Monday, August 17, 2009

Adventures In Wine Smuggling - The Washington Caper Part II

Previously on AIWS - HC had a plan, the crew, and the caper and was getting ready to make his way to Vancouver WA.

The Haul

The date was fast approaching for the conference and the anticipation of getting these high quality wines at discount prices was really getting me going. Once we got the list together, the partners (HC and LC) scraped together the money we felt we could afford (or should I say the amount that wouldn't raise too much of a red flag with our wives), and finally I went over the the caper check list to make sure everything was a go.

1) The Crew was ready and willing to give me their allotment of wine. Check
2) The getaway vehicle was ready (i.e. a minivan rental). Check
3) The safe house (i.e. the lodge where the conference was held) was available. Check
4) The cash was available. Check
5) The prizes were known. Check
6) The places had been cased (i.e. I made some Google maps to get to the retailers). Check
7) Finally, the bosses (our wives) either didn't know what we were up to or didn't care. Check

Day 1

The day finally came and the excitement was overwhelming. After 6 hours of driving from Vancouver to Vancouver the crew got to the safe house. The crew was excited and ready (to give me their allotment of wine) and right after I checked in it was time to find the prizes. Armed with the maps I had printed I was quickly able to find the first retailer that supposedly had the American Prize. I slowly crept down each isle in anticipation of seeing the Pedestal staring at me. I found the wine section and began searchiing. I looked and looked and just could not find it. Was it sold out, had Dane lead me a stray? Cautiously I approached one of the workers who looked like they were on the up and up (i.e. customer service) and asked them if in fact they had this wine. After 5 minutes of searching I was told that they didn't have it at this location. I was at first discouraged but then the worker mentioned that there was another location a little distance away that may have it. I left the store a little dejected that I had not acquired the prize but hopeful that the next location would have it.

I approached the second location with nervous excitement. Would this be the place that had the American Prize? I walked into the store and headed right to the area that I suspected would have the wines. As I approached I noticed that the selection in this place was quite a bit larger than the last and this raised my awareness a lot. With the reflexes of a cat and agility of a larger cat I walked through the isles of the wine section. There are the French Bordeaux - must keep moving, there are the Californian chard's, cab sauv's, and zins - must keep moving. Finally I saw the Washington section and things were looking good. A couple of quick scans and there they were. The clouds opened up, the angels sang, and my heart was filled with joy. I had found the American Prize. I quickly grabbed two, paid for them, and got out of the store.

When I got in the car I could barely contain myself. The 2 hrs of tireless planning had just paid off. I looked at the impressive bottles, put them back in the bag, and headed for the safe house. When I arrived the crew were anxious to hear if I had found the Pedestals. A quick smile said it all. That night we talked our geek talk with friends and colleagues and I enjoyed a very nice Oregon Pinot Noir. The next day was going to be big. I had a day of talks and then had to get the French Prizes. But for the moment I was going to drink my Pinot and think of the fine WA wines I had just obtained.

Day 2

Day 2 was full of great talks and getting acquainted with some of the newer techniques in sampling, modeling, and remote sensing. All extremely interesting (well to me anyway). After the talks were complete there was about an hour or two of free time and this is when I planned on going to scope out the French's. I had my route planned out and if I could get what we planned on it would be an extremely productive day.

I arrived at the retailer and got right to it. I whipped in and headed straight for the wines. I realized quick that this selection was not what I thought it would be and had a feeling that this might be the same for the other locations. I was under some time pressure so I had to think quick. I asked a stock person if they knew of the Bordeaux that I was looking for and he mentioned that I would likely have to go across the river to Oregon, and that he couldn't guarantee that they would have the list of French's in stock. I thanked him and started to go to the plan B. I called my partner LC to get his feel and headed for the car. I had remembered that the retailer I was at the day before had quite a good selection and if worse came to worse I could get a couple more Pedestal's. LC agreed that I should check this out the selection at the place I been the previous day and see what I might be able to get. I got into the getaway car and sped off.

I was getting to be a pro and navigating from wine retailer to wine retailer in Vancouver so it didn't take long to get back to the good retailer. I immediately went to the French section and scoped out the Bordeux. As I looked I noticed that none of the wines on my list were available but luckily some of the higher end bordeaux had scores below them and little notes. I quickly did the math and made my choices. Not quite what I might have been expecting but how bad could a 2005 French Bordeaux be? The surrogate French's I ended up with left me satisfied and would be a good addition to the Icon Wines Cellar. I was able to purchase:

Chateau Giscours 2005;
Chateau Fonplegade 2005; and
Domaine Charvin 2005 (Rhone).

I took my haul and headed back to the conference very contented, although I found myself thinking how great it would have been to get those premium French's LC and I had planned for. But as one of my favorite quotes from Brian Fantana of Anchorman says - 60% it works every time. That make's absolutely no sense!

The Run

The final day of the conference was upon me and it was time to take the haul across the border. I sensed that there was a bit of nervousness from the crew as I am sure they thought we would have to pay duties or tax when we crossed. I assured them that we would be fine as long as we declared something but I don't think they were totally convinced. As we approached the border I organized my receipts to ensure there was no fumbling at the border. I had thought about this prior as well, and made sure that I got separate receipts for each pair of wine. It was finally our turn to cross and I could see some of the crew sweating. The customs guard took a hard look at us and asked if we had anything to declare. I said there was about $400 for the car and with a quick OK we were through.

What a great haul. I showed off the spoils to LC and we were both excited to add these prizes to the cellar. Another successful mission in wine smuggling and hopefully we will be able to make a profit on these down the road. And if not, we'll have some great wines to drink. - HC

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