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All of us at Vendome are food and beverage enthusiasts. This is where we share our opinions, insights and post details about upcoming events. You can contact any of us personally for individualized assistance!


My introduction to Napa Wines

I’ve had two jobs on the very fringe of the entertainment business, one of which introduced me to most of the great legacy wines of Napa Valley. I was employed by the management of brilliant, cult musician Mr. Roky Erickson, of whom I’m a great admirer. I encourage everyone with a love of pure rock’n’roll to seek out his solo work along with his contributions as a member of the band 13th Floor Elevators.

In the mid- and late-’70s, I was among a group of workers who were employed on weekends to relieve his full-time weekday staff. My job was to be Roky’s companion in a variety of “wholesome endeavors” from Saturday morning until Sunday night. These included visiting the zoo, taking in a horror film, dining at a restaurant and simply walking around the city. I actually got paid to hang out with one of my idols! One night, my co-workers and I boarded an old rare Western Airlines Boeing 720, for a red-eye Friday flight up to San Francisco. Roky could be quite a handful as he didn’t work on any type of clock and rarely slept; it was difficult to keep up with him. I needed some type of fortification and at the time, a lot of the great Napa brands were up and running, and I was fortunate to sample all of them covertly, as Roky was not allowed any alcohol at this time. Another bonus, his management picked up the tab at the end of my weekend of work. On Sunday night, I returned to the San Fernando Valley on another red-eye flight, back to my mundane existence. (I continued this routine for around three or four years.) It was during one of these trips that I sampled my first bottle of Grgich Hills Chardonnay. You too can now sample the whole Grgich Hills lineup at our tasting from 8:00 – 10:00 PM on April 6. It truly is a remarkable tasting menu.

Finally, on a separate, but sad, music-related note, at least a billion people lost one of their heroes on March 18. Chuck Berry was simply the greatest. I had the pleasure of both attending many of his shows and the privilege of working with him (more on that later). Contrary to a lot of reviews, he was always awesome. Between the ’70s and the ’90s, Mr. Berry had a mini-mansion on Beachwood Ave. in Hollywood, and as you drove by you could witness the man himself, washing one of his Caddies. It’s hard to believe, but you could walk up to this great man and chat; he was both humble and engaging. In Missouri, they even released a line of Chuck Berry wines. Rest in peace, Great One.

Steve Besser

About Steve Besser

Steve Besser has over 35 collective years in grocery and liquor, diving head first into the alcohol biz near the turn of the century. He learned about wines and spirits the old fashioned way, through sampling and asking questions. Never pretends to be an expert, but he knows quite a bit about the things he knows about.


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