#121 - Storytellers I Admire: Roland Lindala-Haumont
On Chardonnay, Capitalism, And How Not to be an Asshole
Wine tells a complex and nuanced story to its drinkers. Depth, colour, notes of something interesting. And then sometimes it’s just fun. My conversation with sommelier, restaurant manager, and Wine Club TO co-founder, Roland Lindala-Haumont is a perfect reflection of that unique character of wine, at once serious and fun. We talked about why people who hate Chardonnay actually just hate capitalism (me!), he provides a new perspective on storytelling in the hospitality industry (spoiler: “if you’re providing context, you’re storytelling” people), and we delve deeply into the value and importance of being open to new perspectives and experience. He also shared an inside perspective on how to build a wine list for a restaurant (knowledge you never knew you needed but absolutely do).
I did do the one thing I HATE seeing other interviewers do a few times, which was interrupt my subject—he just had so many brilliant perspectives that I wanted to build on or dive more deeply into. But he took it in stride and generously shared his story and perspective on storytelling, wine, and hospitality.
Grab a warm cuppa or maybe a glass of wine this time, curl up and get ready to go deep. This one is wonderfully fun and approachably serious. Make sure you get to the end because Roland’s personal philosophy is one we could all use in our lives and communities. Let me know what you think when you’re done by sharing in the comments or replying to this email.
So, what's your story, or the story of your life right now?
R: What's my story? It's like, "Oh, where do I begin?" Where am I at right now? Well, I am general manager of Wynona in the East End, it's a wine bar, small plates, that sort of thing. I'm also running operations at The Comrade cocktail bar on Queen Street East. I don't really work service there, but I've started to work on their wine list, and I do their beer curation. How did I get there?
I started in hospitality, what is it, 11 years ago now? No, 12 years ago. So, I got my first job in a bar in Montreal when I was in grad school, journalism school, very broke. Concordia had a graduate diploma program for those who already had undergrads in journalism and I had just finished my BA in poli sci and Canadian studies at McGill and I wanted to stay in Montreal. When I started my undergrad, I wanted to be in the world of politics, I wanted to be a political attaché or an academic or a politician or something in that vein.
And then I think four years of being steeped in that really turned me off the exercise of being involved and I pivoted more to wanting to observe. I was always a news junkie, so for me, the logical next step was journalism. I learned a lot, learned an awful lot during that program, but I was broke, so I needed a job. A good friend of mine in the program, who I'm still close with now, was working at a very terrible sports bar in the Forum, the old stadium where the Montreal Canadiens used to play, and got me a job there as a busboy.
My French was spotty and the job really sucked, but it gave me my first taste of the world of hospitality. A lot of it was really off-putting, but the money has always been great, and that's how a lot of people fall into the industry, myself included. Anyway, I worked there for a few months, did my share of UFC matches and Montreal Canadiens playoff runs. It was something that actually gave me a lot of stability. Growing up, I didn't really have that, so I liked the money. Anyway, I moved to Toronto because I got an internship at the CBC after my program ended and I was working in the online futures department. But again, it was 2011, the Harper government was cutting funding to the CBC, they were not hiring.
*** Quick life interruption as Roland pauses to take a quick work call ***
R: So, I moved to Toronto, I did my six-week internship at the CBC, was honestly really bored and not stimulated really in any meaningful way while I was there. I did publish a couple articles that got picked up. I did one about the royal visit that got picked up by the BBC, in which they refer to me as a Canadian commentator, which I thought was really amusing, but beyond that, I needed money. I was broke, I was living in my aunt's basement for free and taking care of cleaning around her house, but that was in Etobicoke and then I was working downtown. It was not a fun time. Then my aunt sold her house and I was bouncing around between my partner's place, who I had just met, and I was encroaching on his territory, and my sister's place, and I was sleeping on her couch. I was like, "Well, this is not where I imagined my life would be," and I started handing out resumes. I got hired at a 24-hour diner, which I will not name, and I worked there for six years, and I learned a lot.
R: I started out as a dishwasher. I got hired without an interview, they were that desperate. I started out as a dishwasher, three weeks later, I was a busboy, and then six months later, I got asked to move up to serving. I served there and then eventually managed for two years. In that period of time, I learned a lot about hospitality. I was in my 20s and drinking too much and doing all the things that a lot of people do in their 20s. There was always a stigma in my mom's family about drinking, just because there's a very long history of alcoholism. They're Finns who hail from Northern Ontario, there's a lot of heavy drinking, that sort of thing. For me, I was like, "I enjoy this, but I want to know more, I want to be a bit more conscious about what I'm doing or what I'm consuming." So, at that point in my journey in hospitality, through travel, I started dabbling in more and more craft beer. I started out with a few Ontario ones and then I traveled to Europe and it was a fun thing you could discover about every city you were in, you could try a different craft beer.
And then on a trip six years ago to Hungary, my partner, Brett and I were feeling a little bloated after drinking too much beer and we were like, "Let's go to a wine bar, let's try this out." Went to a wine bar in Budapest, it was dirt cheap, $12 for a bottle of wine at a bar, it's just something you would never see here. The bartender was really fun and engaging and she was telling us how all the good stuff isn't exported from Hungary and most of the good dry wines can be consumed domestically, blah, blah, blah. Anyway, she really got me on wine and then at that point, I think I made a shift. It's a shift that a lot of people make in their 30s, if you consume any alcohol, you can have one beer and then you're like, "I'm done." So, I started learning more and more about wine, experimenting. A lot of it was just blindly buying whatever looked interesting, I've always been very adventurous.
I got a job at a craft brewery, still ostensibly thought of myself more as a beer person than anything, and there, I met a chef who was working part-time at the brewery while he was doing a buildout for a wine bar and we chatted about wine for a bit. He didn't really know much about wine, he just knew he wanted to open a wine bar. He left to go do his buildout and six months later, I got a text out of the blue from a number I didn’t recognize saying, "Hey, you want to check out the space?" I was like, "Who is this? Oh, it's Jeff? Oh, okay." I went and checked out the space and basically, was offered a job on the spot. This was something that I was, again, not really familiar with at all and it was a really, really interesting learning experience, a little bit of trial by fire, a lot of learning about wine service. At that point I was encouraged by the first GM when we opened to take sommelier courses, so I started and it's all snowballed from there.
Are you a som now?
R: Not officially. So, I've done the certified program through the Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS), there are multiple route to that certification. But I did the certified program over COVID and it was over Zoom, so I am technically still missing one class, which is the service class, because you can't do service over Zoom. We were drinking samples, we were doing blind tasting flights and drinking out of these little Capri Suns of wine, it was not glamorous at all over Zoom, laptop on a pile of textbooks. So, I haven't finished the certification, it's a matter of do I want the pin, do I want the initials?
You have the knowledge.
R: If I have the knowledge, does the certification really matter to me?
Does it, do you know?
R: I don't know. There is a part of me that does feel like an imposter a lot of the time, just in that calling myself a som when I don't have that certification. But then there's the other part of me, and I've talked to many other professionals in the industry who don't have the certification and they feel the same way, they're like, "What's the point? Why am I going to jump through hoops, pay a lot of money, and travel to Montreal because the exams aren't done in Toronto, in order to get a pin?" But to some people, that's the goal, that's the thing that means a lot to them. I get that, I feel ambivalent, honestly, on that front. But I guess that's my story.
Tell me about work you do that brings you joy.
R: I think the most fun and the most challenging part of the job I do is twofold. So the first part is picking the wines. I think picking the wine, building a wine list, building a wine program is a lot of fun, especially when you are not bound by the expectations or the rubric of somebody who is looking over you. So, I'm incredibly lucky and privileged in the sense that the ownership of where I work, they don't care what kind of wine program I run, they don't. They just set very minimal expectations of me in terms of how much inventory I sit on, what my margins are, that sort of thing.
But I get to pick the vibe, I get to pick which wines go on the list, and I get to pick the general direction of the program, which is something that's really fun for me. It's really enjoyable being able to just look at different regions and different grapes and things that people don't recognize. I get a lot of joy out of forcing people out of their wine comfort zones, because when it comes to wine, people kind of don't even realize that they're consuming an agricultural product, they are consuming something that is food. If you're drinking wine, it came from grapes that were grown by people, picked by people, fermented by people, and bottled by people. If you're buying mass-produced, cheap plonk, you don't know what's in there, you don't know who made that wine. Sure, it's cheap, but is it good? I don't know. There are things that I love to do that are just slightly petty, like there's never going to be a Pinot Grigio on my list, I'm sorry.
Why not? What's wrong with Pinot Grigio?
R: Pinot Grigio is fine, I have nothing against Pinot Grigio, but what I do have something against is people only ordering Pinot Grigio because that's what they like and their not being willing to try anything else. Because you know what Pinot Grigio tastes like? It tastes like white wine. You know what? There are plenty of white wines out there that taste like white wine.
That's so funny.
R: So, getting people out of their comfort zones and building a list, that's a really big fun part for me. And then the other part of it is navigating how interested people are, sizing up your customer, who am I talking to, how much do they care? Because there are some people who deeply care and are deeply engaged and they want to hear this story, and then there are other people who are just like, "Can I have that and go away?" Being able to read people, it's a skill you really gain in hospitality more than a lot of other industries, because if you can read people well, you know how to devote and delegate your time a little bit better, especially when you're in the middle of service.
I love that. So, just for people who don't work in the hospitality industry or understand it, what does it mean to build a wine program?
R: So, building a wine program has many factors. First, you have to have enough variety, it's about ticking different boxes. So, that's where the sommelier education really does come in handy, because you need to have your classics, your benchmarks, if you will, and you also need to tailor the wine program to what the food offering is. The food offering, the clientele, how much the clientele is willing to spend, there are so many different factors.
The som education really comes in handy, especially when you're doing a program like CMS, because that one is a little bit less focused on strict rubrics. If you do a program like Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), there's a lot more discussion just about benchmark testable grapes, like "These are the grapes that you can test when you're doing a blind tasting flight." The program that I went to is more geared towards hospitality professionals, so you learn about what are called laterals. So, I might not be able to put an expensive bottle of white Burgundy on my list because my restaurant is in the East End and I sell white Burgundy maybe twice a month.
The white Burgundy that I can afford to put on my list is not expensive and it's not particularly complex, it's not going to come from an iconic producer, because I can't put a $200 bottle of wine on my list, it won't sell, but I can find a comparable wine that has much of the same characteristics from a different region that is a really great sell for a person who likes this kind of wine. So, like, "You're a fan of white Burgundy? Well, I have this really beautiful white blend from the Douro and it's made in the style of white Burgundy, but it's also a quarter of the cost for a comparable bottle from Burgundy and this is a white from Portugal." You can sell that to a table and they can have that holy shit moment and be like, "What? There's wine from outside the region that I always frequent that will work for me that I like?" It's really opening people's horizons to new things, which is a lot of fun.
R: But building that wine program is knowing to have those benchmarks, those classics, but also having an eclectic mix of things that can broaden palates.
Thank you for sharing that. Let's dive a bit into storytelling now. So, just from your own perspective, what makes a good story? Think about it through the lens of what makes a good story in your world and your experience of the world?
R: What makes a good story is something, especially when you're talking about wine, I don't know... I don't know, I have to think about this. It's about having a hook. It's something amusing, something different, something engaging about a wine. I've been sold bottles just based on one silly, pithy, little story about it, like this one producer in Slovenia who caresses all of his vines in the middle of the night every full moon, because he thinks that it gives that little special something to his wines. I know deep down that that's probably total bullshit, but it's an amusing story.
When I carried wine from the same producer on my list last year, I loved telling that story at tables, because it made people laugh and it made people feel more connected to what they were consuming. So, if it's something that amuses you or something that engages you and something that makes you feel like you have a little bit of a connection, especially to a physical thing like a food or a drink that you're consuming, there are a lot of people who like having that level of consciousness about what they're doing, what they're eating, what they're drinking.
Awesome. So, I ask this question of everyone, because not everyone does, do you consider yourself a storyteller?
R: I do. I do.
Tell me about that. Why do you consider yourself a storyteller?
R: Because when I'm going to a table and I'm talking about a wine or I'm talking about how something will work with the food items, people feel a lot better about a service professional that they're talking to when they're able to get a story about the wine. I've been to plenty of restaurants where the servers just have a very cursory knowledge of what's on the list, and those experiences are never as good as the ones where you're talking to somebody who's done the reading, who knows the winemaker, knows the story, can give you some sort of connection to what you're doing. If you're able to impart that knowledge, you're telling the story of this wine to people. Especially if it's something they've never had before, never seen before, never tried, you're telling them a story.
You have to—I feel like—convince them and invite them into trying the wine you like.
R: You do.
Especially if it's from somewhere that... We had a red from Lebanon on our list and people were like, "What is this like?" And then you get to tell them the story of this family that's run a winery in the Bekaa Valley consistently for the last 80-odd years and they were making vintages even during active shelling during civil war. That's a really compelling story. You could just say, "Oh yeah, it's in the style of red Bordeaux," but that's not interesting. Tell them the story of these people and that'll give them some sort of emotional connection to the product.
I love that. So, you say you consider yourself a storyteller. Was there a moment for you where you looked around and were like, "I'm a storyteller"? Do you have that sense of when you realized you're a storyteller? Because you went to journalism school—
R: I can't say there was one singular moment. I feel like it was more just a matter of I went to journalism school and then I realized that literally, every sales pitch, you're telling a story. Literally, every conversation that you're having about food or beverage with a table, if you're providing context, you're telling a story.
“…Literally, every sales pitch, you're telling a story. Literally, every conversation that you're having about food or beverage with a table, if you're providing context, you're telling a story.”
Oh, I love that. If you're providing context, you're telling a story. That's great. That one, I'm going to make sure I highlight in bold for people. So, who would you say, when you think about your work now, who's your audience or who are you creating stories for most often?
R: Well, with running the Wine Club and running events and working in hospitality, I feel like my guests, my customers, those are the people that I'm telling a story to. Because every time I curate something for them, they're putting it in my hands to make a choice for them, and then I'm telling them a story to tell them why I did this and why they're going to like it, hopefully. People don't have to like everything, they don't, but I'm hoping that they will.
So, why would you say stories matter at all, when you think about your own life and your own experiences?
R: Again, I have to go back to the point about context. If you don't have context, it's really hard to get the full picture, to understand where people are coming from, why people are the way they are. If you don't have context, then everything just gets stripped down to what it is in front of you, and it's kind of bleak and boring, in my view. Okay, great, this is wine, it's from here, end of conversation. That's boring. These tomatoes are good. Where are they from? Oh, they're from a farm in Scarborough. What? People are growing tomatoes in Scarborough? You can tell people information that makes something more interesting and without that context, I don't know, it really just zaps all the joy out of human conversation. I remember jokingly saying about hospitality, when I was pretty new to the industry, that essentially, it's a transaction dressed up in pleasantries.
How wonderfully cynical.
R: I can be kind of a cynical person sometimes, but be that as it may, when you take all the context out of it, that's what it is. But if you add the context of, well, you're sharing a really nice meal with somebody in a nice place and you're being given great hospitality and you're being given recommendations, you're being told a story about the products that you're consuming, then it becomes so much more experiential and you're able to look at it much more holistically, rather than, "Hi, here's my money, give me a thing, goodbye." I think without storytelling, without the providing of context, human interaction is really hollow.
And it does become just transactional. This is the type of thing I try to share with people through my newsletter, this idea that you can run a business and you can make it purely transactional, but people aren't going to come back and they're not going to be that interested and they're not going to care. Because yes, they'll give you their money once, maybe, if you're lucky, but after that, they'll find somebody who's making it interesting for them, creating an experience for them that they're going to remember. So thank you for sharing that. I was going to ask you to share a little bit about Wine Club and what made you decide to do that and what that was born of, because I think you tell a story through Wine Club every month, depending on the wines you choose.
R: To be honest, it was something that never occurred to me, just because... Long story short, Janice, my business partner with the Wine Club, she and I went to university together, we went to McGill and lived in the same residence hall. We connected many times when we were in undergrad and then fell out of touch, and I don't think I saw her for four or five years. And then we bumped into each other when I was at work, she came in with some of her friends, and I said to her, "Oh, well, we should hang out." Didn't end up happening, oops. And then I bumped into her again, two years later, and she was like, "We should hang out," so we did hang out and we chatted for a bit. And then we just stayed in communication, didn't hang out that much, but she messaged me, this was in winter of 2019, saying we should start a wine club.
Janice is a very supportive and very motivated individual when it comes to these sorts of things, I am not. I was just like, "Why would anybody care about what I have to say about this?" That was my attitude about it. Again, I can be quite cynical and I can be quite down on myself, but Janice pushed me and pushed me and pushed me. The next thing you know, COVID hits, we're all locked down, nobody can go out. We had planned to launch for the spring of 2020 anyway and she was like, "Nope, we're doing this, we're getting it done," and she pushed me, she really pushed me. Sometimes that's what you need, you need that kind of support. But it was nothing that I ever intended on doing.
How do you feel about it now?
R: I feel good about it. We haven't had the time or resources to scale up the way that we wanted to and we're pivoting away from the monthly box, for now.
What does that mean, though?
R: It means that we can focus a bit more on a couple things that we've talked about doing, which is starting an import business, which is traveling to meet producers to start that import business, building those connections with people, being able to learn their stories so we can sell their stories to people in the market here in Ontario. Also, just do more custom stuff, because I love learning what people's tastes are and then sending them things that dovetail with those tastes, but are things that they would have never ordered, and it's hard to do that when you're doing one selection. Everybody has to have a broad palette and trust me on it. It's a little bit easier to do something more custom, so that if people want to be engaged with us more, they can. If they don't want to be engaged with us anymore, that's cool. We're pivoting more to events, that sort of thing. I'm not upset about it, to be honest.
I'm upset, but that's okay.
R: There's still wine. There's still wine.
As long as I get wine.
R: I'm not upset about it in the sense that I have been so busy with my new role at my job-job that I don't feel like I can devote my time to that. But to me, that's not a mark of failure, it's just a transition.
It's an evolution of something. I think more and more people need to understand that when you start something, especially a business, you're not starting something and setting it in stone, you're starting a process and an experience and who knows where it's going to go. That, for me, has been my biggest lesson in running my own business, at least.
R: The thing that Janice said to me from the beginning that has always stuck with me is, "If you're not having fun or you're stressed out and you don't have time, we don't have to do this." We had a conversation two, three weeks ago where I was just like, "Not that I'm not having fun, I just don't have time." She's traveling, I'm traveling, I've got two trips planned in the next two months.
To then make this something else, like huge deliveries across the city, possibly?
R: Renting a car and driving around and writing the notes and oh no, I've got to do a PDF of the tasting notes, so it's a little bit easier to do the whole event thing. Now that we can do it, this is something that we only had our first event in June, so it's nice to be able to do those group tastings and actually talk to people. It's a bit more fun, it's a bit more engaging.
A bit more interactive.
R: You feel a connection with your audience.
I love that. Thanks for sharing. So, what's a story you've seen recently that you've really loved, and it could be anywhere in the world, that you've encountered?
R: I'm trying to think. I read a lot of long-form news, long-form journalism, not necessarily books, but long feature columns. I'm trying to think.
What's one you've read recently that you've really liked?
R: Oh, I have a bad memory for these things. Photographic memory for a wine label.
R: No idea why, but when it comes to that thing I read. I leave tabs open on my phone all the time. I have 68 open right now.
Mee too, I'm not up at 68, but I'm almost always somewhere ridiculous.
R: Most of the tabs are completely inane, it's a pair of sunglasses that I liked three weeks ago. I will often read articles and then I really like them and then I leave them open on my phone. So, there's two sets of stories that I've found really amusing. There's one column in The Cut by a queer writer, who's just very snarky, named Brock Colyar. They basically attend all sorts of hypey events in New York City and then just give you a rundown of the whole night. It's done in this bitchy, sardonic vibe that I have very much enjoyed, because I am that person who, when I go into a party, I just look around and I'm like, "I am immediately uncomfortable." This person is way more game to just check out things, but went to a magazine opening for a socialist feminist magazine and then just proceeded to listen to a bunch of people say things that completely contradicted the worldview of the events, and just pointing out hypocrisy, that sort of thing, that's something that I've always found really amusing.
And then I've done a lot of dark reading about cults and QAnon and that sort of thing. I've always really been fascinated by internet subculture and cults, specifically. Brandy Zadrozny had a really great story in January 2022, I believe this was on NBC, actually, and she's their disinformation and cult specialist writer, and it was a really fascinating breakdown of the events of January 6th. Again, as somebody who works in wine, why am I talking about this? I don't know. I find the stories really compelling. They're depressing, they're distressing, but they're very compelling and interesting, because I have people in my own family who have fallen down these internet rabbit holes. These are people I don't talk to anymore, and it gives me a little bit more context and understanding as to how this might happen. Because I have an aunt who went the full Roseanne. She started out granola-crunchy in the '90s, and then was just a-
That is a very specific evolution, I remember.
R: It's like a horseshoe. She started out she was funky and farmed macadamia nuts in Hawaii and she voted for the Green Party, and then somehow, turned into an antisemitic, racist Trumper. My aunt did the exact same thing and now she wonders why nobody visits her, it's like, well...
You go on that trajectory, it takes you places, in so many ways.
R: That's such a nice way of putting it.
Exactly. It takes you places. Can you send me the articles you mentioned?
R: Yeah. There's also a really funny column in The Cut called I Think About This A Lot. And it's just multiple contributors and it's about memes, just like somebody writing an overly detailed breakdown of a meme that they can't stop thinking about. So, I discovered this when somebody I know shared on Instagram, this ridiculous clip of QVC with Isaac Mizrahi and this other host, and the other host was just like, "Oh, this is this beautiful colour," and it's this hideous top, "This beautiful colour. It looks like you're looking at the Earth from the planet moon."
And then what proceeds is this three-minute long chaos about Isaac Mizrahi just cooing in his transatlantic accent, "The planet moon, the planet moon." Like, "Is the moon a planet?" "The moon is a planet, darling." They're just going off and it's so funny. Anyway, somebody wrote a column about it where they completely break down the whole video.
I'm also a big fan of podcasts from Canadaland, the Ezra Klein Show, CBC's podcast The Flamethrowers and Las Culturistas if I need something that won't stress me out. I don't spend a lot of time reading because I'm commuting across town, so podcasts work super well for me.
I hear that. So, my last question, I don’t want you to rush yourself on this, listen to your gut, listen to your heart, whatever it is that guides you. It's a big question, so also take your time. So, what would you say is your philosophy or governing principle or wisdom in life right now?
R: Right now?
R: Just one?
You can do as many as you have, or as you want to share.
R: I don't know, that's hard. The one that always comes to mind is don't be an asshole.
R: But also, learn the power of saying no.
Tell me more about that.
R: It's an incredibly effective thing in hospitality, learning the art of saying no, in a way that is not hurtful, not mean-spirited, but effective, and that's something that you can apply to your life in general. It's like when you don't want to do something or when something is not okay with you, it's like having boundaries, just learn how to say no, like, "I'm sorry, but that's not possible today." As somebody who works in hospitality and has struggled with people-pleasing tendencies for a very long time, learning to say no has been a really effective thing, but also not being an asshole.
That's key. Those things play so well together.
R: And then, I don't know, other than that part of not being an asshole, there's going to be a lot of swearing in this for your readers.
Great, they'll love it.
R: Not being an asshole is also having a better understanding about the world around you and not living your life with blinders on. I think that as somebody who has studied politics and who is still very engaged with reading about politics and I vote and I donate to political parties and so on, I think that a lot of people only think about their own interests and fail to remember that we live in a community and we need to be looking out for each other, we need to be looking out for marginalized people. There are so many well-meaning people that I know who have said things like, somebody points out an inconvenient or uncomfortable thing to them about the way that the world works, "Well, I didn't do anything." Like, "Well, great, that wasn't the point, but now you've made this about yourself, you're being an asshole." So, I don't know, I feel like I'm all over the map here, I just think people should be a little bit more considerate of one another.
Especially now, I think we live in a time where a bit of consideration and a bit of compassion will go so far.
R: Also, just understand that two things can be true at the same time, but if they're in diametric opposition to one another, you maybe need to examine that within yourself.
Challenge yourself a little.
R: Ask yourself why you think a certain way.
People don't like being uncomfortable and they certainly don't like to challenge themselves, but I feel like that's where growth comes.
R: I don't like doing it. Nobody likes doing it, no.
It doesn't feel good.
R: Nobody likes doing that. But I've witnessed it, even in the microcosm of the wine world, doing sommelier classes and having a som meeting, someone in the class would say, "I hate this type of wine," and then they have a sip of the wine, and they're like, "Oh, this is actually quite delightful. "
There you go.
R: Allow yourself the grace to be wrong. Give yourself that opportunity once in a while.
“Allow yourself the grace to be wrong. Give yourself that opportunity once in a while.”
I feel like wine is actually a great place to challenge yourself a little bit, because I hate Chardonnay, I don't like Chardonnay-
R: You don't hate Chardonnay.
... but I will never not try a Chardonnay.
R: That's good.
Just to give you a lens into my world, I very rarely drink a Chardonnay or encounter a Chardonnay that I enjoy, or if it tastes like the thing in Chardonnay that I don't like, which is super oaky, I don't like it. But I will never say no to a Chardonnay until I've tried it.
R: See, that's good, that that's a step or two further than a lot of people are willing to go, because a lot of people just assume they have one thing. This is why telling the story and explaining things and providing context is so important in the world of wine.
And having the conversation, because I've told two different types of servers, the same thing, "I don't like Chardonnay, so find something else." I've had people be like, "Here's this, here's this, here's this instead," and I've had people be like, "Well, I have a Chardonnay that you're going to love," and they'll share why it's different or what makes it interesting or whatever it is, and I will always be like, "Okay, let's see," and sometimes I like it and sometimes I think it tastes like garbage.
R: I saw a meme, I follow a lot of wine meme accounts, I saw one that was like, "You don't hate Chardonnay, you hate capitalism."
Because it's the Robert Mondavis of the world who have ruined-
R: Yeah. It was just Chardonnay that was oaked to oblivion in the '90s and early aughts, the California plonk, the Yellow Tails from Australia all that gross, mass-produced stuff.
It ruined the grape for so many people.
R: Yeah. The thing is, Chardonnay is just an innocent grape, it's winemakers who did that and it's capitalism incentivizing winemakers to do that. The reality of it is, I've had hilarious conversations with tables where one guest says, "I hate Chardonnay, but I love Chablis," and I'm like, "Oh, honey, Chablis is Chardonnay. You just like this style of Chardonnay, you don't like that style Chardonnay," and that's okay, because there are so many multitudes in the world of wine. Whenever I hear people say things like, "I hate Spanish wine," I'm like, "The whole country, all of it?" Because there's so many regions and there's so many grapes, it's one of the world's biggest wine making countries, and you just hate it in general, or did you just have some bad Rioja once and you don't like that? So that's where I think allowing yourself to be wrong makes sense, the stakes are so low, it's a glass of fermented grape juice.
It's a great practice.
R: It is. It's a really great practice for taking that approach to your broader life and just don't be an asshole, hear them out, try something new. If you don't like it, then you at least get to say that you tried something new.
And you can go back to whatever you were drinking before.
R: You can go back to drinking your Pinot Grigio, except you can't do that at my restaurant, because it's not on the list.
Other than that one, I meant. Well, those are all the questions I had. Was there anything you wanted to mention or share that we haven't talked about or you want to add?
R: I think one thing that I would like to mention when it comes to wine is that, like in any other field, there are multiple movements and there are a lot of dogmas in place and there's a lot of classism, there's a lot of gate-keeping. I know that wine is something that a lot of people don't want to or feel like they can't get into because well there’s an accessibility problem, especially if you're drinking wine that is not mass-produced crap, because those wines are more labor-intensive. They tend to cost a bit more if you're using better agricultural practices, if you're paying your workers enough money.
If your wine is $10 a bottle, chances there was some sort of exploitation, there was machine harvesting, there are additives, there is crap in your wine. I was talking about this with my partner yesterday, in that the space that I exist in is more geared towards low intervention, organic, biodynamic wines. Am I dogmatic about how a wine is made? Not necessarily. My primary criteria is was this wine made sensibly, in a way that cares for the environment, and the people who made it were cared for economically? If not, I'm not interested. But we were talking about the whole concept of conscious consumption and how it's really an oxymoron, but there is no real alternative, and so we're kind of trapped in this scenario where-
It's the better choice you can make within the context of a capitalist system.
R: Exactly. And we're not about to change the capitalist system, really.
Not anytime soon, for sure.
R: No. We can talk about that, but that's not going to happen, so the best thing we can do is at least try not to-
To make better choices.
R: ... try not to perpetuate these exploitative cycles. If you're drinking a $10 bottle of wine from California, I can guarantee you underpaid migrant labor is behind that.
People probably don't even realize that or think about that.
R: They don't. They don't think about it as food. The thing is, if you're drinking wine, you're drinking an agricultural product. If you care about your kale being organic, you should care about how your wine was made. That's a message that I would really like people to take home, think about what you're putting into your body, because if you care so much about wellness and about where your solid foods come from and how healthy your green juice is, but you're drinking garbage... Well, not garbage, garbage is mean. If you're drinking something that's cheap and mass-produced, just think about that. I want people to be more conscious, understand that it's not the best way to do things, but it's the best way we have.
Right now. So, when's the last (traditional) Wine Club month?
R: This month (August).
Oh, okay. I will get my order in.
R: There's three reds in there, you'll be pleased.
I'm excited. I'm excited. I'm always excited. Well, thank you for doing this, it was honestly a pleasure.
R: I'm so curious how you're able to...
Bring it to life? You’ll see. It’ll be great.
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