In January of 2000, I moved to Los Angeles to somehow find myself and my love of wine. Of course, hindsight being 20/20, I should have gone north to Napa or San Francisco where grapes and fine dining were more prevalent, but I chose not to listen to my father and go to Hollywood instead.
Santa Monica, to be exact. A beautiful city on the Pacific Ocean, my number one priority once I got off the plane was to find a job.
I put on a suit my Nana had given me for Christmas and took a stroll down 3rd Street Promenade with a resume that listed my degree from Chapel Hill and three previous jobs: Golden Corral Waitress, Hector’s Down Under Bartender and Assistant Cellar Master at Windows on the World.
My first stop was Remi, an upscale Italian restaurant with a gorgeous dining room designed by Adam Tihany. I asked the hostess could I apply for a job, and she kindly told me they weren’t hiring. As I was telling her to call me if anything opened up, a gentleman sitting in the private dining area walked out and introduced himself as Brian Everingham, the restaurant manager. He asked me to come back the following day for an interview. Score!
My second stop was 3rd Street Deli, a massive restaurant with a casual dining area, a counter to buy to-go items and a super cool wine bar. I asked to speak to the wine manager and a young guy with a midwestern accent came over to meet me. He told me the wine bar was open on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, and they did need a wine-tender, but only on Sunday nights. I happily told him I was available, and he asked me to come train on Thursday-Saturday in hopes of being by myself on Sunday evening.
And there you have it ladies and gentleman, I worked these two jobs every week for six months until moving back to Manhattan to take the job as Beverage Manager at Windows on the World.
Many would say those six months were a waste for my career, that I could have stayed at Windows as an Assistant Cellarmaster and saved money on two cross country moves, in turn, moving up the career ladder much faster.
But I don’t see it that way.
In those six short months, I made some dear friends, a few with whom I have just recently reconnected on facebook. I also learned more about hospitality through my hostess position at Remi. Another bonus was that my knowledge about wines of California and the Pacific Northwest grew greatly as most of my wonderful customers preferred to drink these over the wines of France or Italy. It was in Santa Monica that I tasted one of my favorite Pinot Noirs from Oregon.
I’ll never forget the label that got my attention first. It looked like a red postage stamp stuck to a dark glass bottle, and the words on it were Benton Lane Pinot Noir. The wine comes from the Willamette Valley in Oregon, and this Pinot took me to a newer place. It had all of these flavors beyond the bing cherries, cola and soy. The wine tasted different. It had this lightness that seemed very fresh and rosy. The wine was really beautiful, and I remember researching it to find it had the reputation of being the “healthiest wine in the world” due to the high percentage of resveratrol found in these particular grapes. I guess you could say this wine made an impact on me that I will never forget.
In fact, when Stephen & I opened On the Square in October of 2002, it was the first wine I ordered to have in our store. And, today, almost 9 years later, it is one of the 3 wines we have continued to carry. Of course, it has risen in price, but not to the point where it isn’t worth it.
Benton Lane Pinot Noir is still super pretty, and it still has rosy flavors of cooler fruit. I guess you can say it’s like one of pretty, nice girls in high school who was still pretty and nice at the 10-year high school reunion.
As I drink this wine on a stormy Saturday night, I think about all of the change that has occurred in my life since the year 2000. I have moved and I have left friends behind. I have stayed and I have been left behind. I have replaced wines that didn’t fit our wine store’s personality, and I have held on to some that should have been replaced a long time ago.
In this game called life, change is inevitable. We cannot do anything about it no matter how hard we may try.
However, it’s very comforting when some things stay the same. In my case, it’s the Benton Lane Pinot Noir. Same label, same flavors, same feeling I get when I drink it and when I sell it.
Cheers to some things staying the exact same.