Currently, there are over 7,000 wineries in the U.S, and wine has become a billion-dollar business. With the making and selling of wine comes the task of protecting the intellectual property behind every bottle, from trademarks to trade secrets. When you craft a wine, you don’t just want to protect your brand name, but also your formula, production techniques, and even arrangements for souring your grapes.
As an IP lawyer and wine enthusiast, there is nothing more fascinating than when my two passions overlap. This is why I want to take a moment to discuss and share some of my favorite wine stories.
Much like a good lawyer, a fine wine improves with age. Although I spend my days fighting patent infringements and registering trademarks, I spend my vacations at wineries. I have loved wines from all around the world since I was 14 years old. I love the look, the aromas, and the flavors. I love heavy reds and sweet whites the best, but frankly, I love them all.
When people ask me – as they often do – what is my “favorite wine” my answer invariably is “it depends on what I am eating; what day of the week and what time of day; and with whom I am drinking.” The truth is, I have multiple “favorites” that I purchase year in and year out (Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape; Penfolds Grange; Quintarelli or Dal Forno Amarone; Riesling Spatlese and Auslese from J.J. Prum, Donnhoff, and Carl von Schubert Maximin Grunhauser Abtsberg) but honestly, I have an incredibly broad taste for wines, including some Coppola wines in the can (no, really!). Putting aside the grape varietals and the winemaker, the two most important objective variables about wine are the Terroir and the Vintage.
What is way more important to me than those, however, is with whom I am drinking the wine. For me, wine is merely the kind of food that brings together friends, old and new. I love very little more than sitting around a table (or blanket) with some good friends sharing stories, telling tales, and comparing notes on whatever wine happens to be in our glasses at that moment.
I thought, what better way to spark the conversation than to ask my peers. At Hankin Patent Law, APC we work hard to protect your intellectual property rights, but when I am out of the office, I turn to one of my favorite passions – Wine! I love sharing good wine, with good people and listening to their favorite wine memories. Here then, are some great wine stories from some great friends of mine.
Read and enjoy and, hey, let me know which wines seem most interesting to you, and which of my friends you would like to meet – and maybe when this Covid Quarantine is over – get together to drink some fermented grape juice together!
On a chilly December evening, I was invited to an amazing dinner at Meadowood for the 12 Days of Christmas. Their renowned chef Christopher Kostow worked with a guest chef to prepare a delicious meal and we were lucky enough to meet Grant Achatz of Alinea. But the best part of the night was discovering the exclusive and amazing Ovid wines.
We sat next to one of the delightful owners Dana Johnson and learned so much about their process and philosophy. We were even lucky enough to secure a private tour of their beautiful property the next day!
It’s still a thrill to get my allotment of unique wines every year. And I love their playful mentality, as wine should be: “In our PLAY we reveal what kind of PEOPLE we are.” – PUBLIUS OVIDIUS NASO
Well, as you will see from the picture, I couldn’t narrow down my wine story to just one wine. As I do not have anything close to a refined palate, I enjoy what’s shared at the moment. And wine, to me, simply enhances the moment. The context and moment are more important to me than the wine itself.
I like Napa wines in Napa. Chilean wines in Chile. French wines in France. Chilled white wines in hot weather and reds in moderate to cooler temps. (This last point is likely why there is far more red wine in my San Francisco house than any other!) Wine reflects what we do, who we are with, and what we share together. Family. Friends. Holidays. Happy hours. It can be, depending on the occasion, the spirit that lifts us all up.
Hence, the photo is not taken off Pinterest but rather reflects my love of wine with family and friends that led to an abundance of wine corks overflowing from the jar we threw them in!
For anyone who knows me, offer me a glass of Benzinger cabernet sauvignon and I’ll be all set. It’s not the fanciest of wines but the familiarity of it – the jammy, fruit-forward goodness – has helped me endure these tough times since March. And given how much we have had to change how we work, socialize, educate our children, relate to family and friends, and so on, suffice it to say, to the extent I can keep things the “same,” I’ll take it.
No surprises here – Halloween looked a bit different this year. But luckily the weather here in Chicago was great – mild, with a hint of autumn crispness, and we were celebrating on a Saturday to boot. Thankful for the weather (we had snow last year), my husband and I took our daughter out for (socially distanced) trick-or-treating, glass of Benzinger cab sauv in hand. Maybe it was the yearning for “normalcy”, but watching my masked little one delight with candy being shot down Halloween themed plastic tubes and everyone making the best of tough times with a little creativity, made my heart swell. And of course, my trusty Benzinger no doubt helped 🙂
Like for most others, the last 7 months have been tough. Our love of wine has been helpful because we have quite a few wine club memberships, so we’ve been well stocked to get us through (you could even say over stocked as we’ve been running out of storage space)! In September we headed down, south of the border for a weekend getaway. If you haven’t been, there’s a lovely wine region just inland from Rosarito, called Valle de Guadalupe. We’ve been down there a few other times. There’s a family owned winery that holds a special place in our hearts called Misiones de California. The winery is known throughout the region because they host many big events (not during the pandemic) on their property, which was an old Mission.
The owner, Raul, is a chemist from Mexico City. He learned how to make wine, moved his family to this region, and now it’s their family business. Their wine is really delightful and affordable. What makes the experience even better are their tastings. In non-COVID times, Raul does tastings with visitors and he’s just lovely. But he’s an older gentleman and being careful with his health… so right now you can sit with one of his children.
On this trip, we were with Carlos, one of his son’s. The tastings are long and extensive – including a walk through the vineyards to taste some of the grapes (if it’s the right time of year). Their Cab Franc is one of our favorites from their winery. If you live in Southern California, it’s an easy drive down and well worth the visit to this region. It’s growing larger with many great places to stay and eat. During COVID times, you do need to make reservations, so plan in advance. And do plan to stop by to say hi to Raul and family. You’ll definitely make some new friends!
I constantly joke that “home is where the wine is waiting.” With my pre-Covid work schedule, I wasn’t spending as much time at home and my wine collection ballooned as I kept collecting bottles of interest.
With Covid came many creative ideas- I started hiking, drinking more water, and cooking more while isolating with my family. Then we had the brilliant idea to list our home for sale. Part of staging the house included pruning our humble wine cellar which was overflowing with the nectar of the Gods. What to do with so much wine? As a dutiful home seller, I commit myself to at-home wine tastings paired with home cooked meals.
I invited over small groups of family members to eat outside, socially distanced, with promises of subpar cuisine paired with incredible vino. My feat was successful- my wine storage dwindled down and the cellar is now presentable. However, the house (wine collection not included) has yet to sell and I’m low on Pinot and Malbec. Shopping anyone?
Obviously February and March of 2020 was uncharted and difficult territory for all of us. More trivial than many needs at that time, but relevant to this publication, pre-COVID home delivery of wine in Massachusetts was a rarity. So, there we were, my wife and I… three young children, two puppies, everything shutting down, runs on food at the supermarket and lots of stress as we were frantically searching for all kinds of survival supplies… aka toilet paper. While attempting to secure such necessities on-line, our doorbell rang. Upon opening the door, standing in front of me is the owner of the small, local nichey wine shop locate a few towns over. She was holding multiple bottles of my wife’s favorite, Marsuret Prosecco and various flavors of Mead from 1634 Meadery in Ipswich, MA. Baffled, I said I did not know you delivered. The reply was “we do not but your wife is quite persuasive.”
Needless to say, the wine store, Vinum Wine Shop in Middleton, MA, started early in the COVID delivery chain, sustained their business and actually expanded into a new bigger location during COVID. When I walked back in with the wine and gave my wife a puzzled “what the _?” look, her reply was “What, you said we needed get the essentials!” Like always, she was correct. As long as the next delivery showed up before the last drop of the prior shipment vanished, all was steady in our home during the lockdown.
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but my favorite wine story almost amounts to thievery. I was shopping at a local grocery store many years ago. As I often did at the time (and still do today), I checked the high end wine cabinet for good deals. They had Penfolds Grange (I believe the 2001 vintage) for the lowest price in the country. I purchased three bottles, and walked away happily. I called the devil (a/k/a Marc Hankin) to boast about my purchase, and he immediately suggested that I go back to the store immediately to purchase all of their bottles to split with him.
I went back to the store the next day, but they would not sell the bottles to me because they were no longer priced in the computer. I went back several times, until someone brought the bottles to the front register. The person operating the register could not find the price, so he asked the manager what to do. The manager told him to sell them to me for $12.00 each. I asked the manager if he was sure, sharing the bottles are worth many times that. He said that was fine, and told the person manning the register to ring me up. I felt that I shared the pricing mistake well enough, so I bought the three bottles and literally ran out of the store before the manager could change his mind.
My next delemma was to decide what to charge Marc for his three bottles. I opted to dollar cost average all of the bottles, which seemed fair and resulted in Marc and I each getting a great deal. If I had it all to do over again, I would tell Marc that they didn’t have any more bottles, keep all of the bottles for myself and ask Marc to pour some of his ‘98 Grange for me the next time we were together (which Marc would have happily done). With age comes wisdom!
Nothing beats wine-tasting with friends on a beautiful Saturday (or, these days, random Tuesday) afternoon. But with social distancing and mask wearing, it’s fairly impossible. Unless you go virtual. And while I never drink alone (Riley, the dog, is excellent company – don’t judge), wine tasting is always better with (human) friends.
Since we can’t go to wineries – wineries have come to us. On several occasions during ‘lock-down’, I’ve had wineries deliver a selection of wines to taste, directly to my door. On the wine tasting day, I open the wines (resisting the urge to pre-taste – I lie) and gingerly transfer the wine into small labelled beakers. I put on my Amazon (delivery, not woman) costume and (masked and gloved) deliver the tasting set to a couple of wine tasting starved friends.
When Happy Hour time hit, we all went online — joined by the respective Wine Maker and – together/apart got to learn all about and taste the wine. As with many wine-tastings, it became less about the taste of the wine and more about sharing the experience with friends, getting to know the wine-maker – and in some delightful instances, discovering a new yummy wine – And, while we weren’t physically together, in the end, no one had to be the designated driver.
We had a head start to celebrating the 4th of July weekend with a Wine Social in Newport Beach. The locale was Andy Peter’s “office” which has stunning views of the Harbor.
In attendance were Jeff Brown, Jim Downes, Andy Peters and myself. The wine of the afternoon was the 2017 Almaviva from Chile. Yes, we socially distanced and did elbow bumps. We also enjoyed every last drop of these 3 beauties.
In 2015, I was introduced to Kevin Jones, the owner of Liquid Asset Cellars in North Hollywood, CA. In the good old days when people could still congregate, they had an event called bring a bottle Friday.
Around 9 PM, I was on the way home and as I was walking out, a man was walking in with 2 full racks of ribs, bags of Caesar salad, a monster loaf of French bread and a miniature hibachi grill (a Miami Dolphins one). At this point all of the members of the club went into their personal cellars/lockers and grabbed a great bottle of wine.
Amazing wine with great winos and a really good meal an hour later. Memories of a lifetime!