If You Know, Do You Really Know?
You can walk into ANY liquor store and be befuddled at the literal sea of product you are confronted with. In 2001 in the weeks leading up to my family purchasing a liquor store in Monroe, CT my father took us on a road trip to “look” at other retail establishments and get a sense of the journey we were about to embark on. One such place was Central Liquors in Flemington, NJ. Although I was only 24 years old, I had been to this store many, many times. Central Liquors is the store my mother’s father, Stephen (great name), established. That day I remember looking at the thousands of different wines and spirits and thinking about overwhelming it was. How would we manage the tremendous detail, information and knowledge required to be successful at wine and spirit retail? Of course, my late Uncle Jack who was running the store at the time joked: “fake it ’til you make it.” He laughed, but there was a sincerity in his advice. There was no way I was going to be able to learn enough before starting a career down this path, so I did. I faked it. I tried to not make commitments on what things were, what they tasted like and how they were made or even overall quality. My father was an Oral Surgeon, and he knew wine, but he was only there sparingly, so we couldn’t rely on him to answer questions. Shortly after opening my brother and I attended Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World Wine Course. We studied. We tasted. We passed! In truth, there was no pass/fail, but we learned. Since then and over the last 20 years, I have taken many courses, attended my fair share of wine conferences, attended copious trade wine tastings, spoken to people who have studied wine and read books, A LOT of books. It is a passion of mine, and sometimes I can’t tell if I love wine, or I love knowing about wine. Who am I kidding? I love wine.
Why am I telling you this? When I first started, I felt like I knew very little about the world of wine and spirits. Now that I’ve spent half of my life in the industry, I know what I don’t know and that makes me feel like I still know very little. Enjoying wine is like a journey, try not to think about how far you need to travel, rather enjoy the journey. A glass of wine helps.