Open That Bottle Night – Chapoutier For The Win

File Feb 28, 8 55 07 AMIf you haven’t heard about Open That Bottle Night, you’re probably living under a rock. A brilliant pair of wine aficionados[1] invented the holiday in 1999, and every year, on the last Saturday in February, the world pops open one of “Those Bottles.” You know the ones; you’ve been saving it for something special, you just don’t know what. The annual event is an excuse to take a time out, be a bit decadent, and drink some amazing wine. What could be better?[2]

As I perused the wine cellar[3] in the basement, I realized that I need more good wine[4]. I was deciding between two of my Last Bottle Marathon selections, a 2012 Chateau Montelena[5] Cabernet and the 2007 Chapoutier Sizeranne Hermitage. I went French, because, good juju for the Millesima Blog Awards can’t hurt![6] It was not a bad decision.

To:                  Alleged Blog Readers
From:              WineEsquire
Date:               February 27, 2016
Wine:              2007 Chapoutier Monier de la Sizeranne – Hermitage

File Feb 28, 9 02 05 AMEver since I got my beautiful decanter, I tend to err on the side of decanting, especially if I know it’s a big wine or there’s a bit of age to it. The process of decanting is almost cathartic, and the Rabbit shower aerator makes the whole thing very fun.

We didn’t leave it in the decanter for long[7], but poured right into our glasses and started sipping. Husband quickly exclaimed, “Wow!” The nose at first had a bit of a Bordeaux flowery vibe. After the first sip he cried, “This is what wine should taste like!” My own reaction was a bit more subdued, I wasn’t getting quite as much as Husband, but it was certainly a smooth, delectable experience.

File Feb 28, 8 59 41 AMWhat was really fascinating was how the wine changed over an hour’s time span. My initial nose reaction was barn; musty dirt, a bit of earthiness. At first the wine appeared to me to be light with hints of fruit; first raspberry, then pronounced cherry, like the old Luden’s cough drops in the white waxy paper. On the finish I got a bit of bread, maybe almost some yeast. The wine wasn’t dry per se, but it made my mouth feel tight on the finish, perhaps just the slightest hint of tannins.

An hour later and the wine really changed. I mean, really changed. It went from the lighter end of the spectrum to a heavier, deeper juice. More body, more complex, much drier. Still delicious, but astoundingly different. The fruit notes turned into a deep, smoky burnt wood. Isn’t it crazy how wine can do that?

Instead of a meal, we paired That Bottle with a variety of stanky cheeses from the bits and bobs bin at Whole Paycheck Foods. A hunk of French cow, a 9 month aged Gouda, and a slab of perfectly salty Parmesan[8]. What a way to spend our first OTBN as we pre-gamed for a dinner party down the street.

Wine Dossier
Maison M. Chapoutier is an old winemaking estate in Tain-l’Hermitage, a small commune in the Rhone region of France. Michel Chapoutier, a seventh generation winemaker, is continuing what his ancestor Polydor Chapoutier started in 1879 when he bought the family’s first vines in the area.

File Feb 28, 8 57 16 AMBecause this is a French bottle, the label needs some deciphering. Chapoutier labels are rather unique in that, since 1996, the important details[9] are not only written, but printed in Braille as well. The idea started when current vintner Michel realized his blind friend, Gilbert Montagnin, could not read wine labels. Coincidentally, Maurice Monier de la Sizeranne, original owner of the plot of the Hermitage where this wine hails from, blinded at age nine himself, invented the first version of abbreviated Braille.

This bottle doesn’t really give you any information about what kind of wine it is[10]. Sizeranne and Hermitage both refer to the location the grapes were grown, Sizeranne being the specific vineyard plot within the Hermitage commune. Some fine print on the bottom simply says “Vin Rouge, Red Wine.” The Chapoutier website indicates the wine is made from Syrah grapes aged in oak casks for between 12 and 14 months. Other websites claim it’s a blend of Syrah and Grenache. Whatever it is, it tastes good.

During the Marathon I picked this baby up for $69; right now it’s retailing online for between $80 and $120. If you’re up for a pricy adventure, give it a whirl; it certainly won’t disappoint!

Lawyer Footnotes
File Feb 28, 9 05 14 AM[1] Who just happen to be married to each other and are the cutest ever.
[2] To be fair, I think we celebrate this holiday on a regular basis, just not always with the pricier bottles.
[3] I use the term “wine cellar” very loosely, as it’s really just a few wine racks in our basement. We’re trying to improve the humidity with a dehumidifier and some shower curtains. Highly specialized. Very official.
[4] I totally have Novinophobia, defined by the Urban Dictionary as “the fear of running out wine.” Despite my best attempts, I was unable to locate any scientific data that supports that this affliction is real.
[5] One of my cult favorites.
[6] If you voted in the Millesima Blog Awards, thank you so so much!
[7] #PatienceIsAVirtueWeDontHave
[8] Did I mention how heavenly the Parmesan is? It’s amazing.
[9] Like the producer, the vintage, the vineyard, the region and the color of the wine.
[10] I feel like this is often an issue with French bottles.

Open That Bottle Night #OTBN

File Feb 24, 11 40 38 AMBeing immersed in the wonderful world of wine is a great place to be. One of the best parts is learning about all the international wine holidays I never knew existed. You know, Wine Wednesday, National Drink Wine Day, National Wine Day, Rosé Day, etc.[1] I’m a big believer in celebrations, but I’m usually late to the party when it comes to these holidays, so that’s why I check what’s trending on Twitter.[2] Today I saw that #OTBN had been going for a few hours. I often always have to google what everyone is talking about, and it turns out that OTBN stands for Open That Bottle Night, a yearly event that occurs on the last Saturday in February.

The purpose is to open “That Bottle” you’ve been holding on to for one reason or another and celebrate with friends, just because. What better way to take a time out from the daily grind, sit back and take a sip. Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, a husband and wife wine loving duo, invented the holiday in 1999[3] and it’s been going strong ever since[4].

File Feb 24, 11 40 25 AMTonight’s task, while celebrating #WineWednesday of course, is to pick out what bottle I’ll be opening in celebration of this fabulous holiday. I’m sure I have a few to choose from lying around somewhere, and what a great excuse!

What will you be opening? Tag @WineEsquire on Instagram and Twitter to let me know!

Shameless Plug
If you haven’t voted yet, head over to Facebook and vote for Wine Esquire in the Milessima Wine Blog Awards. Winning means I’d get to head across the pond for an epic wine adventure in Bordeaux. Read more here. Or just go vote. Note that voting ends THIS FRIDAY, February 26, so get goin’! Cheers!

File Feb 24, 11 40 08 AMLawyer Footnotes
[1] As if anyone really needs an excuse…but whatever, it’s fun.
[2] Like The Donald’s latest quip, “I love the poorly educated.” #futureprez
[3] New item on the bucket list: Invent a Holiday.
[4] Alas, I’ve been missing out all these years since this is the first I’ve heard of it. #NoTimeLikeThePresent

From Electrician to Judge: When Law School Optional


A Tale of Lawyer Wine

File Feb 21, 8 56 19 PMSince I started this blog, I’ve come across a few really awesome Lawyer Wines. One of them was definitely 19 Crimes. Printed on the corks are the nineteen crimes that the British Government punished with a one-way ticket to Australia during the Victorian Era[1]. Very lawyer appropriate. Another one, while not so much lawyer-specific as nerd-specific, was Cum Laude by Banfi, a lovely Tuscan red blend that made me happily reflect back on my college GPA.

But when I saw the Judge Palmer bottles floating around on Instagram, I knew I had gone to Lawyer Wine heaven. Their motto is “Truth, Justice & California Cabernet.” I think I may have to put that on my tombstone. And what’s even better, is the wine is divine.

File Feb 21, 9 01 32 PMBusiness partners Palmer Emmit and Michael Scorsone released their first wine offerings in December 2015; a 2012 Malbec, a 2013 Sauvignon Blanc and a 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon[2]. The wine is named after Palmer’s grandfather, James W. Palmer, an electrical contractor and pear farmer from Placerville, CA[3]. A tragic accident paralyzed Palmer from the waist down, and he was left needing a new purpose in life. The county supervisor knew Palmer was a good honest man, and when the county judge passed away during his term of office, he immediately thought of Palmer as a replacement. Only one problem. Palmer wasn’t a lawyer. They told him, “All you have to do is pass the bar.[4]” According to his grandson, he studied his ass off and they made him a judge. Judge Palmer was re-elected to the position four times and served for over 20 years before retiring[5]. If that doesn’t give you the warm and fuzzies, your heart is black.

Flash forward 35 years later, and his grandson is making wine in California, inspired by his grandfather’s legacy.  Palmer saw the poignant parallel to be drawn between the role of a judge in the courtroom and their winemaking philosophy. “Native yeast, minimal intervention, terroir driven with the goal to not impart the ‘bias’ of a particular style on the resulting wines.” Talk about full circle. Brilliant.

File Feb 21, 9 00 23 PMHusband and I sampled a bottle in the midst of an unannounced snow storm with some friends[6]. We decanted the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, made from grapes sourced from the Beckstoffer Georges III Vineyard in Rutherford, Napa Valley. This wine was complex, but light and airy at the same time. Slightly sweet with a raspberry finish. Hints of cherry tobacco all over the place. I got cedar on the nose, maybe even some licorice. Not a typical Cabernet by any means, but, as it turns out, 2011 was not a typical year. Lots of rain and an unusually cool growing season left the grapes needing a bit more love and attention, and Palmer and Michael certainly made it work.

On their heartfelt website, Palmer and Michael urge you to “try a bottle with a jury of your peers,” and I heartily concur. For now you’ll have to head over to their website to buy a bottle while they work on expanding distribution. With wine this good though, they probably won’t need it! Until the next bottle of Judge Palmer, Cheers!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] Where can I sign up for this punishment? And can I talk to the travel agent about switching the destination to Italy?
[2] Guess which one I tried first?
[3] Also known as Hangtown during the California Gold Rush. I’ll let you figure out why. #offwithhishead
[4] #NoBigDeal. Not.
[5] Goes to show you that law school really is pointless.
[6] Thanks for letting us use your snow blower! I still haven’t found our shovel…

Shameless Plug
And if you haven’t voted yet, head over to Facebook and vote for Wine Esquire in the Milessima Wine Blog Awards. Winning means I’d get to head across the pond for a wine adventure in Bordeaux. Read more here. Or just go vote. Cheers!

Another #Under25Challenge Winner

Last Saturday afternoon I found myself in the middle of New Jersey at some sort of mad fun house[1] for a birthday party with a gaggle of seven year olds. It was exhausting[2]. I’ve never been in a place with so much stimulation. Ever. When the madness was over, I got in my car and cranked the Beethoven, because while I love me some Disney music, three hours of The Bare Necessities and Kidz Bop, had me on edge. Since I found myself in a new and unknown world, I broke out Yelp to find me a nice little wine shop so I could pick out my #Under25Challenge selection. The reviews for Merit Fine Wines looked good, so I made my way over.

File Feb 20, 9 54 36 AMI walked in[3] and was greeted by what could only have been the owner. I went into my spiel. “I do this thing on Twitter[4]…I need you to recommend your best wine for $25 or under…” After looking at my quizzically for a second, he smiled and said, “Well ok, I think I can help.” He took me all around the store offering me different varietals. Did I want an Italian, a sparkling? Maybe a Cabernet, or a Burgundy? He had options. His only concern was what bottle to choose. The store was quaint, with rows and rows of riddling racks[5] holding quite a diverse selection of wine. I went with the Cabernet[6] over the Burgundy at the suggestion of my new wine friend. I also loved the label[7].

This week’s Twitter chat was a blast. Even more engagement than last month, and several participants ended up loving their new wine[8]. I didn’t get a chance to talk about my wine again because it was so fast paced, so I figured I’d get it out in a blog. If you missed out, put it on your calendar for next month, March 16 at 8 PM EST. Happy wine hunting!


To:                  Alleged Blog Readers
From:              WineEsquire
Date:               February 16, 2016
Wine:              2012 Fortnight Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

File Feb 20, 9 55 01 AMGiven that we don’t have much time before we pass out and die from our day of healthy eating[9], the wine did not have much time for breathing. Straight out of the bottle, it was one of the deepest, darkly purple wines I’ve ever seen. The air bubbles were profound, even without an aerator. And they were gorgeously purple. On the nose I got a hint of sharpie and some fruit I couldn’t quite place. The first sip revealed a slight sour twist on the finish. A bit dry, almost chalky, but not in a way that’s unpleasant. A touch of raspberries and a leathery richness gave it a great mouth feel.

It was a great complement to the meal, though it could easily drink on its own too. If I was into buying bottles over again, I’d give this one another go. I bought it in New Jersey for $24.99, not the cheapest, but not overpriced either. Seems to be the going rate for the bottle even online. Give it a go and let me know what you think!

Wine Dossier
The website for Fortnight Winery is sparse; some great photos but not much information on the wine, the winemaker or anything really. I did a bit of digging and found that this wine is part of the Farm Collective, a portfolio of small Napa wineries run by a group of farmers that come together to make wine. Their motto is in Ex Agris Vita – In Agriculture Comes Life. Bertus Van Zyl, a South African native who, by the age of 15 knew he wanted to be a winemaker,[10] is the head winemaker for the collective.

File Feb 20, 10 03 31 AMThe 2012 vintage was a blend of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Malbec and 9% Merlot[11] coming from four different Napa vineyards. Harvested between September 27 and October 31, 2012,[12] it was finally bottled on August 28, 2014 after spending twenty months in a mix of French, American and new oak barrels.

I liked this piece from the website:

A Fortnight is a unit of time equal to 14 days (2 weeks). And while every harvest season is the culmination of a full 12 months of rigorous preparation and strenuous effort to produce the best wines possible, there is a specific and almost magical moment during that period when we must decide our jumping off point and pick that very first cluster. From that point forward the journey has begun in transforming beautifully ripened fruit into exceptionally crafted wine.

It’s quite fascinating to think how much work goes into each bottle of wine that we so casually drink. Taking a second to step back and consider the number of people involved in the process is really necessary to appreciate how lucky we are to have infinite wines at our fingertips.

And on that deep note, I leave you to your wine!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] The website touts there’s over “100,000 square feet of fun!” More like 100,000 square feet of insanity. And germs. #handsanitizer
[2] Fun, but exhausting.
[3] After parallel parking like a boss. #citylife
[4] He clearly doesn’t do Twitter.
IMG_7704[5] You may recall that Madame Clicquot invented these racks back in the day. See Celebrating In Style, Wine Dossier.
[6] Surprise, surprise.
[7] And yes, it is ok to choose your wine based on the label, or at least have it be a contributing factor in the final decision. #PrettyThings
[8] Alas, it didn’t work so well for all, but hey, you win some, you lose some. Life’s all about adventures.
[9] The past week, Husband and I have been eating healthy. Green juice in the morning, yogurt at lunch, mint and lemon water throughout the day. By time we get home we’re STARVING. Our wine pairing feast that evening was broccoli cheddar soup followed by Cajun salmon with garlic spinach and spaghetti squash hash browns. Delicious, but most importantly, quick.
[10] Smart kid.
[11] Remember that legally, a wine needs only 75% of a single varietal in order to label it as that grape. Most bottles that are listed as single varietal wines are actually blends.
[12] It seems that vintners consistently harvest on Halloween; I knew it was my favorite holiday for a reason.

File Feb 20, 9 58 21 AMAnd if you haven’t voted yet, head over to Facebook and vote for WineEsquire in the Milessima Wine Blog Awards. Winning means I’d get to head across the pond for a wine adventure in Bordeaux. Read more here. Or just go vote. Cheers!