Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Updates from the land of Charitable Wine

Hey folks,
Many people have asked me where they can buy Ludovicus wine in order to support Mission: St Louis.

Here is an updated list of the accounts that have purchased it in November and December.

St Louis Wine Market
33 Wine Bar
Blood & Sand
Atomic Cowboy
Home Wine Kitchen
Straub's- all locations
Demun Oyster Bar
Market Grill in Soulard
One 19 North Wine Bar
Modesto Tapas
Wine and Cheese Places
Bottle Cellars
Vino Gallery
Naked Vine
Lukas Liquor
Friar Tuck- all locations

So, get out there, buy some wine, and support a great cause!


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Why Wine-on-Tap?


What an amazing month November was! Because of the generosity of those in St Louis that are buying Ludovicus, I'm already going to write Mission: St Louis a check for over $500, and we still have December to go! Keep up buying that wine!

I did want to make a short post about wine-on-tap. Yes, you read that correctly. Wine in kegs, just like beer kegs, has hit the St Louis restaurant scene. Sasha's on Shaw and Green Bean are already carrying it. It is being installed in Atomic Cowboy and 360 nightclub within the next couple of weeks, and several other places are heavily considering it.


Well, the short answer is that with wine-on-tap, you get the same benefits that you do with beer. The long answer is, well, longer. Here are the crib notes:

1) It's more Eco-friendly
Every time I order wine from a supplier, it comes shipped to me wrapped up on a wooden pallet. A normal pallet of wine is 56 cases, and weighs roughly 2000 lbs. It also contains 56 cardboard boxes, and 672 glass bottles that people say get recycled, but most often end up in a dumpster. For the same amount of cubic feet, I can bring in the liquid equivalent of 87 cases of wine in kegs, and it weighs 1300 lbs. This is a huge savings on the carbon footprint created by the shipping portion of this game. That also means that there is a recycling/landfill savings of 87 cardboard boxes and 1044 glass bottles.

2) It's less expensive
From the distributor (my) standpoint, the savings created by the wineries not having to produce bottles, boxes, labels, etc for all those cases of wine comes out to about $1-2 per bottle. I also save money on shipping, since it is lighter. This means that I charge restaurants less money, and they in turn charge less to the end consumer. At the end of the day, the consumer is getting a better bottle of wine for less money.

3) The wine lasts longer
If you run a bar, you know the feeling of coming in after you have been closed for a day or two, and having to dump out the leftovers in the bottles of wine that you pour by the glass. Most restaurant owners take this into consideration, and add padding to their pricing structure for the waste. With wine-on-tap, there is almost zero waste. The kegs are topped off with inert gas (usually a blend of nitrogen and co2) that keeps the wine from spoiling. Industry-types say that the wine will last over 6 months in a keg, but truthfully nobody knows. The wine is almost always sold before then. Once again, because the wine costs less, and there's no waste, you get to drink it for less $.

I think that's a wine-win.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Be Nice

If you saw my Facebook rant last night, you know that I was pretty upset with some of my fellow food/wine industry cohorts. Yesterday, we held a launch party for a new wine-on-tap project that my company is carrying (more about that on another day). We held the party at a local wine bar that serves food as well. The way that it worked was that for $20 people got 4 tastes of wine, each paired with a small dish. Well, the party was really successful. Probably 120 people took advantage of the tasting, which is awesome. However, as the night got later the establishment understandably started running out of items (they were surprised by the number of people that showed for the event). At about this time, an individual that is involved with the local industry said to their server "You didn't save any (item X) for when I got here?"

Are you kidding me? This person really thought that the restaurant should say to their staff "Hey, such-and-such might be coming in, make sure you don't serve the 120 other people something so that they can get some when they are here."

This is the ultimate example of expecting to be treated like a rock star, and it drives me nuts. Just because you have a job in the industry, you should NOT expect to be treated in a special manner. Often you will be. It's nice, it's great, it's a perk of having friends in the industry, but you should never think that a restaurant should put service to someone else at risk, in order to feed your own self-worth.

Later in the night, a person with a job in the industry was given something of substantial value for free. They then left without tipping their server on the item. This is just plain asinine. Once again, in this industry, a lot of chefs, managers, bartenders, etc are extremely generous. However, if you get something for free, be it a dish, drink, bottle of wine, etc, you really need to tip your server on it. They are deprived of the opportunity to sell you something in that case, which they would have likely gotten tipped on if they had sold it to you.

That's the calmest way that I can explain myself. I want to rant, rave, cuss, spit, and call people out publically on their arrogant actions, but I won't. I have done wrong things in the past that doesn't put me in any position to judge. At the end of the day, please just get over yourself, and be nice.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

The World Series Curse

I have now had the opportunity to live in 2 different major baseball towns when their respective teams won the world series. My time in Boston and in St Louis has shown me one thing- World Series games are not good for the restaurant industry, and even moreso for wine sales in those towns.

You might think it's the opposite- that people pop good wine and champagne during the celebrations that follow wins. The truth is that people drink beer during baseball. They also go to sportsbars. I guarantee you, during any of the NLCS or the World Series games, you could walk into otherwise full restaurants and get a seat immediately. Friends of mine in the industry said that retail sales of wine were down roughly 15%, and that overall sales of restaurants (not sports bars) were off up to 25%.


In good news, if you have been following our drive to donate money to Mission: St Louis by selling Ludovicus, please add Blood and Sand, Home Wine Kitchen, and the Straub's stores in Webster, CWE, and West County.

Thanks all for your generosity!


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Back in the Game

What? It's only been since February since I last posted.

Since my last post, Nicole made the roller derby league, and subsequently a team. We all had birthdays. Peggy unfortunately had to leave the company, but we did hire a driver (Stephen), and and office manager/ sales person (Kelly). We have also grown the company after a rough summer to something that is really wonderful. We are riding our best two months in a row, and continue to be successful.

That being said, I'm going to try to blog more, and keep the few people that read this thing in the loop as to what is going on.

...Which brings us to the charity that we are working with in November and December. Basically, for every bottle of Ludovicus that we sell, we will be donating $1 to Mission: St Louis. This is a great organization that is committed to transforming the city of St Louis through education, empowerment, and education. Please check out their website at

Now, what is Ludovicus, and where can you get it? The wine is a grenache-based blend from the area of Terra Alta, Spain. Those of you familiar with the wines from Priorat will probably like it. It's a similar style, and much, much cheaper.

The wine will cost you around $12 at a retail store, and about $25 per bottle at a restaurant, so drink up!

Right now, the St Louis locations that are committed to working with it are:

Friar Tuck Beverage
33 Wine Bar
Lukas Liquors
St Louis Wine Market
Kaya's Imports
The Wine and Cheese Places
Wine Merchant
Robust Wine Bar
Atomic Cowboy
Demun Oyster Bar
Vino Gallery
Bottle Cellars
Five Restaurant

I will be updating this list as more places come on line with Ludovicus.

So, please go buy a bottle- it really will help your fair city!

Cheers, it's good to be back.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Not wanting to be a "beer poser"

Something that I have noticed when some of my "normal" friends come to an event that is flush with my "wine geek" friends is that they normally try to bring an impressive bottle of wine. Sometimes this works out well, but often, we look down our nose with the snobbery we say that we eschew, and think "oh, that's cute" in regards to the bottle they bring. Hey, at least I'm admitting it. Wine folks are a funny crowd. They ALL say that they aren't snobs. They ALL say that they don't want to be pretentious. However, I dare you to roll into a meeting of Saint Louis Wine Therapy with a bottle of Yellow Tail, Beringer Stone Cellars, or Rombauer (gasp!!!) and see what happens. They will be cordial, but nobody will touch the damn stuff. It's not the person who brought it's fault- they just didn't know.

I found myself potentially on the other side of this situation not too long ago, regarding beer. Being in this industry, I have quite a few friends that are into beer (check out my buddy Mike's blog, and that get together to play cards/trivia/rockband every once in a while. Another guy that I know gave me a bottle of beer that I knew nothing about. I didn't know if it was a "nice" beer or a "oh, that's cute" beer in the eyes of my beer geek friends. I literally worried about showing up with what I thought was a nice bottle, and have them view me as a beer poser. Therefore, I did what I suggest to my friends regarding wine- I drank it with some friends that know less about beer than I do. This way I wouldn't be tempted to show off the next time the beer guys got together, and I saved myself from being "that guy".

Last night, I talked to Mike about the beer in question. He undoubtedly knows more about beer than anyone else I know. However, he had never heard of it. I told him about my dilemma, and the solution. He agreed- that sometimes the best thing you can do is drink the bottle with some people that will truly enjoy it, and not over-analyze it.


Monday, January 24, 2011

The Restaurant I Wanted To Hate...

...But didn't.

On Saturday night, the Mrs and I were looking for something to eat after I had done a wine tasting in Chesterfield. Now, if you aren't from Saint Louis, this might not mean much to you. Let me explain. Chesterfield Valley is an area located on the very Western edge of the St. Louis metroplex, and is home to what is (I have heard, cannot confirm) supposedly the longest strip mall in America. Literally every convenience is here- Lowes, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Target, and Sam's are all located within less than a mile of each other. There is literally an example of every type of chain restaurant that you can imagine, and most have multiple examples represented. As someone who champions the small, independent, family owned businesses of our great country, it's areas like this that I really despise. It's the type of place where everyone drives a Lexus, but nobody owns it. Too much convenience, no soul.

We mentioned that we were hungry, and literally had Babbo's Spaghetteria recommended twice in 45 seconds by people at the tasting. "Surely there can't be decent Italian in the Valley" I thought to myself. But, hunger overtook pride and we made the trek.

Upon entering, my snobbery continued. No bar? No seating area? Great. The hostess was very pleasant, even though the place was busting at the seams at 8:30 on a Saturday night. She assured us that the wait would be "no more than 15 minutes" and asked us if we would like a glass of wine. I ordered one, and we stood at one of the two cocktail tables available to wait at. To my surprise, we were seated within the time it took me to take a second sip of wine.

The ambiance at Babbo's isn't for those looking for a quiet, white tablecloth date night. There is roughly seating for 100 people at mainly 4-top, wooden tables, and a visible bustle and energy in the room. The wine list is all-Italian, and even though you get a menu, it is also posted on a gigantic chalkboard on one wall. The tables were set with small water goblets- each containing the necessary fork, spoon, and knife, and water comes in a chilled bottle pre-set on the table. The rusticity of the table set up is actually charming, and doesn't come across as lazy or cheap.

Okay, so I was starting to gain confidence at this point. Our server was efficient, friendly, and didn't pull the whole "I like everything" when asked. He actually had an opinion and recommendations, which I followed.

The first course of Bruschetta was really simple, well made, and delicious. The diced tomatoes had been tossed in some sort of vinaigrette, and my wife and I literally fought over the scraps left on the plate.

Salads are enormous. I ordered the "Del Pietro", which was lightly dressed, not soaked, and had a nice brightness to it. Sure, it was Iceberg and Romaine, but that's okay- it was only like $3 or $4.

The real surprise came with the entrees. I followed the server's lead, and ordered the House made lasagna. One of the greatest compliments that I can give to lasagna is that it tasted like something you would eat at a friend's grandma's house. So many restaurants try to make these 18-layer, heavy as a brick lasagnas with all kinds of weird stuff. This one wasn't in that mode at all. It was a bit lighter, the beef had a nice crumble, and you could tell that they didn't just slop it out of a pan. They took the time in the kitchen to put the piece in the oven for a few minutes to get the edges crispy. It wasn't "gooey", and I really appreciated that!

The Margherita pizza was pretty darn good, too- fresh tomatoes and basil on top of slightly greasy cheese and crust that actually had enough salt in it.

At this point, we were almost to the point of conceding that the $10 lasagna and $8 pizza were well worth their price, but wait...what about dessert? The only item offered was tiramisu. A Ha! We would get them on this one! Nobody does Tiramisu well in the Midwest.

Dang, we were wrong. It wasn't frozen (my pet peeve) and it wasn't boozy (my Wife's pet peeve). We finished the piece before the server could check on us.

So, there it is folks- there really is well made food for a decent price, with just a touch of someone's Italian grandmother available in Chesterfield.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Thankfulness and looking forward to 2011

The rumors of my demise were greatly exaggerated. I know I have been quiet, but in retrospect, the last couple of weeks have brought some craziness:
I was in a tornado
I had surgery on my abdomen
We decided to step down from leadership of our church community group
I found out a dear friend has cancer
The weather has been less-than-spectacular

Frankly, I have every reason to bitch and moan. However, I will choose not to. I have noticed lately that people have been talking about how bad 2010 was for them. I can't say it was the best year I have ever had (per my last post), but some amazing things really did happen. In that spirit, I want to list a few of the things that I am thankful for, and looking forward to this year.

I am thankful for my beautiful, wonderful wife. During my surgery she was amazingly sweet and supportive. I am also proud of how she is starting to step out of her own personal comfort zone, and try Roller Derby. It's really fun to see her "find her voice" as she turns 30 this year.

I am thankful for my family. My father has proven to be a great business partner, and has done a great job selling for a guy that has never held a sales position before. My mom has also been very patient and understanding when I don't talk to her about "other stuff" during the day. My sister and her family are continuous examples of how to live within your means, and how to truly live a faithful life for God. My brother and his family have dealt with a job loss with faith and aplomb, and I look forward to a repeat of our BBQ Road Trip again this year.

I am thankful for Peggy, the first employee of Harsha Wines in St Louis. She works like a rock star, and is proving to be one of the smartest decisions I have made in running the company. I look forward to her building a successful route on her own, and achieving some of the wine educational goals she has set for herself.

I'm even thankful for those dogs. As much as I act like I don't like them to Nicole, she knows I'm joking.

I'm looking forward to building relationships with new accounts this year. We have already added Truffles, Scottish Arms, and soon Milagro to our business partners- This means we have even more fun, locally owned, quality places to eat! I'm thankful for the friendships that I have developed- people like Jeff at 33, Rich at St Louis Wine Market, Jim at Atomic Cowboy, Anthony at Five, Chris Spina, and a host of others are people that I now consider friends that I just happen to be lucky to do business with.

I'm looking forward to developing my wine, beer, spirit, and food knowledge even more this year. This will come only through my friendships with people in each of these communities that are incredibly generous with their time and knowledge. I also want to get my CWE and CSS (Certified Wine Educator, and Certified Specialist of Spirits) by the end of the year.

I'm really looking forward to seeing what happens with Harsha Wines this year. We were fortunate to turn a profit (albeit a infinitesimally small one) in 2010, and we hope to add another full time salesperson and a full time delivery person by the end of the year.

Finally, I'm grateful for the opportunity to get paid for writing for Avid Magazine. If you haven't seen it yet, check out for a preview- it's cool.

Let's make this a great year. It's up to you to decide to do so.