CVIndependent

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Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

Wine

25 Jul 2017
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You moved back to the desert? From Napa? On purpose? Yep. And I couldn’t be happier. Naturally, your next question might be whether I suffered some kind of head trauma or had a lobotomy. After all, I am in the wine business, so Napa should be my holy land, my Mecca. That was certainly the idea when the wine-distribution company I worked for moved me there seven years ago. They were going to get me out of the desert and put me where I belonged—to be among “my people.” After some convincing, I bought into that idea. I had no clue how wrong that idea was. It was March, and it was beautiful in Palm Springs—warm, sunny and with a plethora of exciting events happening all the time. So long, farewell, adieu. It was March, and it was cold, rainy and dark in Napa. And it stayed that way for…
27 Jun 2017
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There is a Napa vintner who was born into a winemaking family in France and married into winemaking royalty in California. He loves throwing lavish parties and spraying his guests with Champagne. Even in photos taken in the vineyard, he dresses like he’s meeting James Bond for a game of baccarat. Picture this man. Now picture his polar opposite. That’s Randall Grahm, the founding winemaker from Bonny Doon Vineyard in Santa Cruz, who drives an old Citroën and writes parodic wine-themed lyrics to Dylan songs. Grahm is in his 60s, and still ponytailed. “I’m Randall Grahm, and welcome to my nightmare,” he said at a recent event. This got a laugh, but it echoes his James Beard Award-winning book, Been Doon So Long, where one rambling footnote paints in grim detail the indignity winemakers have to endure to sell wine: They pour their “product” (or life’s work … whatever) in…
02 Jun 2017
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There is a new wine shop in town—a rare treat for us desert denizens. It’s actually a reimagining of one of the desert’s few wine shops, Dan’s. No longer will you be greeted by Dan; most days of the week, you’ll find Matt Young, a tall, friendly, handsome young man who looks like a football player. There’s a reason for that: When he moved to the desert back in 2006, he was all set to play football for College of the Desert. However, an injury prevented him from playing, so he entered the fire academy to become a smoke-jumper, but he suffered another injury. He briefly trained as a fire inspector, but knew he “could not sit at a desk.” Shortly thereafter, Young found himself returning to the family business—hospitality and service. Young grew up in Paso Robles, where his parents owned and operated restaurants. There, he was surrounded by…
01 May 2017
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Meet Patrick Bartlett. He’s tall and energetic with a contagious smile. Oh, and he LOVES wine—and that love is infectious. This love led to the creation of Mood Wine (www.moodwine.biz), a popular social wine club started by Bartlett and his partner, Jake Stanford. I went to a recent tasting and was pleasantly surprised by how many wine-lovers I met. “Moodies,” they’re called. Bartlett grew up in Southern California in a blue-collar family. As a kid, he was in 4-H, showing goats. That’s where he got his start in wine—from a farmer’s perspective. However, his career started not in wine, but in sales and marketing for Xerox. You can sense his sales background when he describes a wine; it’s almost like a pitch. However, the wines he and Stanford choose don’t need a pitch; they are good on their own. That being said, Bartlett understands that some people may need a…
28 Mar 2017
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Selling wine is not for the faint of heart. The travel schedule is grueling; the competition is fierce; and the customer base varies wildly—from masters of wine to … well, the uninformed. However, Christina Hammond makes it looks easy. She shows up energetically to dozens of appointments and tastings and trade events each week, always touting her Red Car Wine. Good wine needs good people fighting the good fight—and Hammond is one of the good ones. She’s not a wine snob, but she knows her stuff. She cut her teeth working for a big wine distributor (where, in her words, she learned to “show up” to her accounts each week), then transitioned to a finer wine distributor, Henry Wine Group. Red Car is distributed by Henry, and after four years at Henry, she began to work for Red Car directly. Now she travels the country, extolling the virtues of the…
24 Feb 2017
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When you think of good wine, what comes to mind? A sit-down restaurant? A white tablecloth? A fancy bottle pulled from a cellar for a special occasion? This is an outdated way of thinking: More and more, good wine isn’t limited to just high-end places or special occasions. For example, someone may not expect fine wine from a place well known for its coffee—but at Joey Palm Springs, you’ll get just that. Vince Calcagno and Joe Lucero are partners in life and in business at Joey, which opened a little more than a year ago on Palm Canyon Drive. Calcagno spent more than 20 years as the owner/operator of Zuni Café in San Francisco, so he knows a thing or two about running a restaurant. At Joey, he does whatever needs to be done, including, on occasion, washing the dishes. One of his other responsibilities is curating the wine list.…
23 Jan 2017
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After customers, the people I interact with most, wine-wise, are reps—the people who sell wine for a living. I’m not afraid to play favorites, so meet my fave, Kristin Ryall. Tasting with her is like getting together with an old friend—it’s easy, comfortable and fun. She’s incredibly knowledgeable, but you’ll get no snobbery or condescension. Ryall is originally from New Hampshire, and has worked with wine all over the place—including her native state, plus Chicago and now the desert. She started out working at a well-known New Hampshire wine bar, Michael Timothy’s, where she cut her teeth. She’s worked in restaurants and retail, and has sold for brokers, importers and distributors. These days, she’s an account manager for The Estates Group, the fine-wine division of distribution behemoth Young’s Market Company. She has access to a world of wine—a book as thick as a wrist. Yes, Ryall knows her stuff. Beyond…
04 Jan 2017
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I first chose to drink a wine from France’s Rhône valley because pronouncing it fell within my radius of linguistic confidence. I was sitting in a bistro in Paris on Rue Mouffetard, a street whose movements feed the Paris of the imagination so slavishly that the cast—garrulous fishmongers dangling cigarettes and old men nursing espresso at Frisbee-sized cafe tables—could be actors who pick up weekly checks at l’Office du Tourisme. I remember rehearsing my order of a glass of Côtes du Rhône as the bartender approached, then letting it tumble out. The wine itself, I don’t remember so much. A few years later in Los Angeles, I had a girlfriend whose head-turning beauty and hunger for fame made me feel like my only two choices were to hold on to her more tightly than I should, or risk her disappearing forever. In the wee hours one Saturday, we helped ourselves…

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