Bake Not, Want Not
I had been dissed for sure but worse than that, I’d been ignored. A “dis” implies an acknowledgement followed by the deliberate rebuff, but I hadn’t even been acknowledged. In fact, I yearned to be dissed, to relish that singular moment of acceptance before being thrown to the rabid, foaming dogs. Instead, my ego was spurned in a scornful heap at the bottom of the cold shoulder totem pole. Instead of a scarlet “A,” I was branded “loathed & rejected.” Obviously, this is not what I had intended. Folks are generally happy to be at the receiving end of my home-baked goods and tell me so profusely. One woman in Brian’s office, for whom I have been baking lemon pound cake for over 10 years, still ignites my self-esteem by admiring how my cake trumps all others. It makes me feel great. I am not used to being snubbed over pie. But that is how it started.
Sonoma County provides a sensational bounty of fresh produce, and the mouth-watering, summer blackberries are no exception. Extraordinary eaten right out of the cardboard container, the berries are outrageous in a fresh fruit galette. “Galette” means “free form tart made without the confines of a pan.” Instead of sculpting the dough into a pretty, fluted pie pan, you just roll it, toss in the fruit, and fold up the edges. Rustic and lovely, you can chalk up the irregular circumference and aesthetic variance to artful, homey appeal. (I meant this part to be cracked, really). This divine dessert, I staunchly believed, would be my gateway to Rockpile heaven. Never mind the chutzpah or smug conceit that drove my irrational fantasy. I thumped my chest like an aggressive ape, ready to conquer. I had enough swagger to imagine my unprofessional cooking non-credentials as edible bullion, a glistening treasure. I would woo the Mauritson wine collective with the hypnotic aroma and mesmerizing taste of my blackberry-peach dessert, and they would do my wine biding. Unencumbered by the “rules” of viral marketing or conceptualizing the paradigms of a marketing MBA, I figured I’d just show up, ambush the winemaking team at the winery, and deliver my caloric creation in person. After securing my salivating, dessert-craving audience, I’d get down on my knees and plead for grapes. Well you can guess exactly how that went down.
When I showed up in the tasting room lobby, flaunting the glory of my tarte terrifique, a kind tasting room attendant ushered me back to meet with Clay’s wife, since Clay himself was out of town. She introduced me with a breezy, “An old friend of Clay’s is here to see you.” Gulp. “Old friend” was generous; we’d never met (but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night). His wife queried, “So how do you know Clay?” Of course, I didn’t. Suddenly the whole “ambush ‘em with a pie” tactic felt dirty and wrong. Celebrity stalkers have been arrested and charged for transgressions less creepy than this. Note to self: mistake #1- never bake for someone else’s husband. It makes the baker (i.e. Kerith) seem pathetic, desperate, cloying and weirdly stalker-ish. Double that if you don’t personally know any of the parties involved. I dropped my galette in the employee kitchen and quickly exited the winery, shamed and deeply embarrassed. I sent a follow-up e mail explaining that I have no criminal record, I stopped eating bulk candy without paying in college, and I am a fairly decent human being looking to legitimately purchase a small volume of Rockpile grapes. I never heard back. Stalker-gate was closed for the season.
After that fiasco, I re-strategized. I figured I’d complete my UC Davis coursework and then devote the summer 2010 to acquiring quality Zin grapes for next year’s harvest. But the plucky, can-do attitude rattled around in the back of my head. After all, between the recession and the bumper crops of grapes in 2009, I’d eavesdropped on some anecdotal mumblings about small time mom and pop producers like me actually securing some pretty sensational fruit. Some dude working out of CrushPad managed to score a ton of pinot from Gary Pisoni, quite a sensational feat. Another bought some grapes from Savoy in Anderson Valley, another coup. So once our 2009 pinot was secure, I spontaneously cold-called a Rockpile grower listed on the AVA website. I explained my predicament, a small time wine maker looking to purchase a ton of zin. Suspicious, he demanded, “How did you get this number?” (I think it may have been his personal cell phone). “It’s posted on the website, sir,” I stammered. And despite evidence to the contrary, I am so not a stalker, thank you very much! Luckily, this guy was very, very nice and offered up some leads. One call led to another and astonishingly, I got a phone call a few days later from a grower looking to unload some Rockpile zin that needed to be picked yesterday. The fruit was that ripe (over-ripe, I suppose). I explained that I wasn’t exactly in the position to vinify the fruit on my own just yet, although I hoped to down the road. “Don’t worry,” he said. “My nephew does custom crush. I’ll talk to him, and he’ll do it for you.” “Who is your nephew?” I wondered aloud. “Clay Mauritson” he gamely countered.
I didn’t want to flub our big score by blurting out, “I don’t think he’ll work with me. He thinks I’m a crazy stalker.” So I just handed the phone to Brian. Details were disclosed; a deal was drawn. We’d get the grapes at Mauritson Winery as soon as we could get to Healdsburg to receive them. I think you’ve seen the video, so the rest is history.
Ironically, when I first met Clay in person he said, “So you’re the pie girl! You know I was out of town and didn’t even get to taste it…”
Now every time we meet up to work on the Bruliam zin, I proffer some home baked treats. I want Clay and his hard working crew (you know who you are!) to like me. Unfortunately, I think they still view me as a stalker, albeit one armed with delicious baked goods.