What It’s Like to Be a Wine Buyer at a Grocery Store

I spent years working as a wine steward at the Broadway Market QFC in Seattle. It was a wonderful experience. I walked to work. Customers became my friends. As far as the wine selection, there were must-haves as part of the corporate set. But I got to buy weird, cool shit, too. I loved visiting my neighborhood pals and seeing fridges full of inexpensive, tasty Vinho Verde, rosé, sparkling wine, 1L bottles of Grüner Veltliner, and more.

At this store in Capitol Hill, it was never a dull moment, to say the least. Both good and bad. But I always had a great time. I also learned a lot about the wine business by working with sales reps, distributors, importers. And being in charge of beer buying was also an education. The suds selection at our store was extremely geeky and eclectic. I hand-wrote shelf talkers and put my name on them so customers would know what I was jazzed about when I was gone.

My time in retail wine was invaluable in developing my wine perspective and ethos. I was in the trenches of the wine business. Did I have opinions about the right way to cut cardboard cases and build displays? YES, EXTREMELY STRONG ONES. (Ask me.) My box knife skills were, well, razor-sharp.

How about a story from my tenure at this bustling neighborhood (chain) grocery store? One of my favorites is the “Last Drop” essay for the July issue of Wine Enthusiast. (It’s a personal story on the last page of the magazine.) For your internet reading pleasure, this tale is available online. It’s about a mop bucket, a legendary bottle of wine, and much more. Enjoy:

Bordeaux in the Back Room

Here’s a bonus story for you. It didn’t happen at the store, but related. I was walking downtown from Capitol Hill via Pine Street and had just crossed I-5 a few blocks back, near the old Von’s. (It was a place where a giant drink specials wheel would be regularly spun.)

Outside, the sidewalk tables were jammed. As I pass by, I hear a guy yell, “HEY QFC WINE GUY!” I turn around and approach the table. A man proceeds to enthusiastically say he was introduced to the Hofer Grüner, an Austrian wine packaged in a squat green 1L bottle sealed with a bottle cap, by me at Broadway Market. He then told me he served it at his wedding reception. I meet his wife, congratulated them both, and walk towards Pike Place Market sunset. (End scene.)

Photo by Dan via flickr.

The post What It’s Like to Be a Wine Buyer at a Grocery Store appeared first on Jameson Fink.

How To Taste Champagne

Bryan shares his tips for tasting Champagne! Smelling, swirling, sipping, and enjoying, learn the best way to taste Champagne in this quick video.

Wonderful video by Geena Pietromonaco!

Go Outside!

Enjoy the great outdoors with your Champagne this summer (no cooler required!).

Go Outside!

AT A CAMPSITE
Pitch your tent near a stream, nestle your bottles along the shore, and let the fresh water cool your Champagne.

 

Go Outside!
IN A POOL
Use a kiddie pool as an ice bath! Fill the pool with half ice, half water, add Champagne and chill in the backyard with your bottles!

 

Go Outside!
ON A HIKE
On a high-altitude hike, look for leftover snowbanks to chill your bubbly.

 

SHARE YOUR ADVENTURES WITH US!

Share your best photos on Instagram and Twitter and tag us (@fatcork) #FatCorkSummer. Or, send your best snaps to info@fatcork.com.

FC Club Featured in Seattle Magazine!

We are honored to have our name in the latest issue of Seattle Magazine! Our FC Club was named one of Seattle Magazine’s favorite local subscriptions. Check out the full feature here! 

 

Three Views on Wine With Oysters

Three Views on Wine With OystersEveryone has a thought on what to choose when it comes to wine with oysters. I feel that you can’t go wrong with white wines that hit all points on the crisp/dry/well-chilled mark. And bubbles are always welcome to the party. But we all have our favorites.

I’m going to go with the 2010 Pepiere Muscadet Clos des Briords.  A lovely, single-vineyard old-vine Muscadet from France’s Loire Valley. This wine was born to be consumed with bivalves. It’s a got a bit more richness and texture than your average Muscadet. And you can get it in magnums! What’s not to love about that? For bubbles, I’m sticking to the Loire and recommending any high-quality Cremant or sparkling wine from that region.

As the European wine buyer here at Esquin, I hope you can forgive me for showing my French bias. But in the interest of highlighting local wines to go with local oysters, I have consulted two bastions of Pacific Northwest wine for their two cents’ (two half shells’?) worth:

  • Clive Pursehouse of the Northwest Wine Anthem: “For Oregon wines that match up well with your favorite shellfish acid is king, and some of the beautiful dry Rieslings from Oregon’s Willamette Valley certainly fit the bill.  You don’t have to go far into the Valley to come across some beautiful cool climate Rieslings with some of the acidity, balance, and zest to properly pair with oysters. You’ll find wonderful examples in the northern end in Chehalem Mountain or Yamhill-Carlton. One example is the Trisaetum Coast Range Vineyard Dry Riesling; it delivers with zesty spice and green apple tartness.  Brilliant acidity brings this Riesling to a beautiful crescendo.”
  • Sean Sullivan of the Washington Wine Report: “The 2010 vintage in Washington saw the type of cool conditions and high acid that leads to fantastic white wines, and particularly wines that go with oysters. Two of my favorites from the 2010 vintage are the Cadaretta SBS and Guardian Cellars Angel Sauvignon Blanc. The 2010 Cadaretta SBS–a blend of 75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Semillon–has a full, rounded feel, with white grapefruit flavors and tart, mouthwatering acidity. Guardian Cellar’s 2010 Angel Sauvignon Blanc is barrel-fermented, giving the wine a textured feel to balance it’s racy acidity. Both simply should not be consumed without an oyster shell in hand.”

So what is your pick for oysters? I’m always looking for a new wine to enjoy with oysters. And if it requires more research by the dozen, so be it.

Three Views on Wine With OystersThanks to Taylor Shellfish Farms in the Melrose Market and my host Jon Rowley for providing the oysters and the inspiration. (Well, oysters for me. Clive and Sean, I owe you a dozen. Each.) View the winners from Taylor Shellfish’s oyster wine competition.


Three Views on Wine With Oysters

A Beer-Themed Lunch

A Beer-Themed LunchThe name of the place is Esquin Wine Merchants, but we do love (and sell) some good beer as well. I recently attended a beer-themed lunch (can’t tell you how much I enjoyed typing “beer-themed lunch”) at Quinn’s that recharged my passion for beer and, delightfully, introduced to some unexpectedly excellent beer and food pairings.

As a wine guy, my brain has been programmed to think Muscadet whenever mussels are involved. It’s not a bad thought–especially when Pepiere is involved–but I was really surprised by how well one of the beers paired with mussels. I figured it would be the lightest-style beer (the lager or the Hefeweisen) but the mussels turned out to be sensational with the Orval Trappist Ale.

A Beer-Themed LunchAnother great pairing was the Samuel Smith Organic Cider with the Duck Terrine. The sweetness and acidity of the cider was a nice counterpoint to the richness of the terrine; duck is a meat that really lends itself to having a fruit component added. In this case, in liquid form.

A Beer-Themed LunchThis veal was served with a trio of beers (Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale, their Oatmeal Stout, and the Ayinger Celebrator Bock) that were all complimentary with the dish. Definitely a heartier beer was in store for this very rich meat; I’d have to say the Stout and Bock were better by a hair.

A Beer-Themed LunchFinally desert: an apricot and apple tart. It was served with the Lindemans Framboise, which I have to admit I find too sweet. But the tartness of the fruit seemed to tame the sweetness a bit and bring out the acidity of the Lindemans.

I left Quinn’s very full, and full of respect for how well beer can pair with great food. Am I giving up my Muscadet anytime soon? Um, no. Never! (In fact, I’ve got a bottle in my fridge right now.) But I was reminded that the world of beer has many of the qualities that make wine so compelling. There’s a rich history, full of great stories. And it’s delicious.

Full disclosure: Lunch was provided by the distributor and importer.


A Beer-Themed Lunch

Tuna and Prosecco: A Delightful Lunch

Tuna and Prosecco: A Delightful Lunch
I’ve always been a big fan of Prosecco, the charming and thirst-slaking Italian sparkling wine, for festive and casual bubbles imbibing. At a recent lunch at Serafina, I was reminded what a great food wine it is as well. Prosecco belongs on your lunch (and dinner) table!

The Proseccos we enjoyed were from Valdo, a shop favorite. Their Brut DOC is a machine here at Esquin. The staff loves it and so do our customers. They also make an excellent Rosé Brut, though don’t call it Prosecco! The Italian wine laws in the region have recently changed to protect the good name of true Prosecco; it has to be made from the Glera grape and in a specific geographic area. The Rosé is made from the Nerello Mascalese grape (surely you’ve heard of it) and is a joy to drink. Ultra-fun! It was perfection with the Calamari, especially with the touch of chile flake giving a little heat. (The Brut DOC was no slouch with it, either. I was alternating back and forth between the two.)

Tuna and Prosecco: A Delightful Lunch

Most unexpectedly, the Prosecco even worked with a sweet pea and ricotta ravioli (with taragon butter and sauteed pea vines, to boot) The sweetness of the peas was a nice match with the DOC Brut, which has a whisper of sweetness.

Tuna and Prosecco: A Delightful Lunch

But my favorite pairing was with the tuna at the top of the post. I devoured it with two special Proseccos from Valdo: The “Cuvee di Boj” and “Cuvee Fondatore”. Both have DOCG status, which denotes the highest quality in the Prosecco region. These Proseccos were drier, more elegant, and most harmonious with the tuna and its melted leeks, fingerling potatoes, and frisee salad with a basil-grapefruit vinaigrette.

It was a wonderful lunch made even more wonderful by convivial dining companions and and special guest Dr. Pierluigi Bolla, the President of Valdo. Hard to think of a more personable and genuine ambassador for the region and the wines. Bravo!

Full disclosure: I was a guest of the importer and distributor who provided the food and wine.


Tuna and Prosecco: A Delightful Lunch