The old adage, it never hurts to ask, is a mantra I live my life by. The worst response you can get is no, so you might as well give it a shot! You’d be surprised at all the times the universe has said YES.
The trouble with our favorite Indian spot is the wine list. It’s bad. I usually order water. Husband usually gets some random beer called Haywards 5000. But the food is awesome. The spice is crazy, the quality is great, and it’s cheap. I had a gorgeous bottle of Riesling I was saving and I really wanted to drink it with Indian food. Ordering to go is a pain since the restaurant is about 20 minutes away. So I said, what if we called and asked if we can BYOB? They said of course, for a $7 corking fee. SCORE.
Now this place is not exactly the Maharaja Express, but it gets the job done. I always try to order something different since everything I’ve had is great, and the menu is pretty extensive, filled with items I’ve never tried; Chicken Saag, Rogan Josh, Seekh Kebab, and a whole lot more.
We started with some vegetable samosas and the cinnamon/cardamom flavors popped through which was really fun. For dinner I went with Chicken Vindaloo, hot and spiced chicken cooked with potatoes and a touch of vinegar. They always ask you whether you want it Spicy, American Spicy or Indian Spicy. Now Husband and I consider ourselves connoisseurs of spice. When we travel we seek out the local hot sauce. Put some Tabasco on it and I’m usually a happy camper. Last time we were here I went with “Indian spicy” and it literally knocked my socks off. I could barely eat through the tears streaming down my face. Since I actually had some wine I wanted to enjoy with this meal, I toned it down to American Spicy.
They provided us with an ice bucket soda pitcher to keep the wine chilled. Let me tell you, bringing this wine to dinner was the best idea. Ever. The Hillersden 2015 Riesling tied everything together like an essential part of the meal, almost another food group. A whiff of honey on the nose; light and vibrant with a bit of lemon zest. This meal’s perfect degree of spice was a flawless companion to the slightly sweet Riesling. A faint touch of minerality on the finish, it was the missing link to make this dining experience complete.
Next time you’re wanting to go to dinner but know the wine list is subpar, ask to BYOB. It can make the experience that much better.
Hillersden, the wine producer, has a pretty neat story as well. Historically Hillersden was an industrial township in New Zealand’s Upper Wairau Valley. World War II crippled its industry, leading to its steady decline. Husband and Wife team Bruce and Marian Forlong came to Hillersden in 2013, along with their three sons, with the goal of bringing new life to the area. And so far, based on this Riesling, they’re doing a great job.
So far distribution in the US is limited, but you can use coupon code ESQUIRE for 30% off their entire wine selection through October 31. Shipping isn’t too bad, and the wine is super affordable. Let me know what you think!
Until the next glass, Cheers!
Lawyer Footnotes  It comes in an extra-large bottle and it’s actually kind fun.  Which is reasonable and fair. #BYOB To all those restaurants price gouging with a $20 cork fee, really?!  Which is on the travel bucket list for sure. Check this out, it looks amazing!
 Boneless chicken cooked with chopped spinach, and Indian spices.  Lamb cubes cooked with tomatoes in freshly grounded spices, and yogurt sauce.  Skewered ground lamb, spiced with garam masala, onion, ginger, and cilantro.  Confession: I don’t remember what Husband got, but he usually gets Chicken Tikka Masala. It was great.  Anguilla’s Rockfield Pepper Sauce is up there as one of THE BEST in the world. Serious Wow.  It was the right choice.  Fancy? No. Efficient? Yes.  And at $15 a bottle, it’s a no-brainer.  AND they forgot to charge us the BYOB corkage fee. Probably because nobody ever brings their own wine. Or maybe because they know us and felt bad their wine list was bad.
Sometimes I have really great ideas. Driving into New York City, by myself, during rush hour, on a Friday afternoon, did not happen to be one of them. I’ve never driven into the heart of Manhattan before, at least not by myself. Now that I’ve done it, though, I think I can pretty much conquer the world. If you find yourself having to do this, I found that blasting classical music helps to keep tempers calm.
But let’s get to the important stuff. Like why I was driving into NYC, by myself, during rush hour, on a Friday afternoon. It was because I was on my way to meet with Paul Smith, winemaker at Wirra Wirra Vineyards in McLaren Vale, Australia. I’d met Laura at the Wine Bloggers Conference out in Lodi earlier this year and she works for Negociants USA, an Australian-focused wine negociant and distributor. They brought Paul in to New York to do some tastings and events, and I was lucky enough to meet up with him before he got back on a plane to head back Down Under.
Our meeting was supposed to be at 4 p.m. I had snuck out of the office left work early to drive in to the city and when I left, Waze told me I’d arrive by 3:00. That would give me enough time to check in to the Library Hotel, freshen up and make my way to Flinders Lane, an Australian restaurant in NYC. Well, time passed and the traffic increased, and soon my ETA was 4:45. I let Laura know I’d be a wee bit late, but they were very understanding. My arrival time ended up being around 5:30; I was a bit stressed, but once I arrived, caught up with Laura, met Paul and started tasting the wine, all was well again in the world.
Paul described Wirra Wirra’s McClaren Vale as the place where the vines meet the sea, and told me that Wirra Wirra roughly translates to among the many “gum” or eucalyptus trees.
Founded in 1894, the winery was started by an eccentric cricketer named Robert Strangways Wigley. His wine business lasted until the early 1920s but then fell into disrepair after his death. Cousins Greg and Roger Trott revived the vines and began making wine again in 1972 after rebuilding from the ground up. Since then they’ve become a household name in Australia, with their Church Block red blend becoming the number one by-the-glass wine in Australia.
As you may have guessed, the Church Block vines are grown around a little church; with such a long running history, it has become a tradition for families to come to the winery each year to taste and purchase each vintage. The blend of Cabernet, Shiraz and Merlot spends 15 months in a mix of French and American barrels. The result is a luscious, smooth and velvety juice. The nose on the 2013 Wirra Wirra Church Block is almost flowery, the mouthfeel is gorgeous, and at $21.99, it’s not going to break the bank. So far so good, Wirra Wirra.
The storytelling that accompanied the wine was top notch and next up was the 2014 Catapult Shiraz. With a drawing of a catapult on the label, I knew the story was going to be good. Founder Greg Trott had the brilliant idea to build a medieval trebuchet, or catapult, for a very important and serious purpose: to hurl wine bottles at neighboring wineries for a bit of good fun. He figured that if he built one, so would his neighbors, and they could build a bit of a tourism draw to the catapulting wineries of the McLaren Vale. Surprisingly, none of his compatriots thought it was a good idea and the plan never materialized. His Wirra Wirra successors, however, revived the idea and built a three story high Catapult in 2010. While no wine bottles have been flung, watermelons are tossed with regularity.
The 2014 Catapult Shriaz was lovely. A bit of raisins and berries with a slightly spicy finish. A gentle and delicate Shiraz that was a very easy drinker. Interestingly 1% of the blend is Viognier, which may play a part in the delicacy of this wine. Paul told me how these grapes are pressed before the tannins get too hard and then spend 12 months in French oak.
I asked Paul how he got into winemaking, and another enchanting story ensued. He started out as a young man wanting to be a sheep herder, so he packed his bags and moved far away from home. Paul tried to get into vet school but didn’t have the grades, he also didn’t have the money to get home. His friend found him a job with Francois Jacquard, a well-respected Australian winemaker, pruning grapes before the harvest. His friend told Francois that Paul knew what he was doing, which was a bold faced lie. After observing Paul’s work for a bit, Francois took him aside and said, “You should be called Edward Scissorhands, you cut everything!” From there, Francois took Paul under his wing and taught him to prune. Paul fell in love with the agricultural process and wine has been part of his life ever since.
We tasted several more wines, including the Dead Ringer Cabernet, one of their flagship lines. A delicate nose, definitely not a fruit bomb. A hint of tobacco with dark, deep plum fruit and nice chewy tannins. Great texture and structure. Leathery with a long finish. This wine spends 18 months in a blend of new and old French oak. The history of the name Dead Ringer peaked my lawyerly interest. This line of wines started out in 1989 being called Angelus, and it is still known this way in Australia. But Château Angélus in Bordeaux took exception to the similar sounding name once it made its way over to mainland Europe. Lawyers were hired, a cease and desist letter was sent, and Wirra Wirra’s Dead Ringer was born, because it was a proverbial “dead ringer” for the wine formerly known as Angelus.
We wrapped up our tasting and said our goodbyes. Laura and Paul were both flying out early the next day and I was tired from my strenuous journey. I headed back to my lovely abode at the Library Hotel.
I was able to catch the tail end of their evening reception in the Reading Room with free flowing wine, bubbly, cheese and sweet treats. My inner book nerd went crazy for the hotel’s collection of 6,000 books, organized according to the Dewey Decimal System. Each floor of the hotel is a Dewey Decimal category, and each room features a collection of books on a unique subject.
Lawyer Footnotes  It didn’t, however, help with the sweaty palms.  The girls from Negociants USA hosted what I heard was a wild Aussie wine tasting after-party back at their house during #WBC16. Unfortunately, my lameness factor was on high though and I missed it. #SleepyHead  #lawyerlife  It also told me that I’d only have to make TWO turns off the West Side Highway in order to get to the parking garage. TWO. Not TWENTY TWO. TWO. #RushHourReDirect  This may have slightly exceeded the “Fashionably Late” concept.  Officially added to the Wine Bucket List.  The folks at Wirra Wirra like to say it’s the “one church that unites us all”. #cheeky Over the course of our wine tasting, it quickly became apparent to me that having fun at Wirra Wirra is a top priority for everyone, winemaker included. Their website suggests pairing the Church Block with “Beef, mushroom and red wine pie.” WHAT IS RED WINE PIE AND WHY HAVE I NEVER HEARD OF IT BEFORE?! Don’t worry, I found a recipe. You’re welcome. Husband will be making this for dinner in the very near future. I’ll let you know how it goes.  Such a good idea.  With some inspiration from this crazy English Lord who likes to muck about by catapulting flaming pianos and CARS on his estate. What?! #NBD
 Something about dangerous broken glass … #liability.  A tour of the vineyard will apparently reveal random divots here and there, evidence of past watermelon tossing.  This in itself is so awesome.  The name Angelus, of course, had its own history. Back in the 80s, a Wirra Wirra winemaker had swapped a few cases of wine for a ¾ ton bell that came out of a church in Adelaide. They hung the bell at the vineyard to signify the start to the work day.  ANOTHER twist to the story is that in China, one of Wirra Wirra’s bigger markets, the wine is known as the Golden Bell, because apparently anything with “Dead” in the name won’t sell. #InternationalBusiness
One of the great things about the conference is that the location changes every year, giving wine bloggers the opportunity to visit new wine regions across the country. Lodi is not only an excellent wine producing region, the city itself was also an excellent host to the several hundred wine bloggers that descended in from all over the world.
It also turns out that Lodi is surrounded by lots and lots of wine. Since I was in California wine country, I figured I couldn’t leave without making a few stops to do some field research. So Laura, my new Italian wine blogging friend, and I took our matching convertibles up to Clarksburg on our way to the airport on Sunday. We met up with Robin from Wine Flights in Sacramento who I’d met at the conference; he was a native and offered to show us around.
We made our first stop at Miner’s Leap, a winery owned by a lawyer who I’d met at a conference panel the day before. I thought I was busy, but then I met Loyal Miner. He’s a named partner in a Sacramento law firm and a few years back decided to open a winery. No big deal. While he wasn’t mowing the lawn, blending wine or writing summary judgment briefs, he decided he should expand his operations and build a concert amphitheater on the grounds of the vineyard. We arrived and he was knee deep in concrete getting it ready for the concert that was scheduled to occur the following weekend.
We tasted some wines and then headed to our next stop: Lunch. It was a little BBQ joint called Husick’s Taphouse that was just about the quaintest thing I ever did see. We walked in to an gentleman playin’ his guitar and singin’ the blues. The family-owned restaurant showed us a good time, and my bacon, turkey and avocado Panini was to die for. They insisted we leave with a bottle of wine that we enjoyed with our meal.
By this point in the trip, I had four bottles packed in my suitcase and I didn’t think I had room for more. Getting the wine home is always such a dilemma. We had at least two more places to visit and I couldn’t buy any wine. In stepped Robin to save the day. He’s the brain behind, Wine Flights in Sacramento, a new wine tourism company that organizes all your travel needs in the Sacramento area. They recognized that Sacramento isn’t a top wine tourism destination, which is silly since it has an international airport and more than 600 wineries within an hour’s drive. It’s a less expensive way to experience California wine country without sacrificing the quality. The best part is, they’ve developed a wine carrying case to get you and six of your favorite bottles home safe on the plane. He had a prototype in his trunk and agreed to let me try it. Score! I now had room for more bottles! We backtracked to Miner’s Leap where he’d wanted to send me home with wine, but due to my former space quandary, I’d had to refuse. I’m now the proud owner of two lawyer-made wines.
Next up on our journey was Bogle, the iconic winery that produces more than 2 million bottles per year, far more than all other wineries in Clarksburg combined. Bogle is one of my go-to repeat wines, especially for parties where I know we’ll be going through wine quick. It’s great quality at an affordable price. Robin told us about the special blends they make available only at the tasting room, so I was excited to try.
We were running a bit low on time, so we didn’t do a full tasting, but what we did taste was fantastic. The Rosé was so good I had to buy a bottle. And it was only $13. The winery itself was beautiful too; several production buildings sat next to the tasting room which looked out over acres of vines. The lawn was packed with people listening to live music, eating pizzas from the mobile wood-fired pizza truck. And good wine was obviously flowing.
Time continued to tick, and Robin really wanted to show us one last place, The Sugar Mill. We weaved along the back country roads until we arrived at an old massive factory complex. In various stages of renovation, the first building is one of the coolest places I’ve ever seen. Talk about innovative entrepreneurship; they’ve taken the shared space model and really made it work. Eleven wineries have their tasting room here so visitors can come to one spot and enjoy lots of local wines without having to drive to multiple wineries. We weren’t there long but it was a nice taste of what the Clarksburg area had to offer.
Traffic was light and check-in was a breeze, so Laura and I had some time to kill before our flight. We settled in to the Vino Volo right outside our gate and gabbed and Instagrammed over a flight of Rosé. Not a bad way to prepare for a flight.
I had two flights to get home and for my first leg, I was glad I had a window seat. The landscape was incredible, again, and this time the sunset was absolutely breathtaking. Wine adventures are so much fun!
I’d finished my book on the flight out, and lucky for me I’d met a new wine friend at the conference who happened to write a book! She gave me an autographed copy for my flight home; the subject is wine and romance, so clearly I was hooked from page one.
I’ll certainly be back and I’ll need another empty box to fill! And thanks so much to the #WBC16 Scholarship Committee for funding my travel scholarship to get me out to the conference. Can’t wait for next year!
 See Pre-Cap, Recap, Gewürztraminer, and Goats. When’s the next wine trip, Universe? I’m ready!  He insists on doing it himself. No OCD here at all. But it does look good.  Because, #priorities.  Which was only medium sized, not my jumbo.  #WinoProblems  HashtagSadface
 Hello Book Club.  That whole “catch a plane thing”.  Thank god I had some extra room!  With the top down. Obvi.  The space was amazing but my Type A personality was really starting to kick in, so we had to say our goodbyes and make our way to the airport.  Oops.
We’ve officially transitioned to fall in the Northeast. The cold weather is coming. As this new reality sets in, I find myself wanting bottles of rich red wine, not white. Looking back, I realized that this summer was full of new white wine experiences, and what a summer it was! I received a few bottles from Nimble Vineyards earlier this year and had the opportunity to crack open a bottle of their 2014 Sauvignon Blanc just before the chill in the air appeared.
The last of the warm weather lends itself to a refreshing pick-me-up and I know that when the cold sets in, I’ll find myself wanting heavier reds. So today, with the temps pushing 86, even with a breeze, I’m glistening just a bit, and the chilled 2014 Nimble Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc was just what the doctor ordered.
Though the nose isn’t overly fragrant, there’s a bouquet of fresh wild flowers lingering in the back, the kind you’d pick from your garden. Perfectly light and crisp, with pleasant touches of acidity and minerality. When I take I sip I spy some pineapple juice with a long grapefruit finish. The acidic grapefruit cuts any sweetness that the pineapple flavor hinted at, making this a delightful aperitif wine to get you salivating. We paired it with some apple slices and cheddar cheese, but mostly just sipped it on its own.
Nimble Vineyards has been growing grapes for more than 15 years, but at first only sold what they made to wine makers. As I learn more about winemakers and vineyards, selling grapes to other producers appears to be a very common practice throughout the world, something the general public may not realize. It also seems like more and more, these vintners are deciding to keep at least a portion of their crop to make their own wine. Nimble recently began having a go at winemaking themselves, and it seems to have worked out very well.
At 70 cases made of this Sauvignon Blanc, you’ll be lucky if you can find a bottle, but if you can, grab all that you see. It’s an excellent example of a perfectly balanced wine. And it’s a good drinker for warm sunny days. What more can you ask for?
Their wine labels feature the rear end of a wild hog, inspired by the wild hogs roaming their vineyards, enjoying their grapes. This is apparently a problem in Sonoma County, so much so that the state authorizes unlimited hunting of them, and several businesses have sprung up that will organize a hunting party for you and your closest meat-eating friends.
The Sauvignon Blanc varietal originated in the Bordeaux region of France, though I think popular culture now tends to associate it with New Zealand. It turns out that California is producing some amazing wine out of Sauvignon Blanc grapes as well, so don’t be afraid to give them a try!
Until the next glass, Cheers!
Lawyer Footnotes  Maybe I’m being a bit melodramatic, we’re only in the second week of chilly weather, which I love. But I am going to miss my summer of #whitewineallthetime!  How insightful of me, and it’s coming true already.  That is, if you had a garden with wild flowers that survived the elements.  Husband made homemade sauce so we’re waiting for that to finish up. I’m guessing we’ll be going with a red for that…  No distribution yet and no online sales. Give them a call to arrange a visit at 707.433.9844, OR shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and they can ship you some!  I can see it now: Bachelorette Party Gon’ Wild! First you taste the wine, then you hunt the hogs….Just kidding! #liabilityproblems #lawyerlife