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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Wine Cheese or Friends? What is most important? by Philip S. Kampe





There comes a time in many journalists lives that writing is not all they want to do. As an ex-entrepreneur (The Candy People, Fabulous Phil’s Gourmet Ice Cream and Board Stiff Snowboard and Skateboard Shop) , I tend to look at assignments and meetings in a different way. When I find a wine overseas or at a stateside tasting and learn that the wine has no representation in this country, I often switch hats.
I know the market conditions and have a reasonably good take on the quality and price ratio of wines and cheeses. I have been involved, first-hand, in both businesses and have a broad knowledge base of cost and quality of wine and cheese.
As you would suspect, I like to broker these newly found products, with hopes of helping the vineyard or farm with exposure in this country.
This past year I have introduced cheese, wine and tequila to America.
Samples, which are few, are stored in my refrigerator for safe keeping. I have three small unopened samples of goat’s milk cheese from rural western Spain for safe keeping. If these samples are ever tampered with, the dream of the dairy will be shattered until I can convince them to send more amples.
I call this Phase One. In Phase One, you bring the item, often one piece of cheese or one bottle of wine to a perspective buyer to consider adding this product to their portfolio.
Phase Two is when you have more samples and technical sheets then you need, so, you can get the product to more than one possible importer.
Phase Three is having a complete refrigerator stored with samples plus a closet full of technical sheets and brochures.
Every phase is done in small steps until you can walk. A lot of cost is involved in sending wine or refrigerated cheese to this country. Plus the FDA is often of no help and holds onto packages for weeks or months before releasing the contents.
This is what happened to me recently.
I must paint the picture.
I received one bottle of Pinot Gris wine from a New Zealand wine producer. The producer chose me to head his mission to find an importer. I was his only contact. He had a lot of trust in me.
The producer was in the states on other business and planned to meet with me and the proposed importer, who I found,  for lunch. I only had one sample and we were going to open this one bottle of wine to analyze the contents. The importer was an old friend of mine and normally respects my judgment.
The bottle of Pinot Gris has a screw top cap, so, a back-up was not necessary. There was no cork, as most wines from New Zealand follow that trend and little possibility of oxidation.
The problem. The bottle of Pinot Gris was stored in the refrigerator and somewhat hidden from view. We had guests for the weekend and had planned our yearly pilgrimage to the Tyringham Steak Roast that evening. Somehow, one of the guests, opened the fridge, found the bottle of Pinot Gris (we were in the living room) and poured three hefty glasses of wine from the bottle. Obviously, the guest did not know how important the bottle was to me and my business venture when he opened it. As he came into the living room with the overflowing wine glasses, I said,“ Did you open the bottle of Pinot Gris?”, to which he replied enthusiastically, “Yes”. Naturally, I reacted somewhat emotionally and nearly shed a tear because this bottle meant the world to me.
The unopened bottle was the only vehicle I had to show to the importer. On top of that, the producer was flying in to meet for the tasting and fateful judgment.
The dilemma was obvious. You can’t bring an open bottle of wine, two days later to a business meeting and expect to make a deal with the importer.
I sulked the remainder of the weekend, to my wife’s and guests disapproval. I mentioned, probably too often, “ How can you open somebody’s refrigerator and open a bottle of wine without asking?”.
I, even, had a bottle of Lafitte Rothchild in the fridge for storage. I wonder if that bottle would ever be safe again? Obviously, if that bottle had been opened instead of the Pinot Gris, I would have been much happier.
The end result of the Pinot Gris incident  was devastating. The vineyard owner said I was not responsible and he was going to find another broker. My wife says I acted like a baby and still talks about it. My friend does not return my e-mails.
My dream has vanished.
Imagine, all of this over one bottle of wine!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Crazy!