Saturday Night Fever
It’s good to be a fat kid. My enthusiasm for pork (in any form), stinky unpasteurized cheese, and truffle-anything has endeared me to many a restaurant GM. Since I also have a penchant for sweet breads, marrow, and uni, I am like the unfamous step child of The Man Who Ate Everything. And so it was though my love affair with food, rather than wine, that I first befriended Ben Kephart, now GM of San Diego’s wildly popular Cucina Urbana. (Yes I have his cell phone number; no I can’t get you a 7:30 reservation for Friday night). And since the inception of our Bruliam Wines label, he has been a generous and spirited cheerleader for our mom-and-pop operation. Cucina was one of the very first restaurants to carry our wine, back when we were just a blog, without “scores,” hawking a few of cases of Doctor’s Vineyard. Oh wait, that was last year. Having made three distinct pinot noirs in '09, I was eager to show-off my purple babies. Two weeks ago, Ben and I finally coordinated our schedules for a formal tasting. He selected our Sonoma Coast Split Rock Pinot Noir for the restaurant and kindly offered an opportunity for me to taste the wine with his staff firsthand. As you know, the Split Rock is a seductive Lolita. Bodacious and gutsy, she leaves nothing to the imagination, flaunting firm, ripe berries and a seriously stacked structure. Of course the staff was smitten with her rich, perfumed aromatics, vixen she is. I had high hopes Cucina’s zealous front house crew would do their best to showcase our wines to customers interested in new, small production juice. I know we’re a niche…but not exactly of the Paul Hobbs/Kosta-Browne/Kistler clique quite yet. My fingers were crossed they’d sell the whole case by June. After all, they cultivate a rabid, vinobsessed clientele. Odds were in my favor.
I left the case of coquettes with the staff around 4:30 pm Saturday afternoon and headed home to primp the kids for date night. I fed them (frozen pizza), cleaned them (with a combination face wash/body wash/shampoo concoction), dumped them with the sitter, and peeled out in the minivan. I had 7:45 dinner reservation elsewhere, since Cucina was booked, even with a week’s notice. For once I was punctual; in fact I’d be early to meet my dining companions. I checked my e-mail as we approached the freeway on ramp. Ben had posted something at 7:22 pm. It read “sold 4 bottles in first 20 minutes.” As I read the text aloud to Brian, my iPhone vibrated with a new incoming message, stamped 7:23. “Sold 11 of 12 bottles. Can I get more?” My eyes swelled; grit from my sparkly eye shadow irritated my contacts. Brian nearly drove off the road. Already halfway to a tailspin, Brian swung the van wide into a big, fat illegal U-turn and headed back towards home. Punctuality and social etiquette be damned. I had product to move, and my public needed it now.
Eleven minutes later, we swerved back into our driveway, greeted by three puzzled faces poking into the garage.
“Whatdya doin’ back already mom?” wondered our son.
I ignored him and rummaged through the cold crawl space under the house to see what we’d squirreled away. Brian ransacked the wine fridge upstairs. We scavenged nine bottles. To ship a full case from Sonoma required at least 3 days. I could deposit those nine bottles at Cucina’s front door inside of 23 minutes. We left skid marks.
If you think I am a feverish, deranged beast devoid of social grace, consider I’d be passing Cucina anyway en route to our final dining destination. This digression of minimal time and maximum social transgression eclipsed a friendship that dated back to 1979. I was desperate to capitalize on Cucina’s bursting momentum. I’d caught lightning in a bottle.
First Icarus, now Faust. As we maneuvered off the freeway, I got a third e-mail from Ben, urging me to slow down. He was already home for the night and would inventory the new case first thing Monday morning.
If you can ever get yourself a reservation at Cucina Urbana, look for our wine sitting on the shelf. It has a placard that reads:
“90 Points Wine Enthusiast; 0 points Emily Post. Full bodied ass ready to leverage friendship for quick sale. Finish sullied by shameful performance.”