Tag Archives: wine basics

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

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

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

Does America Have “Poor Wine Self-Esteem”?

gary_vaynerchuk

Does America Have Poor “Wine Self-Esteem”

I saw the awesome Gary Vay – Ner – Chuk on his #aucrush #crushit “Crush It” book tour this past Wednesday at American University’s Kogod College of Business. I wasn’t just seeing Gary to hear about his book, but frankly I had a bit of an agenda: I wanted to promote my own book “I Drink on the Job” on his fun web show Wine Library TV (I have good news at the conclusion of this Blog Post!). Since I obviously wanted to draw some attention to myself in an audience of 200+ mostly college students, I wanted to ask a relevant question about wine to get Gary’s point of view. I was so excited/thrilled when the Moderator pointed at me to ask a question, I literally jumped up in the air, I was really pumped up by the show!

My question for Gary was about American’s “confusion” with wine and what he thought the problem was. In usual Gary fashion, probably the most quotable man in the wine business as well as all of Wine 2.0, he spewed out one-liners like “We’re stuck on 16 adjectives”, “People have no wine self-esteem”, and “I’ve seen grown men sweat at a business dinner..” His key point was that there’s a lack of what he calls “wine self-esteem” in the U.S. I thought this was something to delve into further because it’s one of the main reasons that I wrote my book “I Drink on the Job”.

According to Wikipedia Definition “Self-esteem”: “Self-esteem” is a term used in psychology to reflect a person’s overall evaluation or appraisal of his or her own worth. According to Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV WineLibraryTV, his newest book “Crush It” Crush It and many other entrepreneurial ventures, this is the biggest “problem” among American wine consumers today. Here’s the UStream Video of the event Gary Vaynerchuk Video at AU Crush It (I’m at about the 36th minute, he definitely noticed me!).

Throughout my book, I mention episodes of tension with American wine consumers in the real world. Examples include the woman who almost fainted when she found out I had purchased wines with screw top closures for her corporate event, the gentleman who almost went ballistic when I suggested that Robert Parker may not in fact be a “wine God”, and the woman who would not accept a pour of wine from me – at a wine tasting! Throughout my twelve year career in wine, I have experienced so much wine anxiety that I think Gary hit it right on the head – it’s actually American’s lack of “wine” self-esteem. Much of the proof of this is anecdotal, but when I teach TasteDC’s TasteDC Website wine course Wine Basics 101, I get the same questions over and over again: what do the “legs” of wine mean, is a more expensive wine a better wine, how long should a wine age, etc. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the questions, in fact, I think it’s very healthy to have strong curiosity about wine. I think the problem is that too many people believe there is in fact a right and a wrong answer. Too many wine professionals portray wine as something “difficult”, “complicated” and “mystical” – why else would they “de-mystify” wine? You only de-mystify, what is a mystery. What if wine professionals simply told new wine consumers to try a wine first and see if that person gains pleasure or to make wine part of daily meals? I spend over 200 pages in my book “I Drink on the Job” portraying wine as an everyday staple – drink it every day with your meals and the mystery disappears like the secrets to a magic trick. Once you get past the “illusion” of wine, it becomes an enjoyable part of your day, and a way to improve the pleasure of your meals.

As I always like to say: “Drink first, ask questions later”..but of course, I’m..

Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler

Wine Book Tour Thoughts

Charlie Adler - Drinking on the Job!

Charlie Adler - Drinking on the Job!


I’m putting together the finishing touches on the book “I Drink on the Job: A Refreshing Perspective on Wine”. Right now, I’m organizing the photoshoot and working on the book website. FYI, http://www.idrinkonthejob.com will change from being the blog itself into being the website for the book. In other words, The blog will be one of the links on the website, but the overall site will include excerpts from the book (like “nobody ever dies from a bad food and wine pairing”), a Calendar to find me on tour, photos, videos and details on how to reach me. My goal is to be a major wine speaker at wine festivals throughout the U.S. and possibly some international venues. I expect to increase my exposure to corporate event planners who are looking for an entertaining speaker who can also educate their audience with common sense anecdotes that will help them improve their ability to choose a wine..Oh, and of course, being a better wine “chooser” makes a person a better employee, leader, and overall great person – yeeowww!!

If you represent any wine festivals, feel free to contact me at wine@tastedc.com. My twitter account at idrinkonthejob went active and live about two weeks ago and I’m adding followers at a good pace. My intent is to use Twitter to give quick anecdotes of my tour and things I learn and experience while out and about and tasting. I love my Blackberry Storm and it really helps me to quickly take photos, blog, Tweet and even add video. My message is both to the Newbie wine consumer and to the industry as well: anyone can quickly get started in wine, all they have to do is think of wine as part of a meal. Keep it simple and don’t worry about the details, drink first, ask questions later, there are so many excellent choices, it’s best to learn as you go!

OK, back to drinking on the job, have a great football Sunday everyone – Cheers!

Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler

Top 20 Questions of Wine Newbies

Napa Tasting Room

Napa Tasting Room

It’s been a great time for me to work on my upcoming book “I Drink On the Job” – nothing is happening right now at http://www.tastedc.com, my full-time wine tasting gig, so I’ve put alot of thought and energy into the book.  Of course, my computer ate about 30 pages of material, go figure, but I’m coming on strong with plenty of verve, a bit less wine and Scotch in my system, but you gotta make choices!

So my most recent foray is to figure out what are the top 20 or so questions that newbie wine drinkers always ask about wine.  These questions are mostly derived from my Wine Basics 101 class which I’ve held or taught for the last 12 years and approximately 16,000 people have attended – if you feel there are other important questions for me to answer or resolve in the book, email me at wine@tastedc.com, thanks:

Top 20 Questions/Comments That New Wine Drinkers Always Make:
1) Are more expensive wines better than cheaper ones?
2) What am I tasting?
3) The legs of wine in a glass tell you if the wine is good or not?
4) How does vintage make a difference?
5) What am I tasting?
6) Why can’t I taste all the things I’m supposed to in a wine or describe them?  What are the nuances of wine?
7) I need to purchase many different kinds of glassware to accentuate the nuances of wine?
8) Rieslings are sweet, so I keep away from sweet wines like that.
9) I prefer wines with cork closures, anyway wines with screwtops are cheap and crappy.
10) You’re supposed to sniff the cork when it’s given to you in a restaurant?
11) White wine with fish and red wine with meat?
12) I need to understand all the great and bad pairings before I can enjoy wine with food?
13) Wine ratings by critics are very objective, so I can just rely on them?
14) Organic wines are better for you and don’t contain sulfites?
15) When I sneeze when I drink wine, it’s because of the added sulfites?
16) Only France(or name a region) makes great wine because of their better location?
17) I can never figure out wine because it’s so confusing with so many labels, regions and confusing information, I’ll never be able to figure it out?

I didn’t quite reach 20, but I’m still working on this – gimme a holler if you think you can add some good ones – cheers!

Charlie “I Drink On the Job” Adler