9.11am, Saturday March 6th, Main Street, Pleasanton, CA, USA
Normally on a Saturday morning I’d be down to the Barossa Farmers Market to do the local catch-up thing, so after running around Los Angeles like a cut cat for 48 hours, I wanted to do the local thing today. So down to the Pleasanton old town Main Street I went, to their farmers market. It looks like strawberries are in season, and these things don’t just look massive – they smell great and taste better. This place is old school. There’s a free coffee stand out the front of one of the banks; you just help yourself. And there are parking spots everywhere. The local diner is Dean’s Cafe, and I can see some of those eggs coming my way one morning when I’ve got a bit of time.
But I want to get back to Los Angeles.
It’s not until you have to do something that you really appreciate just what is involved. The job yesterday was to get from my hotel in Hollywood – because it was cheap (relatively speaking) – to my first presentation Friday morning. In LA you learn fast that the road distance dictates everything you do. The freeways can jam and unjam with no apparent reason, and it can take 20 minutes or an hour – totally unpredictable. So seeing as I had to be downtown at 10am – where I’d never been before, and where parking would be a nightmare – for the first HWG sales team presentation, then on to Dana Point in Orange County, a two-hour drive on the freeways south, to do the second gig over lunch at 12.30 / 1pm (the Orange County and San Diego teams were getting together halfway), it sounds reasonably straight forward – yes?
Well here’s how I tackled it, given one day of experience in Los Angeles five years ago riding with someone else. I got up at 6.30am and hit the streets at 7. I tried to plug in the HWG office downtown on 6th Street into the GPS – nope, wouldn’t accept 6th street. So I plugged in the lowest number it would accept – 40th – and thought I’d work backward across the grid. Seemed logical. Then headed off, got straight on one of the major freeways around LA – the 101 – and drove straight into a five-lane logjam. At 7am.
So seeing as I chose the GPS unit exactly because it has a unique “no use of freeways” function, I re-programmed 40th street without using major arteries, seeing as I had heaps of time, and got off at the next exit. This route took me through the not-really-scenic Historic Filipinotown, but the streets were empty so it was easy going. Then I started crossing the number streets and could see Downtown ahead. As 6th came up and the street number on the signpost said 4000, I wondered if it could be as easy as following it in to number 800. Off I went, and soon I was at the crossing of 6th & Witmer Ave, where you’ll find one of the most famous historic steakhouses in the USA – The Pacific Dining Car – at that location for 90 years. That was one of the few calls I’d done in LA before – five years ago with Darren Cosgrove – and they’ve got our Signature and Octavius still on the list.
I kept following 6th in and found a parking station in Pershing Square, then drew a map from there to a Starbucks on 6th so I could find my way back to the car. Then on to the office, and waited for another winery – Seghesio from California – to present their wines before it was my turn. Calls are often like this. With a distributor, a retailer or a restaurant sommelier, you literally go in one after the other. You hope that the wines plus the story and your presentation are enough to catch the interest of the folks you’re working to on the day. These relationships either fly from here or they don’t – and greatly affect your fortunes going forward.
So I did my presentation to the troops from 10.15 to nearly 11am, then walked back to the car and hit the freeway. On the way, I found a film crew at work – looked promising as a well-to-do business type was getting into a Rolls Royce, but no, it was not the “Castle” TV show. According to a security guard, it was an advertisement for Vanguard! Oh well, next trip perhaps. Got the car onto the freeway and headed 53 miles to the next job.
Now here’s where I made another great technical discovery.
The rental car I had was equipped with satellite radio! I was able to figure out the channels, and folks, it doesn’t take a lot to make me happy. I found that channel 18 was Elvis Radio and then all the channels down to 10 were country music! Willie’s Place, Prime Country, The Village, Bluegrass Junction, Nashville, Outlaw Country and The Roadhouse. So I flew down there powered by fiddles and slide guitar. I got to the restaurant just as the team was breaking for lunch and slid straight into the next presentation.
There are a lot of new faces on this part of the team, so I went backward over the history, the events contributing to why we had an improved Burgundian clone for the Wild Ferment Chardonnay – and what practices in both the vineyard and winery allowed us to actually achieve 100% “wild yeast” ferment. After an hour and a half – answering questions, organising wines for the upcoming Taste the World of HWG event in San Diego, and planning new approaches for “work withs” in April – it was back into the car and up to the John Wayne Airport in Orange County for a plane back to Oakland. I was able to organise an earlier flight – I’d booked the last flight as you never know how long it could take to get from A to B on a Friday afternoon.
Got back to Oakland airport around 6.30pm, then on to the Air Bus to link up with the BART train at the Coliseum (home of the Oakland As baseball and Oakland Raiders football teams) and out to Pleasanton – last stop on the blue line. Then a cab to the hotel … and home.
Long day and a lot of miles, but two sales teams are right up to speed and there is plenty to look forward to for the rest of March and into April. No surprises that I was in bed at 9pm – after a can of chicken soup that I’d added a whole cob of fresh corn to – and I slept like a log!
Now I’m driving to the BART station and heading into the city to see the folks at Massa and Farallon, then out to dinner with James “Langmeil Wines” Lindner. So I’ll see ya later – probably when it’s Sunday. Have another look at those strawberries – not for the first time I wish we had scratch & sniff internet!