Why are restaurant wine lists often tricky to navigate, even for wine professionals? Is it worth pursuing wine certifications and courses? Wine is the most value-added agricultural product we produce so why are there so many barriers for these small farmers who try to sell their wines across the country?
In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m being interviewed by Paul K on the Wine Talks with Paul K podcast.
You can find the wines we discussed here.
- What was my winding journey to sommelier certification like?
- What is it about wine that can feel so intimidating?
- Why are restaurant wine lists often tricky, even for professionals?
- How can you delicately navigate wine prices at restaurants?
- Should you pursue wine certifications?
- How can online wine classes help you become an expert on your own palette?
- Is it okay to throw away wine?
- How accessible are specialty wines in Canada?
- How did COVID act as an accelerant in the Canadian wine market?
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When you’re working in an intense job, one thing you can do is take clients out to dinner and start to gain an appreciation for wine. - Natalie MacLean Click to tweet
Wine is something that gives us pleasure but it’s also something that can make us feel very uptight and very small town. - Natalie MacLean Click to tweet
Most of us just want to relax with friends and have a good glass that’s not going to disappoint them. That’s my mission. - Natalie MacLean Click to tweet
Wine is the most value-added agricultural product we produce and yet we’re not allowing these small farmers to increase their market and consumers to increase their diversity of taste from something that is truly homegrown. - Natalie MacLean Click to tweet
About Paul Kalemkiarian
Paul Kalemkiarian is the host of the podcast Wine Talks with Paul K on which he interviews wine industry royalty as well as Michelin starred chefs. He’s also the owner of America’s oldest wine club, the Original Wine of the Month Club. His expertise in the wine industry spans over 30 years. His father invented the idea of wine in the mail in 1972 and they have been serving wine enthusiasts ever since.
- Connect with Paul K
- Unreserved Wine Talk | Episode 124: Wine Clubs, Wine Finds & Tasting Tips with Paul K – Part 1
- Unreserved Wine Talk | Episode 125: Inflated Wine Scores, Inside Tasting Tips with Paul K – Part 2
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- Unreserved Wine Talk | Episode 21: Is Wine the Source of Civilization? John Mahoney Thinks So and Here’s Why
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Natalie MacLean 0:00
I’m scanning the wine list and just sweating bullets because I feel like this is a test and it was part of the interview. And so I thought, oh, I’ll choose something safe and fancy; Mondavi Cabernet from California. So I went with that, and then I look up and he goes, Well, that’s gonna be interesting with my Dover sole. Anyway, learnt later that kind of an incredibly bad match; didn’t get the job; don’t think it was because of the wine choice; but I never felt so intimidated. And so, like, I need to know what this wine stuff is all about because I never want to feel that way again, because wine is something that gives us pleasure, but it’s also something that can make us feel very uptight and very small town.
Natalie MacLean 0:50
Do you have a thirst to learn about wine? Do you the love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places, and amusingly awkward social situations? Well that’s the blend here on the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie MacLean and each week, I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now pass me that bottle please and let’s get started.
Welcome to Episode 144. Why are restaurant wine lists often tricky to navigate even for wine professionals? Is it worth pursuing wine certifications and courses? Wine is the most value added agricultural product that we produce so why are there so many barriers for these small farmers who try to sell their wines across the country? You’ll get those answers and more wine stories coming up next. We’re turning the tables and Paul K, host of the Wine Talks podcast is interviewing me. In the show notes, you’ll find a full transcript of our conversation, links to both of my books, how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class and where you can find me on Zoom, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube Live video every Wednesday at 7pm. That’s all in the show notes at Nataliemaclean.com/144.
Now on a personal note, before we dive into the show. On Sunday my son Rian came home from Waterloo University where he’s studying software engineering. I hadn’t seen him since Christmas due to the lockdown. Waterloo was a hotbed for the Delta virus; he’s safe thank goodness and double vaccinated. And he also had back to back academic terms. It was so good to have him home again. I’ve been using the hug coupons every day that he gave me for Christmas. It just really reminds me of how fast life goes by and it’s worth every effort to slow it down with a hug or a glass of wine. Okay, on with the show.
Unknown Speaker 3:25
Now from high atop his desk, get ready to peel it all back and get to the root of the subject no pun intended, with Paul K on Wine Talks, where he takes no prisoners and calls it the way he sees it.
Paul K 3:53
Welcome to Wine Talks with Paul K and we are in studio today in beautiful Southern California; about 65 degrees here in Los Angeles. And I hope you are experiencing the same across the country. We have a wonderful guest today in Natalie McLean. We’ll get to the introductions in a second. Wine Talks is available on Spotify, iHeartRadio, Pandora, you name it, we are there. And I was sponsored by the original Wine of the Month Club now supporting the Bordeaux and Napa series. But let’s get to the show because this is a lot of fun. I was fortunate enough to be on her show recently and we wanted to get her on Wine Talks because this is Natalie MacLean; all the way from Canada. What part of Canada are you in Natalie?
Natalie MacLean 4:33
I’m in Ottawa, the capital, the snowy capital. It’s cold here today but it’s getting warm, our kind of warm though. I should redefine what warm is after hearing your weather report. We’re in Celsius. So the conversion always escapes me but it’s about plus eight degrees Celsius right now.
Paul K 4:52
That’s like 46
Natalie MacLean 4:55
So we’re all wearing shorts and T shirts as a result because we are Canadian. We, we are winter hardy.
Paul K 5:02
I set out when I was a kid as a teenager, I was going to come up with my own conversion. Because it’s not a linear conversion from Centigrade to Fahrenheit, you have to have sort of a moving scale, but I double the centigrade and I add 28. That’ll get you within a couple of degrees either way. As it gets warmer, that scale changes a little bit, but I want to read your accolades because this is very important. Primarily, you consider yourself the chief of wine happiness, and we’re going to get to that in a second to define that but you’re author of the book Red, White and Drunk All Over, our kind of book, a Wine Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass, and the book Unquenchable, a Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines. You also have won James Beard Fisher distinguished writing award, calling the shots to James Beard award for the internet column and feature writing, easy for me to say, Dining in the Wild Wild West, Lady Sings the Booze. You know, these are clever names; Lady Sings the Booze, Red, White and Drunk all Over, and Waiter, There’s a Flaw in my Wine. All interesting subjects; reminds me of that joke, Hey waiter what’s that fly doing in my soup? And he says the backstroke. So tell us about this journey, because it also suggests in some of the internet articles about you and what you’ve done that your husband got you into this. Is that true?
Natalie MacLean 6:24
Absolutely. Well, I say I started drinking when I met my husband and haven’t found a reason to stop. He’s now my ex-husband by the way. I actually specialised in divorce wine tastings, which Cabernet pairs best with burning love letter, or sorry, love letters. But anyway, that’s another topic and another tasting.
Paul K 6:44
We’re gonna have to talk about that for sure. But
Natalie MacLean 6:47
I can pair of wines with you know, if you found yourself a good divorce lawyer, and it’s a great prenup, but the after the fact , anyway, I’m getting carried away, so I’m prone to that. But I did get into wine with him. We were two MBAs, A type personalities and we moved to Toronto together as we met in business school. So we started first taking Spanish at night and sort of conjugating Spanish verbs and all that after a long day at work. He was at Citibank, I was at Procter and Gamble. That just was, we couldn’t hack it. Then we thought, oh, let’s take up golf. And that was a really bad idea. Because, you know, type A personalities. Yeah, with long iron clubs, not a good pairing. Then I saw a wine course at our local college. I thought we can drink at night, that will calm us down, and we’ll have fun and so it started with that. We took it together. I continued for the full sommelier diploma programme, but he just took the one course and enjoyed it.
Paul K 7:49
You said a mouthful there. I have to ask a couple of questions, because Ottawa is what part? My North American geography is not very good as far as Canada is concerned. What part of the country is it?
Natalie MacLean 8:01
That’s okay. We’re in Ontario. We’re about an hour flight from Toronto. We’re actually the country’s capital, but we’re so snowy here. Voltaire described Canada once as a few acres of snow so no one knows where we are. We’re justthe great white north.
Paul K 8:17
So at least you get the accolades from Voltaire. So that’s great. But Spanish, I mean, seriously why would you take up Spanish? Why not French?
Natalie MacLean 8:24
Because we were type A’s. Oh my gosh, yeah. Well, we learned French in school. So we thought being such obsessive,s compulsive, let’s get another language just for fun. And learning languages is beautiful, but not after an eight to 10 hour workday at two very intense companies. It was like oh my gosh
Paul K 8:43
It’s very hard. My listeners have heard this before. But I started about five years ago, studying French and I was hell bent to learn it. And my dad speaks French because in Cairo, where he grew up in the 30s, French was the second language of the country until the English protectorate came in and then English became obviously the second language. But if you watch film from the 30s, from Cairo, most of the signs, business signs, are in Arabic and in French, so it’s hard to do. There’s actually services now, there’s one called Italki.com, in case you want to resurrect your Spanish pursuit. So the golf thing is hilarious because it reminds me of the Raymond episode where they decide as a couple they’re going to play golf together and you know, sort of take on the husband’s hobby. And it doesn’t go well in the episode.
Natalie MacLean 9:30
It doesn’t go well. No, No. I had this long club and I’m in the sandpit going I don’t need any more tips darling.
Paul K 9:40
Yeah, that would happen, for sure. So but you did say like, he suggested that you take wine classes. Was there any wine enthusiasm prior to that, besides just catching the buzz late at night?
Natalie MacLean 9:51
Well, I cottoned on to why because I went from Procter and Gamble to a high tech company that’s now the headquarters of Google in Mountain View. So I started arranging my meetings, quarterly meetings, on a Friday or Thursday so I could drive up to Napa, because the one thing when you’re working in an intense job, the one thing you can do is take clients out to dinner and start to gain an appreciation for wine, that sort of thing. So there was no time for golf, thank goodness. But I started to learn about wine, that was always there in the background. And so we both thought, yeah, that sounds good. Let’s find out what we’re drinking, so we know what to buy and how to pair it with food and that sort of thing.
Paul K 10:29
Was it intimidating back then? Because, you know Procter and Gamble for one, being corporate America, a huge company. And I want to get into that a bit, marketing, that guerilla marketing that they do, a little bit if we can, but was it intimidating for you to start? You know, you’re trying to entertain clients, you’re going to dinner, you look at the wine list, that’s very confusing. Each wine list is different. How did that go for you?
Natalie MacLean 10:50
Well, you know, the first experience I actually remember was pre Procter and Gamble, when I was at the end of or near the end of the MBA, we were all getting interviews. And I went for one with McKinsey and Company, which is a consulting company, and the final rounds, you went to dinner with a partner. And he was shaking down his Rolex watch, and his little Burberry, cufflinks and all the rest of it and goes, why don’t you choose the wine? And so I had nothing, no experience, except maybe, you know, cold Baby Duck back at the high school portable. That was it
Paul K 11:25
We used to sell that by the way
Natalie MacLean 11:26
Oh, no dissing. That was just, that was my experience. So I thought, well, I’m scanning the wine list and just sweating bullets, because I feel like this is a test. And it was, as part of the interview. And so I thought, oh, I’ll choose something safe and fancy, Mondavi Cabernet from California. So I went with that. And then I sort of look up and he goes, Well, that’s going to be interesting with my Dover sole. Anyway, learnt later, that’s kind of an incredibly bad match, didn’t get the job, don’t think it was because of the wine choice.
I never felt so intimidated. And so like, I need to know what this wine stuff is all about. Because I never want to feel that way again, because it’s something that gives us pleasure. But it’s also wine is something that can make us feel very uptight and very small town girl, in my case.
Paul K 12:15
That’s an interesting,story, because here you are, the pressure of an interview, so to speak, and sort of a social, a friend of my son just was interviewed for a job. And the last interview was they took him to a bar. And this is a high end real estate firm that does a lot of big business across America. And they wanted to know how he socialised in that environment. And in that environment you normally would say, Well, I’m not gonna order a drink, because that might be a bad thing. But they want him to order a drink and understand how he reacts to that in that situation. I thought that was interesting.
It seems to me and this is for the listeners and for people that are trying to study wine, that want to learn about wine. That’s intimidating. It’s even intimidating for us. If I’m on a list of I don’t know, in other words, it’s always handed to me. Right? You probably get the list everywhere you go whether you’re with guests or friends or family, they go “Oh give the list to Natalie, she understands wine”. And then you look at it, you know, I don’t think I’ve had that Burgundy, I don’t think I’ve had that Bordeaux. And then we go back to the stuff that we may recognise, that we’ve tasted before. I was responsible for the wine of the Easter gathering years ago with my in-laws down in Palm Springs, and I forgot to bring it. So I went to the market just like every other consumer, I went to the market, start looking at the wines and I’m going, you know, I’ve never tasted that. So I really don’t know if it’s proper or balanced, or whatever adjectives we’re looking for. But then I made a bad decision. One of them was really good, a good value. The other one wasn’t so great and I bought it on the brand. So it takes confidence to do this, doesn’t it?
Natalie MacLean 13:51
Yes, it does. And you’re right, Paul, like restaurant wine lists, if they’re any good are trying to get wines that you haven’t tried before, or that aren’t often stocked in liquor stores or that sort of thing, because they want to give you a new taste experience. So that puts us, even as experienced tasters, often in the same seat? Because I don’t know. And you know, am I going to take a chance on that, whatever $75 or $50 Burgundy or whatever? And so I always defer to the sommelier if I am in a place that cares about wine, like, what do you think of this wine? Or, you know, we’re having the veal and the chicken? Do you think this wine will work? And the thing that people come back at me for is, well, how can I signal how much I want to pay? You know, especially if you don’t want to declare out loud how much you’re willing to pay for love on a date or business. And I just tip the wine list toward me and I just point at the prices to the sommelier or server and I’ll say I want something in this range and everyone else thinks I’m talking style or region but I’m signalling this is how much I want to pay.
Paul K 15:00
That’s the other interesting thing though, is that if you’re with guests that you’re not sure what their budget is, like, what they’re used to spending $100 in the bottle of wine or not, you know, you’re sort of intimidated. When we were in Paul Bocuse in Lyons, I was able to say the quatre-cent dollar type thing to the somm, because my guests didn’t know what that meant. And I was telling him I wanted a Bordeaux in the 400 dollar range. And you know, that was easy. But you’re right, you’re worried like somebody in front of you, that your guests are going to go the $100, you know, in the back of their mind, and they go, look, I guess I’m buying, right? But that’s interesting comment though. The somm’s role,, at a restaurant, a real restaurant that has a real wine list, not one that’s produced by the local wholesaler is pretty important to help guide clients through and interpret what you’re asking them for. You pointed to the dollar amount, but stylistically, they have to interpret what we tell them, what do we like. The way I do that, maybe it’s the same as I asked people what they usually drink. I drink Jordan, I usually drink Silver, okay, whatever. And then we can at least get a style through that. But how do you recommend to people at a restaurant that are trying to decipher a wine list and explain to the somm what they’re doing?
Natalie MacLean 16:12
Exactly. That’s a great tip. Really great tip.
Paul K 16:15
So what is the chief of wine happiness, I mean, that’s a self proclaimed thing, or is that a degree that you earn
Natalie MacLean 16:23
I would love to go to that school, oh, my goodness, I just have to figure out my minor and my major, but chief of wine happiness, I mean, I recognise that wine is pleasure. For most of us, we are just buying a glass of pleasure. We are not signing up for the Encyclopaedia of wine, though, that’s great if you want to dive headfirst into wine, with all of the different facets and knowledge. But you know, at bottom, I think most of us just want to relax with friends, have a good glass, that’s not going to disappoint them. And that’s my mission. So I put that rather than any initials, or degrees, or diplomas or anything beside my name.
Paul K 17:04
That’s an important distinction I want the listeners to understand. I mean, I have full respect for MW’s and MS’s and anybody that’s pursuing that. And in California, just to sell wine now, as an entry level job, if you just want to get in the streets and go to liquor stores and restaurants and sell them wine, you need something that says you’re attempting to learn a little bit. And so those certifications are important, particularly in jobs where it’s important to have knowledge but they certainly are not degrees to the extent that we can’t learn the same thing by studying ourselves. Okay, I want to make that really clear. I think maybe the confidence issue comes into play when you have that degree. In other words, I have really good friends that really understand wine. But they still describe it with a question mark at the end. I taste blackberries, you know, do I taste it? It’s like, no, I taste blackberries! That’s what I taste
Natalie MacLean 17:58
Like an exclamation mark, say wet violets in spring and everybody will agree with you. Right?
Paul K 18:03
That’s right. I got to start using that.
Natalie MacLean 18:06
Yeah, well, you know, just as long as you say it with power, but that’s exactly why I teach online wine food pairing classes. It’s people don’t necessarily want to become masters of wine, most of us, but we want to become the expert on our own palate. And that is that confidence to go into a liquor store and not default to the same bottle every time or to join a wine club, of course, and to experiment and to have the confidence. I know what I like, I know when I want to branch out and try something new, I know what pairs with a variety of dishes. That’s why people come to me at least, for the online pairing courses that I offer. Because you know, it’s a very small percentage of the population that wants to become true experts in the way that Master of Wine and Master Sommelier can do for you.
Paul K 18:53
Well, it’s a pursuit of education like anything else is. If you want to learn language, you pursue it through all the means you can and there’s plenty of resources online to read about wine in books. I’ve got a huge library of books accumulated over the years. So you said something important though, that the ethereal value of a glass of wine; I want people as you put it, to just enjoy the glass of wine they’re having. And we, you and I, can’t predict everybody’s palate and what they’re going to like that we find something really interesting. Like the other day, I tasted the Canary Islands, Listán Negro, never heard of the grape. You know, I really enjoyed the wine and it may not that everybody enjoys it, but your idea that we want to relax with a good glass of wine and what does that mean good glass of wine? Well, I think it’s perfectly fine, I do it all the time. And I know it’s hard to imagine; I dump out a lot of wine that way because I have access to it. But I don’t want to suffer through a glass of wine. Why would I want to do that?
Natalie MacLean 19:52
Life’s too short. Yeah, life’s too short, and we’re trying to drink within moderation limits so you can only consume so much alcohol and that is drinking, not tasting. So you’ve got to choose wisely, I think, just like everything else in life. Yes.
Paul K 20:05
Well, you want to test the limits of, you know, you can only drink so much alcohol, I tested the limits too many times on that. But I was tasting the other day. And I’m not sure if we talked about this on your show, but I was tasting another day and I tasted a shiner, a wine with no label. We’re going through a wedding right now; my daughter’s getting married in a couple of weeks. Actually, it is less than that now; it’s scary. And I think myself, I suppose if this wine had a private label on it, and it was part of a venue that did a lot of weddings, this would be okay. And I stopped myself. This is my own thought. I wasn’t talking to anyone, I was talking to myself. Like no, actually, if I’m gonna have a wedding, invite guests, I want to pour nice wines. I want people to feel what you’re talking about, relax, maybe even have a conversation about the wine at the table with the other guests. Why would I sacrifice one of the most important parts of the meal? Let me cut back on the valet budget, you know, let me cut back and have a good wine.
Natalie MacLean 21:01
It’s like buying a fancy car without having the money to pay for gas. I mean, make room for it. Yeah, that’s I think, yeah.
Paul K 21:08
Yeah, that’s what I think. I wanted to talk about your book, Red, White and Drunk all Over. So what do you set out after you set out to learn about wine with your husband? By the way, just for fun? How long did the ensemble lessons last?
Natalie MacLean 21:20
He only took the one course; our marriage lasted longer. That was a good 20 years. But yeah, he was done, because then he deferred to me. You know how you do often in a relationship. Okay, you do wine, I’ll do finances right. That’s very typical. But anyway, yeah, he did the one intro course with me. And then I took over.
Paul K 21:37
Did you learn like his palate, because my wife’s palate is totally different than mine. I ensure that I bring home things that she will appreciate. And I sometimes open two bottles because I don’t feel like it.
Natalie MacLean 21:48
Exactly. He had a different palate and so does my current partner Miles. At first Miles was drinking very inexpensive Australian Shiraz and I thought, Oh, great. And then so I’d start opening wines. And one night he noticed that my red wine was a different colour. He said, What’s that? And I just said, red wine. You have red wine, I have red wine. And then he said, know what, that looks different. And so I had to explain to him that it was a Rhône Valley from Guigal and it was pricier, so he said, I want a taste. This sounds awful of me. But he took a taste. And he loved it. And then from there, he’s been so much more expensive to keep in wine. He got rid of the inexpensive Shiraz and then just switched to that, but our tastes still differ. I mean, generally I actually enjoy Pinot but he’s still on that pricey Guigal Rhône Valley.
Paul K 22:44
You better keep him from going north. You know, don’t get him into the Côtes du Nuits or you’re going to be in big problems.
Natalie MacLean 22:49
Exactly, exactly. There is no North. The line ends at the Rhône Valley. That’s it.
Paul K 22:56
This is a conversation I had yesterday with a woman who’s trying to look into the idea of starting a club for a very well known consumer magazine. She lives in New York. And I said, there’s fine wine shops in New York, almost every corner it seems like, and you can find really, really nice wines there. In Canada, is it the same? I mean, how do you buy wine in Canada? What’s the availability of different things like Guigal, your Rhône wines, or Côtes du Nuits Burgundies? So what’s the general availability given the liquor laws in Canada,
Natalie MacLean 23:26
We’re still more suffering from prohibition hangover, then you are in the states in that most of the provinces have government controlled liquor stores. So in Ontario, we have the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, LCBO, the famed LCBO. And there are a few wine shops that are grandfathered into existence because wineries open wine shops, and so they’re allowed to exist, but we do not have a privatised system here. They do in Alberta, and in spots across the country, but it’s very regulated. And so the availability depends on the buying power of those near monopolies. So the LCBO does have a lot of buying power, does present a lot of wines through its stores, but we just don’t have a store that’s you know, like Tuscany is US, kind of thing. If you just want to specialise in Tuscany, you really do have to go with the availability of what’s in those liquor stores.
Paul K 24:23
Actually, yesterday I was I was looking for pricing on the Bordeaux I really liked. And I just found in Southern California, a Bordeaux shop, I’m like, wow, that can’t be like doing that great. But actually during COVID, it actually has been very good. But when you said the LCBO which, you know, I think it’s like one of the largest retailers in the world, right? I mean, they just they buy everything. Then Pennsylvania, up until recently in the US, was the largest US retailer, because they had the same sort of restrictions, but just in the state level instead of a country level. But I just realised, okay, so Canada, suffering from a little bit of post prohibition, and then headed south to the US. We suffer from it, but Joe Kennedy was smart enough to give all his friends regional control over the booze distribution so at least we have some freedom. And each state has control over it, and some are more free than others. But then you go to Europe, and I’m wondering if there’s a relationship between the amount of time wine has been part of the culture and the freedom to buy it and express it. So Europe, there’s no problem, right? Most of the rest of the world, there’s no problem. Then you go to the US, we loosened after prohibition, there was political football; still is, we’re a little freer than Canada. And now Canada, probably the tail end of alcohol being part of the culture, has the most restrictions. And why has this become a political thing? Why can’t we just experience life as the Europeans do? Is there any wind of change coming in?
Natalie MacLean 25:44
Oh, yeah, I think change is coming. But wine has always been politicised. Whether it’s tariff disputes, or just the sin taxes put on alcohol, like it is on gasoline and other goods that the government feels we don’t really need to consume. But I do think change is coming. And you know, consumers demand it. But now in a COVID, hopefully, we’re coming out of COVID. But in this environment, liquor laws are starting to loosen, for example, restaurants could never deliver alcohol with meals, now they can; those laws have been changed. And word is they’re going to stay now opening up their own wine delivery business. Because you know, they can include a Saltine cracker and that’s the food and, and then just sell your stock of wine. And as we know, Paul, in the restaurant business, customers will eat you poor and drink you rich, the margin is in all of the alcohol, but even the tea and the coffee. So I think change is coming. It took a disrupter, an inflection point like COVID, that, I think is an accelerant that brought the future forward 10 years, but that’s a good thing, because we’re starting to get more options. And I think it will continue.
Paul K 26:53
You’re right. I agree with that. And in America, it changes fluidly. When in 1988, when I bought the company from my father, nobody really cared, you just shipped because it wasn’t a thing then, my Dad invented the idea in the 70s. So even in the early 80s, and late 80s, you just did it. If you loaded the UPS truck with 200 boxes, you only manifested 150, nobody really cared, and they could have gone anywhere. We had what we called reciprocity states in California. So if Minnesota or Missouri, wrote a law that resembled our law, which said, basically, hey, we can ship wine to your state, and you can ship wine to our state, and we don’t care, we’re not going to tariff or tax anybody. Those are still around, but they’re different than they were; a lot of them went different ways. And so we’re still seeing in the US challenges to liquor laws; in some states, strapping down more, in other states loosening it up. Problem with America is we’re getting sued now, for shipping stuff. There was an article came out the other day where it was determined that one in three bottles shipped to Michigan last year were illegal, you know, whatever that means, and I would suggest it’s probably more than that. Not illegal, but tell me that two or three bottles are illegal. But it’s up to us for a lifestyle to decide, in my opinion. If we want to have wine in our meal, and we want to be able to buy it openly, I think the consumer has to step up. We have a group here called Free the Grapes, and be able to have access to whatever we want. What’s interesting about the human race is that we’re very creative. So when the governor of California shows up at the French Laundry, for $800 a seat, which we were there two weeks before he went, I’m sure you’re aware of the story. And my wife is like I want to go in the room, because the French Laundry has four or five rooms. And normally during regular hours, there’s four or five tables in each room. But what they decided to do during COVID was that you could rent one room privately at that time. And then this perceived cost prefix came $800. And if you’re outside, in the regular dining area on the patio,it was $400,, so it’s expensive.
Natalie MacLean 28:58
What a deal.
Paul K 28:59
But Newsom was in the $800 section just so you know, just to set the record straight. But after that Newsom decided that he was going to tell us what was acceptable food, and you said you could deliver a Saltine, Canadian wine delivery can have a Saltine and call it food right? So we are serving 25 cent Top Ramen at some of the bars to get around that code. Right? It works. Then they came out; this is a true story. They came out with a list of foods that qualify for brasserie style food. So it was okay to serve a chicken breast on a plate, but not chicken wings. Okay, I mean, seriously, Can you imagine this? Itin was written that way. It was literally written an article, in the code, that chicken breast qualifies for real food at a brasserie but chicken wing does not. It just boggles your mind and then you have, who’s gonna enforce this? I mean, who’s gonna go around and be the chicken wing police?
Natalie MacLean 30:00
All right, it’s all cut up now, I can’t tell you. But you know, Paul, we have that same thing going on in Canada, our laws, in terms of cross border shipping are nuts. And again, it’s largely due, I believe, to the liquor stores who don’t want to lose the revenue, or who want to keep taking the tax revenue and turning it well, they do turn it over to the government. But still, it’s a way of maintaining control. But we have Free my Grapes as well. But what surprises me is that wine is the most value added agricultural product we produce in this country and probably yours as well. It’s the only product we put in the original packaging on the dinner table. We don’t you know, I think we talked about this, we don’t have the stickers on the apples or the strawberries. And yet, we’re not allowing these small farmers, which is what wineries are, to increase their market and allowing consumers to increase their diversity of tastes from something that is truly homegrown. I mean, it just it boggles my mind that we are not supporting farmers in this way.
Paul K 31:04
This is interesting. Wine is farming. That’s really what it started as. I don’t think the consumers know that that most wine farms are just that; they’re not wineries. Actually, they sell their grapes to a variety of wineries. I can’t tell you how much wine I taste here that started as well we used to farm grapes, we’d sell them to Silver Oak, we’d sell them to Cambridge or something and now we make our own wines and that’s probably not a good idea, but it happens all the time.
Natalie MacLean 31:37
Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my chat with Paul K. In the show notes, you’ll find a full transcript of our conversation, how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class, links to both of my books, and where you can find me on Zoom, Insta Facebook and YouTube Live video every Wednesday at 7pm. That’s all in the show notes at nataliemaclean.com/144. You won’t want to miss next week for part two of my chat with Paul K.
In the meantime, if you missed Episode 21 go back and take a listen. I chat about whether wine is the source of civilization with author John Mahoney. He thinks so; so do I and here’s why. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.
John Mahoney 32:25
Who was the first person that made wine? I was taught that civilization had established itself from say Babylon or Egypt. We go back to the time of Christ, that’s 2000 years, everything else is BC. And everybody thought that wine was 3000. Then they say well, no, it’s probably four, even 5000 years old. But two places established that it was incorrect; University of Toronto and the University of Pennsylvania. Both of them did research and found out that it’s well over three, four or five thousand years old. They’ve proven and actually have done scientific testing to prove that wine production is probably seven and a half to 8000 years old. My research took it further and I’m saying that we started with wine right after the last Ice Age.
Natalie MacLean 33:15
If you liked this episode, please tell one friend about it this week, especially someone you know who’d be interested in the tips that I shared. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week. Perhaps a wine that’s homegrown, where you live.
Natalie MacLean 33:39
You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full body bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at Nataliemaclean.com/subscribe. Meet me here next week. Cheers.