Monday, April 23, 2001

Some More of the 17 Reasons The Wine Importer Likes Being a Wine Importer

8. Introducing Unknown Wines to an Unsuspecting Public -- When we first started, Minervois and Corbières were oddities. Alain Jungenet had a couple of estates and perhaps a few others were around. Now, they seem almost commonplace. What has been extremely gratifying for myself, Denyse and Kevin is to see wines from obscure appellations being drunk by wine lovers around the country. Bourgueil, Cheverny and Cour-Cheverny, wines from the Bugey, great Muscadets, high-priced Mâcons, Beaume-de-Venise Reds, Gaillac, Touraine whites reds....I think our firm has played a large role in the popularization of fine wines from these regions.

9. Popularizing Wines Without the Wine Press -- I don't have the popular wine palate that gets the big scores in the wine press. Sometimes it depresses me that we are not Bobby Kacher. But more often than not I am delighted to be buying and selling wines that have a purity and authenticity. Rather than finding wines for Parker, or wines for the Wine Spectator, or wines for the "American palate," we have found wines we love and found the people in the wine trade who can get them to a public that will appreciate them. With or without a shelf talker that has a 93 point score from a Parker review.

10. Meeting Like-Minded Geeks in the Wine Trade-- most importantly, there is Kevin McKenna, my partner along with Denyse Louis. Kevin was one of our first buyers, when he was the buyer at Astor Place in New York City. For six years now he has been an integral part of our firm, bringing a wide range of wine and business knowledge that Denyse and I have always lacked. There is David Lillie at Garnet Wines, the King of the Loire Valley, who helped us so much to get going and to keep moving in the Loire. JR Battipaglia at Garnet, whose commitments to our Burgundies was so essential to our stability and expansion. Steve Mosher at the Wine and Cheese Cask in Boston who has flooded the Boston market with too many obscurities from our book. Tom and Carol Piscatelli in San Francisco and all the work they has done for our wines. Eugene Kaplan in Dallas, Robert Yellin in DC, Frank Lichtenberg in Atlanta, Paul Roberts in Chicago.... Then there are all the sommeliers and retailers out there who have invested in maybe one or two of our wines, but without whom we would never have had wide distribution. There are also the great distributors like Roanoke Wines, Domaine Selections, Triage, Silenus, Slocum, Douglas Polaner and so many more who can sell wine as wine and not simply as commodity.

11. Meeting Like-Minded Geeks Not in the Trade -- there's a whole group I've met around Robert Callahan that coalesced around various internet wine forums and who can now be found at Robert Callahan's Wine therapy. Callahan is kind of in but not of the Wine Trade, so I best put him in this category. It has been not only gratifying to meet all these people but I've learned about Gruner Veltiner and so many other wines by spending time with many of these maniacal characters. I will never forget all the support I received from these friends during my heart surgery a year ago and I will never forget their generousity and kindness.

12. Brad Kane.

13. Discovering Chenin Blanc -- I do have a home in the Mâconnais and I suppose could have been happy just drinking Goyard and Jean Thevenet. But there is such a beautiful range of Chenin -- from dry Savenniéres to Vouvray and Montlouis Demi-Secs through Moëlleux onto the special bottlings of great vintages -- wines that uniquely express their terroir and that age superbly. Wines that are delicious young or at 80-years-old. Wines that go so well with so many different foods and have yet to be corrupted by gobs of new oak and over-extraction.

14. Discovering Cabernet Franc -- I do have a home in Southern Burgundy and I suppose I could have been happy just drinking Pinot Noir....

More to come....

Friday, April 20, 2001

Prestigous Chicago Wine Placements

I'm pleased to announce that Chicago's well-know establishment, The Matchbox, has added the Quinta do Mouro Estremoz 1997 and the Domaine du Traginer 1995 Banyuls to their Wine-Spectator Award Winning wine list. "These two wines are valuable additions to our cellar and we believe that the Chicago wine-loving community will be every bit as happy as we are with these marvellous wines," said MW Paul Roberts, Matchbox Beverage Director. For information, please consult Fine Wines and Great Dining in the Chicago Area.

Having spent Tuesday evening at the Matchbox, I would also strongly recommend their award-winning Martini program.

Thursday, April 19, 2001

17 Reasons The Wine Importer Likes Being a Wine Importer

I've been altogether too negative lately about being a wine importer.

Here I am, on a ATA flight to Chicago, packed into the plane like a sardine, adjacent to a passenger reading a book on successful, inspired salesmanship. To the casual onlooker there is nothing that really seperates me from my neighbor. Both of us are peddling product.

Happily, we sell different products. It is nearly a year since I had four heart bypasses and I am feeling sentimental. Here are 17 reasons I am sometimes delighted to be The Wine Importer. They are in random order, except for number 1:

1. Working with my wife - It is not always easy to separate the business from the private but I love my wife and am delighted that by working together I get to see her more often. Twenty years ago I learned that the student next to me in Graduate Journalism school had vineyards in some town called St -Gengoux-de-Scissé in the Maconnais. I was off on both a personal adventure that would lead to two children and a new profession where I would get to meet some of the most impassioned artisans in the world. I have to thank Denyse, the love of my life, for all that. I forgive her the schnooks (see blog entry last week).

2. Tasting in the Clos Rougeard Cellar - Dominique Derain, our grower in St. Aubin, recently visited the Foucault. Derain is certain the cellar itself, where wine has been made for centuries, adds an unquantifiable something to the wine. In a sense, there is a biological environment here that is every bit as much of the 'terroir' of the Foucault's Saumur-Champigny as the limestone that the cellar is carved into. A beautiful cellar that is laced with bacteria throughout.

3. Tasting Henri Goyard's Macons in February -- Goyard's wines often have noble rot and are usually at a fairly elevated level of sugar when I first taste the wines in mid-February. Jean Thevenet has done considerable research on the history of Vire and Clesse and the wines here were often sold raw, in plain fermentation, to Lyon bistros (known as Bouchons). The wines would still have sugar and gas and you can get the approximation of this delicacy if you taste at Thevenet or Goyard before the wines are finished. Thevenet and the late restaurant owner Alain Chapelle tried to revive this tradition before Chapelle died. Goyard has officially retired after the 2000 harvest and I will now have this pleasure at Florent Thevenet's cellar. Florent is Jean Thevenet's son and is the new proprietor of Domaine de Roally.

4. The Annual Domaine de la Pepiere Muscadet Jeebus -- Marc Ollivier throws this affair every year in February. Tons of oysters, pates, cheeses and vintages and vintages of Marc's Muscadets. Truly one of the great pleasures of being in the wine trade for me. Some of Marc's older treasures will soon be for sale at Virot Restaurant in New York. Don't miss them!

5. Any Visit to Clos Roche Blanche -- There is something magical about this vineyard. Catherine Roussel lives in a totally bizarre home, a cross between a haunted house and something out of Lewis Carroll, that overlooks one of the greatest parcel in the Touraine. Roussel and Didier Barouillet work this land with rare intelligence and charm - running an organic exploitation that always looks vigorous and healthy and almost joyful. Even the 104-year-old Cot vines. Being in the wine trade was worth it just to get to know these two vignerons and the Clos.

5. Tasting with Fernand and Alain Coudert - this is often a marathon affair that rivals a tasting at the Foucault. In February, before the bottling, there are numerous cuves and foudres to taste in an effort to approimate the final blend of the Clos de la Roilette Fleurie. It is always incredible to taste truly great wine coming from the much-maligned Gamay grape. We then get down to the serious business of tasting endless vintages to see how they have aged and for the pure pleasure of enjoyng the Coudert's work. Fernand, the father, is retired but has all the intensity of a wily vigneron bon-vivant who likes drinking his metier as much as he enjoyed the actual work. His son Alain is far more reflective and less gregarious, but if anything the quality of the wine has improved since Alain took over.

6. Learning About Wild Yeasts from Jean-Paul Brun at Domaine des Terres Dorées -- The first vintage we tasted here was the 1989 and it was all a revelation to us. We had already been in the wine business for a few years, but Jean-Paul was the first vigneron we met who talked with passion about how innoculated yeasts were being used all over France to create industrial monsters rather than wine. Tasting the 1991 in tank here during the winter of 1992, was one of the most thrilling experiences of my wine career. The wines were so fragant, so concentrated and yet so light there was something truly ethereal about that great vintage. Every year I hope to replicate that experience, but I have yet to drink a wine of such grandeur, such a perfect match of grape, terroir, vintage and winemaker.

7. I'm selling wine in Chicago and writing this on a tlny Casio PocketPC. No time. More to come.

Friday, April 13, 2001

The Three-Tier Schnook Stystem

I'm writing this on the Metroliner returning from Baltimore to New York City. I have been in DC/Maryland/Virginia since Monday morning in an effort to promote Louis/Dressner Selections wines in this region. In the process, I have not only met a lot of Schnooks in the wine trade but have turned into a Schnook myself.

My Thursday’s salesmanship highlight, was trying to convince two dead men who buy wine for an important retailer in Maryland to buy the Clos Roche Blanche Sauvignon Blanc. Despite the numerous amusing anecdotes I told the dead men about the vignerons, they rejected the wine on the grounds it was too acidic. But they greatly enjoyed the Corbieres Chateau la Baronne Rouge 1999 and immediately ordered a large quantity that will be case stacked at their important store. The dead is a market segment I want to learn more about in the future, as I see my firm has enormous growth possibilities with this important group. On the other hand, we are not doing well amongst the far more numerous Schnooks.

The two dead men did not qualify as being Schnooks as Schnooks are genuinely among the living. Addtionally, the two dead men tasted with glassware, whereas Schnooks always taste using plastic cups that they either have stolen from their Dentists or that they have bought in massive quantities from dental supply companies.

That's right. You, the average wine geek out there, are bombarded with endless literature about Riedel stemware and fret over which stemware is more appropriate for Burgundy and which stemware is more appropriate for your Flowers Chardonnay. Curiously, the DC/Maryland/Virginia market is flooded with Flowers Chardonnay, a winery that I always assumed is an internet invention. Kind of like Kay Bixler.

Anyhow, in reality the Schnooks who are deciding which wines you will be able to buy at your local retailer are making buying decisions by tasting wines in plastic cups. Here is how it works:

(1) The Schnook Salespeople from Schnook Distributors arrive at stores all across America with samples of wines from Schnook Importers (such as myself) or Schnook Domestic Wineries.

(2) The Schnook Retailer then humiliates the Schnook Distributor Salesperson over some late delivery or billing error for the first 15 minutes of the encounter. Since the Schnook Retailer is secure in the knowledge that the Schnook Distributor Salesperson needs his business (as the salespeople are working on commission) they take particular sadistic delight in making the salesperson feel sullied, stupid and humiliated. The veteran Schnook Distributor Salesperson learns to ignore this tirade and not take it personally. If the salesperson is a man and the retailer is a man, the skilled Schnook Salesperson allows the tirade to come to a halt and then tells a particularly salty dirty joke, usually involving oral sex, to make the Schnook Retailer laugh and feel a sense of camraderie with the Schnook Distributor Salesperson. They then proceed directly to important business deals.

(3) There are two variants to this stage. In the simpler variant the Schnook Retailer takes out his plastic cup and tastes all the wine samples the Schnook Salesperson has brought with him. The Schnook Salesperson tries desperately to bombard the Schnook Retailer with all the scores the wine in the plastic cup has received in The Wine Advocate, The Wine Spectator, The Wine Enthusiast, The Paul Roberts Wine Monthly, or any other periodical that has mentioned the wine and that can be turned into a shop talker. This is a very important point: the wine needs a good score somewhere, anywhere, because the Schnool Retailer does not have the time to do "hand-sells." The Schnook Retailer has a difficult job during this phase of the ritual, having to smell, taste and spit (already made more difficult by the wine being in a Dentist’s plastic cup) while listening to the Schnook Salesperson's passioned narrative of 89 points, 90 points and 87 points for each wine.

A subvariant of this process in the Schnook Retailer having a Designated Taster, a kind of sub-Schnook, who tastes all the wines in a designated plastic cup and decides which wines merit being tasted by The Main Schnook. This is something I have never seen outside of the Washington, DC area.

Regardless of whether it is the Designated Schnook or the Main Schnook there are now two fascinating rituals to observe. Some Retailers use one plastic cup for whites and another plastic cup for reds. Some use different plastic cups for each wine. I suppose this is often a function of the tasting budget alloted by each store. Because often the Retail Schnook Buyer is but an employee working within the budgetary limitations of a Boss who doesn’t even bother coming into the store. I did observe during this trip that our wines were much better received by the Schnooks who change cups with each wine. They tend to be much serious wine tasters.

After evaluating the wines through any of the above methods, the Retail Schnook then tells you which wines they will order. This is prefaced by an interrogation where the Retail Schnook demands to know the name of every retail store in the immediate area who carries the wine and what they are charging per bottle. The Retail Schnooks especially like wines that are not carried by their competitors: normally they mark-up the wine 50%, but if no competing Schnooks carry the wine they can add another $1.00 to the bottle price. In general, the Distributor Salesperson Schnook blatantly lies at this point and assures the retailer that non one else in the continental United States will carry the wine if they take 5 cases and make a floor stacking.

I am always shocked by the sheer squeals of delight by Retail Schnooks when they find out their 5 case purchase will be an American exclusivity. Since I work for a fringe company, the Retail Schnooks assume that no one carries my wine anyhow and sometimes mark it up $2.00 for a an additional $120.00 profit on their 5 case purchase! If I am present, working with the Schnook Salesperson, the Schnook Retailer then tells me how he loves working with insignificant companies like Louis/Dressner Selections because our wines are so badly distributed and obscure that he can make enormous and objectionable profits from carrying our “product.”

What do we call this system? We in the wine and liquor trade call it “The Three-Tier System.”

Of course, the entire market is not like this. There are fabulous retailers out there and great distributors with great salespeople. They truly do exist and eventually wine geeks figure out who they are and patronize them.

Despite being a schnook myself I have met many of these people. But even these people are obligated to carry Schnook wines along with the often excellent selections they sell. It’s a schnook world out there and everyone needs a schnook cash flow to stay in business.

And don’t forget that without the Three-Tier Schnook System there would be nobody to warehouse, truck and get out wine to retailers and restaurants outside of a handful of major wine markets.

Yes, the Schnooks perform many useful functions.

I want to thank everyone at the Washington Winos for the great reception I had on Monday night. It was truly an enjoyable evening.

Thursday, April 05, 2001

Grape Varieties, Lawyers and Medications

Yesterday was another glamorous day in the life of The Wine Importer.

6:00 AM -- Wake up, make oatmeal for breakfast. Oatmeal is very good for heart disease. I had four bypasses last May and have to take endless medications and eat lots of oatmeal to remain alive and to evangelize Pierre Overnoy's wines. Who else will do this if I falter?

8:00 AM -- Spoke with a French Lawyer who guaranteed, for a modest fee, that he would bring the Citibank and Crédit Agricole to their knees. Both banks will soon be rewarding my firm vast sums of money.

8:30 AM -- Called Long Island Carpet Cleaning to arrange to have the ugly wall-to-wall carpeting in my apartment cleaned. I would like to strip the carpets off the floor and just have wood floors, but legally I'm obligated to cover 80% of the apartment's surface. Given we have a dog who scurries around the apartment and my son Jules has taken to riding his skateboard and doing elaborate tricks in our flat....I suspect we need to maintain some level of sound insulation. But the carpets get so dirty and so ugly. Every few months we have those miracle workers at Long Island Carpet Cleaning come to our apartment and totally clean the carpets, leaving them almost as clean and shiny as the first day they were installed. The carpet cleaners are coming on Friday, but cannot guarantee what time. It will be somewhere between 9 am and 5 pm, they assure me.

8:45 AM -- Get on my fabulous Swiftfolder bike and ride to work. I'm in an energetic mood and purposely take a 55-minute trip over the Queensboro Bridge (immortalized in the 60's by Simon and Garfunkel) through industrial Queens and industrial Brooklyn and then return to Manhattan over the Williamsburg Bridge to our office somewhere in Soho. Of course, I cannot play my usual mental game of counting the number of Duane Reade Drug Stores I pass and using my chronometer to time how long it takes to go from one Duane Reade to another Duane Reade. Industrial Queens and industrial Brooklyn are official Duane Reade Free Zones (New York Mayor Rudolph Guliani calls them DRF Zones). Instead, I count how many trucks from 1800-MATTRESS pass by me. Only three of them this morning. Unfortunately, I cannot get the jingle from the 1800-MATTRESS commercial out of my head and hum it to myself for the entire duration of my bike ride.

9:45 AM -- Arrive at my office and check my e-mail, foreign currency rates, faxes from angry French vignerons, and faxes demanding we pay for services we performed for free or at our expense for our customers. This last ‘charge’ is part of the wine racket -- if we travel to another town, we pay for the air fare, the hotels, take out the customers and salespeople from the distributor, organize a luncheon and pay for it, and get nary a thanks. It is a norm of the wine racket. A few weeks later we receive a bill for every last bottle of Muscadet or Gris du Toul that was open during our stay. We throw out this bill immediately. One month later we get a threatening letter from the distributor. Then their collection department calls. Then they start deducting money from payments. Distributors call these sort of trips "work-withs." They call me personally a "rep." What do I "rep?" A "supplier" named Louis/Dressner Selections. What are my wines called? "Brands," "Product," or “Products."

9:55 AM -- Make reservations on Amtrak to take a Metroliner to Baltimore on Monday morning at 7 AM. This is altogether too early for me to be traveling, especially considering my heart problems, but my mother is having a Passover Seder on Sunday evening and I want and have to be in attendance. I am of the Jewish persuasion. One of the joys of this Seder will be having my sister-in-law say that she actually prefers the Manischevitz Heavy Malaga to the other wines available at the dinner. Since no one is religious I don’t bother to bring horrible Kosher wine, but my folks always have one bottle of the Heavy Malaga.

10:00 AM -- Organize documents for the meeting later today at our lawyer. Why am I going to Washington? A shipload of Louis/Dressner product just arrived there and I have four days of work-withs scheduled with our distributor there to move boxes and promote the brands.

10:15 AM -- Retailer in New York calls and orders some Corbières. He wants to know exactly what grape varieties are in the wine and in what percentage. I make up something that satisfies the guy. Why he, or his customers would like to know this sort of information is a mystery to me. The wine is a blend dominated by Carignan and there are many more interesting things to say about this wine then to describe what grape varieties are in the bottle. So, it is just easier to make something up. Later in the day another retailer calls and gets my wife on the line -- I'm already at my Cardiologist. The retailer wants to know what grape varieties go into Franck Peillot's Modeuse from Bugey, which the retailer has on his shelves and likes very much. My wife says Mondeuse, which is the actual answer and all is well. We are considering reducing the Louis/Dressner catalog to mono-cépage wines to avoid all this bothersome talk with customers and consumers about varietal composition.

10:30 AM -- A guy named Peter from San Juan calls and wants to know how he can get three cases of Cerdon du Bugey for a marriage in two weekends in Puerto Rico. As importers, we cannot sell to consumers, but apparently retailers in New York City can ship to Puerto Rico. I tell him that I do not condone or condemn the shipment of wine to Puerto Rico (in case he is actually an agent of the New York State Liquor Authority) and suggest he call a store I know that carries the Cerdon. Five minutes later a retailer from the Hudson Valley calls to get prices on the Cerdon du Bugey. Turns out a friend of the guy in San Juan has already called this retailer who is desperate to bag the three-case sale of Cerdon. I inform him that the wine is distributed by Douglas Polaner Selections and that I had unfortunately sent his potential customer to another store. The best and most satisfying part of this whole exchange was that no one asked me what grape varieties go into the Cerdon du Bugey. Later in the day a woman calls and asks if we sell to the public. I ask her if she is a member of the public and when she informs me that she is I tell her that we Federal and State laws prohibit us from selling wine to her. Assuming yet another call for a wine from the Bugey I ask her what wine she wants. She is looking for Sutter Home.

10:42 AM -- A phone company calls offering us a national rate of 1.2 cents a minute and 3.4 cents a minute to France. I say "no thank you" and hang up the phone.

11:00 AM – I feverishly print out, annotate and collate the information for our law firm, Klein, Foster and Steinfesse. Someone from a distributor calls to complain that Garnet Wines is lowballing the price on the Clos Roche Blanche Cabernet in Garnet's New York Times ad on Wednesday. We sort of agree, but what can you do? The caller then wants to know what grape varieties go into the Clos Roche Blanche Cabernet -- is it Cabernet Franc or Cabernet Sauvignon or a mix of the two. It is actually only Cabernet Franc. I hang up the phone and am relieved that I had an entire 45 minute interlude without talking about the dreaded "What Grape Varietal" question. I am assuming that my lawyer and cardiologist will not be discussing grape 'varietals' when I see them later today. But who knows? Spring is here and Grape Varietals are in the air!

11:43 AM -- Take cab to 14th Street to the corporate offices of Klein, Foster and Steinfesse. The entire Board of Directors of our firm converges on their offices where we discuss the latest legal challenge to our wine work. Peter Steinfesse, our attorney, assures me that we will not only collect $30,000.00 in debt, but will also make $50,000.00 in damages! Wow! I wasn't certain if this was a new episode or a repeat. Steinfesse looks remarkably like many of the character actors who appear on NBC's long-running Law and Order television series. Apparently, if we pre-emptively sue on one issue, it short-circuits our opponent's attempt to sue us over inflicted business damages. Or something like that. We were fearful that our antagonist would resort to physical reprisals. Happily, they have only used theft, slander, racism and sexism. We can deal with that. There is talk of dragging long-time Louis/Dressner confidant Eddie Wrinkerman into the legal arrangements as some kind of designated hitter. Wrinkerman has the same relationship to Louis/Dressner Selections that Bebe Rebozo had to President Nixon. But frankly, I lost Steinfesse Esq.'s logic on this matter.

1:13 PM -- After this exhausting meeting, the entire board adjourns to a restaurant called Republic in the Union Square neighborhood. Since the Board has 14 members, we purposely pick this restaurant as they have large tables that can accommodate such a large group at short notice. Noodles are healthy, nutritious, and inexpensive. For $6.00 to $8.00 you can enjoy a bowl of noodles which includes a healthy broth, starch, fresh vegetables, and a variety of meats and fish, depending upon the dish you select. The decor is minimalist, with a "sit-where-you-will" seating arrangement in a strikingly smart and modern space. Service is provided by a chic, hip staff. I wanted to order a wine and then grill the chic and hip waiter over what grape varietals were in the wine but the restaurant only serves beer.

2:42 PM -- Return to our office. There are almost 15 messages for us, the vast majority dealing with the varietal composition of wines we sell. It takes over an hour to clear up all the confusion.

3:42 PM -- A representative from Verizon telephones calls to propose sending me a free cell phone. I give him my address and tell him to send it as quickly as possible. The representative then wants to know which service plan I want. I tell him I do not want a service plan but only want the phone, which he had graciously offered me for free. He insists I have to have a service plan. I tell him that if I have to have a service plan then the phones are not for free and that I will report Verizon to the Better Business Bureau for false advertising. The representative wants to know what I will do with a cellular phone that is not connecting to any wireless provider. I tell him that it is none of his business. I find the entire discussion a relief, having gone through a day of varietal discussion and legal argumentation. The Verizon representative eventually hangs up on me.

4:02 PM -- We receive a fax with a lot of orders from some hapless distributor who thinks they can make money with our product. We then have to spend 40 minutes doing the necessary paperwork to facilitate the movement of the brands from suppliers in France to the hapless distributor's warehouse somewhere in America. We have a mix of distributors -- some are hapless and some are dynamic. But to stay in business we need both of them. Some of the distributors who are hapless about wine are great personalities. Some of the distributors who are wine geeks are insufferably humorless. As Georges Prat has taught me, I look for a Geobalance. One thing is for certain -- as soon as the container arrives with out product one of us will obligated to go to the hapless distributors' city and do work-withs and have our firm receive bill-backs.

4:32 PM -- A New York retailer calls to ask if there is any more 1999 Morgon Javérnieres left in town. I tell him that there is no more Savennières. He says, no, not Savennières but Javérnières. I tell him that no, the Jasniéres has not arrived. I offer to send him a free cellular phone and hang up the telephone.

5:00 PM -- My daughter calls to speak to my wife and complain bitterly about her life.

5:12 PM -- My son calls to find out what we will be eating for dinner.

5:18 PM -- Someone calls to sell insurance.

5:30 PM-- Prepare to see my new Cardiologist. I just fired my old one, but regret that my new Heartman is not in a building where I can leave my bicycle as was my old guy. So, bikeless, I go down to Lafayette street to hail a taxi. After 12 minutes a taxi comes and a woman and I almost come to blows over who will get possession of the free cab. I ask her where she is going and it is on my way, so I offer to let her off for free. She seems hesitant but finally agrees. She's a very nice chain-smoking woman who is picking up her 4-year-old son at a day-care center. I go on to New York University Hospital and arrive at my Heartguy's office on time at 6:00 PM.

6:42 PM -- after sitting around for 42 minutes the guy finally sees me. At least he has the decency to apologize about the delay, the last Cardiologist never cared. Anyhow, the new one doesn't want to take any lab tests and pronounces me as fit as a beaver after poking at me some and taking an EKG. Fit as a beaver or some other medical term I did not understand. The only problem is that my homocysteine level is too high and he wants me to take a higher level of folic acid every day, along with a megadose of B12 and B16. Already I'm taking Baby Aspirins and Lipitor to lower my cholesterol. The Heart Guy makes this judgment based on old lab reports that my former doctor has forwarded him. Nevertheless, despite my insistence, he doesn't want me to take new lab tests but wants me to wait six weeks and take the new medication regimen and then take a lab test. He will then review the results and call me. I mention that we should make an appointment as I will be going to France around June 10th for the summer. He says it is unnecessary, that he'll look at the lab results in six weeks and then decide if I need to see him. Otherwise, I should call him in September when I return. Assuming, I'm still alive. So, finally, I have changed Cardiologists and get another indifferent guy. What's the point? At least the last guy, who I just fired, allowed me to bring my bike into his office. Of course, the last guy let me have a low level of homocysteine without any preventive measures. The guy was so busy with his busy practice and his hot tub in Great Neck (in which he was reported to study the Talmud!) to ever look at my chart or test results. The worst thing about being ill is having to see doctors. The only thing I could imagine that would be worse than this is being dependent on oenologues.

7:35 PM -- Arrive at the Duane Reade Drug Store to buy megadoses of B12, B6 and Folic Acid.

7:42 PM -- Take a cab crosstown to meet various wacky internet wine personalities at a famous Indonesian restaurant for dinner. I suspect that every detail of this evening will soon be appearing somewhere on the internet so I will leave it to others to chronicle the evening. All I will say was that the Rijsttafel was sumptious.

11:15 PM -- Arrive home. My wife informs me that Neocork, a leading manufacturer of synthetic corks, has initiated a multi-million dollar lawsuit against our firm. Something about libel, slander, Pineau d'Aunis and my having blabbed confidential material that led to the firing of one Stuart Yaniger. Steinfesse received the papers while I was being poked by my Cardiologist and sent a summary to our home fax.

11:47 PM – Fall asleep. I decided to call it a night as I had forgotten to get home to watch re-runs of Seinfeld that are now on at 11 PM, rather than 7:30 PM – having switched from the WB to Fox. Dream that George Castanza has been transformed into Steve Plotnicki. Or was it Stuart Yaniger?