Top corporate executives don't think like the rest of us. A friend who's a management consultant tells me that many real movers and shakers are divorced. They're driven people who don't have the time or inclination for personal lives.
What they do have is money -- piles of it. They have earned luxury and expect it.
I recently watched an instructional video that made me feel a little sorry for these people. You wouldn't think there's a lot of sympathy to be had for people who regularly spend stockholders' (and some taxpayers') money on the most expensive Cabernet on the wine list.
But that's how I felt after watching "Think Like a Genius: Wine Master," starring Master Sommelier Tim Gaiser.
Gaiser isn't the problem. He's earnest, he knows the topic as well as anyone, and he doesn't talk down to the viewer while describing how to taste wine in the most basic of terms.
The shocker is just that: that somebody would spend $49 for a DVD course in learning how to taste. Not learning about the differences between Burgundy and Bordeaux -- but learning to look at the color, sniff the aroma, and sip the wine. In other words, learning to tell the difference between milk and Coca-Cola.
Are corporate executives so inured to sensory input that they're unable to smell lemons in Chardonnay without this video? If so, fortunately there's a workbook with the video so they can measure their progress. Action item!
Of course, just because the San Francisco-based (sigh) Everyday Genius Institute made the video doesn't mean people are actually ordering it. But Gaiser makes his living in large part by teaching corporate classes, so there's obviously a market. And I'm going to give the Institute the benefit of the doubt in knowing the way their audience thinks.
Which is this: wine tasting is a skill to be conquered. An opponent to be vanquished. A merit badge to be earned.
And it puts forward Gaiser as somebody who's better at it than you are: One of the top tasters in the world! "To watch Tim taste wine is like watching magic happen," the chipper Institute CEO says. (If that's true, what would it be like to watch Tim reach ecstasy? Better than doing so yourself?)
The video keeps talking about "goals." What are your goals in tasting? That's pure-corporate speak: no activity is worthwhile in itself.
Yet each time I start to mock the DVD, I realize that it was made by people who know their audience. I have sat at tables with wealthy people who bragged about the inaccessible wines they have in their cellars: "I've got a vertical of Screaming Eagle and a case of 1961 Cheval Blanc." That sort of thing. Invariably they don't offer to open one. And now I know why.
They don't know how to taste it! More to the point -- they think there's a way to taste it, which they haven't mastered yet. Sort of like the black belt of tasting. And if they work hard enough, eventually they'll earn that black belt and be able to kick my ass under the table with their awesome tasting prowess.
Well, if you're a CEO and you're reading this, it's true. There is a way to taste wine. And you're doing it wrong.
I learned the way while living in Japan, on a monastic tasting retreat. We wore nothing but loincloths in January and bathed in the cold rivers each morning at dawn. We did calisthenics, chanted and meditated. And then, The Master showed us the way, if he felt we were worthy of the lesson. Only after a week of fasting were we trusted to begin tasting things by ourselves. But I can't tell you what the way is; it cannot be described in the English language.
So you better spend the $49, Sir. And see if you can charge it to taxpayers the way you did with those wines you bought at Auction Napa Valley.