Florida and South Carolina

In Marketing and sales, we took a trip to Orlando and Vero Beach in Florida at the end of January.

We spent the first day in the Vero Beach area.  First we went to Fort Pierce, to meet Keith Andersen who has a legendary retail shop called Roy’s Liquors.  It’s great to meet folks like Keith and his staff because they can impart a lot of knowledge about the area and what the locals there enjoy, in the way of wine.  If you stop in, check out his wall of fame.

Then on to Vero Beach to The Tides Restaurant and had a chance to taste with the chef/owner, Leanne Kelleher, and her partner Claudia Arens, running the front of the house, who was very busy taking reservation requests while we were tasting wines.  Leanne was gracious enough and thankfully not to overly busy to come out from the kitchen and taste with us.  She was really excited about the wines, and has an interesting way of letting her diners know about the wines on the list.  They basically have a special list of 6 or so wines that they have personally selected and recommended so diners know those are absolute go to wines.  These wines are usually new and something different that you haven’t seen before.  The successful wines from this list make it onto their regular wine list.  This is a great way to give people confidence to try something new, since Leanne and Claudia have already tasted it and recommend it.

Then we went to Chelsea’s, this gourmet food shop with a wonderful wine section.  I can’t believe how many wines Dorothy Baker (the wine buyer) had in such a small space!  We had a sandwich and poured our wine for Dorothy to taste.  Even with her small space she bought the Sauvignon Blanc, Cab and Chesler!  Again, it’s a great chance to find out about the business in the area.  They had a slow December and first half of January because it’s been so warm in the northeast this year.  Now that it’s the end of January and it’s getting cooler up north, they are seeing their business pick up.  Then around July through almost October, they pretty much close shop, because there is basically no one around.  Dorothy said she sells every bottle of wine each year, rather than store it over the summer.   If you are looking for a deal in wine, go to Chelsea’s at the start of summer! 

Vero Beach brings back a lot of memories for me, because I grew up in Southern California and my father was a big Dodgers fan.  It was always the beginning of spring training when the Dodgers went down to Vero Beach.  So it was pretty neat to visit.

One of the last things we did at Vero Beach was a winemaker dinner at Undertow.  Kitty Wagner, the chef/owner, completely out did herself in quality and quantity.   She fed us a lot of great food (her staff was spot on) that went very well with all the wines.  I’d say we had a little over 30 people.  It was wonderful to meet so many people who where excited about good wine and good food.  We were also treated to a great cocktail beforehand, (which is a nice break at the end of a long sales day), they have a full bar also… so Undertow … if you are in Vero Beach, I’d say to make a visit for sure!

The next two days we spent in Orlando.  The first day we had lunch at Café de France.   It’s amazing how many French ex-patriots we came upon while we were in Florida.  People who grew up in France and have French spouses but now live permanently somewhere in Florida.  So the culture there is very alive.  We had a wonderful meal.  Always, it seems, with the old world tasters, especially the French, they tune in very quickly to the Chesler wine.  Along with the Sauvignon Blanc, that is what they were most interested in there.

We made several sales calls that first day which really tired us out, so we ended up at PF Chang’s for dinner because that is where our car was parked!  Tracy and I were really beat, and we knew we’d get a nice cocktail and a pretty decent meal before heading back to the hotel.  It sounds kind of silly, but a simple meal, a cocktail and a decent bottle of wine at the end of a long day is all you really need.

The next day we did a trade luncheon at K Restaurant.  A trade lunch is where anywhere from 6 to 12 buyers (sommeliers from restaurants and buyers at retailers) come and join you at a restaurant for lunch.  It’s a great way to have a number of people taste the wine at one time, rather than visiting each buyer at their place of business.  We met a lot great people at that lunch, and the food was great!  (Don’t skip the Blue cheese potato chips!)

Our last event in Orlando was at The Wine Room.  Bruce and his staff were just excellent.  They did a wonderful job.  We had about 30 people down in their vault.  They have private locker storage in this area for people, but it’s actually an old bank vault in the basement.  They set up tables and picked some nice cheeses to go with the wines.  We had a lot of fun.  We started out with the Sauvignon Blanc, and then we went to Merlot.  We had the 1996 and the 2002 Selene Merlot.  It was fun to see the people who enjoyed the 10 year old Merlot (it just kept getting better through the whole tasting) and then the people who preferred the fruit forward character of the 2002 Merlot.  We went on to taste the Cabernet and the Chesler.  It was fun to get to taste the 2002 Chesler, which I haven’t had in a while, since we are on the current release which is the 2003 Chesler.  There were many people who became Merlot converts that night.  The Wine Room has like 250 wines by the glass, via the magnetic cards (Enomatic) that you can load up with money and go swipe it to get a taste of wine from 6 bucks up to (and probably over) 50 bucks a taste/glass.   In addition to that they have a great retail area and plenty of places to sit and visit people and enjoy some great wines.

After we finished the tasting we went next door to Luma for dinner, for a great meal (that Bruce wouldn’t let me pay for)  We met the wine buyer, Brian Hubbell, at lunch that day and he provided some great mystery wines for our dinner. 

We then hopped in our car and headed north to South Carolina for our new distributors (National) trade tasting.  On the way, we stopped in Daytona Beach, which we had never been to.  It was cool to hear the motorcycles racing around the track.  We also stopped at our friends, who have a super condo on Jacksonville Beach, for a few days to relax before heading off through the rest of the state of Florida, Georgia and to Charleston, SC.

We had a wonderful meal at McCrady’s and met the wine buyer, Clint Sloan.  We had the tasting the next day where everyone was excited about the wines.  Charleston is a great old city with lots of history, and a real appreciation for fine dinning and fine wine.  Time to head back for the 2006 SB bottling!