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You guys are great!  OK, at least those of you that took the time to respond to my e-mail query inquiring into how I could better craft our future events to match what you want to attend.  The rest of you…  alright, you are “good”; I just can’t label anyone who loves fine wine as much as you all do as less than that  J 

I was both emotionally and literally overwhelmed that nearly half of you took the time to reply.  As someone who has performed quite a bit of market research as part of my day job, I can tell you that such a large response rate indicates that you really care about the group.  The content of the responses were thoughtful and well-meaning (except the one person who said the problem was that the events showed no youthfulness or creativity; I guess you can’t each an old dog…). 

So, what did you tell me?  Some of it, I know well and embrace.  Central to problem is also what I believe to be a strength of the group; we are a diverse mix.  While it can bode well for bringing less-experienced people into the “wine fold”, it also means that not everyone is equally interested in every type of event.  Some responded that they wanted a strict wine focus; some really enjoy wine more with food in a social setting.  Some are relatively new to the world of wine and have trouble justifying more expensive and complex events; some are grizzled veterans (you know who you are, and you are grizzled) and wait and cherry-pick more unique offerings. 

Tied to that notion was something that I was aware of, but really hadn’t appreciated the impact.  Everyone is just honestly strapped more than ever with time and schedule pressures.  Those still gainfully employed are doing more with fewer people; and many of us are now doing jobs that we used to have others do for us (both at work and at home).  And, at the same time that many have less ‘play time’, there are infinitely more options where you can explore wine than there were twenty years ago when LADV was ‘the only game in town’. 

There was so much more that I heard and will take into account in the future, but one point is that I seemingly overreacted a bit in response to the current economic conditions.  There was near-unanimous verbal support of the notion that there should be more low-cost events for both those who have been most impacted by the downturn and by those just entering the world of fine wine.  However, the majority of you said that when you personally were investing your precious time to attend, you wanted an event to feel ‘special’; you wanted to really enjoy the evening and not notice ‘cut corners’ in every aspect.  Again, I did bask in your appreciation of my efforts that have and will assure that while some events may not be “cheap”, all of our LADV events do provide very good value. 

So, what will change?  With one the strongest issues for everyone being ‘time’, I am going to spread events out a bit more.  Logistics (the need to buy/pour bottles not glasses, ability to get restaurant deals based on filling a room, etc.) just don’t allow me to organize events just as often as before but with attendance as low as the teens.  And, since you do have other options, I’m going to build those events around the things that you told me that LADV does best - - finding really good wines, a dose of education, and other ingredients all served without pressure to buy wine or any snobbishness to endure.  For those feeling the economic pressure, I am also going to work aggressively to plan more events than in the recent past that may not be quite as 'special' as elegant dinners or super-premium wine offerings, so that those folks can get real unbiased education, good solid wine offerings, and a fun social evening, all at a very affordable price. 

Let me thank all of you who responded again.  I don’t want you to think of this as a one-time thing; keep your suggestions coming at any time and in any way.  OK, and now what you really want to read about; our next upcoming events… 

 

4/15/09 | Celebrating a Special Day, April 15th
Wed | at  Aquarelle Restaurant Français        606 Rio Grande      479-8117            www.aquarellerestaurant.com
7:00PM | $85 members  &  $95 non-members     (all inclusive)

While some of you might think I’m crazy to say this about Tax Day, or others may think it totally appropriate to revel at the completion of an ordeal, you’d be wrong thinking this is the topic.  So, then what am I saying makes it a special day?  As it turns out, the notion came from our friend Adam Lee; I was on my annual sojourn to Sonoma ‘Barrel Tasting Days’ and had dinner with Adam and his wife Dianna.  They were curious if I thought it too soon for another Siduri / Novy winemakers’ dinner (the previous was less than two years ago).  I replied that I didn’t see a problem, as long as we provided an irresistible theme (thinking great setting, stellar food, unique and outstanding wines, presented in an interesting way, etc.).  Not long after, I received an e-mail from Adam declaring that he had a great theme. 

He told me that the only date that would really work for them was April 15th, but that was great because that is the day that the Bottle Opener was invented.  Well, the first thing I had to do was verify this fact (it seemed odd).  Well, there are hundreds of citations so noting this occurrence; though not a single notion of by whom, where, or what people did beforehand with all those bottles with no opener.  OK, I really wasn’t worried that between us, we couldn’t concoct an irresistible and special event, so I replied that “Bottle Opener Day” would be great. 

So, what did we concoct?  As you might guess with the Lee’s, there will be no shortage of learning about winemaking, great stories, or wonderful wine.  This time, most of the wine that we’ll have is not available to us here and is being brought in just for you.  The remainder are truly special, and represent some of the ‘best of the best’ from their two labels. 

Let’s see, what else is needed to be very special; ah yes, a great setting with stellar food.  I wouldn’t do this for anyone but you, but Adam shipped a sample of the unique wines, and (poor me) I tasted through them with Terry and her staff at Aquarelle to determine perfect pairings.  Because she wants the flexibility to make last-minute ingredient changes if the supply isn’t top-notch  for that day, I’m not showing the food menu; however, I can share the dinner format and the wine selection:

  On-Arrial 2008 Novy Judge Family Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc
2007 Novy Willamette Valley Leon Millot
  First Course 2007 Siduri Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
2007 Siduri Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
2007 Siduri Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir
  Special Vertical 2004 Siduri Rosella’s Vineyard Pinot Noir
2005 Siduri Rosella’s Vineyard Pinot Noir
2006 Siduri Rosella’s Vineyard Pinot Noir
  Main Course 2002 Novy Rosella’s Vineyard Syrah
2004 Novy Rosella’s Vineyard Syrah
  Dessert 2007 Novy Port

So now, do your part (a job that will be just as horrible as mine was, poor you).  Make your reservation for the limited seating and wine, and be prepared to celebrate the Bottle Opener in all its glory.

 

5/19/09 | Pour Me a Cabernet, Frank
Tues | at  Twin Liquors Marketplace at Hancock Center          451-7400            www.twinliquors.com
7:00PM | $15 members  &  $25 non-members     (all inclusive)

This is going to be a wonderful and rare opportunity to sample a delicious offering of wines:  Domaine de la Chanteleuserie Bourgueil Cuvee Alouettes, Villa Russiz from Friuli, Substance from the Columbia Valley of Washington, Raats Family from the Stellenbosch, Ironstone from the Sierra Foothills, Viader ‘Dare’ from Napa, Ravines Cellars from the Finger Lakes, Marc Brédif from the Loire, even a Messina Hof Private Reserve, and more. 

Do you see the pattern; do you know the secret?  Hint: Lose the comma and correct the spelling of “Franc”.  Yes, these are all wines made with the underappreciated Cabernet Franc. 

I have always loved good wines made from this grape variety.  Flavors go beyond what we see everyday as simple ripe fruit, into notes of savory herbal and mineral notes on a more restrained fruit base.  They are also usually not overly ‘big’ wines, the type that is a great match with food.  Yes, bad ones can steer into weedy and vegetal notes, but let’s stay clear of bad wines as we always try to do. 

The plan is simple and should be familiar to those of you who attended events in the past of this format at Ringside at Sullivan’s (back before they started insisting we spend big bucks for the space).  The wines will be presented blind, ensconced in fashionable brown paper bags.  We’ll have self-poured flights (thank god for those metered pour-spouts), cleverly grouping the wines by continent or other mysterious aspect; and we’ll discuss the wines and what we liked and didn’t between flights.  The evening will be both social and lightly educational (at least I’ll try to provide information about the topic early on). 

But, as noted, there will be some difference from ‘the good old days’.  First, sadly, you won’t have the experience of traffic and parking in the Warehouse District.  Second, and this truly is sad, your light appetizers of bread, cheese, etc. won’t be served on those nicely-garnished metal trays; they’ll be on dispose’o’ware and prepared by yours truly.  Finally, you won’t have to (although I will let you) pay the $40-50 like you used to when we were ‘all downtown’. 

We’ll instead be enjoying ourselves in the event room of the new Twin Liquors Marketplace.  It was a great venue for our recent “Spirits of the Wine” gathering; ask those who attended (if they can remember).  This time, the seating arrangement will be such that we’re sitting and conversing with each other; you won’t have to sit facing forward in classroom style as in the more seriously educational events.  Join us and learn about this great and lesser-known ‘noble grape’, and enjoy yourself while doing so. 

 

Miscellany: 

Let me remind you that space is always very limited at these events.  I do apologize that so often I have to inform people that a particular event has filled.  However on the flip-side, one of the most-frequent compliments that I get on the events is that people feel special and their experienced enhanced because of the coziness and easy access to the presenters.  And if you've forgotten, in order to keep the event prices as low as possible we have not invested in credit card processing services; you should always plan to pay with cash or a check at the events. 

As always, call  925-3985 or e-mail: reservations@ladv.org  to make reservations and to keep them accurate.  After you make your reservations, PLEASE CALL IMMEDIATELY if your plans change.  Communicating changes no later than 48 “business hours” before an event will allow us to adjust and provide an opportunity to any who may be on a waiting list.  Further it will assure we don’t have to pay for wine and food that was reserved for you, and that we won’t have to contact you afterward to pass on those costs to you if we are past the point when we guaranteed attendance to a venue. 

I look forward to seeing all you Friends of Wine at an event soon... 

Santé
     John