Monkey Business – Monkey Bay 2004 Sauvignon Blanc for WBW

monkey bay sauvignon blanc
There are many reasons why I went back to school when I did. The job I landed was uber-glamorous when I first came out of college – jetting to a new city every week, room service, expense accounts, travel perks, and best of all…beaucoup bucks. But the warp speed lifestyle made me feel like after only five years, I had already worked 30 and was ready for retirement. The over-inflated high that came from consulting was falling faster than a souffle in a December draft.

Sure I got to travel, but air-commuting is very different from vacationing. It’s tiring to wake up at 3 am to catch a 5 am flight every week, twice a week. Sure I got to go to different cities, but clients’ office buildings look exactly the same no matter where in the world you are. So do hotels. So does a four day wardrobe that never leaves a black wheeled Tumi, exactly 22” to fit the overhead compartment of any plane in any airline carrier’s fleet. Room service doesn’t taste good. Extravagant dinners on an expense account don’t taste good either if you have to eat it without the people you love. Fat cash bonuses and travel perks like airline miles and hotel points are nice, but they piled up and I never got to enjoy them. I just flew back home exhausted every weekend, shredded five days worth of junk mail that had collected in my mailbox, paid my bills, did laundry, then packed for Monday, when the wicked little cycle started all over again.

So I quit.


Then I had to think about breaking it to my parents. Double yikes.

Not only had I quit my high-paying, prestigious, make-us-parents-proud job, but I had decided to train to become a clown and tour the world with the Circus. Alright, not really, but telling my parents that I wanted to find my way through the food and restaurant world is pretty much the equivalent. Maybe worse. They’re Korean. First generation. That pretty much explains why I was sweating. By the way, if you are a circus clown, please don’t take offense. That’s just the way most Korean parents are, and mine are no exception.

I really did need the break to save my sanity though, so I ended up in business school as a sort of a compromise. Food and restaurants are business, Sarah. Go get a Master’s degree in business so that when you’re slinging soggy apples in the Denny’s pie factory living at home because you’re dirt poor, we can at least mention your education when we’re forced to play the Brag-About-Your-Kids game with our friends.

It was a nice two year break from the “real” world, but business school is also its own little M(BA)TV Real World. There is a lot about the entire business school experience that I could go on and on about, but sheesh, I could start a whole new blog about all the drunken details. Let’s just cut straight to graduation. What did I come away with? A piece of paper that certifies that I spent two years expertly manipulating Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations in a hangover haze. I have a MBA with an emphasis in Entrepreneurship with hopes of owning my very own food-related business, but ended up with a pretty little job in…marketing. A marketing job that had absolutely nothing to do with food except for the division-wide Holiday Gingerbread House contest I won two years ago. The grand prize was a digital clock with the company logo on it. It’s still in the box under my bed.

Marketing. I do marketing. Excuse me. *ahem* I did marketing.

So when the 16th host for Wine Blogging Wednesday, big wine nerd (that’s a compliment) Derrick from An Obsession with Food, announced this month’s theme, Judge a Bottle by its Cover, I shrieked like the silly monkey that I am. Judging a bottle by its cover, formulating an opinion about quality by its packaging, making a purchasing decision based on how the product is presented – we’re talking about marketing. Don’t worry, I won’t go into the details of the 4Ps. ;)

There are times, even for the wine nerds, when vintages and appellations and reputations for quality are poured out with the sediment when a bottle is…pretty. When you pick up that bottle because it looks sexy, or you fondle it because it makes you feel sexy, or you buy the bottle outright because you think it’ll make your date feel sexy, well, the winemaker’s marketing department just carved another notch into its bedpost. You, on the other hand, may or may not get to do the same because a sly, savvy marketer could have gotten you to buy that bottle with grape vinegar inside it. ;) The Operations team may put the wine into the bottle. They even physically distribute the bottles to the store, but marketing pours the wine into your glass. Wow, I sound like my first year Marketing Management professor. LOL!

Aside from the fact that I am a silly shrieking marketing monkey, I am also the perfect test subject for this case study in wine marketing because I am that girl. You know, that girl at The Wine House asking a million questions, but ending up with a Monkey Bay 2004 Sauvignon Blanc because the bottle was just the prettiest shade of pale pale green, and I fell head over heels in love with the monkey on the label. *eek!* I am always a victim of savvy marketing. I can’t help it. I’m stupid like that. I mean it, if it weren’t for some other outside factors, I’d have 34 Mastercards because of the Peyton Manning commercials. I’m a marketer, but I’m also my own victim.

Monkey Bay is from Marlborough, New Zealand, but did that matter to me? Only so much as the kiwi green and black words “New Zealand” at the bottom of the uniquely curve-shaped label make the bottle seem wild and exotic. Then again, the wine could have been from Chino Hills and I would have bought it for the monkey. I love that whimsically evil black and silvery gold monkey that looks like it too has taken at least five or six very long sips from the bottle around which its been swinging.

The wine looks fun. That’s why I bought it.

Since, like the monkey, the simple $12 purchase was on whim, I hadn’t planned well enough to serve it with dinner that night. I couldn’t wait for another meal to touch my monkey, so I just stuck it in the refrigerator to chill it, then brought it out after dinner to drink by itself in front of the tv after dinner. There might have been popcorn. I don’t think popcorn goes with anything except…Arbor Mist. LOL!

Here comes the paragraph that is very very difficult for me because, let’s put it this way: if wine appreciation wer
e a video game, I wouldn’t even be on Level One because I’d still be figuring out how to work my joystick. I like sauvignon blanc because, I think, it’s so totally the opposite of everything I don’t like about chardonnay. Chardonnay always looks too antique, decaying yellow, smells like a cross between slightly rancid butter and termite bait, and tastes about the same. Can you tell I’m not fond of chardonnay? I probably wouldn’t be able to identify a chardonnay blindly, but every time someone gives me a glass of wine and it makes me crinkle my nose, I always find out later it’s chardonnay.

This Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc is a light, bright sparkly greenish yellow. I suppose I half- expected to smell coconuts and bananas, but while it did smell fruity, it was more like an adolescent pineapple had gone for a naughty, playful romp in the grass with a kiwi fruit. I guess that also makes it herbaceous, though I’ve always found it pretty funny that something tasting like the clippings from my Dad’s riding lawnmower was supposed to be good. ;) It’s okay in the case of wine labelled with a monkey.

We drank the whole bottle because it was just too easy.

This isn’t a sophisticated wine to drink at an expensive dinner with wine nerd friends, but I doubt that the winemakers would have put a monkey on the label if that was their intention.

As I always do, I went back to the web to research and see what the wine nerds say about Monkey Bay, just to amuse myself over how horribly novice I am. Gooseberries? I don’t even know what a gooseberry tastes like. White currants? I had no idea they came in anything but red. But the thing that got me was that the wine is under $10! I was robbed of my two dollars. I want my two dollars! (Name the movie, and I’ll buy you a bottle.)

And who knew that when I’d do some more research on Monkey Bay, I’d find that their own marketers definitely did their homework and accomplished exactly what they wanted with the name and label. Every word I used to describe the looks of the bottle and label, and the feeling that I got from both were right there on their own website.

Damn. Maybe I could ask them for a job.

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  • Sam

    I have got my bottle(s) for this challenge and still havent done it either

  • Anonymous

    Hi Sarah:
    You don’t have to answer but my little insight into 1st Generation Korean parents would tell me that your career choice and your marital status would be 1 and 1A in terms of their exasperation with their children. And I won’t even get into how they treat their sons versus daughters…


  • MEalCentric

    Couldnt agree with you more. High end dinners lose their charm very quickly when your surrounded by relative strangers and business associates. And dont get me started on hotels and room service…

    Nice post, just not sure how it is WBW. “lol”, as you would say

  • Dr. Duckfat

    Monkey Bay pairs perfectly with French Toast, French Fries, French Dressing!;-)

  • Fran

    The movie was Better off Dead.

  • Emma

    Yay for you! I totally agree with you about Chardonnay. NZ Sauvignon Blancs are my favourite wines. Especially the fresh, fruity ones – like the 2005s are right here, right now!

  • sarah

    sam: please write it up, even if it’s super late! i love reading about your wine tastigs, and im curious which label would have caught your eye…something pink, methinks ;)

    craig: my parents have pretty much given up on me, and lay off quite a bit now that my younger sister has just had their first grandbaby. thank gawd, otherwise, they’d still be trying to introduce me to their friends’ sons.

    mealcentric! hello! so glad you stopped by! just he whole bit about how i ended up doing marketing, which, and i didnt write this above, has almost nothing to do with my career before – Internet Strategy and eCommerce. LOL! okay, so a little, but not really.

    ah, dfmd and fran, i guess you two will have to share a bottle ;)

    l.a.c: don’t you love to toss pearls before me? ;)

    emma: lucky you! you’re FROM new zealand! you should drink the monkey bay too! i bet they’d go GREAT with…thai lamb? ;)

  • Jason Truesdell

    There’s some good Chardonnay out there, but I tend not to be that excited about the California oak-heavy style that owns the market.

    I rarely buy a wine based on label design, but lacking anything else to go on, I’m fairly comfortable buying wines from Wineries I Know… and that means their branding voodoo has done its magic on me.

    I tend to suspect the savvy, hip designs on supermarket wine labels are meant to appeal to people who want wine to be part fashion accessory, rather than actually taste good… but then again, I feel quite strongly that good design and good presentation can influence taste perceptions.

    Japanese food served on big white French porcelain plates never tastes quite right, for example…

  • tami

    Umm..”better off dead”? john cusack rocks the catbox.

    So yah. I bought a bottle of Monkey Bay on a review that said it was the best SB (my fave white varietal) under $10. To get a good one with some herby, tinny citrus flavor under $10 is hard to come by. It was quite good as a sipping wine and would be good with something spicy/Asian.

    nice to see your blog :)

  • sarah

    hi jason! why do you suppose people love that stuff that tastes like termite food? i could never figure that one out…

    tami: you too get to share in the monkey bay! yes, i am in lust with john cusack – ever since….oh i dont know a long ass time ago. although, i just watched high fidelity and didn’t love him in it. nor in must love dogs. what has happened to him?!

  • LACheesemonger

    Here you go, my suggestions for the ‘next’ new wine to try. Melon de Bourgogne (aka Muscadet) as explained in my last comment here:

    For Butterflies and Grasshoppers – The Social, Milwaukee

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