Who am I, and what do I even know about wine?
Very good questions. Being a true New Englander, I would be suspect reading some random stranger's thoughts on wine, let alone rosé. Who is this guy? Who cares what he thinks? More importantly, why do *I* care what he thinks? Trust, I get it.
I'll start with the basics. My name is Matt Demers. I currently live in Berkeley, California after 20 years in Boston, Massachusetts. I've been in the wine industry for almost a decade, having worked many facets: from distributor to supplier to winery representative. I have had territories as small as on-premise (restaurants) downtown Boston to the entire San Francisco Bay Area to 5 of the 6 New England states. I have called on highest-rated restaurants and local corner bodegas. I have sold a case of wine for both less than ten and several hundreds of dollars. I have negotiated the sale of 2 bottles and the sale of full 56-case pallets. I have worked with a fleet of experienced sales people, and I have cold-called accounts solo with a couple wines on my back. As I said in the past entry, you know what you know. I know the wine industry.
I had lived an unconventional life before all of this. Looking back, I see that I was fairly renegade, unafraid to completely start over and try something new. And, the entrepreneurial spirit has always intrigued me. My degree is in creative writing, and I worked briefly as an editor for a local magazine. I was a personal trainer for a decade. I became a restaurant and food (and fine art!) photographer. I worked my way through school as a bartender for years. As I am a sucker for school, and people, for that matter, I got my Masters in Social Work and worked at a psychiatric hospital. I pursued a doctorate in psychoanalysis (and walked away from it).
When I finally got into the wine industry, I knew I found my home. The wine industry hits many notes -- the human interaction that I value; the freedom of creating my own business that I love; the academic stimulation that I crave. It was time to stop being a Jack of All Trades, and time to be a Master of one. I chose wine.
All roads lead us to where we are. And all of my roads have helped me be happy and successful in the wine world. Since my great friend Anthony offered me my first job at Arborway Imports after our meeting at Starbucks, I have not looked back.
I would love to say I've been a wine drinker all my life. And that is true (I guess?) if you count the Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers and Purple Passion & Sun Country 2-liter bottles we drank lounging in (my practically sister) Steph's pool as teenagers. Or dipping into other neighbors' big Gallo Burgundy and Chablis jugs of wine (always hidden under the sink. And the "Chablis" was always warm. What's up with that?) at high school parties. Or spending a too-large proportion of my restaurant tips on bottles of terrible Merlot to pre-game my fraternity parties.
But for the most part, no. I'm from New Hampshire. Come on. The road to Montrachet and Barolo and Provençal rosé is littered with cigarette-butt filled crushed Bud cans, rancid-lime infused Corona bottles, and empty Captain Morgan and Coke red Solo cups for sure. Let alone the warm Boones Farm Strawberry Hill and purple MD 20/20 drunk after football practice in high school up to days running around the campus of the University of Colorado.
My first true memory of fine wine occurred in my late 20s when a wine-savvy friend brought over a bottle of Sancerre. Always having been wildly intimidated/fascinated by the world of wine, my friend explained that in France, Sancerre is the region and the grape is Sauvignon Blanc. And Europe was considered "Old World" and everywhere else was the "New World". And that in the New World one put the grape name on the label (Cabernet Sauvignon) and not the region (Napa). And that Old World wines have a different taste, texture, and experience than New World wines. Oh. This was a start for sure.
That bottle of Celestin Blondeau Sancerre was suddenly my gateway wine-drug. Woodbridge Chardonnay was officially kicked to the curb! This was in the late 90s, when Boston and other cities were going through a massive urban revitalization. Young people were clamoring to live in the cities (it was affordable back then...) and funky little owner-operated cafes and bistros were opening everywhere. This included my little corner of the world, the very edgy/sketchy South End of Boston. And these wine lists quickly became very adventurous and interesting. As I weaned off those Captain and Cokes to more "sophisticated" cocktails such as Cosmopolitans (no judgement! this is the late 90s people), I traded in the Australian Rosemount shiraz (again -- JUDGEMENT FREE ZONE) for a French E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone. And, as we know, once you start to dive deep, it gets tough to go back. I was hooked.
I befriended a bunch of other young oenophiles all somehow connected to the restaurant industry at one point. I enjoyed both the renaissance of a city and the discovery of these new wines with my fellow menaces. The Franklin Cafe, Tremont 657 and Aquitaine (and many others) became our stomping grounds for exploration of new flavors and experiences. Our cocktail and dinner parities suddenly evolved from a 12-pack of Coors Light to a multiple bottles of Barbera D'Alba.
Ok. I've given a small snippet of "Who I am?" from the original question. "What do I even know about wine?" is more complicated. I tend to follow the Socratic thought of "The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing." A few wine certifications, over $1K on various wine bibles, and tens of formal tasting notes later...I can hold my own. Or not. Who knows? I know what I know and like what I like. Getting involved in the wine industry is diving into the rabbit hole for sure. But yes, wine studies have become part of my DNA.
What I do know, and firmly stand by it, is that wine is a conduit between human beings. Wine brings us together for an elegant meal or a simple picnic. Wine connects us by crackle of a fire pit or the heat of the sun at the beach. Wine brings us to heights of humor and laughter, rawness of struggles and heartache, intimacy of secrets and stories, and espousal of grand dreams and visions. Wine gives us a pause, a sigh, a breath away from the rest of our life. For with that sip we share together, that moment is all that matters.
Because we go through it together as an intimate shared experience. And THAT is what I know about wine. For as deep as I can go with the importance of the degree of the slope the vines were grown or the varying pH levels of certain grapes (translation: Who. Cares. And, I promise my thoughts on all of THAT will be a future post), the fact that wine universally unites people in love is all I care about. And, that's all that matters.
And with this, my story has officially commenced!
next: when my rosé obsession began