2013, and welcome to it. I feel as if someone just lifted the Empire State Building off my shoulders as I leave last year in the rear view mirror. It was a pretty tumultuous year for me, 2012, professionally and personally, as my last job exploded into stardust, nearly wrecking my marriage and health to boot.
But that was then and this is now.
I landed on my feet, running at full sprint into the operation here at The Party Source in Bellevue, KY, and partnered with long-time nemesis Mary Valle-Dorr to begin creating the Best F-in’ Wine Dept. in the Midwest (perhaps even the world!). It has been a remarkably smooth and mutually respectable transition, and it’s becoming harder to remember what kind of dystopian work environment I was in prior to TPS.
This year, while I listen to all of the varying levels of New Year’s Resolutions being bandied about in conversation, on social media, and everywhere else, I struggle with the concept of making resolutions this year. My goals are simply to be more focused, more conscientious and more cognizant of my life and the decisions I make, including how I am toward my wife, my family, my coworkers and my friends, and to simply be the best I can be professionally and personally. A lot of baggage has been discarded, and I no longer have this veritable albatross of dysfunctionalism hanging around my neck anymore and have aimed my sights pretty high in my current position.
In the meantime, the landscape has changed somewhat, as it always does in this business. Robert Parker, while moving toward the background of his magazine’s operations with the recent selling of a majority share to outside investors, continues to show no love for the incommodious wine bloggers (except for my fellow ne’er-do-wells Joe Roberts (at 1 Wine Dude) and the luminary Hosemaster of Wine himself, Ron Washam). I’d take offense at being so reviled if I felt I was anything more than an average wine geek who simply chronicles his job with a bit of sardonic wit and drunken wisdom. Besides, the Internet is a pretty big place and there is enough room for everybody (except maybe Dr. Jay Miller).
Amidst the chaos that was the Christmas season, two things happened that I wasn’t able to note while on hiatus. First, dear friend and RNDC wine queen Janis Hunt retired. I had the privilege of working with her for the past 10 years through my last and current jobs. She was Brother Lou’s boss during that time. A true pioneer here in Kentucky she was the first woman to crack the “boys club” of the Kentucky Beverage business, and paved the way for women like my boss, Mary, and such amazing people like Jen Thieman, Candy Ludwig, Christine Ahearn, Linda Hazelbaker, Jesse Stambaugh and all the great women with which I get to work in this business here in Kentucky. She has been a trailblazer, an inspiration, and proof that a woman can get the job done (usually better than us guys can). You will be missed – a lot!
Second, and most unfortunately, we lost a phenomenal individual in Pete Augsburger. I met Pete while taking the reins as wine buyer for the now-defunct Chateau Pomije Wine Store in Cincinnati, OH. Pete was a towering man, 6 feet plus, and had this booming voice. He was the nicest guy, and had a really striking presence. I would come to learn that he was a competing senior Olympian – a shot putter no less – and that he had played college football for the University of Maryland (he played in 3 bowl games, and I believe he still holds 2 collegiate records). I was able to steal Pete from Pomije and lured him over to Liquor Direct. I always thought that if I could be in that great of shape past the age of 65, that would be awesome, because he was in FAR better shape physically and mentally than I have ever been (and I’m 46 now). He passed suddenly, working out at the Cincinnati Sports Club, at the young age of 82. He was often called the Gentle Giant, and was truly a profoundly inspiration to all who knew him.
As for 2013 and what the future holds, I guess that is entirely up to the Big Man upstairs. Yet my plans for UTGT at least are modest ones. I plan on showing greater support for and coverage of the local wine scene, featuring interviews with local wine makers and video visits to their wineries and vineyards, along with continued note-postings of all the wines I come across now as part of the Party Source’s wine staff. I will hopefully be travelling a bit more, studying for my CWE again, and providing my continued nonsensical viewpoint on the retail wine business, pop culture, and whatever else rubs me the wrong way.