Bubbly, Babies, Christmas Trees and Cigars, Oh My!

Highclere Castle Cigar

I know, I know, we all say it every year, but the holidays REALLY flew by this time. Like, completely disappeared. Maybe it had something to do with having Baby Wine Esquire around, but I didn’t even have time to watch Love Actually. Or Elf. Or It’s A Wonderful Life[1]. I’d like to go back to Thanksgiving and have a do over. Preferably without having to go to work this time. Who’s with me?

Thankfully, I did have some time to drink some wine, change some diapers, sip on some bubbles, change more diapers, and … smoke cigars. Yes, you ready that right. Cigars. Not something I typically do, but Husband’s new venture had me hard-pressed to take a puff. In between sips of course.

Highclere Castle Cigar

Highclere Castle Cigar is a partnership between Husband, Nick Melillo, master cigar blender/ founder of Foundation Cigar Company, and George Herbert, the 8th Earl of Carnarvon, owner of Highclere Castle, also known as the Real Downton Abbey[2].

Quite the unlikely trio, but you never know where life will take you. A few years ago, it took Husband and I across the pond to Highclere to meet Lord Carnarvon and his lovely wife Fiona[3]. I fondly recall our jaunt up to Scotland where the zero-tolerance drinking and driving policy turned me into the designated driver on our tour of Scottish distilleries.

Me.

Driving.

On the wrong side of the road.

On the wrong side of the car.

Let’s just say there were some white-knuckle moments, and a few extra laps around a few wee rotaries. Since that trip, they’ve been working on all manner of projects, including Highclere Castle Gin, the botanicals for which are being grown at Highclere as we speak, and is set to be launched this year, and Highclere Castle Cigar, which was launched this past July.

Highclere Castle Downton Abbey

With Melillo’s cigar genius, they created a cigar reminiscent of those that would have been smoked at Highclere at the turn of the century. Cigars have long been part of life at Highclere, with the family importing cigars to the castle by the hundreds, while also keeping a well-stocked humidor at The Ritz in London.

It turns out cigars go very well with red wine, and even bubbly[4]. Now I’m in no way a cigar connoisseur, but I got some serious tobacco on the nose of these babies. I think I’m just about ready to start a cigar blog[5]. No but seriously, people with legit cigar blogs have been loving the way these babies smoke. And for not being a cigar smoker, or a smoker of any kind, the puffs I puffed were magically smooth and delicious.

Highclere Castle Cigar

As for the bubbles, I had a bit more luck in picking out some flavors there. So far, my favorite of the season has been Santa Julia’s Blanc de Blanc, an organic sparkling Chardonnay from Mendoza, Argentina. Bready with a hint of honey, this was the perfect start to our Christmas Eve soirée. The ultra-fine bubbles paired rather well with the delectable selection of cheeses Mother-in-Law gifted me[6]. And for bubbly under $15, this is a serious must have.

Santa Julia Blanc de Blanc

Blanc de Blanc translates to “white from whites” and is used to describe sparkling wines made purely from white grapes, most frequently Chardonnay. I’ve been enjoying Blanc de Blancs for years without knowing this. It’s really true that you learn something new every day.

As for babies and Christmas trees, I really just added that to the title so I could share this shot with you. Isn’t he precious?[7]

Baby Wine Esquire
Babies Love Christmas Trees

Until the next glass my friends, Cheers! Oh, and Happy New Year! Can’t wait to celebrate with you all, one new bottle at a time!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] The list goes on and on. But I am watching White Christmas as I write this. Better late than never.
[2] Where my Downton fans at? They sorta kinda just announced the movie, I’m so excited! #spoileralert Little Sissy is still heartbroken about Matthew and refuses to watch after Season 3.

Downton Abbey Highclere Castle
The Red Couch!

[3] And yes, I got to sit on THE red couch! AND see Mary and Matthew’s bench!

Downton Abbey Highclere Castle
Their Bench!

[4] But honestly, what DOESN’T go with bubbly?
[5] Just kidding. The cigar aficionados of the world take these sticks seriously, and they love to Instagram their smokes almost as much as us winos!
[6] Because cheese is ALWAYS the right thing to give at Christmas! Such a good idea!
[7] #SantaSuitForTheWin

Beaujolais After Baby

wine and dine

Gamay, Beaujolais Nouveau and Wine Tasting Adventures

First, let me start by saying that being Wine Esquire and having a baby are not always so compatible. Little baby fingers like to grab things they shouldn’t;[1] and little baby lungs like to cry as soon as you sit down to type/sleep/drink wine/fold laundry/eat/shower, etc. I’m writing now with a baby on my lap. This is a first and he’s suddenly discovered that his life’s burning desire is to type! But we’re working through it, slowly but surely. One glass at a time.

wine baby laptop
But Mom, I wanna type too!

I’ve also noticed that my palate is totally different post-Baby. Going wine-free for 9ish months[2] clearly had an impact. My favorite big, smoky Cabs now find me smacking my lips and looking for a glass of sparkling water to cleanse my palate. Instead, I’m now gravitating toward lighter grapes like Pinot Noir, Gamay and Pinotage.

This evening’s glass[3] is a lovely French Gamay; an easy drinker, perfect for my new sensitive palate.

Georges Duboeuf Juliénas Château des Capitans

Slight traces of sweet raspberries on the soft pretty nose make way for a soft, silky and jammy sip of wine with a touch of sparkle on the finish. Now this is what I’m talking about!

Georges Duboeuf Juliénas Château des Capitans

… fast forward one week and I’ve finally gotten the chance to get my computer open again…[4]

The bottle was the 2015 Georges Duboeuf Juliénas Château des Capitans[5], 100% Gamay grown on the grounds of a 19th-century castle in the heart of the AOC Cru Juliénas, on a tiny plot of land known as Les Capitans. Juliénas is a village named after Julius Caesar; local vintners believe this area was home to the first vines planted in Beaujolais by the Romans during their conquest of Gaul.

Unbeknownst to me when I opened last weekend’s bottle of Gamay, it

Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2017 photo courtesy of Quintessential Wines
Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2017 photo courtesy of Quintessential Wines

was Beaujolais Nouveau release week! Never heard of Beaujolais Nouveau?[6] On the third Thursday of November, the winemakers of Beaujolais, France[7] release the product of their most recent vintage. The wine, having just been picked weeks before, is fresh, new and ready to drink right away[8]. Georges Duboeuf essentially introduced the Beaujolais Nouveau holiday in the US in 1982, and quickly gained recognition with his iconic, colorful wine labels. He is perhapss the most well-known producer from the region, and he’s not just a fly by night marketing genius, his family’s history of wine making spans four centuries.

 

Beaujolais Day happens to arrive just in time for Thanksgiving every year… coincidence? I think not! Light, fruity Gamay is PERFECT to pair with turkey and all the fixins[9].

Given that it was a wine celebration week, I continued on the Beaujolais path and attended a fabulous tasting at Max’s Oyster Bar. This was my first wine event since Baby Wine Esquire and I have to admit, I was a bit rusty,[10] but it was a great reintroduction to the wine world, confirming that I’m ready to be back.

wine and dine
The 2017 Terres Dorées L’Ancien by Jean-Paul Brun

The tasting started with the 2017 release of Terres Dorées L’Ancien by Jean-Paul Brun, paired with an excellent pate de foie gras. The wine was super juicy and screamed of bright cherries. Jean-Paul Brun ha been a staple in Beaujolais since the late 1970s, producing 400,000 bottles per year from grapes planted on his 40 acres throughout the region.

As the tasting moved on, with a delectable Soufflé au Homard[11], Bourride Pyramidale[12] and Poulet en Fricassee Louhaannise[13], so did the ages of the Beaujolais. It’s important to remember that not all wine grown in Beaujolais is the unaged nouveau release; Gamay ages quite beautifully. The next selections were all beautiful wines, but the rusty WineySquire forgot to take home her notes. I’ll be better next time. Promise.

Bourride Pyramidale aka Fish Stew #fancy

The important takeaway here is that Gamay from Beaujolais is a serious winner, with lots of stunners for less than $25. So if you haven’t shopped for Turkey Day yet, head out and try some Beaujolais!

Cheers![14]

Lawyer Footnotes

[1]My fellow bloggers know how difficult it is to get something published as it is; now with a little bundle of joy bopping around, it’s been proving even more difficult.
[2] It was 9 “ish” because this baby took 41 weeks to make his world debut and by the end, he was fully cooked, and a little bit of wine did us both a lotta good.
[3] And by “this evening” I mean last Sunday. #winebloggerproblems
[4] Baby Wine Esquire is currently amusing himself by trying to eat his crinkly and squishy Very Hungry Caterpillar Book … #teething
[5] A sample I received from Quintessential Wines. Merci!
[6] If that’s the case, then you probably live under a rock!
[7] Beaujolais is a region, not a type of grape. Roughly pronounced Beau-ju-lay.
[8] Similar to Bordeaux’s En Primeur concept, only this wine is very drinkable right after harvest.
[9] Speaking of which, I’m so excited for all the fixins. #sweetpotatoparsnsipsandgreenbeansohmy
[10] So much so that I left the menu with my notes on the table. #amateur
[11] Lobster Soufflé
[12] Fish Stew
[13] Braised Chicken
[14] BTW, during the course of finishing this blog, Baby Wine Esquire became completely disinterested in his crinkly book, got super fussy and is now napping. #thankgodmybabylovestosleep

Summer Standards

Summer is the time for chilled whites, light reds, and of course bubbles. You all know I like variety and mixing it up, but Dry Creek Vineyard’s Chenin Blanc is one I keep going back to. I always have a bottle or six of this one handy. It’s perfect for sipping on the beach, on the porch, in your air conditioning, or in your hot as hades non-air-conditioned space.

My essential summer staples also include plastic wine glasses #beachlife

It would go well with a handful of nuts[1], or with an exquisitely prepared Chicken Piccata, with fresh lemons, a handful of capers, garnished with a sprinkle of garden-grown parsley[2].

The folks over at Dry Creek Vineyard sure know how to tug on my Loire-Valley loving heart strings. Their website tells the back story for this bottle:

“If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Dry Creek Vineyard extends praise to our original source of inspiration in the small French village of Vouvray in the Loire Valley. It was in Vouvray, that our love affair with Chenin Blanc began.”

Once I discovered the Loire Valley and Chenin Blanc, there was no turning back. Kudos to Dry Creek for having been able to replicate[3] the subtly sweet and delicious crispness indicative of their French inspiration.

I get notes of floral and stone fruit, peaches perhaps, with a touch of minerality behind the scenes. The mouthfeel is perfection; great body with a silky swirl finish. At $12.99 a bottle, you seriously can’t go wrong[4].

AND let’s not forget that summer doesn’t end until September 22 this year. That’s FOUR MORE DAYS OF SUMMER PEOPLE! Savor your favorite summer staple while you still can. I know I will be.

Until the next glass, Cheers!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] Tonight’s dinner. #momlife

[2] What I wish I was eating for dinner.

[3] My favorite kind of replication, however, will always be the RepliKate.

[4] And Wine.Com ALWAYS has amazing coupon codes to get this for even less! #extremecouponing

Let’s Wine For an Hour

As I’m getting’ back in the swing of things, one glass at a time, I participated in last week’s #WiningHourChat. If you don’t know about the Wining Hour Chat, it’s a lot of fun. A fab trio of ladies hosts every Tuesday at 9 EST[1]. Sometimes a specific wine is on the menu, other times it’s just about what’s in your glass. The featured winery last week was Pedroncelli Winery out of Geyserville, California in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley[2].

I do love a good coat of arms #labelart

This family operation began in 1927 when Giovanni and Julia Pedroncelli purchased a small vineyard of approximately 25 acres in Dry Creek Valley. They were one of the few wineries to survive Prohibition, staying afloat by selling grapes to home winemakers. Lawyer Fact[3]: Prohibition’s Vosltead Act provided a loophole allowing wine to be made at home. An October 1920 Treasury Department memo instructed federal agents not to pursue individuals making their own wine. The memo stated that “the head of a family who has properly registered may make 200 gallons exclusively for family use without payment of tax thereon.”[4]

Now, in its 90th year, the fourth generation of Pedroncelli’s continue the family business with more than 100 acres of vines. From Sauvignon Blanc to Chardonnay, Zinfandel to Cabernet Sauvignon, their impressive lineup is available online and quite reasonably priced from $17 to $36 a bottle.

I sampled their Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel and both were excellent[5]. The Cabernet Sauvignon had a big, bright, fruity Cab nose[6]. Notes of leather and dark berry, perhaps black courant. A nice light mouthfeel but with fairly big tannins. The finish was smooth and silky. The Zinfandel was full of spice on the nose and black pepper on the finish. A perfect pairing with my quick meal of leftover chicken kebabs.[7]

This 2015 Zin came from Pedroncelli’s Mother Clone vineyard which has been planted with Zinfandel vines since 1904[8]. The majority of the grapes used in this vintage come from the vines re-planted in the 1980s from the clone of the original “Mother” vines, but a bit of the grapes from the remaining 100+ year old vines made their way into the bottle as well.

I hope you join in for this week’s #WiningHourChat, tonight (Tuesday) at 9 EST. The lovely Wining Hour ladies will be chatting about whatever’s in your glass this evening. My plan is to be there, perhaps with a glass of Rosé[9]. We’ll see if Baby Wine Esquire likes that plan or not J

TTFN[10]

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] During pregnancy this was WAY past my bedtime, so I couldn’t even pretend to participate. Last week’s was a bit dicey as Baby Wine Esquire decided to wake up and want to feed PRECISELY at 9 p.m. But we made it work.
[2] Dry Creek Valley, which is apparently not dry at all, is an approximately 9,000 acre AVA known primarily for its Zinfandel grapes.
[3] I guess I have to get back into the swing of lawyering soon too … #everydayissaturdayonmaternityleave
[4] 200 gallons equates to 757,082 milliliters, which yields approximately 1,009 standard 750 ml bottles (according to the smart people at Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences). That gives you about 2.7 bottles per household, per day. Not too shabby, considering it was Prohibition. Interestingly, the 200 gallon limitation is still the law, but it only applies to a household of two or more adults. If you’re single you can only make 100 gallons per year. #SinglismIsReal
[5] Baby Wine Esquire got a bit fussy, so the Chardonnay will have to wait for another day.
[6] You know the kind I mean.
[7] My love of leftovers has increased tenfold since Baby arrived. #feedmequick
[8] #OldVineZin
[9] Because it’s still #RoséSeason ya’ll!
[10] Ta Ta For Now.