First Day On The Floor

•September 6, 2010 • Leave a Comment

So before I can tell you about my first day working on the floor at Wine Library you need some perspective. If you have never been to the store, well it is immense. Check out the pics for a better idea of the scale:

Wine Library
This is a view from the mezzanine looking down to the main floor. (photos by Jeff Schwartz)
The Wine Room
This is the separate room where we keep the high end stuff…and it’s nice and chilly in there too. (photos by Jeff Schwartz)

Hopefully this gives you some idea of how big this place is. So here I am my first shift out on the floor with customers and this is what I have to navigate. I was a little nervous but I have to give huge props to AM and KM for having spent time with me prior to this shift, really showing me around and helping me get a feel for the layout. Also the patience of all of the staff there, I may have asked more questions then the customers. Just the high end room is the size of most wine shops I’ve been in. If you have never been here to experience the customer service you need to make the trip. Every guest is greeted and asked if they need help (probably more times then some would like) but that is the company way and I love it.

My first few interactions were relatively mundane, along the lines of ‘Where is the Santa Margarita?’ or ‘What do you have in a box?’ But as the day went on I got really help some people. I loved the customers who had a cart and just wanted help finding some good value wines to fill it or suggestions on pairings. It is so much fun to turn someone on to something new or to show someone how many choices are in their budget. I gave one woman a brief lesson on German Riesling Prädikats and she couldn’t wait to show off her new knowledge to her “know it all” friend. I helped a gentleman pick out a birthday wine. He was really looking to impress with a big Napa red but wanted to stay under $100. We found him a 2006 Haber Family Cabernet that delivers cult (Dominus, Shafer, etc.) quality for a little less money…not cheap by any means. I got a little giddy as I realized I sold an $80 bottle of wine, and glad that it was $20 less than his budget and would make them happy. But my mind was really blown when I helped this nice quiet french gentleman. He had two bottles in his cart and asked me to help him find a Rosé. We settled on a Tavel that is imported by Kermit Lynch, he wanted a case but we only had 11 bottles left so he took them. Then he proceeded to take the last bottles we had of two Sancerre’s. Followed by two cases of Burgundy. My first day and I made an $1800 sale, and I thought to myself ‘holy crap this is going to be fun.’ Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not all about the numbers. The customer I helped who wanted ‘something light for under $10’ deserved and received the same respect and attention as this guy. I took joy in helping anyone regardless of their wallet but let’s be honest, stuffing someone’s cart and calling up multiple cases for this guy was fun and a bit of a rush.

So that was my first day in a nutshell. Hopefully many more to come and I’m sure there will be some funny and interesting stories as well. I certainly have some more work to do as there are probably close to 10,000 wines in that place. Any good wine shop stories you would like to share?


In the beginning…

•September 6, 2010 • Leave a Comment

So I guess in order to explore where I’m going I need to establish where I’ve been. Makes sense right? I won’t bore you with tales of my early childhood or my years of teen angst trying to be punk. Instead I will attempt to recollect my earliest wine experiences. Let’s skip the high school MD-20/20 and Riunite moments (so nice) and fast forward to real wine.  I went to college in Ithaca in the finger lakes. While I sadly did not fully embrace the FLX wine region and definitely missed out on the opportunities that surrounded me, I drank my share of wine there. I most fondly recollect Bully Hill. It was cheap, the labels were funky, and we thought we looked cool sipping away on it. I had the chance in those moments to have embraced wine as a passion early in my adult life and missed it. Why? One word…beer!

Being in a hippie college in upstate NY circa late 90’s we were at the forefront of the craft beer craze. So wine passed me by and I dove in to the hops. We drank it all, whatever we could afford. Samuel Smith, Abita, Sierra Nevada, Anchor, Rogue, etc. These are not the beers you would have typically found at a college party, especially not back then. Our classmates were chugging Milwaukee’s Best. But we wanted to be more sophisticated, and it was in those moments I think I laid the foundation for my future love of wine. I always wanted to taste something new, something different. I remember thinking I was the coolest kid around when I discovered Lambic….ahh youth.

So I finished college and went to work. I worked in the theatre industry for many years as a stagehand and later as a consultant. During this time I got very interested in bar culture. I researched the history of the Pub and of the various spirits as I worked my way through phases with many of them. As circumstances led me to a need for a career shift I found myself behind the sticks, as they say; working as a bartender. I worked in multiple venues from Brooklyn neighborhood bars and lounges to Manhattan fine dining. You would think that this would have offered me great exposure to wine and a huge opportunity for tasting. And well it did…but I ignored it. I had gotten it into my head that I didn’t like wine. I can’t pinpoint when why or how I had convinced myself of this but that’s how it was. My interaction with wine was reduced to having someone give me a tasting note or two on each bottle we offered so I had just enough information to sell them. Then I went right back to learning what peat was used in my new favorite scotch or what blend of botanicals went into this or that gin. I just didn’t care about wine and it pains me now to think about it.

This story would be far more interesting if I could now proclaim the moment my great epiphany occurred…but I can’t. I don’t know when it happened or how or why. I just know I started to get curious. Maybe I was feeling like I had worked my way through the beers and the spirits and was bored with them. Maybe I was trying to impress some girl. Maybe Bacchus reached out to me from the ether and planted a vine in my head. Ok probably not the last one but hey it’s fun to dream right? Whatever  happened, happened and I was possessed. Feverishly I needed to taste and learn, then learn some more. I began to devour all of the information I could get my hands on. Blogs, videos, books, whatever there was. I discovered WLTV and @garyvee, his shows offered some great information but I needed more. I started using twitter around this time as well and discovered the amazing network of wine lovers and wine industry people using social media resources. I read blogs, magazines, books, etc. I then decided it was time to step it up and began taking WSET classes, all the while attending every tasting I could find. I made some new friends through these avenues and was exposed to many new things and I loved every minute of it. I knew that I wanted to make the move into the industry but was just waiting to find the right place to jump from hospitality to wine.

One day I saw a tweet from @garyvee and it was retweeted by @Kmurph who is the social media director for Wine Library that they were looking for someone who had some wine knowledge and used social media. This was too perfect an opportunity I told myself. I contacted her immediately and she told me to submit a resume. Well after weeks of badgering her and waiting (very impatiently) I was offered a position. So I am now a Social Media Specialist and Wine Consultant for Wine Library , tweeting from behind the @winelibrary account as well as working on the floor helping customers. I could not be happier. I work with an amazing group of people who know their wine inside and out at an incredible operation that boggles the mind a bit.

So that’s the short of version of where I was and where I am. What do I hope to do with this blog? I don’t honestly know other then chronicle what hopes to be an incredible journey through the wine industry. I will likely do some reviewing here as well as relay some stories of my day to day happenings. I thank you humbly for reading and hope to entertain in the future. Please leave me some comments about…well anything really. Do you work in the industry? How did you get started? Is there anything specifically you would like to see covered? Whatever it might be, or just say hi.

So I’ve started a blog…

•September 5, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Soon to come many exciting posts about my adventures into the wine world…I guess. Probably some social media type stuff and some other crap too. Stay tuned for more…

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