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Archive for the ‘Wine Stories’ Category

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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[Loomis Dean, LIFE Magazine]

One of the best pieces of wine writing I’ve read all year – from the September 2010 GQ.

The Second Bottle: By Alan Richman

Richman deftly sifts through the options on the most important wine choice of the evening.  Also a helpful read – his selections are right on.

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Every so often, I come across historical anecdotes that cast historical figures in a light not seen in your standard 7th grade history text, because of their associations to Wine.  It’s well known that our Founding Fathers were, by modern measures, pretty serious drinkers.  John Adams was known to drink hard Cider every day at breakfast, Thomas Jefferson died with massive amounts of debt thanks to his penchant for top shelf Bordeaux.  The following is taken from John Hailman’s terrific text, Thomas Jefferson On Wine. This exchange comes not long after the victory at Yorktown in 1781.  The Marquis de Chastellux was a major-general of the French Army who spent three years as the personal interpreter for, and drinking buddy to, George Washington.  Knowing Washington’s prohibition against accepting gifts of any kind, he had to cajole Washington into taking a cask of Claret [the English term for Bordeaux].

“Dear General – Your excellency knows very well that it is an old precept to offer tithes of all earthly goods to the ministers of God.  I think in my opinion that the true ministers of God are those who at the risk of their life employ their virtues and abilities to promote the happiness of mankind, which consists for the greatest part of freedom and liberty.  Accordingly, I believe I am bound in duty to present your excellency with one of ten barrels of claret that I have just been received.  If you was, dear general, unkind enough not to accept of it, I should be apt to think…that you are an enemy to French produce and have a little of the tory in your composition.  Whatsoever be the high opinion that I entertain of your exellency, I which to judge by that criterion and to gues by it your dispositions for the French troops and myself.”

Washington’s response shows a different side of the man, one who more than enjoyed a little imbibing.

“You have taken a most effectual method of obliging me to accept your Cask of Claret, as I find by your ingenious manner of stating the case that I shall, by a refusal, bring my patriotism into question, and incur a suspicion of want of attachment to the French Nation, and of regard to you.  In short, my dear sir, my only scruple arises from a fear of depriving you an Article that you cannot conveniently replace in this Country.  You can only relieve me by promising to partake very often of that hilarity which a Glass of good Claret seldom fails to produce.  G. Washington.”

In other words, I’ll take your wine but you’d best get hammered on what’s left over.

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