Friday, August 6, 2010

Goodbye Jack. You'll Be Missed

The wine industry in Northeast Oregon lost a very important person this week. No, he wasn't some haughty taughty winemaker, or some vineyard owner with thousands of acres. But, I can tell you that if you purchased a bottle of wine from any location in Northeastern Oregon in the last 10 years, the bottle had been carefully handled at some time by my friend Jack Huth.

The industry isn't all fancy winemaker's dinners and $100 bottles of wine pouring over the counters of artsy tasting rooms. For the most part, the wine industry is dirty hard work. It is stacking and unstacking dusty boxes and bottles of wines thousands of times each day.

This truth was taught to me 7 years ago when I took a job as the Marketing Director with Graybeal Distributing in Pendleton. One of the best teachers I had in this was Jack.

One of the things that I did to familiarize myself with the thousands of products we offered was to work on the warehouse floor at least a little every day. Quickly I found the best way to learn the wine products was to follow Jack around. He knew everything we carried, and exactly where it was at any moment.

One lesson that Jack taught me happened in my first week. He watched me clumbsily grab for a bottle of Lambrusco on the warehouse shelf. Like a flash he was there at my side. Little did I know, but Lambrusco is quite dangerous. If a bottle drops the pressure will send glass shards back into your face. Jack knew this from experience, and he had the scars to prove it.

Jack was not only a good educator to us rookies in the business. He was also a generous, warm personality. You could hear his loud laugh several times echoing through the warehouse in a day. He would always welcome back drivers and salespeople from their routes. One of the first to arrive Monday mornings, and one of the last to leave Friday night.

There was one thing about Jack that I always found odd though. For all the bottles of wine he touched in his career, I don't think he ever found one that he liked. The best I could ever convince him of was to take a sniff out of a glass before he would turn up his nose and go "phsssssh!" No. Jack's drink of choice was Keystone Ice. So, in honor of you Jack, tonight I am drinking Keystone Ice and I'm going to offer the readers of this blog my tasting notes:

24 oz. Keystone Ice straight from the can (best by date - October 11). The nose is fizzy with a little mineral overtones. I can't really swirl it to bring out more, but my first taste is cold and refreshing. Afterall, it is 85 degrees out at 9 p.m. and any beer seems right tonight. The flavors are malty and sweet, with some bite from both the faint hops and the alcohol as it hits the back of my throat. A finish that is short leaves me ready for another slurp. At 5.9% alcohol I'd say not too bad for a buck fourty nine! Guess you were onto something Jack!

Thanks Jack, and my hope is that you'll be golfing, bowling, and enjoying an endless supply of Keystone Ice from now on. We'll miss you.

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