Missing the little things in life…

Why do we as human beings seem to take so many things for granted? Things that we love and enjoy and still take for granted…At least we take them for granted until we risk losing them or lose them for some time, or even worse for good? What am I talking about? Well, to be specific in this instance I’m talking about drinking and enjoying wine.

I taste wines almost daily for the last God knows how many years and have been drinking wine for the last 35+ years. I swear!! ( Full disclosure; since I was raised in Spain and Portugal, I was blessed with enjoying a little vino here and there in my teens. ) Needless to say you’re probably not going to run into any other 48 year olds that can tell you they have been drinking wine for 35 plus years. Anyhow…I’ve been sick-as-a-dog the last two weeks. Upset stomach, low grade fever, chills, malaise, just freaking awful. The Doc said some from of “Influenza-B. whatever the hell that means. Only side benefit is that I lost some weight (again) – looking like freaking Twiggy, with my size 34 “skinny” jeans hanging off my ass – looking more like 32 waistline from Freshman year in college.

My appetite has finally returned over the last few days, as I seemingly return to some semblance of normalcy. This virus really kicked my ass. THE worst part of all of this that I have not had a wiff of wine in over two weeks. For me that may be the closest to going back to the “virgin palate”. I taste and rink wine daily and Oh do I love it so – it’s my hobby, my passion, my business and my profession. So that is why I realize how much I’ve taken for granted having been able to enjoy amazing wines from around the world on basically a daily basis for decades. I’ve been in the wine business for 26 years now, so that is one hell of a stretch.

I’m grilling fresh cut marinated pork chops we picked up from Waldwick Meats, our local butcher – its locally raised pork that roams, digs & forages on a farm until its ready. Some marinated vegetables will be added to the grill and some wild rice to finish things off. I’ve been thinking about what wine to open and still can’t decided. I may have to open a couple of bottles to make sure. Oregon Pinot Noir? Washington State Merlot? A Rose would work?! I’m not taking any glass or bottle for granted from now on. Life is too short to drink crappy wine…Cheers & Bon Appetite!

Oh yeah, don’t take the stuff you love for granted. REALLY enjoy it.

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Winter trip to North Fork wine country

I just returned from another long day on the road. Drove all the way out to Greenport, all the way out on Eastern Long Island and visited several customers on the North Fork. Also enjoyed a great lunch at The Blue Canoe in Greenport – The Miso coated Cod was delicious and so was my glass of Paumanok Cabernet Franc… I also had the chance to visit my friend Bob and wish him a Happy Birthday. in person.

Lately, I’ve been making the effort to throw one of my Nikon cameras into the car so I have a good camera handy all the time. Really enjoying having a camera handy all the time again. Should have never stopped carrying one. I see way too much cool stuff. It’s also important to stop and actually take a shot when you see a good one…don’t forget that the North Fork of Long Island is real wine country.

Proof that work in the vineyard never stops. Pruned vines cutting piled up...

Proof that work in the vineyard never stops. Pruned vine cuttings piled up…


This next shot, I actually drove past, turned around making a u-turn and came back to set up the shot…way too good to pass up.

This truck is parked in front of the former Hargrave Vineyard ( 1st winery on Long Island) now called Castello Borghese

This truck is parked in front of the former Hargrave Vineyard ( 1st winery on Long Island) now called Castello Borghese


Will try to post more cool picks as regularly as I can. Cheers!

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Per capita beer, wine consumption by state!

This was too good to pass up and I just has to share…

HIGH POINT, N.C. — A software programmer has mapped the beer and wine consumption of all the states.

Rajesh Korde, who runs the Significant Digits blog, used data from the Beer Institute website to map each state’s beverage of choice.

He calculated the beer wine index by dividing the wine consumption by the beer consumption.

Korde also mapped whether states prefer beer or spirits.

Check out the interactive map. You can pick your state and see the beer, wine & spirit consumption. Where are the real winos?



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Rose season

Being on the import and wholesale side of the business, I have to plan ahead. Most wineries in the Northern Hemisphere are releasing their 2014 Rose wines as we speak. That being said, we are getting ready for our Roses, while praying for Spring weather.

Rose wines have become evolved into a category that actual now sells quite well year round over the last 5-10 years. Even though Rose does sell all year long, there is an unquestionably noticeable bump in sales when wines from the fresh new vintage start arriving in the market, along with longer days and warming weather.

At Rad Grapes we ran out of all our Rose too early, back in late August. In order to remedy that, I’ve doubled our Rose orders vs last year and we are adding new ones. Here’s the Rad Grapes Rose lineup for 2015:

We’re looking forward to receiving the Del Rio Vineyards 2015 Rose the second week of March. This year it’s a beautiful dry Bordelais Rose made mostly from Merlot. Yes, delicious Merlot Rose. It was just bottled and should be ready soon…


Next we have a brand new wine from our friend Bob Shack at HB Wine Merchants, pictured above. Domaine Bel Eouve is a classically styled Provencale Rose, with great length, fruit and aromatics from the Coteaux D’Aix en Provence appellation. This vintage is a blend of 52% Grenache, 18% Cinsault, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Counoise, 5% Syrah, 5% Sauvignon Blanc, and 5% Viognier. The Bel Eouve Rose should be in stock the second week in March.

Villa Giada Chiareto

Lastly I just tasted a mind blowing Chiaretto from Andrea Faccio and his Azienda Agricola Villa Giada. I was already a huge fan of his Barbera D’Asti Suri that we’ve been selling since September. This Monferrato DOC Rose is stunning in its depth of fruit, character and length. Just Wow! Since we I’ve just tasted it, the wine must be registered and posted for sale in NY, so the earliest we will be able to sell it is April 1st.

Rad Grapes is getting ready for Spring. Are you?


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The art of following up…

There are so many people I talk to that seem rather excited when I tell them what I do. It seems everyone would like to sell wine and immediately ask me about tips on how to get into the business. I tend to laugh it off and tell them how much I love what I do. Popping corks daily starting at 11am sounds a little glorified…it’s fun, but only a small part of what the job entails. I’ve hired quite a few sales reps and few, very few have the staying power. You’ve got to be the turtle, not the hare…I figured that one out a long time ago. Making a living selling wine is like running a marathon. Pace yourself and run smart…

Sales is a tough job, any sales. Traveling sales, like what I do, is a bitch. The vast majority of people can try it, but will quit within a couple of years. Not only do you need to be cut out for sales in the first place, but you must have endurance, persistence and patience as some of the necessary personality traits. Long days, lots of driving and being able to take rejection daily are where most get overwhelmed selling wine.

I’ve been selling wine now for over 25 years. 10 years selling my own Rad Grapes wines. Each work week I usually spend 4 days on the road and I absolutely love it. Experience counts for a lot, but has to be acquired and that takes time. Part of that is the level of wine knowledge and knowledge of the retail and restaurant sides of the business. Both are important and integral to success in wine sales. Like any form of sales it all starts with doing your homework. That entails figuring out what each customer wants or can use. Listen…Which wines would best suit the customer? Which wines can he really use? Trying to figure that out in restaurants that starts with reading a wine list and figuring out which wines may fill a hole or void on the list or be a able to replace an existing wine with one that is of better quality or price. When it comes to retail wine stores, I call the art “reading shelves”. I like to take a few minutes to “scan” the shelves of every wine shop I enter and figure out if there’s a void or need that one of my wines can fill. 99% of the time I find a spot or two and get to work. Next time you visit the customer, just make sure you have th right samples to taste.

The chances of making a sale or new placement increase dramatically when I taste targeted wines with customers. Buyers are much more likely to buy a wine they like and can put to good use that when tasting random wines, no matter how good the random wines are. You can and will make sales tasting random wines, but that’s akin to throwing a dart at the dart board. Again, like most forms of sales, you don’t always get the order right away. It may be a matter of timing, cash-flow or space. That means follow up is needed. If I were to guess, I’d say a good 60% of wine sales are made upon repeated follow up with the customer on wines he tasted and liked. That’s where the art comes in. Hell, that’s where you prove yourself and make your money.The art of the sales follow up is like “riding the fence” between being persistent or becoming a pain in the ass – Just make sure you stay on the right side of that fence. Scott Lawrence who years ago was the managing partner and wine director at Zoe in NYC told me, “No one follows up like you. That’s what makes you good.” I still cherish that compliment and take it to heart, every day. You have to know each customer and their personality on top of knowing their business to time how, when and how many times you may need to follow up to actually make the sale. Being detailed oriented and keeping great notes is helpful to me and has been. To be great at sales takes many talents rolled into an art form. Being organized, knowledgeable, diligent, persistent and patient are all required qualities. Sprinkle that with a little fairy dust and voila! Wine sales, again, are not for everyone, but I sure as hell love it…Tink?! Is that you?

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Rad Grapes redesigned website is live

It has been a long time coming, but the day is finally here. My good friend and web-designer-extraordinaire, Jon Hackett just finished and launched the redesign of www.radgrapes.com .

There have been a number of wines and links added to the website. I think the last update was in April and Rad Grapes has probably added 20 wines since then. Some minor changes, additions and tweaks need to be made, but the design stays. I really like the clean and elegant look. Thanks Jon!

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Yes January is slow. WTF now? The Flu?

The beginning of January is one of the slowest times of the year in the wines business. It’s like NY gas a massive hangover and overspending problem that makes everyone pause, hibernate or withdraw from society and especially drinking for a couple of. I think it may have something to do with all those people lying to themselves with an “I’m going to be drinking less New Year’s resolution”…As has been well documented that more than 70% of New Year’s resolutions are broken within two weeks. LOL. Today was our busiest shipping day so far this year. It only took two weeks… Where’s my wine!?

I tend to look at the glass half full, so I guess getting a nasty case of the Flu at the beginning of January was not the worst time, since it’s really not that busy – well, at least until today. Hopefully I can fully recover and get me palate back ( I can’t taste shit right now!) over the weekend. I miss my wine…

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Wine portfolio plans for 2015

Life or business doesn’t always go according to plan, but planning is still a necessity. Ok, so what is the plan for 2015? What new wines would I like to add to the Rad Grapes portfolio? Great questions, which I attempt to answer.

As our wine portfolio grows and adapts, I seem to get pickier and more conservative about what new wines we actually do add. There are seemingly always categories or wines I see the room and need for in the portfolio, but finding the right wines and the right price point is much easier said than done. That only happens when I actually taste the right wine. Bingo! I wait for my palate to lead on wine quality…

Part of our late year success in 2014 was due to several Italian wines we added from Vino et Spiritus, like the iPrandi and La Giareta wines from the Marcato family. We have also had great success with any wines we carry from HB Wine Merchants and the Domaine Cabrials Pinot Noir and Chardonnay we added mid year are no exception. Finding new homes for well made artisanal wines at very good price points, is pretty close to a no brainer. With the success of the recently added wines, I’m almost slightly intimidated in trying to keep the streak going. Look, the Rad Grapes portfolio consists of about 70 wines and we certainly have room for more. It’s just a matter of finding the right wines and then planning accordingly to add them to our portfolio ahead of the proper season. What the hell does that mean?

Well, if they are good, inexpensive wines, white or red, I don’t hesitate adding them to our portfolio no matter what time of year it is. Quality “everyday” wines that can sell at $10 – $12 a bottle retail will do well any time, almost any place. Most of the new wines I find don’t necessarily fit that price category and one must be more careful when to add them to the portfolio in order to try and maximize the impact they will have. If we are looking at new quality white or rose wines, by far the best time of year to add them to the portfolio is March and April. This way we have all season to maximize what we can do with the wines out of the gate and throughout the season. Our customers generally work with the seasons when picking new wines. I am much more likely to entice a customer with new white or rose at the beginning of the season, when they actually may be looking for those wines.  White and rose wines sell way better during the Spring and Summer months and I can analyze the performance of said new wines by being able to sell them from the beginning of said season all the way into the Fall, when white wine sales tend to slow compared to the warmer months. Almost the reverse is the case for red wines. Good reds are best to the mix in early Fall, when the vast majority of our customers are actually looking for new red wines and consumers drink way more red in the fall and winter to boot.

So where does leave us with the Rad Grapes wine portfolio for 2015? We have several new white wines that we added in this past Fall with our new Vino et Spiritus relationship, which we have sold a little, but have yet to sink our teeth into, like the iPrandi Soave, Marcato Soave ‘Il Pigno”,  La Giareta Pinot Grigio and the Senorio de Rubios Albarino. So we already have several wines that were technically added ‘out of turn’ to our portfolio, so I want to see what they can do during the busy season for whites. I have high expectations for several of the wines. In terms of other new white wines, we look forward to acquiring some Lava Cap Sauvignon Blanc and perhaps bringing back the Domaine Lamourette Sauvignon Blanc and Maudry Sancerre. Sauvignon Blanc is another very popular category that we do not have the ‘coverage’ we should. That is my fault and I’ve been working to remedy the situation. There are a few other wines I’ve tasted and though would be good additions like a Moscato D’Asti, a delicious Verdicchio and a great Chardonnay from iPrandi, but I need to pace myself…right now, there are no concrete plans for any of them, but that may change. Time will tell…we could certainly use the new wines, but given all the recently added wines and planned new additions, my plate is full. It is imperative the proper attention is given to all new wines. adding way too many new wines at the same time or to close together is bound to have something fall between the cracks and ‘homey don’t play dat’…Building wine brands takes lots of time, effort and work. Those cannot be rushed.

In 2014 we were ill prepared with our Roses. The category is still growing like wild fire and we ran out of the two Rose wines we had by mid August. Not enough Roses or enough inventory…That is not good especially since the Rose category has become one that sells year round now. To remedy that situation, we have already committed to twice the Del Rio Vineyards dry Rose we bought last year for their 2014 vintage about to be released; have found a new Provencale Rose thanks yet again to Bob Shack and HB Wine Merchants – the Domaine Belle Eouve Coteaux d”Aix en Provence 2014 Rose should be available by March 15th; we also look forward to the return of the Domaine Lamourette Rose from the Loire and maybe, just maybe we can get our hands on a deliciously inexpensive Italian Rose. That should leave Rose covered going forward.

There are plans to add new reds, from Dolcetto,  Sangiovese, Merlot, Prokupac (yes, some new Serbian wines on the horizon), to Amarone. I will have to see how the next few months pan out business vise, before I can plan ahead properly for Fall red wine additions. I will tackle that in detail sometime in the Spring.

Beyond the planned wine additions, my main goal in 2015 is to re-connect with a number of customers, that we have let fade of the page in 2014. Rad Grapes is a glorified one man show, which can be overwhelming at times. I need to become much better at keeping up with all our customers and way better at retaining customers. yes, we have quite a few very good customers, but I need to work harder on those outliers. The Holidays have given me time to analyze our business better and in more detail. I’ve concluded a better job needs to be done with customer relations. That’s on me. More work…thank God I really love what I do.

Here’s to 2015! Cheers.

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Happy New Year

Wishing everyone a healthy and happy 2015. I hope it’s better than 2014 was for you and me. Have fun tonight and please be safe.

Girls are out with friends until later. Laura and I are headed out for a sushi dinner with the Kayes then home to chill.

Whatever you do, just don’t drink and drive. We will all be better off.

Bom Ano! Feliz Ano Nuevo! Sretna Nova Godina! Happy New Year!

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What Would Jesus Drink? A Class Exploring Ancient Wines Asks #WWJD

Talk about a great question! Well then?

“Inside the Boston Wine School, Jonathon Alsop places empty glasses and plates of figs and cheese before a small group of students. Alsop, who founded the school in 2000, is doing a test run of a new class that poses the question: What would Jesus drink?

“This is … a cheese that Jesus might have eaten,” he tells students. “It’s called Egyptian Roumy — it was a cheese that was introduced to the Egyptians by the Romans. It’s a sheep’s milk cheese.”

He opens a red blend from Lebanon. “This is something that citizens in biblical times would not have been acquainted with — the screw cap,” he jokes.

Alsop founded the school 14 years ago and has taught food and wine classes on everything from pairing wine with meat to tasting the wines of Tuscany. Alsop came up with this latest idea after reading the Gospels.

“This picture of Jesus as a foodie and a wine lover, slowly but surely, starts to emerge. I mean, his first miracle was turning water into wine,” he says.

As Alsop opens a bottle of Italian wine, he explains to his students that the wine they are sampling bears little, if any, resemblance to wine during Christ’s time.

“It’s clean. It’s clear. It’s in a bottle,” says Alsop, holding up the wine glass and examining it. “These wines were shipped around the Mediterranean in ceramic or wood casks; they would have taken on that flavor. This is almost certainly different.”

rest of article from NPR

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