Welcome to My World - Here is Some Mediocre Advice!


Intoxication...Something just about all of us have at least some experience in. Some great, some good, some indifferent, and some absolutely horrible. I personally am one of the fortunate ones that has generally marvellous experiences when sipping on the good stuff. I rarely embarrass myself, almost never forget what I have done, and, even when I do, it's usually not all that bad. This could be because of my immense experience with the sensation of being slightly tipsy, and the fact that I usually have to make sure I am remaining professional and alert when I am feeling it. I have been living most of my professional life through a wine glass. I stepped into the world of wine with a big smile and bigger aspirations, while quickly learning that I must master "The Art of Getting Drunk" or I would be exiting this world just as fast as I jumped in. 


You see, in my line of work, which is importing alcohol, I am constantly put in the position of having a drink while talking business. This does a few things: It generally lightens up discussion a little, it often gives you something to switch focus to if the conversation isn’t going the way you want, and it also adds an unpredictable element to your consciousness. The later is what I want to talk about. When you train to be a sommelier, or even just take some courses to learn more about wine, they teach you many, many things...but one thing that is always left out is how to deal with the inevitable situation of having to drink more wine than you probably should while conducting a business meeting. Now, many instructors, trainers, teachers, and/or mentors might tell you that you can simply spit the wine out but what they are not telling you is the whole story behind that my friends. Try spitting out wine when the winemaker isn’t. Try spitting out wine when there is no spit bucket or floor drain in sight. Try spitting out wine over dinner while your still discussing the details of your business arrangement...you would be a lot better off falling over and breaking the table, than expelling someone's carefully cellared back vintage that they decided to dig out specially for your dinner pairing. So, what do you do? Well you can do a lot of things but, in my experience, you have to start with accepting you are probably going to be slightly tipsy in some important situations and you better learn how to become comfortable with that feeling rather quickly, or you're probably not going to achieve a whole lot. 


From what I can tell, there are a few distinct groups that people fall into when drinking. The first, and possibly most common, is the type that quickly loses their filter when it comes to conversation, but catches themselves before they get too intoxicated. This one is rather simple to deal with. Simply use the "Say It Twice” method. When I start getting a little further into the wine than I know I should, I start to say everything that I think is intelligent or funny in my head first. You would be surprised just how ridiculous some of the thoughts you have sound when you say the sentence to yourself first. “No TJ! Do NOT bring up murder. It's not that funny, and you are weird.” I have uttered this in my head more than once…Seriously.

If you are one of those people that quickly gets clumsy when drinking, simply stay still. Use minimal movement or find a place to lean or sit before that klutz comes out.

*Most of these tips are preventative by the way, so it is best to find your safe place before the wine starts to flow too quickly.*

One thing I haven’t quite figured out how to combat just yet is the rare, but real problem, of speech slurring prematurely...so...if this happens to you, maybe fake an accent or something, because other than that, I have nothing for you, so good luck.

If you are one of the unfortunate folks that starts to feel the effects of booze faster than the average bear, then you need to learn how to pace yourself and stall the pouring, which actually is harder than it seems; but using bathroom breaks, drinking painfully slow, or not finishing what you have been poured so you are forced to dump when they want to pour you the next wine are all effective, although, it is common to feel the urge to slam the last sip before the next wine. DO NOT DO THIS, please trust me on this one. When you are traveling and meeting with winemakers, spending that precious one-on-one time together, they are going to want to pour you everything they have ever made, so you need to find a way to spit one way or another. Also, when at the winery you need to remember there could be a lunch or dinner offered after this, so the actual drinking hasn’t even started yet. I am 220lbs, so I can handle a few more drinks than average, but even I have to sneak a spit or pour out from time-to-time.


Another thing to keep in mind, is that you are not the only one tasting most of the time, so be aware of who you are with and figure out what etiquette is being enforced or followed, and then continue to pay attention as these things as they can change without notice. In the end, it is always better to risk offending than it is to lose self-control. I have seen both happen and the consequences of the later are far worse, as they should be, so don’t feel too much pressure. The most likely scenario when someone is proudly pouring wine-after-wine for you and then invites you to dinner after that, your meeting is going very well and there is nothing wrong with enjoying yourself while maintaining a level of professionalism. I have experienced some absolutely insane situations through my career up-to-and-including almost throwing up at one of the world's most prestigious wineries, following an evening of air-guitaring Sepultura until 5am in front of an ancient château with a winemaker I could barely communicate with...BUT...those stories are for another blog, so stay tuned and be Artistic my friends.


This will be my outlet for all of the insanity and ridiculousness I tend to experience, and I can't wait to finally share it all, after all, it is spilling over faster than an amateur swirler's glass of Cali Cab Sav.



-TJ Harstine