Maria’s Travels Part I- Day 4
Left to right, top to bottom: Maria with Suki Honeycutt in front of her properties, Tony's on Third and Ridgeway Bar and Grill; Maria at La Playa with Jerry Janus; At Cigar Bar, Burn in Naples; Interior of Burn; A special Ponzi treat at Pelican Bay, a luxury resort in Naples; Premiere Account Executive Megan Gauruder at Pelican Bay with Maria.
My home away from home: Naples. Woke up early and tried to work off the lobster sandwich with a long run (ha!). I readied myself with a large latte in my rented Ultima and began the trek to the West Coast. It was a foggy morning as I drove the long stretch of Alligator Alley, entertained by the brilliant white herons and the large dark beasts warming themselves on the banks of the marsh. Not the place to run out of fuel…
Met up with one of the nicest and hardest working women in wine - Ellie Sexton, who greeted me with her usual bright smile and energy. We had a wonderful day of catching up with old friends in the area … first stop at La Playa to see Jerry Janus. This man has been so good to us. He features every single one of our wines on his prestigious wine list and couldn't be more gracious with his time. We sat down with him in the newly updated dining room and poured a little 2008 Abetina has we caught up on the past year. I think I'll have to stay there my next visit.
A trip to Naples wouldn't be complete without a visit to see Suki Honeycutt of Ridgeway Bar and Grill and Tony's On Third. Suki has been a consistent and major supporter of ours for years. This particular day she was short staff members so we spent more time watching her work the bar, the front of the house while simultaneously hand selecting wines for her customers in the wine shop, than visiting and tasting. She's a hard working, wonderful individual. It was so good to see her again.
We made a quick stop at Handsome Harry's across the street then drove over to McCormick and Schmick's for a staff training in the back room. Love it when servers are actually interested in what you're saying and enjoy the wine! It was a joy meeting with them and Manager Brian Heigaard. They will start the Pinot Gris by the glass (on all McCormick's list) next week. So exciting for us!
I said goodbye to Ellie and hello to her associate Megan Gauruder of Premier, who escorted me around the rest of the day. Megan took me to a really cool cigar bar - Burn by Rocky Patel. Of course, I don't know much about cigars, but this place is enchanting enough to make you want to discover them! Very hip.
The evening was spent at Pelican Bay, where we held a Ponzi wine tasting for its members. The entire service crew was extremely welcoming. Megan and I had fun getting to know each other (both of us working moms)… sipping celebratory mojitos before calling it a night.
Florida is always good to Ponzi . Thank you, Premiere Beverage for making Florida the perfect way to start a year of travel. Cheers!
Maria’s Travels Part I- Day 3
Maria stops in Ft. Lauderdale on day 3 of her visit to sunny Florida.
From left to right, top to bottom: Maria with GM Gabrial Salas of Tuscan Grill; Maria and Managing Partner Kirsta Grauberger of Market 17; and Maria with OPC Graduate and Managing Partner of Capital Grille, Angela Nowland.
What a busy day! Overly ambitious Fritz Stresau, Premier Beverage Field Manager, took me on a whirlwind tour of Ft. Lauderdale today. I'm sure he was glad to have me out of his car by the end of it, patiently listening to my "wine talk" over and over again.
First stop was Coconuts, where we met up with Katie Logan of Premiere and the restaurant owner. Elliot features our Pinot Gris by the glass at the fun beach hangout. Nice guy and a big fan of Oregon and it's wine. He wouldn't even let me give the Ponzi story - said he knows it all already and loves what we do. A nice way to start the day.
Visits followed at Casa D'Angelo, The Pillars and Tuscan Grill where we met up with friendly General Manager Gabriel Salas. Great guy and a big fan (already has Ponzi Pinot Noir on his list). He was so excited to tell me he'd met my folks who dined at the Italian restaurant about a year ago. Nice guy. Later, we met up with Nathan of Johnny V, who was new to Ponzi, so it was fun to share the story and wines with him.
Lunch was at the bar Capital Grille. Fritz responsibly dined on a fresh seafood salad, while I indulged in a crab and lobster sandwich - with fries, thank you very much. Following lunch we were able to thank Angela Nowland, a big Ponzi supporter and previous Oregon Pinot Camp attendee. Needless to say, she's a big Oregon fan. We wrapped up the day with visits to Valentino's where we sat outside and discuss the attributes of working in an Italian family business (ah!) and Grateful Palate, a posh wine bar with attractive Grace Abel at its helm.
Last appointment was one of my favorites - Market 17, where the focus is on farm fresh ingredients. This chic restaurant opened by Kirsta Grauberger and her brother just a short three months ago. The sexy interior, designed by Kirsta , combined with a fresh daily menu makes for an exciting evening. Kirsta is passionate about food; flavors, textures and aromas. So intrigued she's created a unique dining experience called "Dining in the Dark", where guests sit in a completely dark dining room and navigate through several dishes. Is that fresh mozzarella or fish? It's an obvious hit, mystifying even the most seasoned food critic. I truly enjoyed meeting dynamic Kirsta - they've got something really special going on at Market 17.
Long day. Successful day. Thanks, Ft. Lauderdale.
Maria’s Travels 2011- Part 1, Day 2
Day Two in South Florida proved to be a record sales day - nearly 50 cases sold! Thanks go to all the good people in this market that represent our beautiful wines daily and those who believe in it and want it share it with their guests. And, yes, thanks to my sister who makes the wines so irresistible!!
Rik and I met up with Premiere Beverage Field Sales Manager Fate Passmore - an outstanding guy despite his love of playing poker with the big boys in Las Vegas. He set course for a successful day scheduling meetings with extremely nice people with good palates, the first being Rick Falero, Director of Food and Beverage at Admiral's Cove in Jupiter. I immediately felt comfortable walking into his office, every inch of it covered with photos of his beautiful children. Rick is a hilarious individual. We laughed so much I almost forgot we were selling wine. He loved the Pinot noirs in particular, most especially the 2008 Abetina, which as Rik put it, "is drop dead gorgeous". I couldn't agree more.
Lunch was a real pleasure. We shared the experience with another Premiere Beverage Account Executive, Rico Rinchiuso, who reserved a table at the elegant Ristorante Buonasera for us. The food was amazing, service impeccable, ambiance and company delightful. Dining with us and enjoying the wines was Declan Hoctor of neighboring restaurant The Bistro, located just around the corner. A charming Irish man who's in business with his sister across the ocean in Dublin, where they have a second restaurant.
Following a creamy cappuccino, we managed to spend way too much time on the highway (but that's another story) trying to get to our next appointment at Harbour Ridge, a private club in Palm City. We were greeted there by a team of chefs and Teresa Zammiello, the Director of Banquet and Catering. We talked the Ponzi story and poured our lovely 08's and 09's. All of them showing such bright fruit, perfect balance and length. They are a joy to present.
We ended the day with a sparkling glass of Tattinger at one of the most glamorous restaurant's in the country, Cafe L'Europa in Palm Beach. You feel as if you've walked into a sophisticated Parisian cafe from the moment you open the glass door. The soft lighting shimmering against the walls of mirrors, the decadent and abundant floral bouquets of pink and red roses, bottles of champagne chilling on the bar and handsome guests dressed in their finest, makes me want to be Grace Kelly for a moment in time so I can better fit into the scene. So classy. So beautiful.
Rik and I toasted to a successful day and our 10th year of working the Florida wine market together. Another perfect day in the sunshine state.
Maria’s Travels 2011- Part 1
And so the road to 2011 sales begins! In traditional form, I launched my 10th market visit to South Florida yesterday. The weather and good relationships here make it a welcoming start to an otherwise somewhat daunting travel itinerary over the next several months.
My visit started off with a beautiful sunny and sandy run along the coastline of Ft. Lauderdale, followed by a very tall latte as I watched the waves roll in and enjoyed the whistling palm trees overhead. I feel lucky to have a chance to reflect on the beauty of this country and the great fortune I have to live in it.
I met my good friend Rik in his shiny black truck and we were off to our first meeting. A fun call at the Miami Dade University where we met with Sarah who is working hard to complete the finishing touches on the university's new LEED Certified culinary school. It's going to be fabulous! We stole a few moments from her busy schedule to taste through the current releases of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. They, of course, were delicious. So exciting to think our new up and coming chefs may have an opportunity to get to know Ponzi wines early in their careers!
We dined at Soyka's for lunch, meeting up with wine buyer, Patricia Ferraro, and Premiere Beverage Sale Associate Corianne. Patricia had a wonderful "first Ponzi" story. Back in the late 70's (or early 80's we couldn't figure out which) someone traveled to Oregon and brought her back a bottle of Ponzi Pinot and told her it was VERY expensive. She researched the variety and decided to invite her good friend over for a handmade wild mushroom lasagne to pair with the wine. Patricia was a hard working single-mother at the time and living on a shoestring. She didn't have a table in her small apartment, but wanted to make the evening special. So instead, she threw a linen over her ironing board and that is where they dined that night with that rare bottle of Pinot Noir. What a wonderful story and I love that Ponzi was the cherished bottled!
Next, we met Michael Hidalgo, the GM at The River Seafood and Oyster Bar, followed by a great conversation with Ernesto Plagata of Ortanique, who promised me a trip to the Canary Islands to check out their new restaurant there. Our final stop of the day was at Crown Liquors where we met with charming Fred Barger, wine columnist for Ocean Drive Magazine, who managed to taste through the wines before closing up for the night.
Had a great day and looking forward to tomorrow!