Drinking Well, Despite Your Locale.

SuperPhoto_21I’m in the Fine Wine business and I’m Irish, so obviously I drink. Now that I’m officially married to someone in the Army, I can’t just run away whenever he moves to someplace rural (though I try). I’m contractually obligated to live in the middle of nowhere; ’til death do us part. And so I don’t kill anyone, I spend a lot of time searching for ways to maintain my lavish, lush lifestyle.

Providing wines to clients in 43 different states has always been something I’ve enjoyed doing, but honestly, I never really understood what kind of service I was providing until recently. Now at Ft. Rucker, AL, I see why I have so many clients in the small towns of Midwestern and Southern states: they need me. When you live somewhere that is nostalgic for the days of the cotton gin, civil war or prohibition, you have to think outside the boxed wine. The following are tips on how to drink well, despite your locale…

My work desk, literally.1.  Get a Wine Consultant (cough).

2.  Start your own Bootlegging Business. For tips on how to smuggle, watch Boardwalk Empire on HBO. For tips on brewing your own, watch Moonshiners.

3.  Leave.

4.  If the local libations don’t meet your standards, then lower them.

5.  Stop drinking.

6.  If none of numbers 2 through 5 appeal to you, reconsider number 1.

But seriously, Folks, when your choices are limited, you have to make the best of it without stooping to Wal-Mart’s level. When in a more rural environment, you really have to invest in your own personal space and knowledge:

1.  IMG_20131004_092030_682_edit0Be your own bartender. Buy a craft cocktail book, follow CocktailTube or make it up as you go. You are more likely to drink well at home for the same price that you would drink from the “well” at the local bar ….or even the high-end stuff if you live where I live…

IMG_20131004_091545_456_edit02.  Make your home the hottest place in town. Even if your wine cellar is in the closet  and you have to give up the dining area to accommodate a bar (this is literally my home right now,) make sure to be stocked with the ingredients for a good time.

3.  If you are also in a Military town, on base may be your best option. Case in point, the only place you can buy beer on tap or alcohol on Sundays here is on base. It’s not ideal but you know what they say: desperate times…

4.  Entertain. In areas like Enterprise, AL, a night on the town is more disappointing than the wine list at McDonald’s. Find a small group of friends, make a nice meal from scratch, add some great wine and cocktails and let it run its course. You don’t have to stay out until 2 am with a bunch of honkies, hipsters or high-and-tights.

5.  IMG_20131004_091109_360_edit0Find others like you. Advertise, use Meetup.com to create a group or club. …So far I am the only member of my group, but in my defense, I’ve been traveling on business. But this weekend, these flyers are going up! Stay tuned for my progress…

6.  Outsmart Blue Laws by stocking your bar at the beginning of the week and ordering your wines on Fridays to be there the following week. This way you can have Sunday Fun-day with brunch, football and friends no matter what sort of Puritan Institution governs your town.

Have your own way of coping with blue laws, dry counties or cow towns? I’d love to hear from you!

Blog No. 3: Burgers and Booze

IMG_20130808_201122_585_edit0There are two things I love (besides my husband): 1. Booze. And 2. Food that I don’t have to cook myself, which is ultimately why I got married (he does laundry, too; it’s awesome!)

One positive thing about Fayetteville, NC is that it carries a beer with which I am currently obsessed. I first discovered it in a Thomas Kinkaid-looking town called “Southern Pines” just an hour away. We were having lunch at this surprisingly wonderful gastropub called “The Sly Fox.” Owned and designed by a legit Brit and Chef, Mark Elliot. The food is delicious, (even rivaling some of my favorite gastropubs in San Diego) and the beer list is immense. There are nice wines and liquors, too but let’s face it; beer is and should be the highlight of any place with the word “pub” in its title.

The beer I discovered here is called “Dragon’s Milk Bourbon Barrel Stout” by New Holland. It’s an American Double/Imperial Stout with 10% ABV. Admittedly, I was originally drawn to this beer by the high alcohol level. I hate to be a giant girl (although I am a giant girl; see photo with Grandma below…) but beer makes me full really fast, so I tend to go for beers that are more efficient and will get the job down without having to drink too many. For the same reason, I was also happy to find that Dragon’s Milk is more syrupy than carbonated. It has a small, tan, foamy head and is opaquely black. To me, it tastes like chocolate syrup with notes of coffee and cedar as it warms up. But with the first chill, there are more hopsy and slightly sour notes (in a pleasant way.) I’ve read reviews and some pros may find it to be overdone but I find it to be luxurious. Plus, it paired beautifully with the grass-fed beef burger I had at the Sly Fox and I wanted my husband to replicate the experience for me last night.

I was overruled on the grass-fed beef, however; when you are moving in seven IMG_20130808_200753_909_edit0days, you have to clean out the fridge. So I had to settle for the Wal-Mart ground beef nearing freezer burn. But Kellan (Husband) did a great job seasoning the patties and I sauteed up some mushrooms and onions. He topped the patties with aged cheddar, bacon, the mushrooms and onions and served it up with a side of sweet potato fries (courtesy of Ore-Ida). He plated it beautifully and I was inspired. What else would pair well with this Instagram-worthy burger? So out came the wine and the bourbon, too.

I had already purchased the Dragon’s Milk at the local shop “Grapes and Hops,” a store with a great beer selection and a not-so-great, overpriced wine selection. The Dragon’s Milk is expensive at $16.99 for a four pack, but after just two of them, you’re done for the day anyway.

The wine we chose we call our “wedding wine” but its true name is “Harp Tree.” It is a 103 case production of a 2010 North Coast Cabernet that a great winemaker, Monty Pulsen, made specially for our company and that the owners, Brendan and Chrissy (love them!) had a few cases privately labeled for us as a wedding gift. The wine was perfect with the burgers. It has just enough tannin to cut through the chewy proteins of the beef but is approachable enough to sip on its own. We’ve loved this Cab for Summertime Red wine drinking for this reason. The mouthfeel is almost silky with just the right amount of red currants and a hint of spice from the 10% Syrah that Monty used.

Me with my bourbon-drinkin' Grandma, Loretta. No, my head is not actually hitting the door frame. And no, I will not be as hot as her when I get older.

Me with my bourbon-drinkin’ Grandma, Loretta. No, my head is not actually hitting the door frame. And no, I will not be as hot as her when I get older.

The bourbon I chose is a bourbon to which my Kentucky Bell grandmother, Loretta, introduced me and is one of the few bourbons I will purchase for myself. I hate to be a snob, but I am. To me, a low-end bourbon is more painful than cheap tequila.  With all the new American Oak and/or Maple wood filtering typically used in bourbons and Tennessee whiskey, the style can be almost sweet with coconut and abrasive tannins. Not my style. But this bourbon, “Maker’s Mark 46,” spends 46 days on French Oak staves (wood chips). I love it. The French Oak mitigates the tannic bite and adds some lovely Carmel notes to the finish. And the burgers highlighted the smokiness of the bourbon. Delightful.

The meal was delicious and it was a great Thursday night. We basically stuffed our faces, caught a buzz and fell asleep watching “Shark Week.” If you are pitying us right now, stop it. I have a full bar at home, a man that can cook, a 60 inch TV and my best friend. With all that and no one having to play Designated Driver, why go out? Duh.

Blog No.2: Belated Post due to Working Hard and Playing Hard

boat partyWell my plan was to half-ass my second blog post and just make a picture diary of my 10 days back in San Diego, but my technological “learning disability” hindered this and I self-sabotaged. I know! I will take tons of photos and download that Instagram thingy to make them pretty for my blog! I am so smart, S-M-R-T…

So Instagram turned out to be an entirely new social network; who knew? Everyone. I first found out because my mother “hearted” every single one of my photos and I couldn’t figure out how she saw them. You know you’re behind the times when your mother is “with it” and you aren’t.

But after I, A: sobered up from my over-indulgences and B: figured out how to hook up to the WiFi at the local bar (okay, so not so sober) I made an effort to fix the situation. You can now access the photos from my weekend in San Diego via the Instagram widget on my blog. This may or may not be a great idea. There are a few photos of me being a bit unprofessional. I have a tendency to treat my escapes to San Diego like a trip to Las Vegas. I can’t help it, there is just so much to do and so little time to cram it all in! But my clothes are on in all of them and there are some great pictures of my job and our office Summer party on the Catamaran in San Diego Bay, so I am willing to risk sharing them with you. Plus, at this point, my only followers are my husband (I forced him) and perhaps my mother, from whom the apple does not fall far.

Being back in San Diego was wonderful. It was so nice to be around the tasting table again for new wine releases and being with people who nerd out over wine as much as I do. Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband, but the man falls short as a Wine Consultant. Sometimes I just want to get geeky with my bad self and coo over a new sample bottle and will say something to him like, “Do you get a hint of herbs on the nose??”

Husband: *Crickets chirping*

So it was nice to be around fellow enthusiasts who are also some of my best friends -but not the best of the best- don’t worry Dora and Britany, you’re still my besties! What I love about the Summer party most though, is the re-discovery of wines that my company no longer carries and that the owners have kindly pulled out of their personal cellar. At the beginning of the cruise, when it was still warm and sunny, I re-visited two White Burgundies, a Spanish Albarino,a domestic Sauvignon Blanc and  a tiny bit of our company’s last bottle of DOCG Prosecco. As it cooled down and the sun set, I switched to red, only drinking my favorite Spanish producer, Bodegas Carmelo Rodero’s, Tempranillo Crianza. There were other reds present, too: an awesome Super Tuscan, a fancy Rosso de Montalcino and maybe others- I’m not sure, that’s a lot of wine. The other great thing about the party is that, unlike at the office, the pourings fill a glass, not just a sample size. The not-so-great thing is, I never make it to the rest of the reds.That night I got drunk on some phenomenal wines (that’s the classiest way one can get drunk in my opinion) then caught a ride home and went to sleep!

Aside from work, I really take soaking up San Diego seriously, just ask my liver; I did a lot of research outside my wines. During my stay, I also explored other libations and cuisine that San Diego has to offer.

Wine is actually overshadowed in much of San Diego. The county hosts many craft breweries and tons of bars that specialize in craft cocktails. These drinks are basically the answer to a chef’s culinary masterpiece but in liquid form. My timing to visit was perfect because the Craft Beer and Cocktail Showcase was taking place. The event featured some of the top tier craft cocktail bars and breweries in San Diego County. Here are my favorites:

Favorite Bar:

The Lion’s Share. Our first sales office was originally around the corner from this bar/restaurant, so us wine consultants basically made this our Cheers, where everybody knows your name. The bartenders and cooks are really more like Surrealist painters. I say this for many reasons: the walls are covered with paintings of Narnia-esque animals that take the place of faces in well-known artwork;  the menu consists of obscure – yet enticing and innovative – culinary delights, such as Kangaroo Tartare (delicious) or Wild Boar Meatloaf (friggin’ delicious); and the bartenders have an edginess and artistic vision that would make Salvador Dali proud. Don’t be afraid to order a cocktail that isn’t on the menu or ask the bartender to surprise you, you’ll be glad you did!

Favorite Brewery:

Lost Abbey. Perhaps it’s because I’m in the wine biz, but I love the idea of a beer that can “lay down.” Lost Abbey makes some great beers that evolve over time with complexity, richness and depth. Truly trappist in style with California flare, I could make tasting notes of the subtle nuances without any professional beer background; their beers are impossible not to appreciate. My favorite is the Judgment Day ale: dark, creamy and intoxicating (literally).

PS: San Diego’s beers are known for some crafty IPAs and sour beers. If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend the San Diego Brewery Tours to get your fill and get home safely!

I am very religious, by the way; I take Sunday Brunch very seriously. Thou shalt not brunch somewhere without the following on the menu:

  • Omelets
  • Benedicts
  • Potatoes
  • Alcohol

This religion may stem from my Irish heritage…

There are many MANY great places to brunch in San Diego. Want bottomless mimosas that are mostly sparkling wine with a side of live band karaoke? Check out Analog. Want huge portions with flavor and culinary skill? Experience Hash House A Go Go. But as of this past week, my new favorite is Parkhouse Eatery. I’m sorry to offend any breakfast purists, but an Eggs Benedict atop toasted Focaccia with bacon and avocado hollandaise sauce beside mashed red potatoes and garnished with flash-fried spaghetti??? The way to this Irish-American California girl’s heart is through her stomach. A-May-Zing!

So now, I’m back in Fayetteville. I’m fat and retaining water from too much food and too much fun. Lucky San Diegans; getting to enjoy these wonderful places at their leisure. Meanwhile, I  have to justify my gluttony with that new rap song saying, “YOLO.” …That is from a rap song, isn’t it? I’m so old and white…

Anywho, I only had water with lemon yesterday with dinner, went to bed early and am back on my workout routine- for now. We move to Alabama in the next nine days. Stay tuned for the packing shenanigans. I’m betting Blog No. 3 will be titled, “Drinking and Packing” or, if no drinking takes place, I will probably title it, “FML.”

Blog No.1: Jailbreak.

City of Fayetteveille.

City of Fayetteveille.

I’m on a very full flight that started in crappy Fayetteville, NC and am on my way to wonderful San Diego. It’s hot, my connecting flight was delayed and I will have to take a cab to get to my co-worker’s house when I arrive. But I don’t care; partially because I have included a stash of Vodka mini bottles in my carry-on to make a far less expensive bloody Mary (or three)… But mostly because I have escaped my jail cell and I can taste freedom!

Gettin Low at the wedding reception.

Gettin Low at the wedding reception.

Dramatic much? I am, but I seriously feel that way after recent my high of my beautiful San Diego June wedding, a honeymoon in Italy and then, BAM! Back “home” to my hubby’s current duty station, Faytteville, and back to work in my dark little home office.

On our honeymoon: Me doing the classic cheesy leaning tower pose.

On our honeymoon: Me doing the classic cheesy leaning tower pose.

I know what you’re thinking: What a spoiled little brat. Who complains about working from home? And who complains when her husband is the one protecting and serving and taking care of you?? Well let’s just set the record straight right now, you judgmental, assumptive meany-head!

  1. If I were to be found to be a spoiled brat, I would certainly not be a “little” one; I’m big. In fact, I prefer the term Amazonian. I’m 5’11”, my hands are longer than my husband’s, I wear size 12 shoes and my arms have a wingspan of a Boeing 757.
  2. And besides being a giant, my husband is not the only one who “protects and serves.” I was in the Marine Corps for four years and am now a Reservist. That said, don’t eff with me.
  3. After the Marine Corps, I landed a friggin’ sweet job in the Wine industry in the middle of downtown San Diego. It was sunny, there were beautiful people, great restaurants and beaches everywhere; I was in paradise. But my company is so annoyingly wonderful, so they permitted me to work from home so I could be with Army Guy (that’s right, he is in the Army and I’m a Marine. I’m a badass.) So now, I sit in my dark office, alone, only leaving to go to the gym, to Wal-Mart or, like today, to the airport.

    Kellan with his deployment stache. This could also be a picture of a guy with a van who advertises free candy outside an elementary school...

    Kellan with his deployment stache. This could also be a picture of a guy with a van who advertises free candy outside an elementary school…

Me in Afghanistan in 2011. I'm the token female and I can't grow the traditional "deployment stache," so I improvised. Dead sexy!

Me in Afghanistan in 2011. I’m the token female and I can’t grow the traditional “deployment stache,” so I improvised. Dead sexy!

I’m excited to arrive but I’m also a little worried that I’m going to have a huge case of “Verbal Diarrhea” when I get there. Other than clients and online chats, I really don’t talk to anyone in Army Town. I basically just wait by the door for my husband to come home for any social interaction. And on the occasion, when I’m forced to play Army Wife and go to little Army dinner parties with him, I have been awkward. I know this because my husband told me so, (jerk). Apparently I just wait for my turn to talk and don’t really listen to what is being said by others anymore. Way to go, Andee.

So, I’ve decided I need a change. My job, BTW, is awesome. I literally drink for a living. I taste wines and I decide if they are right for my clients. That’s the bare bones of it. It is a lot more fun and a lot less sad; however, if you are drinking it in San Diego with a group of people in your office around a tasting table or at your desks than in your dark apartment alone… Anyway, time for a change and here is my plan: I’m going to share my job with you and to brave each Army Town, USA that we land in, searching for people, places or alcoholic beverages that don’t suck.

Me and my man, Kellan. Right after the wedding. Everything is all rainbows and butterflies.

Me and my man, Kellan. Right after the wedding. Everything is all rainbows and butterflies.

Seeing what I have seen already, I know this will be hard to do, so I will also be using this blog to bitch/make fun of/boast/entertain myself/etc., as much as I want. So there.

Well the flight attendants have almost reached me with the beverage cart and I need to reach into my purse and stealthily position my mini bottles in my lap prior to receiving my Bloody Mary mix. Goodbye for now but more posts to come. Stay tuned this week for shots of the good life during my brief furlough from hard time.

-Andee