What to Drink: Thanksgiving Edition

Because Bubbly is always a good idea! (c) Vinley Market

There’s a few important things coming up on the calendar:

  1. T-Minus TEN days until Turkey Day[1]
  2. T-Minus ELEVEN days until Black Friday[2]
  3. T-Minus FOURTEEN days until Cyber Monday[3]
Because Bubbly is always a good idea! (c) Vinley Market
Because Bubbly is always a good idea! (c) Vinley Market

There’s a lot to do to prepare in the coming days, arguably the most important of which is deciding which wines you’ll be pairing with your Thanksgiving Feast[4]. I’ve teamed up with Vinley Market to discuss what wines go best with turkey, Grandma’s Stuffing and Aunt Mary’s Sweet Potato Casserole. I’m thinking that Zinfandel, Rosé and Riesling should all be making appearances. And if you’re not hosting, you should probably bring a bottle of bubbly![5]

Check out my Thanksgiving Wine Pairings and let me know what you’ll be drinking this Turkey Day.

And while you’re at it, get 10% off your wine order at Vinley Market with coupon code WINEESQUIRE10.

Until the next glass, Cheers!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] That means its T-MINUS TEN days and a few hours until 24/7 Christmas Music! YAY
[2] Also, another day off work. #score
[3] Is your Amazon Wish List ready? Mine is. #alwaysready
[4] Or Friendsgiving Feast, as the case may be.
[5] Obviously.

Place Setting Goals (c) Vinly Market
Place Setting Goals (c) Vinley Market

Wine News Roundup: Cheesy Celebrity Edition

Angelina Jolie Brad Pitt Miraval

All the latest wine fodder for your next dentist appointment, cocktail party or pre-trial hearing. You’re welcome.

Wine and Water. There seems to be a polar shift happening in the universe[1]. Somms are now becoming water experts leaving wine behind[2], and Italy has started filling their fountains with wine instead of water[3]. What a time to be alive.

Wine Fountain For The Win.
Wine Fountain For The Win. (C) Dora Sarchese VineyardWine and Cheese.

Wine and Cheese

a. There’s a reason you love to pair wine and cheese, and it’s apparently scientific fact that they go together like Peas and Carrots. A study published by very knowledgeable researchers has found that cheese gives wines a more pleasant flavor, and decreases brain activity associated with disgust. Cheers to cheese (and wine)! Also, how do I sign up to be a subject in one of these studies?

b. As my mother always says, a little is OK, too much is no good. Kim Jung-un, that crazy dictator guy in North Korea[4], apparently has a bit of a wine and cheese problem. He’s tipping the scales at around 300 pounds, allegedly because he can’t stop popping Swiss cheese cubes and sipping on bottles of Bordeaux red wine. I feel your pain buddy, I feel your pain. He’s even bragged about having ten bottles before dinner. #cantstopwontstop

A Crazy Time in Celebrity Wine.

a. Brangelexit. Brangelina’s sudden breakup has left the state of their Miraval Rosé up in the air and the Château has allegedly been for sale since before the divorce bombshell broke. I was always on Team Jen, but I did taste the stuff a few times[5]. I admit, I didn’t want to like it, but I did. Perhaps now the bottle I still have in my cellar will be worth some money as a collector’s item.

Angelina Jolie Brad Pitt Miraval
Château Miraval (c) People Magazine

b. Calling All Outlander Fans[6]. Claire and Jamie’s passionate love story has apparently spurned a line of wines. Not sure how I feel about this, although I usually am drinking a glass of wine while reading the books or watching the TV series. Sassenach Cabernet anyone?

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c. Hello Kitty? I’ve never understood the allure, but my 3-year-old neighbor is obsessed[7]. Apparently enough adults are likewise enthralled, and a special edition of Hello Kitty Wines was recently released by an Italian winery who partnered with Japan’s Sanrio, creator of Hello Kitty. Turns out the wine is virtually impossible to find right now, so if you get some, let me know how it is so I can pass it on to my neighbor, for that time when she can drink wine in 18 years.

Hello, Kitty! (c) Torti Wine
Hello, Kitty! (c) Torti Wine

Until the next glass, Cheers!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] And I’m not talking about the REAL polar shifts that apparently are happening, or already have happened, or may happen in the future, depending on who you ask.
[2] LA’s Ray’s and Stark Bar, an upscale eatery by the Patina Restaurant Group, purportedly has a FORTY. FIVE. PAGE. water menu. Yes. You read that right. 45 pages. Really?
[3] This has been added to the Wine Esquire’s Wine Bucket List. A free-flowing wine fountain. In Italy? How can I NOT go?
[4] I hope the government doesn’t come abduct me because I wrote about him. If I disappear, you’ll all know why.
[5] I’m a sucker for Rosé, pretty bottles, and pretty labels, and they pretty much nailed all three.

miraval rose brad pitt angelina jolie
Rosé All Day

[6] If you haven’t read them yet, please do yourself a favor and download Book 1 on your Kindle. I can pretty much almost guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Assuming you’re into time traveling historical romance kinda stuff. Disclaimer: If you don’t like it, it’s not my fault.
[7] She was the cutest damn “Spooky Kitty” for Halloween you ever did see.

Hey, Can we BYOB?

2015 Hillersden Riesling

The old adage, it never hurts to ask, is a mantra I live my life by. The worst response you can get is no, so you might as well give it a shot! You’d be surprised at all the times the universe has said YES.

The trouble with our favorite Indian spot is the wine list. It’s bad. I usually order water. Husband usually gets some random beer called Haywards 5000[1]. But the food is awesome. The spice is crazy, the quality is great, and it’s cheap. I had a gorgeous bottle of Riesling I was saving and I really wanted to drink it with Indian food. Ordering to go is a pain since the restaurant is about 20 minutes away. So I said, what if we called and asked if we can BYOB? They said of course, for a $7 corking fee[2]. SCORE.

Maharaja Express? Maybe not quite.
Maharaja Express? Maybe not quite.

Now this place is not exactly the Maharaja Express[3], but it gets the job done. I always try to order something different since everything I’ve had is great, and the menu is pretty extensive, filled with items I’ve never tried; Chicken Saag,[4] Rogan Josh,[5] Seekh Kebab,[6] and a whole lot more.

Chicken Vindaloo
Chicken Vindaloo

We started with some vegetable samosas and the cinnamon/cardamom flavors popped through which was really fun. For dinner I went with Chicken Vindaloo, hot and spiced chicken cooked with potatoes and a touch of vinegar[7]. They always ask you whether you want it Spicy, American Spicy or Indian Spicy. Now Husband and I consider ourselves connoisseurs of spice. When we travel we seek out the local hot sauce[8]. Put some Tabasco on it and I’m usually a happy camper. Last time we were here I went with “Indian spicy” and it literally knocked my socks off. I could barely eat through the tears streaming down my face. Since I actually had some wine I wanted to enjoy with this meal, I toned it down to American Spicy[9].

Our Wine Chiller
Our Wine Chiller

They provided us with an ice bucket soda pitcher to keep the wine chilled[10]. Let me tell you, bringing this wine to dinner was the best idea. Ever. The Hillersden 2015 Riesling tied everything together like an essential part of the meal, almost another food group[11]. A whiff of honey on the nose; light and vibrant with a bit of lemon zest. This meal’s perfect degree of spice was a flawless companion to the slightly sweet Riesling. A faint touch of minerality on the finish, it was the missing link to make this dining experience complete.

2015 Hillersden Riesling
2015 Hillersden Riesling

Next time you’re wanting to go to dinner but know the wine list is subpar, ask to BYOB. It can make the experience that much better[12].

BYOB was such a good idea!
BYOB was such a good idea!

Hillersden, the wine producer, has a pretty neat story as well. Historically Hillersden was an industrial township in New Zealand’s Upper Wairau Valley. World War II crippled its industry, leading to its steady decline. Husband and Wife team Bruce and Marian Forlong came to Hillersden in 2013, along with their three sons, with the goal of bringing new life to the area. And so far, based on this Riesling, they’re doing a great job.

(C) Hillersden Wines
(C) Hillersden Wines

So far distribution in the US is limited, but you can use coupon code ESQUIRE for 30% off their entire wine selection through October 31. Shipping isn’t too bad, and the wine is super affordable. Let me know what you think!

Until the next glass, Cheers!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] It comes in an extra-large bottle and it’s actually kind fun.
[2] Which is reasonable and fair. #BYOB To all those restaurants price gouging with a $20 cork fee, really?!
[3] Which is on the travel bucket list for sure. Check this out, it looks amazing!

(C) Maharaja Express
(C) Maharaja Express

[4] Boneless chicken cooked with chopped spinach, and Indian spices.
[5] Lamb cubes cooked with tomatoes in freshly grounded spices, and yogurt sauce.
[6] Skewered ground lamb, spiced with garam masala, onion, ginger, and cilantro.
[7] Confession: I don’t remember what Husband got, but he usually gets Chicken Tikka Masala. It was great.
[8] Anguilla’s Rockfield Pepper Sauce is up there as one of THE BEST in the world. Serious Wow.
[9] It was the right choice.
[10] Fancy? No. Efficient? Yes.
[11] And at $15 a bottle, it’s a no-brainer.
[12] AND they forgot to charge us the BYOB corkage fee. Probably because nobody ever brings their own wine. Or maybe because they know us and felt bad their wine list was bad.

Aussies in NYC

Wirra Wirra Lineup

Sometimes I have really great ideas. Driving into New York City, by myself, during rush hour, on a Friday afternoon, did not happen to be one of them. I’ve never driven into the heart of Manhattan before, at least not by myself. Now that I’ve done it, though, I think I can pretty much conquer the world. If you find yourself having to do this, I found that blasting classical music helps to keep tempers calm[1].

But let’s get to the important stuff. Like why I was driving into NYC, by myself, during rush hour, on a Friday afternoon. It was because I was on my way to meet with Paul Smith, winemaker at Wirra Wirra Vineyards in McLaren Vale, Australia. I’d met Laura at the Wine Bloggers Conference out in Lodi earlier this year and she works for Negociants USA, an Australian-focused wine negociant and distributor[2]. They brought Paul in to New York to do some tastings and events, and I was lucky enough to meet up with him before he got back on a plane to head back Down Under.

Wine Esquire & Wine Maker
Wine Esquire & Wine Maker

Our meeting was supposed to be at 4 p.m. I had snuck out of the office[3] left work early to drive in to the city and when I left, Waze told me I’d arrive by 3:00[4]. That would give me enough time to check in to the Library Hotel, freshen up and make my way to Flinders Lane, an Australian restaurant in NYC. Well, time passed and the traffic increased, and soon my ETA was 4:45. I let Laura know I’d be a wee bit late, but they were very understanding. My arrival time ended up being around 5:30[5]; I was a bit stressed, but once I arrived, caught up with Laura, met Paul and started tasting the wine, all was well again in the world.

Flinders Lane NYC
Flinders Lane NYC

Paul described Wirra Wirra’s McClaren Vale as the place where the vines meet the sea[6], and told me that Wirra Wirra roughly translates to among the many “gum” or eucalyptus trees.

Aerial view of Wirra Wirra vineyards on the edge of Gulf St Vincent
Aerial view of Wirra Wirra vineyards on the edge of Gulf St Vincent (C) Wirra Wirra Vineyards

Founded in 1894, the winery was started by an eccentric cricketer named Robert Strangways Wigley. His wine business lasted until the early 1920s but then fell into disrepair after his death. Cousins Greg and Roger Trott revived the vines and began making wine again in 1972 after rebuilding from the ground up. Since then they’ve become a household name in Australia, with their Church Block red blend becoming the number one by-the-glass wine in Australia[7].

Wirra Wirra Lineup
Wirra Wirra Lineup

As you may have guessed, the Church Block vines are grown around a little church; with such a long running history, it has become a tradition for families to come to the winery each year to taste and purchase each vintage. The blend of Cabernet, Shiraz and Merlot spends 15 months in a mix of French and American barrels. The result is a luscious, smooth and velvety juice. The nose on the 2013 Wirra Wirra Church Block is almost flowery, the mouthfeel is gorgeous,[8] and at $21.99, it’s not going to break the bank. So far so good, Wirra Wirra.

The medieval trebuchet
The medieval trebuchet

The storytelling that accompanied the wine was top notch and next up was the 2014 Catapult Shiraz. With a drawing of a catapult on the label, I knew the story was going to be good. Founder Greg Trott had the brilliant idea to build a medieval trebuchet, or catapult, for a very important and serious purpose: to hurl wine bottles at neighboring wineries for a bit of good fun[9]. He figured that if he built one, so would his neighbors, and they could build a bit of a tourism draw to the catapulting wineries of the McLaren Vale. Surprisingly, none of his compatriots thought it was a good idea and the plan never materialized. His Wirra Wirra successors, however, revived the idea[10] and built a three story high Catapult in 2010. While no wine bottles have been flung[11], watermelons are tossed with regularity[12].

The 2014 Catapult Shriaz was lovely. A bit of raisins and berries with a slightly spicy finish. A gentle and delicate Shiraz that was a very easy drinker. Interestingly 1% of the blend is Viognier, which may play a part in the delicacy of this wine. Paul told me how these grapes are pressed before the tannins get too hard and then spend 12 months in French oak.

I asked Paul how he got into winemaking, and another enchanting story ensued. He started out as a young man wanting to be a sheep herder[13], so he packed his bags and moved far away from home. Paul tried to get into vet school but didn’t have the grades, he also didn’t have the money to get home. His friend found him a job with Francois Jacquard, a well-respected Australian winemaker, pruning grapes before the harvest. His friend told Francois that Paul knew what he was doing, which was a bold faced lie. After observing Paul’s work for a bit, Francois took him aside and said, “You should be called Edward Scissorhands, you cut everything!” From there, Francois took Paul under his wing and taught him to prune. Paul fell in love with the agricultural process and wine has been part of his life ever since.

Dead Ringer
Dead Ringer

We tasted several more wines, including the Dead Ringer Cabernet, one of their flagship lines. A delicate nose, definitely not a fruit bomb. A hint of tobacco with dark, deep plum fruit and nice chewy tannins. Great texture and structure. Leathery with a long finish. This wine spends 18 months in a blend of new and old French oak. The history of the name Dead Ringer peaked my lawyerly interest. This line of wines started out in 1989 being called Angelus, and it is still known this way in Australia[14]. But Château Angélus in Bordeaux took exception to the similar sounding name once it made its way over to mainland Europe. Lawyers were hired, a cease and desist letter was sent, and Wirra Wirra’s Dead Ringer was born, because it was a proverbial “dead ringer” for the wine formerly known as Angelus[15].

We wrapped up our tasting and said our goodbyes. Laura and Paul were both flying out early the next day and I was tired from my strenuous journey. I headed back to my lovely abode at the Library Hotel.

Tea and Chocolates ... Yes Please!
Tea and Chocolates … Yes Please!

I was able to catch the tail end of their evening reception in the Reading Room with free flowing wine, bubbly, cheese and sweet treats. My inner book nerd went crazy for the hotel’s collection of 6,000 books, organized according to the Dewey Decimal System. Each floor of the hotel is a Dewey Decimal category, and each room features a collection of books on a unique subject.

We stayed in the Money Room, appropriately placed next to the Law Room. Bookmarks Lounge, the hotel’s rooftop bar, overlooks the New York Public Library and served up lovely bubbly concoctions that Younger Sissy and I thoroughly enjoyed.

Library Hotel MontageA trip to the Library Hotel simply wouldn’t be complete without a book nerd photo shoot in the rooftop lounge. Sissy found an old edition of Mark Twain and we had a ball.

#BookNerd
#BookNerd

Thanks so much to the Library Hotel for hosting us!

Welcome to the Library Hotel
Welcome to the Library Hotel

Until the next glass, wine friends!

Cheers!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] It didn’t, however, help with the sweaty palms.
[2] The girls from Negociants USA hosted what I heard was a wild Aussie wine tasting after-party back at their house during #WBC16. Unfortunately, my lameness factor was on high though and I missed it. #SleepyHead
[3] #lawyerlife
[4] It also told me that I’d only have to make TWO turns off the West Side Highway in order to get to the parking garage. TWO. Not TWENTY TWO. TWO. #RushHourReDirect
[5] This may have slightly exceeded the “Fashionably Late” concept.
[6] Officially added to the Wine Bucket List.
[7] The folks at Wirra Wirra like to say it’s the “one church that unites us all”. #cheeky Over the course of our wine tasting, it quickly became apparent to me that having fun at Wirra Wirra is a top priority for everyone, winemaker included.
[8] Their website suggests pairing the Church Block with “Beef, mushroom and red wine pie.” WHAT IS RED WINE PIE AND WHY HAVE I NEVER HEARD OF IT BEFORE?! Don’t worry, I found a recipe. You’re welcome. Husband will be making this for dinner in the very near future. I’ll let you know how it goes.
[9] Such a good idea.
[10] With some inspiration from this crazy English Lord who likes to muck about by catapulting flaming pianos and CARS on his estate. What?! #NBD

[11] Something about dangerous broken glass … #liability.
[12] A tour of the vineyard will apparently reveal random divots here and there, evidence of past watermelon tossing.
[13] This in itself is so awesome.
[14] The name Angelus, of course, had its own history. Back in the 80s, a Wirra Wirra winemaker had swapped a few cases of wine for a ¾ ton bell that came out of a church in Adelaide. They hung the bell at the vineyard to signify the start to the work day.
[15] ANOTHER twist to the story is that in China, one of Wirra Wirra’s bigger markets, the wine is known as the Golden Bell, because apparently anything with “Dead” in the name won’t sell. #InternationalBusiness