Making A Simple Dinner Fancy

 

Because that’s how Wine Esquire rolls.

It’s winter. It’s cold. Are you bored yet? I’m getting there. It was Saturday morning and we were preparing for our first proper blizzard by throwing a soup together in the crockpot. We took our Inaugural Blizzard Walk[1] with the neighbors and so we decided to throw an impromptu dinner party.

Split Pea Soup is a favorite of ours. Not only is it classic, but it’s cheap. For less than $10, we had a gourmet soup ready to go. For your convenience, here are the detailed instructions:

Husband’s Not So Secret Blizzard Split Pea Soup Recipe

(serves 4 with one leftover portion for lunch)

1 pound split peas
Handful of baby carrots
½ yellow onion
3 garlic cloves
2 stalks celery
1 bay leaf
4 cups unsalted chicken stock
2 cups water
1 ham steak

Rinse the peas, chop the veggies and throw everything together in the bottom of a crock pot. Sear the ham steak in a cast iron skillet and throw it on top. Add the bay leaf, then salt and pepper to taste. Set the Crock on low for 8 hours and let it simmer. Voila! Fancy dinner!

We’d ventured out earlier in the day[2] and picked up some Portuguese raisin rolls in our travels. Husband grilled them up in the cast iron skillet and we served them with some super simple fancy homemade butter.

Super Simple Fancy Homemade Butter

(serves four – no leftovers, we practically licked the bowl clean)

½ stick butter
½ tsp honey
Pinch or 2 of sea salt (Fleur De Sel[3] if you have it)

Soften the butter in the microwave then add honey and salt and mix it up. The butter shouldn’t be pure liquid, but it should be easy to mix up. Scoop it all up, spoon it into a fancy dish[4] and chill in the freezer for 15 minutes prior to serving.

It’s a shame pea soup just doesn’t photograph well. It was delicious.

We broke out the wedding china, some nice crystal glasses and had ourselves a fancy dinner party. It’s absolutely true that food tastes better when it’s served on beautiful dishes, especially when your soup tureen is sitting on a silver platter. After all, what’s a little hand-washing among friends?[5]

Silver Platter’s Make Everything Better

Now, for the important part. We paired our winter feast with a bottle of The Sum by the Seventy Five Wine Company. A great red blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Petite Syrah, 10% Syrah. Definitely fruity; the raspberry jam is out in full force. A great smooth mouthfeel, a touch on the lighter side with a nice dry finish. A great wine to warm you up on a cold winter’s eve with a bowl of good soup and a hunk of good bread.

Vino Vino Vino

The Seventy Five Wine Company was founded in, you guessed it, 1975. The back label recites all the epic and noteworthy events from that year. It was the year Bill Gates founded Microsoft, Saturday Night Live aired their first episode, Charlie Chaplin was knighted by Queen Elizabeth, and of course, the Beckstoffer family set up shop in Napa Valley.

Vino Vino Vino

The 2013 was a touch young; it could certainly be laid down for a while to let it mature and develop, but it’s a great drinker now too. The label is fun, and the bottle itself is a heavy clunker that makes you feel like you’re about to be drinking a rich, deep wine. You can grab a bottle for between $20-$25 throughout the US, so give it whirl and let me know what you think!

Until the next glass!
Cheers!

Lawyer Footnotes

[1] The Inaugural Blizzard Walk started several winters ago when Husband had the ingenious idea to walk around during a blizzard when everyone else is sanely snuggled up in front of their fireplace. It’s quite fun actually, seeing everything peaceful, quiet and white. It’s even better when you bring a flask with you. Just sayin’.
[2] Yes, in the blizzard. I really needed some yarn. What can I say? Me and the two old ladies at Hobby Lobby weren’t afraid of a little snow.
[3] Translated to “Flower of Salt”, this sodium variety comes from the hand-harvested salt crystals which float on the surface of salt water as it evaporates. Used as a garnish instead of as an ingredient, it is the most difficult salt to harvest, and therefore the most expensive. Fancy, huh? We recently acquired a jar at the Weekend Kitchen, a whimsical little kitchen shop in Essex, the cutest little town in America.
[4] You know, to make it fancy.
[5] Full disclosure, I’m so Type A I won’t let anyone else wash my china. Just in case. #RetiredPattern

Better Beckons

Warning: Sappy Post.

Sorry to get deep and emotional, but since I’ve been invited[1] to be part of Beringer’s Better Beckons contest, it made me remember what I’m doing and why, and it put a smile on my face. So I hope it does the same for you!

Better Beckons.

As I pondered this concept, I started thinking about why I started this blog, why I drink wine[2], why I get up in the morning[3]. It’s really because something better is beckoning. Every day can be a great day, if you choose to be happy in the moment[4]. You may not be in the perfect place, but if you think about the place you want to be in, and do something every day, even if it’s a small something, to put you a little bit closer to that place, it’s a day well spent. It’s important to remember that life really is a journey and not a destination, and if you don’t have fun along the way, you’re losing out. Being the best you can be and being happy with who you are is that’s all that matters.

Beringer Wine
Isn’t this what life is all about? #BetterBeckons

While you’re thinking about your life and what your plan is, grab a bottle of Beringer and bring it somewhere beautiful, fun and inspiring. Pop the cork, pour a glass and reflect on your surroundings[5]. Post a photo on Instagram, hashtag it with #BeringerUS and #Contest, and you could be the lucky winner of a trip to Napa Valley[6]. Photos must be posted by September 30, so get poppin’!

I took my bottle of Beringer to Gillette’s Castle in East Haddam, Connecticut. The home is an epic masterpiece built by William Gillette, a writer, playwright and actor, famous for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes on the American Stage. Construction began on the medieval-esq castle in 1914. Twenty men, five years and $1.1 million later, it was completed in 1919. Built entirely from Gillette’s own design plans, it includes secret locks, hidden mirrors, perhaps the first sprinkler system, and at one time, its own steam-powered railroad.  Sitting atop one of Connecticut’s Seven Sisters Hills, its breathtaking views of the Connecticut River are sweeping and commanding.

Beringer at Gillette's Castle
Beringer at Gillette’s Castle

Dying with no wife and no heirs, in his will Gillette warned against his home and possessions ending up in the hands of “some blithering saphead who had no conception of where he is or with what surrounded.” Ironically, The State of Connecticut purchased the land and turned the property into a state park[7].

Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon
Overlooking the Connecticut River

The wine I brought with me was the 2013 Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Knights Valley. In a word, it was luxurious. A big nose with a beautiful bouquet of blackberries and raspberries. Stunningly rich and silky smooth with beautiful, soft tannins that left you wanting more. Lots of ripe fruit that finished with almost a hint of chocolate. At $35 a bottle, it’s an excellent dinner party splurge. You and your friends will enjoy this big bold wine with your fruit and cheese platter, a hearty pasta, or even a nice filet mignon[8].

Beringer Wine
#BetterBeckons

Can’t wait to show you where I brought the 2014 Beringer Luminus Chardonnay Oak Knoll. Until the next glass!

Cheers!

Beringer WineLawyer Footnotes
[1] My Instagram posts and Tweets were sponsored by Mirum Shopper. They also provided me with the wine and glasses. All thoughts, reviews and content contained herein are my own.
[2] So many reasons!
[3] Because the alarm goes off and it’s hard to sleep through.
[4] A nice bottle of wine helps too. And people you like. And good food. Did I mention wine?
[5] I’m not advocating bringing wine to places with a no alcohol policy…So if you get caught, don’t blame it on me. #StateParks
[6] Details and contest rules available here. Must be 21+ to enter.
[7] Where I’m sure alcohol is not allowed.
[8] Let me know what time dinner starts and I’ll be there. Maybe I’ll even bring a bottle of wine.

This is Why I Drink Wine

Everyone drinks wine,[1] but the reason behind consumption varies greatly from person to person. Some drink it to celebrate. Others drink it to drown sorrows[2]. Some because they love the science behind the grapes, how it gets from vine to the bottle. Others because they can buy a jumbo bottle and it lasts them all week[3]. Some drink wine because they realize that it tastes incredible and brings the enjoyment of food to a whole new level.

File May 25, 5 08 34 PMI’m pretty sure I started drinking wine because I thought it was classy in a time when I wanted to transition my Dubra-drinking-on-a-budget college self to my more sophisticated drinking-on-a-budget law student self. Thank God I made the switch. My palate has changed from my initial wine forays, going from Pinot Noir as my go-to to becoming a full-on fruit bomb, Cabernet lover.

Last night I was fortunate enough to experience a bottle of wine that exemplifies why I continue to delve into new bottles. It was one of my most profound “This is Why I Drink Wine” moments thus far[4]. And it was beautiful.


To:                  Alleged Blog Readers
From:              WineEsquire
Date:               May 27, 2016
Wine:              2010 Hundred Acre Fortunate Son Cabernet Sauvignon


This was deep; it was inky. There was dark fruit, there was leather and there was tobacco. On the finish there was just the slightest hint of a something sweet. Perhaps some chocolate. And it was elegantly smooth. Velvety juice with a fantastic mouth feel. My shoulders dropped and as Biggie played in the background, the head nod was in full swing[5]. What a sip of wine. Surrounded by friends, snacking on meat, cheese and olives, this bottle was a superbly special treat. Not a bad way to celebrate #NationalWineDay on a beautiful spring night.

Wine Dossier

This wine was an experience before the bottle was even open. Hungarian Sommelier Friend generously brought this over to share, and the dense, heavy bottle was covered by a thick, cardboard sheath. All that was visible was downward facing text along a perforated edge that read, “Feeling Fortunate?” Why yes, I believe I am! File May 26, 10 01 44 PMThe first step was to uncover the label and underneath I felt smooth, luscious suede. For real? Yea. For real. Light gray text wrapped itself around the bottle until my eyes were drawn to the white text near the bottom that reads “Fortunate Son.”File May 26, 10 02 32 PM

I stop for a minute to read the text, “Wine is a lagniappe,” it begins. What’s a lagniappe you ask[6]? A lagniappe is that little something extra; a bonus, a gift. Wine indeed is a lagniappe. It’s that little something extra that the Universe has given to us to make life that much better, just because it could.

File May 26, 10 02 13 PM

The suede text went on to recite a narrative of all the good things in life; foie gras, truffles and risotto, porterhouse steak. Where is the cheese and where is the butter??? All of life’s little lagniappes.

Fortunate-Son-Web-Header
(c) Fortunate Son Wine

At the tail end we’re given the names of the Fortunate Sons who gave us the wine: William Kimble, Jayson Woodbridge and Chris Radomski[7]. Though it’s not an easy feat to get information on this wine-making trio, it appears they are the heads of Hundred Acre Winery, a cult California winery, closed to the public because all of their wine is sold as soon as they offer it for sale[8]. The websites for Hundred Acre and Fortunate Sons are insignificant blips in the inter webs; nothing but a link to sign up for the mailing list; you can’t even buy wine unless you have a client ID[9].

You can snag a bottle of the 2010 Fortunate Son Cabernet Sauvignon for a cool $199.95 a bottle, but be quick, the store I found only has 2 left. While the other offerings from Hundred Acre start at $200 and go up from there, their “kissing cousin” label is Layer Cake, a project inspired by Woodbridge’s realization that not everyone can afford a $200+ bottle of wine. Layer Cake takes grapes from all over the world and crafts single varietal bottles typical to the region the grapes are from. It’s described on their website site as “luxury everyone can afford” and the bottles are typically priced around $15. You can be sure I’m going to be picking up a few of these lower priced options. And I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.

Until the next glass, cheers!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] Ok, maybe not everyone, but I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t.
[2] #lawyerlife
[3] #MomandDad He does red, she does white. #matchmadeinheaven
[4] Drinking the 2015 Château d’Yquem, at the château, like it was water, during En Primeur week, was another.
[5] A nod to my college self. We had just transitioned from opera, which would have been equally as appropriate in the situation.
[6] I also asked this. I also asked the more important question, “How do you say that?” It’s pronounced “lanˈyap.”
[7] Who apparently is a law school graduate. #LawyersLoveWine
[8] A good problem to have, I’d say.
[9] Oh they fancy, huh?

File May 11, 6 50 29 PM

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.