Shoe Leather, Fine Dining, and Frost

May 1st, 2008

Most people are feeling the pinch of a not-so-rocking economy and wineries are no different. I’ve been on the road more than usual this year, using the shoe leather.

The economy as it is doesn’t mean that people quit buying wine completely, it just means that they want to qualify their buying more than usual. I’m traveling and visiting distributor sales people, restaurant and retail buyers, and consumers, so I can do my best to have Selene Wines be a part of that qualification.

This is going to sound like a motel chain advertisement but so far this year I’ve been to Vero Beach FL, Phoenix AZ, New York City, Columbus OH, Miami Beach, Boca Raton, and Palm Beach, FL (again), Seattle WA, and Las Vegas NV. Before harvest, I will also travel to Portland OR, Reno and Lake Tahoe, NV, Columbus OH (again), and Atlanta and Savannah, GA.

Funny thing is, it’s been pretty fun and very enlightening. Tracy has been with me on a few of the trips, which has added some fun to those destinations, but when she is not with me it has been very nice to have some one at home holding down the fort. A good part of the stress of travel is getting so far behind on all the other work that you aren’t able to do while on the road. It’s also nice to have one of us at home to take care of Haley and Dilly, our German Shepherd and German Short Hair Pointer.

The pups really like the kennel we take them to (More like a dog spa; always a toss-up whether our hotel bill or their kennel bill is going to be more expensive.) but they like their home and routine better.

So I’ve been free to get out there and do some business away from home. One of the special pleasures I’ve had out there is dining at three, count them three, of the Daniel Boulud Restaurants; DB Bistro Moderne in NYC, Café Daniel Boulud in Palm Beach, FL, and Daniel Boulud Brasserie at the Wynn in Las Vegas. The level of hospitality and attention to detail was very inspiring. The food coming out of all three kitchens was excellent; for example, the salad at DB Bistro was probably the best I’ve ever had and Tracy will tell you I’m not a salad person. Simple ingredients, perfectly combined and dressed, down to the size of the dice on the chopped ingredients. The staffs were all very professional, from servers to sommeliers to managers, and even Daniel himself, who I had the great opportunity to meet in his Las Vegas Brasserie. I always felt like the most welcomed guest and wanted for nothing.

Like many other things, the wine business is a relationship business. Thanks to all who took the time to work with me, meet with me, and serve me while I was out and about.

On to the news of one of the most difficult frost seasons. I’ve never seen as rough a season in my 25+ years in Napa. The real old-timers remember the early ‘70s as being as bad or worse. Two things made it very tough. First, how cold it got; when it gets to the mid 20’s for more than a few minutes, even the best protection may not be enough. Second, the length of the frost season; bud break was early so protection began early and the season went quite a bit later than normal (some of the worst nights were in the third week of April). Two things here—people get tired when they’ve been up from 2AM to 10 or so in the morning for 20 out of 30 nights and, if protection comes from over head sprinklers, they start to run out of water. Both scenarios make it more difficult to get adequate protection.

I consider myself pretty lucky. Right now it just looks like the Dead Fred Vineyard Cabernet got a little frost damage—about 15%.  Frost damage isn’t pretty as you can see in the pictures.