Full Update!

8:25 PDT
From the car.

Alright, I’m ready to do a full on update about this trip.  I’ve been putting it off because I haven’t really felt like writing and because I wanted to let some things soak in first.  I’m writing this in the car on the drive from Napa Valley back to LA.

To start:  I got here to California on Friday march 27th, late at night.  We just relaxed, had a few drinks and chatted.  I gave Tom his birthday present (from August.) and he and Amparo gave me mine (from September).  Saturday we got up and went to Griffith Park and Observatory in LA.  It was really cool and overlooked all of LA. Then we went out to dinner in Hollywood to a Peruvian restaurant.  It was really really good.  I had a seafood paella, and I loved it.  Then we met up with some of Tom and Amparo’s friends and had a few drinks out at a bar.  It was fun, relaxing.  Sunday we got up and went to San Diego.  We drove down to Old Town San Diego and walked around and saw some of the small free museums.  And then we went over to Balboa park and walked around.  Balboa park has a ton of museums in it, as well as the San Diego Zoo.  Unfortunately we didn’t go to the zoo because we ran out of time.  We started back to LA and got a flat tire on the thruway in the middle of nowhere.  Tom changed it and then we headed to their friend Pradnya’s house for some homemade Indian food.  It was delicious!  Then all of her roommates and Tom and Amapros friends were around and everyone was talking and drinking and someone was playing the guitar, and someone else was singing.  It was a really nice evening (minus the flat tire).

Monday Tom took the car to get fixed and it took him the entire day.  So Amparo and I just relaxed at their apartment and watched tv and had a few drinks and snacks.  It was a nice day to just relax.  Tuesday we got up early to head up to San Jose.  The plan was to leave at 9am and start the 6 hour drive so that I could get to San Jose early enough to stop into HGC Imports and meet everyone.  But we left a little bit later then that, and then about 10 miles into our drive we ran into some trouble.  We hit a wooden pallet in the road and got 2 more flat tires.  We called AAA and had them tow us to a local tire place and thankfully they came pretty quickly.  They even sent a AAA van to pick the three of us up and take us over also.  We had to wait for about an hour for the tires to be fixed and everything but we found a Salvation Army to keep us busy for a while so it wasn’t too bad.  After that we hit the road again, but had lost well over 2 hours on our drive so I wasn’t going to be able to meet with Kevin.  So we headed to the hotel and relaxed, had some Chinese food and just went to bed kind of early.

Wednesday I got up early and headed over to HGC.  Originally the plan was for me to come in mid morning and meet with Kevin, get a tour of the facilities, have lunch, have a Q&A and then leave  But that was totally changed.  I got there and he showed me around the warehouse and everything.  It was pretty neat, a huge warehouse.  They import Portuguese wines, food and beer and house it all in San Jose.  They distribute to central California, Arizona, Colorado and a few other states and are working on adding more.  Then Kevin took me out with him on some deliveries.  We went up to Santa Cruz and Sunnyvale and then had lunch in Capitola.  It was an all day event.  I got to see what a delivery is like, and we met with a few clients.  It was a really interesting day.  After that we headed back towards San Jose and he had to pick up his daughter from school, so we stopped and got her.  She is 5, in kindergarten and her name is Marissa. She was adorable! Then we stopped by his parents house (I believe Mario and Delphine), so I could meet them.  they own the business but Kevin and his brother Jason run it now.  They were both so welcoming and sweet and talked to me about wine and the business and my interests and everything.  She told me that I would be working for a minimum base pay with commission on top and that I would be handling a lot of Southern California.  They eventually want to open a warehouse in the LA area and if they did, I would be running it, which sounds amazing.  Then we left and Kevin dropped me back off at my hotel. We had talked a lot about my interests and where I want to go with wine and everything.  I told him about my interest in going back to school to get a business degree and he said that was an excellent idea.  He’s in the process of finishing up his schooling now. He also is very close with Fatima from Best Beverage and kept saying that I need to do what’s right for me, so to go back to Rhode Island and meet with her again and learn some more and then make a decision.  No pressure at all which is wonderful.

Thursday I was out with Jason.  Jason took me n a few sales calls and a few deliveries. We also had a few tastings to do.  We went to two different wine shops in the San Francisco/Oakland area and had tastings.  A tasting is basically their sales call.  They bring in new wines for the store to taste and if they like them they’ll usually order some, and if not they send us on our way.  There was one wine we had brought for everyone to taste that was very interesting.  Everyone referred to it as “The Cat Wine”  because it has a big cheesey cat on the label.  And the wine is called Gatoa or Cat in Portuguese.  No one liked it.  One of the tasters didn’t even want to try it because of the cat on the label.  He thought it was too cheesey.  Late Kevin told me that the bottle we had was a bad bottle so that is why no one liked it.  It’s a very popular wine in Portugal.  Also, he said that because no one liked the label he can had new labels made that will please the clients more so they’ll buy it.  I found it very interesting that people didn’t even want to try it because of the label alone.  What ever happened to not judging a book by its cover?  I thought it was a little pretentious and snobbish for them to turn it away for such a simple reason.  But perhaps a new label will help.

Jason also took me all around San Francisco.  We went down to the Fisherman’s Warf and had some crabs and shrimp and oysters for lunch.  And then we walked up to Ghiradelli Square and had some chocolate.  It was really nice.  Everyone was so sweet and just wanted to show me around and make sure I got to relax and see everything that I possibly could.  After that Jason dropped me back off at the hotel and then Tom, Amparo and I headed out to dinner.

We went to meet Gabe and Maria, two friends of my parents in Hawaii.  Gabe and Maria are also friends with Mario and Delphine, which is how my parents met them, which is how I got the interview.  It was their future daughter-in-law’s birthday so they took us all out for sushi.  It was really fun and nice, and everyone was so sweet and happy.  Then we went back to their house and Gabe immediately took me downstairs to see his wine cellar.  It was so nice.  He had so much wine it was amazing.  He also has his own vines in the backyard but he doesn’t know what kind of grapes they are.  He has them sent out to be made into wine.  We had some of it and it was actually very delicious.  He also made us a few other drinks:  “the green stuff’  and they called it, which was moonshine, sugar and I think a mint plant.  It was very good.  He showed me a few of the ports he has and one was over 40 years old, one was 20 years old.  It was really amazing.  They had a box of Sagres Beer which is a Portuguese beer that HGC imports, but I mentioned that I had never had it so he gave me a 6-pack of it to try.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m very excited to.

Friday was our day to relax.  We slept in and around 10 Kevin called me and said that work was very busy but wanted to know if Tom, Amparo and I wanted to have dinner with his family.  So the three of us headed down to San Francisco again because T&A hadn’t ever been.  We just drove around and then headed to the Golden Gate Bridge.  We stopped at the viewing point and walked around and took pictures of the bridge and everything.  Then we walked about a quarter of the bridge and back.  Then we headed over to Lombard Street which is the famous twisted street in San Fran.  Then we headed back to Milpitas to our hotel to get ready for dinner.  Kevin, his wife and their daughter met us at the Macaroni Grill near our hotel and we had a nice relaxing dinner. It was so nice of them to take us out!  They couldn’t have been more hospitable and everything.  I seriously couldn’t thank them enough!

Today, Saturday was another wonderful day.  Today we got up early and headed north to Napa. It took us about 2 hours from San Jose but it ws so worth it.  We got there and drove past all the vineyards and it was so beautiful.  We stopped at the CIA Greystone in St Helena and walked around.  It called my dad to get some advice on wineries to visit and everything and he even offered to pay for all of our tours and for me to buy some wines, which was amazing because wine is an expensive hobby!  We went to Sterling Vineyards first.  At Sterling you take an “Air Tramway” from the parking lot up the mountain o the vineyard itself.  Then it’s a self guided tour with wine tastings along the way.  The tour was beautiful and the entire process there is huge and amazing. Along the tour there were two separate tastings with a third near the end, and then you sit outside on a balcony for the last 3 wines.  We sat and chatted and I was taking notes.  We had paid for the upgrade to get one of the Reserve wines included in our tasting and I asked the woman which of the two she recommended.  We decided to get 2 of the Reserve Merlot and one of the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.  Instead she brought us three of each!  She said because you’re taking such diligient notes I can tell you’re into wine so I brought you a treat.  It was so sweet of her.  And all the wines were amazing!  Then we stopped in the wine store to buy some more wines and another visitor commented on my notes, and I just told him that I’m really into wine, trying to get into the business and so I keep record of my tastings and visits and everything.  He recommended that we visit Frank Family Vineyards, which is one I had never heard of.  He said that the wines are a little more expensive but its worth it.  So we found Frank Family Vineyards and it was worth it! The tasting was free, and it included 2 Champagnes as well s 4 wines.  I really enjoyed them, so we bought two bottles, one for me and one for Umryoa, one of our parents friends that we’re going to have dinner with next week in LA.  Then we went to Robert Mondavi. It was so beautiful.  T&A were both done with drinking the wines, so I bought just one tasting for myself and let them try a few sips.  But they got distracted and headed on their own way around the vineyard.  The woman pouring my tasting noticed my notes and we started talking.  She gave me some advice on getting into the business which was so nice of her.  I was debating between which 3 of the 6 wines to try, so she gave me 5 of them!  The last was a Muscato, and I turned down trying that.  She ws so sweet and helpful it was wonderful.  I bought a bottle of the Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon.  It was a very good tasting so I’m happy with that.  Then we stopped into the Oakville Grocery store for some food and then headed on our way.

Today was everything I could’ve asked for, I really loved it.  It’s days like today that reaffirm my career choice.  Wine is where I should be.  We joked about how my alcohol tolerance is much higher than Tom and Amparo’s and someone made a comment about how I have red wine running through my veins.  It’s a part of me.  I’ve always had an interest that I was passionate about – photography, soccer etc.  But never like this.  Never have I felt about something the way that I do about wine.  I’m so happy and excited to have found the perfect career path for me.  I’m not sure where on this road I’m going to end up, but at least I know I’m on the right road.  And it’s also very nice to know how much my parents support me in my decision.  It was difficult at first to convince my mom that I liked wine for something other than just the alcohol, and that I was actually serious about it.  But now, they are both supportive, financially and emotionally, which is so wonderful.  It’s really because of them that I have made the contacts that I have, and had the opportunities that I have and for that I am eternally grateful.  But it does help that my dad loves to drink wine too!!

side note:
I’m going to investigate this blogging thing a little more and figure out a good way to post some of my tasting notes on here without them being a part of the main blog.  We’ll see how that works.  But on a good note:  I’ve decided on my blog domain name:  Born Thirsty, which is taken from a quote by Natalie MacLean in her book Red White and Drunk All Over. “I’d love to say that I was born with an uncanny palate, but I was just born thirsty.”

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