In February of 2008, JD and I were working a 'Palate' class at LearnAboutWine, and as always, Ian asked the guests to identify themselves and say what they hoped to get from the class. A woman a few seats away from me stood up and said, "I'm Megan Collins, and I'm an Independent Wine Consultant with WineShop at Home." At the break, I grabbed her and said we needed to talk. I had been looking online for wine jobs, of any sort, and there were a few companies whose business was doing in-home wine tastings. WineShop at Home was the one that looked the most interesting.
I told Megan that I understood how the business worked - it's your typical direct sales, multi-level marketing business model. What I wanted to know was: How good are the wines? I said 'I have a pretty good cellar at home, and I'm a snob. And, if I were to join up with any company, I would have to like the wines or I wouldn't be able to sell them.' She said, 'Great! Come to a tasting and make up your own mind!'
So, we did.
The business of the evening went pretty much the way I expected. Megan is a bright, self-motivated individual with infectious enthusiasm. The wines were well made, the presentation was clear with decent tasting notes and recommended food pairings, and the guests were enthusiastic and eager to learn. The hostess had pretty much ignored Megan's coaching, so the crowd was too large - and a whole group showed up an hour late, and weren't interested in anything but partying among themselves. But Megan never lost her cool - she asked us to help pour, as she knew we knew how to! - and actually directed a number of questions to me. It was a pleasant introduction to the business.
A day or so later, Megan invited me to a team meeting at one of her consultants home, and JD and I attended, not sure of what to expect. It's one thing to go to a party; it's another thing to go to a 'training' session.
It was a terrific surprise. The consultants who attended were all fairly new; Megan herself had been doing this for a little under a year, but with her motivation, she had been able to quit her day job after 5 months. She was building her downline, and had about 50 consultants under her at that point. The agenda included tasting 2 newly released wines.
Let me go on a slight tangent here - WineShop at Home is the brainchild of John and Melissa Lynch in Napa. It's a bonded winery with John and his staff enologist, Steve Burch, working with local growers in California and other appellations, to make small production, handcrafted wines at an affordable price point. The wines, for the most part, are vinted and bottled at a facility in King City, CA. The wines are sold exclusively through in-home wine tastings and individual consultants' websites, which are provided by the company. The wines are not found in stores or restaurants, and they are not submitted to critics for ratings. They are extremely drinkable and cellarable and affordable, and I am continually surprised at how much I like them (snob, remember?).
So, back to the team meeting. Megan opened a Sauvignon Blanc. It was light and crisp. She went thru the notes that came with the wine, and we talked about it. At that point, I was probably the most knowledgeable person in the room (about wine anyway), and she encouraged the team to ask me questions. It was flattering and fun. Then Megan opened a Cabernet Sauvignon, poured an ounce into my glass, and asked me what I thought the vintage was. The wine was a deep, dark red, almost opaque; the nose was full of mocha and black cherry; the tannins were stiff, lots of backbone; the taste was rich red fruit and chocolate and tobacco. I thought maybe - since the tannins were still so big - that it was fairly young, so I guessed 2006 or 2007. It was a 2003 - much older than I thought, and I was impressed. This was my kind of wine - big, chewy, meaty, with great structure and complexity. And it was priced at $18!
I signed up on the spot. If WineShop at Home could make wines like this Cab, I was in.