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Grape Varieties, Lawyers and Medications
Originally Posted on Thursday, April 5th, 2001
Yesterday was another glamorous day in the life of The Wine Importer.
6:00 AM -- Wake up, make oatmeal for breakfast. Oatmeal is very good for heart disease. I had four bypasses last May and have to take endless medications and eat lots of oatmeal to remain alive and to evangelize Pierre Overnoy's wines. Who else will do this if I falter?
8:00 AM -- Spoke with a French Lawyer who guaranteed, for a modest fee, that he would bring the Citibank and Crédit Agricole to their knees. Both banks will soon be rewarding my firm vast sums of money.
8:30 AM -- Called Long Island Carpet Cleaning to arrange to have the ugly wall-to-wall carpeting in my apartment cleaned. I would like to strip the carpets off the floor and just have wood floors, but legally I'm obligated to cover 80% of the apartment's surface. Given we have a dog who scurries around the apartment and my son Jules has taken to riding his skateboard and doing elaborate tricks in our flat....I suspect we need to maintain some level of sound insulation. But the carpets get so dirty and so ugly. Every few months we have those miracle workers at Long Island Carpet Cleaning come to our apartment and totally clean the carpets, leaving them almost as clean and shiny as the first day they were installed. The carpet cleaners are coming on Friday, but cannot guarantee what time. It will be somewhere between 9 am and 5 pm, they assure me.
8:45 AM -- Get on my fabulous Swiftfolder bike and ride to work. I'm in an energetic mood and purposely take a 55-minute trip over the Queensboro Bridge (immortalized in the 60's by Simon and Garfunkel) through industrial Queens and industrial Brooklyn and then return to Manhattan over the Williamsburg Bridge to our office somewhere in Soho. Of course, I cannot play my usual mental game of counting the number of Duane Reade Drug Stores I pass and using my chronometer to time how long it takes to go from one Duane Reade to another Duane Reade. Industrial Queens and industrial Brooklyn are official Duane Reade Free Zones (New York Mayor Rudolph Guliani calls them DRF Zones). Instead, I count how many trucks from 1800-MATTRESS pass by me. Only three of them this morning. Unfortunately, I cannot get the jingle from the 1800-MATTRESS commercial out of my head and hum it to myself for the entire duration of my bike ride.
9:45 AM -- Arrive at my office and check my e-mail, foreign currency rates, faxes from angry French vignerons, and faxes demanding we pay for services we performed for free or at our expense for our customers. This last ‘charge’ is part of the wine racket -- if we travel to another town, we pay for the air fare, the hotels, take out the customers and salespeople from the distributor, organize a luncheon and pay for it, and get nary a thanks. It is a norm of the wine racket. A few weeks later we receive a bill for every last bottle of Muscadet or Gris du Toul that was open during our stay. We throw out this bill immediately. One month later we get a threatening letter from the distributor. Then their collection department calls. Then they start deducting money from payments. Distributors call these sort of trips "work-withs." They call me personally a "rep." What do I "rep?" A "supplier" named Louis/Dressner Selections. What are my wines called? "Brands," "Product," or “Products."
9:55 AM -- Make reservations on Amtrak to take a Metroliner to Baltimore on Monday morning at 7 AM. This is altogether too early for me to be traveling, especially considering my heart problems, but my mother is having a Passover Seder on Sunday evening and I want and have to be in attendance. I am of the Jewish persuasion. One of the joys of this Seder will be having my sister-in-law say that she actually prefers the Manischevitz Heavy Malaga to the other wines available at the dinner. Since no one is religious I don’t bother to bring horrible Kosher wine, but my folks always have one bottle of the Heavy Malaga.
10:00 AM -- Organize documents for the meeting later today at our lawyer. Why am I going to Washington? A shipload of Louis/Dressner product just arrived there and I have four days of work-withs scheduled with our distributor there to move boxes and promote the brands.
10:15 AM -- Retailer in New York calls and orders some Corbières. He wants to know exactly what grape varieties are in the wine and in what percentage. I make up something that satisfies the guy. Why he, or his customers would like to know this sort of information is a mystery to me. The wine is a blend dominated by Carignan and there are many more interesting things to say about this wine then to describe what grape varieties are in the bottle. So, it is just easier to make something up. Later in the day another retailer calls and gets my wife on the line -- I'm already at my Cardiologist. The retailer wants to know what grape varieties go into Franck Peillot's Modeuse from Bugey, which the retailer has on his shelves and likes very much. My wife says Mondeuse, which is the actual answer and all is well. We are considering reducing the Louis/Dressner catalog to mono-cépage wines to avoid all this bothersome talk with customers and consumers about varietal composition.
10:30 AM -- A guy named Peter from San Juan calls and wants to know how he can get three cases of Cerdon du Bugey for a marriage in two weekends in Puerto Rico. As importers, we cannot sell to consumers, but apparently retailers in New York City can ship to Puerto Rico. I tell him that I do not condone or condemn the shipment of wine to Puerto Rico (in case he is actually an agent of the New York State Liquor Authority) and suggest he call a store I know that carries the Cerdon. Five minutes later a retailer from the Hudson Valley calls to get prices on the Cerdon du Bugey. Turns out a friend of the guy in San Juan has already called this retailer who is desperate to bag the three-case sale of Cerdon. I inform him that the wine is distributed by Douglas Polaner Selections and that I had unfortunately sent his potential customer to another store. The best and most satisfying part of this whole exchange was that no one asked me what grape varieties go into the Cerdon du Bugey. Later in the day a woman calls and asks if we sell to the public. I ask her if she is a member of the public and when she informs me that she is I tell her that we Federal and State laws prohibit us from selling wine to her. Assuming yet another call for a wine from the Bugey I ask her what wine she wants. She is looking for Sutter Home.
10:42 AM -- A phone company calls offering us a national rate of 1.2 cents a minute and 3.4 cents a minute to France. I say "no thank you" and hang up the phone.
11:00 AM – I feverishly print out, annotate and collate the information for our law firm, Klein, Foster and Steinfesse. Someone from a distributor calls to complain that Garnet Wines is lowballing the price on the Clos Roche Blanche Cabernet in Garnet's New York Times ad on Wednesday. We sort of agree, but what can you do? The caller then wants to know what grape varieties go into the Clos Roche Blanche Cabernet -- is it Cabernet Franc or Cabernet Sauvignon or a mix of the two. It is actually only Cabernet Franc. I hang up the phone and am relieved that I had an entire 45 minute interlude without talking about the dreaded "What Grape Varietal" question. I am assuming that my lawyer and cardiologist will not be discussing grape 'varietals' when I see them later today. But who knows? Spring is here and Grape Varietals are in the air!
11:43 AM -- Take cab to 14th Street to the corporate offices of Klein, Foster and Steinfesse. The entire Board of Directors of our firm converges on their offices where we discuss the latest legal challenge to our wine work. Peter Steinfesse, our attorney, assures me that we will not only collect $30,000.00 in debt, but will also make $50,000.00 in damages! Wow! I wasn't certain if this was a new episode or a repeat. Steinfesse looks remarkably like many of the character actors who appear on NBC's long-running Law and Order television series. Apparently, if we pre-emptively sue on one issue, it short-circuits our opponent's attempt to sue us over inflicted business damages. Or something like that. We were fearful that our antagonist would resort to physical reprisals. Happily, they have only used theft, slander, racism and sexism. We can deal with that. There is talk of dragging long-time Louis/Dressner confidant Eddie Wrinkerman into the legal arrangements as some kind of designated hitter. Wrinkerman has the same relationship to Louis/Dressner Selections that Bebe Rebozo had to President Nixon. But frankly, I lost Steinfesse Esq.'s logic on this matter.
1:13 PM -- After this exhausting meeting, the entire board adjourns to a restaurant called Republic in the Union Square neighborhood. Since the Board has 14 members, we purposely pick this restaurant as they have large tables that can accommodate such a large group at short notice. Noodles are healthy, nutritious, and inexpensive. For $6.00 to $8.00 you can enjoy a bowl of noodles which includes a healthy broth, starch, fresh vegetables, and a variety of meats and fish, depending upon the dish you select. The decor is minimalist, with a "sit-where-you-will" seating arrangement in a strikingly smart and modern space. Service is provided by a chic, hip staff. I wanted to order a wine and then grill the chic and hip waiter over what grape varietals were in the wine but the restaurant only serves beer.
2:42 PM -- Return to our office. There are almost 15 messages for us, the vast majority dealing with the varietal composition of wines we sell. It takes over an hour to clear up all the confusion.
3:42 PM -- A representative from Verizon telephones calls to propose sending me a free cell phone. I give him my address and tell him to send it as quickly as possible. The representative then wants to know which service plan I want. I tell him I do not want a service plan but only want the phone, which he had graciously offered me for free. He insists I have to have a service plan. I tell him that if I have to have a service plan then the phones are not for free and that I will report Verizon to the Better Business Bureau for false advertising. The representative wants to know what I will do with a cellular phone that is not connecting to any wireless provider. I tell him that it is none of his business. I find the entire discussion a relief, having gone through a day of varietal discussion and legal argumentation. The Verizon representative eventually hangs up on me.
4:02 PM -- We receive a fax with a lot of orders from some hapless distributor who thinks they can make money with our product. We then have to spend 40 minutes doing the necessary paperwork to facilitate the movement of the brands from suppliers in France to the hapless distributor's warehouse somewhere in America. We have a mix of distributors -- some are hapless and some are dynamic. But to stay in business we need both of them. Some of the distributors who are hapless about wine are great personalities. Some of the distributors who are wine geeks are insufferably humorless. As Georges Prat has taught me, I look for a Geobalance. One thing is for certain -- as soon as the container arrives with out product one of us will obligated to go to the hapless distributors' city and do work-withs and have our firm receive bill-backs.
4:32 PM -- A New York retailer calls to ask if there is any more 1999 Morgon Javérnieres left in town. I tell him that there is no more Savennières. He says, no, not Savennières but Javérnières. I tell him that no, the Jasniéres has not arrived. I offer to send him a free cellular phone and hang up the telephone.
5:00 PM -- My daughter calls to speak to my wife and complain bitterly about her life.
5:12 PM -- My son calls to find out what we will be eating for dinner.
5:18 PM -- Someone calls to sell insurance.
5:30 PM-- Prepare to see my new Cardiologist. I just fired my old one, but regret that my new Heartman is not in a building where I can leave my bicycle as was my old guy. So, bikeless, I go down to Lafayette street to hail a taxi. After 12 minutes a taxi comes and a woman and I almost come to blows over who will get possession of the free cab. I ask her where she is going and it is on my way, so I offer to let her off for free. She seems hesitant but finally agrees. She's a very nice chain-smoking woman who is picking up her 4-year-old son at a day-care center. I go on to New York University Hospital and arrive at my Heartguy's office on time at 6:00 PM.
6:42 PM -- after sitting around for 42 minutes the guy finally sees me. At least he has the decency to apologize about the delay, the last Cardiologist never cared. Anyhow, the new one doesn't want to take any lab tests and pronounces me as fit as a beaver after poking at me some and taking an EKG. Fit as a beaver or some other medical term I did not understand. The only problem is that my homocysteine level is too high and he wants me to take a higher level of folic acid every day, along with a megadose of B12 and B16. Already I'm taking Baby Aspirins and Lipitor to lower my cholesterol. The Heart Guy makes this judgment based on old lab reports that my former doctor has forwarded him. Nevertheless, despite my insistence, he doesn't want me to take new lab tests but wants me to wait six weeks and take the new medication regimen and then take a lab test. He will then review the results and call me. I mention that we should make an appointment as I will be going to France around June 10th for the summer. He says it is unnecessary, that he'll look at the lab results in six weeks and then decide if I need to see him. Otherwise, I should call him in September when I return. Assuming, I'm still alive. So, finally, I have changed Cardiologists and get another indifferent guy. What's the point? At least the last guy, who I just fired, allowed me to bring my bike into his office. Of course, the last guy let me have a low level of homocysteine without any preventive measures. The guy was so busy with his busy practice and his hot tub in Great Neck (in which he was reported to study the Talmud!) to ever look at my chart or test results. The worst thing about being ill is having to see doctors. The only thing I could imagine that would be worse than this is being dependent on oenologues.
7:35 PM -- Arrive at the Duane Reade Drug Store to buy megadoses of B12, B6 and Folic Acid.
7:42 PM -- Take a cab crosstown to meet various wacky internet wine personalities at a famous Indonesian restaurant for dinner. I suspect that every detail of this evening will soon be appearing somewhere on the internet so I will leave it to others to chronicle the evening. All I will say was that the Rijsttafel was sumptious.
11:15 PM -- Arrive home. My wife informs me that Neocork, a leading manufacturer of synthetic corks, has initiated a multi-million dollar lawsuit against our firm. Something about libel, slander, Pineau d'Aunis and my having blabbed confidential material that led to the firing of one Stuart Yaniger. Steinfesse received the papers while I was being poked by my Cardiologist and sent a summary to our home fax.
11:47 PM – Fall asleep. I decided to call it a night as I had forgotten to get home to watch re-runs of Seinfeld that are now on at 11 PM, rather than 7:30 PM – having switched from the WB to Fox. Dream that George Castanza has been transformed into Steve Plotnicki. Or was it Stuart Yaniger?