Friday, July 31, 2015


Sounds easy right?

Isn’t it just a matter of not flipping the switch when you leave?

Well, yes, sort of…

This is more of a metaphorical switch in your brain. It is the one that gets turned on when you are introduced to a great wine (Beer or Spirit also I suppose). It is that moment when you say ah hah! 

With our long history of being a teaching and learning store we have seen the switch flipped to the on position many times. It is usually an unexpected moment that happens after some time of being introduced to many different wines and beginning to understand your own palette and a wine makers intentions.

If you are a regular customer at Harry's, you will recognize that a portion of our more tenured staff has graduated our program in the past couple of years and has now been replaced by eager young students that are anchored by William, Patrick, and Scott who have decades of experience under their collective belts. The learning curve is massive at our store and the first year can be a bit overwhelming for the newer staff but with some open ears, an open mind, and a passionate palette, The lights will come on.

Recently, in an attempt to take one of those staff members to that moment where the switch flips, at her request to try something “new”, I opened a bottle of Laurona 2008 from Monsant in Spain to taste with Rachel. It is a wonderful bottle with some age and good structure along with layers and layers of flavor and texture. The wine is composed of very old vine Grenache and Carignane grapes combined with younger Cabernet, Merlot, and Syrah vines. The resulting wine is a contemplative wine that doesn’t break the bank.

Rachel didn’t get the forewarning that there was a test that accompanied her request. The good news is that through watching her and tasting with her over time, I knew it was one she would pass.

Step 1.
Pull the cork and get some clean glasses – Check!

Step 2
P - Ok Rachel, Tell me about the wine. What are you Seeing? Smelling? Tasting?

R - Wait, I’m telling you?

P - Yes. This is where all the practice comes to use. Tell me about the wine.

So she did…

R - Looks dark in the glass, Some earthy, farmy stuff on the nose… Dark fruit… not much more.

P - Good. Lets taste.

R - Not much fruit, big tannins, good acidity, It’s good but it has a bitter thing on the finish and I don’t know how much I like it.

P - Good. Now we wait…

What I hadn’t told her was that the reason that we were tasting this particular bottle was because I was familiar with what was about to happen. This wine had been sleeping in that bottle for a good number of years and by pulling the cork, she had gently nudged it awake. Now it was just going to take a little time and air to get this little beauty to show us how much stuffing it had tucked away.

I suggested to her that this one might need a little time before we knew what it was going to do. I am not sure she believed me but she did exercise a bit of patience and her curiosity had her going back to it every few minutes and she continued to swirl it in her glass as she gently coaxed it awake.

R – I think I like this now… There is more fruit and layers showing now. That bitter thing is gone. The tannins are softening. It doesn’t taste like the same wine.

The switch was flipped.

For the next hour or so we talked about the region. We talked about the effects of aging and why the wine was changing so much. The wine got better. The passion grew deeper. The connection to her palette and her confidence understanding of the wine in her glass was set.

Experiences like the one we had that night drive the passion that is already there. It is fuel to the fire and each of the members of our staff have the drive and passion inside of them. It is our job to pull the cork and let that passion breath so it will open up and develop. It really is a great experience and that part of our job is very rewarding.

The only problem is that the more experience our staff gets and the more this drive and thirst for more continues to grow, the shorter the time that they will be with us. You see, William is the anchor and he owns the place so you can’t have his job. Patrick is in the same situation so the room at the top begins to get crowded. If we do our job right, their thirst continues to grow and the need for more does too.

Our job then becomes to help them find a new job where all they have learned on staff can be utilized and expanded on. Maybe a job in another shop as the top dog like in Greg’s situation. Maybe as a salesperson at a wholesaler or importer like Christelle and a few others. When you go to a wholesaler the game changes a bit. There is a lot of pressure on certain brands, quotas to meet, and a lot of digging in the portfolio for great finds to introduce customers like us to.

My advice…

With all the pressure to meet those quotas and to sell certain brands.

Leave the light on, you never want to lose that driving passion


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