Thursday, April 28, 2011

Never thought I'd pick up decorating tips in a liquor store...

What is this? Two posts in one week?! Amazing! Honestly, this was supposed to be last week's post, but I chose to procrastinate. So here we go.

My very pregnant cousin, Jennifer, tipped me off about a Grand Tasting at KJ Baaron's on Saturday evening, April 16. Since she couldn't join me, for obvious reasons, I recruited my friend Sydney and her boyfriend, Jay to tag along.

I had never be to KJ Baaron's, but I've driven by it almost twice a day since I've moved back from Worcester.  It is right across the rotary from Union Station, an unbelievably central location in Worcester.  When we pulled in they offered free valet, but we chose to drive across the field that doubled as a parking lot and make a short trek back to the store.

Before we begin, I have to say, that KJ Baaron's has always caught my attention because of it's name.  I had a beloved cat, called KJ, for 17 years that I think of every time I drive by the sign.  I have to take this moment in honor of the late, great KJ (KJ =Kaithlyn and Joseph, since my mother was fed up after 20 minutes of my brother and me fighting over names for MY cat, but I digress).  KJ was a testament to her species.  She was an avid hunter (caught a cardinal on Christmas -still not sure how she managed that) and a skilled manipulator (she made a Bull Mastiff her bitch [heh heh... the dog was female, so this isn't entirely inappropriate] and convinced my father to share his ice cream sundaes with her). She is missed.  Anyway, this might be my longest tangent in this blog to date. Moving right along...

Upon entering the store, we were met my 2 greeters who handed out tasting glasses, a booklet of the available wines and instructions about the event.  There were over 20 tasting stations with an average of 5 wines a piece set-up throughout the store.  This place has tasting down to a science.  You are given a number on the top of your booklet - I was 67.  At each station, if you wanted to purchase one of the wines, you could just tell the rep your number and they would tag a bottle for you.  Magically, when you ended your evening at the register, all of the bottles you had tagged arrived waiting for you to purchase them without having to carry the bottles around.  Brilliant and very, very dangerous.

The three of us decided on a plan.  We were only tasting reds, since as I have mentioned in earlier posts, I'm not a big fan of white wine. We would work our way around in a specific order (which ended up being numerical, due to the flow of traffic) and we'd ask each wine rep to suggest a tasting order. Before reaching each table, we read all of the descriptions, so we could veto a wine beforehand if we knew we wouldn't be interested. Now, here's the kicker, there was a discount based on the number of bottles you purchased.  You maxed out at 20% from 12 bottles, so I knew going in I was leaving with 12... the question was, which were the lucky 12. (Jackson would have been a little upset if I went with my original goal of 24 bottles.  They tell me marriage is about compromise, so I decided 12 was fair.)

Two hours later, innumerable sips of wine, and some cheese and crackers later, I had my 12 bottles and a new favorite liquor store - called a package store or "packy" in Massachusetts. The tasting itself was a little overwhelming, with over 100 wines to choose from.  I found most of the reps to be helpful and personable.  I only encountered 2 reps that gave me the "wine snob" attitude.  Unfortunately, the first one I encountered was at the first station we stopped at (we started out of order, so I can't remember the station number). I really have a hard time dealing with these individuals. First of all, these people are salesmen, not enologists, not sommeliers, but salesmen. In fairness, I'm sure they have a pretty extensive background in wine, but for the life of me I can't understand how the intend to increase sales by 1) insulting, 2) demeaning, 3) ignoring their potential customers. Eye rolls do not sell wine, just saying.  I really enjoyed one of the wines, but based on this man's attitude, I decided not to buy a bottle.

On the flip side, there were some amazing reps.  A few told me the history of the vineyards, talked about decent pairings, and suggested other wines that were similar to those I was tasting.  Overall, I was really impressed by the service.  I was able to get some more information on Grenache wines, some insight into wines from Rioja, and learn a little more about how to determine decent blends. I really took a lot away from this tasting ... and not just bottles of wine.

My companions were particularly interested in the dessert wines.  While I enjoy dessert wines, I tend not to taste them and rarely ever buy them, but since they were interested, I decided to try a few.  I ended up buying this delicious dessert red (Syd and Jay bought 3 bottles) that I'm planning to serve with some dark chocolate at my next dinner party or to myself to brighten up a bad day.

What I enjoyed the most about KJ Baaron's was their decor. Hanging from the ceiling of the main room is a wine bottle chandelier.  It's awesome!  I grabbed the photo from their website.
I want one... which means I need to buy a condo so I can have one. This will have to be filed under "long-term goals" for now.

Their tasting room is stunning. It was packed when I was there, but from the website it looks like an elegant, calming space.  I've learned that it can be reserved for functions.  They have these great wine bottle lamps and a modern design that elevates KJ Baaron's from your average package store to a more professional and trendy environment. I copied this picture from their website as well.
Side Note: While I'm sharing long term goals, a friend recently sent me an email with these photos attached.  I'll definitely need one if I keep shopping at KJ Baaron's. (I can't credit the original owner of these photos, but I will if someone knows the owner.)

Amazing, right? I know.

Just one more fun fact about KJ Baaron's before I end.  During the tasting, I noticed they design custom wine gift baskets.  I happened to be in the market for a gift basket to donate to my family's fundraiser The Odgren's Kayer to Find a Cure 3rd Annual Dance! KJ Baaron's is arranging a beautiful basket for us to raffle off tomorrow night and is working on donating a gift certificate for us to raffle as well. Their staff has been unbelievably accommodating and I am very appreciative.

So, I'm now heavy 12 bottles of wine - at 20% off, a gift basket, and the need to purchase property.

Congrats KJ Baaron's you've tipped the scales in Worcester's favor.  Cheers!

Until next week!
<3 K

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