Are You There, Chelsea? It’s Me, Wine-O.

chelseaI love Chelsea Handler and I don’t care who knows it. What does this have to do with wine and spirits? Chill out, I’m getting there…

One night, I was watching one of my favorite shows, “Chelsea Lately” and Chelsea was belvedere-vodka_0(once again) promoting her beloved Belvedere vodka. I also enjoy Belvedere and so I respect its promotion. I continue nodding along to her skit with enthusiasm, grinning at each snarky remark and sarcastic facial expression that she makes. Until she utters the words, “I hate wine.” I was momentarily distraught. How could my future BFF and drinking buddy hate my favorite beverage?

I was ready to tweet her a melancholy goodbye and #hashtag the entire internet and my 16 followers about our imaginary breakup when I took what I refer to as the magical sip;  that drink of wine (for me this comes at about mid-bottle) that makes a person more philosophical, intelligent and offers a sort of “moment of clarity.” At that instant, while clutching my wine glass and watching the ironically less-than cerebral E! Network, I had an epiphany: A top-shelf vodka drinker and a fine wine drinker can still be friends and for the following reasons…

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A photo of a Polish vodka still taken from my WSET Advanced text book.

1.  A friendship is based on mutual respect. For one thing, I respect that Chelsea drinks in general; Prohibition revivalists need to get with the program. And like I said, I can respect Belvedere. This Polish vodka is “distilled four times”, so it’s low in “congeners or bad stuff and it incorporates the fancy grain known as Rye, which gives vodka rounder texture and softer nuances. Mmm!

2.  Fine Wine is of high standards as well. Nothing is mass-produced or has disgusting additives like tannin powder, food coloring or sugars. Everything is in small production, the berries are picked by hand, double, even triple sorted and are carefully vinified and aged. Therefore, it’s delicious!

3.  No one likes a hangover. Maybe Chelsea Handler doesn’t give two shits about how Belvedere is made or why it is so good, but there is no question that she (and everyone) can appreciate drinking it without the risk of a headache. And I will be honest: I wouldn’t drink cheap wine even if it was palatable because I fear its wrath. No congeners and no additives equals no headaches.

4.  Who doesn’t want to be a hot blonde? I don’t. But that’s because giving up vices and pleasures in life to be svelte is a choice. I prefer to remain slightly chubby in order to maintain a lifestyle that includes a broad range of beverages – and bread. Plus, my doppelganger is Brooke Shields, so becoming blonde isn’t an option with these eyebrows…

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Me. Note the eyebrows. Blonde is not my destiny.

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Chelsea.

Chelsea, however, rocks a hot bombshell by sticking to unadulterated vodka. Vodka has the least carbohydrates and calories, so this allows her to take in the joys that come with insobriety while maintaining her great shape. I totally applaud this and I plan to, one day, actually diet and stick to vodka. Or at least get my carbs solely from wine…

5.  One common bond: Alcohol. Whether pairing your wine with a steak or pairing your vodka with a squeeze of lemon, none of us would be at all obsessed with our liquid love affairs if they didn’t contain alcohol. If you are offended by this statement because you think alcohol is bad, stop reading my blog, you prude. This isn’t “I Drink Tea For A Living.”

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One of my favorite wines from Bodegas Carmelo Rodero.

6.  Opposites attract. Just like with my other girlfriends and the biggest girlfriend of them all – my husband – the people in my life that I hold dearest are my complete opposites; that is, with the exception of our values, ambitions and mutual respect for one another. If we value drinking well, living life to its fullest, being yourself and above all – not settling, then a top-shelf vodka drinker and a fine wine drinker aren’t so different when it comes right down to it.

7.  In closing: are you there, Chelsea? Call me.

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.