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Columns

The Wine Detectives: Selling wine and the 'quartzalizer'

Periodically, a wine detective has to become a wine seller. And, of course, the best way to do this is to partner with a winemaker. Then, you go to a market with the right demographics and contact the restaurants or wine shops most likely to buy your wines.

This sounds logical but isn’t easy to arrange. You have to coordinate schedules with the winemaker, the distributor sales person and the target accounts to end up with one or two days of productive appointments in a geographic area that makes sense.

I recently went through this exercise, ending up on a late Tuesday afternoon in St. Louis, making presentations to restaurants with a California winemaker. We had pitched several great reds, trying to make a couple wine list placements. Joe, the owner, seemed impressed with the reserve cab.

Joe went back to the kitchen to talk with his partner and came back with something in his hand he wanted to show us. Instead of another great appetizer, it was a shiny stone hanging from a silver chain he called the “quartzalizer.” Joe proceeded to explain how this stone was guaranteed to remove tannin from red wines and that he needed a winemaker to endorse it so he could start to market it to wine enthusiasts.

Obviously, the winemaker couldn’t endorse a stone without jeopardizing his career and offered to test it back at the lab. As Joe dipped the stone in our wine glasses in the hope of convincing us it had magical powers, we offered to buy it for $50. But, Joe said the rock was rare and wanted $500.

Just then the door to the restaurant opened and in walked Vito, who stood about 6-foot-4-inches and promptly sat down next to us and asked whether we were sure we didn’t want to make an “investment” in the “quartzalizer” or endorse its special effects on red wine. We looked at each other and promptly wrote a check, thanked Joe for the wine order and left.

We didn’t talk a lot in the car on the way back to the hotel. But when we spotted a bar we both agreed we could use a stiff drink. The winemaker ordered a double scotch, and I did likewise. After the bartender poured the drinks, he disappeared for a few minutes, since it was late and the bar was empty. When he returned, he asked if we were in the wine and spirits business. When I said yes, he produced a stone on a shiny silver chain and said that it was called the “quartzalizer” and it would take the harshness out of cheap scotch.

Tom Minnerick is an Elgin resident who has spent 35 years working in the wine industry. “The Wine Detectives” column runs sporadically in the Kane County Chronicle, Elburn Herald and Sugar Grove Herald. Feedback can be sent to editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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