Obsessing Over Wine and Crossfit – Part 2

All day long I pontificate  and stress to wine buyers what their consumers will be wanting, thinking, and craving.  I’ll link in my features and benefits with what my main focus and priority product is, I’ll give my pitch, and close like the master I am.

Does anyone like this stuff in the first place?

That fact buzzes in my head.  When did we leave out the human connection to a brand, a grape, a pretty label?  In all the marketing decks I study (ok, skim), there is Nielsen data, statistics on market profitability, and so on and so on.  What I want to know is who is drinking  it and what do they think?

I’m not attracted to over-blown wine snobs; they turn me off.  I want authentic, solid, and positive people going in the same direction I am.  I also want minds that look at both sides of the coin, outside the box, and well, can tend to be eccentric.  Anyone that finds pleasure lifting a ton of weight for two hours in a hot gym after a full day of work is hired as a reviewer for Wine Girl Gone Wild.

Acacia Pinot Noir was in my wine bag that day, and I knew it would be a hit with this crowd.  Why?  Everyone loves this grape.  The wine seems to hit all the high points of flavor wine drinkers are looking for.  This Pinot Noir is from California; bolder fruit, medium body where others may tend to be lighter.  The texture is rich and inviting.  In past blogs, I discussed feeling a wine during the tasting process; where does it go on my palate, what is tugging at my senses, and how does the wine linger after I swallow it?  All elements that come alive with Acacia Pinot Noir, and reasons that attracted my reviewers.  California Pinots also give me a spice at the end; a harvesty warmness that makes me feel at home.

Go Here:  Buy Rite Wine and Liquor; 650 Shunpike Road, Chatham, NJ.  Ask for PJ.  He just purchased enough Acacia Pinot Noir to last him throughout the season. (unless you buy it all…)

Have This In Your Purse: Around $20.00.  You may find a sale, and you most likely will come October.  DO NOT BUY A BY ACACIA – this is a different wine.  The wine we tasted in this blog is the Acacia CARNEROS Pinot Noir.  Just show them the blog.

To see what really happened in the gym, check the video below.

A big shout out to Brazen Athletics for allowing me to take advantage of your members and coaches after a grueling barbell club evening.

Brazen Athletics – Brazen Athletics

Fairfield Location – 1275 Bloomfield Ave (Pio Costa Complex) Fairfield, NJ

Hoboken Location – 1317 Willow Ave, Hoboken, NJ

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Holiday Feasting – Zaferon Grill Restaurant Review

“I’m done” says my pressed waistband about to pop…

And I really don’t care; I’m here to enjoy myself, all the holidays, and the over indulging possibilities.    The WONDERFUL part about living where I do, and being in the wine industry, are the really great BYOB restaurants in my very close vicinity.  When a new one pops up, we gotta go…

Side note – I spend most of my money on food.  Sad, but true.  Eating healthy or not, where you want, how you want, and when you want comes with a price tag.  I’ll spend the dollars on an experience; I have no problem with that.  But, let’s put everything on a scale here.

Zaferon Grill hosted my girl squad and I for our holiday get together.  I went in with high hopes and an open mind; Verona New Jersey, eclectic “American Bistro”, and a enormous price tag.  Hmmmm – not adding up, but whatever.  Upon making a reservation (there are about 10 tables in the restaurant and a floating bar), my friend was told she needed to leave a deposit.  A DEPOSIT ON A TABLE FOR VERONA NEW JERSEY.  Turned off, nose in the air, I poo poo’d this place right away.  C’mon, let’s check ourselves.  However, I get it – new place, trying out new things.  This better be good.

And it was, it was, then it was again.  EVERYTHING was amazing.  I am still dreaming about the vegetable risotto that came tucked under a perfectly cooked scallop.  And a dream lamb shank…a dream people.  However, the star of the evening was the hamburger.  You heard me correctly.  My lovely Jackie is a, well, not so adventurous eater.  She can be at times, but does like a direct and consistent dining experiences.  The server raved about this burger, and of course, we laughed when she ordered it.  This was possibly the best burger I have ever had.  Charred perfectly on the outside, medium rare on the inside – joke on us when Jackie had the best meal on the table.

But you are waiting for the not so great moment.  I’m sorry, and I do hate to say this, but I just don’t think a $30 price tag should be on these entrees.  As good as they were, is the Verona New Jersey dining audience  ready for this?  I am not ready for this.  Montclair is a coin toss away where I can get the same great meal for much less.  ( I can probably name you five restaurants without thinking.  Blog post?)  With Fat Fish Taco two doors down, and Verona Inn screaming at me to join them for a cocktail (Uppercut by the glass anyone?), it just doesn’t add up.  (literally-see what I did there)  Even the appetizers – wow shrimp and chorizo loveliness – are around $15 and $16.  I want to say yes, but I can’t and I won’t.

We all want to feel good, but we all want to live in reality.  Zaferon; you got the feeling good part in spades.  Can we reorganize ourselves in understanding our sense of place?

Wine choices for the evening, and any “American” eclectic fanciness that comes your way?  Safe choice for my Jackie; Etude Pinot Noir.  Pinot noir, as I have said before, is a grape that has everything in it for everyone.  It is mellow, but firm.  It has something to say, yet teases your pallet with a mystery all it’s own.  With little intervention from the winemaker – Jon Priest believes that winemaking is done IN the vineyard – you get a true and authentic California Pinot Noir expression when drinking Etude.  Love in a bottle.  But for my lamb – give me a cab.  I chose Beringer Distinction Cabernet Sauvignon.  I needed a wine with a structure and intensity yet with characterized and varietally specific fruit, balanced with a full body and concentration.  Yes, perfect.

Where can you buy both of these wines?  Well – across the street at Caldwell Shoprite Wines and Liquors.  Do you know that if a wine shop does not have the wine you are looking for, you can ask them to order it for you?  Just saying… (Same goes for a restaurant.  Help a girl out here.)

Should I go to Zaferon Grill?  Eh, sure, why not.  Splurge and don’t look back.  Will I go again; no.  Too many restaurants out there to experience that are not bleeding my wallet.

Click here for more info on Zaferon Grill

Is Everyone Italian In New Jersey? Introduction to Castello Di Gabbiano

Practice your best MUZZ-A-REL shtick because I am about to talk Italian…

I spoke at a wine dinner the other evening with eight different, very high end, wines from all over the world.  I first showed a $50 bottle of Chardonnay from Australia, then a $80 bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from California, and then….thought I would catch a break on sales… and offer a $25 bottle of Chianti Classico Riserva.  When this Italian selection came out, a lovely New Jersey gem of a female said, in a perfect clash of cultural accents, “Oh my gawd, I can’t even believe!  Finally!  Something to go with my macaroni”.  That really happened.

A testament to what consumers think of Italian wine as a whole.  It’s good, it’s really good –  no, it’s the best.  I don’t blame them.  It’s something about the Sangiovese grape – the holy grail of grapes from Italy – that settles into your being.  There is fruit, spice, earth, tannins, length, pleasure, delight, and an all over gratifying experience.  Italian wine was my first real wine job, so I fall on my knees to the stuff.  This Polish girl will speak Italian wine jargon till I am breathless.  Oh, how freaking sexy it is….

New Jersey, land of pinot grigio, also believes Italian wine cannot exist without New Jersey existing.  For importing purposes, eh, can’t hurt, but there is more than what you all think pairs well with “Cal-a-mar”. (do you know “Cal-a-mar” is actually PRONOUNCED calamari in Italy by real Italians that actually live there?  Just a side note…)

An overview of Italian wine is TOTALLY necessary.  What you need to know right this moment:

  • They don’t drink a lot of Pinot Grigio in Italy.  They just don’t – it’s an export thing.  Castello di Gabbiano actually blends their pinot grigio with chardonnay -better fruit component to the wine and mouth feel.  Sorry to burst your bubble on this.
  • Chianti is a PLACE – not a grape.  Sangiovese is the grape in the bottle – at least 75% must be in that bottle.  Chianti Classico is ALSO a place; the heart of the Chianti zone.  So, purchasing a bottle of Chianti Classico may give you a more sincere, deeper, denser style of Sangiovese.  There will also be a black rooster on the neck of the bottle showing you the wine will be sourced from the Classico region; another statement of quality.
  • Riserva means the wine spends a minimum of two years in oak, and 3 months in bottle prior to release.  If you are looking for your holiday feasting wine, you found it!  The fruit here changes to a cooked flavor, cigar box (smokey), harvest spices; highly recommend to age a bit.  Don’t cellar for ever, but a little age creates some funky goodness.
  • Super Tuscan throw down; a escape from the grape Sangiovese, and a trip into more noble varietals; Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  If you are a little nervous on an Italian wine purchase, this may be your route.  However, buyer beware; just because it is “super” doesn’t mean it is super delicious.  Find a producer you like, and stick with that winery! (or ask your buddy Susan for some recommendations)

Rather than me telling you about a favorite Italian winery, Castello di Gabbiano, that kicks some Italian Culo, check out this video below.  I had the pleasure of working with the General Manager, Ivano Realie, in November – so I grabbed a little footage of our presentation to my friends Priya and Yogesh of Wine World in Gillette.  You can find Wine World HERE: LIKE this Facebook Page

Watch, learn, and discover the wines from Castello di Gabbiano with a private tour (well, semi private; Priya, Yogesh, the internet and you) from Ivano Realie!

Rebounds and Getting Played – Real Wine Talk

I cannot disconnect myself with what is happening in my mind and what is happening personally in my life from this blog. This morning I woke up, checked out social media, witnessed a special someone creeping around town like an animal, felt like a brick hit me in the face (or the dead heart that was being slightly revived), and knew I had to write this.

Just like stupid romantic relationships that you find yourself in, wine can be a rebound and a “getting played” moment.  What do these two have in common; they make you feel special for a moment, lost, empty, and really really stupid.  I’m not any of the later, and I’m here to tell you that you are not as well.  Let’s distinguish how we got ourselves here, and what we can do to prevent this:

Getting Played:


My friend Jackie buys a wine because the label is pretty.  This makes her feel special, intelligent, full of hope, confident that she is doing the right thing.  Sound familiar?  The marketing may tell you that you NEED this wine in your life, that this wine will bring you places you never have been before, your life will change if you just involve yourself a little bit…ok, that may not be the wine talking, but you understand where I am coming from.  I insert a picture of 19 Crimes here; a wine I sell, I love, I love selling.  This wine has everything I just spoke about, and does taste good.  You get a bang for your buck, a funky label that your friends will love to talk about, and a good time.  What does that sound like?  Beware, but be a risk taker.  Enjoy the positives that getting played may give your body and  palate.  It’s all just fun, isn’t it?

The Rebound:

IMG_1935I don’t consider a rebound always a bad thing.  It has the best intentions.  If I am feeling lonely, can’t make a decision, want a consistent warm hug, Stags’ Leap Winery Petite Sirah does it for me. (the innuendos in this blog are killing me by the way).  However, rebound wines will take you over the hump, but may not take you all the way.  It’s easy to get stuck with the one thing you know will make you feel good when you don’t want to take that next step into the unknown.  Petite Sirah may be the unknown for you as a varietal – here is the seduction.  The best rebounds are in the lure of what will be, aren’t they?  This one happens to deliver, and deliver.  That’s why it may be my date for New Years Eve…

Where does that leave us?

33908720_UnknownGreat question.  Maybe it’s not drinking wine at all.  Maybe it’s about making healthier choices for my body and my mind.  I chose this picture above because it is filled with food and wine choices that make me feel positive and good.   I just realized the wine is a little blurred out; is that a sign?  It’s great to take some risks.  When that risk fails though, should I stay in bed with a pint of ice cream, or go lift weights.  You know the right thing to do, but the “right” thing just seems so hard…

The opening photo is a picture of a wine barrel being “toasted” and treated for wine aging.  I remember taking this photo and being overwhelmed; it was a burning hot, a type of anxiety, a thrilling and tactile experience.  This photo is where I want my heart, mind, and soul to stay.  If I continue to get played, or be the “rebound girl”, so be it – it still makes me feel like the fire.  If I make poor choices in love and wine, so be it.  I rarely notice social media posts about mistakes we may make.  They happen to me at every turn.  Thank goodness they do – I’m learning, maybe closing myself off a bit, but still curious.

Travel Diary – A Straight Girl’s Guide To A Gay Friendly Vacation – Part 1


The motivation for this blog is to respect the environment I am in, and to let you know that judgement lies within your own mind – so judge away, but you may find yourself traveling down a one way street.

Reactions from men I audition (this is what I call the – just texting/awkward phone conversations/dick picks that I show my friends – first few months of a new “relationship” – if you can call it that):

Me – “My two best friends are gay men”

Potential boyfriend #1 – “No problem, I have a gay brother/uncle/cousin/ex-roommate” (Bad way to connect)

Potential boyfriend #2 – “As long as they don’t hit on me, that is cool” (what?)

Potential boyfriend #3 – Dial Tone

Truth, and I’m finding this a valid truth. I can’t blame or judge a shallow soul. I know what I know, and I know what provides me love and respect. However, how can a gay couple, and a single straight girl find happiness on vacation together enjoying, well, their own kind of thing but also enjoying each other. Enter Rehoboth Beach in Delaware.

I’m not a gay bar fly. Society thinks I should be because of the company I keep, but I have little interest. What we all have in common is food, relaxing on the beach, and really good wine – among many other things. This town brings it in droves. In DROVES.

I give you a little of myself in this blog to clue you in on my choices and why I make them, I am open to many things, but mostly why actions bring me to where I am. For instance, what is effecting me right now, and how do I live in this moment. Let’s dive in to what I’m eating and drinking:

Cocktails at Papa Grande’s – a must. Mixed crowd, just OK food, but the wine list has some off the beaten track stuff, and the happy hour is tequila friendly. Cuties at the bar; gay and straight. This did help the mood.

Italian food at the beach? I’m always a skeptic of this. We were slightly hung over, beach all day, dead tired, but knew we had to eat. A mixture of appetizers and a little pasta hit the spot. Check out these pictures from a night at DiFebo’s https://difebos.com– I was SO impressed. I don’t even LIKE tomato sauce, and I gobbled up that bolognese! We are still talking about this meal two days later.

When traveling, you always receive “suggestions”; more than you may want. When you get a suggestion to go somewhere, but then you are told to get a certain dish only – why and why. I want to enjoy the entire restaurant, not just one single expression. I’m proven wrong with the shrimp and grits at Blue Coast Seafood Grill http://www.bluecoastseafoodgrill.com/in Bethany Beach. Take the 30 minute drive and don’t complain like I did. (Well, I thought it). The tuna was beautiful as well.

I haven’t spoken about wine because I’m not really drinking it. We ‘allowed’ our friend Matt to choose a wine last night; fail. Partially not his fault. The wine list stated it was a Pinot Noir from Monterey California – good choice, specific area of viticulture, not really a fan of the grape but I knew this would be a slightly more voluptuous style. When the bottle came to the table, the label said “Central Coast”. So, no specific area of production, kind of boring, “candied” in flavor, not varietal specific on the palate. Total wine list faux pas- you tell me one thing, but actually offer something different. Not BAD, but not great.http://www.vintagepoint.com/Higher-Ground-Brand

Yes, we do more than eat and drink. You have tuned in to read about food and wine, and that is what I’m giving. Want to see some more antics? Eh, maybe another time…

A few days left. More to come!

Wine Review – WINC Wine Club

Does this turn you on – buy a wine from me, you don’t know what it tastes like, never heard of the brand before, you can’t go purchase it in a store, you can only purchase it again on line if you like it, trust me because I know (through a quick review ON LINE of your palate) what you like to drink, now give me your money and I’ll send you your first few bottles…

Well, it did to a friend of mine.  First of all, I applaud her for trying something new and exploring this crazy world of wine.  So many flavors, so many stories, and the assumption that this (wine) is something only the elite can figure out.  That is what I LIKE about an on line wine membership – it is reaching the masses.  It is fun, quirky, very easy, and extremely appealing.  I get it.

What I don’t like, well what we didn’t like, was the quality and integrity.  Not once, within the short quiz prior to the purchase, was the consumer asked about life experiences, wine experiences, what they drink NOW, dreams and desires, or anything else that could lead a consultant (a computer is not a wine consultant) to how they would like to expand their palate profile.  There is more to you than your preference in fruit flavors.  Wine is about the journey; I want more about where WINC will take me on this journey.  The website does give you a little back story.  They also chat about wine cocktails, show you a pretty wine book, and blog about rooms in your home that can be inspired by wine labels…yes, I said that. (cough, giggle, hide my head in shame)

My friends drink good, to sometimes great, wine; when your friend sells the stuff, that is what you are faced with.  They are used to hearing about the history and people who make the wine, they are seduced by flavors and aromas that pop out of the glass, they are curious and adventurous in spirit.  They are also teachers, sales people, and social workers; just like your friends, they work 8 hour days (at the minimum), have families, and expect quality when they spend their money.

We took WINC for what it is.  I had a dinner party of Chinese take out and we opened the box. Watch this quick video and check out our impressions of WINC as a wine company.


Will there be a second purchase from WINC; sadly no.  Just my impression – and not one to hold you back if this is a gig you can understand.  Check out the website and do a little research – Winc.com




Drink This: Provenance Vineyards

Quite often, at a wine tasting, a consumer will ask me what my favorite wine on the table is.  I never have a good answer for this mainly because I see wine differently than you do.  The bottle has been researched, studied, atheistically torn apart, put back together with a pretty marketing bow, and sold – in my head.  When I choose to DRINK something, it is all about the moment, the company, my mood.  When I am pouring at a three hour event, I’m not in the mood.

So…how to be polite with this question.  I answer honestly; I’ll tell you what is in my fridge.  What is waiting for me when I get home is the answer.  Are you like me; at the end of the day is when you truly become yourself? There is Work Susan, Gym Susan, Sister Susan, Aunt Susan, Let’s Go On A Date Susan, and then the real Susan.  Real Susan and I need to check in when the day is done; wash your face, put on the comfy clothes, “slay the demons” (that bit totally borrowed from my coach – thanks big guy, well put),  and pour yourself a little relaxation.

My go to lately is Provenance Sauvignon Blanc.  Not because it’s summer; I would drink this in the dead of winter.  Mainly because this wine is not that grassy, acidic, enamel wrenching Sauvignon Blanc my friends seem to love.  I need a little roundness.  I need some smooth lovely soul reaching real talk.  However, don’t get to deep with me.  It’s the end of the day in this picture I am painting, and we don’t need to fix the world’s problems.  (by the way, we all know wine doesn’t do that, right?).  For a winery known for reds, it’s amazing to me a white like this can stand out like it does.  There is some barrel fermentation (slight) on this wine; that is what is changing the game for me.  And don’t sit in judgement with your stainless steel animal of a wine that you swear by.  Remember; complexity, layers of flavors, journey of a wine.  That is what holds the mystery.

I took this  wine and the Cabernet Sauvignon to Sla Thai – my favorite Thai restaurant.  With this winery located in the heart of Napa Valley California (Rutherford to be exact), I thought the two expressions of this vineyard would make sense with the rustic quality of Thai food. The Rutherford Appellation is a pretty warm place; grapes can reach their full maturity while producing deep and and richly flavored wines.  That is what stood up to the complex flavors of our meal.  There is a LONG ripening period in this specific area of California = wines with great acidity, balance, interest and all out love.

Where can I find these wines; Just about anywhere.  They MAY not be stacked on the floor of a wine shop; take a trip to the shelf. You can do this, I promise.  Don’t be scared.  It’s time to stop that “grab and go” – take a tour.

What should I have in my purse; The Sauvignon Blanc will run you about $17-$20 and the Cab around $40 – $45.

The Sleeper; The Merlot from Provenance Vineyards is stellar.  Deep red fruit, dusted cocoa, followed by warm oak at the end.  Delish.

Mood Enhancer – A Mimosa Twist

Can you give me a road map for lousy situations?

This is where I tell you my wine job is just like your job; it’s a job.  My boss is pissed, there are goals to reach, to many spread sheets to look at, and, oh yeah, I need to be creative at this very moment.  It’s a short week, June is basically here and asking me to get myself in gear, and all I want to do is go to the gym.

Is this personal, or can I block out my emotions?  This is always the battle of wits.  What should happen if you can’t get your work done, or you realize your bank account is reaching a depressing limit, or that you need to do five loads of laundry?  Do you stop and tend to that needy place in your heart, or just shove it under the bed.

Years ago I had a buyer that would call me two to three times a week.  Sure we were friendly, but I would always remind myself that this is strictly business.  I had boundaries, and I would stick to them.  After a fatal accident took his life, it was only then that I realized how much I shared with this man, and how much he shared with me, and how much he was part of my happy place.  We were more than the sale – we were in this together.  A unit.  What latches on to your soul isn’t always what is screaming down your neck.  What I wouldn’t do to tell that guy what I really thought of him…

This long weekend allowed me to think of my surroundings, and what I would like the next few days, months, year to look like.  Lesson learned – I’m a little over the top.  I get it, and I hate to say this may not change.  What I can do is be a better listener, observer, thinker.  I also can’t hold on to disappointment.  I don’t mean stub your toe disappointment – biggies that alter your vision disappointment.  Fear and sadness will find me: no matter how much I pretend things don’t happen, they do.  It’s how I get out of my mess that counts, not the mess itself.

That was a long and depressing intro to a lovely mimosa experience.  And here I am wondering if the experience was the cocktail, the company, the homemade brunch, the setting, my mood that needed to change…it was all of the above.  Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad Brut Cava….a dream.  (head here for more info Segura Viudas Web Site) Maybe to pricey at around $20.00 a bottle for a mimosa, but we were feeling boushy.  This cava is rich without being sweet, complex without being over the top, and crisp enough to withstand a splash of juice.  And what is this Califia Farms Nectarine juice that popped into my life!  Just a sprinkle will do you.  Ditch the orange – this is your new summer sipper!  (BTW – I don’t sell this wine; just a fav from my own stash!)



Because a French Toast and Mimosa is a must….especially when made by friend and chef of Navarritos Homemade….if you have not, you NEED to check out that website for the best organic Latin Food Around!IMG_0837

Travel Diary: When You Just Don’t Feel Like It – Berry Park in Brooklyn

I don’t jump out of bed with the desire to spread wine love all over the state of New Jersey.

On the contrary, I can’t seem to get out of bed lately.  I’ve never had life weigh me down like this before; work, family, death.  Yeah, death.  As much as you prepare yourself for a loss, it never seems to soften the blow.  I hate to make this about me, but my senses seem to be laying on my skin, and my emotions I am putting in a jar.  We will deal with those silly emotions later. (probably with a therapist)

So what happens when we are in this state of mind – who the heck wants to get off the couch.  My couch is where I finally end the day, relax, become a child again.  It took my friend Genelle three days to convince myself and another friend to take a “road trip” to Brooklyn.

To Brooklyn.  You realize this is about an hour away.  My mind cancelled about three times, I came up with a bunch of excuses, but decided to suck it up and go.  Please kiss your friends that make you do things you don’t want to do.  Praise them, keep them close, and celebrate them every chance you get.  What a great day we had.

The intent was to see our friend compete in a Strongman (well, Strongwoman) competition at Brooklyn Athletic Club – really great box.  She killed it, we screamed our faces off in support, and then we were hungry.

Next door, literally a few steps away, was a STUPID COOL rooftop experience; Berry Park.  We weren’t looking for fancy, or a change your life culinary experience.  A few cocktails and a sandwich fit the bill.

Then the sun came out – then the beer arrived – then the laughs, stories, release of tension could happen. Why am I not exploring?  Why am I not curious about life outside my shell?  Lesson learned; get out, pack a snack pack, grab your girlfriends, and road trip the hell out of life.  Summer project; do things you wouldn’t do.  I just signed up for a crossfit competition in June.  I hate crossfit competitions.  At 45 years old, I am competing in a crossfit competition.  And, so it begins…

What we ate: Like I said, nothing fancy.  Fried pickles a must; probably the best we have ever had. (and we are experts at the fried pic experience).  Burger hit the spot, but the fries could have been better.  (not worth the calories)  Steak and eggs were on point, and an avocado BLT was well done.  Who doesn’t like an avocado…

What we drank: Great beer list; totally funky.  The wine list? Eh – ok.  I feel like they were trying to hard for the hipsters.  My friend’s sauvignon blanc was way to grassy with very little balance but loaded with acidity.  I can’t even remember the name; that’s how much I liked it.

Would I go back: Well, maybe.  Berry Park is right in the heart of Williamsburg: hipster central.  Nothing against these lovelies, and no judgement.  I just feel like I was in a episode of “The Hunger Games” where this little group of people were sectioned off and told to walk and dress the same.  Very strange feeling.


Dinner With People You Don’t Know (Or Care To Know)

If you and I are friends, you are probably one of about five people.

This is true of most of us; keep your squad close and all others, well, at a nice arm’s length distance. I don’t want to sound bitter, mean girly, or elitist. I want to come to you, as always, with the truth. I don’t like a lot of people.

I love people, and I am in a very loving kind of career that is people centric. That may be why I am black hearted with promises of BFF-isms and “let’s bare our souls” conversations. I’ll smile through it, laugh at the right moments, but I gotta say, I’ll forget about our conversation in about 5 minutes.

This is when I’m “on” by the way; when I am at a wine dinner entertaining. Because that is about 90 percent of a wine dinner; entertainment. If you think people are coming there to learn from me, then save your money. And, can I tell you, I am so good at making you feel like we have a burning lifelong bond. It’s just so under-fulfilling, and I think it is cracking my heart a bit.

Dinner with a great retailer (now this guy is cool) and his collector customer’s got to me this week. I tasted these customers on eight wines, all good, some great, some better than great. I was the perfect host; I told jokes, stories from my own life that may have seemed personal. (nothing I say in a wine dinner is even close to personal – illusions, all of it), I conveyed loving ideas of California on a cool April afternoon at the winery; sipping chardonnay, watching the grapes grow…I’m making myself vomit. My audience’s response?  “Go open another bottle; we need to drink more”.

This is not the Wednesday night of my dreams, but is a reality. If you find 1 person in about 10 that your are connecting with at a wine dinner (or life for that matter), you are lucky. I did find that one woman, and she bought 12 cases. I earned my keep that evening, but lost a little part of my psyche.

However, you came here to learn something, didn’t you.  Ok, lessons from this dinner:

  • My friend Al is a true gentleman and professional, and has a few stores (coming soon; Kearny location):

Clifton Commons Spirits and Wine: 132 Kingsland Rd, Clifton.  If Al isn’t there, ask for Babu.

Little Falls Liqours: 315 Main St, Little Falls – I buy my beer here.  Great selection of whiskey and bourbon in the back of the store. Don’t let the size of the store fool you.

  • You need a starter: An audience needs wine in their hand as soon as they walk in the door. If not, they will feel like this is a waste of their time. I like to serve something light, pretty, not to serious, low alcohol, and a conversation starter. I went with Matua Rose – a rose of pinot noir. Good fruit, pretty color, fun, palate cleansing, and a good prop to hold during simple friendly exchanges. We have enough serious crap in our lives: the beginning of a wine dinner should be a little get-away from that nonsense.
  • Pinot Noir will always be the winner for food and wine pairing; Everyone likes this wine.  You cannot go wrong.  It will pair with most all foods. Stick to California selections to be safe, and venture to the French stuff for a little sass.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon is always a winner; But watch out. You may feel like you need to spend a lot of money. The Cab that everyone went back to this evening was the cheaper one. Why? It was easy to drink, but had all the qualities of a great Cab; abundant fruit, great tannic structure, finesse, style.  My selection for the evening was The Stag – and you can find this at Al’s store.
  • You always need a sleeper – I will consistently pack a wine that I think is good, but that no one would touch on their own. Now, this is risky. If played well, you come out looking like a rock star. I had my audience try Chateau St Jean Chardonnay; again, not to expensive, but not something that “experienced wine people” (I write this with a side smile) may reach for.  If you find a wine with balance, this move will turn out well. Ask Al for something off the beaten track. Don’t spend more than $20. Be honest with YOUR audience and let them know this may be a flop. You may surprise yourself.
  • Where was dinner? I highly recommend – Salute in Montclair.  Affordable, gluten free pizzas, brick oven pizzas, beautiful fish, homemade pasta, everything fresh…a winner.