That's Not Me (but it really is)

There's kind of a running joke at K&L about Rombauer Chardonnay, that buttery, sweet, rich, and oaky white wine from California that many in the industry have labeled "cougar juice". The joke is that everyone loves it (it's easily one of the top ten wines we sell in volume), but no one's buying it for themselves.

"This isn't for me," says the guy with the case of Rombauer at the counter, as if he were buying condoms or pornography. "My wife is the one who drinks this. Me? I prefer bold reds." But he's not buying a case of Silver Oak Napa Cabernet to go with it. 

Certain bottles in the booze industry have achieved certain stigmas involving the type of consumers who drink them, and what's funny is that no one ever thinks they're the type of person who fits that description. Yet, in trying to explain the situation to anyone within earshot (the attempt to distance one's self from these other people), we become the epitome of that stereotype. The irony is thick and suffocatingly sweltering. Sometimes you can't help but get a little uncomfortable in these situations.

What do I mean specifically by this? Let me give you a few examples. If you constantly need to tell people that you're specifically "not a jerk", then the chances are you're probably being a jerk. If you're the kind of person who has to tell people you're smart and that you went to an Ivy League school, then you're probably not all that smart. Basically, if you're the type of person who needs to tell people anything, to craft a character more perfectly calculated than any Facebook profile could ever be, then the chances are high that the opposite is true. At least, that's been my experience from working in a wine store. So when people go out of their way to tell you that, despite the case of Rombauer Chardonnay on the counter, they really prefer dry Burgundian whites from the Macon, there's really a double irony at work: the fact that they actually do love Rombauer, coupled with the literal implications of their intention. They want you to both believe something that isn't the case and respect them for who they aren't, yet sadly neither goal ultimately is accomplished.

It can get really confusing when people consistently do one thing, yet tell you another. Like the guys who call us every day in a frantic state, hoping to score a bottle of Weller 12, but then procede to tell us how annoying all those obsessive wheated Bourbon hunters are. Or the guys who rush to get their two bottles of Pliny the Elder every week, but then tell us how it isn't really all that good ("I don't see why people freak out about this stuff, you know?") when they come to pick them up. I've really come to understand where the term "own it" originated. Why try to convince others that you're someone else when it's glaringly obvious who you are? Doing so only makes it even more painstakingly clear! Just own it! There's nothing wrong with liking Rombauer, Weller, or Pliny! They're delicious products, which is why they're so popular. You love Weller 12? Then you are one of "those guys" who loves Weller 12. The only difference is that some people buy it, drink it, and silently continue to do so, while others have to give you a twenty minute discourse as to why they're not a trendy poser. Personally, I prefer the former. 

We had a guy in the store yesterday who was carrying on for a good half hour about all of his wine adventures, who he knows in the industry, and what he "usually" drinks when he's not buying "everyday" bottles. It was beginning to reach a fever pitch until finally he capped it off with: "But you know what? There's a lot of pretentious people out there in the wine business and, personally, I'm over pretense at this point in my life." 

I literally could not hold it in. I just burst out laughing while my colleague looked at me embarrassed. Sometimes you just can't help it.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll