Mouthfeel: Confessions of a Wine Slut is the story of one woman’s search for love and livelihood in wine country. It is the first memoir to present an authentic and opinionated view of the Sonoma County wine business.

Mouthfeel is currently seeking a publisher. Please contact Mari to get the proposal and manuscript.

About Mari Kane

My interest in fine wine was sparked while working as a professional photographer in San Francisco between 1989-1993, shooting cover stories for Wine Spectator magazine and drinking Hawks Crest Cabernet.

In my twelve years in Sonoma County I worked in no less than eleven tasting rooms, which has to be a record.

In many ways, Mouthfeel is similar to the book and movie, Sideways. But, where Sideways was about fictional male outsiders looking in to the industry, Mouthfeel presents the viewpoint of a real-life woman working on the inside, looking out.

Mouthfeel has even more obscure wine talk, more vine-crazed characters, and a reasonable enough amount of sex to amuse wine enthusiasts around the world.

I now reside in Vancouver, Canada where I write about the British Columbia and California wine industry on my blog, TastingRoomConfidential.com, as well as other wine blogs and magazines.

mari red wine cup

About Mouthfeel – the book

Mouthfeel-nouveau

Working in a winery tasting room is not always the beautiful experience the bucolic setting would suggest. A glance behind the “Employees Only” door often reveals an intimidating landscape of high drama and low morals, where good taste meets bad manners.

This is where I got my start in the wine business.

I took a series of tasting room jobs where I encountered winemaker egos, owner disaffection, manager duplicity, customer boorishness, and a certain ‘Animal House’ mentality among cellar workers. I suffered them all just to be closer to the wine. I was, by then, a total wine slut.

I moved from grape to grape – funky petite sirah, dumb pinot noir, Rued chardonnay, cheap champagne – and I practically obsessed about California’s native wine, zinfandel.

As time went on, I became more determined to expand my vinicultural knowledge so that I can write about wine. But although I crave acceptance in the industry, I always end up feeling like an outsider.

Follow Me!

Mouthfeel Excerpts

Visions of Vinicultural Grandeur

Alcohol fumes stung my nostrils as I watched a customer trying to sell wine to another guy. Raspberry jamminess coated my tongue while a group of retirees conspired to split a case for the quantity discount. My chest blazed from the heat as I saw the bartender high fiving a bunch of guys in ball caps.

Waiting for Walter

Walter stared at the paper, gathering his thoughts. “You see, this job requires dealing with the public, the kind of people who have had a bit to drink by the time they see us. And I’m looking at your résumé and don’t see much retail sales or wait service that relates to this sort of position.”

Tasting Room Virgin No More

Working behind a tasting room bar, I discovered, is like being on stage: the comedian clowning for the audience. And, the drunker they got, the funnier I sounded. Soon, I forgot my insecurities and fell into a regular bartending groove. “Merlot? Here you go. Want some cab? I’ll call you one. Late Harvest? Time for dessert.”

Crush Party

That weekend, my wine classmate Greg held a Crush party at his Santa Rosa house and he invited Rebecca and me. I invited Charlotte, my new best pal at Rafferty. Coming from different corners of the county, the three of us arrived separately. After putting Stephanie on a bus to San Francisco, where she would…

The Winemaker is God

How cool was it to be picking the brain of a Wine Spectator cover boy? Richard didn’t seem at all bothered to explain Winegrowing 101 to a lowly tasting room worker because that’s just the kind of granola cruncher he was. He didn’t came off condescending or, heaven forbid, flirtatious. I kinda dug him.

Punch Down Time

The kid grabbed what looked like a broomstick plunger and started pushing it into the cap of skins and seeds topping the fermenting juice, busting through its dried crust. In the tasting room, I’d seen his gangly elbows and knobby knees provoke more than one near-catastrophe. But, on this balance beam of death, Josh’s body behaved like a graceful Olympic acrobat.

The End of a Winery Job

Without the advantage of a winery discount, I suddenly faced the horrible inevitability of paying retail, and that prospect scared me. Before, Safeway and Food 4 Less were all I had. Now, having paid half price for better bottles for the past few months, I realized my palate had improved, but my budget had decreased, big time. It was time to get another winery job.

Daydreaming in a Dead Tasting Room

The building’s façade is so sterile I imagined it repelled more tourists than it attracted. The corrugated metal siding made the place look like a hardware store and the tasting room like a doublewide trailer. Even I wouldn’t have visited myself there.
Finally, I saw customers drive in and my daydreams drove out.

White Trash Grenache and Yo Nouveau!

Our current thinking was to make our fictitious wine brand super elegant and refined, along the lines of the wineries that employed us, but Greg wasn’t having it. “Why are we trying to create a stylin’ package when, let’s face it guys, we don’t have any style,” he argued. He wore a purple tee-shirt that said “Lick my Bung,” which emphasized his point exactly.

In the Twilight Zone of Wine Jobs

The afternoon felt like a weekend. I’d never been good at being idle and this place was already making me crazy. Then we heard voices: loud, rambunctious chatter echoing off the covered entryway and projecting excitement. We hurried to the door just as a group of seven twenty-something guys and gals strolled through the deep shade of the passageway.

There’s a Killer on the Road

Stephen King could not have written a more ambiguous ending. The women are safe. The villain is captured. The do-nothing hero can go screw himself. Yet, in life as well as literature, there is always the chance of a twist. The next day, the newspaper reported that a shotgun with the guy’s fingerprints was found in the orchard behind our house. It was still loaded.

Faux Pas Among the Wine Tasting

When Walker asked for a show of hands in favor of wine #2, I was the only person to put a hand up. Suddenly I was back in fifth grade giving an answer that I wasn’t sure was right, but giving it anyway to exert myself into the discussion. The crowd around me howled. The smartass at the next table yelled, “Get a job,” and I vowed to never again volunteer a wine opinion.

Winery to Mari: You’re Fired!

Perhaps they thought I was too clumsy to keep wine in my glass at the dinner table. Maybe, after my positive assertion about that crappy wine, they concluded I had no taste of which to speak. Or else, by too “talented,” they might have meant prone to questioning the company line. At any rate, Black Madrone proved to be a lot like Dave: they just weren’t that into me.

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