#Under25Challenge – Adventure Número Uno

File Dec 29, 8 25 19 PMA few weeks ago I had a brilliant[1] idea for a series of blog posts. The idea is for me to go around to charming little wine shops on my travels and ask the wine friends working there to participate in my challenge. The challenge is to recommend their favorite and/or best bottle $25 or under. Then I’ll take the wine home, take a few photos, drink a few glasses, and blog about it. Brilliant, right? I thought so.

So I went on my first challenge escapade. A few weeks ago I found myself up in the Litchfield Hills, a quiet beautiful corner of the state riddled with adorable boutique[2] stores and restaurants. I wandered[3] into a little wine shop excited for my first challenge. Given that they had literally just moved, their stock was pretty low, so this may not have been the ideal start to my #Under25Challenge, but c’est la vie.

I told my new #winefriend the parameters of the challenge, and he gave me two choices. One was slightly under $25, and one was slightly higher at $28.99. The under $25 was a personal favorite of his, a red blend from Italy. The other was a 2006 bottle of Spanish goodness, and one that you couldn’t find anymore. This was actually their last bottle[4]. Even though I made up the rules, I promptly broke them when I heard the Spanish wine couldn’t be bought anymore. I guess the new parameter is “around $25”. We’ll see how that works going forward.

Feeling odd buying just one bottle, I also picked up a 2009 Montefalco Sagrantino[5] that I’m epically excited to try. But that will have to wait for another day.

  • To:                  Alleged Blog Readers
    From:             WineEsquire
    Date:               December 29, 2015
    Wine:             Mansion Garrido Vina Centenaria Tinto Exclusivo 2006

This was a complex bottle of wine. It would actually have benefitted from filtering since there was a ton of sediment in the glass after I poured.[6] Raisins, leather and smoke on the nose. The mouth gave way to a bouquet of jammy raisins. Medium-bodied and a bit on the dry side. Excellent with our gourmet meal of beef stew, multigrain bread and sweet potato puree[7]. This was a strong wine and I think it may be too much to drink on its own without some nosh[8]. For the price I paid I was a bit underwhelmed, but it was certainly an experience I enjoyed.File Dec 29, 8 36 43 PM

Wine Dossier

Without the use of The Google, I could not for the life of me figure out what kind of wine this was. I determined that it was from Spain, but I couldn’t discern a varietal. To be fair, there’s a lot going on on this label. The producer, Mansion Garrido, is run by a family that has been making wine on the same property in  Fermoselle, Spain for 375 years[9]. The grape, known as Juan Garcia, is an autochthonous grape variety of the Arribes River Canyon within the inland Castile-León region of Spain. This means the grape is indigenous to this area and only grown there. It is also said to have survived the catastrophic phylloxera vine disease[10] due to its protected geographic area within the canyons along the Duero River.File Dec 29, 8 22 14 PM

Turns out you can find this wine online for less than what I paid. So for my first #Under25Challenge, I may have been slightly hoodwinked[11], but at the end of the day, it was a great bottle of wine. It all worked out and now you can try it too since it is not, in fact, an endangered bottle.

Happy wine-ing!

Lawyer Footnotes

[1] Brilliant may be pushing it, but I think it’s a good idea.
[2] Read: Expensive.
[3] Wandered may not be the correct word since I drove around the block four freaking several times and ended up having to actually call to find out where they were located. Turns out they had recently moved around the corner from their old location and Yelp! hadn’t updated their listing. Don’t worry, I sent a note to Yelp! about their snafu.
[4] Now that I think about it, I think he totally sales-pitched me into the higher priced bottle and I fell for it. #sucker
[5] Never heard of this? I hadn’t either until we adventured in Umbria, Italy a few years ago. A little known grape that packs the most delicious punch, I can’t wait to tell you about it. #comingsoon
[6] Note that we drank this out of my new Riedel Heart to Heart glasses I received for Christmas. The glass literally sings. #realcrystal #swoo
[7] The things Husband did to these potatoes was absolutely sinful.File Dec 29, 8 42 33 PM
[8] I tried it on its own on day 2 and found myself needing a few Christmas cookies to go with it. #ChristmasProblems
[9] You can find the current owner, Jorge Garrido, on LinkedIn, but only on the Spanish version, so I don’t know how to connect with him. #nohabla
[10] Remember we talked about this wine disaster? See One of Those Days post, footnote 11.
[11] Makes sense given the location; see footnote 2, supra.

Breaking News – Wine Marathon – Star Wars Edition

Dearest Alleged Blog Readers,

You guys! It’s happening again! Its LastBottle Wine Marathon time! Our friends at LastBottle tell us that this one is going to be special. For starters, there’s a Star Wars theme, in honor of this week’s release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, so it’s bound to be out of this galaxy.[1] We’ve also got some stellar juice including bottles from Sine Qua Non, Colgin, and Aubert.lastbottle starwars

Tomorrow at 9 a.m. PST (or Noon, WineEsquire time) the marathon will begin. A 2-day period of crazy non-stop wine buying. No emails, no reminders. When the wine is gone, it’s gone, and it’s onto the next. You gotta get it in your cart and check out quick lest it disappears right before your eyes. Best of all is the free shipping[2]! My adrenaline is pumping just thinking about it! Last time I walked away with more than a case of intergalactic bottles. I’ve made my way through many of them, and all have been stellar.

By participating in the WineEsquire contest you’ll be entered to win one of the magical wine bottles that I purchase during the marathon madness! To enter all you have to do is sign up for Last Bottle using this link and email me confirmation that you signed up. You’ll get $5.00 toward your first purchase as an added bonus! It wouldn’t be a bad idea sign up for blog updates from Wine Esquire as well! I’ll be Instagraming and Live Tweeting as we go. Tag me throughout and let me know what bottles you snagged. We’re gonna have a lot of fun.

Do you think The Firm will notice if I have my Do Not Disturb button on for the next 24 hours? #multitasking

Contest Breakdown

  1. Sign up for Last Bottle here
  2. Follow Wine Esquire on Twitter and Instagram
  3. Email WineEsquire@gmail.com that you’ve signed up
  4. Partake in the wine buying marathon madness
  5. Drink some Wine

Note: If you’ve already signed up for LastBottle through WineEsquire, you can enter the contest by sharing this blog post on Facebook or Twitter and tagging @WineEsquire. Just send me an email and let me know that’s what you’re doing.

Questions? Comments? Hit me up on the Gmail, I promise I’ll try to respond, although I may be very busy buying wine. #winoproblems

Cheers!Last Bottle

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] Haha. That was so bad it was funny.
[2] As long as you live in the lower 48.

Sign up and Email confirmation must be received by 11:59 p.m. ET on December 17, 2015. Once you sign up, you’ll be entered to win one of the bottles I buy today. Contest open to U.S. shipping addresses only, subject to applicable shipping laws #lawyerlife.

Chef Bill’s Magical Christmas Feast

Warning: Epic amounts of Food and Wine will be discussed in the subsequent blog post. I recommend grabbing a snack and a beverage lest you feel overly jealous.

File Dec 14, 6 29 12 PMIf you follow me on TheInsta then you know we’re knee deep in the middle of my favorite time of year[1]. Something about the cheesy amazing music, the twinkling lights and the spirit of giving puts me in my happy place and I try to embrace it as much as possible[2]. We tend to entertain on a regular basis throughout the year, but we really step it up once the tree is up. Saturday night we hosted a fantabulous evening of food, wineFile Dec 13, 2 14 08 PM and Onyx Moonshine. The dinner was donated to raise funds for Husband’s alma mater, and clients of mine were kind enough to provide Chef Bill, a culinary genius that made some serious foodie miracles happen in our kitchen. I selected the wine with the help of the smartest ex-lawyer I know down at The Wise Old Dog. Everything turned out impeccable.

We started with crab and avocado on garlic crostini along with a baked brie withFile Dec 14, 6 30 52 PM cranberries and rum. The brie was so luscious, my inner beast really wanted to take the plate, hide in a corner and eat it all by myself[3]. But I behaved and only had one taste. Ok two. Maybe three. But it was just so good. These goodies were served with the CiderBerry Cocktail: cranberry juice, apple cider and Onyx Moonshine shaken then topped with a splash of ginger ale[4].

File Dec 13, 2 13 44 PMOnce our appetites had been thoroughly whetted, we moved to the dining room where the feast truly began. The sumptuous salmon bisque was almost too pretty to eat. It turns out that the 2013 Banshee Chardonnay was virtually made to be enjoyed with this bisque. Mild citrus with a hearty helping of medium bodied liquid gold. I had taken the bottle out of the fridge about twenty minutes prior to this course so it was chilled, but the flavors were really allowed to shine.

File Dec 14, 6 33 42 PMNext appeared two of the largest pan-seared[5] scallops I’ve ever had served with an orange and grapefruit reduction. These babies were shucked just days ago off George’s Island and were size “U10”, or 10 scallops per pound, which is freakin’ huge. They were paired with Domaine de la Madone Beaujolais Nouveau 2015.[6] People tend to think seafood must be served with white wine, but I wanted to change it up a bit and it paid off. The bright and fruity Beaujolais exquisitely complemented the hearty, tender scallops and played off the orange and grapefruit reduction like a dream.

And then there was bubbly. I know, I know, another non-traditional experience. Bubbly usually starts or ends the evening, but having it in the middle with the chocolate-balsamic drizzled green salad was a perfect palate-cleansing experience. I chose Monte Maria Prosecco, a non-vintage bottle from Veneto, Italy. The sweet, crisp bubbles enriched the ever-so-subtle chocolate balsamic, making eating your greens a highly enjoyable task.

File Dec 13, 2 13 05 PMBy this time we were all feeling good. Our bellies were warm and full, our palates had been cleansed and we were ready for the main event. Beef Wellington. I’d never had this before, though Husband and I have talked about it for years[7]. A cut of filet mignon topped with a layer of pâté, wrapped in pastry. Full stop. Does it get better? I don’t know how it could. Chef Bill’s take on this was superb. His eastern-European chopped liver with a mix of onions and mushrooms was exquisite on its own[8]. The filet was cooked perfectly. Literally. I’ve never had a filet come out so well done. And I don’t mean well done as in burned to a crisp. I mean well done as in perfectly pink, almost red, juicy, flavorful and delicious. I chose the 2011 Bordeaux by Château Gaby to go with this meaty masterpiece. We had decanted it just before our guests arrived, so it had been breathing for at least two hours. It was a rich, meaty red wine that stood up to the beef impeccably. This juice, coupled with the pâté and pastry encrusted filet was an absolutely euphoric experience; nobody could stop raving about it.

Now we were really in a good place. Fully sated and warm from the drink. Chef Bill, in all his wisdom, decided to make us take a break. Twenty minutes later we were all in the kitchen to watch him and his assistant Isiah make a fresh batch of pot de crème.[9] We witnessed his trick to separating eggs by using your hands[10], and saw as he expertly made bits of Ghirardelli chocolate transform into beautiful pots of delicious chocolate heaven.

File Dec 14, 6 35 59 PMWe returned to the table and were served the pre-made pots topped with freshly whipped cream and a fresh raspberry. This was paired with the Late Bottle Vintage Quinta Sta Eufemia Porto 2009. And then there was silence. Literally no one said a word for at least four solid minutes. We were in our own little worlds, unartfully chowing down on the thick, rich chocolate pots, then silently washing it down with the rich dazzling port.

After we recovered, the men-folk went out for an El Güegüense cigar and the women chatted ‘round the Christmas tree. It sounds sexist, I know, but who actually wants to smoke a cigar? Not this girl. Around the tree was right where I wanted to be, with another wee glass of port.

It was an epic evening to remember. We spent the whole of Sunday morning trying to figure out ways to incorporate Chef Bill into our lives on a regular basis[11]. While I work on that, you should think about hiring him to cook your next meal, or just turn on the Christmas music and pour yourself a glass of wine.


Lawyer Footnotes
[1] #ChristmasTreeOverload #SorryNotSorryFile Dec 14, 6 29 51 PM
[2] According to Husband, he came home to find I had “vomited Christmas” all over the house. I prefer to think of it as my way of spreading Christmas cheer. One piece of garland at a time.
[3] I’m not a very good sharer.
[4] I didn’t have my food blogger hat on, probably because I don’t own one of those, so my photos of the evening are almost non-existent.
[5] Pan-seared on Chef Bills 100+ year old cast iron skillet. Flavor for days.
[6] In case you didn’t know, this year’s Beaujolais harvest was superb. This was the third bottle we’ve tried and all of them have been stunning. Last year’s, not so much.
[7] Not actually making it, but wanting to have someone make it for us.
File Dec 13, 2 17 56 PM[8] We tasted it straight before it was slathered onto the two beautiful roasts. It was mind blowing. For real.
[9] He had pre-made the lovely wee pots we were going to eat; the demonstration pot de crèmes thankfully went into my refrigerator, waiting for me to eat all by myself share with my parents when they came over for Round 2 with all the leftovers. Hosting certainly has its advantages.
[10] Being the world’s worst egg-cracker, I’m sure this trick would not work out so well for me.
[11] In between washing the hand-wash only glass crystal stemware. This was a small price to pay since all of my hand-wash only china was washed and dried before the guests had even left.

A Blind Semi-Vertical. Sort of.

When I first got hooked into this Instagram thing, I started seeing posts about vertical tastings. Having no idea what that was, I asked and a friendly fellow ‘Grammer let me in on the deal. A vertical tasting is when you taste several vintages from the same winery to experience the changes from year to year[1].

File Dec 12, 11 56 30 AMWell, I’ve never had the opportunity to attend such an extravagant affair[2], nor have I ever planned one out on my own. A few weeks ago I received some wine to try from Mirror Wines out of Napa and they sent two vintages of their Cabernet Sauvignon. On my way home from The Firm a few nights ago, I got the brilliant idea to do my own mini vertical tasting. And I decided I’d use my handy dandy wine tasting party kit[3] to make it blind!

Husband and I paired the vino with a dinner of toasted baguette, cheese, balsamic vinegar and roasted garlic[4]. Not a bad way to spend a Thursday evening if I do say so myself.
To:                   Alleged Blog Readers
From:              WineEsquire
Date:               December 10, 2015
Wine:              Mirror Wines Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
Mirror Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
After encasing the bottles in the red velvet blinding bags, I mixed them up to make sure I didn’t remember which was which[5]. I carefully poured our selections into two glasses and we began. On the first nose I got some jammy leathery tobacco. Not a fruit forward jam, but deeper, more subdued. Very natural and woody. The first swirl around the mouth revealed some chewy tannins, a bit on the drier side.

File Dec 12, 11 55 00 AMThe second glass had a much different nose; there was no mistaking this was a different wine. The nose was a bit harsher, almost as though there was a chemical aspect to it. The first swirl inside was magical though. A bit rounder and more fruit forward than the first, but the tannins were working here as well.

After breathing for an hour or so in the glass, both wines have relaxed. The tannins have melted away making the wines less chewy. The 2012 still has an impeccable nose. Its leathery quality has been enhanced and I’m getting deeper wood flavors. The 2011 nose is still funky, but the slightly spicy fruit and just a hint of vanilla make this a truly superb wine.

Both were deep and luscious; complex with a lot going on. When confronted with two amazing wines, it’s difficult to pick a favorite. If forced to choose however, both Husband and I decided that the 2011 vintage came out on top[6], though both wines were actually divine. I loved the nose on the 2012 but preferred the feel and taste of the 2011.

File Dec 12, 12 17 11 PMIn 2011, the Napa growing season was apparently rainy, cold and harsh, the exact opposite from their typical climate. I bet it’s common to find that the wines from this vintage are either superb or terrible. Given that the grapes really had to struggle just to make it to the bottle, the result is really a testament to all that hard work, and I suppose it’s no surprise that this was such a fine wine.[7]

On the other hand, 2012 was an excellent growing season, described as “classic, “idyllic” and “perfect.” It’s almost as if the 2012 had it too easy, a perfectly lazy Cabernet that didn’t have as much of a struggle to perform.

Regardless, both wines were excellent. A perfect complement to the food spread, and an idyllic way to round out the day. My first go at a vertical may not have worked perfectly, but it was a fun experiment.


Wine Dossier
The wines were produced by Mirror Wines, a Napa winery owned by former NFL player Rick Mirer.[8] He and his winemaker Rob Lawson have been producing Cabernet since 2008 using grapes from two vineyards that “mirror” each other. They have since expanded to Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. A portion of all sales go to the Mirer Family Foundation which seeks to support children’s health and education initiatives.File Dec 12, 11 55 52 AM

The difference between these two wines, besides the vintage, was the vineyard they came from. The 2011 hailed from Mirror’s Howell Mountain Cimarossa Vineyard. Howell Mountain is its own AVA within Napa; recognized for its high elevation, the climate differs greatly from its sea level counterparts, with twice as much rain and warmer evenings. The 2012 was produced from grapes grown in Oakville, St. Helena, and Yountville. Though both were Cabernets, the different growing areas would of course have an impact on the taste of the wines.

The bottles themselves are lovely. Diesel little things that carry a decent weight to them. The labels are simple and classy, the type I’d be sure to pick up when perusing the shelf. At the $75 (2012) and $95 (2011) price points, these are not wines for the light of wallet, but if you’re looking for a Christmas gift for someone special on your list, this would be a lovely experience to give.

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] The word “several” means “more than two but fewer than many,” so technically, this was not a true vertical tasting. The wines were also from different vineyards, further screwing up my vertical tasting plan. But whatever, I’m going with it.
[2] Although I’m certainly open to such an experience. #inviteme #2016goals
File Dec 12, 11 55 19 AM[3] A perfect hostess gift from BookNerd Work Friend, though we forgot to use it at our Rosé party this summer. Perfect excuse to have another wine party I think.
[4] a/k/a The Perfect Dinner.
[5] There was no chance of that happening since I promptly forgot which was which as soon as the bags were on.
[6] It turns out the 2011 was harvested on Halloween, our favorite holiday. Must’ve been why we inched that one above the 2012, which was harvested on October 26.
[7] Wine Spectator had the exact same theory. #smart “While no one is calling it a great vintage, many believe great wines were made, just not enough of them. ‘I think there will be some exceptional wines, but they won’t be because of luck,’ said Tor Kenward of Kenward Family Vineyards. ‘They will reflect experienced growers and winemakers who took adversity and turned it to their advantage. I expect a mixed bag.’”
[8] Get it? Mirror (mir-ər).