Tag Archives: tastedc

Italian Vino for Wine Newbies


Charlie Adler Doing His Best “I Love Lucy” Grape Stomping Rendition!

I’ve been teaching and organizing wine classes at TasteDC TasteDC Website for over twelve years now, and just as soon as I think I’ve gotten it into an art form, I realize that every audience is unique – the principle that “one size fits all” just doesn’t hold water. That point plus the volunteers who pour my wine at events seem to have disappeared (you mean I need to keep in regular touch with them, shouldn’t they realize that I’m writing a wine book?!) means that tomorrow night I’ll most likely be juggling my notes, pouring wine and registering about 30 people all at the same time. Ahh, the life of a wine professional who drinks on the job, all is not fun and games!

The question is, how can I cover all of Italy in just under 2 hours? Although it’s a difficult task, I know I’m going to have to talk about food as well as wine. The whole premise of my upcoming book “I Drink on the Job” I Drink on the Job Book Website is that wine and food were meant to be together and this is based on the whole European food and wine lifestyle. Below are a few thoughts on how I’m going to introduce Italian wine to an audience that is starving to discover the pleasures of the Italian Table.

1) Break Italy down into major regions and taste and discuss wines that are representative of those areas.
Not an earth-shattering point, but it’s extremely practical. Some regions like Tuscany and specifically Chianti within that region are a given. I’ll focus on wines like regional Sangiovese, Barbera, Nero d’Avola, and Valpolicella. These wines/varietals have distinct regional variations and relate to the geography, climate and lifestyle of a given appellation.

2) Choose wines that deliver bang for the buck and represent the kind of wines that Italians would consume on a daily basis with their meals
Italy has some unbelievably fantastic show-stopping wines like Barolo, Barbaresco, and Brunello. As good as these wines are, their prices have sky-rocketed in recent years to such an extent that even your average Italian can only occasionally afford them. Piedmont has some excellent Barberas and Dolcettos that have never become fashionable in the world market, so they’re very affordable. Pinot Grigio has become popular in the U.S. but there are many whites like Vermentino and Trebbiano that are less famous in the U.S. and can be delicious at a reasonable price.

3) Share stories and anecdotes of my various trips to Italy that are “relevant”
Here are some fun stories that accomplish two things: 1) they entertain and get people to relax and relate to the wine experience and 2) they teach a relevant point about Italians and Italian wine that can help the wine consumer make purchase decisions when they need to:

-My trip to Vinitaly in 2004, where 4,000 wineries and what seemed like 4 million Italians (slight exaggeration!) hold a week of tastings and Italians get to show off their designer shoes and belts. This is held in the town of “Romeo and Juliet’s” Verona in the Veneto region. Lots of great stories from this trip including how we shut the bar down every night in our hotel in Bussolengo (those crazy Americans!!), and the amazing number of wine varietals that Italy produces.

-My buddy Antonio whose family comes from Piedmont not too far from Turin who told me that his family often visits a local farm where they purchase wines by the gallon jug for around $1 each!

-There are no spaghetti and meatballs in Italy – there’s spaghetti and then there’s meatballs, but they don’t go together, they’re served separately! This is similar to the Italian rule that you should never allow cheese to be shaved onto seafood, this is just a well-known “no no”!

-One quote from an Italian I met at a tasting is just a jewel: “in Italy, the trick is to find a job with the least amount of hours and the most amount of pay!” If you know anything about Italians, generally work comes second; friends, family and a fun lifestyle are more important!

Ciao!

Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler

Wine: The Food Enhancer

Spice up your life! If you enjoy food, then wine will come naturally. It’s part of the seasoning of your meal. Think of wine as a way to enhance the flavors of food. As a full-time wine professional over at TasteDC and about to be released author of I Drink on the Job: A Refreshing Perspective on Wine I constantly get questions from new wine drinkers about food and wine pairing. My overall philosophy is that wine and food is a synergy: 1 + 1 should equal MORE than 2. I argue that this is the same way with spices and the cooking preparation of your dish. Chefs will often add spices and taste as they go which helps to layer flavors and adjusts the flavor of the dish. Wine has dual purposes as well: it wakes up your taste buds before you begin eating primarily with acidity, and it accentuates flavors in food. If this sounds complicated, remember – no one has ever died from a bad wine and food pairing, it’s a low-risk proposition, even if wine and food don’t pair well, you can still experience pleasure!

My suggestion is that since wine and food pairing is an art form at best, wine consumers should experiment. What works for you, may not work for me and vice-versa. Just as chefs are adding new combinations of spices and flavorings to their dishes, new wine and food pairing synergies will be discovered. I like to think of it as exploration – new adventurers are breaking out of the mold of old ways of thinking and discovering new ways to enjoy the pleasures of wine. Just like not every explorer discovered something of value or importance, not all wine and food matches will work. But why not experiment and possibly make a discovery? The world of wine and food adventures is much safer than crossing the Atlantic on a galley, the worst mutiny that could occur is wine critics and the wine “order” could ignore you or denigrate you, but with the new world of social media – who needs them anyway? Set sail my friend to a new world of Tasting Discovery – Cheers!

Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler

So You Wanna Write A Book?


Charlie Adler “I Drink on the Job” Author and Speaker

I’ve just completed the final touches on my manuscript for my book “I Drink on the Job: A Refreshing Perspective on Wine” and I’m almost at the finish line. In football parlance, I’m probably at the five yard line just waiting to take the ball and break the plain for touchdown. But just as in football, there are defenders..

The lesson I’ve learned about writing a book and self-publishing is that you learn enough from completing a first book that it would be a big mistake not to write a second! There is a huge load of details you deal with in a first book and now I’m way up on the learning curve with one major hurdle: I don’t know how to sell/market the book! BTW – that’s very important, if you think that people will just “find” your book, well, there are alot of books on the market that sell less than 500 copies, and my breakeven point is about 1,500 copies. I’ve dealt with three edits, three designs, two covers, my publisher merging (that’s actually a good thing – Book Surge merged with Createspace which offers MANY more opportunities for product extensions such as DVDs, audio CD’s and even a new sales outlet), a web design (phase 2 right now for I Drink on the Job Blog – Soon to Be Website) and advice from many knowledgeable and kind human beings.

If you are thinking about writing a book, I think self-publishing is the way to go. If you can get a publisher to really put their marketing muscle behind a book or you’re a best-selling name author, the traditional publishing route might make sense, but if you want control over your destiny, self-publishing is supreme. My goal is promote my book everywhere I go and to ultimately have product extensions like audio CD’s, possibly a tchochke or two! Traditional publishers are having financial problems and are understaffed. They focus on blockbusters and books they can make money on quickly, it’s all about ROI. You might get an advance from a traditional publisher, but you essentially are indebted to them (they’re non-recourse most of the time with some exceptions) until you earn it back through sales. Self-publishing will cost you some money depending on how much you use the service – I’m probably just at $4,000, but I used their editing, cover design, and I will most likely use their PR/marketing as well – but you have no pressure to sell quickly. My thinking is that the book might have a soft launch to test different marketing avenues, and as it progresses, I might discover new potential sales channels. I’m only selling my book online and “in-hand”, but there are some retail outlets that may be interested in having me do book signings. I’m new to the process of book signings, I’ll blog about that when it begins in February!

BTW – I’m scheduled to be on Wine Library TV with Gary Vaynerchuk “Crush It” Book Site on Monday, February 15th, 2010, so peeps, you better be watching! Something like 100,000 people watch Wine Library TV every day, so I’m getting a strong start and who knows – maybe Gary will plug the book even more! He has a 10 book deal himself, so honestly, his book plate is full, so to speak – on the other hand, I may mention to him my wine audio CD’s, hmmm, maybe get a Gary V endorsement, but again, just one more option for promoting the book.

Last thought – people often ask me if I enjoyed the process of writing. My reply is generally, “No”. Putting my thoughts on paper was fun, but editing and trying to get all the pieces of the book together so that each Chapter fit into the big picture, was not an easy task. The longest paper I had ever written in college was maybe 25 pages, but with a multi-chapter 250 page book, it’s significantly more difficult. It’s sort of like college gut-level 101 classes: I always did poorly in general broad coverage courses, but in the 300 level and above I mostly got “A”s. My first book is my Intro book about me and my approach to teaching wine, actually more like “experiencing” wine. Any future books will most likely focus on an aspect such as food and wine pairing or specific ways to broaden wine knowledge. I’ll take one chapter in my current book and make it the premise for a whole book. Then possibly I’ll extend the brand with audio-CD’s and a new website. Another note: I took Gary Vaynerchuk’s suggestion to use my name domain (yes, I own charlieadler.com!) as the gateway domain for all future websites. If I become a “name” in the industry, there’s value to my vanity domain, and potentially alot of cross-pollination of my various endeavors.

OK, back to writing, editing and drinking – Cheers!

Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler

Debunking Terroir

I’ve heard so much about terroir in the wine press/blogging/twitter the last few years, that I’m past overwhelmed by all the statements and now into my denial phase. If you’re not familiar with “terroir”, it’s all about the “placeness” of a wine: the what, where, and how of the type of vine chosen, the varietal, the roots, the soil, the micro-climate, the wine maker, the regionality and of course all the factors that go into making the wine. For example, the “terroirists” or proponents of the idea that wine (and cheese, and beer, and pretty much anything you consume) should represent the unique characteristics of its region, are generally against much human manipulation, ie. chemical fertilizers, fungicides, herbicides, and too much use of new oak (this is a very short list, there are many more!). Their thinking is that we should taste nature’s gift the way nature intended it to be–use natural yeast, don’t filter or fine, and let the grapes ferment and express themselves the way they were meant to..enough, enough!

So what’s my issue with the concept of terroir? Does my skepticism towards the idea that you can (or can not) taste the soil in the final expression of the wine give me the right to throw the whole idea of nature’s expression out the window? Well, that’s not my point. I actually believe that better wine makers know and understand the locality they live in and they should use the least aggressive means of getting the vine to ripen grapes and express the full range of flavors. I believe that terroir, like character, is personal to each wine consumer. We each HAVE our own terroir (where you were born, your family history, the way you were brought up, etc.) and VIEW terroir differently – you say tomato, I say tomaato, well..you get the picture. We all express our own terroir, taste things in our own way, and we should each express our own opinions. The terroirists like many idealists are just too fanatical for my tastes, so to speak. They often condemn “manufactured wines” that have no soul, no individuality, and don’t represent a unique micro-climate. Fine–but just like the average American consumer, I want to enjoy a wine and I want it to taste good – what if 2 Buck Chuck tastes better to my palate than a $45 bottle of Burgundy, does that make me insincere? Isn’t there a place for mass market wines just like there’s a place for chain stores, or other commercially made products? Sure, I prefer handmade chocolates, but I’m not offended by the highly industrialized manufacture of Hershey Kisses, hey they taste good too!

The French say “to each his own” – so be it with wine. You only buy grass-fed organic beef from the farmer’s market, I like Prime-Aged corn-finished meat, but my mother swears by the tenderloin at Costco. Same with wine, each of us has different needs and goals in mind, so that should sincerely respected. I’d rather drink a local Virginia or Maryland wine (non-organic – it’s not possible at this point to produce organic wines in our area primarily due to humidity and rainfall during harvest issues) than an organic wine from say Chile. Both wines are great, but I can see the face of the Virginia winemaker at a local wine tasting room or at local tastings. I like the idea to keep money in the community when possible – that’s my feel good issue. For me, my sense of terroir is connected with the people I help in life – economically, spiritually, and in whatever way I can be of assistance. I don’t give money to international charities because I try to assist the homeless that live within a mile of a my home. My terroir is right here..

Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler

How to Pop


Charlie Adler, Author of I Drink on the Job” Popping the Champagne Cork Video!

I’ve probably opened more than 2,000 bottles of sparkling wine – that excludes Belgian beers and Real Ciders.
Believe it or not, the secret is in the knees – bend them just a bit..for whatever reason, whether it’s psychological or physics, this makes easing the cork out less cumbersome. I have to admit – sometimes the cork does fly out – even when you use the precautions mentioned in the video – ironically, this happened to me at the Embassy of Switzerland in Washington, D.C. when I attempted to open some VERY fizzy Swiss wines.

Enjoy the video – I think you’ll find that opening a bottle of sparkling wine is relatively easy and care-free!

Cheers!

Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler

The Hard Truth About Cider

Cider Apples - Ugly to the Core!

When I first began putting this article together, I really wanted to understand cider – no, not the stuff you drank as a kid, and not really the “hard cider” concoction mass-marketed in the U.S. for people who want alcohol but have a sweet tooth – I’m talking about the “artisanal” ciders produced in Brittany, France, parts of Britain and now the U.S. Farnum Hill Ciders seemed like a good place to start and the fact that they were willing to “donate” some samples to my tasting cause (tax man-I drank them as a “charity” to my spirits!) certainly made the journey to understanding worth it. I tasted (more like consumed!) the Kingston Black Reserve and the Extra Dry. Yes, both of them had aromatics reminiscent of apples, but just as in wine, there is so much more to the nose. Well-made artisanal products have intense aromas and I noticed quite a bit of spice – or was that the fact that I associate apples with cinnamon and clove? Ahh, the brain, such a wonderful organ, it adds immense complexity to everything, especially when it comes to olfactory powers! What screamed out of the glass (mug?) of the Kingston Black was a yeastiness reminiscent of Belgian Lambics. The finish was dry as a bone on both products and you could see right through each glass of cider – they are obviously filtered. Conclusion: I need to learn more about cider before I evaluate them, so I contacted Farnum Hill’s Corrie Martin (Director of Marketing and Strategy).

Cider: Closer to Wine or Beer?

My conclusion from the interview is that “cider” is a great product and has a significant “potential” audience, the problem is getting the message to them! The dilemma is whether cider is more like beer or wine when it comes to marketing the product? Farnum Hill uses the same yeast strain that is used to make Champagne – so check-mark on the the wine side. Corrie mentioned that the market for the product and the retail shelf location tends to be near Belgian beers in the refrigerated section – two check-marks for beer. Much of the marketing is geared towards Champagne lovers – another check-mark for wine. Apples have “terroir” like wine grapes do, but apples are grown generally in cooler regions where beer is consumed as in Britain and northern France – check-marks on both side. When it comes to pairing, wine, beer and cider all have their pluses and minuses. In other words, cider has some image hurdles to jump before it can reach its intended audience.

So after the interview, I have some thoughts about cider and it’s place in American consuming culture. As Corrie mentioned: “cider is a farm drink”, it’s an agricultural product, a product of the earth. I think this is an important point: wine is portrayed to the American consumer as a “cultural” product. Yes, vines are grown in the fields and grapes ripen based on sun, heat and other elements, but there’s a bit of the “liquid poetry” and the expression of the earth story line. I don’t picture wine makers in overalls, even though that’s probably how they do their job, I picture them in a tasting room, evaluating. If you’ve ever been to France at wine trade tastings, it’s coat and tie, and frankly it’s a bit stuffy. Add the English culture to the wine equation with connoisseurs, sommeliers, and Clarets and wine is part of the aristocratic tradition. Even the British wine critics are bery, bery British, I mean watch your P’s and Q’s, thank you very much!

Beer on the other hand, is a more industrial product, and even on the “micro”/craft level, I picture engineers in jeans playing with test tubes, measuring the hops and talking about ABV. Even high-end beers are enjoyed by jean-clad, t-shirt wearing beer geeks who often produce the product in their cellars at home. You never hear the term “craft” relating to wine, it’s “craft beer” – you can make this stuff, buy the right ingredients, get your yeasts, a few instruments and heck, you can make the good stuff! The biggest differentiation is when you attend a premium wine festival vs. a beer festival. Wine is more dressed-up, beer is more casual in dress as well as attitude. You “have” a beer, never wine. Wine has plenty of accessories: corkscrews, glassware, stoppers, aerators, preservation systems and the list goes on; beer needs a church key and a glass, you’re good to go!

So where does cider fit – and is that “hard cider”? My conclusion is that cider’s strength’s are closer to beer’s. Yes, apples vary from year to year like the quality of grapes, but cider is not a product that needs aging, and it preserves better refrigerated, so it most likely will be found in your retail outlet either in the domestic beer section or near the Belgian beers. Most cider will probably be marketed as dry or off-dry (that’s another consideration – how many people “perceive” cider to be sweet – that’s a marketing hurdle all by itself!) and possibly even looks similar to Champagne in color and bubble, but it just drinks more like beer! The alcohol level is in the 6-8% range (generally, very generally!) so that makes it a consumable closer to beer for practical purposes – you can have a mug of cider/beer of 12 to 16 oz. and still walk-away – the equivalent consumption of wine might take you over the legal limit, again, another consideration.

So now I add the weird question: when would I drink cider? Does it replace some of my wine consumption, or more of my beer drinking? I drink wine with food – period. Beer to me is an excellent stand-alone beverage, something I often drink when smoking meats, in fact, I use it as a cooking timer – ribs are ready after 2 or 3 beers, brisket the same, but add a 1-hour nap. I’m basing the beer equation on an approximate 12 oz. beer, many of the ciders are sold in 750 ml’s which is just over 25 oz..oh, that’s 2 beers, right! I often add beer and apple cider vinegar when I braise my BBQ to finish it for an extra hour or two – hey, again, cider is perfect, it saves me one step! Oh, and I love to make wine vinegar with any leftover wine, now I can make artisanal cider vinegar. Another double benefit for me. Cider will take away some of my beer consumption, but virtually none of my wine consumption. I drink beer maybe once a week, but wine literally every day, usually lunch and dinner, so a few bottles of cider a month suffice for my personal consumption. Another plus, is it doesn’t effect my Scotch/Rum/Bourbon consumption – a true relief to me!

Final thoughts

Image is everything when it comes to marketing a product, especially when you are trying to reach the “up market” demographics that cider is reaching. The bottle shape, size, closure (cork or cap?), the location in the store, the design and text of the label will all have an enormous effect on the perception of cider. The trick is to be associated with a competitive product that has the high-end image the producer is seeking. Champagne has this image as well as wine, but so does craft beer. If I pour cider in a fancy thin flute, you might sip it differently than you would if I poured it in a 16 oz. pint glass, in fact, I guarantee you will treat it differently. Still, Belgian beers have been relatively successful at marketing themself, and the consumer will drink Belgians in pints or in special glasses, I’m not sure if it makes significant difference in the products perception? Personally, I like the idea of a group of casually dressed people in a Pub with old-fashioned blue-collar ceramic mugs drinking frothy ciders and singing old English songs of a time gone by. I actually like the blue-collar image of cider – it’s sort of a nostalgia thing, kind of like the return of the Hamburger joint in the U.S. – yes, the hamburger’s recipe has been updated with better cheeses, Kobe beef, homemade ketchup and fries fried in olive oil, but it still brings back memories of a simpler more casual time. When I drink my Champagne, I want my Champagne, but when I drink my cider, I want to just be cave-man me!

Cheers!

Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler

Self-Esteem, Self-Loathing and Self-Publishing

Charlie Adler Schlurping!


I just submitted my final edited manuscript to my publisher Book Surgeon Monday, November 23rd, 2009 – a Big Yayyyy (my editor would shoot me if he or she–they is incorrect– as well as these dashes, I think I need an em dash, but that’s a whole other story!)!!! OK, back to the real world.. I spent about two weeks going through the final edited version of my book “I Drink on the Job: A Refreshing Perspective on Wine” which included inserting 36 images of me (that’s Charlie Adler!) in various poses demonstrating different aspects of my teaching style. The book is based on a popular wine class I’ve been organizing and teaching through my company TasteDC TasteDC.com in Washington, D.C. for the past twelve (not 12) years called Wine Basics 101. I still have to finish final design of the cover and interior of the book, but since my publisher’s team of designers handles primarily handles that, I’m just giving them as much direction as I can, and that’s not very much! The following are some observations from what I’ve learned so far about self-publishing:

1) Self-publishing means you need to purchase the various components of your book.

If you get a fancy literary agent, or you’re lucky enough to have a major publisher throw beaucoup dollars at you with an advance, then you actually have money in your pocket when you start the publishing process. I considered sending proposals to publishers and literary agents early in the process until I met with my old neighborhood buddie, Dan Moldea. Dan is an investigative journalist, he’s written eight books that have covered everything from the Mafia to O.J. Simpson (his website is at Dan Moldea’s Website I met him at his hangout in DC, Morty’s Deli back in early 2008 to discuss writing my first book. What Dan told me was fascinating. In his experience, he never felt he was treated very well by the major publishers, in fact, he felt they pretty much forgot each of his books about eight months into the marketing of his book. Yes, he received advances and he also made some good money on the O.J. title which was a timely best-seller, but he guided me away from going to a traditional publisher. He mentioned a company called “BookSurge” which is a self-publishing company owned by Amazon.com.

In a nutshell, Dan told me that self-publishing was the way to go: yes, I would have to purchase all the services from editing to layout, but there were numerous benefits. Some of the benefits he mentioned include the ability to continue marketing and promoting your title for as long as you choose, higher royalty fees, and setting your own deadlines for production. Just so you know, the latter may or not be a benefit, I started my first book almost two years ago, I thought the process would only take six to nine months! There are some negatives as well, such as the fact that I won’t have my book for sale in traditional book sellers, but frankly that’s probably a good thing. Realistically, how long do brick and mortar bookstores have left in the commercial world, and even if they survive the internet, they also hold the right to return unsold books. Add the lower royalty to selling through a traditional bookstore, and it becomes obvious why selling on Amazon.com and other internet retailers makes more sense. It’s all about On-Demand publishing, books are printed as they are ordered on Amazon.com, but that’s a story for another Blog entry.

Almost forgot to mention: The actual cost of self-publishing my first book including interior photographs, publishing services and a dedicated website will be around $10K. Could you do it cheaper? Yes, there are ways to save money, for example, you could create your own website and forego hiring a photographer. Other ways to save money include using Booksurges standard templates for cover and interior, and learning to edit yourself, but I felt these were outside my expertise. Let’s just say, you need a few thousand dollars to self-publish a full book.

2) You must give yourself plenty of time.

As I mentioned in the prior paragraph, my first book has been about a 24 month process – that is IF I finish it by the end of January, 2010, but that seems realistic at this point. If you have a full-time job and a life before you start your book, one of them will have to give way for the book! I know that life isn’t fair, but you can’t have it all, and you need immense concentration and free time to finish a book. You’ll most likely turn into a moody, overly emotional vagabond..well, OK, that’s a bit extreme, but I have definitely developed a personality “edge”, although some people say I’ve always been this way.

My publishers told me that slow and steady is the way to go. They suggested that hurrying a book is not a good idea, most authors only regret it later. I’ve taken plenty of time for each process, I even hired a PR company to handle my book and then decided a few weeks later that they were not right for me. Since I didn’t really need to do much research for my book because I am the subject of the book based on one class that I’ve taught for twelve years, I put my efforts into organizing and re-organizing all the information. I have spent time with a photographer for interior photos, promoting myself to local wine festivals as a speaker, networking at various charity and wine events, and now I’m working on http://www.idrinkonthejob.com as the main book web site and re-designing this Blog. You can’t hurry time, you just learn to deal with delays..

3) Self-publishing means you need to be self-motivated.

If you’re used to having a boss, a weekly paycheck and you follow orders really well at work, then self-publishing might be self-torture. Since I’m entrepreneurial and I’ve run my own company TasteDC for over twelve years, I’ve learned to stay focused and motivated. I have a personal trainer, I get a “therapeutic” massage every Friday like clockwork, and I generally stay in shape to keep my mind and body sharp. I’ve even added self-hypnosis tapes to increase my concentration, relax better and ultimately I lost forty-seven pounds as well – an important feat because I’m on the cover of my book! I wake up when I need to, I eat when I need to, I write/edit when possible, I run my full-time wine tasting business in-between, and I sleep when I need to. I’ve learned to balance my work and my book, my social life has been reduced significantly. Sometimes I think about all the fun things I could be doing other than writing a book, but I know from experience that the payoff will take time. The first book may not sell well, but that’s irrelevant to me. I’m writing the book for credibility and as a vehicle for self-promotion-OK, there’s a bit of ego involved, but I accept the worst-case scenario of failure and I can live with it. Self-motivated people are used to rejection and negative reactions in general, frankly I find it motivates me to another level. When I’m at the gym with my personal trainer and he tells me to do 50 push-ups, I do 55 if I can. There are no excuses in life–especially when you rely only on yourself!

Cheers everyone and happy Thanksgiving!

Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler