Before this gets going, I really must inform you the two reasons I’m slightly on edge right now. First of all, I am fresh off a seriously sour wine tasting trip and second; I have the ever-so-thrilling film Derailed playing in split screen on my computer throwing twists and turns at every corner so I apologize if my tone is a little harsh. That being said, I’ve stated from day one that my reason for being so involved in the wine industry is to bridge the gap between the horrifying façade and its beautiful approachability to the younger generation. Because this goal runs through my veins with every new wine experience, it’s a bittersweet symphonic moment when I find myself in situations that truly frustrate me, yet fortify my passion for changing the way people interact with each other both behind the bar and as a customer. I welcomed this much-needed incident to finally give me an idea for a new blog. Sorry Josh!
I can’t say I’ve done hundreds of wine tastings. To be honest, its still part of a mere two-year old passion and my busy schedule hinders my ability to venture too far from home as often as I like. So, when I got the chance to take a vacation with my fellow wine-appreciating girlfriend, hitting up their local tasting rooms certainly made our list of must do activities. We designated an entire day, called, texted, tweeted and facebooked all my wine-friends for suggestions of the six stops we should select out of the over eighty options, and finally made our list. (Out of respect and my own fear of hate mail, I will not mention any of the wineries or the wine region itself…so deal with it! I am only trying to make a point). We already knew that a third of the stops were going to be the big guns for that region just to say we went there. We didn’t, however, want the best experience to be from them. We were hoping to find the ma and pa operation of which no one’s heard only to fall in love and bring their name back home, but alas, our fears came true. Being young wine drinkers in our early 20’s, I can see how its hard to believe I know two shits about wine, but for heavens sake don’t shut me out completely! Like clockwork, we would walk in the tasting room, get looked at, then be treated like college kids trying to get a buzz. “How long was this aged?” “What are the percentages of varietals in this claret?” “Can you tell me a little back-story of your winery or winemaker and how you got the name?” Simple, engaging questions that I’d had loved to know, but since we weren’t the 50+ couple flaunting an American Express, getting treated like a member of wine society was far from a reality. When I pay the small fee for a tasting, I don’t expect a drone to pour me wine. I expect to be educated and informed while I drink. “But Ben, they were probably too busy to talk to everyone.” WRONG!!! It was a slow weekday and it couldn’t have been easier. To make it even more ironic, we walked out with more bottles than the older couples throughout the day. In your face wineries! Yes, I’ll still buy wine despite bad service.
I know I’m coming across pretentious and needy, but I just don’t get it. I forget sometimes, from working behind the bar so much, how truly frustrating wine tastings can be as a newbee trying to find comfort. My heart goes out to the young generation that gets treated so poorly and honestly doesn’t get shown the right hospitality. Who the hell do some people think they are?! Its simple, wine is supposed to be enjoyed no matter the age or suspected knowledge. Not just enjoyed on the palate, but enjoyed as an experience whether it be during a soiree, a nice dinner, an evening alone with a good book, or during a wine tasting. I’m telling this anecdote as a reminder of why we all fell in love with wine in the first place. Most of you reading this will not own a tasting room, but for those who will, don’t ever judge a book by its cover. And one day, when you’re the 50+ couple being treated like royalty next to some fresh meat, help them out and use you authority and love for wine to create a better experience for everyone.
Ben Hilzinger is a wine slinger at Nectar Tasting Room and at the Arbor Crest Winery. During the day he masquerades as an aspiring drum teacher seeking to instill a sense of rhythm in wanna be rockers. In the evening Ben dons his rock star cape as a drummer for a local band and occasionally travels the world with Jonathan Jones. Ben hopes to share the love of wine with his generation and has aspirations to be a wine maker. Follow Ben on Twitter @benhilzinger