A Return To Our Regularly Scheduling Programming: A Blog About a Wine[1]

I’m a first rate procrastinator, so clearly I waited until the day of this month’s Twitter chat to find my #Under25Challenge bottle. I feel like I haven’t been to a wine shop in ages because I’ve been buying mostly online[2]. When I came upon the store, I kinda felt like I didn’t want to go through my whole Twitter spiel and explain what I was trying to do[3]. But then I said to myself, “Oh just do it,” and I’m so glad I did. I had such a great conversation and connection with Luciana who owns the store with her husband. She loved the #Under25Challenge concept, and though they don’t really do social media[4], she promised she’d try out Twitter and say hello[5].  File Apr 20, 8 10 13 PM

Once I gave her the task of selecting her best bottle for $25 or under, I could see her wheels start spinning. She had so many choices to walk me through, and I was just about ready to go with an Australian Shiraz, but then she pointed out the 2012 Educated Guess Merlot. It had a really fun label and a purple neck capsule[6], but the description on the back is what really sold me:

Have you ever found yourself in a wine shop…perusing the wines and wondering…how do I choose the best wine for the money? … in essence you’re making an “Educated Guess.”

Could it be any more perfect for the #Under25Challenge? I think not!

Given that I’d just gotten back from Bordeaux[7], I was originally thinking I would go with something French, or at least lead my new wine friend in that direction, but I’m a sucker for a good ol’ bottle from Napa Valley. Big, juicy, jammy. Luciana sealed the deal when she said this Merlot drank like a Cabernet. Yes please!

If you missed the chat last night make sure to mark your calendar for next month! We’ll be back chatting about our new wine adventure on May 17 at 8 pm EST.

Until the next glass, Cheers!File Apr 20, 8 04 24 PM


To:                   Alleged Blog Readers
From:             WineEsquire
Date:               April 20, 2016
Wine:              2012 Educated Guess Merlot


I’d characterize the nose as “heavy.” There’s a lot going on and it just smells hearty. I get that typical Merlot smell, you know what I mean, something along the lines of toasted fruit. Maybe even a bit jammy. Deep, deep purple, almost magenta around the edges, the wine is a beautiful color. Some nice legs running around the glass. Nice fruit and tannins on the first sip[8]. Full mouth feel, fairly dry all around with an almost silky finish. Definitely did not disappoint, and with Husband’s homemade pea soup, this was an excellent way to end the day!

Wine Dossier
Educated Guess is a wine line of Roots Run Deep Winery located in St. Helena, CA. Started in 2005 by Mark Albrecht, a wine industry veteran, their mission is to make delicious wine at an affordable price[9]. Their grapes are grown at vineyards throughout Napa in the Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford and Carneros wine districts. The label is a representation of actual chemical formulas, broken down here, used in the wine making process[10]. How cool is that?File Apr 20, 8 09 46 PM

The 2012 Merlot was actually a blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet and was aged for 12 months in French oak barrels[11]. Twenty five percent of the wine was barrel fermented. Now I know generally what fermentation is, but I’d never heard of it being done in the barrel.

Some fermentation basics:

The process of fermentation turns grape juice into wine. During fermentation, yeasts transform sugars present in the juice into ethanol and carbon dioxide.[12] Fermentation of red and white wine usually takes place in stainless steel vats,[13] but when it happens in oak barrels, the barrels obviously impart something more to the wine. Wines & Vines explains that

There are essentially two ways to barrel ferment. One is to pop the head off a barrel, fill it with must and leave it in a vertical position. In this fashion, the barrel serves as a small open-top tank, and cap management is achieved with punch downs. The other method is to fill the barrel the same way, replace the head and seal in the must. The barrel then can be laid on a rack, but it needs to be spun to wet the cap and achieve extraction. It’s through this more complicated and labor-intensive method of replacing the barrel heads and spinning—at least twice a day—that winemakers say they achieve the full benefits of introducing oak to fermenting must.

So a portion of this blend was barrel fermented, and I’m assuming the other 75% was done in stainless steel. You learn something new every day! It’s mind blowing to think about how much effort goes in to each of the bottles we drink.

At under $25 a bottle, mine was about $23, I’d definitely go out and give this one a try!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] There’s been so much traveling, eating and drinking going on, I don’t think I’ve blogged about an old fashion bottle of wine in weeks!
[2] Thanks Last Bottle.
[3] For those of you who don’t know what the #Under25Challenge is, me and some of my Twitter friends get together once a month to talk about a new wine we’ve tried from a new wine shop for under $25. More details here.File Apr 20, 8 10 40 PM
[4] Does Facebook count?
[5] If you haven’t tried this yet, you’re missing out. Even if you don’t Tweeter, go find a new store and ask for a recommendation. It’s a great way to engage a (hopefully) knowledgeable wine friend and try a new wine!
[6] #favoritecolor
[7] So much to tell you about this trip! Read about the day I arrived here.
[8] Ever since I got back from #FancyinFrancey, I do that mouth sucking in/gurgling thing automatically, like I don’t know how to just sip a wine anymore. I think it’s ok though, it just means I’m cultured. But sometimes it’s loud…#awkward
[9] Sounds like my kind of people!
[10] The only reason I passed chemistry was because of cheating. Yep. I said it. I cheated in chemistry. #overmyhead
[11] Fun Fact: this vintage was bottled on January 1, 2014. #HappyNewYear
[12] Thanks Wikipedia.
[13] Source: The Kitchn.

 

 

#FancyInFrancey: Partie Un[1]

You may recall that I won a blog contest. The one where I asked you all to vote for me[2]. The prize was the world’s greatest trip to Bordeaux, and let me tell you, it was stunning. Epic. Amazing. Beautiful. Perfect. Incredible. All of it. Every second.

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Entrance to Château Fombrauge. No big deal.

I lived in a Château for a week, I was chauffeured around Bordeaux by James Bond in a Wi-Fi-enabled Mercedes. We ate duck, foie gras and caviar, we drank epic vintages with wine makers and château owners, we tasted the cream of the crop, the crème de la crème. This was the stuff that dreams are made of.

File Apr 16, 10 23 03 PM
Rollin’ out the red carpet for Wine Esquire

And now that I’ve been back in the real world for a week, it’s time to reminisce, to wonder why we live on this side of the pond and why every day isn’t all about wine tasting. This is part one in a series,[3] reliving the moments, one bite, one tour, one sip at a time. I invite you to come on this journey and experience the magic[4].

And So It Began…[5]

The flight across the pond started with a delay at JFK, but by midnight we were on our way. Watch was set to our time at destination[6] and I promptly fell asleep[7]. I missed dinner[8] but woke up to a lovely[9] breakfast and chatted with my seatmate Rosie who was on her way back to Jordan where she’s been working at an NGO for the past few years[10]. A brief layover at the Charles de Gaulle Airport allowed me to begin my croissant consumption[11] File Apr 16, 9 33 44 PMbefore I hopped on the hour long flight to Bordeaux. It’s always nerve-wracking waiting for your bags to come through[12], but mine arrived in one piece and I headed out to look for my driver chauffeur[13]. Geoffrey was waiting with a sign that read “Bernard Magrez” and I almost didn’t believe it was for me. A lovely woman immediately approached wanting to know what I was doing with Mr. Magrez. I told her about Millesima and the blog contest, and as it turns out, she was also there for En Primeur week so we exchanged information. My first international wine friend and I hadn’t even gotten to my destination!

File Apr 16, 9 52 13 PM
View from the car

Geoffrey and I quickly found Jeremy[14], a fellow blogger and one of my new Texas wine friends, and so our journey to Château Fombrauge began. The drive was 45 minutes of field after field of vineyard, every square inch efficiently utilized. We arrived to a perfectly picturesque château at the golden hour, the sun just preparing to begin its descent.

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Château Fombrauge (C) Millesima

Deep in the countryside of Saint-Émilion, the picture-perfect wrought iron gates opened and we approached our new home, down the long gravel driveway, vineyards as far as the eyes could see. Our bags were whisked inside and Chantelle showed us to our rooms, each named after a different Magrez château, mine was La Tour Carnet. French-chic at its best with toile walls, gorgeous orchids and a breathtaking view overlooking the vines[15]File Apr 16, 9 52 35 PM

After a quick shower, I got a knock on my door that they wanted to take a group photo and that I should grab a glass of wine on the way out. Mmm, ok. I went outside to meet my fellow bloggers and we immediately loved each other. Being an extroverted introvert, I was nervous about how this week was going to go. Six strangers stay at a château…it could have been a bad reality TV show. But it wasn’t. It was great. The connection was instant, everyone was genuinely awesome, and we’re already planning our reunion tour.

File Apr 16, 10 27 53 PM
Our crew, left to right, Toma, Madelyn, Wine Esquire, Michelle, Jeremy & Mike (c) Millesima

After our photo shoot, we continued tasting the 2010 Château Fombrauge Bordeaux Blanc as we got a rundown of our schedule from Viviana, in charge of events and promotions for Millesima. It was going to be a jam packed week, full of wine tastings, dining, and wine making, and even though we were tired from our various journeys, we were all literally giggling with excitement.

File Apr 16, 9 53 28 PMWe moved to the dining room for dinner and this is really where the trip started. Dinner was like a dream. They told us this was our “chill” dinner, super casual with no excursion around it. In reality, this was one of the best meals of my life, in the grand dining room of the château, which was built in 1629, with each of the four exquisite courses served by our private chef. He prepared a flawless meal starting with a “meager terrine, aromates, red wine jelly, and emulsion of coriander[16].” File Apr 16, 10 06 33 PMThis was paired with the 2011 Château Fombrauge Bordeaux Blanc. Light, fresh with an earthy finish that was silky smooth.

Interestingly, this whole adventure started with a bottle of Bordeaux Blanc and a blog post about how I paired it with some crepes after a particularly frustrating day at the Firm. Over the next seven days I would come to truly appreciate this delicate, delicious nectar and come to the realization how underappreciated it is worldwide.

File Apr 16, 10 08 51 PMNext up in our meal was the perfectly prepared duck filet, on the rarer side, topped with a parmesan crisp.[17] This was paired with the 2006 Château Fombrauge[18], a beautiful, big Bordeaux, full of flowers and tannins that stood up to the succulent, flavorful main course.

As we sat there, smiling and talking about how this couldn’t be real, I noticed the classical music playing softly in the background. Of COURSE there was classical music playing from the heavens, this was Château Life. Not overpowering but perfectly there, in the background, crescendo-ing with each sip of the exquisite wines.

File Apr 16, 10 10 14 PMAnd then, just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I learned about the Cheese Course. During this past year’s fairy tale New Year’s Eve dinner, I got a taste of what a cheese course should be[19]. When the plate arrived in front of me, I felt like Kevin McCallister when he ordered his first solo cheese pizza. This was a whole plate of cheese, just for me. Served with a 2005 Château Fombrauge, we had a selection of goat cheese from the Pyrenees, Saint Nectaire and Meaux Brie. Yes. Please. Brie in France is not like Brie in America. When you have Brie here, it’s great, lovely wonderful. But the Brie in France is epic. More intense, more flavorful, slightly stinky, with a crusty, salty rind[20]. And when you pair it with the wine. Oh. Em. Gee. But the Saint Nectaire was where it’s at. Creamy, elegant, delicious. I thought this Cheese Course was an anomaly, but as the days went on, I would quickly find that the Cheese Course is a part of life[21]. And what a beautiful part of life it is.

File Apr 16, 10 15 52 PMThroughout dinner I had been pacing myself because we had the menu from the start and I knew that we’d be finishing with a vanilla panacotta. My sweet tooth is my favorite tooth, and this did not disappoint. A salsa of freshly chopped fruit, served in a martini glass on a bed of thick, rich, delicious panna cotta completed our meal. It was like suntan lotion in a glass, in the best possible way.

By this point, we were all in shock and disbelief. Could this be real? How could tomorrow even come close to this experience? We finished the evening with coffee and cookies in the parlor. It was a fairy tale. File Apr 16, 9 53 52 PMThe cat literally curled itself at my feet. None of us lasted too long though; the travel, the wine, the food had basically put us in a coma[22]. We floated to bed, dreaming sweet dreams of wine and food. I was missing Husband and my cats, but I figured they’d survive for a few days without me. After all, it was my duty as Wine Esquire to experience this to the fullest. And it was only Arrival Day.

The official first day of our wine adventure would start with a walking tour of Bordeaux City followed by lunch at the Joël Robuchon Restaurant at La Grande Maison de Bernard Magrez, a restaurant awarded two Michelin stars. No. Big. Deal. So stay tuned for European architecture, crazy Bruno, lots and lots of wine, a butter dome and the dessert cart. Yes, a dessert cart.

À bientôt[23]!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] This means Part One.
[2] All day, every day.
[3] Of I don’t know how many yet, let’s just go with the flow.
[4] Disney World ain’t got nothin’ on Bordeaux. #MagicKingdom

File Apr 16, 9 53 04 PM
Château Fombrauge at the Golden Hour

[5] This is your chance to grab a glass of wine, you’re gonna need it.
[6] I find that making the switch before you get there helps trick your brain into believing in the new time zone.
[7] Something about moving vehicles puts me right to sleep. I can barely keep my eyes open through takeoff.
[8] Because who wants airplane dinner at 1 a.m.?
[9] My initial memory was of the lovely breakfasts I had every day at the Château. Then I remembered that the American-style breakfast served en route to Paris was not all that lovely. #wheredthatmuffincomefrom #norealmilk
[10] Wow. Talk about doing something amazing with your life.
[11] They just don’t make them right in ‘Merica. Why can’t we figure it out when the French are so good at it?
[12] Giant wine bottles can be found all over Bordeaux, including at the baggage claim. These people love their wine.File Apr 16, 9 51 47 PM
[13] Because how else do you get around Bordeaux during En Primeur? #ChâteauLife
[14] Thanks to his Twitter profile pic.
[15] Good water pressure and hair dryers are important elements of traveling and this place had both. I immediately knew it was going to be a good week.
[16] Hello Google, what am I eating? I quickly realized it didn’t matter because everything was so amazingly delicious.
[17] Yum.
[18] Red, not white.
[19] Looking back on that night, I clearly didn’t take enough cheese.
[20] Hello Cholesterol.
[21] At least it’s part of #ChâteauLife.
[22] #TomaInAComa #insidejoke #sorrynotsorry
[23] See you soon!

What To Talk About At Your Next Cocktail Party. Or Pre-Trial Conference. Or Both.

 

File Sep 22, 6 50 09 PMThere’s a lot going on out there in the world, and when you’re making small talk, it’s usually a good idea to stay away from religion and politics[1]. Clearly you’re better off talking about wine, or just alcohol generally. Here’s a quick roundup of interesting stuff happening so you can sound intelligent and on trend.

#YoureWelcome

 

  1. Boxes of Wine are on the Rise. But not the kind you’re thinking of. Turns out that Americans are buying more wine directly from wineries than from traditional liquor stores. Check these guys out if you’d like to give the trend a try:
    Cutruzzola (killer Pinot)
    Judge Palmer (killer Cab)

File Feb 21, 9 01 32 PMFile Jan 31, 9 58 48 AM

  1. Rhymes Lie.IMG_8180 Turns out that the age old mantra “liquor before beer” is totally bogus. The scope of your hangover is really all about mixing[2], and how many drinks you have.[3] My motto is: Stick to wine and you’ll be fine[4].
  1. Italy at War. With Boars. The excessive boar population is finding out what most of the world already knows: the grapes produced by Tuscan vines taste divine. Hunting privileges have been extended to reduce the surplus population[5].
  1. Wine Allowance Request in Child Custody Case. Though the judge ultimately found that the £10,500 originally demanded was excessive, he found £4,000 to be much more reasonable. The child at issue is seven years old[6].

File Jan 16, 1 05 18 PM

  1. Cheap Wine in a Decanter Tastes Better. Scientists are always studying us like lab rats, and this time, they found that we like wine when we think it’s expensive and when it’s poured into out of a decanter into nice glasses, even highly trained wine professionals[7]. It’s really true. Have you ever tasted wine out of a solo cup? Not so good.

Now you have plenty of fodder for your next small talk event. Happy chatting!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] Trump better not say anything else about my boy Pope Francis. #helltopay
[2] As in a bottle glass of wine, then a whiskey, then a cocktail, then a beer is a bad, bad idea.
[3] The one bottle per person rule is probably a recipe for disaster. #liveandlearn
[4] Word to the wise: rhymes lie.
[5] Mr. Scrooge would be proud.
[6] Start ’em while they’re young. Also, can you say 1%?DSC_0044
[7] This proved true at Château Pape Clément. The Magrez-Baccarat wine glasses were OUT. OF. THIS. WORLD. At only €360 a piece, I can’t imagine how I forgot to take a set of 12 home.

Wine Flies When You’re Having Fun

Exactly one week ago, I was sitting in Queens[1], waiting for my Lyft to bring me to Bordeaux[2]. It’s almost inconceivable what I’ve experienced in the past seven days. Each day was jam packed with wine, châteaux, drones, caviar, foie gras and more wine, but no time for blogging, so hopefully you’ve been following along on Instagram and Twitter. Not to worry though, you can be sure I’ll be reminiscing about this for a long time to come.

For now, a few highlights:

Wine, wine, lots of wineFile Apr 08, 6 35 25 PM File Apr 08, 6 38 20 PM File Apr 08, 6 38 40 PM

Walking tour of Bordeaux with our hilariously epic and extremely knolwedgeable tour guide, Bruno Beurrier

DSC_0309
Bruno in all his glory

Official Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB) 2015 En Primeur tastings at Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux[3]File Apr 08, 7 04 35 PM

Château d’Yquem[4]DSC_0376

Learning hands-on farming techniques[5] at Château Pape Clément[6]

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Caviar and Wine Tasting[7]

File Apr 08, 6 59 11 PM

Tour of the Garonne River with Bordeaux River Cruise

DSC_0377

Crash course in wine blending at Château La Tour Carnet

File Apr 08, 7 11 40 PM
Winos hard at work

And more importantly, making five new AMAZING wine friends[8].

File Apr 08, 7 15 22 PM

I truly can’t say enough about how amazing it all was[9]. I’m already planning a trip back. Bordeaux is something Husband has to experience, and you really do too! I have so much to tell you about, but for now, I’m going to have to catch a few zzzz’s while I try to ease myself back into reality[10].

But before I go, a HUGE, MASSIVE, EPIC thank you to everyone at Millesima and Bernard Magrez for making this week an epic success. Thank you, Merci Beaucoup, Cheers, Santé, Tchin Tchin!

#FancyInFrancey

Lawyer Footnote
[1] And blogging.
[2] Clearly I live tweeted my Lyft adventure. It was my first Lyft and Rafael’s first day as a driver. We picked up a girl and her dog on their way to the nail salon. It was great.
[3] Note: when you’re blogging in a hotel room in Bordeaux, internet search results default to French. #languagebarrier
[4] Period. Full stop. End of story.
[5] #appropriatefootwearforthewin
[6] Also #peacocksFile Apr 08, 6 39 21 PM
[7] Yes. You read that right. I’ve never seen so much caviar in my life, and it was all on my plate.File Apr 08, 7 04 58 PM
[8] Newest members of the international division of #winesquad: Madelyn, Michelle, Jeremy, Mike and Toma!
[9] But since I’m a blogger, I’m going to give it the old college try.
[10] Having to do this twice in a span of thirty days is actually quite exhausting, but it’s a problem I’m willing to deal with!