Thursday, October 15, 2009

Consultants - Who needs 'em?

Once upon a time I asked myself this very question. I couldn’t understand paying someone for some abstract service of “consulting”, like giving advice. I get free advice all day, every day, even if I don’t want it! To be honest, I’ve long avoided using certain words to describe myself, consultant being one of them. The other was expert. I’ve gotten over that one.

Truth be told, if a person has a high level of knowledge and experience in a field, they should not shy away from referring to themselves as an expert. You worked hard, you devoted yourself, and now, you have a breadth and depth of knowledge in your discipline that surpasses most and rivals the top people in your field. You are an expert. That being said, it doesn’t mean that you know everything, that your opinion should be taken as the final word on a subject. Rather, you are a good source for an educated opinion or guess when a question is asked, you are a good person to learn from about that topic. So yes, I am a wine expert.

And now, I am a wine consultant. Same concept as being an expert, except now you get paid to share your opinions, advice, guidance. So who needs a wine consultant? Well, the truth is many of the things I can do for you, you can do for yourself. For example, I have a client who wants a complete overhaul of his wine list at his restaurant. Could he select and purchase wine, write it up on a piece of paper and hand it to a customer to peruse without my help. Absolutely! Now here are the questions to be asked:

What wines are you buying for the new list? Why these wines? What does your product mix look like as compared to that of your closest competitors and the market at large?

What kind of pricing strategy are you implementing? Are you making the most money you can on your list?

Is your staff equipped to sell the wines (after all, a wine list is a sales tool, you still need the human element)? Do they know what to say and how to say it, how to serve it? Can they explain the offering to your guests?

How is your wine stored and where? How much storage space is available? How will that affect your purchasing strategy?

I could go on. The point is you as a restauranteur could

A: Spend a few years taking wine courses to bring your knowledge base up so that you can create, implement and administer a wine program well.

B: Make all the determinations of storage, purchasing, market positioning etc. on your own.

C: Conduct ongoing wine training for your staff or hire more wine savvy servers and bartenders (who then expect more financially)

D: Hire a full time sommelier and pay payroll taxes and worker’s comp insurance for them.

E: All of the above.

Consultants - who needs ‘em? People who want to do something positive for themselves, their asset portfolio, their business and their lives, but don’t have the expertise or time to do what they would like to get done. As Robert Kiyosaki says in his iconic book Rich Dad, Poor Dad, the rich are wise enough to hire and pay people who are smarter than them to get things done for them. Wine Consultants, unite! We are important and needed, so let’s get crackin’!

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Million Wine Stories in the Naked City

One of my favorite things about wine is that there are so many amazing stories behind each and every label, even the ones you think are huge, heartless corporations are still small business when considered in the realm of corporations around the world. Today, at a tasting of one of the largest wine portfolios in the New York, I heard a few stories that I felt compelled to share with you.

Its a sad thing that too many of the people who sell wine feel obligated to talk stats - grape composition of blends, use of oak and malolactic fermentation, reviewer scores, yadda, yadda, yadda! Just when I was getting to the tipping point, I met Hugh Hamilton, the owner and winemaker of Hugh Hamilton Wines in McLaren Vale, Australia. He was friendly, a refreshing face in a room full of sellers and buyers, a refreshing personality from a place so far removed from our venue, Budda Bar, in the bowels of the meat packing district. I arrived at his table specifically interested in tasting Jim Jim Unoaked Chardonnay 2007 and Jim Jim Shiraz 2007. Who is Jim Jim, you ask? “He’s our dog,” said Hugh, as he handed me a postcard with a picture of the Labrador/Kelpie mix enjoying a sunny day in his home vineyard. “He’s a clever dog,” Hugh said proudly. The postcard was apparently one in a series of Wine Dogs - the dogs of Australian wineries. You’ll find this kind of canine-wine love in the books Winery Dogs of Sonoma and Winery Dogs of Napa (Winery Dogs Publishing, $36.00 & $38.00 respectively). The wines were really good, as well! The Chardonnay, crisp and refreshing with lovely balance, the Shiraz showing the depth and complexity of a pricier wine than itself - two winning selections!

From right here in New York, a relatively new wine called Imagine Moore, owned by Tim and Diane Moore, comes in a bottle whose label is silkscreened right onto the glass. The winery is the first one to be established in the Naples Valley, a Finger Lakes outpost, in 100 years. Each bottling features a picture of the Moore children. I tasted Imagine Moore Peace Pinot Gris 2007 which was rather good, with an edgy herbal, eucalyptus, sage vibe that reminds me of versions of Pinot Gris from Alsace, France. Their other wines dare you to imagine in many ways - Imagine Moore Joy Riesling, Imagine Moore Grace Dry Rosé.

There are a million wine stories in the naked city - stories of fortunes lost and won (see my first blog in this series, Wines of our Lives), families growing, pets, landscapes, history. Next time you go wine shopping, ask your fave retailer for some interesting tales among the wines you find on their shelves. If you’re lucky, you’ll walk away with more than just a bottle for the night!

The wines mentioned herein were tasted at no cost to the author of this article, but were not provided for the purposes of this article. The providers of these wines had no prior knowledge of the author’s intention to mention and endorse the wines in this blog