Friday, August 21, 2009


Yesterday, it was another round of Sales Rep Speed Tasting. It’s a game I play inside my head whenever we have multiple sales reps in, and the tasting itinerary is LONG. Shannon and I hosted two of our favorite reps, Jen from RNDC/Cumberland, and David from RNDC/Kentucky, as well as the rep from Chateau Diana, a California line of wines being brokered here in KY by the Budweiser wholesaler.


Jen was first, with a bunch of new stuff from Coppola, plus the new Hideaway Creek wines, and a surprise from Wilson-Daniels, the Royal Tokaji Furmint. There was around a case of samples to get through, and in the interest of time, I was probably looking more like I was bellying up to the shooter bar (except I spit). You are probably thinking to yourself that this split-second taste is not going to formulate well in my head what the strengths and weaknesses of each wine were, and that I am really not giving them any merit or respect.

Well, I evaluate wine a bit differently in this context, looking only for that instant note, that tell-tale sign as to whether or not our customers will actually buy these wines. I taste, I get the price point, and it’s a fairly easy thing. It is made easier when Shannon, and even one or two of the wine staff is along for the tasting ride, as was our resident beer guru and Ft. Thomas wine guy, Brandon.

The Furmint was really cool, a drier style to the grape used to create some of the most sensuous dessert wines out there. This Hungarian white would be a great add, if only because I don’t currently carry any Hungarian still wines. The Hideaway Creek wines, from Terlato Family Wines, are the latest California venture for this international brokerage, and, as Jen explained, are going after Rodney Strong and Chateau St. Jean. Needless to say, I heard the price point, and groaned. A wee bit higher than the aforementioned twosome, so Terlato has some pencil-sharpening to do (something they aren’t real notoriously known for).

The new tier from Coppola, the Director’s series, not to be confused with the Director’s Cut (huh?), shows off some decent wines that are overpriced, and truly unnecessary additions for this oversaturated brand already. The Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon were good, but why not just take that juice and put it into the Director’s Cut? The only non-duplicated varietal, the Director’s Merlot, was really wood-y and didn’t have a lot of fruit character. The Votre Sante line from Coppola, with a Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir, were nice, and in very cool packages. Pricing is a bit high, but these were possible candidates for the shelves.

Our Bud rep came in with Gary Geiger of Chateau Diana (Black Oak, Le Baron Ranch, 1221). These wines were surprisingly decent – I have to admit I wasn’t expecting much. Falling in weird price points though, the Black Oak would be at that $6.98 to $7.98 range that is just odd, and I had to snicker at the 1221 line. I couldn’t really tell the guy that 12-21 is synonymous with the whole end-of-the-world thing (12-21-2012 is the date the Mayan calendar stops, and there is a big blockbuster movie due out in November called “2012.” It’s by the guy who did Independence Day…) The Bud distributor is new to the whole wine thing, so perhaps if some better programming comes along…

Finally, David from RNDC/Kentucky brought in some Kobrand Italians and New Zealand wines, as well as the new vintages of the Epiphany wines, including the sensational new Grenache Blanc. We tried the two Pinot Grigios from Pighin, as well as the Bollini, were good, but a bit expensive. The Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Te Kanu were all wonderful, and could find a home here, and the Epiphany Petite Sirah and the star of the day, the Revelation 2006 – just delicious and damn sexy! Shannon ended up taking it home with her.

A microcosmic look at what we do, in a nutshell – it’s a dirty job, but we’re glad to do it. It’s just some of the stuff I will lie in bed and muse over this weekend – to bring in or not to bring in. I am always on the clock. I would rather be thinking about Salma Hayek or Jessica Biel when I am sleeping, but I am always thinking about product – what is coming in, what do I need to sell through, what did I forget to order? It’s a never-ending thing. So it’s nice, during the daylight hours, to meet with the reps, and try a few things, joke about the competition, joke about the latest trends, and just joke around in general.

I wish I had more time to spend with our sales reps, but then, nothing would get done around here if Shannon and I were just hanging out in back, congregating around our tasting barrel, with the spit bucket filling up incrementally. We can wheel-and-deal, but at the end of the day, we are all still a bunch of salespeople. Gotta make money to spend it.


Thomas said...

The wine industry and all it's glory! I'm glad I'm not the only one bombarded by wine sales reps! I love almost all of them though, there are such great people that work in booze!

Kathy said...

Great look inside the barrel. I'd love to hear more. You all do a great job.