Come and Dine at Downton

wine and Highclere Castle

As you may know from previous posts, Husband has partnered on a number of projects with Lord and Lady Carnarvon[1], owners of Highclere Castle, aka the Real Downton Abbey. This means that we periodically get to visit our friends across the Pond and enjoy time in their wonderful home. The stunning Castle is like a step back in time. Walking in for the first time, I was astounded to realize how well I knew the interior of their home – it’s because virtually all Downton did was remove their personal photos. All the furniture is theirs!

Lady Carnarvon is now opening her home to the public and wants YOU to come and dine at Downton too! She’s running a contest for the month of February in order to raise money for PBS. All you have to do is throw a FABULOUS dinner party, inspired by Highclere and Downton Abbey, raise some funds to donate and enter to win. The winners will be flown to the UK, courtesy of Viking River Cruises, stay the night at Highclere[2], and enjoy a FABULOUS dinner party with Lord and Lady Carnarvon[3].

Highclere Castle
Highclere Castle lit up for a dinner party!

Husband and I are planning our soirée now[4] using recipes from Lady Carnarvon’s latest book, At Home At Highclere. We made her famous chocolate pots for Thanksgiving and they were a huge hit! There’s recipe ideas on her blog as well. Let me know if you’re going to enter and we can chat about party planning!

Chocolate Pots
Lady Carnarvon’s Chocolate Pots

Now on to arranging a menu and wine pairing! Until the next glass!

wine and Highclere Castle
I needed some vino inspiration!

Lawyer Footnotes

[1] Highclere Castle Cigars, which are now available throughout the US, Highclere Castle Gin, which is getting ready for production, and a Highclere Castle Distillery, which is in the works!

[2] Perhaps in Lady Mary’s room where poor Mr. Pamuk died from utter bliss?!

[3] Now that I’m thinking about it, I’m pretty sure that Wine Esquire should be on the guest list for this event. #ToDoList

[4] Fascinators will be required. Obviously.

Highclere Castle
Dressed up for dinner at Highclere Castle

Lovely, Bubbly London

Wine London Clos Maggiore

I daresay, a good adventure or two is always in order. Husband and I seem to manage a few each year, and our most recent little jaunt to London was the perfect way to start off 2018. Our first trip away from Baby got off to a fantastic start; I passed my terrible head cold to Little Man, resulting in his first multi-day fever, complete with cough, runny nose and extremely unusual[1] lack of sleep. As we passed him off to Grandma, my heartstrings were strung quite taut. But alas, the show must go on, eh?[2]

The plane ride across the Pond was virtually empty, enabling me to stretch out over an entire row and promptly conk out[3]. The overnight flight to Europe is really the best way to go, and we arrived in London in the morning, somewhat bright eyed and ready to start our day. The sideways rain that greeted us, however, made it impossible to enjoy our 24 hours outside. Lucky for us, we were staying at The Goring, London’s last family-owned boutique hotel, beloved by the Queen, the Middleton’s[4], and now, Wine Esquire. It is nothing but elegance and class. The doormen donning smart bowler hats created a canopy of umbrellas from our Uber to the front door, and the red liveried footmen whisked away our bags lickety split[5].

The Goring, London
The Goring, London

The cozy bar and lounge proved the perfect place to nurse my sniffles with a glass (or three) of the Ayala Brut Majeur, the Goring’s private Cuvée[6], and the extensive Scotch selection kept Husband entertained for a few hours. Filled with overstuffed couches, low leather chairs and a massive fireplace, the Lounge feels like your dear old friend’s living room[7], making it ideal for pre-lunch bubbly, post-dinner Scotch, sweet nightcaps, and of course, a final cuppa tea.

The Goring
Bubbles in the Lounge at the Goring

We did eventually venture out in the rain to eat and drink[8], and our first stop was the famed Gordon’s Wine Bar near Covent Garden. This underground bar has been serving glasses of wine to Londoners for more than 100 years, and is London’s oldest wine bar. Yellowed newspaper clippings about the Queen’s Coronation, her and Phillip’s 25th wedding anniversary, and the official Christening portraits of Prince William and Prince George adorn the cavernous walls[9]. The half bottle of Côtes du Rhône was lovely paired with our gorgeous selection of bread and cheese[10]. Inconveniently, I left my perfectly lovely wide brimmed hat behind, and when I went back to try and retrieve it, I was disappointed to find it had already departed. Ah, woe is me[11].

Wine at Gordon's Wine Bar, London
Half Bottle at Gordon’s

On our way to dinner we made a quick stop to Trafalgar Square[12], one of our favorite locations in London, if not the world. Lord Nelson standing atop his column, overlooking the city, Parliament, Big Ben and the River, with all of England’s treasures in the National Gallery right behind him is a truly awe-inspiring site[13].

We arrived for dinner at Clos Maggiore, which professes to be the world’s most romantic restaurant. It turns out it takes about a year to get a reservation in the Conservatory Room, and though our hotel concierge tried, we were relegated to the small dining area outside the famed flowery chamber[14]

Even without the exquisite ambience of the Conservatory, the restaurant was beautiful. Small, intimate and quite cozy. The menu was tantalizing, with several tasting menu options as well as à la carte dining. We started with the pumpkin soup, topped with toasted pine nuts. Holy Soup! The frothy texture had us licking our lips, and the flavors were out of this world. The chicken leg stuffed with foie gras and truffle was too good for Husband to pass up, and I relished a bit of goat cheese baked in homemade angel hair[15].

wine London
Fine dining with a bottle of Burgundy

The 100+ page wine list featuring more than 2,500 wines was a bit daunting, but Clos Maggiore’s sommelier team is made up of Burgundy lovers, and they conveniently had a list highlighting some of their more affordable options[16]. I chose the 2014 Domaine Lucien Boillot Gevrey Chambertin, and our Sommelier confirmed it would pair well with both of our meals. Light, cherry, lots of leather and beautiful soft tannins. The wine glasses were exquisite in their own right, and it was a truly lovely bottle for my first real red Burgundy.

Wine London Clos Maggiore
Burgundy in London

In an unlikely turn of events, we said no to dessert and headed back out into the London air. The rain continued to hold off and we found ourselves walking along the River Thames[17], admiring the London Eye, and bemoaning the construction that will leave Big Ben hidden under scaffolding for the next few years. We made our way back to The Goring and relaxed in the Lounge for a bit before finally retiring for the night.

London Eye
The London Eye

We breakfasted the next morning in the hotel’s Michelin-starred dining room on a feast of croissants, fruit, yogurt, hard boiled eggs, Lincolnshire ham and of course, English Breakfast Tea. After a quick walk ‘round Buckingham, which is just steps from the hotel, we were off on our way to a weekend at Highclere Castle with our friends Lord and Lady Carnarvon[18]. Fabulous parties ensued.

Highclere Castle Downton Abbey

Until the next glass!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] Knock on wood, Little Man has been such a great sleeper from day one. Of course, the day we leave, he ends his months long sleep-through-the-night streak, just in time to properly wear Grandma out!
[2] Seriously though Grandma, we owe you one!
[3] Who needs first class when you’ve got coach to yourself? Mmmmm, I do. British Airways take note: I’m ready for my upgrade on the next leg of the journey!!
[4] They booked the entire hotel for three days before The Wedding, and it’s where Kate spent her last night as a Commoner.
[5] According to David Morgan-Hewitt, the Goring’s legendary managing director, “Everyone has butlers – but people with real style have footmen.” #truth
[6] Served out of a magnum from a large, well-stocked, silver champagne bucket which permanently sits atop the bar.
[7] You know that friend of yours with the lovely London town house with antique furnishings passed down from their great Grandmama? Don’t have one of those? Oh, right, sorry.
[8] Obviously, because #priorities.
[9] Cleary, this is my kind of wine bar. #royal
[10] St. Nectaire, Manchego and Stilton, served on a wooden board with mayonnaise, jelly and pickled onions. Of course. #WineAndCheeseIsLife
[11] I think what this really means is that I need to buy a new hat.
[12] The rain had thankfully stopped, though perhaps this is why I didn’t notice I’d left my hat at Gordon’s. ☹
[13] #InsertPictureHere. But did I take one? No. #amateur
[14] In fact, I chose not to go in to take a look so as not to ruin the beautiful memory we had. We’ll just have to book it out in advance for next time, for we certainly will be back.
[15] The goat cheese was my attempt at eating light given my continued head cold. #fitfam
[16] Alas, we regretfully decided to forego the £23,100 bottle of Romanée-Conti. Maybe next time.
[17] Pronounced “Temz”, not “Thames” like the river at home in Connecticut.
[18] Have you red her blog yet? It’s a lovely insight into daily life at the Castle and such a fun read!

Let’s Wine For an Hour

As I’m getting’ back in the swing of things, one glass at a time, I participated in last week’s #WiningHourChat. If you don’t know about the Wining Hour Chat, it’s a lot of fun. A fab trio of ladies hosts every Tuesday at 9 EST[1]. Sometimes a specific wine is on the menu, other times it’s just about what’s in your glass. The featured winery last week was Pedroncelli Winery out of Geyserville, California in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley[2].

I do love a good coat of arms #labelart

This family operation began in 1927 when Giovanni and Julia Pedroncelli purchased a small vineyard of approximately 25 acres in Dry Creek Valley. They were one of the few wineries to survive Prohibition, staying afloat by selling grapes to home winemakers. Lawyer Fact[3]: Prohibition’s Vosltead Act provided a loophole allowing wine to be made at home. An October 1920 Treasury Department memo instructed federal agents not to pursue individuals making their own wine. The memo stated that “the head of a family who has properly registered may make 200 gallons exclusively for family use without payment of tax thereon.”[4]

Now, in its 90th year, the fourth generation of Pedroncelli’s continue the family business with more than 100 acres of vines. From Sauvignon Blanc to Chardonnay, Zinfandel to Cabernet Sauvignon, their impressive lineup is available online and quite reasonably priced from $17 to $36 a bottle.

I sampled their Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel and both were excellent[5]. The Cabernet Sauvignon had a big, bright, fruity Cab nose[6]. Notes of leather and dark berry, perhaps black courant. A nice light mouthfeel but with fairly big tannins. The finish was smooth and silky. The Zinfandel was full of spice on the nose and black pepper on the finish. A perfect pairing with my quick meal of leftover chicken kebabs.[7]

This 2015 Zin came from Pedroncelli’s Mother Clone vineyard which has been planted with Zinfandel vines since 1904[8]. The majority of the grapes used in this vintage come from the vines re-planted in the 1980s from the clone of the original “Mother” vines, but a bit of the grapes from the remaining 100+ year old vines made their way into the bottle as well.

I hope you join in for this week’s #WiningHourChat, tonight (Tuesday) at 9 EST. The lovely Wining Hour ladies will be chatting about whatever’s in your glass this evening. My plan is to be there, perhaps with a glass of Rosé[9]. We’ll see if Baby Wine Esquire likes that plan or not J

TTFN[10]

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] During pregnancy this was WAY past my bedtime, so I couldn’t even pretend to participate. Last week’s was a bit dicey as Baby Wine Esquire decided to wake up and want to feed PRECISELY at 9 p.m. But we made it work.
[2] Dry Creek Valley, which is apparently not dry at all, is an approximately 9,000 acre AVA known primarily for its Zinfandel grapes.
[3] I guess I have to get back into the swing of lawyering soon too … #everydayissaturdayonmaternityleave
[4] 200 gallons equates to 757,082 milliliters, which yields approximately 1,009 standard 750 ml bottles (according to the smart people at Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences). That gives you about 2.7 bottles per household, per day. Not too shabby, considering it was Prohibition. Interestingly, the 200 gallon limitation is still the law, but it only applies to a household of two or more adults. If you’re single you can only make 100 gallons per year. #SinglismIsReal
[5] Baby Wine Esquire got a bit fussy, so the Chardonnay will have to wait for another day.
[6] You know the kind I mean.
[7] My love of leftovers has increased tenfold since Baby arrived. #feedmequick
[8] #OldVineZin
[9] Because it’s still #RoséSeason ya’ll!
[10] Ta Ta For Now.

Baby, I’m Back

wine baby Sauska

As I mentioned in my previous post, and perhaps you’ve noticed, I’ve been MIA for a while. Approximately nine months I’d say, give or take a few weeks. It was the fastest nine months of my life, and I was pretty damn busy. Or at least my body was[1]. Can you guess what I did during those nine months? You guessed it, I had a baby[2]!

wine baby Chateau Montelena
Baby Wine Esquire has good taste in wine already!

Now during said nine months, I obviously wasn’t drinking wine[3]. I thought that this would be difficult for me, but it turns out that it wasn’t. At all. For a brief period even the smell of Husband’s wine made me a bit ill[4]. In fact, I got to the point where I thought I’d just give up wine for good, even after Baby came[5]. The wine FOMO[6] could have been bad, so me not being interested was probably internal self-preservation. Which explains why I’ve been MIA.

But, Baby, I’m back![7]

Baby Wine Esquire joined us on July 5, 2017. Ten days overdue, he was 8 pounds, one ounce and 21 inches of pure love and joy.

wine baby Sauska
Isn’t he the cutest?

Getting used to life with Baby has been incredible; we are forever changed, but we’re getting back into our daily routine, and that includes the re-emergence of Wine Esquire. Albeit, on a smaller scale, for now[8]. At this point, the thing Husband and I yearn for most is a delectable foodie experience in a small, quiet restaurant where Baby isn’t welcome[9]. We’ll get there. Someday. Hopefully sooner rather than later for our sake[10].

I’m still limited in the amount of wine I can enjoy for now, which makes each glass even more precious. So send me some recommendations! What have I missed in the past 41 weeks? What are your favorite go-to’s of the moment? I’m truly looking forward to reconnecting with everyone again!

wine baby
My new glass of choice 🙂

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] I’ll spare you the photographic evidence of my epically swollen feet. Thankfully they’ve returned to normal. #hadtobuynewshoes
[2] The whole “nine months” thing is actually a big lie. Babies take 40 weeks to develop and in my case, 41. That’s 10.25 months, not 9. #TheBigLie
[3] Well, at least I wasn’t drinking a LOT of wine. A sip here and there wasn’t gonna hurt nobody. #dontjudge
[4] Because obviously Husband did not give up wine in solidarity with me. He just drank my share too!
[5] Thankfully this cockamamie idea did not stick.
[6] About six months ago I had to Google FOMO. It means “fear of missing out” in case you didn’t know. I also just discovered Despacito. Apparently it’s been THE song of the summer. I’ve been living under a rock, clearly. I continue to play it on repeat as much as possible. I’m also trying to learn the lyrics. Baby loves Despacito. And in case you’re wondering, I prefer the REAL version, not the Beiber overlay. My inner 21 year old REALLY wants to go the club and rock out to this. #wheremygirlsat
[7] Or at least I’m trying very hard to be!
[8] Time is precious, especially when Baby wants to eat ALL. THE. TIME.
[9] No offense, Baby.
[10] Mommy gets hungry too! #hangry

Epic photos of Baby Wine Esquire were taken by Jenn of
Photography by Jennifer Lynn.