Full Circle, Faithful Service

We had a special day here at Winexepert this week: one of Winexpert's customer service people was awarded her five year service plaque, and we celebrated the day with cake and congratulations.

Thanks for all of your hard work and dedication Joanne!

Joanne Harris has been an integral part of our team for five years now, helping Linda out in our retail store and manning the customer service lines and email answering. In addition she's a great utility team-member, filling in for labwork, helping with admin work in the front office and generally being one of those people whose unobtrusive competence, thoughtfulness and good cheer helps make a busy, active workplace successful.

Nominally I'm Joanne's supervisor. Really, I just coach the customer service department a little and they return the favour by providing the absolute best customer service experience in our industry. The funny thing is, I sort-of used to work for Joanne. It was a while ago, when I was a paperboy for the long-since defunct Maple Ridge Gazette. Joanne worked in the front office where I used to turn in my grubby collection of nickels and IOU's for my route. Funny, I seem to remember having to crane my neck to look way up to talk to her behind the Gazette's front counter . . . maybe there's something wrong with my memory.

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Grapes, Wineries, Harvests, You

As is my custom, I was perusing the New York Times the other day when I came across this tidbit from Dining and Wine Section: Try the Red: Napa Learns to Sell. The article's hub is the idea that due to unsold inventory from the 2009 harvest, Napa wineries now have to actually market, advertise and actively sell their products, rather than deigning to allow consumers to take it from them. On one level that's enough of a hook for me: learning how big wineries approach things like consumer contact, promotion, web presence, it's all good stuff.

But the article conceals a interesting facts, and glosses over a really Big Point: there's yet another imbalance in supply of grapes. Grape prices have fluctuated as an agricultural commodity in California ever since prohibition was repealed. It got so bad that in the past the largest purchaser of California grapes (Gallo) tried to use its purchasing power to stabilise pricing, by declaring what it would pay per tonne for various varietals, prior to harvest. Not to say they're entirely benign (sometimes the price was only just what was necessary to cover the cost of getting the grapes out of the field and setting up for next year) but Gallo knew full well that if the price was too low some high-volume/low margin growers would either rip up the grapes and plant almonds, or they'd simply abandon their land and walk away, and there would be no grapes for next year. On the flip side, in lean years, there were some shady deals, where contracts went unfulfilled when another player bid higher per tonne or the spot market in grapes got hotter than a smoky bearing.

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Guess Who's Coming to Bottle

My friends at Coastal Winemakers had a surprise yesterday: Walter Gretzky dropped in to help bottle wine.

Left to right, Brad, Walter, Bert and Val

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The Food of Love

If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it; that surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.

Duke Orsino, Twelfth Night Act 1, scene 1, 1–3

I always considered Orsino a self-indulgent dullard. Well, to be fair, that was the role Shakespeare cast for him. But honestly, the food of love is most often food. It's beyond a cliche as a signifier in our world, from 'The way to a man's heart is through his stomach' (it's actually through the diaphragm and up), to the classic Mama urging her children to take seconds and thirds to avoid breaking her heart, to the idea of the romantic dinner. 

My wife and I almost always celebrate special days together with a meal, and this Valentine's day was no exception. As is my custom I made her eggs Benediction. It's like normal eggs Benedict but I use cheese sauce instead of Hollandaise (can't abide by the stuff) and serve it with a side of steamed broccoli. It's pretty tasty.

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Beer and Lawsuits

From the Faces of Evil file, look at these two little cherubs:

Make beer, not lawsuits. Weasels.

If you've read my previous blogs you'll know I enjoy the occasional beer, and that Central City Brewing is my favorite brewery/pub/watering hole in the whole world. Not only were they voted best local brewpub by CAMRA BC, but also their IPA was voted best beer in BC! I've been friends with their brewer, Gary Lohin, for years, following him from brewery to brewery, usually demanding he make me more beer.

Two peas in a beer-soaked pod. Gary and me at the 2009 CAMRA festival

With all this in mind, you can imagine how bummed out I was to find out that California's Bear Republic brewery is suing Central City over trademark infringement. If you're not familiar with Bear Republic, they're in wine country in California, and they make a wide variety of award-winning beers that are very tasty and innovative. I've enjoyed a lot of those beers in the past . . .

Their suit (download a pdf of it here) contends that Central City Red Racer IPA infringes upon their beers Red Rocket and Racer 5. Let's take a look, shall we?

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Whisky, On the Rocks

There's a face that could use a wee dram

In addition to my day job in the wine industry I have many other interests, including beer, whisky, tequila. brandy, rum, gin, champagne and virtually all other fermented beverages. It's not so much that I'm a lush (I do have aspirations that way, but I'm modest about my talents). It's more that the history of civilisation is the history of alcohol. After all, neolithic hunter-gatherers didn't settle down to farm because they were hungry for a steaming bowl of grit-laden, mouldy gruel: they planted grain to make beer! Similarly, the Romans didn't conquer territory because they had better soldiers, boots, roads or organisation: they conquered territory with an agricultural system hinged on the production of high volumes of wine.

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News Round-Up

Tim, you ignorant Sauvignon . . .

Since I've been away from computers and my traditional sources of news for a couple of weeks, a few interesting tidbits have piled up, and i thought I'd share. First, from the Fraud Files, French Wineries, Co-operatives, Negociants and Conglomerates Charged in Pinot Noir Fraud.

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Back In the Saddle Again

Aye, you can call me Angus MacGringo, of the clan MacGringo. Tequila and haggis for all!

Richard Orben once said, 'A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in'. By that measure, I had a pretty successful time the last two weeks. This was our third trip to the Caribbean side of Mexico and it just gets better every darn time. I know this is technically a blog about wine, but there really isn't any in Mexico--sure, Mexico makes wine, but it's universally bad, and while they give the cheap stuff away at all-inclusive joints, it's not worth drinking, being the very cheapest imported swill.

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