Book Talk: Joanne Lessner inspired by famous wine incident

Wed Jun 30, 2010 7:08am EDT
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By Belinda Goldsmith

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Singer Joanne Lessner was always fascinated by the story of the world's most expensive bottle of wine that was never sold when it suddenly struck her that it was a great starting point for a novel.

Her debut novel, "Pandora's Bottle," released this month, is the story of what can happen when you pin your hopes on a single event and it all goes terribly wrong.

The plot for the book is based on a true event from 1989 when New York wine merchant William Sokolin had been consigned a bottle of 1787 Chateau Margaux believed to have once been owned by Thomas Jefferson and was seeking to sell it for $500,000.

But with no buyers he took it to a dinner at the Four Seasons where somehow it broke, with differing accounts exactly how that happened, but Sokolin claimed the insurance money.

In Lessner's novel a financier decides to uncork a bottle of 1787 Chateau Lafite once owned by Thomas Jefferson in private for a lady friend leading to repercussions that prove emotional, financial, theatrical and, in every way, unexpected.

Lessner, an actor/singer/writer who has been a soloist with the New York City Opera and whose play "Critical Mass" receives its New York premiere in October, spoke to Reuters about writing:

Q: What sparked the idea for the novel?

A: "I'd been kicking the idea around for 8 or 9 years. First it was going to be a musical. My husband and I write musicals together and we were looking for a new project when he one day reminded me about the story of a waiter who dropped a bottle of wine from the French Revolution and all the wine aficionados dropped to the floor to sup up the spilled wine. This appealed to my warped sense of humor."   Continued...