I’m not exactly sure why the cabbie felt the need to turn on his heat yesterday. After all, the weather in Boston was a stifling 85 degrees with about 85% humidity.
I’m not sure why I chose to wear stretch wool crepe pants, a silk shirt and purple Frye boots in this weather, except that it looked pretty cute. I mean, isn’t it almost October?
All I know is that when my cab pulled up outside of The Urban Grape last night I was soaked, head to toe, in sweat. Nothing says “Time to meet Royalty” like sweat stains. Little did I know I was about to meet two of the most down to earth, loveliest people I’ve ever had the privilege to know.
Lord Henry, The Eight Marquess Conyngham, and his wife Lady Iona, the Marchioness of Conyngham, were our guests at The Urban Grape last night for a tasting and bottle signing of their new Irish Whiskey, Slane Castle.
I was pretty excited, as they had chosen our store for the signing because they felt we shared a common vision and purpose. We are two family owned businesses. Two families dedicated to hand selling – bottle by bottle if need be – to cement our reputations for quality and customer service. Two husband and wife teams who realized that good was not good enough, decided to go for it, and have found that the hard road is also paved with insurmountable joy. It’s just that two of us live in a condo, and two of us live in, well, an ancestral castle.
From the perspective of selling bottles and promoting liquor, last night was very good. I’ll be honest, not blockbuster, but for a store that has been open four months and is known more for selling wine, we moved a LOT of booze last night. But that was beside the point. Roughly 85% of people that came in and tried Slane Castle Irish Whiskey loved it and bought a bottle. But that was beside the point too. What made last night so special, so other-worldly, was the vignettes that took place in The Urban Grape during the tasting. Things that TJ and I could have only dreamed of when sat in Italy two and a half years ago and decided to open a wine store.
Let’s start with the gentleman that bought two bottles, on which Henry cheekily inscribed, “One for now” and “One for later.” After a good laugh, Henry told us he had tried very hard for a third, on which he would have inscribed “One for very much later.” He then proceed to laugh about that all night. To be sure, Henry is a bit of an imp.
Or the young guy (who met a bunch of his friends there, and let me tell you, single ladies, you were sad to have missed this crew), who told Henry that when he was young he had moved from a part of Ireland that no one had EVER heard of; not only had Henry heard of it, but had family there and had been there. They talked and talked like old, long lost friends.
It was the man whose daughter asked me so kindly to take a picture of her father with Henry, and then asked me to post it here so they could see it. They were both thrilled to have met him, tried his Whiskey, and gotten a bottle signed.
Hysterically, a long lost Harvard pal of Henry’s had called earlier in the day to reserve a bottle so she could surprise him. In she walked, a forty year old picture of Henry at Harvard in hand. Henry was in disbelief. He had been telling us Harvard stories all night, and here was a piece of his history right in front of him.
How about the precocious but exquisitely mannered nine year old girl who came in with her mom? I started telling her how Madonna had played a concert at Slane Castle. “Madonna was to me and your mom what Lady Gaga is to you,” I explained and her eyes lit up. What ensued was a hilarious discussion about meat dresses, Taylor Swift and so much more. She came back an hour later with her dad, to give me a picture of the Slane Castle bottle that she had drawn for me. It makes me tear up just thinking about it.
But nothing, NOTHING, beats Shane. Shane walked into the store just as sweaty as I had been, but he was an unstoppable force on a mission. “Lord Henry,” he started, “you indirectly set me on my life’s course and I am here tonight to thank you.” It seems that as a young boy Shane had seen U2′s documentary, “Unforgettable Fire,” that was shot at Slane Castle and had decided right then and there that he would work in film and with musicians. He’s now the Concert Lighting Designer at Paradise Rock Club and loves his job. He credits it all to Slane Castle, U2 and Henry.
In front of us all Shane whipped out a sealed copy of U2′s Unforgettable Fire album. You could tell this was one of his life’s treasures. He looked around and said, “What I am about to do is going to dramatically lower the collector’s value of this album,” and r-i-i-p. Took the plastic right off so Henry could sign it. There was literally not a dry eye.
After tasting and signing and buying, Shane headed for the door. “Shane, wait!” I said. “There’s no need to rush out, you can hang for a while if you want.” “No,” said Shane, so contentedly. “I got what I came for.” And he had.
After the signing we headed to The Capital Grille with Henry and Iona and Chris Swinning from Carolina, Slane Castle’s distributor. We had such a comfortable, easy dinner, it was like dining with friends we had known forever. We drank too much (actually, I think only I drank too much), Henry divulged some fun tidbits about the musicians that have played at Slane Castle, and I not so jokingly demanded that Bon Jovi play Slane Castle in the near future. As we dropped Iona and Henry off at The Somerset Club, Iona said to me, “Well, you really must come over!” “Come over?” I questioned. “You mean, come over to….Ireland?” I damn near fainted in the middle of Beacon Street. I love, love, love, that she said “come over.”
On our website site, we have the following line: “Welcome to The Urban Grape – a neighborhood wine store that creates community, memories and joy through the experience of wine.” Last night, with the help of whiskey, not wine, our mission was blissfully achieved.