Monday, June 20, 2011

The Sommeliers I've Rapped With

Well, it's been over a decade since I got my first sommelier job, and I must say, I've worked with some real characters in the wine business. Here are some of the memories that stand out for me about my fellow sommeliers from over the years.

Too $hort was always pouring out bottles for his dead "homies". Every dinner we were at, every bottle, there he would be pouring wine out on the floor. Honestly, it was annoying. It was just too much. And he never offered to help clean up all those spills or nothing, neither. I mean, seriously. One day I straight out asked him, I was like "$horty, do you even really know this many dead people? Like, did you used to work at a hospital, or an old folks home, or what? Who are all these people? And are you really helping them out by spilling La Tache onto the dirt? I know I would have liked to have had another glass from that bottle, but now it is all gone because you poured some out into that flowerbed. I mean, do we really have to always pour out DRC for people who aren't even here? I mean, it's really expensive and everything, man. If you want to pour out some $avigny, that's fine, but let's leave the DRC alone. Really. Seriously." But he wouldn't even hear that. He would just keep spilling out my wine for these dead people I had never even heard of. And those cigars he was always smoking? Cheap, man. Cheap cigars. It wasn't Opus X or nothing like that at all. I had trouble respecting that.

For Biggie, it was all about Chambolle. If he was in a good mood he would be all like, "Musigny now, livin' better now". And you would know exactly what he meant. I remember that time we were drinking Les Fuees and I was all like, "this is Junior M.U.S.I.G.N.Y., man" and he loved that! He even used it later in his Ready to Drink debut. Cause he did love to drink. I remember he was like, "And I just can't sip, because one of these Grand Crewz I gotz to be with". I remember Biggie loved to talk about wine. He was always mad question asking when it came to wine. And I got that. We used to talk and talk. And if he really liked a wine there was nothing better that he would say about it than that it was "juicy". That for him was the ultimate compliment. Juicy. And also he would say "Big". That was high praise as well. If we were drinking something and he was into it, he would be like, that is why they call this Big Hermitage, or Big Chablis, or Big Irouleguy. I mean, "Big" was a big compliment. This was in the late '90s. That's how people used to talk about wine back then.

Sean Combs didn't like to work lunch. I mean, he was always trying to get out of his lunch shifts. It was pretty crazy. And the excuses he would come up with were just amazing. He wouldn't show for a lunch, and then he would be like, "nah, man, I wasn't scheduled". And it would be like, dude, your name is right there on the schedule for lunch, and he would be like, that isn't me, man. And so it would be like, well, it says Puffy right there on the schedule, but he would be all like, nah, that's not me. Puffy is somebody else. I'm P. Diddy. Puffy is somebody else. And it would be like, really?? So who is Puffy, then? And he would be like, not guilty, man, you got to feel me, it's not me. And it was just all so crazy. I think that's why he changed his name so many times, just because he didn't like to work lunches. It was incredible, really. He was a good sommelier, though. He sold a lot of Champagne, let me tell you.

Breed was a real character. He just had this way with words. I loved it. I remember we were at this blind tasting and Breed wanted to know what the bottle under the foil was. A lot of people would have said something like, Excuse me, would you mind unwrapping that bottle? But not Breed. Breed was like "Man, tear down the doors!!" Tear down the doors. That was so great. Being at blind tastings with Breed was funny anyway, because he wouldn't say Old World or New World. Not Breed. He wouldn't say that. For Breed, it was always East Side or West Side. He'd be like, "I'm not sure exactly what this is, but it is def representing East Side. Is anybody else getting East Side from this?"

I remember there was the time some guy said that a bottle was corked and Breed just wasn't having it. He was right in there, telling this guy that there was no future in his frontin'. It was pretty amazing, really. I remember how, for him, the wine cellar was "the neighborhood". I remember he used to be like, "Levi, let's go roll through the neighborhood". That was funny. Breed was really one of a kind. There was the time that he wanted to get "Graacher Himmelreich Grosses Gewachs" tattooed on his forearm, but the guy at the shop said that he couldn't do it, because there just wasn't enough room, and Breed was like, well, that wine tastes like flint, why don't you just put flint on there, then? And that was what happened. I thought that that was pretty cool.

I have had some tough bosses in my career. If you worked for Ja Rule, for example, you always had to be on time. No excuses. But the toughest guy I ever worked for was definitely DMX. DMX was hardcore about wine. He used to call vineyard sites "his dogs", and he would throw these crazy hard pop quizzes for all the sommeliers where you had to tell him where "his dogs were". You would have to sit there and be like, well, Clos de Tart is a dog in the southern part of Morey-Saint-Denis, and it shares a border with Bonnes-Mares. But DMX would still want more details. He'd be like, every dog has a bone, where is the bone? And you would be like, do you mean the northern border with Clos des Lambrays? Those quizzes were tough, man. Seriously. Like the worst thing that could happen in your day was DMX saying "where my dogs at?" DMX was a tough boss. You had to respect him, though. He loved his dogs.


moutonnoir said...

Gr8 Post!!

Grape Girl said...

Way too funny! Great job on the blog!

The Wine Mule said...

This post gives "thug jug" a new meaning.