A Spoonful of Sherry

So there I was, 6:15 p.m. on the night of this month’s #Under25Challenge. I still hadn’t left the office, I had no bottle of wine, and even more distressing, I had nothing to eat for dinner[1]. Shite. I packed my bag, grabbed my keys, ran out the door and headed to Price Chopper[2]. I ladled myself some split pea and ham soup,[3] then made my way over to the hole-in-the-wall liquor store across the street.[4] I wasn’t sure what I was gonna get, but I figured they had to have SOMETHING drinkable. I was in a pinch, and beggars can’t be choosers.

I walked in to the store and found the lone employee perusing the Beverage Journal at the front counter. As it turns out, Marvin owned the store. I told him about the Twitter challenge and how I’d like for him to make a recommendation of his best bottle $25 or under, and he chuckled to himself. I could tell that this was the kinda guy in the kinda store that just didn’t do Twitter. He asked whether I wanted to give him any direction and I said I was open to anything, although I was leaning toward having a red. He took me over to the wine section, plunked a bottle down on a wine box, and then disappeared. I didn’t know if that was it or if he was going to get something else. I decided to wait around.

The #Under25Challenge Selections
The #Under25Challenge Selections

Four minutes later he came back with two more bottles, then he wandered to another section to get a fourth. I really wasn’t expecting this kind of variety, or thoughtfulness, from my hole-in-the-wall package store down the street. My choices ranged from $13.99 to $19.99; he offered an interesting Australian blend featuring Petite Verdot, which he told me was rare for a Rhone style wine, a 100% Mencia from Spain that he said would knock my socks off, a Rioja that may need a bit of decanting[5], and a delicious black cherry fruit bomb from Napa. I told him I was rather partial to fruit bombs from Napa, but that I wanted to go out of my comfort zone that evening. I was leaning toward the Australian or the Mencia.

Then I casually mentioned what I was having for dinner; split pea and ham soup. “Aha!,” he exclaimed, “well then I know just the thing, but this is gonna be weird.” I waited with bated breath while he disappeared again. He came back with a bottle of what looked kind of like Boone’s Farm. It was a $10.99 bottle of Hartley & Gibson’s Fino Sherry. He explained that Sherry was the secret ingredient to make any soup outstanding; clam chowder, chicken noodle, beef and vegetable, you name it, Sherry would make it shine. I said, “Really? I’d never heard that before!”

Fino Sherry

Marvin told me that the Sherry would do three things to my soup: 1. it would add its own unique flavor; 2. it would meld all the flavors of the soup together; and 3. it would remove any excess saltiness. I thought it sounded great, and I figured that since my store-bought soup couldn’t possible get any worse, I might as well give it a try[6]. So I went with the Sherry… and the Australian blend, just to be safe. Both bottles came to $26.16, almost cheap enough to meet the #Under25Challenge parameters.

But all that chatting with Marvin about wine and Sherry had seriously cut down my lead time for the challenge. I didn’t have much time to prep for the chat, and clearly, my main priority was the soup[7].

First I tasted the soup sans Sherry, to give myself a baseline to compare it too. It was really good, but not amazing. Then I added the magic elixir. Less than a shot, maybe two teaspoons, and mixed it all in. Marvin said you should add it tableside or right before you take it off the heat. I took my first bite and said, “Oh. Em. Gee.” What Marvin said was true! Holy. Moly. This was the best thing I’ve ever done to a soup.[8]

Fino Sherry

The flavor it added was just a hint of oak barrels and a touch of sweet port. It really did bring the flavors together and eliminated the saltiness. It gave it a richness that wasn’t there before, and a whole lot more pizzazz. It was a soup miracle.

Since the #Under25Challenge is all about finding new things for under $25, this bottle fit the bill perfectly. I tried a small taste on its own to get a feel for Sherry, it may have been my first foray. Someone on Twitter said it should have been on the rocks, but I drank it warm and neat, and I can tell you it wasn’t something I’m in a rush to do again. But I can tell you that this soup season is going to be packed with a Sherry punch!

Until the next bowl, Cheers!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] #Priorities.
[2] Because where else would I go for food?
[3] I love that it’s officially soup season.
[4] When I say hole in the wall, I’m really not exaggerating. This is the kinda place where regulars come in for their nips and their forties on a daily basis. #classy
[5] But ain’t nobody got time for that when your twitter chat is about to start in 20 minutes!
[6] To be fair, the hot soups at Price Chopper are seriously awesome.
[7] Because, #hanger.
[8] You know, besides re-heating it.

Writing … Sans Wine … With Mr. Twain

A few months ago I saw an ad on Facebook for Writing in Mark Twain’s Library. My inner book nerd instantly perked up and I immediately told Facebook, yes, I was “Going”. I clicked for more details, thought it was cool, even invited a friend to come with me[1], but never added it to my calendar, and promptly forgot about it[2]. Well, earlier last week, good old Facebook reminded me that I had an event with Mr. Twain coming up. That may have been the first time I was glad to get one of those annoying Facebook notifications[3].

Facebook Notification

Below is a short play-by-play of the beautiful, if not a bit dry[4], evening.

Mark Twain House
Mark Twain’s Entryway

So here I am, for the first time since my high school field trip, circa 2001, in the library of Mark Twain’s house, packed rather tightly into the gorgeous room with fifteen other writers. Let me paint the scene for you. Intricate wood carved built-in bookshelves adorn each wall, each packed with old antique books. Landscape oil paintings hang in gold gilded frames above them. The tops of the shelves are packed with ornate vases, seemingly from different eras of history. I’m directly next to a marble white maiden who’s watching over us as we toil away on our laptops[5].

Mark Twain House
The Watchful White Lady

The majestic floor to ceiling fireplace in the center of the room is a wooden homage to finely detailed vines, columns and swirls. In the middle of the fireplace sits a crest, perhaps the Twain family’s own, with the head of a knight on top of the shield[6]. What seems to be the original gas chandelier gives us a measly bit soft glow of light from the center of the room[7]. Eight etched glass bulbs adorn the bronze-looking carved arms that extend from the center. The bulbs discretely cover what I assume are now light-bulbs, though their light does not spread very far.

Mark Twain Chandelier

The walls and ceiling, which must be at least fifteen feet high, are deep hunter green with what may be hand-painted designs in gold; a square pattern on the wall repeated on the ceiling with the addition of circular edging. A nook in the center of the room goes back to three picture windows and the comfy couch I dreamed about sitting in, though it’s roped off and there’s a rather uninviting paper that sign says “Don’t Sit Here”.

Given the conditions, it’s clear I grabbed the best seat in the room, right at the edge where the library expands into Twain’s Victorian greenhouse.

Mark Twain Greenhouse

Tiny white stones make up the greenhouse floor which is covered with greenery; in pots, on stands, growing up the walls and onto the ceiling. The glass roof comes to a point in the center where two out of the three hanging paper lanterns are giving off a soft glow.[8] The last remaining sun rays are furnishing me far more light than any of my literary compatriots[9]. The gurgling fountain in the center provides the soundtrack to our writing adventure[10].

The library itself is hot and muggy. The benefits of air conditioning didn’t come along until long after Mr. Clemens had vacated his Hartford abode. The chairs are much closer together than I expected, and, like I said, I was rather hoping to sit on a comfy old couch, perhaps one that Twain had curled up in with his daughters. From a liability perspective[11], I understand why we’re all sitting on rather uncomfortable folding chairs with individual card tables as our desks. The card table however is just the wrong height, so my laptop is on my lap.

Writers Writing at the Mark Twain House
Writers Writing

I’d reached out to the coordinator ahead of time[12], to see about doing a wine photo shoot in the library as well. She loved the idea, but since she’d need to supervise[13], timing wouldn’t work out for this evening. I plan to venture back in the near future to get some stellar photos.

I’ll be working on a few posts I’ve had stored in my head for as long as I can last. There’s no Wi-Fi[14], it’s getting dark and my computer has a habit of dying. The poor lady next to me is hunched so close to her screen I feel like offering to help her increase the screen resolution.[15]

What an adventure, and what a great idea, so bravo to the events coordinator at the Twain House. It’s refreshing to find that Hartford really does have it. Sometimes.

Until I can find a glass, Cheers!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] Who thought I was crazy when I suggested that we pay $50 to go to someone’s Wi-Fi-less house to write for three hours. With no wine. … I can see her point of view.
[2] Perhaps a glass of wine was beckoning me to shift my attention.
[3] Sorry, Mr. Zuckerberg, but you know it’s true.
[4] No wine allowed.
[5] One pour soul has a pencil and paper (no pens allowed either); her eyes will be all done by the end of the night. See note 7, infra.
[6] It’s so dark I can’t make out any other details from my vantage point.
[7] I may be young but my eyesight ain’t what it used to be and I must say, it is a bit of a hardship.
[8] Not sure what happened to lamp number three but it’s not lookin’ too good.
[9] I just figured out how to adjust my screen brightness and let out an audible “Ahhh.” It was getting really tough with the bright light emanating from my screen.
[10] Unfortunately, no drinks allowed either, even water, and I’m currently dying of thirst.
[11] And legal perspective. #lawyerlife But gosh darn, that’s so boring!
[12] Last night at 10 p.m.
[13] Not sure if she wanted to partake with me or thought I’d spill all over their priceless antiques. Damn liability.

Wine Esquire Snap Chat
Click the photo to add me on Snap Hat!

[14] I obviously got distracted and am doing a bit of Tweeting and Snapping, which led me to make a new writer friend who was also tweeting.
[15] Mine’s already huge. See note 7, infra re: eyesight.

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

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

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


Beringer WineLawyer 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.