Monday, January 28, 2019

Ted

Well, It's Monday again.  At least I think so, I went to Church yesterday, so that must have been Sunday.  Monday still follows Sunday right?  So....Monday again.

Now that we've got that straight, plan of attack for the week. Today...Travel to Moscow on the Colorado (AKA Austin for those of you that got confused Saturday,  Moscow because it's overrun with leftist, progressive, communists (but I repeat myself thrice) and "on the Colorado" because the Colorado River runs right through it.  In fact the reason Austin was settled was because the River ran through it. Texas, being Texas, having a water supply handy is important.)

Anyhoo....Where was I?  Oh yeah, Moscow on the Colorado.  We'll initially be traveling to one of the Suburbs of MOTC, known as Pflugerville.  (Beans, the P is silent.  Flu is pronounced like the disease.  Ger is pronounced like what you say when you think about leftist, progressive, communists (but I repeat myself thrice...again), and ville is pronounced like Bill.  Just so you know.)

We have an appointment with the Pflugerville Police Department  and the Officer from the Hayes County Sheriff's office for to identify and recover our stolen stuff.  Once that's done, we're going to spend the night and have dinner with MBD and SIL.  We did that so as to avoid having to deal with Austin traffic thrice in 12 hours.

Cause the Mrs and I are taking a little trip Tomorrow with our winemaker friends.  We're going to travel out west and spend some time at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium.They go every year, just to see what's new. The plan is to spend a few hours looking at wine doodads, then go and visit wineries and drink wine.

We thought the latter might be fun.

Since you have to be in the wine industry to attend, evidently, I'm their new Marketing Director. Mrs J is their new event coordinator  I expect we'll be fired sometime next Saturday.  So, regretfully, my pithy, pointed, astute and, otherwise, spot-on usual commentary might be a bit....well....spotty this week.

But,  since we're on the subject of Wine, most long time readers (and those newer readers, who for lack of a life, started at the first post on this blog and read each and every one, one after another, without stopping for food, water, sleep or any other bodily functions (Ewww!) until completely up to speed.  You know who you are!) will remember that on retiring from the Air Force, Mrs J and my first foray into civilian employment was the purchasing of a Wine Tasting Room in our town.

The store specialized in Wines from Texas exclusively*  and Beer from around the world.  (Budweiser, Coors, Miller need not apply.)  However, at the time, 1999, there were only 20 or so wineries in the whole state and many of them bought grapes from that state out west.  

The logistics of the situation were interesting.  Texas Liquor laws were... well.....difficult.  Distributors decided who and what they'd carry.  We had to know which counties (sometimes even which portion of a County) we could ship to. Tourists flock to this town from all over the state, they'd taste our wine and, if they liked it, asked if we could ship.  We would pull out the most current version of this document 
Source

Now, this doesn't look too bad in 2017, but back in the day, by Cracky, things were different!.  The source of the map says in 2017 only 6 counties are dry.  However, in 1986, 62 were dry and about half the rest were partially dry, I don't think it was any different in 1999. The distributors and a particular religious group where a form of the word baptism features prominently in their name, had a very successful campaign going to keep things that way.  So, not much had changed by the time Mrs J and I got involved.

As an aside, typically, Interstate 20 was the wet/dry line. If the county was below that line, sale and shipment of wine was usually permitted.  Exceptions were well known. Above that line, virtually all counties prohibited it.  The City of Arlington was actually divided in half.  There was one road, that one side was wet, one side was dry.  We went with "We don't ship to Arlington."

Obviously, we had to be careful, the liquor license took quite a bit of time to get, and could be lost for a myriad of reasons.  So, hired help, good hired help, not your deadbeat ex brother-in-law hired help was hard to find.  Fortunately with one or two exceptions, we did quite well in that department.

There were only two distributors at the time and they controlled which wines they carried and how much. 

This presented an inventory problem.  Our liquor license allowed us to buy wine at wholesale, but the wineries not carried by the distributors were not carried because they were too small as far as the distributors were concerned.  So...as president and CEO of my C Corporation, I was also the Inventory manager.

You do realize that Texas is a big state. right?  Fortunately the two wineries that were carried were also the two furthest from us.  Llano Estacado (Yawn-oh, Beans) in Lubbock and Messina Hof in Bryan/College Station.  

The rest I had to visit, purchase, carry, load, transport, carry and store myself.  That is why I drive a pickup to this day.

But....I got to meet a lot of good folks.  One of my fondest memories is standing at the counter looking out at the store's bins after a busy Friday before Spring Break (make or break week for a small store) and noticing empty bins.  I got on the phone and called the Winemaker at Sister Creek and explained my predicament.  He asked how many cases and what kind.  I told him and said we needed to pick it up about 7 in the morning.  He said "no problem". 

The next morning, I arrive in beautiful downtown Sisterdale at 7 AM sharp.  Very dark.  The winery is dark.  The Winemaker's house is dark.  "Ruh-Roh!".  Thinking he may be awake and in the winery, I walk up to the door.  Give the handle a twist, it's not locked.  Push it open, there's my wine stacked neatly by the door and a note saying "leave the check on the Bar"

My kind of folks.

Anyhow, we're pretty successful, meaning, we're paying our rent and employees and are still in business a couple of years later and having relieved our self of the brother-in-law issue, have advertised for somebody to work the tasting room, pour tastes, ring up sales, restock and so on.

The going rate at the time was $8/hr.  We were offering $10.  So, the ad has gone in the paper, and early Saturday morning, I hear a ding on the door.  A little early for a customer, but someone in the Store is always a good thing.

"Hi, how's it going?  How can I help you?"

He's a tall guy, white hair a little longish on the sides, short white goatee, Late 50's maybe Early 60's.  Hawaiian Flowerdy Shirt.  Short Pants and sandals.


"I've come to apply for the job.  Here's my resume."

I'm thinking, "Resume?.... that's interesting".

"OK, well have a look around while I look at it."

He wanders off.

I look at the name.  Likes to be called "Ted".  Fair enough.

Last Employer.  Lowes.  (Liking him even more.)

Position.  Western Sales Director Los Angeles CA

My head snaps around as I look at him.  

He's smiling and laughing a little.

"I thought that might get your attention"

"Ted, we're not going to be able to afford you."

"I know, I'm retired, and bored.  I play in a band some weekend nights, but I just need something to do and be able to interact with folks."

Now, normally, I would ponder over a decision for a considerable length of time, maybe even consult with the actual decision maker.  But I stepped out on a limb. I mean, He had me at the shirt.

"When can you start?"

"I'm not busy.....Now?"

He was a natural.  Very outgoing personality which meant he fit right in with Mrs J and I.  He'd have customers eating out of his hand before the door closed behind them on entry.

Made a lot of really good suggestions, He KNEW sales.

Very quickly he started taking over the orders from the distributors.  Sometimes for whatever reason, we just didn't get the wines we wanted.  The Riesling was from the other winery, or they sent Chardonnay instead.  It was frustrating and cost us, because they only delivered a couple of times a week.  If the Friday delivery was screwed up, we were down for the weekend.

Ted started handling the problem,  Things were improving slowly, but improving.

So. it's Friday before one of the Big Weekends in town.  (IIRC it was  Food and Wine Festival--3rd weekend in October, don't miss it. ) We've got a VERY large order being delivered.  I'm back in the office when I hear the driver come in.  Ted's got it.

Shortly afterward, I hear loud voices.  So I go out front.  The driver has brought in Australian wines exclusively.  Ted is beside himself.  He's pointing to the sign above the bar asking the driver him if the first word (Texas) is Australia.  

The driver goes back to the truck thinking the order had gotten mismarked or something.  

Nope.  No Texas wine on the truck.

I see Ted head for the phone.  About 15 minutes later, I hear loud voices again, only one sided.

"Look here, We've been a customer of yours for years.  We have never bought anything but Texas Wine from you.  This is our biggest weekend and you delivered Australian wine?  I want another truck up here this afternoon with OUR order on it, you got it?"

A crash of the phone hanging up.

I remember thinking to myself.  

"Well, this is either going to be fixed this afternoon, or we're never going to get any wine again."

Pretty soon, I hear Ted whistling and talking to folks.  I walk our front.

"So, Ted, that was pretty epic.  Who was on the other end?"

"Oh, that was Bob, the president of XXX (the distributor), He and I play in the same Band."

The wine was delivered that afternoon.

We never had distribution issues again.

A few months later, Ted comes in to the back where I'm working and says "Juvat, I'm sorry, I'm going to be leaving you guys.  I've gotten a job offer that I'm going to take.".

"Ted, I'm sure I know the answer but... anything I can say or do?"

"No, you'd need  3 or 4 more zeros."

"Best of luck to you buddy."

He went to be the Vice President of a VERY large corporation in the Upper Mid-West.

Anyhoo, I'll be out of town, til Saturday.  For some reason, this is stuck in my head.



*Well....we did have one bottle of California wine that we saved for those Wine Aficionados  who would come in and sniff saying "Buffy....I can't believe the nerve....Texas doesn't have a wine that will hold a candle to ANY California wine."  **  That's when the bottle of Thunderbird (made in Modesto California) would come out, followed by.  "I'll take that challenge, pick the wine you want to taste and compare to this."  Reactions varied from storming out of the store in a snit, to a rueful smile and great conversation about  Good and Bad Wine being made all over the world.

** Actual statement made by a couple.  Yes, they were also in the "stormed out in a snit" category.

52 comments:

  1. An interesting post juvat, learned more about Texas liquor laws than I ever thought I would. Have an aunt who spent twenty years near Waco with her husband, they worked for the VA. Have to talk more to her about life there. Your Ted, how far upper in the Upper Midwest, up to say Minnesota way...... Target.......3M?

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    1. I'm not positive, but that rings a bell. It's been a long time, and that RAM has been flushed and reloaded quite a few times since.

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    2. By that I mean 3M. I think.

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  2. Sometimes I feel like I should start drinking so I understand what people are talking about. But then I realize I don’t care that much, I’m fine as a teetotaler, and I like having money more than I like alcohol.

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  3. If I knew how to spell it, I'd write ' very amusing ' in French. Well, no matter, very amusing. The best wine whine I have ever read.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

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    1. Why Paul, you know the staff here at the Chant is fluent in numerous languages. Most fluent in Google though. All you had to do was ask.

      Très amusant .... en français!

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    2. That should be "C'est nous!" to keep it in l'esprit du fil.

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  4. Very early in our marriage, my wife and I would buy a bottle of Gallo Pink Chablis from the Pennsylvania State store and go to a BYOB pizza place near our first house. (forty years ago this August)
    Our taste buds evolved away from that very sweet two dollar bottle of wine, and we don't see it on the shelves anymore.
    I sometimes wish I could try that wine today and I'd bet that it would be as awful as I now suspect it was.

    We take advantage of Philly's Italian roots and make wine from juice every year. Our very best effort results in an adequate red wine, and rarely, when something goes badly wrong, the chugging sound one hears is five gallons of undrinkable awfulness being poured into the laundry sink.

    I'm pretty sure that our fifty bottle annual output won't get us in the door of the symposium, but it sounds like it would be a lot of fun to attend.

    A very informative and very interesting post.

    Well done.

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    1. Mom and Dad (Mom being half Italian, and Dad Half Irish) had 4 very tiny wine glasses, had to be an ounce or less filled to the brim. They would bring those out for Holidays/Birthdays etc. We would get one glass. Given that when I was a kid, my Dad was a Lt/Captain in the Air Force and not well paid. We were probably sipping on the same vintage Gallo, John. I remember the first bottle of Wine I bought as an adult (MD-20/20 doesn't count), I believe it was a Chianti from Gallo and was purchased from 7/11. Went real well with the Pizza I had delivered that night. That was in F-4 School at Luke.

      Now that I've got a bit of time, I may try my hand at producing some ChawToe Juvat BowJawLay. Or Something.

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    2. The place where we buy our five gallon pails of juice also sells grapes, and we've geared up to make a couple of batches of wine from grapes. But every year we say, "Next year" and buy juice.
      Starting your home winery using juice is a good way to learn the ropes, and then you can move ahead in any direction you chose.
      Speaking of the BowJawLay, we were dining at a local place and asked the server what house wines were available, midway through the short list she said, "Merlot" except she pronounced it Merh-Lot instead of Merh-Low, we simply smiled and asked for a small carafe of Merh-Lot. (or would that be Cara-Fay)

      If I think the words, "Boone's Farm Wines," my stomach gets a touch of the queasy.

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    3. Yeah, I worked as a busboy when I was in High School in Big Spring. A couple of young ladies walked in one July evening, in Full length Mink coats, and ordered a bottle of Paul MasOOOn BurGoooNdy. I managed to get "Yes, Ma'am" out and retreat to the kitchen before breaking out in a guffaw.
      Gotta love 'em.

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    4. My first favorite wine was Cella Lambrusco. Remember the "Chill a Cella" commercials? Then went to Sutter Homes White Zinfandel, which Mrs. Andrew and I got a hankering for from going to Steak and Ale and having their Brie appetizer and aged sirloins. (man, I miss Steak and Ale.)

      Then, well Reislings and Eicweins when we tipple any more.

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    5. Juvat - Thanks for correcting my Brazos vs. Colorado from the other day - knew that, not sure why it came out that way. I know I've lived in NC longer than in TX now (28 vs 24 years) but I'm still a Texan before I'm an American, and proud of it! So my faux pas was a but embarrassing.

      John - When I was in college, I worked at a place in Dallas called The Railhead, which was a rip off of the Victoria Station concept. But was a great job for a poor student since I got fed really well, and so did my dog, who used to bury the prime rib bones I'd bring home under the cushions of the couch. Our place competed with Steak and Ale, aka Snake and Whale, and Cork and Cleaver, aka Crotch and Cleavage, and the kitchen staff, of which I was one, used to fight over, in priority order, returned bottles of wine (as in, returned when the customer didn't drink it all since, IIRC, they couldn't take an opened bottle home with them at that point in time), an uneaten portion of lobster tail, a nice piece left over from a filet or strip steak. I must have developed a decent titer to all the customers' maladies!

      A couple of years later, when we had to buy our own wine and were starting to be able to afford a better wine than Boone's Farm or similar 'vintage', we went with Mateus Rose' (Ma-toos, not Mat-ee-us, which I heard occasionally). Another one was Lancer's Rose'. One of the earliest bottles of decent wine I had given to me was from a neighbor across the street from my mom and dad - her sister and BIL owned Fall Creek vineyard down in the Lake Buchannan area - wasn't bad at all.

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    6. Fall Creek was one of the First Texas Wineries to consistently produce wines in the good to very good category. Yes we carried them and I made the trip to Tow (rhymes with Cow, Beans) Texas many times.

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    7. The Aulers, owners of Fall Creek, were in the “good folks” caregory also. Couldnt remember there name last night had a flash of brilliance about 3AM. Didn’t want to wake Mrs J.

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    8. I lived in wine country for a number of years. I remember going to Mill Valley in Napa once to buy some wine at a store and there was a sign on the register that said, "freinds don't let freinds drink white zin."

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  5. Whoda thunk parts of Texas would have dry counties? But yeah, the American version of the Taliban likes to ban things. Do I like that? No, not at all.

    As for Ted, he's the kind of person who makes things work in this country, works smart and stays out of the limelight. A good man from the sounds of it.

    Nice post, juvat.

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    1. Thanks, Sarge. I don't know how long he worked for us, but we really learned a lot from him. We were on the right track as far as customer handling was concerned, but he was a master at closing the deal and that is crucial in a small business.

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  6. I remember those days. Having to be a "club member" in Tyler, TX in order to get served at the restaurant or dance hall. Of course they had those memberships available right there at the door for everyone at a courtesy fee of maybe $1? And yeah, Arlington was just weird.

    /
    L.J.

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    1. Same in Lubbock. I think that membership was where the joint's profit was made. So, they were all in cahoots to milk the customer? Say it ain't so!

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    2. Dallas was the same for a long time - no liquor by the drink unless you bought a "club" membership - but they only cost $1 or so and were good for a year.

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    3. A year? Dang you got off lucky. It was a nightly charge at most of the joints I frequented in Lubbock.

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  7. I worked with the guy that started the Llano Estacado winery out near Lubbock.

    I always heard the C.o.C. (not the chamber, itsa religious group. They still run Lubbock county as far as I know... cf LCU) was the real driver behind the dry city, wet county that Lubbock was. You had to drive to the strip to get any beer. Pinkies had the best barbequeued gizzards every. I'd buy those, but I spent way too much time around livestock to ever be attracted to beer. You can put my share back in the horse...





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    1. Yeah, he, or his father I can't remember exactly, was a Chemistry professor at Tech. I was 18 at the time and 18 had become legal only a few months earlier. Being a broke college student at the time, I tested a lot of their wine for them. It has gotten a LOT better since.

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  8. Sounds familiar, grew up in the late 70's / early '80's in Hays County and it was partially dry. I think San Marcos was wet, but the area I lived in (Driftwood and Dripping Springs) was dry. Had to run to Oak Hill in Travis County to get beer. Took a girl out to eat in Williamson County and had to get a "membership" at the restaurant to get beer, a whole $1.

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    1. Yep, the Liquor laws started lightening up in the early 2000's. Some measure of sanity ensued.

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  9. What is the problem with Thunderbird? Glass half full of Everclear topped off with Thunderbird. Sip the Everclear through the Thunderbird. Favorite tipple of the 'Kings of the River' aka 814th Engineer Company.

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    1. Heaven help you if someone lit up a cigarette. Napalm wouldn't hold a candle to that fireball. Not that I ever mixed Everclear with anything, Nope Mom, not me!

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  10. Well, how else would you pronounce Pflugerville? Geez, some people's kids...

    Now, if it's a common German last name that starts with 'W' and rhymes with 'Pretzel', well, you'd think that was easy, right? Nooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

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    1. Interessanterweise ist das "p" in "Pflugerville" eigentlich auf Deutsch ausgesprochen. "Pflüger" ist das deutsche Wort für "plowman" und wird "Pflüger" ausgesprochen.

      Generally speaking, in German every letter is pronounced. That's the beauty of German, nothing is silent, every letter is used.

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    2. And auf Deutsch your name is pronounced with an initial "V," in English it's a "W."

      Violin as opposed to wheel, so to speak.

      Et sic finitur lectio.

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    3. Well, duh... W is V and V is double V.

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    4. Stimmt!

      That was for the edification of the non-multilingual crowd. I knew that you knew and you probably knew that I knew as well.

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    5. I’ve heard a lot of folks pronounce it as Pa-flu-grr-vil. Very effective way of letting folks know that you’re “not from around here.”

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    6. Why are you letting Californians anywhere near your state?

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    7. Not my circus, not my monkeys.

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  11. First wine introduction at Norton AFB, San Bernardino, CA. Cubbie buddy was a navigator. So every month, he needed flight time to keep flight pay. There was usually a T-29 available on base for the pilots and navigators and the usual rout was up to Alameda, NAS, Oakland. The request was always to bring back "Rose Mateus" a Portuguese wine. This was in the early 60's and before the California wine country really got going.

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    1. Mateus Rose, a name I havent heard sense busboying ar the Webb O’club. Dining Ins there got pretty rowdy after several rounds of toasts. My first exposure to fighter pilot reality. They werent all dashing, brave and true. But they were funny!

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    2. "They weren't all dashing, brave and true."

      No, come on, can't be true. 😁

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  12. Those California wine snobs were probably carpetbaggers and triple threats.
    The argument that always irritated me was the one one about French oak vs. American oak.
    REALLY!!?

    Since I became dry (...and sober,btw), haven’t much had to concern myself about where the wine, beers, spirits I liked came from [Buck’s doin’ an eye roll].

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    1. There is quite a bit of snobbery involved with wine. Mostly by those who know the least.

      I’d get asked several times a day “what’s your best wine? “
      I’d answer “The one YOU like”

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    2. In most all fields, the ones with the most snobbery are the ones who usually know the least - they are just the most pretentious!

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    3. Seem to be seeing a lot of that around lately, haven’t we? And not just wine related.

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  13. Great story... Thunderbird would work too... :-)

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  14. Great story.
    I was still on active duty when my dad sent me a freinds resume. Retired Marine 2 star general with a pic of him sitting on his old red tractor and saying he was retired and looking for a job, maybe as a Walmart greater.

    I think they were known as diamonds in the rough. I liked them.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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