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Bring Me My Bottle

January 12, 2018

Have you ever been in the eye of a hurricane? The strongest winds of the storm form the eye wall. And once you pass through that, there is an oasis of calm. The sky above is blue. There is no storm. That is, of course, until the backside of the eye wall smacks you with full force.

Today feels a bit like that, but with winter.

Welcome to the eye of the storm. It feels like spring. The temperature is going to be in the fifties. There will be rain. Maybe even enough to melt down all the snow. And then blammo. Starting at 10pm tonight, the mercury dips below 50 degrees and within 36 hours plummets down to 3 degrees. Three.

That’s what those who wake up at 8am on Sunday will get to experience. As far as I can tell, this is God’s way of telling us all to sleep in. And then it’s a week of below freezing temperatures and maybe a little more snow. Yay, winter!

Thankfully, I haven’t been listening to the weather forecasters. Knowing something about the TV news, they have probably named the coming weather system ice-nine or something like that. Ice-pocalypse or ice-mageddon just feel a bit overused. And maybe everything will be fine. Having spent most of my life in Florida and California, I know nothing about weather, or how winter actually works.

But let’s pretend it’s spring for the day. Because there is something at the top of my list for when it arrives, and maybe somebody out there can take advantage of the opportunity today presents.

I learned something new in December, and it reminded me of an old place in San Francisco.

There used to be a place called PlumpJack Cafe. One of the big things that made it special was that it was down the street from the PlumpJack wine store. And guests were encouraged to shop at the wine store, and enjoy their bottles with their meal. The best part was that if you bought the wine at their store, there was no corkage fee.

Let that sink in for a minute.

You get all the joy of drinking wine out of the house, without paying any of the markup for drinking wine out of the house. At restaurants and bars, if the markup is just twice the retail price of a bottle, you’ve found yourself a bargain. Usually, it’s closer to three times the price. Sometimes, it’s four.

Of course, the actual markup is even higher, since the restaurants aren’t paying retail for those bottles. I always die a little bit when I see a glass of wine at a restaurant priced higher than the retail price of the bottle. But that’s another story.

Now don’t get me wrong. Restaurants with good wine programs invest a lot of money in their wine service. Buying and maintaining quality glassware, employing experts to purchase and manage the wine selection, and continually updating the wine list to reflect current vintages on hand, costs restaurant owners dearly. So I do not begrudge the mark ups. However, when those elements are absent, it doesn’t feel like a service charge, It feels more like extortion.

Regardless, it’s always a pleasure to find a great wine bargain.

So maybe you know that Troy now has a tasting room for the Hudson-Chatham Winery. If you don’t it’s on River Street in the spot that once was home to Sweet Sue’s. I knew you could go there for a tasting. I knew that you could buy a glass of wine, sit down at one of their tables, look out the large windows, and watch the world go by. And I knew you could buy bottle of their estate grown wines made from grape varietals selected to grow well in the Hudson Valley.

What I did not know is that you could buy a bottle at its retail price, and enjoy it in the store without paying a markup.

Recently, I was there for a Yelp event, and tried their estate grown Seyval Blanc, and it was lovely. It had notes of citrus, pineapple, and an underlying minerality. A bottle of the stuff is $17 which may feel a little steep for a bottle to bring home. They do also have an $11 version that is made from grapes purchased from other growers.

I would actually love to do a side by side comparison, and when Spring rolls around, I plan to do just that.

At some wine bars, $28 will get you two glasses of wine. At the Hudson-Chatham tasting room, you get two bottles. That’s awesome. The stemware at the tasting room is perfectly fine. It’s not the ultra thin Riedel or Spiegelau you may find in finer restaurants, but it does the job.

There are some nibbles you can get in the tasting room too. But it feels more like a chill place to gather with friends before a night out on the town. Alternatively, they also sell bottles of their own dessert wines, all of which are $25 or less. The tasting room isn’t open terribly late, it closes at 8 o’clock on weekends. But if you have an early dinner, you could always swing by for a wine dessert.

Today I won’t be able to make it out to Troy. But I am going to put a bottle of white wine in the fridge. Maybe this afternoon, I’ll even crack a window to get some of that wet springtime air. And I’ll enjoy the feeling of spring, even for just a day.

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