Two Things the Navy Taught Me - Almost

What can the Navy have anything to do with wine you may ask?  So let me explain.  You thought I wouldn't?


Let's set the stage first.  I was raised on the far South side of Chicago MANY years ago.  Still, nothing to do with wine. I bring that up as it relates to the famous song from Jim Croce "You Don't Mess Around with Jim."  Now Jim Croce was born in South Philly but that's close enough for me. There was the other song he wrote that did reference the South side of Chicago called "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown."  Still nothing as far as wine goes.  But in his lyrics, and taking a little bit of artistic license, talks about how you don't spit into the wind.  Well, in the Navy it didn't have anything to do with spit, it was more about relieving yourself.  Got the picture?  

Still nothing as far as wine goes, and it really doesn't, it's just a great segue into the second, and a little more apropos to what's coming for number two.  And that is "Never Volunteer." 


What makes this any more relevant to wine than the first item?  It has to do with what happened the other day as I was attending a wine tasting.

So here I am, attending a wine tasting at the Binny's store in Oak Brook for their Anniversary tasting.  No one had tagged me to pour for the event, so like a true wine geek, I decided to attend.  True to form for a wine geek, I arrive right at 1:00, the start time for the event.  I check in, get my glass and sell sheet of the wines being poured and head out to the first table.

I run through a couple of white wines (I almost always start with the whites and then move onto the reds) at the first table and head to number two.  No one there, bummer.  Go to number three, likewise, no one there.  At this point, and knowing that sometimes the reps can fall behind and arrive late, I still figure I would track down the wine manager, Jon (who I know well), and offered my services until the reps arrive.  This is called "VOLUNTEERING."  An action I was taught never to do.  Now you see the correlation?

My first go around with Jon was more informatory that anything.  He thanked me for the informing him that there were reps not in attendance and said he'd take care of it.  So I continue on and resume tasting through some of the white wines.  A few minutes later, Jon comes back to me and says that the while one of the reps showed up, the other had some issues and would not be there.  He had also contacted the distributor rep and indicated that there was someone at the store willing to fill in.  That was me of course.  

Jon tracks me down and says if I am still willing, the distributor would "take care of me" if I man the table and pour their wines.  Undaunted, I immediately said YES.  That technically makes it two times that I VOLUNTEERED.  I guess since I never broke the first rule the Navy taught me I figured I could do a double on the other.

We're finally on the "what has all this got to do with wine."  Off I go to the station lacking a body and proceed to start opening wines and simultaneously telling everyone waiting (and there were a bunch) that I would begin pouring shortly.  Now if I had been asked to do this tasting and showed up corkscrew in hand and ready and waiting for the customers to arrive, this story probably wouldn't have been told.  BUT.  As one of the only times I've ever just jumped into a tasting, or more precisely VOLUNTEERED, to assist, I was amazed at how things seemed to change and take on a very different light.

As I didn't have all of the technical data on the wines I was about to pour, I had to improvise a little.  The really great thing is that I think I had either the best table at the tasting or close to it.  Not wanting to look too uninformed about the wines, and knowing some basics about each, I did make sure that the customers knew that I was a last minute fill in.  That the general info I was giving was "in the ballpark" so to speak.  I have to say as well that everyone was totally understanding and even complimentary to my situation.

What was I pouring you might ask?  Glad to tell you.  From Guarachi Wine Partners come s the 2016 Tenshen White blend.  A Rhone style wine consisting of Viognier, Rousanne, Grenache Blanc & Chardonnay.  An excellent blend.  From Raney Wine Cellars I was fortunate to have two stellar selections.  Their 2013 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay and the 2014 Claret.  Great vintages both and excellent wines to boot.  Next up was the 2015 Smith & Perry Pinot Noir.  From the likes of Van Duzer winery, this value oriented wine throws a light on what good Oregon Pinots can be, especially from a truly excellent vintage.  From the likes of Orin Swift and Dave Phinney (Prisoner fame) came the newest of his Location Series wines.  The Locations P.  The P stands for Portugal.  A blend of Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira, and Touriga Franca the wine emotes rugged and savory notes.  Another great wine form Phinney.  Last up was the Clos du Val 2013 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.  Principally from the Stags Leap District in Napa, this was to me "THE" wine of the tasting.  Nice round dark lush fruit showing wonderful balance.  It will only get better with age.

For me, this had to be one of the most fun tastings I have ever done.  Don't get me wrong, I've done some amazing tasting, especially those at the wine shop I worked for years past.  There was no pressure, no having to rattle off data that I had to remember.  I just put as much as I thought I knew about each wine and made sure for anything I didn't know, I explained my situation, which was, as I said, accepted by everyone present.  The three hours flew by.  I had such a wonderful time and I hope that everyone that came to my table had the same experience.  From the comments, it seemed so.


So this just goes to show just how much of a wine geek I truly am.  If that doesn't convince you, realize that I didn't even worry about compensation for my time.  (That could actually be something I might want to work on). I did know, however, that Jon had mentioned that the wine rep would take care of me.  While I wouldn't admit this, although in thinking about putting this in my blog I'm sort of defeating the intent, I would ALMOST do this stuff for free!

I guess that's the passion and commitment I have towards the wine biz and my love of wine.  So, in retrospect, while the Navy tried to teach me two things, I only was able to fully comply with one of them.  Believe me, the other one I WILL NEVER FORGET!