People love to ask about our favorite local wine merchant. Truth be told, we do not have many. In fact most of our wine is shipped to us. So it is pretty safe to say our favorite wine usually comes via FedEx.
When I wrote a version this post back in 2010, we did not have a favorite wine guy. Or girl, in Houston. Then our good friend Iris Allen invited us to a hidden gem in Rice University Village. French Country Wines on Bartlett, between North and South street, is the best place in Houston to find small family-produced wines from France. Phyllis and Tim personally travel to France every year to meet with the wineries and taste their newest vintages. They have excellent prices and a great selection of wines from the South of France. With tastings once or twice a week, you can make sure you like something before you buy it. And they are just super cool people to get to know! I’m not alone in thinking they are awesome: French Country Wines is a nominee for Best Wine Seller in My Table’s 2014 Houston Culinary Awards. It’s the last category in the ballot, I would encourage you to go vote! While you’re at it might I suggest David Keck at Camerata at Paulie’s for Service Person of the Year.
While most of my in-person purchases are at French Country Wines, I will occasionally venture into another of our local wine shops or an upscale market wine department to supplement our “cellar.” But I have yet to find another wine retail guy I can trust. I’m probably not alone. Here are the top three reasons to divorce your wine guy.
He Assumes You’re a Cheap Date
When I go into his shop to supplement my cellar, I’m usually looking for very good, value wines that I already know and love. It never fails that the wine guy shows up right after I’ve put two or three bottles of under $20 wine in my cart. I might ask for a particular Chilean cab that I know is good. But he says he doesn’t have that in yet. Instead he directs me to a California Cabernet Sauvignon priced at $7.99. While there may be a good one out there at that price, I find that highly doubtful. Look dude, I know the difference between good and bad. I asked you about a wine. Don’t assume I’m asking about a price point.
He Assumes You’re Stupid
Then there was the time we signed up for a virtual tasting, but due to Texas’ stupid shipping laws we couldn’t get the samples shipped to us. So, I was looking for a particular vintage of a particular wine. I was pretty certain that it would not yet be in, because it had just been released and was making its way through the vaunted three-tier system. Upon finding the particular wine, I note only 2006 and 2007 vintages on the shelves. Mr. Helpful comes over and I ask, “Are 2006 and 2007 the only vintages you have available?” And he replies smugly. “Well of course. You aren’t going to find any older vintages at this location.” Actually, I was looking for the 2008. Don’t assume I’m not familiar with your shop.
He Assumes You’re Easy
One local shop is notorious for this one. Every year when the Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines of the previous year comes out, I make the pilgrimage to procure them to compare with other wines we like. Before I had a smartphone, I would carry a piece of paper in with me to make sure I had the right vintage. Now I just have the digital list. As subscribers we can get them in advance. But keep in mind, I’m looking at a list in full view of the wine guy.
“Do you have the 2007 Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc from Russian River Valley?” I ask. “The one that made Wine Spectator‘s Top Ten Wines of 2009?” And the wine guy answers something to the effect of ‘no one ever has the wines listed in Wine Spectator.’ And then proceeds to direct me to whatever white wine he’s pushing that week.
Seriously, one of these things is not like the other. As if all I want is a white wine with a woman’s name on it. How did that work out for the country in 2008, dude? Don’t assume I’m looking for any old substitution.
Is It just a Man Thing?
You’ll note I didn’t say wine guy or gal. Just guy. That’s because this rarely happens when I ask a woman about wine.
Case in Point: After the wine guy tells me there is no Merry Edwards in the place, a woman asks if I found what I’m seeking. When I say no, she offers to look up the wine in her on-line inventory (it’s a big place). At her screen, she says, “that’s strange, it says here we have four bottles.” We walk back to scour the Sauvignon Blanc section to no avail. “Let me look in the back,” she says. Still no wine. But she has given me enough to keep my eye out in case it has just been misshelved.
Sure enough, amongst the Pinot Noir, there are four 375 ml bottles of the Merry Edwards. Guess the whole Russian River Valley thing threw someone off. I pick up three and tell the wine lady about the one remaining. I probably should have purchased it as well, but I did not want to be a hoarder. Dumb move!
Once You Find Him (or Her) Be a Swinger – SHARE!
Once you do find a great wine guy (or gal) you should share him with EVERYONE looking for a good
time wine. Your friends will thank you and the wine shop will love you even more! This is one place where spreading around the love is sure to bring it back to you many times over.
It’s All About Assumptions
If you have a usual wine merchant who knows your tastes, listens and offers advice when asked, great! He’s a keeper. But if your merchant assumes he knows more than you do, and treats you as such then you are in a really bad relationship that no “gentle massage” can repair. If he talks down to you, lies to you, treats you like you’re stupid or even gives you advice when you clearly haven’t asked for it, it’s time to get a divorce.
And if you are the guilty wine guy in this relationship, you might want to get some counseling.