Knock It Off

Wine and Sunset

As a trademark attorney[1], one of my primary job functions is to tell my clients whether their trademark is confusingly similar to other marks in the marketplace for their particular goods and services. For example, if they’re trying to break out with a new brand of dark, sugary cola and they want to name it Poke, or Sepsi, then I’m gonna tell them they need to start the creative process again[2]. If they’re looking to call it Wowza, however, then they may be good to go[3].

When I came across[4] Replica Wines, I found it ironic that the wine brand’s foundation is based on duplication. At first it seemed antithetical to my trademark lawyer background, but once I read more, I found I liked it. There is, after all, no prohibition against reverse engineering, and that it precisely what Replica does. They take an exceptional wine and recreate the flavor profile. And when a high quality product is sold for a good price, everybody wins.

Replica Wine
(c) Replica Wine

I decided to do some blind taste testing to determine if I could figure out which wine was the “knockoff” and which was the “real thing”[5]. I took a bottle of $35+ Chardonnay[6] and my bottle of Knockoff, which retails for less than $12 throughout the country, and put them to the test. Robing each bottle in my fancy shmancy wine tasting party bags, Husband and I took sips of each to see what we thought.

Blind Wine Tasting
Oh, you fancy, huh?!

To be honest, I really couldn’t tell which was the knockoff because they were both excellent wines. I figured I’d be able to taste something “cheap” with the Replica bottle, but to the contrary, I actually preferred the taste of it to the Big Money Chard.

Bottle One was the color of pale straw; it didn’t have much of a nose, but it had a great silky full mouthfeel[7]. Really a luxurious coating of the mouth. Some green apple on the slightly tart finish and a hint of pineapple as well. Nothing oaky about this Chardonnay; with it’s touch of acidity, I could see it pairing extremely well with some scallops or oysters.

Bottle Two was more of a bright golden hue. It had quite a big nose, more pineapple with a touch more sweetness, almost like a jolly rancher. Sweeter than the first, this had a much longer finish and it was extremely well balanced; full of flavor from start to finish. Unlike your typical Chard, I didn’t get any oak on this one either. This one would be excellent with a light cheese pasta or some simple crudité. A really lovely wine.

Like I said, both wines were excellent, I simply got more enjoyment out of Bottle Two, which turned out to be Replica’s Knockoff. I’d never have known it was a $12 bottle! Definitely a keeper.

Wine and Sunset
Wine and Sunset #ForTheWin

Blind tasting is fun, and it’s even better when all the wines you try are delicious! Give it a try at your next cocktail party and let me know how it goes!

Until the next glass, cheers!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] Yes, I do still moonlight as a lawyer. #lawyerlife
[2] Because, hello, those are confusingly similar to Coke® and Pepsi®.
[3] Note: A trademark search for WOWZA in association for cola beverages has not been conducted. This blog post does not constitute legal advice.

Processed with Snapseed.
Processed with Snapseed.

[4] Full Disclosure: I received two bottles of wine from Replica Wine. The opinions contained herein are my own. This blog is not a paid or sponsored post.
[5] I’m using quotations because I appreciate the fact that a great deal of effort went in to the creation of both bottles; it’s not like it was fake wine!
[6] We’ll call this one “Big Money Chard.”
[7] It probably could have benefited from some time to open up, but ain’t nobody got time for dat!

Better Beckons

file-sep-12-5-48-53-pm

Warning: Sappy Post.

Sorry to get deep and emotional, but since I’ve been invited[1] to be part of Beringer’s Better Beckons contest, it made me remember what I’m doing and why, and it put a smile on my face. So I hope it does the same for you!

Better Beckons.

As I pondered this concept, I started thinking about why I started this blog, why I drink wine[2], why I get up in the morning[3]. It’s really because something better is beckoning. Every day can be a great day, if you choose to be happy in the moment[4]. You may not be in the perfect place, but if you think about the place you want to be in, and do something every day, even if it’s a small something, to put you a little bit closer to that place, it’s a day well spent. It’s important to remember that life really is a journey and not a destination, and if you don’t have fun along the way, you’re losing out. Being the best you can be and being happy with who you are is that’s all that matters.

Beringer Wine
Isn’t this what life is all about? #BetterBeckons

While you’re thinking about your life and what your plan is, grab a bottle of Beringer and bring it somewhere beautiful, fun and inspiring. Pop the cork, pour a glass and reflect on your surroundings[5]. Post a photo on Instagram, hashtag it with #BeringerUS and #Contest, and you could be the lucky winner of a trip to Napa Valley[6]. Photos must be posted by September 30, so get poppin’!

I took my bottle of Beringer to Gillette’s Castle in East Haddam, Connecticut. The home is an epic masterpiece built by William Gillette, a writer, playwright and actor, famous for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes on the American Stage. Construction began on the medieval-esq castle in 1914. Twenty men, five years and $1.1 million later, it was completed in 1919. Built entirely from Gillette’s own design plans, it includes secret locks, hidden mirrors, perhaps the first sprinkler system, and at one time, its own steam-powered railroad.  Sitting atop one of Connecticut’s Seven Sisters Hills, its breathtaking views of the Connecticut River are sweeping and commanding.

Beringer at Gillette's Castle
Beringer at Gillette’s Castle

Dying with no wife and no heirs, in his will Gillette warned against his home and possessions ending up in the hands of “some blithering saphead who had no conception of where he is or with what surrounded.” Ironically, The State of Connecticut purchased the land and turned the property into a state park[7].

Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon
Overlooking the Connecticut River

The wine I brought with me was the 2013 Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Knights Valley. In a word, it was luxurious. A big nose with a beautiful bouquet of blackberries and raspberries. Stunningly rich and silky smooth with beautiful, soft tannins that left you wanting more. Lots of ripe fruit that finished with almost a hint of chocolate. At $35 a bottle, it’s an excellent dinner party splurge. You and your friends will enjoy this big bold wine with your fruit and cheese platter, a hearty pasta, or even a nice filet mignon[8].

Beringer Wine
#BetterBeckons

Can’t wait to show you where I brought the 2014 Beringer Luminus Chardonnay Oak Knoll. Until the next glass!

Cheers!

#BetterBeckons
#BetterBeckons

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] My Instagram posts and Tweets were sponsored by Mirum Shopper. They also provided me with the wine and glasses. All thoughts, reviews and content contained herein are my own.
[2] So many reasons!
[3] Because the alarm goes off and it’s hard to sleep through.
[4] A nice bottle of wine helps too. And people you like. And good food. Did I mention wine?
[5] I’m not advocating bringing wine to places with a no alcohol policy…So if you get caught, don’t blame it on me. #StateParks
[6] Details and contest rules available here. Must be 21+ to enter.
[7] Where I’m sure alcohol is not allowed.
[8] Let me know what time dinner starts and I’ll be there. Maybe I’ll even bring a bottle of wine.

A Generous Pour

Generous Pour Wine

Wine tastings are fun. Wine tastings are even funner when there’s food involved too. Wine tastings are the funnest when instead of a “taste” you get full glasses of wine. And that’s pretty much what happens at The Capital Grille’s Generous Pour.

Generous Pour Wine

This yearly wine event runs for eight weeks starting in July and sadly comes to an end today[1].  “Rebels, Rule Breakers & Game Changers” was the theme this year, and the featured wines each had a unique story to tell. For $28 per person, it’s an excellent way to experience seven different wines.

#HartfordHasIt
#HartfordHasIt

Husband and I participated in the event earlier this week at their downtown Hartford[2] location[3]. Our server Nicole was extremely knowledgeable about the wines, and when she explained the tasting as more of a “Bottomless Wine Glass,” I knew we were in for a fun ride.

In typical wine tasting form, we began with the whites which we paired with a selection of white-appropriate appetizers.[4] We started with a tomato, basil and fresh hand-pulled[5] mozzarella salad, generously drizzled with their 12-year aged Balsamic Vinegar. You could tell the mozz was fresh; dripping with flavor, enhanced by a smattering of Fleur de sel[6] on top. I took a bite with each of the three whites and found that the super oaky Chardonnay was the best accompaniment. This was a single vineyard Chardonnay by California’s Chateau St. Jean; they were one of the first, if not the first, vineyard to make a single vineyard Chard, and it’s been in production from their Robert Young Vineyard since 1975[7].

Caprese Salad
Someone should make this for me every day. #fitfam

Next we moved to a few tastes from the sea. Husband’s rich Lobster Bisque, which was finished with a tableside drizzle of warm sherry,[8] paired exceptionally well with the Stellina Di Notte[9] Pinot Grigio. A light, bright, citrusy wine, with not even the slightest metallic twinge, which has put me off of Pinot Grigios I’ve had in the past. The delicate wine cut the lavish bisque and complemented its intense flavors[10].

My lobster and crab cakes met their match with the Provenance Sauvignon Blanc. Let me first say that these were the moistest, richest seafood cakes I’ve had to date. Usually they’re dense, compact, and sometimes overly crisp[11]. These were practically falling apart with thick, fresh pieces of crab and lobster abounding. And the decadent remoulade on the side was low calorie excellent as well.

Wine and Dine
When they give you a triton to eat your crab cakes …

As for the Provenance Sauvignon Blanc to go with them, well, wow. When one thinks Sauvignon Blanc, one doesn’t think Rutherford, California[12]. Famed for its exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon, this area apparently produces astounding Sauvignon Blanc grapes as well. This was by far my favorite of the whites, and given that it was a Bottomless Wine Glass kinda night, I may have had a few glasses tastes. A beautiful bouquet on the nose with a touch of honey; hints of melon on the finish, great body. A real winner. It complemented the rich flavors of the juicy cakes and served as an excellent palate cleanser.

While sampling the appetizers, we snuck in the Etude Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir used to be my go-to wine, but I’ve really moved away from it lately. This was a reminder of why I love the grape so much. Smooth, silky and delicate. It was a great sipper on its own and served as a perfect segue from the whites to the more intense reds we were about to jump into.

Generous Pour Wine

The amuse-bouches[13] is always one of my favorite parts of fine dining. You never know what’s going to pop out in between courses. Typically it’s a tiny flavorful appetizer to get you salivating and whet your appetite. Apparently the Chef at Capital Grille was feeling good that night because the bone-in lamb medallions were anything but bite sized,[14] and seriously jam packed with flavor[15]. Paired with Penfold’s Bin 2 Shiraz and Mourvedre blend, it was utterly outstanding. Cooked to perfection, the lamb was succulent and juicy. The wine was inky, spicy, deep and rich. The bold flavors went together like peas and carrots.

Penfolds Shiraz Wine

By now, as you may have noticed, we’d eaten quite a bit of food. The worst part about multi-course meals is forgetting to save room for the main course. Which is exactly what happened to us[16]. If you didn’t know, Capital Grille is first and foremost a steakhouse. Every piece of beef is dry aged in-house for at least 18 days and hand cut to order. They are serious about their beef. [17]

Husband went with the special that evening, Steak Oscar, a filet mignon, extra special because it was bone-in, topped with luscious pieces of crab meat. I went for the Gorgonzola and Truffle Crusted Dry Aged NY Strip[18]. Both meals were impeccably prepared with warm red centers that cut like butter. The ginormous portions of potatoes au gratin and bacon-topped Brussels[19] sprouts were rich and flavorful, and though we ate as much as we could, it looked like we barely made a dent[20].

Steak Oscar
Photo Cred: Husband (C) 2016

Now, when you have beef, you need red wine,[21] and when you have really good beef, you need really good red wine. Let me tell you, the last two Generous Pour wine selections did not disappoint. Wow wow wow. From famed California Cabernet Sauvignon producers, we tasted juice from Stags Leap and Beaulieu Vineyard. Holy cow. The epitome of the fruit bomb,[22] both wines were big, bold, beautiful and luscious. Total food wines, these were perfect complements to the insanely rich steaks.

Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon Wine

The Leap by Stags Leap, which is usually available solely at their Napa Valley tasting room,[23] was flawless. Lots of jam, maybe some raspberries, with an earthier finish and notes of toasted wood. Gorgeous. The Tapestry by Beaulieu Vineyard was a more traditional Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. Big chewy tannins on this one, a touch drier than the Stags Leap. It’s literally impossible to choose a favorite because both were excellent examples of what wine is meant to be[24].

Beaulieu Vineyards Tapestry Red Wine

We continued sampling the last two Cabs for a bit, just to make sure we could discern the differences and truly appreciate them[25]. To spice things up we had quick espresso pick-me-up before dessert[26]. To satisfy my sweet tooth, I went with their simple homemade vanilla ice cream which was served with an intensely moist and delicious orange biscotti. I paired it with a bit of bubbly, a split of Moet Imperial Brut[27], while Husband went with an Onyx Moonshine on the rocks. We relocated to the outdoor patio and finished up al fresco[28].

City Scape and Champagne
A little bubbly to end the evening

An incredible meal, with impeccable service. If you’re near a Capital Grille, make sure you check out their Generous Pour wine tasting, and everything else they have!

Capital Grille
Thank you David and Nicole!

Thank you to the Capital Grille for hosting us! xoxo

Until the next glass!

Generous Pour Capital Grille
Gratuitous Snapseed Edit #ForTheWin

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] Today being September 4, 2016.
[2] Because after all, #HartfordHasIt.
[3] A portion of our meal was generously covered by Capital Grille. Thoughts, opinions and tasting notes are my own.
[4] Starting with the incredible bread basket with a hearty serving of soft butter topped with sea salt. Not sure where all the butter went, but it disappeared pretty quickly. #NoBreadWeekdays are suspended when Wine Esquire gets invited to dinner. Or when I can’t find anything else to eat. It’s kind of more like a goal instead of a strict rule. #RulesAreForBreaking
[5] They literally hand pull mozzarella every two hours. #Normal.
[6] That’s code for high end sea salt, harvested as it begins to form a fine crust on the surface of seawater.
[7] It retails for around $20 a bottle, not too bad for an excellent Chardonnay.
[8] Which he described as MagnificenT, with a capital T. At the end.
[9] Which roughly translates to Starry Night.

Pinot Grigio
[10] Not that I had more than a bite of this; Husband spooned up every last drop.
[11] Read: Fried. Not that those aren’t good too, but these were ridiculously good.
[12] At least I didn’t.
[13] Fancy word for tiny appetizer.
[14] All we needed was a pair of sterling silver lamb chop sleeves, also known as manche a gigot, like we had on New Year’s Eve.

manche a gigot
Our New Year’s Eve Feast

[15] Something about their Kona coffee rub…just incredible.

Lamb Medallion amuse-bouches
[16] Don’t worry. I always save room for dessert. And more wine.
[17] They are also serious about their service, and their attention to detail is outstanding. We had a table overlooking the kitchen and could see what was going on behind the scenes; the manager inspected each and every dish before it came out to be served. This level of service is a rarity, and it makes all the difference.
[18] Nice and light, right?
[19] Word really wanted to capitalize Brussel here. I was confused so I Googled it. Apparently this type of cabbage is named after the location where it was first cultivated, somewhere near Brussels, Belgium, so the “B” IS supposed to be capitalized, AND the correct way of saying and spelling it is Brussels sprouts (with an s). Who knew!?
[20] Hello, leftovers!

Wine and Dine
All the food…

[21] It’s a requirement. Legally speaking.
[22] My wine sweet spot. #fruitbomb
[23] A partnership for the Generous Pour allowed us to sample this exquisite blend of their best Cabernets in the comfort of Downtown Hartford.
[24] Big, Bold and Fruity.
[25] #BottomlessGlassesForTheWin
[26] I know, I know, how could I eat dessert? But, see note 16, supra. I always have room for dessert. #priorities
[27] Because one always needs a bit of bubbles.
[28] We closed the place down. Our meal, which had started at 6:30, ended around 11. #SlowFood

Wine Corks

Goats, Groves & Grapes #WBC16

File Aug 28, 5 47 59 PM

I love going on adventures. Earlier this month I flew out to Lodi for the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference[1] and it was quite the adventure. Part of the conference agenda was a mystery excursion where attendees picked their destination based purely on the name. The choices included Watts Up, The Wine Abides, Three Ring Circus, The Rack Pack, 99 Bottles of Wine, The Porron Zone, Dutch Crush, Blends with Friends, and my snap pick, Goats, Groves & Grapes[2].

Wine Instagram

While everyone seemed to have a grand old time on their excursions, I can’t help but think that mine was very special[3]. A group of about ten bloggers packed into a van and I was happy to see that Jeff, one of my best good Twitter friends, who I’d yet to meet in person, was in my group.

It took us about ten minutes to get to our first destination, Jessie’s Grove Winery. We were greeted by Wanda Bechtold[4] and her son Greg Burns, fourth and fifth generation owners and caretakers of the winery. They welcomed us into their tasting room with a glass of Chardonnay and quickly brought us through to an outdoor space where we gathered around Wanda and settled in for a tale of the history of Jessie’s Grove.

Jessie's Grove Winery
Bloggers and cats are like peas and carrots

This 85 year old matriarch was a beautiful sight to behold. She’d published a book in 2004[5] about the history of her family’s estate and she used it to tell us the tale of her great grandfather, Joseph Spenker, who immigrated to the United States from Dragun, Germany in 1854. His journey to Lodi started when he joined a wagon train to the West Coast in 1859, hoping to capitalize on the Gold Rush and find his fortune. At a rate of about two miles per hour, the journey took him 154 days. He’d made a poor decision when he traded his only horse for a mining claim that turned out to be barren; so and after several months when nothing had panned out,[6] with $1.27 in his pocket he walked to Stockton, California. He began selling mining tools to the miners who hadn’t yet lost hope, and in ten years, after saving and scraping, he found himself the proud owner of more than 1,500 acres, including the land I found myself sitting on that day.

Jessie's Grove Winery
Jessie Spenker, the namesake of Jessie’s Grove

Joseph’s daughter Jessie, who the winery is named for, took over management and had to make some tough decisions during the Great Depression and Prohibition. Jessie’s perseverance is what kept them going. As the roosters crowed and the cat meowed from under the table in front of us, I realized what a special moment this was, and how much history was surrounding me. The resulting success of Jessie’s Grove is a testament to the hard work and forethought from each generation of the Spenker family who sacrificed to keep the operation going.

When Wanda’s tale was over, we took a tour of the surrounding property[7]; a gorgeous sprawling space with a rustic old barn, a live music venue, an open air museum, and last but not least, Tortie, Wanda’s pet tortoise.

Tortie the Tortoise
Careful, he likes fingers!
Winery Barn
Winery wedding anyone?

Greg, Wanda’s son and current owner, walked us through the vines, which were almost ready to start harvesting. Some vines had been planted as far back as the late 1800s, making them some of Lodi’s oldest.

Grapes on the Vine
Grapes on the Vine
Bloggers in the Winery
Getting the perfect shot #bloggersgonnablog

Just as we were grabbing the perfect photo of the sunlight on the grapes, our van appeared and it was time to travel to our next stop, their “cousin” property, Spenker Winery[8]. Just a few minutes down the road, another branch of the Spenker family also grows grapes, but on a bit of a smaller scale. This Spenker bunch has been growing grapes for more than 100 years. Fritz Spenker bought the farm from his relative, Joseph Spenker, Jessie’s father. It’s not clear how they’re related exactly, so the families continue to refer to each other as cousins. Fritz’s grandson Chuck began making wine with his wife Bettyann in 1994, and by 1997 they’d earned a 90 rating from Wine Spectator. In addition to their two daughters, Kate and Sarah, the Spenker’s have brought on lots of goats to help with farm tasks, and now Bettyann makes fabulous, fresh goat cheese. The plan is to have the Spenker Artisan Creamery open in 2017[9].

Goats
Soooooo excited!

We were introduced to the goats and even got to feed them. They were just as excited as we were! When it was time for them to go to bed, we headed into the tasting room for dinner. Our meal of homemade stuffed peppers with a healthy side of fresh grown tomatoes and homemade goat cheese was stunning. The cheesecake finish was topped with an exquisite zinfandel reduction. It was exactly what we needed after our strenuous[10] day of wine tasting.

Winery Vines
Twilight in the Vines

We walked out feeling sated and truly moved by the hospitality we’d been shown. The Jessie’s Grove and Spenker families welcomed us with open arms. And then, as if they night couldn’t get any better, we walked out to a stunning sunset surrounding the vineyard. An epic end to an epic day.

Spenker Winery
#sunsetforthewin

Cheers!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] #WBC16
[2] Because who doesn’t love goats? But seriously, I was also hoping for some chèvre…
[3] Read: the BEST one.
[4] Wanda and Greg are the owners of neighboring Bechthold Vineyards as well. Famous for their Cinsault grapes, it was named California’s best vineyard in 2014, and is also Lodi’s oldest at 128 years old.

Jessie's Grove Winery
Greg & Wanda at Jessie’s Grove

[5] It’s out of print and now virtually impossible to get. Keep your eyes peeled at tag sales and church book sales for me!
[6] See what I did there? #playonwords #panningforgold
[7] With a few more glasses of wine. Obviously.Wine Glass
[8] I figured the goats had to be there since we’d only seen a tortoise at Jessie’s Grove. I was right.
[9] I’ll be back.
[10] No but seriously, it’s hard work! I swear!