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August 31, 2008

Can you give me the "club" price?

August 31. Day 62.

This morning I took to the Temecula wine country by bike. The plan: discover what San Diego has to offer, after being away for ten years. And drink some good wine.

The first stop, La Cereza, aka "cherry" in Spanish. My first thought: So this is how Americans do wine. So far, I've been to wineries in Mexico, France and Connecticut. (Connecticut!? Indeed. My senior year in college, we took a bus trip to a nearby winery, where we learned that every U.S. state produces wine -- including Alaska. I had a final paper due the next day, on Hamlet, and after an evening of more than modest sips the paper was one of my most, er, creative efforts. Ok, fast-forward to 2008...)

La Cereza clings, I hope, to the lower rungs of the California wine hierarchy. Basically, it was impossible to get to the wine, as the tasting room was bloated with: huge plaster angels. Awful paintings. Various wine and not-wine trinkets, like: serving platters and funny napkins and decorative cherubs, lots and lots of fake flowers. Oh yeah, and people, too. So many people herded up against the counter and each other, yammering. The point was to sell sell sell, whatever the hell they could. Yay, consumerism. Yay, Temecula economy. I think I spent a total of 30 seconds inside, enough to buy some water because I was dehydrated from the bike ride, and then I ran outside for fresh air. And the wine? I didn't make it to the counter, so, technically, undrinkable!

Next stop: South Coast Winery. The gewurztraminer was decent. Fairly aromatic, and it disappeared fast in Mr. A's glass -- two good signs. But the chardonnay, recommended to me as neither too oaked, not lacking in personality, smelled like sulphur. Ok, I'm being downright mean. To be fair, it was more like isovaleric acid. Anyway. I took a few drinks and decided to stop compromising the pizza, which was actually good.

Final stop: Alex's Red Barn, which was a few minutes off the main road. Already promising. I locked my bike, which seemed a silly urban precaution in this pristine setting. A few visitors walked out, and the owner greeted us herself. During the tasting, we chatted about wines, the quinces and asian pears in her garden, Germany (her homeland), how they're only open on weekends (unlike most other wineries there), how shiraz and cabernet sauvignon usually get listed on menus, bike riding and her pets. Pleasant, not pushy. The last tasting, a sherry, was caramelicious.

I glanced at the prices and noticed they were different for "wine club" members.

"How does this club work?"

Two bottles per month, free tastings, yada yada. Not interested. Moving on.

"What about offering the club price to a new customer? For getting an introductery bottle. Two bottles?"

She squinted at me, perhaps unsure if I was actually asking for the club price or if I didn't understand the club rules.

"So you'd like two bottles today, at the club price, and then next month you'll start shipment of two more bottles?" she asked.

"No, I mean, for a new customer, who isn't in the club, but may want to join the club one day, just like a little welcome discount?"

"I'm sorry. I can't do that."

"Can't" is such a European way of saying "won't," and this winery was closest in style to the one I'd visited in France. We got a bottle of the sherry anyway, since it was good. Plus, I want this place to last.

Gained: Nichts, again.
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