Breathing In My Ugly – Drinking Illumination Sauvignon Blanc

I”m told that you can find beauty in all things, that it is in the eye of the beholder, there is beauty in the ugly, that someone will see your beauty deep within you…is this all a crock of shit?

Sometimes, we gotta live in the ugly. In the REAL ugly – not the messed up mascara or pizza night sob fest. I’m talking raw, I’m not holding back, I may hyperventilate from crying, and I may say very very wrong things ugly moments. Does the decision to go there come from a sedimentary feeling of yourself – right at this very moment. In sales, we train ourselves to always be your super star. No matter what is going on personally in our lives, we are here to make you feel like you are on top of the world. Well, I gotta tell you – keeping up with the pretty is tough. Think about all the things stirring in you right now and then push them away, just to make a sensible sale – kind of crappy, right? This is where I am at now, and this is where I don’t see any getting out of right now. Is it ok to be banished to ugly land, or should I think about washing my hair?

In this immediate atmosphere I am creating, I thought it was funny that I opened a bottle of Illumination Sauvignon Blanc https://www.quintessa.com/illumination . In my mind, Illumination, and the Quintessa property this wine is being sourced from, is one of the most beautiful “Napa feelings” you can get. When I visited this winery, I was told I had to hike up a small hill prior to my tasting; ugly thoughts swimming in my head. What was revealed was a scenic view of the valley, more specifically the hills of Rutherford, with the Vaca Mountain range seen through the mist of a thick as hell fog. Things like this take your breathe away, remind you that you are human – an ant on this planet, and stamp an impression of what you believe true natural beauty to be. At the time, Illumination was not being made, and an overwhelming glass of red was put in my hand – sexy, voluminous, dense, rich, and full of brambly fruit (Quintessa). A small patch of land was pointed out, and I was told that was where they planted a little bit of sauvignon blanc – just for friends and family.  Lucky them.

Fast forward a few years later and you have this beauty of a wine. I remember the launch, rememberer selling this wine to a few restaurants, be needed a refresher:

  • Flavor profile: The fruit in this wine hits your nose before it hits your palate. I kind of love that moment – listening to the pour into the glass (listen next time – it totally seduces you), a bit of a swirl (really not needed with white, but it makes me look alluring), and a big ole’ sauvignon blanc facial is ready for you. This wine is like a bowl of citrus in your face – cooked lemon peels, navel oranges, ripe pineapple, limey rimmed sweetness on the end. I would have liked a bit more minerality that I seem to remember, but maybe that was just a dream. All in all, perfect with dinner, but probably not a “starter” wine – I usually like something a little crispier around the edges.
  • What we did with it: I had a dinner at Salute in Montclair http://salutemontclair.com – a great stand by BYOB with the crappiest parking ever. Suck it up and walk off your meal because it was worth it. Call us creatures of habit, but mussels were necessary and off the hook. At first I thought the meat and cheese plate would be way to much for this wine, but there is a heaviness in the body that is usually not there with this varietal. It can stand up to much more than you think it can. And listen, check out the label. If that doesn’t put you in some kind of mood, I don’t know what will.
  • What do you need in your purse: I found this wine on https://www.wine-searcher.com for around $30. It’s not really out there in the stores; more of a restaurant wine. Expect to pay more in the restaurant, and don’t be “that guy” and complain.  Fun fact; if you do not see something on the shelf, the retailer may be able to order it next day for you. All you need to do is ask!

I’m slapping on some red lipstick and pretending I’m pretty these days. I”m going to fake my pretty, and you will never know the difference. Whatever – it can be done. 


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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.