What started almost a week ago with a craggy finger to the face and a dismissive shooing motion ended this morning in a face-off between myself and an elderly lady in a pink tweed pencil skirt. Sit back, relax, and let me tell you a tale of one very brave wine blogger who stood in face of serpentine wine snobbery and a touch of pure evil.
Boutique wine establishments are often not known for their geniality—true or false? I honestly don’t know. But, an air of social ranking, pedigree and intimidation certainly exists and there is no doubt it keeps people away, or on the Internet.
I pulled up in front of Wines by George in the busy wintertime town of Manchester, VT last week after work. I had Pinot Noir on the brain and a gift certificate burning a hole in my pocket from Christmas. WBG has a great little selection of wine, both diverse and favoring the old world. I could pluck exciting bottles off the racks all day long. I could—if not for one 90-pound problem.
In fact, the same problem that had me buying elsewhere over the last couple years. It was nearing closing time, but the parking spots were full and I could see folks were still milling about so I proceeded. I set my hand on the handle at the same time as an ancient little woman pressed her twiggy frame against the inside of the door, her scowl inches from the glass, a bony finger held at the ready like a wizard’s wand. “Oh, sorry ma’am, are you closed?” “YES!” she crowed in harshly accented scratch before sweeping me away with the back of her hand.
Second attempt. Carey and I parked in a spot directly in front of the store around noon today; I anecdotally mentioned the grumpy old gatekeeper, and strode through the door. Success! We broke the Maginot Line with nothing more than eye darts being fired out from behind a newspaper—a mouldering copy of Der Stürmer, I suspect. I moved straight back to where I remembered Washington State Cabernet and Oregon Pinot Noir were racked. Then the mumbling began between gatekeeper and shopkeeper. Serious vitriol was skating into earshot in the quiet shop—irritated, moderately hushed, but audible, and definitely directed at us. Carey stood frozen, eyes fixed on a map of the Rhône, in complete disbelief.
I paid no attention, too focused on some dessert wine the color of butterscotch. I rounded the Burgundy rack, which needed help, and there she was. Four and a half feet tall, hands on hips, staring at me with the warmth of a Preying Mantis. We faced off for a moment, and I could feel Carey’s foundation cracking from 5 ft away. “Is there a problem?” I said with slight irritation. No response. “Excuse me, is there a problem?” this directed at the shopkeeper. No response. “I SAID, is there a problem!?” I am starting to get loud. “No, no. No problem at all, pay no heed.” I guess my volume dislodged the clog and she scurried back to her post by the front door.
Carey was in quiet hysterics, teary-eyed with laughter, shoulders bouncing while studiously examining Châteauneuf-du-Pape on the Rhône map with a raised index finger.
I moved toward the front of the store with a bottle of Pat Green Pinot Noir and a Goose Ridge Cabernet in hand. I thought the path was clear… until I spotted the gruff little frau waiting for me. There was clearly anger percolating in those sharky eyes. “Go sit over there, Ilse,” says shopkeeper. And then it happened. What this whole story has been leading up to.
With daggers in eyes, she reared back and whacked me across the chest with her paper. Time stood still. Then instinct kicked in, as I pondered the sting on my torso and the $70 I was about to spend: “Hit me with that again, and I will knock you down,” I boomed in the old mare’s face. Thank God she didn’t; I would have been faced with a real dilemma. With no reaction at all from the shopkeep, we transacted and departed. When the door shut behind us, I was seething, but Carey’s hysterics were symphonic—audible inside the shop, if not all the way up in Burlington.
Now, I would like to dedicate my reaction to my father. I was inspired by an incident from a few years back when a seasoned old hen in a Lincoln drove up next to my father and I and said,”you should put that dog on a leash!” My dad struck back, “someone should put you on a leash. Mind your own business.” He then yelled, “WHAT?!?” as she sat there speechless.