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Archive for March, 2011

It was a busy February for G. Sheaves. It was full of great events and opportunities, concerts, and a couple of fun stories for the Heavy Table. But hardly any wine blogging! Rest assured I wasn’t not drinking, and looking back through my notes I have a bunch of good recommendations for you all. And, thanks for all the great feedback on my ID rant.  A lot of people commented that they’ve had some similar experiences, which is unfortunate.  The moral of the story is to find a store in the metro where you feel welcomed and appreciated.  Shoot me an email, gsheaves [at] yahoo.com, and I’d be more than happy to let you know of one in your area.

On to some recommendations:

1 through 3) Wines from the current shipment of the Minnesota Wine Club.  I mentioned Jason Johnson in my recap article from the MN Grape Growers Conference.  He has generously supplied me with three wines from his current shipment (sign up before March 12th to get it), and I’m happy to report back that they’re all very good examples of what’s coming out of our state right now. The Carlos Creek American Chianti is a soft, accommodating red wine. It has gobs of strawberries and baking spice in a lighter body. The sip starts out with a tinge of sweetness (berry sweet, not sugary sweet), and continues to a soft, slightly acidic finish. The tannin is very much muted – this is a fruit driven wine. Staunch white wine drinkers should try this. I sort of knocked the quality of MN reds in the previously mentioned article – I’m glad to say this is one of the good ones.  The Falconer Vineyards Frontenac Rose is, in the words of The Runaways, a ch ch ch ch ch CHERRY BOMB!  I think this is a wine better suited for the summer – I can imagine it going down perfectly with some grilled chicken.  This is not like those dry, French, austere rosés, like Tavel or Lirac.  It’s fruity and light, as is the MN red wine style. There may be a fair amount of wine drinkers that will find this wine as too great a departure from the rosés they’re used to. If you like it though, there are a lot of good Frontenac Rosés being made in MN right now, and this is a good starting point. Finally, the 2009 St. Croix Vineyards Delaware is about as easy to drink as wines come. It’s light and floral, with well incorporated sweetness and some herbal notes on the body. Riesling fans take note of this one – it has a fair amount of sweetness, but it isn’t so sweet that it masks the flavor of the grape.  I get some honeydew melon and pear, and the finish is even a little on the dry side – it’s like a slightly drier Moscato. A great MN white, all around. Great picks, Jason!  I look forward to your next shipment!

4 and 5) 2005 Overgaauw Cabernet Sauvignon. From the portfolio of Z Wines, this Stellenbosch beauty is one of the best Cabs under $20 I’ve had in quite some time.  It’s full of blackberries, dirt, some bell pepper, even a little black olive.  It’s smooth, powerful and luscious. Get it at France 44. Also, that Jean Daneel Signature Chenin Blanc I mentioned in the article was a Best In Show winner at the MN Monthly Food & Wine Experience this year. It’ll be in the mid $20s, but definitely worth it.

6 and 7) Is is still too cold out for Sauvignon Blanc?  I think it may be, but here are two real good ones anyway. The 2008 Domaine du Salvard Cheverny has an intensely herbal nose with green-fruit flavors and some prickly acidity in a light-medium body. It goes from tart to dry and is ultra refreshing. Fans of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc will enjoy this one, as will fans of its Loire Valley neighbor, Sancerre. I got it at Zipp’s for $15. Also, eating at Sea Change for restaurant week a couple of days ago, I had the 2009 Mapema Sauvignon Blanc from Mendoza, Argentina. It was herbal and citrusy (I could have just smelled it for days), wonderfully bright and perfect with some briny Hama Hama oysters. Can someone let me know what stores around here carry it? It should probably be around $13.

8 and 9) How about a fun Greek wine?  The 2008 Greek Wine Cellars Assyrtiko from the island of Santorini should be on your table next time you have seafood. It has a floral nose with some light citrus, which continues to the body, a little herbal twang with more bright citrus and a distinct minerality shows on the finish. It’s an expressive wine for being so light bodied. Get it at Cork Dork Wine Co. for $12. And while you’re there, do yourself a favor and pick up the non-vintage Patrick Lesec Petite Crau. An everyday value red wine if there was ever one, It’ll be one of the better $8 investments you’ve made lately.

Are there any wines/regions/grapes you’d like to hear more about?  I’m more than happy to go investigate for my readers.  Leave a note in the comments or write me and I’ll get right on it.  Thanks for reading!

G.

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Here’s my ID.  My name is John Garland, I was born January 5th 1985, which at present makes me 26 years old.  Because I look well under the age of 30, I will be asked for my ID every time I go into a wine store.  I am glad about this – I want to be ID’d.  I pray that none of the stores where I love purchasing wine ever loses their liquor license because a cashier has a momentary lapse of judgement or, worse, just assumes people look older than 21.

But there’s a way to ask for an ID.  A way that still ensures I am of legal age, while still respecting and valuing my presence as a customer.  Let me explain, because this has been festering for a while.

When I was in high school, I worked retail at Schmitt Music in Minnetonka. Based on price alone, we couldn’t match Guitar Center on almost every item we both sold. To compensate, what Schmitt did (and still does) well was the instrument rental program for elementary school bands. Writing up rental contracts for the hundreds of kids every August was painstakingly laborious. But we were trained to treat it like the most important aspect of our business. The idea was if the kid had a great experience getting their school band gear from us, then when they got into middle and high school and wanted to start out on guitar or drums, then they (or more likely their parents) would remember how good our service was and wouldn’t think to shop around.  We were planting the seeds for future business.

That principle rushes back to me almost every time I’m in a wine store. Based solely on my own observation, I feel like the level of customer service I receive at certain wine stores in the metro is sub-par and sometimes even mildly insulting.

Because of the training I’ve received, I hardly ever need help finding the right bottle in a wine store. Except for asking if there’s more of a wine in the stock room, 99.5% of the time I don’t need direction. But, I am hardly ever asked if I need any! There are a couple large wine stores in the metro that I find I have to chase down employees to get help. I can only imagine what other people my age think when they don’t know what wine they want and can’t find help.  This is why I recommend shopping at smaller stores like Cork Dork Wine Co and The Little Wine Shoppe where the inventory and service is more personal.

This is a side note to my gripe, though.  I appreciate stores where the sales staff doesn’t smother you. Working at Schmitt made me very keen to the line between helpful and annoying.  It’s once you’re at the register, bottle in hand, that my real problem begins.

When you begin a conversation, say when you meet someone for the first time, how often is your first sentence a declarative about what they should do for you?  Never. It’s rude. You don’t go to a job interview and start with demands about salary and benefits. So when I walk up to register and the very first thing out of a cashier’s mouth is ‘Can I see some ID?’, it feels pretty much the same as being asked ‘What are you doing here?’  I get that they unequivocally need the information from me.  But when I go to the bank, the teller doesn’t begin by asking for my ID.  My favorite tobacconist always jovially asks if I found everything I was looking for and recommends other cigars before asking for my ID.  Even bartenders ask you how you are and what you’re drinking before ID’ing. A little small talk before ID’ing me makes me feel as if I’m a valued customer instead of a potential legal issue. I am shocked at how many times wine store cashiers will say but two things to me – give me your ID and give me your money.

I have never worked in a place where I’ve had to ID customers. I don’t know how this exchange is taught, or if it is at all. I would even understand asking for my ID straight away if my 21 year-old self walked into Lowry Hill to buy a 1.75 of UV Blue and a couple Four-Lokos. I simply ask that as a reasonably well-dressed young adult buying an ’05 Chateauneuf-du-Pape, I could be given, if for only a few seconds, a slightly higher benefit of the doubt.  It’s a small thing, but just like every other kind of store, I remember where I’m treated well and where I’m made to feel like a chore.  And yes, I look young, and yes I’m only buying one bottle.  But just like little Billy and his trumpet in 5th grade, I have years of larger purchases ahead of me.  If you’d like those thousands of dollars of business, don’t make my purchases today seem like an inconvenience.

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