Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Bottle of Wine

The request wasn’t a particularly difficult one: Buy 8 bottles of red wine and one bottle of champagne, to be given as gifts. Keep the cost within reason. A pretty straightforward directive. However, to an alcohol-illiterate non-drinker like me, my boss may as well have asked me to fly to Greece and pick out some good books.

Except for the fact that its label is usually written in English, I don’t know cooking wine from Pinot Noir, never mind the difference between a bottle of “1982 Ponzi Oregon Pinot Noir Drouhin Serene Argyle” and a bottle of “2006 Loring Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills.” If you ask me if it’s red or white, I figure I have a 50/50 shot (unless I can see the bottle, in which case my guess is usually more accurate). All those bottles, all those years, all those locations and foreign titles…. Needless to say, I felt a bit daunted by this seemingly simple task.

Nevertheless, I accepted the challenge. I figured people who work in these alcohol establishments should know what’s good, so I would merely ask them. The next challenge came in getting so many bottles purchased so quickly and transported to the venue where they wouled be distributed. (My team at work was having a party, and the wine was to be awarded as gifts to various hard-working editors on the team.) My initial assumption was that I would just go in person to the local liquor store, but my boss suggested that I call, instead (it was raining outside) and that perhaps they would deliver the wine for us. This seemed logical, so I called. The nearby store referred me to their other, more distant branch, which then told me that they would email me the order form, which I could fax back to them. And yes, it could be delivered today.

I waited for the promised email for two hours, trying to simultaneously attend a meeting and draft a bibliometrics report for a journal at the same time. When the form finally arrived, I took one look at it and blanched. Apart from all of the lines for billing information, the only other item on the form was a blank white box labeled “Order.” I scrolled through the pdf again, closed and reopened the file, and finally concluded that no, there was not a wine list include; I was expected to know exactly what I wanted.

After trying in vain to search the internet for what I needed, I called back and tried to explain my situation again to the wine store employee who answered the phone. “Just fill out what you need and we’ll do the rest,” he told me. “I’ll fax it back to you with some suggestions.” Personally, this seemed like way too much faxing back and forth to me, but I did as instructed and then waited for a reply. It was 12 p.m. when I sent the fax. We needed the alcohol delivered by 4 p.m.

At 1:15 p.m. I still had not received any reply, so I called again. “You didn’t fill out any of the credit card information,” the guy told me with obvious irritation. Of course I didn’t, I thought, there’s no order on there yet! I’m not handing over my boss’s credit card so you can ring up whatever you feel like charging her! “We need the numbers and stuff, to process everything,” he told me. “And this Nine Lounge,” he added as an afterthought once I confirmed that I’d fax the completed credit card information to him, “it’s not a bar, right? It doesn’t serve alcohol. Because we can’t deliver there if it does. That’s illegal.”

This was the point at which I threw up my hands, donned my raincoat, and trekked out to the store as I had originally planned, hours ago. Inside, I told the worker what I needed and how much money I was willing to spend. He gave me a few choices, I blindly guessed at the one that looked the “nicest” (and wouldn’t break my budget), and clomped the four long blocks back to my office in the rain, the ten bottles of wine in one big, ostentatious purple box. (The tenth bottle was a kosher wine I needed to take to a Sedar on Thursday. We were getting a 10% discount for buying so many bottles, so I figured I should take advantage of this! Don’t worry—I reimbursed my boss for the expense charged to her AmEx.)

At the end of the day, when it was time to go to the party, my boss came back to her office to collect her things, saw the box of wine, and quite sincerely said, “What am I supposed to do with this?!” In short order, she, two other colleagues, and I “smuggled” the wine into the venue in various coat pockets and discreet bags. I couldn’t breathe a sigh of relief yet, though, because we still had to present the wine to everyone. What if someone didn’t like my selection? (A very likely possibility, considering I didn’t know a whit about what I had chosen.) What if I had gotten the wrong number of bottles?

Before my boss started her presentation of thanking everyone, she asked me to help her pass out the wine (one bottle at a time). Therefore, I stood a bit behind her and to the side, passing her the bottles as she finished each of her speeches about individual editors and the work they had done for our website. Finally, there was one bottle of wine and the champagne for the website developer remaining. She asked me how many were left, and when I told her “one plus the champagne,” she said, “Oh, that’s mine,” and proceeded to present the web developer with his champagne. Then she went and got the last bottle herself, which I presumed she intended to open for everyone to try (because there were some editors there who did not receive wine), and how I was horribly nervous, because this would be the test of whether I had chosen good wine or not. Suddenly, though, she announced that she had one last presentation. That’s right. One more person to present with wine, who had put in an unbelievable amount of work and without whom this project never would have been possible….

I must say that I was so shocked when she handed me that bottle of wine, I must have turned twelve different shades of red. And I’m not really the blushing type, typically. Thank goodness I had chosen a dark venue for the party—good planning on my part! I was so surprised and flattered, I didn’t even know how to react. I haven’t even been with the company six months, and my boss, this important person has shown me such a kind, considerate, public display of appreciation. I was truly touched.


Daniel said...

that makes 8 of us...we are seriously lucky to have such a great overlord! and by the way, you ARE the blushing type...

agoldste said...

Really??? Hmm. Maybe I'll find more people to weigh in on this.....

K said...

I need to have a wine party once I'm re-established in Pittsburgh. Then you'll have no excuse to be wine illiterate. :-P

K said...

Also, what kind of wine did you get? And did you like it?