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Archive for August, 2020

When I fight authority… well, you know.

August 5, 2020 Leave a comment

 

“Then I ran across a monster who was sleeping by a tree,
and I looked and frowned and the monster was me.”
– David Bowie (from Width of a Circle)

More of the same, Free Rangers.

People ignoring signs, ignoring words, strolling around with no intent to purchase anything. That same jackass whiskey bro came back again, still hasn’t bought anything, this time holding a rag over his face in lieu of an actual mask, and carrying a bag full of bottles from other shops. I’m sure he darkened all of those shopkeepers’ days too. That’s the Cliff’s Notes version. I’m tired of hearing myself bitch, and a lot of you have already gotten the full stories in person. Thanks for asking, and caring about how we’re doing. A little sincerity goes a long way toward counteracting the effects of those who care less, or not at all. But just to be clear about this one thing: if you pull a bottle out of the fridge (which has a sign on it asking you not to do that) to ask me how it is, I’ll say whatever is necessary to get you to not put it back. If you’d like to have an honest and complete conversation, let’s do that in front of the shelves. And I don’t get how some don’t understand that it’s deeply insulting to ask a question whose answer you can’t hear because you’re wearing headphones. I took three whole days off this week, and a couple of half days, which hasn’t seemed to take the edge off.

Remember when these e-mails were mostly about our in-store tastings for the week? Good times, great oldies. I really miss those tastings days. As I’m sure you noticed, when we invite(d, in the before times) someone to pour here, they were generally on the production team of the bottles they were showing, and/or were something of an expert in their field. I miss the learning on my end as much as I do the sharing (of tasting notes and bottles), and introducing you fine folks to wine and spirits you might have otherwise never tasted. There is no substitute for palate experience. The vast majority of my own knowledge stems from public tastings in my 20s. So much of life seems a holding pattern these days, and it’s getting older than I am.

I know how lucky we are to be in a business where numbers-wise, things haven’t really changed, though the work per dollar has increased by several times. In parts of the country, unemployment is nearing 30%, while Jeff Bezos’ wealth has increased by $15 billion since March, a profound failure of equity for the richest country on Earth. We’ve been able to maintain a full staff here, and keep everybody paid, and until fairly recently, supply chains in our industry were relatively intact. But with the number of distributors cutting staff, and/or failing completely, the greater infrastructure we rely on to do our daily business is crumbling. And things that used to require a simple e-mail, can now take 4 or 5 e-mails, with a couple of phones calls, and return of the wrong product (or the right products, severely damaged) in between. Sure, we still have a profitable business, but every little thing is so much more time consuming, and less enjoyable, than it was for the previous 7 years.

It’s hard to take a considered look around (our industry and the country as a whole) and not think that this may very well be the end of the ill-fated experiment known as capitalist democracy. Anybody who still doesn’t get that Bernie Sanders was our once in a generation (lifetime?) chance to change all that had better buckle up for what comes next. Speaking of which, does anybody want to buy a wine shop? Got seven years left on a very favorable lease. I’d really rather be out of the country by the first week in November, if I can swing it. I’ll be in New Zealand, if you need me… maybe the Netherlands… or Berlin. I suppose it depends upon which countries are still allowing entry to citizens from the land of the free, and the home of the virulent thugs.

Usual (pandemic) open hours this week (though we rarely shut the door at posted closing time), the website is humming along, and please feel free to call with any questions (718.643.2250): www.FreeRangeBrooklyn.com

We received very little response to our last sale, and a record number of unsubscribes- though not a concerning amount, given the weight of my last missive. I believe that last discount list contained some of our best offers on rarest wine to date. So rather than shoot in the dark again, and miss, I’ll pose a question, and base the next sale on your responses. On what sorts of items (or combination thereof) would you like to see a deal? In the meantime, here are some more complete thoughts on those same bottles, which again are 15% off this week, click here to view the sale page, then add this coupon code in your cart: august15.

Joyce Syrah 2018 is a tiny production old-world style wine from an immaculately farmed plot in the Santa Lucia Highlands of CA; medium bodied, dry fruit, lovely florals, and just a hint of spice (white pepper?). Some fancy guy at some fancy magazine just rated it 90-something points, so we can’t get any more. Normally $34/btl, $28.90 w/ coupon code: august15

Kelley Fox Pinot Blanc 2019, by its endlessly magical namesake, is totally natural, but super clean (no sediment or clouding), bright and crisp, showing light dry stone fruit, and a laser focus to the acidity. You would be hard pressed to come up with a meal this wine would not enhance. Normally $37/btl, $31.45 w/ coupon code: august15

Bechtold Pinot Noir “S” 2017 is a remarkable Pinot at its price. Very high pedigree grapes from Alsace, from 50 year old vines, certified biodynamic, with zero suphur added, this is deliciously pure Pinot finished in old 500 liter barrels. Tasting blind, I would expect to pay at least double the retail price. Normally $39/btl, $33.15 coupon code: august15

Domaine Forey is an old school Burgundy (Pinot Noir) producer whose wine I have been collecting for 20 years. This house uses oak barrels, but huge ones that have been used many times before (neutral), so they don’t impart any oak flavor to the finished wine. Their 2017 Vosne-Romanée is just about the purity of fruit from one of the most lauded pieces of earth in the wine world. Normally $79/btl, $67.15 w/ coupon code: august15

Heitz has been around since the ‘60s, and their unreasonably expensive (and rare) Martha’s Vineyard bottling is one of the gold standards of old guard Napa, and it ages effortlessly for decades. Their Trailside Vineyard Cab produces slightly less concentrated classic CA cab that is far from a pushover, but it does drink better in its youth than its big brother, at 1/3rd of the price. 2013 was a banner vintage, and this will likely be the last one we can get on the shelf at under $100. Normally $99/btl, $84.15 w/ coupon code: august15

***Through Sunday only, as supplies last, no further discounts apply.***

Keep on keepin’ on,

Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits

Living the Dream

August 2, 2020 Leave a comment

Hey Free Rangers,

Another peach of a week, here on the Range, and out there in the world. I honestly don’t know where to begin. Yes I do. As I’ve mentioned a few times here, and constantly in person, besides a few trusted online sources for empirical data, I’ve curbed my news consumption mostly to The Majority Report and The Michael Brooks Show, though I do like to check in with reports by Katy Tur, and Krystal Ball, during the day. I was watching Majority Report live on the afternoon of the 20th, toward the end of the show, Sam Seder’s mouth drops open after looking down at a screen, and the ‘fun half’ of the show ends abruptly. Michael Brooks had died at 37 years old. He was the youngest person I can think of who I consider a hero, and I genuinely aspire to be more like him. I barely made it through the Majority Report tribute to Michael Brooks the next day, I don’t know how they held it together.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of Michael Brooks to the progressive movement at large. I don’t throw around the word genius lightly, but the sheer amount of knowledge he amassed, and the number of world concerns he understood on a molecular level (and could explain to the rest of us without a hint of condescension) is humbling. MacArthur missed the boat on this one. That he was also a man of infinite empathy, and profound humor is what made him one of the finest communicators of the digital era, and why he was certain to change the world for the better, which seemed his only real goal. I’m a pretty cynical guy, and Michael Brooks gave me real hope. He and John Lewis were two of the sturdiest pillars in my personal Pantheon of necessary Agents of Good (Trouble), and the world lost that unfathomable gentleman last week as well.

Not to mention the unnamed federal agents in major US cities throwing private citizens into unmarked cars, which without probable cause, or declaration of offense, is kidnapping, in any democracy. And there’s the incalculable toll American law enforcement continues to perpetrate with absolute impunity on any peaceful citizen they damned well please, most especially people of color (#BLM), and anyone without enough money for proper legal representation.
Dark days, my friends.

In the micro: This was also the lowest point for our new credit card processor(s), and it seems a small handful of customers were double charged, and a smaller few were charged for phantom invoices. Derek has corrected the issue, and everyone involved has been refunded (we believe), with our sincere apologies. If anybody thinks they were overcharged for anything recently (7/2 – 7/20), please shoot us a note, and we’ll get to the bottom of it. I assure you, it wasn’t deliberate, and it is no longer occurring. Thanks, as always, for your patience and support.

The next day, a guy comes in, dumps a bunch of change on the sales counter and asks for quarters for the parking machine, which we give him, doesn’t buy anything. Comes back and hour later, asks a bunch of questions about rum, doesn’t buy anything. Comes back in another hour, doesn’t say anything to us, parks himself inside, blocking the front, and makes a phone call. I ask him to please take his conversation outside (a policy posted visibly- in words and pictures- on 2 walls, the fridge, and twice on the front door, since the outset of the pandemic), to which he replies, “fuck this place.” Derek’s Zen may have been the only thing that stopped me from potentially incurring an assault charge. This kind of stuff seems to be happening fairly frequently these days.

There were a few moments this week when I was tempted to lock the place early, head home, and turn off all devices for a few days. It’s been a tough stretch, even by current standards, but we are grateful as always to our encouraging regulars, who make what we do both possible and fun (most of the time). And I’m not sure what I would do without your four-legged friends, especially my spirit animal, Fred the terrier. If you don’t see much of me this week, I might be taking some mental health days. Please be kind to our team, every one of them is nicer than I am. If you want to talk about any old and rare bottles most of which they have not tasted, please feel free to shoot me a note directly: jack@freerangebrooklyn.com

Usual open hours, we’ve got a website, call with any questions (718.643.2250), blah, blah, blah: www.FreeRangeBrooklyn.com

Holy cr@p, you made it to the sale! Go team. Click here to access a coupon code for 15% off each of the following notable recent arrivals. A beautifully understated CA Syrah, one of my two favorite Pinot Blanc in existence (under $85), an Alsatian Pinot Noir that drinks like a red Burgundy 3 times the price, a wonderfully old school red Burgundy from the rarest of earth, and the last single vineyard Cab from one the most classic Napa estates that we can get on the shelf under $100 (in that order below):

retail:
Joyce Syrah Tondre Grapefield 2018           $34
Kelley Fox Pinot Blanc Freedom Hill 2019    $37
Bechtold Alsace Pinot Noir “S” 2017            $39
Domaine Forey Vosne-Romanée 2017         $79
Heitz Cab Trailside Vineyard 2013                $99

***This week only, as supplies last, no further discounts apply.***

Take care of each other.

Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits