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da perks da perks

12 Aug

I may not be making tons of dough at the new job but there are perks to working in the wine industry; at least in Napa Valley anyway.

The winery facility where I work is dedicated to custom crush, which is a program where the average bear – or Joe – can make wine and have their own label. Let me paint a picture with a terrible analogy.

A winery facility that offers custom crush services is to one of those do-it-yourself pottery stores.

You want to design and make a finished clay pot product (wine) but don’t have the clay (grapes) or don’t know what kind of clay to purchase. You don’t have the workspace (winery with fermentation tanks and such) to roll out your clay and build with it and you can fiercely benefit from the experienced voice of someone in-house who has experience making pots (i.e. a Winemaker).

If that wasn’t clear enough – custom crush enables you and me to make wine without having to own our own winery, without having to grow our own grapes and without having to know a whole lot about wine making other than be able to describe what the label will look like or what varietal we want to produce and it’s associated characteristics.

How I benefit from the custom crush operation where I work. When bottling is going on, and they’re pouring that liquid yumminess into sealed vessels, readying it for market – occasionally a label will be misprinted on the bottle.

When this happens, somebody deems it a total loss. Those defunct bottles are usually distributed amongst the staff or taken home by the person whose wine they are bottling. Occasionally a custom crush client will consciously (and might I add graciously) float one of his or her newly bottled wines to the office and tasting room staff – which is always a nice bonus.

On my wine shelf, I have an unmarked bottle of either 2009 Cabernet Franc or Cabernet Sauvignon. The eastern Europe intern who works in the winery wasn’t sure what varietal it is, but promised me it was going to be good. I’ll take his word for it. Hell, it was free.

Just this afternoon one of our tasting room superstars called me at my desk up int he office where I work, and told me a woman from Indian Springs lodge and spa came by doing some outreach and offered free mud baths and pool passes to employees at the winery. Another score!

Aside from these random occurrences of generosity – as a wine industry employee equipped with my business card, I am entitled to free tastings at most winery locations, and 30% off wines being sold through most wineries. Not bad.

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Corn dogs, Dijon and Sauvignon Blanc

1 Aug

The AMA Pro Flat Track Race was going on yesterday evening at the Calistoga Speedway Half Mile. This was the first flat track race this raceway has hosted in over a decade and proved to be some good redneck fun. Well, only partially redneck. After all, I was there and I’m not a redneck.

An hour before the race commenced, the grandstands and infield were packed with race fans who traveled to bear witness of this event from all over the country. Many out-of-towners had traveled to watch their son or nephew or friend compete, and my guess is that some of them coupled the race-going with day tripping through wine country – since both Sonoma and Napa Counties have so much to offer.

The standard “fair” of food vendors were present; steaming hot corn on the cob, wood fired pizza by the slice, BBQ ribs, BBQ pulled pork sandwiches with coleslaw, pina colada and raspberry flavored snow cone sugary goodness, vanilla or chocolate ice cream in a waffle cone, grilled hamburgers (that were reported to have the same taste and feel of hockey pucks), baked beans, chili cheese fries, cotton candy and kettle corn. Ah ‘lest I forget – there were also corn dogs and veggie corn dogs.The veggie dogs were a surprise offering, and not surprisingly the vendor said they were not a popular item on the menu.

I had to order one to revisit my vegetarian past and the verdict was … not bad. When you get a budget dog and dress it in a corn jacket and then deep fry it – I’m not sure it matters really what’s inside. A plastic grenade or ankle sock might taste the same.

Despite the event being located smack dab in the middle of “Wine Country,” there were zero wine vendors pouring. Granted motorsports events like the AMA Pro Flat Track race are more aligned with beer drinkers – it’s still wine country and most of the fans were from the surrounding Napa and Sonoma counties. There must have been some method to the madness of why one of the 400 + Napa Valley wineries were not present … anywhere.

I could have used some chilled Sauvignon Blanc to compliment my veggie corn dog and Dijon mustard.