Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am on my soapbox. Yeah beeaatches. Last night, I went to a second showing of ‘SOMM-The Movie’ here in Denver. Invited by the group from Grand Vin (thanks to Kevin Arndt and the crew), they reached out to the community of buyers and sommeliers across the front range. Call it an ‘industry night invite’…
Shit. I should go back a bit further in the day.
Earlier yesterday, I had coffee with Kendra Anderson, buyer at Pasta Vino in Boulder, and ‘freelance’ wine writer (her words, not mine) for Westword magazine as DenverSwirlGirl. We had a chance to talk about the state of the union in regards to the local wine scene. Kendra brought up a point of contention, which I wholeheartedly agree with. Where is the community of wine professionals in Denver? Do we have any organization that promotes education, networking, or a sense of camaraderie? It got me thinking…
There are plenty of ‘certifications’ available. The ISG, SWE, CMS, IWG, and WSET hold classes monthly, with most arranged here in the Front Range. We have the highest number of Master Sommeliers in any state given the size and population. Frasca Food and Wine was named ‘Best Wine Service Restaurant’ by James Beard this year. Colorado has arrived. What about its’ largest city, Denver? We give our Denver chefs credit and praise in light of their accomplishments; Denver ‘5’ and other marketing organizations put these names at the forefront. You have the same with the bartenders and mixologists; Kenyon, Hodak, Henderson, and Melton have been doing it for years (I would include my man Dayton, but he is a Boulder boy). Why is it that our wine professionals haven’t done the same?
I ask, are we ‘lazy’ in our approach to being true ambassadors for this great industry?
Unfortunately, I feel it confirmed as I looked at the half-empty theatre before the show began. People are busy, their lives consumed by work, family, and the like, but for the working floor managers and stewards of vino, this is a movie that does give you an opportunity to connect with the career you so passionately enjoy. Like anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant can relate to ‘Waiting’ or ‘Dinner Rush’, why is it that I see little embrace with this vehicle? I hear more grumblings from buyers about the sheer number of lunches, trade tastings, and seminars held by distributors and wine importers (heck, I have done it myself), but is there, will there, be a movement to excel from the body of individuals that are the gatekeepers to the restaurant wine programs and dusted-off shelves of bottle shops in our fine town? Are we self-absorbed to the point where we have become islands of wine knowledge?
I feel we have enough talent and enthusiasm. Wine culturehowever, begins within.
There is something else that troubles me about the current way we look at ‘trade tastings’. It may sound radical, but what of it if all are invited from the trade to experience and learn about the great producers in every region of the world, regardless of who is hosting? If we looked at the sharing of information and open dialogue of our wine community at every stage of the game, would that not result in a greater number of wine consumers, which would invariably increase the sales, distribution, and revenue of all? Imagine having 30% more core wine drinkers! Wineries could do more wine dinners, tasting events with the public at retail establishments, because there is a real, tangible need! Or are we so ‘protective’ of our business, whether it be fear of losing a brand, or a placement to a more desirable one, that we cannot see the forest for the trees?
I think we already do this at the distributor rep level. Even though we are competitors, we taste each others wines, provide feedback, while we are in line to present our wares to the buyer of the establishment. Our kids play with one another; we go to picnics and barbeques. Distributors, importers, switch brands, are consolidated, form national strategic alliances. The friendships usually don’t end because of those forces. I have written before that I fondly remember the Tante Louise yearly gathering of wine and spirits industry folk, a celebration of who we are. Yes, it is good to get together once a year; however, these events have dropped off. The competition warrants little interaction amongst us wineos…at least I get that impression from many heads of companies…
“Not a buyer?” “Then you’re not welcome.”
“Who’re they with now? Should they be here?”
I have ideas that combine trade tastings with consumer tastings, getting the most out of the bottle instead of it dumped down the drain. Events and seminars with multiple distributors on a tasting panel, describing the wines and engaging with the audience. Educational trips where trade and consumer sit next to one another.
Or, in the words of Rodney King, a rather famous imbiber of alcohol…
“Can’t we all just get along?”