In July of 2012 a wonderful thing happened to me. I found my special place. I have had so many jobs in Richmond since arriving in 2010. I was laid off TWICE in 18 months, as is well documented here on this blog. I felt kicked around, inadequate, embarrassed, and unskilled more than once. Then, the last week of June, I’d heard through the grapevine ( that will be funny in a moment) that a long running wine shop (see, I told you) was looking for ….a cheese monger. The delight in my heart as I envisioned myself hanging out with cheese and cheese devotees, well, let me borrow a sentiment from 50Cent; I was like a fat kid who loves cake getting a job as a cake taste tester. I was hired at the interview! Oh shit! I was so nervous! I knew I could eat cheese (thank you Fairway, and Murray’s and East Vil. Cheese shop respectively) but did I have the steez to sell it? The “cheese girls” before me left very deep and intimidating shoes to fill. The first few weeks I could see the look of surprise and suspicion in the eyes of the regular customers. Children, especially were mistrustful of me. I decided that I would use self confidence and true love, (that is, my true love of all things fatty and milky) to guide me and ask lots of questions when that did not work.
I may be wrong about this, blinded by bliss, but I believe I was good at it. I gushed when I knew what I was talking about and learned along with people when I did not. I went to work excited about what I would learn. HELLO! THIS NEVER HAPPENS. I devoured both literally and figuratively everything about cheese (and wine) at all hours. I was ignited. I am still.
Something else wonderfulamazingspectacular happened though, aside from me getting the job and falling face first in love with it. I met an incredibly feisty, strong, hilarious and generous woman, a woman (I’m not gonna lie) I had been frightened and skeptical of previously. I know a lot of really powerful ferocious ladies and this one lady was NOT TO BE RECKONED with. I knew our bond was cemented when on what was my 4th or 5th shift, I practically collapsed and went numb (from ahem, dehydration) and she rushed me to the ER, stayed with me and never judged me after she learned I had over indulged at a wedding the night before. You should have seen her reaction when the attending Doctor clearly had no idea what was happening and gave me a Valium instead of pumping me with fluids. It was in the weeks that followed though, that I truly got to see just what kind of person this woman was.
Irreverent, sure! Wild? Indeed! But so true and loyal and tireless. I watched her give everything she had to run both the wine shop and her other business the wine bar next door, and then give more. I saw the love her customers and staff had for her as well as the respect and admiration. I witnessed a woman who really wanted to sell incredible product at reasonable prices because she loved delicious food & wine and wanted you to be able to as well. She will no doubt kill me for this, but I saw tears well up in her eyes when describing the commitment of a wine making family in Italy she had visited (as she did with many of the producer/grower wines she carried). Julia Battaglini’s dedication to her staff, to River City Cellars, to Secco and her customers, is truly inspiring. It has made me want to be better and work harder, learn more and above all drink WAY BETTER WINE than I had been previously. She announced today that after 14 years, River City Cellars will be closing this week. I’m just a newcomer, and I know that this news will likely be very difficult to those of you who have been devotees for many years- and I apologize for such a heavy handed paean from someone who has barely been involved, but this is how I feel. As sad as I am to lose the one job I have had in years, or perhaps ever, where I felt lucky and thrilled to be there, excited to come to work with such an educated and awesome staff (Peter Neff and David Garrett- Wine and Beer wizards who were Julia’s right and left hands) I am so very excited to witness the next level stuff she has in the works. I know of no one who can do it better.