One of my favorite History Channel shows is Pawn Stars, the original (and, IMO, best) reality series about a family-owned pawn shop. At the center of the show is Rick Harrison, proprietor of the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop of Las Vegas, Nevada. Rick is aided (and often “aided”) by his father Richard, son Corey, and employee Chumlee, the Sancho Panza of the outfit.
Rick routinely displays knowledge of history and Americana that would grace any university or museum, but there are times when even he can’t get a handle on some of the Smithsonian-on-acid one-off oddities and novelties that come through his door.
At this point, the personable and affable Rick demonstrates the value of networking, as he always has a friend who just happens to know about…whatever. The rest of the sequence goes something like this:
Excited Prospective Customer: I just found this genuine antique Inuit whalebone back-scratcher cleaning out my great-aunt’s attic. Am I rich, or what?
Rick: You know, it’s not really my area of expertise…let me call my buddy Lothar.
(Enter Lothar, proprietor of Lothar’s Genuine Antique Backscratchers Emporium.)
Lothar: Well, it is genuine whalebone, and the carvings are the ones that were all the rage among the Inuits in the 1880s. Unfortunately, you seem to have overlooked the “Made In China” etched on the end of the thing, so…
At Brighter Products, with the world of consumer goods as our topic, it became pretty clear early on that we’ll need to emulate Rick’s approach. Fortunately, we’ve already had the privilege of working with Paul Roberts, proprietor of Deep Creek Cellars (and, full disclosure: spouse of my cousin, Nadine Grabania.)
Paul was kind enough to aid me when our Comments box caught a question from one of our readers (more full disclosure: a good friend of mine since my high-school days), asking for advice on Mendozan wines from Argentina. Here are a few of the points Paul’s provided us with:
- Mendoza is not unlike the northern central Valley of California: it’s not about perpetual greatness, but about being able to do almost anything agriculturally pretty well.
- All grapes grown in desert conditions will make, in competent hands, attractive wines — big flavors, full-body, high-extract, high-alcohol — but precisely because conditions are so favorable, the wines are often less memorable.
- That said, for $8.99 you’ll get a very nice wine full of everything a fine wine should have at a very modest price.
- There is an 18-wheeler worth of brands, so spend forty or fifty bucks and try a few of the big houses. You won’t feel cheated once.
- Argentina has also popularized what are elsewhere unheard of or unheralded varietals — the white Torrontes, and two reds, Bonarda and the superstar, Malbec. For under $10 not much from California (especially outside of California) can touch them for chunky, powerfully flavored reds.
- Finally, you may be able to find an even better bargain for this type of wine by going with a Tempranillo from Spain, though give the Argentines’ time — word is that some tasty Tempranillos will work their way north soon.
The mention of Spanish wine is a perfect note on which to remind our readers who have yet to do so: check out the Brighter E.U. blog, covering consumer goods made in Europe. My thanks again to Paul, and over to you, Rosie!