Some good points … some bad points

One of the things we miss most about Seattle is northwest wine. Washington and Oregon wines lined the shelves of even the tiniest grocery stores in the Seattle area (one benefit of Washington’s quirky liquor laws – wine in grocery stores, unlike here in benighted Colorado). Needless to say, a check of our cave’s inventory reveals that our cellar is just about 50% Washington and Oregon bottlings.

One of our go-to sources for information on Washington and Oregon wine was Paul Gregutt, the Seattle Times wine columnist. We even had the pleasure of meeting Paul once at McCarthy & Schiering, one of Seattle’s best wine shops, where he autographed our copy of Washington Wines and Wineries.
So I still follow Paul’s column via Twitter, and today he blogged an item about an interesting new Oregon winery. The winery is called VinMotion, and my heart sank when I read that name. I don’t like the “nm” consonant cluster – even if the name is meant to evoke “in motion,” which is confirmed by the VinMotion website and its slogan – “a different and dynamic kind of wine company” that’s accompanied by a logo showing … what is it showing? A bottle rocket? I don’t know, a flying bottle? It’s just too modern, techno-wannabe, and labored for me, and it really doesn’t say wine to me at all, regardless of the “vin-” prefix.
But I read on to the name of the actual wines reviewed, and my heart leapt – it’s “Rainstorm.” And the explanation for that name? I love it: “Rain influences almost every facet of our lives – how we dress, the foods we eat, the music we listen to, and, importantly, the wines we drink.” It’s almost four years since we left Seattle, but that statement takes me back, and certainly makes me want to taste these wines, especially based on Paul’s recommendation.
The Rainstorm website itself is just charming – it even offers weather forecasts for the Willamette and Umpqua valleys. And the label design is delightfully evocative of the region:
(image courtesy VinMotion)
So bravo to Rainstorm – may the April showers bring May flowers. And maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll get to taste these wines in sunny Colorado.

Every party needs a pooper?

Or that’s what this ad for Santa Margherita prosecco would seem to be suggesting:

I’m sorry, but too much prosecco usually means No. 1. Yes, I’m twelve, but it’s totally their fault! It appears that the ad campaign actually is the second in a series of prosecco experiences – but hey, unless I see the series seriatim, my mind goes to the toilet.
Just a cautionary tale … 

Thinking about drinking with my ladybrain

So what William Grimes in the NY Times doesn’t ask is this: Are the wines with these rude names worth drinking? I guess I’ll have to do the dirty work. If the “bitch category,” as he phrases it, actually has some good wines to offer, I’ll throw my hat in the ring, or tip my glass, or whatever metaphor needs mixing. If not, I’ll just stick with this bitch:

Drinking with my ladybrain IV

This one’s pretty shameless. I can only imagine the tired marketing conversation that birthed “Little Black Dress” as a wine brand targeted to women.  Fact is, though, the wine’s not bad. Varietally correct, decent fruit, good with food. You can even see here that we managed to consume about half of the bottle:

But for the life of me, I cannot fathom what would prompt the marketers of a product targeted to women to put a wire hanger on the label. Mommie Dearest is the least of it – the wire hanger is, more poignantly, a potent symbol of illegal abortion, and the pain and indignity women suffered before Roe v. Wade

I’m all for pinot noir and little black dresses. I’m also for remembering that a woman’s right to reproductive freedom shouldn’t be taken for granted. I just don’t think that those are two great tastes that taste great together.

In honor of that right, I’ve just contributed to Planned Parenthood. Because I want to keep those wire hangers as history and a bad memory.

Drinking with my ladybrain, part 3

My toy poodle hasn’t been featured recently in these pixels (hey, I can’t really say “in these pages,” now, can I?) but she’s always either on my mind or at my feet. I recently let my daughters take a stab assisting me with Ladybrain shopping at Incredible Wine & Spirits, one of our wine shopping mainstays. In loving tribute to our Reggie, they quickly zeroed in on this one:

While in most circumstances I’ll say “French? Poodle? Wine? What could be bad?” I’ll make an exception here, and say merely that if “I love the label” is your main criterion for purchase (and you love poodles too), this may be your wine. If you like good wine, however, this may not be your wine. It has less acid than I expect to see in a California Sauvignon Blanc, and its fruit fades quickly. I’ve drunk worse, though, and could see this being serviceable on a hot summer afternoon.

However, the back label gives me serious concern. A poem, “by” the wine’s apparent mascot, Sark, (Sark?), contains this stanza:

Get Petted, Sleep Alot.

Did the wavy or dotted lines under “alot” in your word processing program not tip you off? My dog, thank you very much, can spell. In English and French, bien sur.

The scold

Just because you can get away with a salacious product name doesn’t mean you should. Effen vodka is one such name I’ve been annoyed about since I first saw it. The Effen reviews vary, but I think the real appeal must be asking for it at a bar. And while Suxx wine has been dubbed “a very fun fruit bomb” by wine critic Gary Vaynerchuk, the well-mannered, middle-aged suburban mom and lawyer in me really doesn’t want to ask my wine merchant, “Do you have any Suxx?” Neither do I want to offer Suxx at my next party. Both names are just too much. They’ve eschewed any attempt at wit for pure shock value.

So I was even more shocked to see this at Ulta today:

When used in connection with hair, the term “blow” is customarily followed by “out” or “dry.” While the omission of those terms arguably makes “blow” as a mark somewhat more protectable as a trademark (and I’ll spare you the details), when I see “blow” alone, I think of two alternatives, neither of which has to do with hair, and both of which would make me uncomfortable to ask for the product – as uncomfortable as I’d be asking for Effen or Suxx, quite honestly. Or Head, for that matter. 

Are you naming your product for shock value or to build an enduring brand? Remember the immortal words of David St. Hubbins and Nigel Tufnel: It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever.

Drinking with my ladybrain, part deux

I tried. Really, I gave them more than the benefit of the doubt (and my Riedel stemless-ware). But these two wines just left me disappointed.

Lulu B pinot noir: cute, French – from Corsica. How could it be bad – we drank Corsican wines this summer and loved them. Middle Sister Rebel Red, a California zinfandel, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, syrah blend? Well, I have a middle sister, and I just love her. Both of these wines weigh in at a friendly 12.5% ABV, so I wouldn’t fall face-down into my dinner, a fate that can befall me with hefty, port-like California syrahs and zinfandels.  

But it was not to be. Lulu B had a disjointed nose and tasted like stale cough syrup, while Middle Sister had a powdery, incense-like flavor and a sour, skunky nose, like a cabernet franc gone very wrong. Both were very light-bodied, and both seemed dead on the palate, as if a step in the winemaking process had been omitted. I gave them time, and even sought corroboration from my husband, who only affirmed my perceptions. 

Now, from the trademark perspective? I don’t know who got there first, but this looks to me like a good example of trade dress infringement. I just don’t know who’s infringing whom. I could easily make a case for assuming there’s a connection between the two brands, based on the similarity of the label designs. I might not win – don’t get me wrong, these things are subjective – but I could certainly argue likelihood of confusion and pass the red face test.

From a brand perspective, I think Middle Sister goes a bit overboard: they use not only the distinctive Middle Sister house brand, but also a “sassy” varietal descriptor; here, the Rebel Red for the red blend, Wicked White for the white blend, Smarty Pants for chardonnay, Surfer Chick for sauvignon blanc . . . it goes on throughout the line, only reinforcing the girly nature of these wines.  

Yes, it’s clear that these wines target female consumers. But how about more emphasis on the wine and less on cutesy nomenclature? These two just made me sad, despite their cheerful names and labels. As with Cupcake, maybe I picked the wrong varietal in the line, and if you check CellarTracker, you do occasionally find positive reviews of some of these wines, so if anyone out there has a suggestion for a good one in these lines, let me know. So far, though, the female-friendly labels and marketing seem to be obscuring mediocre product. 

But I shall soldier on, so stay tuned!

Drinking with my ladybrain, debut edition

Let me get this out of the way now: I am horribly allergic
to almost anything that can be characterized as chick lit or a chick flick. Am
I a snob? Yes. Do I make exceptions? Sometimes. [1] Does the mere mention of The Divine
Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
drive me into a frenzy? Absolutely.

I really do hate how women are condescended to by marketers,
how they think we only want to see romantic comedies with dreamy leading men
who somehow find our vulnerability and clumsiness just adorable. Give me a Will
Ferrell or Christopher Guest movie any day over the schmaltz of a Kate Hudson
rom-com. And don’t get me started on Sex
and the City
. Books about four women and how their lives diverged after
college? No. I read The Group when I
was 15 and nothing else will come close, so I won’t even try that tired genre.

I could use a glass of wine after all that complaining, and I’ve barely scratched the surface. But
how do I choose? After all, I’m just a girl, right? Aren’t my purchasing decisions based on frills and bling and pink and sweet desserts, or on sly references to sneaking a drink with my galpals while the kids nap?

Yes, the wine
industry has gone all-out to ensure that women know which wines are meant for us. One of the
first to venture into the wine for women category was the seductively named Mad
Housewife. I confess that I was quite taken by this one because the woman in
their ad looks somewhat like me (albeit with airbrushing and much better nails):


I tasted one of their wines some time ago, and was not
impressed. But there are lots more to choose from now – Bitch, Middle Sister, Lulu B, among many names that unequivocally say “this is girl wine.”

But with cute names far from the usual Chateau Pretentieux, are these
wines at all drinkable? Or are women once again doing more of the work for less of a payoff? Are
we paying for marketing and cutesy names and getting an inferior product? So that’s why I decided to cross-pollinate my interest in branding with my expanding wine knowledge and actually taste some of these wines.

First up on
the list was a pinot grigio by Cupcake. Yep, because why not hop on that trend? The Cupcake brand is wholeheartedly
dedicated to women – so much so that they have a link to “bridal headquarters” on
their site. I can’t argue with their practice of offering interesting varietals from around the world under one brand – their pinot grigio hails from Italy, their sauvignon blanc
from New Zealand, among others – but does the wine measure up in the glass when the consumer actually knows something about wine?

Well, not the pinot grigio. I tasted it before I read the
copy on the back label of the bottle, and found it light-bodied and flabby, with less acid than I expect in a pinot grigio. 

The label copy describes the wine as being like “a pear cupcake with white chocolate.” Well, I’ll cede that point to the marketers – that’s EXACTLY what it tasted like. Unfortunately, that’s not at all what
we want our pinot grigio tasting like! A respite of 15 minutes in the glass did
the wine no favors at all – after that exposure to air, it tasted as if it had
been diluted by half with water.

So, round one goes to the marketers and not the taste buds. The Cupcake pinot grigio will make a fine cooking wine.

Stay tuned for round two![2]

[1] I confess to loving Music and Lyrics, with Hugh Grant and Drew
Barrymore, largely because of Hugh Grant’s irresistible portrayal of an Andrew Ridgeley-esque washed-up half of a pop (or POP!) duo.

[2] For a fine use of “lady brain,” see this seminal Daily Show report by Samantha Bee.

Tastes like ass (or Destination: France)

What is it about France and the tuchis?

Here are two wines we encountered on our trip:

This one means “show your ass.” After a visit to the labyrinthine and somber Patriarche caves in Beaune, where they’ve made wine for 230+ years, and after having a personalized tasting of high-end Burgundies we could never afford, thanks to the helpful Malika, we found this label incongruously bawdy.

Butt there’s more . . . (sorry, I’m just getting back in the swing of teenage humor with my kids back from six weeks at camp!) Shopping for a picnic in Provence, we found this one:

Yes, this one is Shepherd’s Ass thyme liqueur. Pourquoi, you ask? I don’t know, and I didn’t find out if either of these tasted like ass. 

The moral of this story, if I can contort one from all this scatological material, is that our trip to France really inspired me to pursue some in-depth learning about French wine and wine in general. And that’s nice, because in turn, I acquire more material for blogging. (I will certainly report back if I find out why French winemakers have ass on their minds.) 

So stay tuned for more, particularly about wine nomenclature, a topic that’s ripe for commentary!

Montre Cul photo from Why Travel to France (I thought I’d taken one but apparently had just a bit too much in the tasting room!)

Happy Bloggiversary to Moi! (or, Destination: France)

It’s that time of year again, and it almost passed me by. I’ll blame jet lag – we just got back from two weeks in France, and boy are my arms tired. Yeah, that one never gets old.

So yes, there was blog fodder: I also never tire of the French talent for punny shop names (as I’ve already shown you). Condrieu, in the Northern Rhone, offered up this gem:

A courant d’air is an air current; courant also means “current,” so this is a clever name for a hair salon that’s not catering to the blue-haired set.

Condrieu also offered up a zippy wine-tasting machine in a much less cleverly-named shop called La Bouteillerie, but since the thermometer was showing body temperature and the shop was climatis

é, we chose wine-tasting over getting trendy haircuts.

Anyway, I cannot believe I’ve been doing this for four years. It is, as we say in France, dingue. I am lucky that the branding world keeps providing me with ample subjects for commentary.

You decide

Heart medication or major fashion house line extension:

I don’t know, with that circle it looks like Prada XA to me. But this could also be another example of the trademark lawyer’s mind working way too hard.

I also have a problem with the pronunciation – is Pradaxa like Metaxa? Can I drink Metaxa after taking Pradaxa? Maybe I’ll just ask Dr. Seuss

While it’s clear that I need a vacation, instead I will see some of you at the INTA meeting in the city by the bay – and to clarify, that’s not Denver, for those of you who take Will Ferrell’s characters a bit too seriously.

Too much work for a drink

One of my general admonitions for clients about their trademarks is that they should neither turn them into plurals nor chop them off to make nicknames.  There are exceptions to every rule – Coca-Cola became Coke, and Federal Express became FedEx, with little damage to the brand’s renown or image.

I am not so sure it works as well in this case:

I’m sorry, “Belve” just does not roll trippingly off the tongue. It’s too close to “belch.” Is it a combination of “belch” and “hive,” perhaps? Do you want to know? Do you hear yourself asking the bartender for a Belve and tonic, or a Belve martini straight up with a twist? No, you don’t, because it sounds ridiculous.

Then, to the ad itself: Tying “Belve” to “Believe,” with the inserted “ie” in a blurred, tomato-red font? All I can read there is “Lie.”  And I doubt that’s what they intended. But what did they intend here?  Believe in bloody Mary flavored vodka? Believe that this couple is getting dangerously close to Newport cigarette ad territory?

Alternatively, we can probe other paths they can take with Belve: “It’s twelve, time for Belve!” “Don’t shelve the Belve!” Or not . . .

Once again, I can only fall back on the immortal words of Lucille Bluth: I don’t understand the question and I won’t respond to it.  And don’t forget while we’re talking Bluth lore (or at least I am, as I’ll never stop), vodka goes bad once it’s opened.

Epic spelling fail

For chrissakes, if you’re not sure, check the spelling on the goddamn bottle:

Sorry, I just get a bit testy about this kind of thing.  Carry on.

Destination: Maui

A brief but enjoyable visit to Maui before the kids get back from camp provided not only relaxation but also some excellent blog fodder.

Did you know that wine is made in every state in the US?  Well, it is, and we certainly weren’t about to miss Maui’s Tedeschi Vineyards, despite a drive that had me closing my eyes and popping ginger candies along the way.  We learned about Hawaiian agricultural history from our engaging guide Nani, and tasted some surprisingly delightful wines, particularly the sparkling pineapple wine:

Marc is pictured here holding a bottle of it.  The sparkler bears the charming moniker “Hula O’Maui.” We couldn’t resist bringing a bottle home in the suitcase.

What else?  Well, one of my betes noires as a trademark attorney is the continuing ability of the National Association of Realtors to be able to convince relevant adjudicative bodies that the term “realtor” is indeed a trademark despite clear evidence that the non-real-estate-professional public uses the term generically.  Apparently the fact of the term’s coinage back in 1916 wasn’t even enough to convince the TTAB in the linked opinion.  Well, I was able to locate some more evidence of that genericness – in a ladies’ room stall at Mama’s Fish House outside of Paia:

The photo was from a 1938 Honolulu newspaper.  And I merely affected an air of supreme confidence when the other woman in the bathroom looked at me quizzically when I exited the stall.  Not everyone is a trademark geek like I am, alas.

I loved the name of this store – Endangered Pieces – but even a brief glance while stopped at a traffic light assured me that there was a reason these pieces were endangered!

On our last day, we strolled Front Street in Lahaina desperately looking for somewhere decent for lunch.  We couldn’t locate our first choice, so we gave in to thirst, heat and exhaustion and plopped ourselves down at the Hard Rock Cafe.  In our defense, they were advertising ono tacos as their catch of the day special, and they were just delicious, as was the Maui Brewing Co. Bikini Blonde Lager. The hostess was kind enough to drop off this flyer advertising the logowear we could purchase there:

The oxymoronic nature of the phrase “Hard Rock Couture” was nowhere more evident than on that same hostess, who was lavishly face-painted, tattooed and pierced.  But she did carry her pen in her more than ample cleavage, which I did find quite resourceful.  I’ll store that tidbit away for that day when I have my hands literally full and stowing a pen behind my ear just won’t work!

Finally, a tribute to my early legal career in Seattle:

And so castles made of sand fall in the sea, eventually.  And so do vacations come to an end and kids come back from camp.  But it was a lovely stay and we’ll dream of returning.  I leave you with the trip’s beautiful earworm: Over the Rainbow, by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole – which we now own on CD, thanks to Marc’s winning answer in the “Guess the Midpoint of the Flight” contest on our LAX-OGG flight.


Destination: Vermont

Apologies for the blogging drought – it’s been a busy end of summer and the kids are already back in school.  But don’t despair, I’ve got something to tide you over until I actually do a bit more work:

Now that’s an evocative and whimsical name.  FYI, in our never-ending quest to experience the oenological bounty of every state we visit, we did indeed taste Vermont wine; not bad considering the grapes don’t get a lot of warmth.  Whites were better than reds, but we applaud the effort and enthusiasm.  The Vermont microbrews we tasted were uniformly outstanding, particularly those from Otter Creek.  So bravo to drinking in Vermont, which I know my Middlebury friends will agree with.  But I think I’ll keep my skiing to the Rockies; the thought of those narrow slopes covered with ice strikes fear in my aging bones!

Not quite an Alt-0174, but really good

We’re almost finished building our wine cellar, and once we’ve loaded in the stash that’s now decorating our living room, there’s going to be a lot of racks to fill.  Not that we’re planning on going crazy, mind you, but we’re always looking for something new, particularly from Washington, whose wines we love.

So on a routine visit to Through the Walla Walla Grape Vine I just learned about a new winery: Thirsty Pagans , and its 2005 Communion label red wine.  I can’t quarrel with their stated premise: “We think wine IS food.”  There’s nothing I like more than irreverence, and their names and label have that down.  Bravo.


They’re not there yet, but I’ll bet these folks have an Alt-0174 up their sleeves somewhere!  Meanwhile, cheers!

Cross-marketing gone horribly wrong

This is what we call in French a cauchemar:

I fondly remember the November of my junior year in Paris – learning what all the signs saying “Il est arrivé” meant – that the Beaujolais nouveau had arrived.  Pretty much the cola version of red wine, it went down quite easily.  

But this?  Only for kitsch value, sorry.

h/t Why Travel to France.

Retaliatory branding? Pourquoi pas?

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. A French vintner was frustrated with complaints that the wines of his region, Languedoc-Roussillon, were crap.  So he created “Le vin de merde” – shit or crap wine.  Apparently it’s not half bad, and that fly on the label adds that certain quelle heure est-il, non?

So the irony here is that the wine sold out almost immediately.  But I just love the connoisseurs in this video who taste the wine and pronounce it palatable.  Real French Joe Sixpacks.  And the slogan is nice too – “le pire . . . cache le meilleur” — the worst hides the best.  Hey, a votre santé!


Former NFL quarterback Drew Bledsoe . . . wait, did anyone ever think I’d begin a post with such words?  Well, never say never.  Bledsoe, now retired from football, has gone on to literally greener pastures, recently opening Doubleback Winery in Walla Walla.  I wish the winery great success, and commend them for selecting a terrific name – one that is evocative of both Bledsoe’s career and his return to his hometown.


H/T Catie at Through the Walla Walla Grape Vine.

Destination: The Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Well, I missed my 25th reunion but at least managed to get to Providence and Newport, RI, and Westport, MA, in the reunion year.  The girls and I enjoyed our friends’ 18th-century home, digging for horseshoe crabs and shells at the beach, and I tried to figure out how to get my body to handle humidity again.

Of course, there was a bit of touring.  Chief among the highlights on the trip was the excursion to Dartmouth, Mass., and the marvels of the Christmas Tree Shops store.  Any retail establishment with a slogan (registered!)like DON’T YOU JUST LOVE A BARGAIN? is a siren call to me, of course, but this one was junk shopping paradise.  Had I not been traveling carry-on only (after the Heathrow debacle of the spring, natch), it could’ve been a pricey trip.  As it was, I managed to spend $33, pass a delightful hour there, and come home with dish towels, potholders, paper lanterns, cocktail napkins, potentially counterfeit foam clogs for the other trademark lawyer in the family to examine, and a charming cow-shaped bag for stashing supermarket shopping bags, all cleverly secreted in my luggage.

But what I didn’t buy was so thrillingly emblematic of the store and its commitment to quality that I must share it:


At only $1.99 it was so darn tempting, but I had to refrain.  The girls needed sweatshirts from Brown (yes, they now aspire to follow in Mom’s footsteps there, but I keep reminding them that knowing their multiplication tables will really go far to ensuring even initial consideration) and I just had a horror of checking baggage through O’Hare.  So the photographic memory will have to suffice.

But it wasn’t just shopping and wet towels.  The stroll down memory lane at Brown was thrilling (was it really that small?), and the visit to the Touro Synagogue in Newport moving, particularly George Washington’s assurances to the small congregation back in 1790 that the then-infant nation would give “to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”  Wise to remember that today.

Next stop: A return to Seattle!