The bottle's half empty, half full or obliterated

Just a few cellar notes for the past few weeks I thought I'd share with you. This is pretty much the ups and downs of being a wine merchant. Here we go:

1. On a Monday I had a bottle of zinfandel on the counter I was going to taste everyone on when a guy came down the stairs form the liquor store and made his way to the beer box. After standing there for a minute he grabbed a six pack and came to the counter. In a very agitated manner, he told me about a fight he was having with his girlfriend and knocked, with a wild gesture, the bottle from the counter to the linoleum floor. Of course it hit with a loud crash and exploded wine on the labels of five expensive bottles of pre-sold wine sitting in a shipper ready to be sent to a client in California. The man paid for his beer and said, "Wow. Bummer, man," and left.

2. Customer No. 2 arrived with a bottle in a bag and demanded that I return his money "with interest" on a "bad" bottle of wine I allegedly sold him from the Wine Cellar "thirty years ago." I just stood there gaping at him. He told me that I had said that the wine would age "thirty years or more" and that it was "no good." When I looked at the bottle it still had a price tag affixed to the glass, and it had come from a supermarket. The price was $1.95 and it was a generic white wine from California.

3. A couple stood by the Oregon pinot noir rack and waited for me to complete a few sales. When everyone had left they came to the counter and told me that they wanted to buy some Champagne for their wedding ceremony. It was then that the young woman reminded me that she had first come to the Wine Cellar when she was 2 years old with her mother when they had lived in Ashland. She had grown up here then moved away after college. She also reminded me that I would sit and talk with her while her mother shopped for wine. She was now living in Portland but remembered all of the fond memories she had with her mother coming into the shop. Now, she said, it was her turn to buy wine for her wedding and she was glad I "was still here." Sadly, I learned that her mother had passed away after moving to Portland to be close to her daughter. I am very honored by the visit.

4. About a week ago a man arrived early in the cellar to get a case of wine. He had been stung by a yellow jacket on the wrist. He left and without me knowing, he had taken off his wrist watch and left it on the counter. The very busy day went by and he dropped in just before I closed at 6:30. I had not seen the watch on the counter. It had sat in plain view for eight hours. He picked it up, astonished. There was his Rolex, still tickin'. Unreal.

5. This is pretty sneaky, but I have to confess what I did. From time to time, I have a client who will bring me a bottle of wine and ask me to taste it with him. The uncomfortable part is that he never lets me see what it is he brings me to taste but has me guess as to what it is; year, producer, grape type, the whole works. This gets really old but it is a game he plays once or twice a year. I have a pretty good track record with him but last month when he came in I just wasn't in the mood to play. He turned his back so I could not see, pulled the cork ,slipped the bottle back in the sack and asked me to pour a little in a glass. What he did not know was that I saw exactly what wine it was by looking in the mirror. Anyway, I played it up, describing the vineyard, vintage, producer, grape varietal; in short, I really went after it, full-bore, shamelessly. At length, he just shook his head in awe, said nothing and left. I know it was the wrong thing to do, but it was really fun doing it!

Lorn Razzano is owner of the Wine Cellar in Ashland. Reach him at

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