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Live! From Houston! It’s a road warrior

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On the road again, this time in Houston, a town I have family roots in but can’t claim to know at all. They have a beautiful skyline but apparently the collapse in oil prices has hit it hard. I’m staying at The Houstonian, which I’m told used to be George H.W. Bush’s estate, and I must say, the grounds are pretty fancy and my room is great. The temperature on arrival was 103 with 70% humidity; I’m glad I don’t have to do manual labor out there! I was tired after a long day; those seats on United seem to get more cramped with every flight. Fortunately I was sitting next to a cool dude, a young Louisianan who had flown to San Francisco for the Marathon, so we were able to chat about running, which I don’t really do much anymore but in my heyday, wow, I was pretty good, my best performance ever having been coming in fourth in Bridge to Bridge in my age group (40s), which if you know that race is nothing to sneeze at.

My host here is young Zach White, a regional sales manager for Jackson Family Wines. I love meeting these young road warriors. This life of selling wine isn’t for everyone, but the ones who have chosen it are really into it. I’m a big fan of Alexander the Great, the way he inspired his troops to march with him halfway around the world, through deserts and inhospitable mountains, always meeting hostile tribes whom they had to fight. Why did those men follow Alexander to the ends of the earth? Because he inspired them, gave them something to believe in—not just gold and treasure, but the spirit of achievement. It’s the same with these sales guys. The work is hard, brutal; endless driving, schmoozing. Zach was telling me some of the stories about how he won certain accounts through sheer persistence. He did things when many others would have given up. I can relate to that: I got my first wine writing job, at Wine Spectator, the same way. I refused to accept “no” for an answer. I banged at their door every day until, finally, they said yes. That’s why I’m a big believer in the American Dream. You can pretty much accomplish anything you want—but it won’t be handed to you on a silver platter. You have to work your guts out to get it.

Anyhow, from Houston it’s on to Fort Worth and Austin. Like I said, I have deep roots in Texas, on my mother’s side, so it’s a delight to be down here. I was telling Zach how, when my Texas and Oklahoma uncles used to visit us in New York, their drink of choice was “bourbon and branchwater.” Zach is big on bourbon but had never heard the term “branchwater.” I didn’t know what it meant either, so we Googled it. “Branchwater” is simply “still” water as opposed to seltzer. I don’t know why my uncles called it “branchwater” and not just “water,” but I love that, it’s so poetic. I’m sure there’s a story somewhere but I like to think it has to do with the South’s love of romance and evocative language. Doesn’t “branchwater” sound ever so much more romantic than “water”?

So it’s off to bed in my hotel room, with a half bottle of Veuve Cliquot and some charcuterie and crab cakes from the restaurant. All is good. I hope your night and day are pleasant.

  1. Sandra Crittenden says:

    Welcome to Houston, Steve! I hope you get out of your hotel room and try some of our great restaurants and wine bars while you are here.

  2. This is so sad. As a bourbon drinker long before I was a wine drinker and an aficionado of that spirit, I am astounded that your Texas host does not know anything about bourbon and “branch”.

    The long operative description of bourbon and water, southern style, is bourbon and branch, not bourbon and branchwater although that latter term is not incorrect.

    And, a branch, as even a city slicker like me knows, is nothing more than a “crick”, a bubbling brook, a creek if you will.

    So bourbon and branch, in its most natural state, is bourbon with fresh, crisp water out of a fast moving stream. Or bourbon and water in most bars.

    Now, here is the part that sort of made me smile. One of the best known bars in downtown San Francisco is called Bourbon and Branch. It is much beloved and has an amazing collection of whiskies. I’ll take you there the next time you are hankering for a strong bourbon.

    Hey, even us wine geeks need a change of pace now and then. ;-}

  3. Bob Henry says:

    “Zach was telling me some of the stories about how he won certain accounts through sheer persistence. He did things when many others would have given up.:

    Steve, introduce Zach and the other JFW road warriors to this marketing thought leader: Seth Godin.

    And his book(-let) titled “The Dip.”

    Subtitled: “A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick)”

    An executive summary:

    http://www.summary.com/book-reviews/_/The-Dip/

  4. Bob Henry says:

    “I’m a big fan of Alexander the Great, the way he inspired his troops to march with him halfway around the world, through deserts and inhospitable mountains, always meeting hostile tribes whom they had to fight. Why did those men follow Alexander to the ends of the earth? Because he inspired them, gave them something to believe in—not just gold and treasure, but the spirit of achievement.”

    I am reminded of a more contemporary leader . . . Sir Ernest Shackleton, the famed explorer of Antarctica and his legendary (mythic?) classified ad:

    “Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.”

  5. It is great to have young professionals in the wine industry excited and passionate, but these comparisons to the troops of Alexander the Great and Shackleton being applied to a Regional Sales Manager might be a little off the mark; we don’t want him getting too big of a head! In looking at average industry salaries the Shackelton reference especially would apply much more to winemaker’s let alone seasonal harvest workers. Believe it or not Regional Sales Manager (and sales in general) pays leaps and bounds above what production folks make.

    http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Industry=Winery/Salary

  6. To take Charlie’s description of “Branch” a bit further. I believe that originally the water was from the same stream that was used to create the Bourbon.

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