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Piggly Wiggly Wild Wine Run

You're probably thinking this is about some new 5K happening in town. Probably connected in some way to Piggly Wiggly. Like this 5K is between a couple of Pig's. Or you'll start and finish at a local Pig. Or it's to support a local food bank. Or you don't care at all and you're just excited about getting another t-shirt for a 5K, this time with a pig on it somewhere.

Well, it's none of those things.

Back in spring of 2012, my wife finally moved in with me to our place in Homewood. She had finished her Masters in Tuscaloosa, so we were officially living together. And since we were now permanently together, we needed things to do outside the house so we wouldn't kill each other. And since we were flying high being newlyweds and thought our money would never run out, we were eating out at nice restaurants quite a bit.

Ocean, Highlands, Gianmarco's, Cafe Dupont, we were eating the high life. But there was one problem, we didn't know a thing about wine.

We both spent college alternating between cheap beer, cheaper beer, and cheap liquor. We occasionally would dip our toes into wine, be it with a half price wine night at a local restaurant or Arbor Mist.

Piggly Wiggly in the Birmingham area was a godsend. They offered free wine tastings at local Pig's on Thursday nights. At our Homewood location they offered a craft beer tasting on Thursdays and wine tastings on Friday nights.

I got off work everyday at 4 and my wife didn't have a job yet, so we had nothing to do on a Thursday afternoon, especially between the hours of 4-7. So I would pick her up from the house and we would head off to the first Pig.

Why the first Pig you say?

Because this isn't called the Wild Wine Run for nothing.

We'd stop at the Pig on Clairmont first (over by Highlands Golf Course). We would then head south to the Crestline Pig. We would finish our wine tastings at the River Run Pig before closing out our early evening at the Homewood Pig and learning about craft beer. I spent a fair amount of time mapping and planning our route and printing off directions since we didn't have smartphones yet.

And the most interesting thing about the entire experience was how each Pig had a different culture and clientele.

The Clairmont Pig seemed to mostly cater to a sweet wine crowd. The person/rep in charge of pouring/distributing the wine was a rotating group of people who would inevitably be selling us on the same wines on Fridays at the Homewood Pig. I think each time we went to a tasting someone was asking for a Moscato.

The Crestline Pig tended to offer a few of the same people each week, with the ever regular Piggly Wiggly Crestline wine buyer/rep to talk to us. The people here were different than those at the Clairmont Pig, mainly because it was old men making slightly sexist/racist remarks each time we visited. Imagine a wine tasting at a nursing home. We were the youngest people by about 40 years. But I think the regular paying customer was someone looking for a white wine they could ultimately (secretly) put an ice cube in.

Our final wine stop was at the Pig at River Run, quite possibly the nicest of the Pig's back in 2012 and always pouring the best wine (occasionally bottles in the $20-40 dollar range). It was here where the wine was finally taken seriously, as all wine should be. We knew the regulars, because we were regulars. There was Fred*, Fred's* daughter, Lonnie*, Jeff*. (Names have been changed to protect those who might be insulted and because I can't remember their names)

These people were serious wine people. They brought their own wine glasses to the wine tasting, whatever fake crystal Piggly Wiggly was using wouldn't cut it. Much wine was discussed with the Pig wine buyer and the rep hawking whatever wine we were trying. The "gang" would often talk over, around, and through the hosts, ignoring any and all comments so they could discuss the wine on their own terms. Fred once whipped out his own aerator (he just happened to be carrying it with him) because he didn't like the one the rep was using.

As awful as all of this sounds, they really were nice people. They were incredibly polite to us, talking about the finer points of wine and showing us the utmost respect even though we didn't know a thing about wine. They would try to sell us on bottles they loved. Jeff lamented about a few bottles of Silver Oak he had taken to his family Thanksgiving. No one appreciated it.

Fred and Jeff once had a brief but very serious discussion about the best wine out under $15. It was the McManis. As if McManis only made a single wine and we should know which one it was (it was the Petite Sirah). We bought a bottle to appease our wine overlords. Lonnie would occasionally chime in, but it was Fred's show. It was always Fred's.

When we moved to Atlanta and had one final PWWWR, they were the saddest to see us go. We were the young kids who didn't know a thing about wine, but were trying real hard. We laughed at jokes we didn't get. And smiled as they talked about some wine we couldn't afford, especially when you could get a case of cheap beer for that price. We always missed them and wondered how they carried on without us.

After River Run, it was back to the Homewood Pig where we would add to our learning of highfalutin alcohol with the introduction of craft beer. It was here where we met out alcohol guru, Heather Blisard. She was easily the most influential of all the Pig employees we met. We learned a ton about craft beer. We had out first dark beer there, our first sour, our first IPA... We tried it all there and talked about it with everyone. It was the most open and welcoming of all the groups we drank with.

Heather did a great job of bringing in different reps and different beers. Some beers more challenging than others. She created the Piggly Wiggly Craftly Beerly motto. She is craft beer at the Pig. In another post I'll talk to her about craft beer in Bham, but this post was about those Thursday afternoons in the summer of 2012.

We had a great time meeting people and trying wine. The Pig gave us an opportunity to try many wines and learn so much about flavor, smell, and terroir. We didn't learn a damn thing about wine though. We learned we love craft beer.

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