For me, there’s no question that the best part of owning a retail establishment is selecting the product that will fill shelves and ultimately bring people back again and again. It’s a challenge (and skill) to forecast which items will sell, and can ultimately be one of the main deciding factors that will make or break you. You would think that if you love to shop (like me) that it would be easy to know what to purchase for customers. But actually it can be the opposite. I needed every ounce of restraint every time a vendor came to visit with a new food product or wine. I wanted to support everyone, taste everything, and fill the store with these delicious items. Thank goodness for Greg and his keen eye for the bottom line. He hates to shop and hates to be bothered while focusing on customers so something better be good for him to stop, taste, and commit.
Ordering wine was one of the highlights of my daily grind. Well, tasting wine would be more accurate. Most of our small distributors were happy to come by and pour samples from their portfolio and I was always happy to oblige. Even though we’ve been out of the store for almost two years now, I still receive tasting invitations. Now when I go I represent the media, not the trade and I don’t have the purchasing power I once did. A ten case deal has dwindled to searching for one special bottle, but, hey, it’s still shopping in my mind.
The Paso Robles Grand Tasting blew through the Mid-Peninsula today and Greg and I attended for different reasons. I went to savor past memories and possibly pitch a future story whereas I know Greg came away contemplating his next move. Will wine be involved? Let’s hope so.
More than 30 wineries were in attendance and one of our favorites was from Maloy O’Neill Vineyards in Paso Robles. He poured a 2005 Lagrein ($36) that was utterly irresistible. Having never even heard of this Italian varietal, Sales Manager Tim Gabriel gave us a little history on this seldom seen wine. The grape comes from Italy’s Alto-Adige region, which borders Italy and the Austrian Alps. Not many domestic wineries or commercial growers tackle this grape and if they do it’s usually blended with other grapes. Not sure about the total percentage of Lagrein in this 2005 release, but it was unusual, inky, and complex.
Another winery that stood out was Silver Horse Winery in San Miguel. All three of our pours were amazing. The 2009 Albarino ($27) was buttery, crisp, and very complex for such a young wine. The 2007 Tomori ($38) is a blend of syrah, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot and the 2007 Sage ($40) is a blend of malbec, petit verdot, and cabernet sauvignon and both were fantastic. Sage is described as a Bordeaux blend that is big and bold, has great cellar potential, and only has 13.5% alcohol.
Several of the smaller wineries that we sampled today are often in need of representation from distributors. But sometimes the best way to get a favorite wine into your local market is to take a sample of it to their wine buyer or owner and ask them to order it for you. It’s a win-win situation for everyone. Many of the wines we liked are only available through their website or tasting room. If visiting the Central Coast on the third weekend in May, head to Paso Robles for their annual Wine Festival. Friendly people and great wine.