Like the Foil
There’s so much of it that’s indoctrination. Which is far past anything that could comfortably be dubbed “shameful”, as wine prides itself on sociality, enjoyment, freedom. It’s not meant to be anything but wine and about the wine. But, yes, sales… You have to sell, and you convince yourself that your wine is the best, your company’s, so you become this company man, or woman, denouncing all others and if not then certainly looking down; that retina condescension. So the company figure puts on the act, a role, becoming effusively theatrical in all movements and lines spoken— true self-indulgent dialogue and monologues, even sales rehearsals, soliloquies in the bathroom while brushing hair or even teeth spraying Crest all over the mirror— or singing the wine club or latest bottle release lines and mini-unedited paragraphs with shampoo in their hair. They’re taken completely away from the wine, and they did it to themselves, drank their own seductive serum to know what they need to know, just enough to sell and convince others, or convince themselves they can convince others; the guests be they local or from far, that their bottles are all that someone should consider.
I tasted recently at a room, small and I’m not going to say where (NAPA), but there was the evidence of brain-jumbling from the first step of my left sole onto their shiny surface.. some odd but yes attractive tile I’ve never seen before. I told them where I was from, Santa Rosa, and instantly the eyes took a different shape, one of exhaustion and the ‘Are you kidding me?” angularity. But I stayed, seeing if the moment would improve. It didn’t. I stayed anyway, tasted, was charged which quite surprised me, and I left. Did I enjoy the wines? Oh yes, mammothly, but not enough to buy. And it wasn’t just that Napa price-point and the fact I had a new baby on the way and was pinching and cornering and quarantining pennies wherever I could. It was that personified tonality, that self-conviction of superiority and near godliness from the person on the other side of that flawless Napa bar, standing on the same floor I was. Just a different side. He knew I had no intention of buying, that I was just checking the place out, and maybe that’s my fault. BUT, if the atmosphere’s flavor would have succeeded a bit more convivially, who knows how the moment could have gone. But he was gone, far too gone on the fantasy of his own serum. The foil to someone like me.
Wine is not a secret society, there’s nothing secret about it. There shouldn’t BE anything secret about it. I understand wine clubs and allocation lists, and different tiers of both and the exclusivity and how that sells bottles. I am animatedly in favor of that I won’t elaborate past this sentence. Yet, no consumer should support excluding, and exclusionary consuetude. Ever. This is what divides the industry and pollutes it. Making it anything but enjoyable, and tearing it from the divine soils and vineyard blocks where it once held centrality.
Conversely, I went to another tasting room, also in downtown Napa (whoops, that I could have omitted), and was told to approach the bar when I was just looking around the room, admiring the pictures and shirts they had made, all the bottles displayed. “So where are you from?” she asked. Told her I lived in Santa Rosa and worked with a couple Sonoma County producers. “Cool!” she said, “I was just on the Healdsburg Square the other day… Let me pour you some wine!” she insisted— not so much insisted, but heartily invited. She explained all the wines with eased tempo and the feel of sincere stewardship and hospitality. No demeaning, no self-hoisting, no bizarro lines recited or some act performed. This was a conversation between two people that loved wine. Imagine that. Crazy I know.
The other room and ones like it, with their sleek tasting room configuration and near jewel-reminiscent foils over the corks, all appearance, dressing, then you sip the wine and, or, encounter the host and you’re rejected. Not appeased or pleased or even pleasurably motivated to buy something, or join any list or club. And they’re fine with that. They don’t want you in their congregation. In their cult, perverted legion of uppity’s with everything staged.. a blend of real estate agents, timeshare sales people, and sludgy car lot personnel. Why not just talk? I much prefer a bottle with no foil and a simple label that harbors incredible wine to an ornate ornament holding a monotone grape puddle. It only concerns the wine, the wine life, and whether you’re in the industry or a consumer, or in both provinces like me, one has to remember the wine. Forget the decorative, dismiss the role, shove the scripts into the shredder.
Another crazy idea, why not NOT judge visitors when they enter your room. How about not care about the sale or wine club signup? Why not just talk? About wine. About the guest… Get to know them, ask them where they’re from… Why not NOT try to shove the serum down into their pipes? How about no attempts to convert? (And that is a term used in the wine industry, with wine club signups, “conversion”… “What’s your conversion rate?” a “manager” might ask you… interesting.).
You know what, you don’t have to sell. You don’t have to rehearse. What you ought do, whether on the pourer’s side or sipper’s: stretch in wine’s thrill; delight; enjoy. Complicate nothing. I have winemaker friends who bottle without foil. They never use it. Never. And I applaud them, near worship their unilateral practice. Wine is not a used Chrysler. It’s something meant for a gathering, or to relax just you after a burdensome day at the mine. Maybe it is shameful, what these all-too-planned bots do, seeking to proselytize. The foil is just tin, or some sort of thinned metal. The wine holds priority, always. Or should.