Joe: 00:20 Our guest today is Sandy Block MW, Vice President of Beverage Operations at Legal Sea Foods.Sandy was the very first Master of Wine on the east coast of the United States back in 1992 and he’s been at Legal Sea Foods since 2004. He also teaches wine at Boston University and today we are going to talk about how the Master of Wine title can help out in your career in the wine business and few other different subjects. So without further Ado, Sandy thank you so much for joining us on Wine Biz 360.
Sandy Block: 00:51 It’s my pleasure Joe, thank you.
Joe: 00:54 So I guess the first thing I want to ask is there’s probably only about 50 Masters of Wine in the United States may be less?
Sandy Block: 01:03 I think there’s less, I’m not really sure, I don’t really … I kind of lost track once it got over about 20 I was like there’s a whole bunch of us but I think there’s somewhere in the 40’s.
Joe: 01:12 Yeah they’res not too many and it’s a very difficult thing to achieve and I’m just curious what caused you to decide to go after the Master of Wine?
Sandy Block: 01:22 I have a masochistic streak, no honestly just that it was a challenge, it was hard. I was playing tennis five days a week and not leading me anywhere because I wasn’t going to be a tennis pro and there were all these books and all this information I wanted to learn and coincidentally it was then that the Master of Wine program internationalized, so I figured this would be a disciplined way of learning a lot of information, a lot of theoretical information that I was not motivating myself to do without a structure. I didn’t really think since there were no Americans who were MW’s at the time it seemed like this far away thing that only these mythical figures like Michael Broadbent you know were able to achieve so I didn’t think about passing it, I thought about the process and that’s kind of what got me into it. I got together with a group of three other people and we studied together and spent a lot of time blind tasting which I hadn’t really done before and it became a really valuable tool in my career in the wine business, the information that I learned.
Joe: 02:34 Right you were already sommelier at that time?
Sandy Block: 02:37 I was. When I when I first started reading and studying I was a sommelier at a couple of three four different restaurants in the Boston area. I moved on to the wholesale business while I was studying for the MW.
Joe: 02:53 Okay so for you it was more of a challenge, you weren’t really thinking about “well once I get this title or if I get this title I’ll take it to do this or that.”
Sandy Block: 03:00 Yeah exactly, to me it was hard. it represented a discipline and I was curious to know things that I didn’t really have the answer to, so I figured this would be great with whatever I do because just the process … because it’ll answer a lot of those questions that I didn’t really fully understand about viticulture, vinification, the wine trade, and I thought it would be fun and it turned out to be all those things.
Joe: 03:26 So just to help our listeners, people understand that the Master of Wine title is a pretty big deal. They also believe that the Master of Somm title is a pretty big deal. Most people in the trade have seen the movie Somm and so they have an idea of what becoming a Master Somm is all about. Now did you see the movie Somm?
Sandy Block: 03:47 Yes I did.
Joe: 03:48 Okay so how would you just looking at how that portrayed the Master Somm title and you know what you have to go through to get one, how would that compared to what you went through with the Master of Wine program?
Sandy Block: 04:02 So they’re very different studies, both extremely worthwhile I believe, but one of the images from the movie Somm that stuck with me is the memorization and how I believe the lead character was memorizing all this information and test and they were all testing each other on it. The MW program is completely a different type of exam. It’s not information-based. Sitting in the room to take the exam assumes that you have the information, rightly or wrongly, probably in most cases rightly, so it’s a question how you use the information. so for the theoretical part of the exam and now it’s a three-day-long exam, when I took it was four days, you have 13 essays that you need to answer and the essay format is critical to passing the exam. There are an awful lot of very, very smart people over the years who haven’t passed it because they haven’t mastered the … or they haven’t reckoned with the essay style of how to write an essay. That’s not something that’s really emphasized in many higher education programs in the United States unless you are studying English which I didn’t do, so I had to learn that.
Sandy Block: 05:18 The theoretical side is all about not being dogmatic about writing an essay under pressure that deals with a question that has no right or wrong answer. So it’s very different than memorizing information. The practical side which is blind tasting of 36 wines spread over three days is a stumbling block for a lot of people. One of the things you have to do is, again not be dogmatic and it’s not a guessing game but you’re really deconstructing the win and using sensory information to identify what you think it’s most likely to be. So that seemed a little bit different than the MS program as well. I don’t have deep familiarity with the MS program and probably a lot of it was based on that movie. I have a lot of really good friends who are MS’s but never really talked much about the exam.
Sandy Block: 06:11 The MS exam I think also has a performance aspect where the candidate is grilled in sort of a role-play at the table, I remember that was in the movie, about matching wine and food. Matching wine and food is not part of the MW program at all and in fact the entire examination is graded anonymously which is also a difference where in the MS program it seemed that there’s a performance piece and it’s clearly not anonymous. So those are all the major points of differentiation that I saw.
Joe: 06:45 Okay, and again I’m just basing it on what we’ve seen in that movie, based on your experience with the other program really, so.
Sandy Block: 06:52 I will tell you that I think the Master Sommeliers have done a much better job of publicizing their certification and very often in the United States anyway, and very often I’ve been interviewed in press or in other media and the first question is, so how long have you been a Master Sommelier? So there is some confusion about the two programs. Let me just state that it’s a tremendous achievement to me to pass either one of them but they are slightly different.
Joe: 07:24 Right, sounds like the Master of Wine has a lot more … like you said you need more writing skills right?
Sandy Block: 07:30 I know you need writing skills. I’m not clear on what the MS program requires in that regard. I don’t recall it from the movie, but it didn’t seem to be a major component.
Joe: 07:42 Right, so let’s talk about after you became a Master of Wine did you say, “all right now that I have this and I have achieved this I’m going to go do this or I’m going to go do that,” or was it more like you use the experience of gaining the title toward what you did next? ;
Sandy Block: 07:56 I think it’s not a ticket to do anything honestly, it’s a tool that you have in your arsenal. First of all gives you a lot of confidence that you know what you’re talking about. Second of all there is sort of a mysterious, or at least at the time that I passed, a sort of mysterious respect for what it is but people didn’t exactly know what is. one of the principles of the company I was working for at the time saw my picture in the Wine Spectator and I decided to kind of go about it anonymously, I wasn’t like telling everyone I was studying for it. Anyway, he came up to me in the hall and said, congratulations, I hear this is a big deal, I have no idea what it’s all about but I know it’s good for the company.
Sandy Block: 08:39 Because there were so few people who were MW’s in at least in the distribution business, I think I might have been the only one for a long time, I used it to carve out a niche that didn’t really exist before and was helpful to my company and I think to myself. It was different than becoming a lawyer where it’s clear what you have to do and then you get a job as a lawyer, I had a kind of feel my way around like what’s the best way to utilize this and how can I capitalize on it. I think that that’s something that every MW needs to figure out because I thinks it’s much better known today but still there isn’t a clear path after you pass the exam, there’s a feeling of elation that you don’t have to ever take an exam like that again, and there’s a feeling of accomplishment you know that you achieved something that’s difficult but then after that you have to figure out how to make it work for you. So in my case that was a process that I went through that I think has been very beneficial for me and my career and hopefully for others that have gone through this program as well.
Sandy Block: 09:56 You can’t pass this by yourself as I mention, I mean maybe you can, I studied with other people and I certainly benefited from guidance and mentorship from MW’s both the few that were in the United States and others that came over from the UK. there’s a sense of obligation after passing the exam that you’re going to help other people so I spent eight to ten years after passing the exam being very involved in the institute and the educational programs and on the board and going to London and sitting in on meetings and actually organizing study group for a couple years and administering the exam actually, proctoring the exam.
Sandy Block: 10:42 But honestly after that I kind of said, okay enough, there are others that can do this now and I haven’t really been too involved with, I haven’t been involved with the institute at all since about 2000, early 2000s. I just got too busy in my career, but there is a sense that you do want to give back and some maybe they have a stronger super-ego than I do, have been giving back all along and I felt like, okay I got to do something for myself now, that’s a lot of time and I can’t waste, not waste it but I can’t devote much more time to this.
Joe: 11:19 I think you paid back and you’re still paying it back with your professorship over at Boston University so I think you’re still giving back.
Sandy Block: 11:27 Okay thanks, I feel better now Joe.
Joe: 11:30 Yeah I say it’s okay, so it’s okay. It’s funny because that really is the case whenever I’ve talked to people who are Masters of Wine it’s like what do you do with that title, it’s like were as you’ve gotten your Somm title, Master Somm you’re pretty much going to become a Somm, it’s a clear direct path.
Sandy Block: 11:50 Interestingly enough a lot of Master Sommeliers when they pass the exam immediately go on to do other things, they’ve been Sommeliers before passing exam and many of them then develop some entrepreneurial direction or go to work for a larger company where they’re not actually Sommeliers anymore, so it’s not all that different actually.
Joe: 12:13 That’s a good point, hadn’t thought of it that way but you’re right. So today at Legal Sea Foods now you’ve been there since 2004 and so you’re doing kind of all of the wine list development for the entire country and how does that work?
Sandy Block: 12:28 Yeah I’m actually my title is Vice President of Beverage so I’m overseeing wine, liquor, and beer, anything with alcohol for the company. We do everything centrally, so we have 35 restaurants in seven states, the bulk of which are in Massachusetts and in the vast majority of our units are local to Boston which is where I live. But we don’t allow any local autonomy in terms of picking product because we want our operators to be focused on execution and operating the business instead of taking their time up meeting with sales people, making decisions on what to carry, etc. So everything is centrally controlled out of our quality control center on the Boston Waterfront.
Sandy Block: 13:22 I have a team of four other people that have worked for me for in some cases 15 years, well worked at the company for 15 years, 10 years, 11 years, and 9 years so it’s a very veteran team. Together we choose the product, we price it, we train on it, we communicate with our distribution network and supply network, we do education. So it’s all handled by this team of five people, myself included.
Joe: 13:54 Wow, and how many, well you’re handling all beverage, but we’re going to focus just on the wine part, how many wines are on your wine list at any given time?
Sandy Block: 14:03 That was an easy answer for me to give you in 2004 when I came because there was one list. But today out of the 35 restaurants we have something like 25 different wine lists. They range all the way from one program that has a thousand listings in our downtown Boston Square One seller with a lot of verticals, to another that has 12 or 14 in one of our airport location. So I would say the core Legal Sea Food Massachusetts business has somewhere in the neighborhood of like 150 to 160 wines. We have another brand called a Sea Bar which we’ve developed in the last 10 or 12 years which is more bar centric and has about 60 selections but it varies, it totally varies depending on the unit and where it’s located and what the concept is.
Joe: 15:02 So that kind of gives you a little more freedom than maybe a typical chain restaurant, main list core list because you can kind of tailor to the different locations I would imagine.
Sandy Block: 15:13 Yea it gives us more flexibility and it also involves much more work. We’re also differentiating our menus to the point where we have some greatest hits that are on virtually every restaurant list and others that are only on one concept or even one list.
Joe: 15:33 Right and I would imagine if you’re putting something on a core list that would be something that you have a couple different restrictions I mean you would have to have available product and distribution in different states, any other limitations that might be for when you’re choosing a wine for the core list?
Sandy Block: 15:52 No, that’s exactly right. There has to be a certain volume and the distribution has to be set up in all the states. We also have proprietary ones that we create with various winemakers that we partner up with and so those are part of the program and in most of the states but in some cases they’re not in one or another state so it’s really a jigsaw puzzle.
Joe: 16:20 Okay. So how often do you think about changing the wine list? Is it something that you kind of like set for the year, do you change it like seasonally, like what goes into your decision on how and when to change up the list?
Sandy Block: 16:34 We change all of our lists twice annually and then we might do at tweak in between those changes but there’s two major wine list changes every year.
Joe: 16:46 Okay, and at that point have you been evaluating wines throughout the year or do you like have like a set time where you’re like alright we’re going to bring in a bunch of samples or whatever and decide what we need? Or do you feel like you’re looking at different trends to decide how you’re going to choose things or give me an idea of how that works?
Sandy Block: 17:03 So the vast majority of wines that we buy are based on a series of blind tastings we do twice annually in which we asked our major distribution partners of which there are seven in the wine field in Massachusetts to provide us with samples based on one sample for each company based on the criteria that we outlined. in other words we’re looking for a Sancerre to pour by the glass that can’t be more than $17 bottle, they submit the samples, we blind them up and we have a panel of anywhere from 8 to 12 people that goes through selection process, and it’s a democratic process. My vote counts the same or you know as everyone else’s. Occasionally, occasionally, occasionally I exercise veto power but you know maybe once a year that happens on one flight and we choose the one that that wins the blind tasting. So we do six blind tastings each … six sessions each six months and usually there about 40 flights, so that’s how we do most of our selections.
Joe: 18:20 Wow, now did you pick up this process from your Master of Wine background?
Sandy Block: 18:25 Yea, again going back to what we were talking about before Joe, how can I take the skills that I’ve learned and apply them to the various positions I’ve been in so I did that in the wholesale business but when I came to Legal Sea Foods, this struck me as a very effective way to discover new wines, to build a community of wine professionals within the company. It was a little bit more cost effective, time effective than meeting with distributors. so I quickly basically what I did was I got all the distributors together when I first came to the company and I said look however they work in the past, they’re going to work differently in the future, here’s how it’s going to work, we’re going to do blind tastings. Here’s what I’m going to tell you, I’m not going to be taking any wines that are heavily retail oriented.
Sandy Block: 19:17 I know you all have pressure to sell wines from your major supplier, that’s fine but we’re not going to be using wines that are advertised in the newspapers at giveaway prices. so pick the one wine in your portfolio that you think fits the criteria that you think will win a blind tasting and if you pick the one where you have the most pressure from your biggest supplier and it doesn’t win, you’re going to be doing less business if you do that repeatedly, so be smart about it, which is not to say that some of those wines might not win a blind tasting but remember the criteria, if they’re stacked up in every retail store, we’re not going to use them. There was a little kicking and screaming and protesting and gnashing of you know, there was some drama. But they eventually got it and those that figured it out are doing more business and those that you know … I mean some of the companies telling me, we do our own internal blind tastings to determine what to submit to you because we want to do more business.
Sandy Block: 20:23 So it’s worked pretty well, it’s worked extremely well for us. The other major way that we select our wines is through as I mentioned through proprietary wines, there’s about 8 to 10 of them that we work together with a supplier to craft a particular style of wine. Then we have what I would call wines that are … it doesn’t particularly matter whether … they’re iconic wines, it doesn’t particularly matter whether the 2017 is as good as a 2016. These are wines that are associated with some of the best wine list in the country that are core customer is looking for and we try to offer them and very reasonable prices but there’s probably a core of about 20 wines that we don’t blind taste because they-
Joe: 21:11 You have to have them.
Sandy Block: 21:12 They’ve established a track record and that track record is something that our customers want. So that the three prongs of the selection process.
Joe: 21:22 Right and at the end of the day you have to cater to your customer and it’s completely understandable why you would do the selection process the way you do it, I mean that’s-
Sandy Block: 21:30 I’m always befuddled when I go into a restaurant and I don’t recognize any of the wines or any of the grape varieties. You know I mean it’s like, what’s encruzado again? Oh yeah, yeah that’s that Portuguese white and it happens frequently so I kind of like, our goal is not to, not that there isn’t a niche for the restaurants like that, more power to them but our goal is not to befuddle and confuse our customers but to offer them plenty of options in categories that they understand to throw in a little bit of spice with things that they don’t know and to keep them intrigued. To that end we also do two promotions a year where we bring new wines based on geographical regions that we’d like to highlight. We have a special menu for that that is designed to intrigued, well to teach our staff but also to intrigue our customer base with something that isn’t totally familiar. So that’s pretty much rounds out the wine program and how we operate it.
Joe: 22:37 Right, I like it, and obviously it’s been successful.
Sandy Block: 22:40 It’s worked pretty well. We’re always looking how to make it better but it’s so far so good.
Joe: 22:46 So let’s talk more about how you’ve used your Master of Wine background toward the things that you’ve been doing both at Legal and also your past, give me more of an idea of some things that you’ve taken from your learnings with the MW program and implemented them in one way or another in the way you work at Legal Sea Foods.
Sandy Block: 23:06 Right, I’d say the educational process is adapted from what I’ve learned that the MW program. There’s sort of an old saying, the more you know about something, the simple you can make it and the less confusing it should be when you talk about it. So I’ve developed a sort of technique for training our teams that I’ve traced directly back to things that I learned in the MW program about how climate and terroir impact wines about various varietals, about fermentation science and maturation, how those impact the flavor profile.
Sandy Block: 23:46 And so I’ve taken all of those learnings and try to translate them to what a server who is not a by any means an expert or may not even really know too much about wine, about how they could communicate quickly and effectively to their guess which wines are going to work for them and to take it out of the realm of recommending wines that they like and try to get into the head of the guest by asking them appropriate questions to understand which wines the guest is going to like. And then further to understand the structure of the wines and how they work with various dishes that we serve. So it’s sort of a line that I can trace back to what I learned in the MW program to hopefully impact hundreds and thousands of interactions, transactions that occur at the table and at the bar in our restaurants on a daily basis, if that makes sense.
Joe: 24:45 No it definitely makes sense. I feel like there are a lot of restaurants where the wait staff probably doesn’t know as much about wine as some of the customers do and that kind of makes it difficult to generate wine sales. What are some things you do to ensure that the wait staff is I mean especially when there’s a lot of turnover do you do like regular trainings or tastings or what kind of things do you implement to keep the wait staff on point and able to sell more wine?
Sandy Block: 25:13 That’s a great question and it’s one of our biggest challenges. Labor in general is very tight right now, unemployment is very low, which is great, good for the economy but it makes it challenging to hold on to people and there’s a profusion of new restaurants always opening. So here’s a program, I have a series of five videos that I’ve done and I call it the Language of Love and this is for somebody that has no previous prior knowledge of what wine is, and I break it down into very, very soon bite sized bits and everyone who wants to work at our company has to pass a validation that they’ve seen these videos and that they understand how to communicate the information. So that’s sort of like the bass line.
Sandy Block: 26:00 Then I have a course that is modeled after the course I teach at Boston University but its focus specifically on the wines that we carry in on the regions that we represent and it’s called the Beverage Certification Course. It’s an 18-hour course over six sessions that several thousand people, I think 3,000 people now since 2004 have passed and it’s mandatory for all of our beverage managers and Sommeliers. I found that, you know a lot of people always complain, I’m always hearing complaints about all the Millennials are so hard to motivate, I find that it’s really right up the alley of lot of the young people that work for us because they’re always thinking they may not stay with you forever but they’re always thinking about professional development and there’s a fascination with wine, so the course is always full.
Sandy Block: 26:48 We do something else in Boston called Taste the Future where twice a year prior to our launching the new wine list, we invite all of our distributor partners in to stand behind tables, much like a trade tasting and we invite our waiters, waitresses, bartenders, and managers to come in and you know the ones that have been to the blind tastings get it but the rest of that this is an introduction, a new thing. So two weeks before the wine list is launched, they go around and they taste and hear from the distributors who are really passionate about sharing their knowledge because they want people to understand the wine so that they recommend them of course. They talk to them about … usually we get a 150 to 200 people to attend that. They talked to them about the characteristics of the wine. Then we enlist our distribution teams to come into the restaurants on a weekly basis, pick out three or four wines and spend 20 minutes training on those wines.
Sandy Block: 27:46 So that’s pretty much how we communicate the knowledge and information. One of my corporate Sommeliers has something that we call the A to Z wine resource guide which is a page on each of the wines on everyone’s list so those go out to the restaurant so I always tell them if you are in that situation where the customer wants more knowledge than you have, don’t make it up excuse yourself and just look up the information that they’re looking for in this resource guide. It’s not a perfect system but and we could be a lot better than we are, we’re always striving to be better. But this is what we’ve got so far.
Joe: 28:28 Wow, I think you’re being a little humble, it sounds like a pretty comprehensive program to tell you.
Sandy Block: 28:32 Well thank you, thank you. I don’t think of myself as a humble person, I just always see a gap between reality and the ideal and maybe we are doing a pretty good job with it. but you know we’re always bringing new people in and I mean it’s just the nature of having so many restaurants and having a young work force and people are moving on and they’re going back to graduate school or they’re getting a job in their real field or they’re tired of the social scene, working at one restaurant, they want to work somewhere else, meet some new people. So that’s the challenge, it’s getting those people up to speed.
Joe: 29:08 Of course yea. It sounds to me like you provide enough resources that it is available to them if they want to take advantage, there’s only so much you can do right, you can lead a horse to water but-
Sandy Block: 29:21 Correct, correct.
Joe: 29:22 That’s pretty amazing. so what I’d like to talk to you about next is being that you’re a Master of Wine you have quite a lot of knowledge and you’ve had a lot of experience, what is the one thing about wine that you like to talk about that no one ever asks you?
Sandy Block: 29:39 That’s an interesting question. What do I like to talk about that no one ever asks me? I suppose one of the things that intrigues me about wine that I don’t see a lot of interest in among my students or among the staff is the question of quality, what makes one wine better than another one quote unquote and how do we describe quality and where it arises. I think a lot of people assume this is $50 this is $75, the $75 one is better. A lot of people assume this wine has a famous pedigree this is an unknown the one with the famous pedigree is better.
Sandy Block: 30:24 There is a lot of, this one got a 97, this one got a 91, you know we want to quantify things and to me it’s all about the context. To me it’s all about understanding the characteristics and how they work for various settings including the season, including the food accompaniment, including the mood. it’s something that I’d like talking about it with my students and my staff and I don’t know whether they fully comprehend it because there’s this kind of a weight to something being expensive that you know this is always got to be better and I try to try to teach them that in the right context the wine that $35 is higher quality experience for the guest and they will enjoy it more than the wine that’s $150 so that’s one piece. Another thing that I wish people understood more is the after-dinner experience with wine and how do I fall a little glass of dessert wine or Port can be.
Sandy Block: 31:35 We don’t do a particularly good job in merchandising and dealing with that after dinner experience, so it’s something I’m always disappointed in is how we handle that aspect and people don’t seem to be that excited about recommending wines for after dinner. And in many cases I understand that because people have had enough alcohol or they’re in a hurry, they want to go, but I think there are opportunities there that we’re not taking advantage of.
Joe: 32:03 I think that’s part of the culture too that Americans have kind of grown accustom to in a restaurant. certainly not a Legal Sea Foods, a lot of restaurants it’s all about the turnover and people are just used to, consumers are just used to sitting at the table, they have the dinner, dinner’s over, all right we get to check, we go. That’s kind of like sort of ingrained in the culture, I think that’s part of it.
Sandy Block: 32:26 Yeah, it’s an American thing, it’s certainly not the case if you go to France you can’t I mean you have to stand on your head to be able to get a check, they don’t like to drop the check. You go to dinner in Mexico you’re there for the night. And you’re right there is a sense of like, I guess as a waiter let’s turn the tables we’ll make more money. but still I always preach that somebody orders an after-dinner drink they’re going to leave with a sweet taste in their mouth and then they’ll be more inclined to give you a higher gratuity and they’re not going to stay for two hours, they’ll probably stay for an extra 20 minutes, but at any rate I haven’t won that battle yet.
Joe: 33:08 Well keep fighting it, keep fighting it.
Sandy Block: 33:10 Okay.
Joe: 33:12 So over the last 10, 15 years we’ve seen a lot more wines coming to the United States and the qualities I think amazing compared to where it was when I started in the business 20 years ago, what kind of trends are you seeing right now and going forward and do you see anything as far as on promise and what you’re seeing at Legal, what do you think might be the next big thing or what do you think are some of the wines that may be trending going forward?
Sandy Block: 33:40 I mean in terms of existing right now the ones that are really hitting me in the face are Rose, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir. They all kind of just exploded in the last five plus years and Rose is the brand itself, it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t have to be from Provence. Sauvignon Blanc used to be Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc now Chile, South Africa, Laura Valley, there’s excitement about Sauvignon Blanc regardless of where it’s from and Pinot Noir maybe that’s because we’re a seafood restaurant and people are drinking a lot of red wine and that the staff is comfortable recommending Pinot Noir because they understand that it’s not going to overpower a lot of the fish dishes.
Sandy Block: 34:23 But those are three trends that I see. I wish we were you know we are more open to imports for sure, Chile’s been on fire for us Spain had a good run Argentina you know to an extent South Africa’s been super popular there’s been a real interest in South African wines. But I am most intrigued by Spain because Spain is doing pretty well even though nobody really is too familiar with the grape varietals. I’m always hoping and expecting but it’s so far it hasn’t happened that Garnacha or Grenache is going to take off a little bit more than it has. We seen strong interest in Albarino which is exciting and based on what I’m tasting, and I just added the first couple, there’s really something interesting happening in Greece, so we but on Assyrtiko by the glass in four restaurants from Santorini and so far it’s selling pretty well. I’ve done a number of Greek wine dinners and they’ve all been sold out so we’re in an interesting situation now where I think that consumers at all different levels are curious about, they don’t want to drink the same old same old. I think they’re curious, I think now that they’ve overcome their dependence on, I’ll have a Char, I’ll have a Cab, they were exploring.
Sandy Block: 35:42 And particularly younger consumers are excited to try different things that maybe haven’t been in the mainstream. Portugal shows some promise. I spent a number of years importing Portuguese wines for a company that I worked for and it was an interesting run. I think maybe it was a little bit premature but we were selling thousands of cases of Portuguese wine. I think that the wines are even better now than they were when I started with this in the late 90s so I think Portugal might be one of the next countries on the radar screen.
Joe: 36:19 Yeah that’s a good point. I remember going to wines of Portugal tastings 15-20 years ago as I was like, oh these wines are not the best and recently I was like wow that’s from Portugal, pretty good.
Sandy Block: 36:34 Yeah, yeah it’s still there still totally unfamiliar to most people. Nobody knows what Dao and Barada and Bucelas and all these regions are, but I think that might be a selling point to some people now too, the fact that they aren’t familiar.
Joe: 36:48 Yeah, I would agree. To your point, especially the younger generation they seem to be interested in trying everything and everything, things they’ve not seen before and learning about it and discovering. So, alright well Sandy this has been great. Are there any places where the listeners can connect with you on social media or email or anything like that?
Sandy Block: 37:09 Yeah, absolutely. I’m on Instagram at @SandyblockMW. That’s S A N D Y B L O C K M W. And they can always shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Those are the two major methods of communicating for me.
Joe: 37:30 Great, Sandy thank you so much I really appreciate the time you take.
Sandy Block: 37:30 Oh it’s a great pleasure and thank you for the interview. You asked some great questions and made me think so-
Joe: 37:34 I didn’t want to make you think too hard.
Sandy Block: 37:39 Okay, thanks Joe.
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