Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Back to the old

I came across a realization this morning- When I turned on Pandora on my laptop, it didn't yell at me. You see, when I was spending a lot of time at my office, I was constantly on the verge of crossing that 40-hours per month limit that Pandora lets you listen to free music. Pandora would "yell" at me, giving me the choice of either paying for unlimited service, or turning it off. This morning, I looked at my account, and I have 37 free hours left. Wow. This means that I have been spending significantly less time at my office, since that is usually my music source of choice.

I also realized that this blog has been a lot about me and the new company- probably not the most enthralling reading for those of you who simply want to know a little more about wine and the restaurant scene in St Louis.

Today I will attempt to go "old school" on you, and teach briefly about wine. The lesson today will be about Ribera Del Duero. Translated "Duero River", this is the area in Northern Spain surrounding....wait for it.....the Duero River. This particular area is midway between Madrid and the Atlantic Coast of the Bay of Biscay. Much like Rioja, Ribera del Duero is well known for the Tempranillo grape (which is sometimes locally called Tinta del Pais). The most magnificent examples of this cherry-flavored, dusty-noted grape can go for hundreds of dollars per bottle. However, you can also find inexpensive versions. Check out the Torremoron, available at Sam's Steakhouse, for a great version that is a wonderful cross between Old World earthiness and New World tannins and fruit.

Drink something good today, and let me know all about it.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Justus, Blue Stem, Ernie, and Bert

During the middle of this last week, I went over to Kansas City to launch our wine distributorship in the area. Part of the "necessaries" was to eat at some of the best places in town. This led to two amazing meals- one at Justus Drugstore in Smithville, and the other at Blue Stem in Westport. Although they were both great meals, it's hard to compare them- they are totally different styles of places. Therefore, I will use the analogy of Ernie and Bert. You remember them- the two fellas that were best friends on Sesame Street, and sang songs in the tub.

Justus was Ernie.

Blue Stem was Bert.

In the show, Ernie was the more colorful one. He was more likely to get into trouble, he wore a brightly colored, horizontally striped shirt, and had an orange head. This is analogous to the experience at Justus. Jonathan Justus is an artist at heart, and it really shows in his food. It is bright, splashy, loud, and has lots of big flavors all combining toward a common goal of exciting the palate. There were things like marrow foam and goose on the menu. I personally loved the black pepper gnocchi, as well as the goose breast that I ate. My father, however, "won" the entree round by ordering the Wagyu Brisket. Freaking delicious is all you can say! The decor was modern, with lots of colors mixed with grays, and then accented by warm wood. The service was kind, efficient, and made us feel right at home. Even the bar staff was kind of wild with great renditions of classic drinks- including house-made absinthe and bitters. I would definitely go back in a heartbeat.

Like I said, Blue Stem was Bert. Bert was the trustworthy one- more of a linear thinker (he wore a v-neck sweater over a turtle neck, for God's sake.) He was a bit more buttoned up and polished. This was similar to the ethereal dinner at Blue Stem. The word that comes to mind in describing the entire experience is "refinement". First the decor- much softer feel, with tons of mirrors acquired from garage sales and flea markets, pictures of grass burning, and deep, dark fabrics and upholstery. You feel special just walking into the place. For dinner, you choose 3, 5, 7, or 12 courses, priced accordingly. Our table of 5 each chose the 5-course route. I started with a fantastic Foie torchon, followed by incredible and spicy crab folie pasta. Then came the biggest damn scallop I have ever seen in the Midwest (perfectly seared), and a duo of Pork. Yeah, I know that eating things like foie and pork at a place like this is sort of giving the chef softballs to knock out of the park, but the rest of the table ordered an array of fish, hen, salad, and tomato dishes. There wasn't a single off-flavor on the table. Speaking of perfection, I don't like to pull the whole "I have eaten at the best restaurants in the US, and know what good service is" card, but I'm gonna. And it's okay. The service at Blue Stem was absolutely immaculate. It was a really fun experience, and again, one would not have to twist my arm to go back.

So, there you have it- two different restaurants for two different experiences people may be looking for. Neither one was better, it just depends on what you want.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Worlds Collide

Last night was one of those times when my worlds came crashing together- fortunately with great success. Most of you know that I often help out with Entre Underground- an underground, secret, moving restaurant located here in STL. I have done the wine pairings for these guys for around a year now, and sometimes act as their sommelier at events. Fewer of you know that my wife and I are members of the Journey, a church located on Kingshiway across from Tower Grove park. Through the Journey, we have had the opportunity to work with an organization called Mission St. Louis.

Check them out here- www.missionstl.org

This is a wonderful group of people that do community development through education, empowerment, and good ol' hard work in some of the lower-income areas around town.

Last night, the guys from Entre did a benefit dinner for Mission St Louis at an undisclosed location.

This is where it got a little strange for me. I'm one of those people that looks at the people in my life and unwittingly compartmentalizes them. I have my "church" friends, my "work" friends, my "wine" friends, and my (for lack of a better term) "foodie" friends. Very seldomly do these groups meet. I actually wish they would more often- Surprisingly enough, when they have, it usually went okay. The foodie friends realize that the church friends will have a glass of wine and a plate of good food with them, and not preach to them or make them weak khaki. The church friends realize that the wine friends won't set anyone on fire, or give an expletive-laden speach about how God is just an idea while drinking cabernet out of a goat skull in the moonlight. Naked. (Actually, that one might happen.)

Last night it went rather smoothly- wine and great food was shared, people laughed, and I think that most of the people had a good time. It was just strange explaining the oak treatment of a wine from Priorat to the dude that I sometimes serve communion with. Maybe he'll buy my wine for it.

Have a great week- reports coming soon about some meals to be had in Kansas City.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Wine Styles

...No, I don't mean the store out in Chesterfield on Clarkson. However, it is a nice little store, and the owner, Bryan, is a good guy. Today I want to talk about the (de) evolution of what people in the wine industry wear.

When I first started selling wine, I was coming off of a stint at a very high-end, New York-based steakhouse. We wore suits every day- dark suits, white shirt, dark tie. Nothing too crazy or fancy. We were to look like we worked at an old-school, expensive, lots of dark wood and leather steakhouse (which we did). When I got my first wine job, the expectation was similar- it was owned by two older brothers that both wanted us in suits. However, this presented a small problem. You see, the Boston metroplex is essentially cut in half by the Charles River. On the south side of the river is Downtown, and most of the fancy joints. The sales people here wore suits and shiny shoes everyday. On the north side of the river was Cambridge and Somerville, where I worked. Now I can see how one might think "Oh, Cambridge- where Harvard, MIT, Tufts, etc. are- you should probably wear a suit there, too". Nope. This was a land where people dressed down to look smart. If I wore a suit everyday, I would probably be the only person in any room that I went into dressed like that. I very quickly, and in a clandestine manner, started wearing button up dress shirts and slacks. I learned that when a guy my size walks into a restaurant or retail shop in a suit, often times the owner doesn't trust me. They see me as a suit, not as someone that wants to help them make money. I literally had accounts ask me to take off my tie, so they could talk to me. The clandestine part came when I would keep a neutral-colored tie in my car, because my boss didn't seem to share my sentiment and he had a habit of surprising me by joining me in the middle of the day. In fact, he was pretty brutal the times he caught me without a tie. He also didn't have any friends.

Then a fresh, cool breeze started blowing in from California. This breeze came in the form of the "Tommy Bahama" style silk shirts that wine guys were suddenly wearing. This was a great thing, especially when I moved to St Louis, where the summers are ridiculous.
I have noticed around town what most of the wine guys wear. In the summer, a lot of them are in dress slacks and golf shirts, or silk shirts I just mentioned. I also know of a company that requires their men to wear a long sleeve shirt and tie, even in the summer. That's just mean.

For the new company, we have adopted a strategy of dressing as-good-as, or better than, anyone we meet with in that particular work day. Most days thats exactly what I described- Polo Shirt, Dress Slacks, dress shoes. I might don a nice pair of jeans on Fridays when I'm out running around. If I'm visiting a hotel, or a really nice restaurant, I'll put on a sport coat. I want to work as much as I can without ever wearing a tie.

Thank God a lot of my accounts wear jeans and t-shirts!

Okay, so that has nothing to do with "sippin". For those of you who want a wine-tip, get some Zestos Malvar- it's crisp, delicious, and sold by the glass at Farmhaus.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Time marches on...

The name change is almost complete. We are now registered with the state of Missouri as Harsha Wines, llc and working on getting all of our licenses changed as well. If you look up the former Epiphanywines.com, you get led.....here.

Yes, it was a hassle. Yes, I'm still a little bitter about it. Yes, I still want to mail a bunch of my old company stuff to the front door of the big, mean, doesn't-care-about-the-little-guy winery. However, that takes too much energy, and I have already spent too much company dough on this baloney.

So, moving on- get out there with this weather change and drink some Cabernet! I really like the Pietra Santa 2006 cab. Treated in oak barrels for 31 months, this sucker is a bruiser of a wine. Big, bold, and rambunctious with notes of cassis, black cherry, and allspice, it will stand up to any red meat you can burn on a grill. The best part- it's less than $20 retail! I had a friend in the industry say it was perfect for someone who is "looking for Caymus for less than $20."

Wait, you say you want to try it before you buy it? For FREE? Well, what a coincidence! I just happen to be pouring this particular wine at the Wine Chateau on Saturday from 12-4. Come getcha some!

If you can't drive out to Clarkson to buy it, this wine is also available at 33 wine bar and Ernesto's.

Have a great day. Cheers!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Franco, Monarch, etc

Yesterday, after defending the friends of mine that are in bi-racial couples, or have other-race children that they have adopted (long story, I'll tell it again sometime on here), I was in the need for a good bit of food and beverage. The Mrs and I headed over to the hard-to-find, but worth it, doors of Franco. There, TJ whipped up some magnificent cocktails for us, and we ordered some apps. The scallops were perfectly cooked, the pate was freaking delicious, and the chicken sausage was perfect for the upper-80's weather.
We then headed over to the newly remodeled Monarch, which was even more of a pleasant surprise. They have changed it so the area by the bar is sort of southern style comfort food. 7 of us had just about one of everything, and some killer wines. I highly recommend the Crawfish Bread (sort of like a cajun Hot Pocket), the praline bacon, and the shrimp and grits. Truth be told, there wasn't a bad thing on the table. Several friends endorse the Gumbo Dog- a foot long hot dog, served in a po' boy bun, and covered with gumbo. The prices are right, too. Our tab, with an app or two, two entrees, two desserts, and a bottle of wine was less than $100. I like the addition of the several televisions in the bar- I can envision myself grabbing a po' boy and watching Monday Night Football there very, very soon.

Drink something good today- You're worth it.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Good little surprise of a wine

One thing that is a perk of owning your own distribution company is that you get to try a lot of wine. You also get to know lots of people that have great ideas of products that you have never tried. When I was placing an order with one of my suppliers, I took their word on how good a particular wine is. I didn't order much of it, just to be safe. Let it suffice to say that I will be ordering more of the 2008 Ardevol "Anjoli" wine from Priorat.

If you aren't familiar with Priorat, you should acquaint yourself. Located in eastern Spain, just a touch southwest of Barcelona, this is quickly becoming an area that produces some of the best wines Spain has to offer. It is located essentially up on a mountainous plateau, and is extremely hard to get to. The soil is really poor, and the grapes get sun-soaked, which results in really good, ripe, hearty wine.

This particular wine is made of 40% each of Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon, with the remaining 20% being split between merlot and syrah. The nose is that of wonderful cassis, blackberry, and perfume. After being open a while, some raspberry and raw meat notes come into the glass. Put another way, this is a kick-ass red that is well worth the $24.99 retail pricetag.

You can buy this gem of a wine at Lukas, Kayas, and Farmhaus. Buy it, drink it, enjoy it, repeat.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

For Heaven's Sake, Support the Little Guys

If there is one thing that I have learned about this debacle with the name of my company, it's that big companies simply don't care about you. Seriously. They are more concerned with protecting their image than providing you with the service and quality that you deserve for your hard-earned cash. Instead of simply picking up the phone and calling me, they sent a letter that contained the following script:

"Your use of the same name creates confusion to the general public including wine customers throughout the world and improperly diverts customers to your company and website..."

Whoa! Throughout the world? I had no idea I was such a media magnate. Never mind the fact that my company only has three people in it. Never mind the fact that the "general public" rarely sees the name of the distributor that brings the wine they drink to the store or restaurant. Never mind the fact that they produce a product, and I provide a service.

That being said, look at other places you do business with. When was the last time you said "Man, I really just had a killer meal at Applebee's"? When was the last time you said "Wow, that person at Wal-Mart really went out of their way to get me the exact product I need"? How about "Dude, you wouldn't believe the folks at Jiffy Lube- they found three things wrong with my car, and just fixed them for free!"?

What I'm saying folks is this- support the little guys. You always have a choice. Support the restaurant, winery, mechanic, ice-cream shop, farmer's market, or deli that is independently owned. Remember that all of those small businesses you drive by on a daily basis were started by someone who had the guts to take a risk, borrow some money, and hang it all out there. You will meet some amazing people along the way as you talk to them about their businesses. Sure, it will cost you more, but you will be enriching your own life, as well as those who will really make an impact in this economy.

Off of my soapbox now.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Harsha Rules

On Monday, I announced that we would be calling the company "Savor Fine Wines". I was wrong. After looking into it, there are just too many companies out there with Savor in the title for us to be comfortable calling ourselves that. Not to mention, I guess there used to be a restaurant here in STL with that name, that wasn't very well received.

So, we are going with the safe play, and calling the company Harsha Wines, llc. Sorry to the kind young lady that thought she won the contest- we just won't be able to use the name you suggested. Find me around town, I'll buy you a beer or three.

So, even though the name isn't legally changed yet, feel free to follow us on twitter- @HarshaWines

Thank you again for reading my scribble.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Onward and upward

I must say that the naming contest went splendidly well. I got tons of submissions via email, text, twitter, facebook, and phone calls. Here is a list of most of them:

Revelation (submitted by lots of people. Unfortunately, the same company also makes a wine called Revelation. No need to go through this again.)
Small Time Wines
Humble Wines
Pivotal Wines
Essential Wines
Mareh (Hebrew word for Theophany)
Burning Bush wines
Purah (Hebrew word for Wine Press)
Shamgar (I loved this one- the Mrs didn't. Shamgar was a guy that slew 600 philistines with an ox goad in the book of Judges)
Harsha Wine Co (the safe bet)
....and several others.

However, I think we're going to go with a suggestion that fits our personality as a company-

Savor Fine Wine Company

What do you all think?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Contest- help us in our struggle against big business

Today has been interesting. This morning, I got a letter from a law firm stating that I have 14 days to "Cease and Desist" with any business use of the words "Epiphany Wines". You see, there is a big company out there- I won't name them- that bottles a wine using the same first word as my name. Evidently, they also own the trademark on the word "Epiphany". They feel that some customer somewhere in Missouri might get confused that my company (whom the general public rarely even hears the name of) is the same company that bottles the wine.

Never mind the fact that we are a wholesale distributor, and they are producing a wine label, and the two companies will never step on each other's toes.

So, I have a couple of choices- I can fight this, go to court, and most likely win. I can see if they will play nice in the sandbox, and ignore my lowly little three person operation. Or, I can change the name of the company. Frankly, I don't have the cash to spend on a lawsuit in Federal court, regardless of the fact that I would probably win because I'm not infringing on anyone's trademark. Because the winery in question is so big, I doubt they will play nice. So, I must change the name of my company.

Here's the contest- If you can email me a name for the new company by 6 PM on Sunday, and we end up using it, Jeff Stettner (owner of 33 wine bar, and champion of all things small business related) has said that he will give you a 12-bottle case of wine of his choosing (read: From My Company) for $1.

That's right folks- Name a Company, win wine for a buck.

My email is kyle@epiphanywines.com and I look forward to hearing your suggestions.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

"Wine Blocked" by Dick Vermeil

Mom, cover your eyes. In today's vernacular, there is the term "cock-blocked". This is when a guy is hitting on a girl, then someone else swoops in and ruins his chances. Well, yesterday I coined a new term- Wine Blocked.

I was at an account that I hadn't called on since working for my previous employer. The buyer was tied up with a customer for quite a while, which is understandable. While waiting, I got to talking to another wine rep that was at the store, and he told me that Dick Vermeil was about to come in to show his wines to the buyer. He knew that I was in a bit of a hurry, and said that I could go first.

When the buyer was done flirting, I mean working, with the customer, he and I started talking about the new company, and when I should come by. He then asked if I had wines with me to taste. Being the wicked good salesman that I am, of course I did. I answered in the affirmative, and leaned down to grab my bag and pull out samples. At precisely the moment I grabbed my wares, who should walk in the door but Superbowl XXXIV winning coach-now-wine guy, Dick Vermeil (I guess we all thought it was some other guy, or a joke). The buyer looked at me and said "Well, Dick's here. You can either hang out and wait until we are done, or come back another day."

I was "wine blocked"!!!

But it couldn't have happened by a nicer guy. Mr Vermeil was very pleasant, introduced himself to me, took my business card, and I walked out the door.

I have no idea if his wine is any good, but any guy whom has coached my KC Chiefs is okay in my book. Go buy a bottle, and report back to me.

I also want to give a shout out to my new blogger-friend Michelle. She writes Buttermilk Grosses Me Out, a great little food blog. My dad and I were sitting at Sanctuaria having delicious cocktails and tapas yesterday, and Michelle came up and introduced herself. Check her blog out, it's good!

Cheers, go drink some of my wines.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Let the craziness ensue...

Yesterday we held the Launch Party for Epiphany wines at Atomic Cowboy in the Grove. It was an amazing event! I really want to thank my family, friends, and customers for showing their support. I hope everyone had fun. I also want to acknowledge the following businesses for having people there.
Atomic Cowboy (of course)
33 wine bar
Mom's Originals
Wine Chateau
Sasha's Wine Bar
Eclipse (had dinner there- amazing effort by Wes!)
Pinnacle Imports
Major Brands
Brasserie by Niche
Cafe Provencale

...If I forgot to list your organization, I apologize- I'm tired. Please let me know, and I will amend the list.

Cheers, and have a great, hot, sweltering day!