Bruliam Does Dallas

For the first time ever, I've taken Bruliam on the road. After 18 months of waffling over whether or not to join the Sonoma County Vintners Association, we broke down and committed to marketing in earnest. This week, I traveled to Dallas to pour my wines alongside 47 other Sonoma County wineries. The event was quite an extravaganza - a three hour trade tasting followed by a three hour consumer tasting. I vowed to wear sensible shoes. All of my past consumer events have been casual. Folks wear flip flops and shorts to Pinot on the River. Last year we even poured cold, craft beer to rehydrate overheated tasters with pinot weary palates. Since these are marketing events, I try to wear my logo T-shirt. It's a conversation starter, and inevitably some sloppy lush staggers over to tell me how I ripped off the TV program Breaking Bad. If he goes on to scrawl some illegible hieroglyphics on my signup sheet, I know it's a day well spent.

I approached the Dallas tasting like Pinot Days and WOPN - in jeans and my "Bu" logo t shirt. Minutes later, a fellow vintner approached me to say hello. He looked me up and down and pronounced, "Kerith, you look like a farmer." I don't think it was a compliment. He was wearing chinos, a crisp, white button down and a sport coat. I looked around the room. Only a handful of vintners were wearing jeans, and nobody was in a t-shirt. It was too late to change outfits; the trade tasting was about to begin. I shared a table with the sales rep from Paul Hobbs Crossbarn. She was in a smart, printed wrap dress and low heels. As the trade trickled in, she leaned over and confided that she never wears makeup, expect for Dallas. I frantically groped around in my handbag for some Blistex. All I got was an old Trader Joe's granola bar and a Band-Aid. I was doomed.

During the consumer tasting, women floated from table to table like exotic flowers. In spectacular, printed silk blouses topped with coral or bright blue coats, their clothes shouted "welcome spring!" Younger consumers in cocktail dresses and stilettos teetered over the spit buckets. Even the young men sported a prep school aesthetic. The room looked more like a fraternity formal than wine tasting - especially compared to ZAP. I felt shamefully underdressed. And I still had 2 ½ hours to go.

New braces compounded my humiliation. I'm still navigating my 12 months of orthodontic purgatory, and my articulation is awful. I shouted above the din, trying to share our story. "Bruliam - it's named after our kids, Bruno, Lily, and Amelia." Only my garbled verbiage sounded like "Bungo, Lisa, and Meena." A guy asked me, "Who names their kid Bungo?" Another consumer named Lisa vowed to buy my wine since she shares her name with my daughter. I wonder how long I can sustain the lie. A third gent said, "At least I'm really good at reading lips." I wanted to pull out my hair, expect it was pushed up under a giant foam cowboy hat (just kidding). The harder I tried to enunciate, the worse I sounded. My inner cheek kept getting hung up on the spikes decorating my punk rock molars. At least I'd worn sensible shoes. Nobody noticed my sneakers under the table.

It's exciting and exhilarating to expand our winery into new markets. Both the trade and consumer tasters in Dallas were gracious, thoughtful, and enthusiastic about my wines. In fact, I was surprised to meet so many pinot lovers in a city known for steakhouses (and by default, cabernet). They forgave my wardrobe malfunction, and I learned a lesson about pouring wine in big cities. Last night I poured at a trendy hotel for an event sponsored by the Wall Street Journal. I wore a dress.