If you’re new to the tasting room…

Was joking earlier about people that buy Sauvignon Blanc.  Essentially implying they’re cheap.  I was joking, mind you, but I’ve heard others do this, and seriously, and not just with SB, but other varietals and definitively judging their buyers and not building the relationship.  Wine selling and marketing is about relationships more than most fields, and more than most hospitality and lifestyle dimensions.  If you’re new to the tasting room, never put the people visiting into any category in your head.  Just let them approach the bar, welcome them in, build the relationship, and do so simply.  In this building act, you have to be pragmatic… not too much information at one time, ask them about their wine affinities and proclivities, and learn about them as people before you accrue knowledge of their wine consumer patterns.

There is a science, I guess you could say, to selling wine, then you could say it’s just human interaction, and practice of kindness.  No, not every person you’re kind to is going to buy wine.  But, a relationship wick has been lit.  Whenever I go tasting, which is infrequent at best, anymore, I just want was conversation and wines with some innovative direction to them.  And if I don’t buy, I’d hope the tone of the character on the opposite side of the bar wouldn’t change.  If I buy Sauv Blanc instead of your $80 Cab or red blend, don’t be upset.  Be happy I bought, and start with the initial interaction, build from there.

For those who’ve worked in a tasting room for a long time, like this writer, you see a lot of things, several interaction types and tones.  One thing I can’t deal with anymore is that judgement.  That’ why I was only joking earlier, and I say in my joke, “…wow, big spender…” Again, JOKING.  I have a new client, and contact, and who knows where that’ll go.  I only have reasons to be optimistic.  They bought.  That’s what I want.  They’ll  be shipped the bottles they want, and that’s what I want even more dominantly.  If you’re new to the tasting room, to selling wine, focus on the people more than the wine, selling the wine.  Just build, and you’ll be more than fine.  You’ll be prosperously profitable.

The Nose

img_0820I learned a long time past— take your time smelling wine.  Don’t inhale too hard or too fast.  Inhale like squirrels you see, or groundhogs, that stand upright and take in atmosphere in those staccato’d pulses.  “It’s wine smelling, not wine tasting,” somebody once suggested to me.  At first I was like ‘Yeah, okay bro…’.  But now I realize he was entirely right.  And don’t overthink what you smell, the “nose” of your wine.  Just see what you see.  It’s an encounter, like anything else.  Hear so many say “wine is alive”, but don’t treat it like a living thing, or being, person.  They use the first contact, the smelling or ‘nosing’ act as a means to show how much they know about wine or how sophisticated they are.  Take your time, smell what you will, and taste.  This is your tasting.  No one else’s.

Maple Vineyard Reaction

Newness Hugged in Dry Creek

Was told the vineyard blocks and property was inspiring, but I had no conception or way to measure what was my way headed.  When vineyards surround you and chant an unusually haunting and encouraging chorus like the Maple Vineyard does, you stop and listen, look around.  Day was felicitous in that I and some co-workers and friends had such invitation to listen to Tina Maple speak about her and late-husband Tom’s property.  Only selling to four select wineries, they want the integrity of their fruit kept in tact.  There were so many seconds and minutes in Tina’s presentation where I wanted to break just for a second from our circle and take pictures, of the rows, of her dogs, the clusters, perceptive and vantage angularities looking up the hill, but no.  I had to listen.  This New experience had to be fully captured, however I was to do it— by observing, taking pictures, walking around shooting video, however.  But more than anything, I wanted to listen to the property’s owner detail the history and the soil composition and how the vines were cared for.

She disclosed that at the beginning, where she and Tom bought the property in the 80’s, they had no idea what they were doing, really.  But one discovery and fortunate transpiration after another, and Tom’s tectonic interest and curiosity about the their new property, they found themselves to have an opportunity to grow and replant some resplendent fruit.  While she spoke I did look around though, and the sight itself and how gripping every turn was, each image and rich specificity that greets your eye is poetic, musical.  This is a vineyard that I was meant to see.  I always say, “I’m always in the vineyard.  I have to be in the vineyard.” With the prominent atmospheric rhetoric and convincing entrapment of this property, now I know what I’ve saying to myself over and over is true.  But I know not many of the vineyards I visit or meditate in with have this celestial degree.

Not sure where the fruit is in its development and ripening, or maturation, its story, but each cluster looked and tasted prodigious.  Each its own paragraph and sonnet, line and language, speaking to me the pursuer and worshipper of vines, soil, site.  Sites like this give a writer more sight, more creative rumble about our thinking, urges, visions, where we see ourselves.  Tina taking the time to tell us all about her property as well as urging us to walk around and explore, taste the grapes, go check out the Alicante Bouschet in a parcel dubbed “Bill’s Block” could only be described as propitious.  Just as she and Tom had their dream, we should all have ours.  This vineyard’s uniquely instructional and an endearing shove for wine lovers, winemakers, wine chasers, or writers like me.  There’s no way the person who told me the Maple property was “inspiring” could have told me how much.  Because places like that can’t be contained to singular words, or thoughts.  A visit like this leaves you with an expanding reaction and reflection, sprinting forward into years just as the vineyard itself has— transcending in story and reach.  Taste from one of the four wineries to which they sell.  You’ll want to walk those rows, too.


freewrite, 2/26/16

The wines, still haunting me from last night.  That Chardonnay… I bought it where I now write, Oakville.. mom seemed to like it, maybe I should get another bottle.  Why not?  May need it tonight if Addy (Jack’s best amiga) stays the night.  The patio here, more and more crowded, but I’d take a thousand packed Oakville patios to even one of the sbux outside areas, right by the drive-through intercom.  MY mood this morning, uncertain, rushed and impatient.  I want something to happen— and why the fuck can’t I wake at 4?  IS it that hard?  It is when you taste wine the night before.. fuck, so obviously the writer’s fault, I know.  But I’m still thinking, thinking about how to make today outstanding, to make it one of the most instrumental and decisive days of my life.  For my son, daughter, wife, parents and sister and everyone in my wined life that notices what I do and how I do with wine and words— the poetry and elucidating doubled haikus which I’m going to do more of.  The Hutcherson song tells me to write quicker, forget about stress and where you have to be in a bit (TR), and any appointment or schedule for next week, or at all.  Two older men talk at my twelve, several table away, in the farthest corner of the patio area, against the low wall, basically on the sidewalk.  In their late 50s, early 60s I calculate, or really estimate.  I think, “I still have so much to go before being them.”  But do I?  More urgency about me.. want to taste C. Donatello today, saw his lights on which I hardly ever do.. and there’s something for me to write about.. each day has to be wined in content, even on days where I sip not a fermented droplet.  OH— and Topel.  Tasted there YEARS ago, when I worked at that disastrous Dry Creek tasting room on Westside Road, or off Westside—  Man sits in front of me, with all these other tables available, to eat his sandwich.  Not sure why I’m so annoyed.. I focus on the new track playing, “December (2002)”, McCoy Tyner.  I swear, sometimes if I didn’t have music, more acutely JAZZ, I’d go mad.  And not the positive type madness that writes novels like On The Road.  No.. I mean destructively mad.. and see?  There?  I just forgot the sandwich man was in that seat at my 12 with his back trying to stare me down.  Now 11:26..  Another Healdsburg sitting, my office here on the patio.. some of the employees here joke with me quite often when I get my coffee or Coke, or sparkling lime or lemon water like this A.M., “Another day at the office?” Or, “Whatchya writin’ today?” I love it.  Soon, before meditation 100 and the semester’s finality, I will have my office somewhere near this square, this patio, on my own clock, able to to gather content as I wish and do whatever I choose with my “shift”.

a writer:  post 010

So after the meeting in the Sanglier tasting room this morning, and the tasting at Hartford Court (new ‘Wine Gem’ as I call tasting rooms and wineries I love, and this one just down the street from the Sanglier Room), then a drive out to Arista which was more or less pointless as I didn’t much talk to anyone, just having a splash of some single vineyard Chardonnay, I’m ready to begin my wine story–  MY.  Wine.  STORY.  And with that scope I think of what I’ll open the night Emma’s born, the newest add to our family, surely to be in our tasting room one day, in the office of bottledaux or vinovinevin, or one of my blog/wine/publishing ventures.  And as a writer, I’m not sure how I want to do all this, or even how, really.  BUT, I do know I have to keep writing.

Finishing my brunch, a takeout order from Piner Café, I was smart enough to order a coffee to go, having no K cups in this Autumn Walk base.  May rain outside, which is excellent writing weather– maybe I should write and brainstorm and evermore fantasize and envision my wine story at Hopper, the Starbucks.  Have held some fruitful and explosive sittings there, I can say…  I’m thinking about it too much, I know– and where’s that latest piece of paper where I wrote out my plans?  Hate how I misplace so much, I definitely blame the semester, the adjunct life, and most certainly Solano and to a lesser division Mendocino.  Think it’s out in the car but I can’t rise from this sitting, not till I reach the word count (and yes I’m targeting a number I know) I’m after, that I’m chasing..

Beginning to think the write should go to Hopper, write for a bit there before making my run to the store as I promised Ms. Alice.  Then I’ll get little Kerouac, and write the rest of the day, about fatherhood and being only days away from baby 2.  Life is moving faster than I can calculate, and I feel like Hem when he wrote the story was writing itself and he had difficulty keeping with it, capturing it all.  I’m right there with him, but I keep writing and try not to think about it too much, my wines and my wine story depend on my consistency and a tireless writer nature that I’ve never before lit.  And my new baby, Ms. Emma, depends on this revised draft of Mike Madigan, his alter’.. Mike Massamen.

While Solano was writing their practice exam responses yesterday, I started a project, “Massamen Sketches” At first it was THE Massamen Sketches, but I hate ‘the’ with too much presence on the page, especially in a title, so I pulled it. 

Putting extra 1’s in envelop, for winery or for business, just to put aside so the writer can’t touch them.. content content.. on my mind.. won’t get it at SBUX, so maybe I should drive down Piner and shoot vineyards, do something wined.  And tonight, only pieces, short writings on wines, specific wines I’ve tasted recently and that I’m convince propel character to palate.

The book Britt, Glenn’s assistant winemaker, showed me today after the meeting, while I tasted through the Room’s wines to make sure they were awake, and still civil and communicative, has me thinking, on writing my own position on wine, wine tasting, wine loving, wine life, and wine as a story only meant for the most inviting and open of sippers.  An extended thesis, or position piece.. on wine.

“Hmmm,” I think.  Shapes are beginning to take.  My winery’s closer than I think.

Time to do some money counting, reading, thinking, driving, content-pocketing.


Picking Up

And I just stare…..

As a wine club member you have a nonpareil and very personal connection to a site, a winemaking practice, and there’s something about the story that strikes you and coerces you to buy, and replenish your cellar with those bottles.  Some wineries push wine club too heavily, turning the feel of the visit to something mirroring a used car lot, or timeshare marketing effort.  And we’re all different with wine clubs, and what we’re comfortable with.  But I’m one of the small, family producer.  I only belong to one club, Lancaster Estate’s, tucked away on Chalk Hill Road and cosmically ideal for consumers like me, that want to be a part of a winery story and enjoy wines that can only be made one way and at one concise location.

Extraction only Lancaster can attain…

On days you pick up it’s like xmas, or a birthday, or just a gift giving day all about you, about receiving a gift from you to you.  Today was one such day for me, finally getting out to Lancaster after a pusillanimous semester of IMG_9820-0four classes spread over three campuses.  I needed today and Lancaster was there for me, tasting through the flight beginning with the ’14 SB, then the ’12 Sophia’s, mostly a Cab-centered cuvée, then to two Cabs to the side of each other, the ’10 and the ’12.  I thought to myself, “I love picking up.” Some get their wines shipped to them as members, living out of state or in some far part of CA.  But for me, and any other Sonoma or Napa or Marin, or Mendo, member, they drive to the base, the chic unpretentious salon on Lancaster’s Estate to get their case or half case or what them awaits– for me, 9 bottles today, 3 SB, 3 Sophias, and 3 “LE’s” which is curt for ‘Lancaster Estate’ (connoting Cabernet).

IMG_9821The first pickup day for me in a while, so I took my time even though I had a car appointment in under two hours, I wanted to reconnect with the wines like a friend I hadn’t seen in too long.  This was a long time in cue, and the “wine club member” dimension and “privilege” to my visit skipped from my thoughts entirely.  Actually, never really there.  I was just at a family member’s house, visiting, tasting wine and taking in the story and remembering why I joined without focusing on the whole ‘I’m a wine club member’ disposition.  I don’t have that, I can firmly affirm.  They’ve made me that comfortable, feel welcome to such stratospheric level.  I’m a wine lover at a house whose wine I’m more than in love with.  And that’s why someone should join a club, stemming from conviction that your senses are more than in love with the wines.. that you’re doing more than just collecting the wines.. that you’ve been taught something by that winemaking and hospitality tone and characterization.

Now, I’m at that bloody car appointment, waiting for news of what’s goingIMG_9822 on with my wheels, and I can only think about what I dropped off at home in my cellar (more a closet close to the kitchen) before coming here.  I know I should age them, but I want to pop one tonight.  I nearly have to, from what I tasted and how it haunts me.  That’s when you know, that’s when you understand the connection with a winery, where you’re supposed to be a member; that’s how you can see you’ve been taught something, and not just with how a varietal’s interpreted and produced, but about your relationship with wine and why you’ve elected to be part of this barreled world and life, smattered with electric chapters.


MOCK SOMM:  2 Wines from Jesse Katz 

Aperture Cellars, Alexander Valley, Red Wine, 2011

IMG_9274A wildly vocal blend, Bordeaux varietals, Cab/Malbec, and one that commands the sipper to be lost, twirled and whirled in the body of the wine and its speech; darkness of berries and vibrant and confident presence, impact and influence on senses.  And, you taste more than structure, you’re greeted by a communicative being from the bottle; the words and story of the vintage and winemaker, Alexander Valley’s relentless promulgation of Bordeaux varietals.  There’s no halt to this wine’s momentum and palate placement.  Like his father’s photos, you’re caught, not anytime soon release but held in one place to appreciate and be lost in the visual, the scene created and captured, measured and treasured.  Of course I’m partial loving Cabernet and Bordeaux blends, and being one of those fervent followers of Katz, and his father’s work, but I’m instructed to appreciate Cabernet and Cab-honed blends differently with this bottle and most notably since it’s from ’11, the vintage that so IMG_9275many of these wine “experts” and “critics” want to dismiss so knee-jerkingly.  This wine is a taste of place, the alchemical invitation to experience stylistic translation of Cabernet meeting Malbec in bottle, in the perfect accompaniment, actuating its own autonomous atmosphere.  This wine reminds me of my relationship with wine, frankly, what I’m after and what I’ve been after in wine; Literary qualities, a story, the sipped-written; Wines that have their own character development and past, future, that are part of my present.  And I found another, finally, from an old friend, now infused to my wined picture and life more clearly– another sip, and I hear its voice.  Again, again…


Devil Proof Vineyards, Alexander Valley, Malbec, 2012

IMG_9041A Malbec, on its own, defiant in its delicious dichotomy of a disposition.  Loud and assertive but still very much elegant and poetic, not at all overreaching or stretching into a stance it shouldn’t.  A harmony of red coupled with its principles as a Bordeaux.  And you’re thinking to yourself, “And this is 100% Malbec?” And yes, there’s no support from another varietal, and no odd adjustments or anything strange in the writing of its story.  And like other wines from Katz, we see that understanding, and that winemaker influence and innovation sans trumping the identity of the varietal itself.  So then… we sip again, and experience what wine should be, or wine of this elevation; Art.  A story, a new story and new IMG_9044adventure for Jesse, when I asked him how he knew it was time to begin his new mission and venture he simply responded with “It was the right time.”  and it was the right time in my oeno-apologue to meet this bottle, having me feel immune and impervious to all ill elements, and how could I be harmed with such didactic wine in my glass, and the woman smiling back at me, holding her cigar herself aware that nothing and intrude on her proverbial quietude?  Cinnamon singing from rich raspberry and antagonizing cherry and other wild berry suggestion, lively spice song and tannic accents supply memorable structure, and more story, more memory, and what critics say about Mr. Katz’s passion project matters but doesn’t.  There’s mastery, visible, tasted, cellared or poured, it’s there at your table and you live, feel, and see it.  All.  And you’re proof that nothing negative can puncture you’re moment.  So you smile with her.


Sunday, my new regularized day off. 

Just back from coffee run with Jackie, and I feel that angst again, that stress or anxiety about my writing and business ventures–  So today I do a couple things differently.  First, no posting to bottledaux blog, or at least not right away (though knowing me I’ll change mind on that.  Then, play with and post wine images and then brainstorm on paper, around and about them.

When the morning started Jackie insisted I go with him to the backyard to inspect the downed umbrella, that was actually taken from the table, out of that little hole and thrown a few feet to the left of it.  While outside I noticed the reality of the morning air and how clean the morning was post-wind, how all the tree aromas and other terrestrial scents were everywhere, all encouraging my senses.  I then though of how there’s no coffee in the house and how the air’s feel would pair perfectly with coffee.  So we were off.  Now Jackie sits on the couch watching his new Spiderman cartoons that I bought him the other night after Alice’s and my dinner outing, now I sip.. think about my wined businesses, and how I DO want more than one– diversify in my wined leaps– maybe a wine writing workshop.. that’d be interesting.. but where would I hold it?  For the brainstorming eventual.

Snacking on waffles, 2, imagining the rest of the semester, tomorrow touts and tumbles week 8.  Have to check account bala–  No more saying what I will do, only what I AM doing.  I look over at Jackie on the couch while I work and he stretches.  “You like your cartoons, buddy?” I ask — “Yeah, superhero one!” he blares.  I’m holding to these Sundays off, a way for me to get writing done, and some grading maybe but I could wake early tomorrow and do that–  Yeah, right, famous last words from an adjunct.

So much to wine and so much to my story with it.. so I develop on what I have, the familiarity I find myself in with wine.  Met a guy yesterday whose dad owns a wine shop, or wine brokerage rather, up in Cloverdale, and his father started the business after leaving from someone else’s similar-model.  And now he’s been in business for well over 10 years.  Nearly 15, to be truthful.  I’ll research them and– no, no more saying what I will do.. just know that today is all about brainstorming, organizing, planning, setting money aside for the growth of mikemadigancrEATive…

This morning, all in resounding syncopation with my mood, optimistic and eager to see the Road, travel for and to new wines and wine stories– and that’s what I have to remember, what brought me to the wine world and industry.. the stories, all the stories that people, the owners and winemakers, can’t wait to share.  And now I share mine, the wined storyteller, sharing and showing everything that I see and feel in Sonoma, and if I venture outside to Napa, all recorded, all documented.  Honesty and visuality.  And all for and about wine.

Souled on in about for Wine

The barrel and its inner-narrative

At the home office desk trying to upload some articles for clients, no surprise.  And the rest of this Albariño in my glass gone, I think about the ideas for this new idea, this new project, on wine and anything wine– wine “education”, wine insight, behind the scenes, interviews and just rich immediate, immersed material like nothing else out there.  But what’s the name of the project?  One idea: ‘winesolife’.  OR, ‘sowinelife’.  But I don’t know, honestly.  I just want “followers” or readers or anyone to know what wine is and what it’s supposed to be– the intention of wine and how’s it’s not supposed to be anything but approachable.  And there’ll be videos and visuals, maybe not of the most hight quality or something studio-laden, but truthful and candid.  And all with wine’s promise and candor.  And it’ll be honest, so when I want to, or anyone I have on my show or podcast or interview or whatever, wants to talk about Napa or challenge anyone promoting wine with that angle, or discriminating, or being that all-too-expected pompous pill of a person in a tasting room or on some tour, then it’ll be cited, discussed.  There’ll be no fear with.. whatever I call this idea.  And the honesty is what will make it sell, make it appealing.  I’m distracted now, messaging with a friend, my brother Dwight.  Miss those lunches with him, the beers and the conversations and the talks about dreams and what’s next.  So much on the writer’s mind, and looking at these photos wine will always be there in some facet and form.  The pictures begin to upload, and I see the minced piece on the Pinot pick in RRV, just a couple weeks ago, or so, and the feel of the air that night and the meteor shower overhead, and looking at the vines while and before they were picked. 


Wine and life, wine is life and in more ways that the people that say it is know,  From the soil to the weather to the cover crop, to the nutrient adds, to anything you can envision, and it’s sad to me that consumers don’t account for his or much of what this relates or gravitates.

In the morning, I wake at six with Alice’s alarm, she hops to shower and I to the desk to write IMG_4894more and gather thoughts at laptop with coffee.  After leaving Jack at his miniaturized university, I’ll head to Starbucks, and stay there for as long as–  OR, go to campus!  Work there!  Use the adjunct cell as my mmc trench.  I don’t know but I have to do something magnanimous today, with all this wine media I have and all the ideas to be written down.. the ‘winesolife’ idea still simmers as does the ‘barrelnarrate’ thought.  Just have to keep moving and not stop and pack everything I need today, and remember that the English Professor role is to be given a newly-posted priority in my day, now.  As that’s how everyone sees me, a professor.  A writer, yes, but a teacher, one with unique knowledge; an elevated sense of.. something.

Can still feel yesterday’s 13.1.  Have to register for Napa’s, next month, the Healdsburg after that.  Then I think I may be done for the season.  Running.. another facet to me which truly makes me ME, this writing me at the desk at 6:20.

Jack may be waking so I’ll lightly trot up the stairs and poke me head in the room.  Today is going to be profitable in so many ways as well as self-educational…  And he’s still asleep, and I go back to typing after taking a monstrous sip of this coffee, not as well-sung as the coffee yesterday at Flavor Bistro, where Justin and I had breakfast after the race.  Was thinking, while running those final miles, the race provided a new view and appreciation for Santa Rosa, everything from the way the sky looked, to the crowd at the event following the race, to the trails and the tents, everything.  I just saw the town differently.

Samples in the lab

Just remembered I have a meeting with a prospective client at 10AM.  So no coming back home to work as I thought I might do.  Rather, to Yulupa SBUX to write and collect Self before meeting (with notes, estimate and all aligned), and prep for class, write the first Kerouac lecture on Big Sur; how Kerouac feels and what’s in his mind after such success, and why couldn’t he pull himself out of it?  Keep moving, keep writing…..

At the Yulupa Starbucks, and I keep saying to myself, “The picture,” and “visual… visualize.. make visual!” Will leave for meeting in a little over 30 minutes.  Today is about organizing and execution, the ideas and the insights of everything that interests me and everything in which I have some sort of “authority”, or credibility.  And that’s why I won’t ever shake or rid the professor role and reality.  So many walking by on their phones, detached, not knowing where they are and what they’re doing and what’s in front of them.  Sickening.. with wine and what I provide the wine world, be it consumer or industry, vineyard or lab or tasting room, I will be fully and envelopingly aware, of everything, otherwise nothing’s captured..

Mom, Little Kerouac, discussing literature

I start with my phone, obviously, the pictures I took at that Sonoma Valley winery, and the ones I’ve snapped wherever, alongside the road at a vineyard or just in my home, wine in a glass.  Then I see pictures of little Kerouac reading a book and walking around  our old condo, with his mama or my mom, then I think about how wine HAS to be family.  Like my friend Chelsea said a few days a go, in a post on.. somewhere, “Wine business is a family business.” And I couldn’t agree more, that is just what I see, my family with our new home somewhere here on the Sonoma side, vineyard and small farm for my children to play and explore as I used to at the Bayview home.  But I need to build, build, build as I started to write in the Massamen novel (which now is a streaming of vignettes and sketches, short fiction and what have).

Buds and the break

I’m getting my energy back the more I write and sipping this mocha.. three shots, and what I want to say at this meeting, what I want to pitch.  And how I don’t want to undersell myself, even though it’s a friend.  Let’s hear what they want, then go from there, I’m thinking.  Let them do the talking, the draw the numbers and rates.  But be there no longer than an hour.  Need to be in adjunct cell, planning for lectures, writing prompts, and ideas to just throw at the students and see how they react.