Extracurriculars and French Wine

It’s been a few days since my last post. I suppose that will happen sometimes. This was a fairly crazy week with multiple events every day. Lawyers at mid-size firms, like the one I’m at, are expected to not only work a lot of hours for our clients, but also to get our name out there to bring in business[1]. This means, I spend a lot of time doing “extracurricular” activities, like weekly 7 a.m. networking meetings, bar association events, political fundraisers, and talking to fourth graders about the law. Thankfully, I’ve been able to finagle a way to drink wine at many of my extracurriculars, so it’s not really that bad.[2]

This was the first of my ClubW wine selections. We were heading to an event, soIMG_5153 I was hoping for a wine that did not need a food pairing to be enjoyed. I admit, I was somewhat hesitant about this one. Wine clubs and wine buying conglomerates[3] have left me high and dry in the past. But one of my colleagues at the Firm said she’d placed an order and enjoyed all the bottles tasted thus far, so I gave it a shot. I picked this bottle because in theory, today is the second day of spring,[4] and I took the lovely flowers on the label as a good sign.

To:                  Alleged Blog Readers
From:              WineEsquire
Date:               March 21, 2015
Wine:             ClubW Atelier Saint Saturnin 2012 Review
On the nose I get a little must, but it’s not overly fragrant.  The color is beautiful, almost cranberry. No real legs[5] when I swirl. When I taste I get some grape fruit juice but not a whole lot of flavor. Very light. I would say it was pleasant. This had a smooth finish and not a lot of tannins.[6] You certainly don’t need an eight ounce filet to imbibe, which was perfect since I really just wanted a glass before we left. There was nothing that called me back for more though. Husband, who had just brushed his teeth and put on cologne before tasting, was not helpful in discerning any flavors.

Honestly, I would say this was a dud. It was certainly not a ghastly wine that left a bad taste in my mouth, but it really didn’t leave any taste in my mouth, which sort of defeats the point of drinking wine. If you’re doing the ClubW thing, I would probably skip the Atelier.

Wine Dossier
IMG_5160There is no discernible grape type on the bottle and the cork was unmarked[7]. The front label reads “Atelier, Saint Saturnin, 2012”. I had to Google Saint Saturnin thinking it was a type of grape I’d never heard of before. This is actually a village in France[8]. The back of the bottle reads “2012 Red Wine, Coteaux[9] du Languedoc” so it’s a blend of grapes from the region known as Coteaux du Languedoc, but I thought it rather odd that the specific varietals weren’t listed. Turns out, this is not all that uncommon for French wines since historically, the French grow and identify wines by region rather than by varietal. ClubW provides you with a full description of each wine.[10] It identified this as being a Grenache and Syrah blend and described the wine as “full-bodied, earthy and rich.” Go figure. Like I said, the taste of a wine can change depending on when and where you drink it. Maybe I’ll give it another try later and report back.

March 22, 2015. Tried the wine again. Same verdict. Review is sustained.

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] This is different from people who work in BigLaw. If you’re in a MegaFirm, they just expect you to bill until you drop. There are apparently lawyer robot drones other people to take care of bringing in business. It’s a mysterious and miserable world. I’m glad I’m not part of it.
[2] I didn’t drink with the fourth graders. Promise.
[3] Not to name names, but if an offer of $25 for $75 worth of wine shows up on Groupon or LivingSocial, I’ve learned to stay away.
[4] We had several inches of snow yesterday and it was still going when we woke up this morning. I’m pleased to report, however, that the temperature has spiked to a balmy 43°F and most of yesterday’s precipitation is disappearing.
[5] I knew the term “wine legs” and what they looked like, but did not know what it indicated. Turns out it has no bearing on the quality of the wine. Rather, high alcohol content and wines with high sugar content will have “legs”, or visible streams or drops down the side of the glass when you swirl. Feel free to read more about “wine legs” a/k/a wine tears” here.
[6] You can learn a bit about tannins here. Basically, if a wine tastes dry, you can tell your friends that you’re getting a lot of tannins.
[7] Probably not a big deal but it is rather boring not to have a pretty cork. Also made me a little nervous about the quality of the wine.
[8] And also a saint. Note, per Wikipedia, this image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired. Saturninus_vignay
[9] “Coteaux” translates directly to “hill” but when talking about wine, it means “a hill covered by vines”. I had to Google this too. Don’t worry, I got you.
[10] My plan is not to look at these until after I’ve written my reviews so I’m not tainted.



Una Bottiglia Di Vino Rosso

I’ve been teaching myself Italian on the way to and from the Firm. By teaching myself, I mean I listen to ItalianPod101.com podcasts. My hosts, Cinzia and Marco, make my 40 plus minute commute fun and enjoyable, and I’m learning one of the most beautiful languages in the world.[1] Today’s Newbie Lesson #7 had us learning how to order a bottle of sparkling mineral water at an Italian bar[2]. I learned some key vocabulary today, including bottle, bottiglia, and vorrei, I would like. I happen to know that vino rosso means red wine, so I’m pretty much set for my next trip to Italy.[3]

We went to a Piedmont wine tasting dinner a few months ago where our deep love for Barolo’s was validated and we were introduced to other Piedmont varietals like Barbera D’Asti, Nebbiolo and Dolcetto.[4] Since then, the more affordable Barberas have been one of our main go-to wines. As I considered which wine we should drink tonight with our home made pizza[5], I thought what better way to reinforce my newly acquired Italian vocab then to use the words in real life. Una bottiglia di vino rosso was the clear winner.

To:                  Alleged Blog Readers
From:              WineEsquire
Date:               March 16, 2015
Wine:              2011 Vietti Barbera D’Asti Review

This was breathing for about thirty minutes before we imbibed. From the start, this was a pleasant IMG_5086experience. The nose was fruity with a hint of spice. The first sip was light, sweet and full of fruit. The finish was smooth; no dry mouth here. The wine grew in complexity as I nibbled some creamy Havarti cheese. The bottle didn’t quite make it all the way to dinner, but that was a testament to how drinkable and enjoyable it was. At $19.99, this was on the higher end of my bottiglia expenditures but it was well worth the few extra dillari[6]. For you poor newbie lawyers, splurge on this for your next special occasion[7]. For you seasoned attorneys with some dough in the bank, buy a case of this and enjoy.

Wine Dossier
Barbera D’Asti is a red wine made from Barbera grapes in the Asti province of Piedmont, Italy. This bottle was produced by Vietti, a historic winemaker who first began selling wine in 1919. Since the 1970s, each year Vietti commissions artists to design unique labels for each wine from that vintage. In this particular work of art, my artistic eye[8] sees an evil little nymph poking its bald head out of an eyeball.[9] IMG_5092

What do you see?

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] I go through spurts where all I want is NPR, and then there are times (like now) where I can’t bear to listen to one more news story. And learning Italian is infinitely better than those fundraising weeks. You know what I mean.
[2] That’s where almost all the lessons take place. Obviously.
[3] Of course I also know the essentials like, buongiorno (good day), per favore (please), grazie (thank you) and buona sera (good evening). I’m practically fluent.
[4] Even though deep down I know it’s not, I always think Dolchetto is a dessert wine and I never order it. I should really try to remember that is not the case and give it a try.
IMG_5089[5] Topped with ground sausage, caramelized onions, diced granny smith apples, garlic and goat cheese. The dough dried out a bit but the topping was scrumptious.
[6] That means dollar in Italian.
[7] Sometime, special occasions include getting through a Monday.
[8] Lies. I have no artistic eye.
[9] I mean no disrespect to the talented artist who created this. I’m not yet experienced in the art of such interpretation.

A Spanish Mencia and Thoughts on Wine Ratings

I’ve been enjoying wine for quite some time now. I remember back to my college years when I thought taking Franzia out of the box and carrying the bag around at parties was really clever. Thankfully, wine and I have evolved since then. Part of my wine routine is to go through the Wine Spectator buying guide for recommendations. At first I tried to buy the wines at local package stores but soon discovered many were not widely available. I quickly turned, like I do for most other things, to the internet. Now I’m subscribed to multiple liquor stores email newsletters and find my inbox filled with offers for deals like a “95 Point Chardonnay” and a “93 Point Estate Zinfandel”. The offers are tempting, they almost sound too good to be true.[1] Last week I succumbed to the sweet, enticing email blast and bought four bottles of 2009 Alvarez de Toledo Mencia Roble, which was rated 91 Points by The Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker.[2] Sounded good to me!

59605362Now that I’m a wine blogger, I’m starting to read other wine blogs. I happened upon 1 Wine Dude’s blog post today about wine scores.[3] I thought it unfair of him to say that wine producers shouldn’t tout their scores. If the knowledge that someone who knows a thing or two about wine thought that this was a good one, why shouldn’t the consuming public be told? After all, evidence is relevant if it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence. FRCP 401. So, if it helps producers sell a few more bottles, or introduces a new customer to the wine, it seemed like sharing the scores should be a no-brainer.

After bringing the Alvarez de Toledo to dinner with friends and taking the first sip, I reconsidered my position on scoring. Drinking wine, after all, is such a subjective activity. Drink the same wine on two different days, with different food, with different people, and it will taste different. Take a sip of wine inside and then take a sip outside, it will taste different. Everyone’s palates are unique, so in theory, while a 1998 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild [4] may taste like a flowery glass of heaven to me, my drinking companion may find it harsh and dry.[5]

Because I knew that someone had rated this particular wine a 91, I, perhaps unfairly, expected fireworks to explode in my mouth. That is not to say that this was a bad or unenjoyable wine, but knowing the score negatively impacted my expectations, and thus my experience. I’m certainly not advocating the demise of the wine rating system, nor would I fault a producer for touting a good score to its customers. My take away is that in the future I’ll be less apt to buy four bottles of a wine I’ve never tried based on someone else’s numeric assignment. Onto the review.
To:                  Alleged Blog Readers
From:             WineEsquire
Date:               March 15, 2015
Wine:              Alvarez de Toledo Mencia Roble 2009 Review

IMG_5064As I said, we brought this wine to dinner with friends. There was no breathing, no decanting, just popped the cork, poured and sipped. I do not have much experience with Spanish wines, and this may have been my first Mencia[6]. On the nose I got hints of musty leather. The first sip was dry with very spicy undertones. This was a thinner wine that did not give you a big mouthful like the 6th Sense Syrah. Like the Chateau de Lavagnac Bordeaux, this wine greatly improved when enjoyed with food[7] and I think the time it spent breathing as we socialized and ate helped it to relax, allowing for a smooth and enjoyable finish. Husband thought the wine was “young” and that it still had some aging to do in the bottle. I don’t know if I’m sophisticated enough to know what that means, but we’re going to put the remaining three bottles in the cellar[8] and see what happens in two to three years. I’m going to put all my cards on the table here and tell you that I paid $7.99 a bottle. At that price point, you can’t go wrong because after ten minutes of breathing and paired with food, this was a very enjoyable wine.

Wine DossierIMG_5070
The wine producer, Alvarez de Toledo, has a long family tradition of winemaking. I’m loving their coat of arms on the bottle. This bottle was 100% mencia grape, grown in the Bierzo region of Castilla Leon, Spain.

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] And we all know, that means they usually are.
[2] Prior to writing this post I didn’t know who Robert Parker was or what the Wine Advocate was. From the email I received I assumed it was something similar to Wine Spectator. Turns out it’s this guy named Robert Parker’s wine review website.
[3] Meme originally published by 1WineDude.
[4] The 1998 scored 95 points according to Wine Spectator.
[5] Perhaps using a 1998 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild was not a good example. While I have not yet had the pleasure of imbibing such a treasure, from what I’ve heard, I don’t think any member of the human race could think it harsh or dry.
[6] I had to google this. I couldn’t figure out where the name of the winery ended and the name of the wine began. Mencia is a grape variety I had not previously heard of.
[7] Our host served a delicious spread of candied walnut spinach salad, peppers stuffed to the gills with rice, meat and cheese and fragrant garlic bread.
[8] Cellar is a fancy word for basement. We do have a wine rack though.

Michael David’s Sixth Sense

It was 53 degrees today. It’s practically summer up in here. And thank god. I (and the rest of humanity within a 50 mile radius) was just about ready to jump off a cliff. This was a tough winter February for us and I for one am ecstatic that it is over.[1] I wasn’t feeling daylight savings time on Monday morning, but this evening, when I left work and it was still light out, I was absolutely euphoric.

On the way home I stopped at a new package store (for all you outsiders, this is what we Connecticutians call liquor stores). Walking into a new store is always exciting. My heart beats a little faster and I’m excited about the new wines I know are waiting for me. This was a particularly nice store that was new, clean and most importantly, had rows and rows of wine. Seeing all the beautiful options is almost overwhelming, as though there will never be enough time to drink all the wine[2]. I came out with seven a few bottles.[3] I chose one to enjoy tonight and was pleased with my selection. What I wasn’t pleased with, however, was how WordPress was not the simple, easy, user-friendly platform I was hoping for. Am I too old to understand this stuff?[4] I didn’t think so, but my attempt at posting my first blog made me question my technical abilities. I won’t dwell on this though. I’m sure I’ll figure it out. Onto the wine.


To:                   Alleged Blog Readers
From:              WineEsquire
Date:               March 11, 2015
Wine:              2011 Michael David 6th Sense Syrah

IMG_5019I smell something. It’s a good something. But I can’t actually put my finger on what it is. It smells rich and deep, almost meaty. I taste the wine and it tastes rich and deep, almost meaty. You really get a mouthful with this one. Definitely full bodied with a drier finish. I would use the word “robust”. This is thoroughly enjoyable. Especially with my (reheated) veal osso bucco and risotto. With the food I get notes of smoke and wood. Now that I mention it, I think that’s what I smell on the nose too. The color of this wine is beautiful, the deepest shade of plum imaginable with a ring of bright burgundy bubbles around the edge. No matter if you’re still in debt or finally enjoying the fruits of your lawyer labor, I would recommend getting a bottle of this, stat. At the $16.99 price point, I’ll certainly be purchasing again.IMG_5021

Update 3/13/15
Two days later this wine is still insanely enjoyable. Unfortunately I can’t say the same for my microwaved leftovers. You win some, you lose some.

Wine Dossier
This is a 2011 syrah from the Lodi (LOHD-eye) appellation[5] in Graton, California. Syrah and shiraz are actually the same grape varietal. When grown and used in Australia it’s known as shiraz. It’s called syrah almost everywhere else. This bottle came from the Michael David winery. I’ve had two other bottles from this winery and both were outstanding. I know I’ll be drinking them again, but it wouldn’t hurt to run out and try their Petite Petit or their Earthquake Cabernet.

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] On multiple occasions we were colder than the NORTH POLE. That is cold.
[2] #allthewine is one of my favorite hashtags. Are you supposed to use #hashtags in blogs? I love #hashtags.
[3] I don’t feel as guilty buying in bulk now that I have a wine blog.
[4] Full disclosure, I recently celebrated the first anniversary of my 29th birthday.
[5] Per Wikipedia, “an appellation is a legally defined and protected geographical indication used to identify where the grapes for a wine were grown; other types of food often have appellations as well.” I cited to Wikipedia in a legal brief once and the judge did not like it. Since this is being written while I’m drinking wine and not working, I figured it would be ok.