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.


Sharing Is Caring – Selling Rose

Its seems like a chore to brainstorm ideas with my colleagues.

It’s not malicious, this I know, and I am privy to the non sharing club myself.  Some thoughts –  “She will ask me questions about wine I can’t answer” or “She will steal my idea and make it better” (this actually happened, and is a terrible feeling that doesn’t go away) or “She will get ahead with this idea and I won’t” or, well, you get the drift. I think that is rubbish. Here is my attempt to start a new area of my blog called “Sharing is Caring” – specifically because it is. You can look at my ideas and laugh behind my back, or take them as your own and cut me out of the picture. Both are legit, and are up to you. But here I am, marketing weirdness and all, coming at you with a few wine lures and seductions – enjoy the show.

This one doesn’t set the world on fire, but was pretty successful.  I sell a lot of rose, I mean, a lot – and rose is the “it” girl of the wine world right now.  They all have a different feel to them, come from different places, have completely different applications. I lumped them all together into one in store tasting and called it “Rose Day“. Told you, sounds boring. It’s all in the performance people. A few of my tools:

  • I created a description card for each wine, with the background of the card matching the pink in the bottle. Took me about 30 minutes. Instant pull to my audience; visual connection telling them each wine will be different.
  • Next, I schooled my tasting ambassador about the difference between white zinfandel and rose. If all she did was repeat this story to each customer (which she did), we were golden.
  • I emphasized that all four wines have different grapes in the bottle.  This fact again drove home the notion that this was not the “white zinfandel” they thought they were about to consume, but rather a REAL wine. (said with eyes rolling).
  • I had my tasting ambassador pick her favorite on the table. This gave her ownership. When the customer couldn’t decide, I would hear her say “This is the one I would go home with”.  Sale, sale, and sale.
  • I picked a great day to perform this tasting; the day before Easter Sunday.  Packed store, customers there to buy and buy big, gift giving, and I can go on.  Don’t be the girl that sits in a store tasting a $50 dollar bottle of wine during the Super Bowl. Major fail.

Those are the top five, and may seem obvious. You also may be saying “Why take the time to blog about an obvious in store tasting idea”. I wrote this because it’s so obvious and yet I HAVN’T SEEN IT DONE! No one is investing, even this small amount of time, in putting in the “doing” of a in store tasting. Even the fact I showed up stunned the manager of the store. That speaks volumes. Go to your tastings, lend a hand, say hello, have a one ounce drink, and go home.

Where did I do this tasting– Stew Leonards in Clifton. Ask for Gina or Mario. There is a bunch of wine in this store, and it may seem intimidating, but just ask for help. And stay away from the chocolate covered pretzels; your waistline will thank me later.

How did I create my wine cards – I signed up for Picmonkey – an online tool that is meant to be used to manipulate photos, but I use it for all my marketing needs.  Cheap and cheerful.


Loosing Myself In A Sea Of Wine

It’s been a while, and I’m going to sketch out why.  Here, sitting in my PJs, about 10 pounds overweight, swollen by all the wine I have been drinking, and dazed by my own existence – here we go…

Last night, I watched a live Instagram feed powered by my friends from @close.the.gap.

Shameless plug – follow follow follow these five women and their conversation on what it means to be strong, be beautiful, be feminine.  The struggle is real, they are real, and they make looking in the mirror a little easier.  Bravo ladies.

This was an “Empowerment to Women” discussion that took the audience into a talk on success and how we portray our success on social media.  An audience member, who is a musician and trying to promote herself as such, told a story of how she became terrified by her social media audience. First of all – I don’t know her posts, her content, her intent.  I have not done research on this women, and do not want to make her a monster. However, this got me thinking. Is this real? Do you see truth or what I want you to see? Do I have a responsibility to show you my side as it authentically rolls itself out, or should I selfie the hell out of my blog.

I wanted to say to that women – dummy up girl. Social media to most people SHOULD BE A GOOD TIME. To those of us that would like to take it to another level, another career, express a voice; we gotta go the distance. I have had haters since the moment I have opened my mouth in this world, and may have you spewing mad comments right now. So do it.  Go for it and get it out.  My responsibility, and let me say that word again, responsibility, is here and beyond. If this woman had nightmares and the shakes because of a Facebook post (that she penned herself I may add), then, hey, I take it all back.  Do you, but do think about your direction.

That was part of my absence; I needed some Susan wine time.  I needed to focus, concentrate, and generate some really good content into my work life – without noise that social media can create.  Let’s go to the documentation, shall we?

  • Organizing a dinner can suck, but performing the dinner can suck more and be a rewarding experience – all at the same time.  I usually don’t eat at the dinner, rather shovel food in my mouth without thinking when I get a quick moment.  Never good for the clean diet of my dreams.  I did sneak in some time with my tribe (necessary to keep me sane), and would grab a meal from @navarritoshomemade – clean Latin inspired meals packaged and ready to go. These meals saved me and my mind. Find the website here; Navarritos Homemade – and like them on instagram!
  • Invasion – winemakers take New Jersey!  I have a love/hate feeling come over my whole body when I hear a winemaker will be coming to town.  They are work, more work, fun, but work.  For some reason, they all decide to tackle NJ at the same time. That calls for a whole lot of activation, and a whole lot of being social, selling, and follow up.  Whew – survived and proud of it. (and made lasting relationships with exciting and intelligent souls.  Damn, lucky girl)

…and then, in the middle of my crazy life, New Jersey decided to throw a major food and wine event at Crystal Springs Golf Resort.  This food and wine show is a MUST to anyone out there ready to celebrate great chefs and wineries. I seem to ‘push the envelope’ a bit on marketing my brands.  Every year I stand on a edge of “should I really do this”  – ask for forgiveness, right? (by the way, you are all coming next year…)

There is so much more to share, and I will.  Stay tuned please; I promise to get on a posting cycle: outlined already in my bullet journal; did you think I didn’t have a bullet journal? (if you would like a sneak peek, let me know)  I would love to hear some feedback, or get into some conversations on questions you may have out there.  Let’s create a theater of wine thoughts together!