Thursday, January 15, 2009

Looking Back...and Forward

Today I received an e-mail telling me that Kevin Zraly is following me on Twitter. I don’t know Kevin, but I certainly know who he is.

Back in 1995, I took a job as the manager of a wine shop that was in the process of opening. The owner was in the jewelry business and decided to open a wine shop just for the heck of it.

Now, I’m not saying this guy didn’t know a whole lot about wine, but he was constantly asking me, “Merlot is basically a blend, right?”

He tapped me as his go-to guy for wine knowledge, even though I knew practically nothing. One of my greatest talents is creating the impression (illusion?) of knowing something useful.

I did, however, have a copy of Windows on the World Complete Wine Course, which had been a gift from one of my brothers. That book, along with Wine for Dummies, served as my guide to the very confusing world of wine for many years.

I’m sorry to say I lost that book along life’s path; I’m usually pretty obsessive about holding on to books. As someone who came of age pre-Internet, I’m accustomed to looking for information in books. Sometimes I actually forget that I can look something up online…sometimes I’d just rather not.

I was reminded of all this by seeing Kevin’s name pop up in my inbox. My mind wandered back to my experiences in the wine business. I’ve worked for two wine stores and have come close to taking several jobs in the distributing business.

So, why am I working in a fabric box doing corporate marketing, instead of selling wine?

The answer is complicated. Most importantly, I’m actually not much of a salesperson. I can do pretty well in retail sales, but I’d never cut it in outside sales.

I love wine, and I like to talk about wine, but that seems to be increasingly irrelevant in the distribution business. When I talk to my friends in the business, they seem unsure about what their future holds. Like so many businesses, selling wine frequently has little to do with the actual juice.

So, where does that leave someone like me, who would like to work in a business they’re passionate about, but isn’t sure where in that business they would fit?

I still harbor fantasies about opening a little wine shop somewhere, but in a world of Costco, Trader Joe’s and Total Wine & More that seems unlikely at best. And, short of a Powerball jackpot, I could never come up with the necessary capital.

I’ve considered moving somewhere wine is produced. The West Coast is out due to family and budget considerations, but there are more and more wineries opening in North Carolina and Virginia. I don’t know anything about making wine, but maybe there’s a living to be made helping those wineries market themselves.

(Yes, I still dream of being a winemaker, but that also falls in the not-unless-I-win-the-Powerball category.)

Writing about wine is, of course, something I consider, but writing about anything is a dicey way to pay the bills. Blogging is a way of dipping my toe in those waters. So far, the water is ice cold.

We’ll see what the future holds for me. In any case, thanks Kevin — for following me, for the knowledge you shared, for a trip down memory lane and for making me consider the future.

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