too ubiquitous to NOT become a factor in the health of some portion of the population. 

The news on wine containing traces of this popular weed killer is just the latest bit of inflammatory news.  Clearly, our entire food supply is at risk, as are our watersheds.  I tend to adopt a rational approach to such things, and intend to keep looking at the research beyond what our current broadcast news environment allows.  

I’ll keep an eye on this to see if wineries diminish their use of RoundUp, or if organically raised grapes still have traces of the carcinogenic chemical, and see if there is scientific consensus (outside of studies sponsored by Monsanto) that indicates glyphosate is encroaching into our food and water supply at a level worthy of concern. Stay tuned.

See the original broadcast here:

 (or copy/paste this link)

http://abc7news.com/health/i-team-weed-killer-could-be-lurking-in-some-ca-wines/1314832/

CorkSharing – Wine App Review

CorkSharing-full

Having learned my lesson the hard way (it’s a long sob story not worth any more pixels), I appreciate good wine apps.  I recently came across Bryan Petro’s “CorkSharing” (wine tourism app for iPhone and Android) and thought it worth sharing.

CorkSharing was designed for those who like to plan their route in advance and who enjoy a little preferential treatment upon arrival.  The app allows users to visually scan a map of a wine region showing an overlay of participating wineries.  Users can then click on a winery’s red dot to review their self-reported details and, if all looks good, to book a tasting appointment. 

From a winery’s perspective, the app automates the reservation process, from booking the appointment to taking payment for the tasting fees (CorkSharing takes a 15% booking fee – there is no other cost to participate).  The company currently has more than 600 participating wineries from around the globe.

To see more on how it works, here’s a helpful video demo:

 

Winery Sign-Up Process
If you run a winery tasting room and would like to test CorkSharing, sign up for it here.

Tasting Event Promotion
Holding a tasting event you want to publicize? Post it here.

 


My App Review

My vision for our failed iPhone app was to allow wineries to book reservations, as CorkSharing does, but also to push promotions to users once their device was within a reasonable distance.  Imagine a slow day in your tasting room, and the ability to post an instant promotion of limited duration.  Generating more TR traffic for you, and providing greater value for customers seemed like a great deal.  

CorkSharing gets you much of the way there, and seems a likely candidate among wine apps to go the distance.  However, they desperately need more wineries on board before the app reaches critical mass, and they are constantly working on this.  Unlike other apps, they don’t scrape data from winery websites in order to create the appearance of endless choices (only to disappoint users who click on winery after winery not participating in the booking).  

The app is free and easy to use.  Even at this early stage it’s worth downloading.  Any wine lover planning their next trip will find it useful!

Just DaveCheers!  
Dave
www.DaveTheWineMerchant.com 

Today’s Life Lesson – Always Pick Up The Phone!

McBrides #3

Always pick up the phone?  I know that seems like weird advice, what with more and more companies/charities/candidates employing an ever-expanding phalanx of thick-skinned sales people to call during the dinner hour all hours of the day.  It’s tempting to let all your calls go to voicemail!

But imagine what might have happened if you had ignored a call like this one, coming in from an unknown number…

“Hi honey, this is your father.  I know we’ve never met, but after your mom and I split I went away for a long time. Like your mom, I too have terminal cancer and want you to know before it’s too late that you have a half sister.  My brother and his wife are going to help you find her.”

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That’s essentially the phone call that reunited Andrea and Robin McBride as they told us their story over lunch at San Francisco’s Sens restaurant on Thursday.  The sisters now constitute a fair percentage of America’s female winemakers, and an even larger percentage of winemakers of color.  And if we slice that pie even thinner, they are the only American winemakers who can call themselves “African American sisters”.

After meeting for the first time in 1999 (one was raised in New Zealand, the other in Monterey, CA) they discovered many similarities, including a love of wine.  To make a great story short enough for the space available, in 2005 – the same year I launched the Sideways Wine Club (though their story is a bit more exciting) – they decided to become importers of New Zealand wine.

Their first shipment consisted of just a single pallet – about 55 cases, because that was all the cash they could afford to risk.  It was hardly worth the paperwork!  But they took those wines from account to account and through pluck, charm, intelligence and hard work, they leveraged that first pallet into a sizable import company with over a dozen representatives.  Along the way, they related stories of how their gender and race led some to assume they were “the assistants”.  They said they never took it personally, and just let their wine do the talking.

Their first venture into winemaking started in New Zealand, with a brand called Eco.love – three wines with a commitment to sustainable production that resonates with the female millennials that are their primary customers.  Now they’ve partnered with Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines to launch their California brand TRUVÉE (Tru Vay – poetically enough, French for “to find”), introduced in January of this year.  

The TRUVÉE brand has launched with two wines, each produced in quantities of about 10,000 cases, and each priced at $15.99 (retail).

McBride Sisters

TRUVÉE 2013 Chardonnay – this lightly-oaked wine (50% “with oak”, 50% Stainless Steel) is from a number of top Central Coast sources, Edna Valley, Bien Nacido, Chalone and others.  Their goal was to span the Old World and New World styles with a wine that was in the sweet spot for what our industry classifies as “Super Premium” wines (keep in mind that only 4% of wine sold costs more than $20).  This was a nice, every-day Chard that paired very well with all the dishes Sens served us on Thursday.

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TRUVÉE 2013 Red Blend – A Rhône-style wine that blends Grenache (primarily San Benito), Syrah (Chalone), Zinfandel (Paso Robles) and Merlot (San Lucas Valley).  Lighter-bodied and very approachable, I tasted the red wine with each of the dishes and it spanned nicely, the tannins sufficiently tame to pair well with Sen’s lower-fat Mediterranean dishes, and the acidity sufficiently high to remain refreshing.

All in all, I was pleased to discover the sisters and their wines.  There are many, many good wines out there, but I suspect that five years from now this brand will be among the winners.  Because even a good wine does better with a good story, and there is no better story than that of Andréa and Robin McBride.  I wish them all the success they deserve.

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Everything in moderation (including moderation?)

Today’s NPR news feed includes a story I’d call “news-ish”.  That’s my term for what the news/entertainment industry calls “human interest stories”.  Such stories get more viewers/listeners/social media likes, and therefore they’re replacing solid news.  But who am I to complain?  I sell wine for a living, and what could be more “Human Interest” than that?  Despite the wine industry’s unique internecine squabbles, we rarely make headlines outside the “human interest” category.

This particular article reported on how women (not men?) who actually COOK the recipes they see demonstrated on TV’s cooking shows tend to be 11 pounds heavier than the women who simply WATCH the shows.  For the record, correlations have also been found between the number of people who drowned in a swimming pool in a given year and the number of films Nicholas Cage appeared in during that year.  That’s the thing about statistics – it can be tricky stuff.

The trim Giada de’Laurentiis

The writer thought this finding called into question the wisdom of cooking at home to obtain healthier food, and even called into question the writings of food proponents such as Michael Pollan.  But in the end, the story concludes on a note of common sense.

When asked how she can cook such high-fat dishes on her show and still maintain her trim figure, celebrity chef Giada di’Laurentiis replied “I eat a little bit of everything and not a lot of anything.  Everything in moderation.”

And that’s just sound advice whether putting food on your plate or wine in your glass.

Happy Merchant Cropped for webCheers,

Dave the Wine Merchant

“Honey, what was that wine we liked??”

That question is an increasingly common one among wine fans over 40.  I like to tell them they’re experiencing memory difficulties because they have a lifetime of memories stored inside their heads, like a hard drive that’s getting full, and it takes longer to scan through everything and access a specific piece of information when it’s needed.  (There’s actually some brain research that supports my theory, which is surprising as I thought I’d made it up)

But here’s a useful article that provides helpful clues on how to cement something into your memory regardless of its vintage.  If you’re taking the SWE/WSET/MS/Etc. certification exam, this is required reading.  If you’re just interested in a better memory then yeah, you too!

2/27/15 Food & Wine Article by Charles Antin “How To Improve Your Wine Memory

A Tasting Experience at the Intersection of Wine & Art

Creativity Explored - where art changes livesWhat are you doing here?!  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate you reading my blog, it’s just that I’m going to ask you to do something more.  

Because reading about wine is all well and good, it is a fascinating topic and all, but it’s sort of like reading about sex – eventually, it’s best to set aside the academic study and experience the subject live and in person.  Which is what we’re doing every time we separate the cork from its bottle, and especially so at an organized tasting where wine becomes the center of focus, where it’s elevated beyond a pleasant background accompaniment to good company, good food or the (sadly) the T.V.

And on Thursday,  January 29th, we’re turning the usual tasting format on its head with wine inspired by art. It’s a whole different approach to tasting!

It’s not uncommon for an artist to be inspired by wine, of course.  That’s been common for centuries.  But wine inspired by art?  Come experience it with us – you’ll taste wine, and view the art that inspired it, with fresh and enlivened senses. We’ve paired artisanal wines with six different works of art by some of the developmentally handicapped artists working through the venerable Creativity Explored in San Francisco’s hip Mission District.  This worthy organization provides studio space and gallery/marketing support for dozens of such artists, some of which are able to support themselves from their proceeds.  Tickets are just $20 (available here).  Here’s a sneak peak at two of our pairings:

Biggy Cats... by Christina Marie Fong

Biggy Cats… by Christina Marie Fong inspired a pairing with Bonny Doon Vineyard’s Le Cigare Blanc. Come learn more about this fascinating match!

"Big Tree" by Jason Monzon

“Big Tree”, by Jason Monzon, inspired a pairing with the wines of Mendocino producer Seebass. Come learn how the art inspired our choice!

I hope you can join us. Because as much fun as it is to read about wine, it is far more enjoyable to taste it!  So stop reading and hie thee to the shopping cart – Tickets are a very reasonable $20 per person ($38 for two)Click to Buy Tickets

 

Happy MerchantCheers!

Dave the Wine Merchant

“Wings Get Stuck In Your Teeth!” & Other Perils of Pairing Wine & Bugs

I didn’t intend to read it.  I had lots to do when I saw the article come across my news feed.  But there’s something about the idea of eating bugs that makes it difficult to look away.  Even more so when you combine them with wine.

Which is what the UK reporter Adam Lechmere did, with the help of the buyer for UK’s large wine retailer Laithwaites, Beth Willard.  Beth helped Adam pair wines with Cricket Pad Thai, Mealworm Tacos, Grasshoppers on Toast and Frangipane of Pear, Cinnamon and Queen Weaver Ants.

Fair warning – the images are a bit off-putting.  Despite their drought resistance, near zero CO2 footprint (relative to our preferred protein sources) and overall abundance, the little critters are so unappealing that I fear the food marketers, powerful as they are, may have many years of hard rock mining ahead before they can convince Western populations to include bugs in our diets.  With the possible exception of the painfully hip, of course, who will outrace each other to be at the tip of the next foodie trend.  They can take my baton and head to the front of the pack, with my blessing.

For more information on Adam’s investigative journalism, read the full story here or copy paste this – http://www.wine-searcher.com/m/2015/01/matching-wine-with-bugs-yes-bugs. 

And, as we’re short of Laithwaites around these parts, I’m always pleased to help with your next wine selection, whether your tastes run toward the adventuresome or the more traditional.  Peruse and plunder my portfolio here.

Dave Chambers

Dave@DaveTheWineMerchant.com 

Wine vs. Beer – the Definitive Infographic!

This week I was sent a link to a most useful infographic comparing America’s trends for wine consumption and beer consumption.  It makes for interesting reading…

Beer & Wine: Comparison Of Popular Brands, Surprising Facts And Market Trends
 

Brought to you by: http://comparecamp.com Author: David Adelman Subscribe to our: FriendFeed



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