A Spoonful of Sherry

So there I was, 6:15 p.m. on the night of this month’s #Under25Challenge. I still hadn’t left the office, I had no bottle of wine, and even more distressing, I had nothing to eat for dinner[1]. Shite. I packed my bag, grabbed my keys, ran out the door and headed to Price Chopper[2]. I ladled myself some split pea and ham soup,[3] then made my way over to the hole-in-the-wall liquor store across the street.[4] I wasn’t sure what I was gonna get, but I figured they had to have SOMETHING drinkable. I was in a pinch, and beggars can’t be choosers.

I walked in to the store and found the lone employee perusing the Beverage Journal at the front counter. As it turns out, Marvin owned the store. I told him about the Twitter challenge and how I’d like for him to make a recommendation of his best bottle $25 or under, and he chuckled to himself. I could tell that this was the kinda guy in the kinda store that just didn’t do Twitter. He asked whether I wanted to give him any direction and I said I was open to anything, although I was leaning toward having a red. He took me over to the wine section, plunked a bottle down on a wine box, and then disappeared. I didn’t know if that was it or if he was going to get something else. I decided to wait around.

The #Under25Challenge Selections
The #Under25Challenge Selections

Four minutes later he came back with two more bottles, then he wandered to another section to get a fourth. I really wasn’t expecting this kind of variety, or thoughtfulness, from my hole-in-the-wall package store down the street. My choices ranged from $13.99 to $19.99; he offered an interesting Australian blend featuring Petite Verdot, which he told me was rare for a Rhone style wine, a 100% Mencia from Spain that he said would knock my socks off, a Rioja that may need a bit of decanting[5], and a delicious black cherry fruit bomb from Napa. I told him I was rather partial to fruit bombs from Napa, but that I wanted to go out of my comfort zone that evening. I was leaning toward the Australian or the Mencia.

Then I casually mentioned what I was having for dinner; split pea and ham soup. “Aha!,” he exclaimed, “well then I know just the thing, but this is gonna be weird.” I waited with bated breath while he disappeared again. He came back with a bottle of what looked kind of like Boone’s Farm. It was a $10.99 bottle of Hartley & Gibson’s Fino Sherry. He explained that Sherry was the secret ingredient to make any soup outstanding; clam chowder, chicken noodle, beef and vegetable, you name it, Sherry would make it shine. I said, “Really? I’d never heard that before!”

Fino Sherry

Marvin told me that the Sherry would do three things to my soup: 1. it would add its own unique flavor; 2. it would meld all the flavors of the soup together; and 3. it would remove any excess saltiness. I thought it sounded great, and I figured that since my store-bought soup couldn’t possible get any worse, I might as well give it a try[6]. So I went with the Sherry… and the Australian blend, just to be safe. Both bottles came to $26.16, almost cheap enough to meet the #Under25Challenge parameters.

But all that chatting with Marvin about wine and Sherry had seriously cut down my lead time for the challenge. I didn’t have much time to prep for the chat, and clearly, my main priority was the soup[7].

First I tasted the soup sans Sherry, to give myself a baseline to compare it too. It was really good, but not amazing. Then I added the magic elixir. Less than a shot, maybe two teaspoons, and mixed it all in. Marvin said you should add it tableside or right before you take it off the heat. I took my first bite and said, “Oh. Em. Gee.” What Marvin said was true! Holy. Moly. This was the best thing I’ve ever done to a soup.[8]

Fino Sherry

The flavor it added was just a hint of oak barrels and a touch of sweet port. It really did bring the flavors together and eliminated the saltiness. It gave it a richness that wasn’t there before, and a whole lot more pizzazz. It was a soup miracle.

Since the #Under25Challenge is all about finding new things for under $25, this bottle fit the bill perfectly. I tried a small taste on its own to get a feel for Sherry, it may have been my first foray. Someone on Twitter said it should have been on the rocks, but I drank it warm and neat, and I can tell you it wasn’t something I’m in a rush to do again. But I can tell you that this soup season is going to be packed with a Sherry punch!

Until the next bowl, Cheers!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] #Priorities.
[2] Because where else would I go for food?
[3] I love that it’s officially soup season.
[4] When I say hole in the wall, I’m really not exaggerating. This is the kinda place where regulars come in for their nips and their forties on a daily basis. #classy
[5] But ain’t nobody got time for that when your twitter chat is about to start in 20 minutes!
[6] To be fair, the hot soups at Price Chopper are seriously awesome.
[7] Because, #hanger.
[8] You know, besides re-heating it.

#Under25Challenge – Adventure Número Uno

File Dec 29, 8 25 19 PMA few weeks ago I had a brilliant[1] idea for a series of blog posts. The idea is for me to go around to charming little wine shops on my travels and ask the wine friends working there to participate in my challenge. The challenge is to recommend their favorite and/or best bottle $25 or under. Then I’ll take the wine home, take a few photos, drink a few glasses, and blog about it. Brilliant, right? I thought so.

So I went on my first challenge escapade. A few weeks ago I found myself up in the Litchfield Hills, a quiet beautiful corner of the state riddled with adorable boutique[2] stores and restaurants. I wandered[3] into a little wine shop excited for my first challenge. Given that they had literally just moved, their stock was pretty low, so this may not have been the ideal start to my #Under25Challenge, but c’est la vie.

I told my new #winefriend the parameters of the challenge, and he gave me two choices. One was slightly under $25, and one was slightly higher at $28.99. The under $25 was a personal favorite of his, a red blend from Italy. The other was a 2006 bottle of Spanish goodness, and one that you couldn’t find anymore. This was actually their last bottle[4]. Even though I made up the rules, I promptly broke them when I heard the Spanish wine couldn’t be bought anymore. I guess the new parameter is “around $25”. We’ll see how that works going forward.

Feeling odd buying just one bottle, I also picked up a 2009 Montefalco Sagrantino[5] that I’m epically excited to try. But that will have to wait for another day.

  • To:                  Alleged Blog Readers
    From:             WineEsquire
    Date:               December 29, 2015
    Wine:             Mansion Garrido Vina Centenaria Tinto Exclusivo 2006

This was a complex bottle of wine. It would actually have benefitted from filtering since there was a ton of sediment in the glass after I poured.[6] Raisins, leather and smoke on the nose. The mouth gave way to a bouquet of jammy raisins. Medium-bodied and a bit on the dry side. Excellent with our gourmet meal of beef stew, multigrain bread and sweet potato puree[7]. This was a strong wine and I think it may be too much to drink on its own without some nosh[8]. For the price I paid I was a bit underwhelmed, but it was certainly an experience I enjoyed.File Dec 29, 8 36 43 PM

Wine Dossier

Without the use of The Google, I could not for the life of me figure out what kind of wine this was. I determined that it was from Spain, but I couldn’t discern a varietal. To be fair, there’s a lot going on on this label. The producer, Mansion Garrido, is run by a family that has been making wine on the same property in  Fermoselle, Spain for 375 years[9]. The grape, known as Juan Garcia, is an autochthonous grape variety of the Arribes River Canyon within the inland Castile-León region of Spain. This means the grape is indigenous to this area and only grown there. It is also said to have survived the catastrophic phylloxera vine disease[10] due to its protected geographic area within the canyons along the Duero River.File Dec 29, 8 22 14 PM

Turns out you can find this wine online for less than what I paid. So for my first #Under25Challenge, I may have been slightly hoodwinked[11], but at the end of the day, it was a great bottle of wine. It all worked out and now you can try it too since it is not, in fact, an endangered bottle.

Happy wine-ing!

Lawyer Footnotes

[1] Brilliant may be pushing it, but I think it’s a good idea.
[2] Read: Expensive.
[3] Wandered may not be the correct word since I drove around the block four freaking several times and ended up having to actually call to find out where they were located. Turns out they had recently moved around the corner from their old location and Yelp! hadn’t updated their listing. Don’t worry, I sent a note to Yelp! about their snafu.
[4] Now that I think about it, I think he totally sales-pitched me into the higher priced bottle and I fell for it. #sucker
[5] Never heard of this? I hadn’t either until we adventured in Umbria, Italy a few years ago. A little known grape that packs the most delicious punch, I can’t wait to tell you about it. #comingsoon
[6] Note that we drank this out of my new Riedel Heart to Heart glasses I received for Christmas. The glass literally sings. #realcrystal #swoo
[7] The things Husband did to these potatoes was absolutely sinful.File Dec 29, 8 42 33 PM
[8] I tried it on its own on day 2 and found myself needing a few Christmas cookies to go with it. #ChristmasProblems
[9] You can find the current owner, Jorge Garrido, on LinkedIn, but only on the Spanish version, so I don’t know how to connect with him. #nohabla
[10] Remember we talked about this wine disaster? See One of Those Days post, footnote 11.
[11] Makes sense given the location; see footnote 2, supra.

One of THOSE Days

***BLOG UPDATE After posting last night, the dishwasher kicked the bucket. It’s full of dirty dishes. Yep. ***

You know the kind. You wake up on the wrong side of the bed and it just continues all day. Well, I’m at the tail end of one of those. This is kind of how it went:

Wake up,
See box of Life Cereal on the counter.
Best. Idea. Ever.
Go to Fridge.
Husband finished milk[1].
Go to Work[2].
Do Work.
Get a call.
Where are you?
At work. Why?
You’re supposed to be at a closing.
That’s not until 2:30.
It was changed to 1:00.
Go to closing.
Go back to work.
Continue working.
Get hungry.
Drive home.
Witness the Best. Sunset. Ever.
No photo opportunity[3].
Go to grocery store[4] while Husband orders take out.
Get home.
Unload groceries.
Open said take out.
Find out it’s the WRONG meal.
So hungry.
Eat it anyway.
Shed tears of frustration.

File Oct 21, 8 40 28 PMBut then I thought about how I should really get a grip. I’m healthy, happy, well fed, and now I have a glass of wine. There are so many people out there facing real problems. So tonight, I’m thankful for my WA WA day, because I could be dealing with real problems, and I’m not. We should all raise a glass and say a prayer for those who need it. Happy Wine Wednesday friends.

To:                   Alleged Blog Readers
From:              WineEsquire
Date:               October 21, 2015
Wine:              2011 Bobal deSanjuan
This smells sparkling but it’s not[5]. On the nose I get deep fruit, definitely plum. First sip and I actually stop, make a WOW face, and say mmmmmmm. Leathery with a hint of tobacco, almost like a spicy cabernet. Really deep with a medium finish. On the drier side, definitely some tannins. Nice legs are swirling. I’ve never had this varietal before, and I’m liking what I taste. Paris well with the Dominican chicken rice and beans I’m eating[6].

Wine Dossier
During my LastBottle marathon[7] a few months ago, I started ordering wine like a mad woman. Older vintages, varietals I had never heard of before, bottles way out of my price range. I blame it on the adrenaline, which was seriously pumping for a solid 12 hours. So far, all my selections have turned out well. When we got home and wanted to open a bottle tonight, given the way the day was going, I decided to open one of our less expensive offerings, just in case it turned out to be a dud[8]. Lucky for me, my LastBottle streak continued and it turned out to be excellent.File Oct 21, 8 39 34 PM

This is 100% Bobal[9], a grape whose name is derived from bovale, or bull, as the bunches are said to be shaped like a bull’s head. Given that I’d never heard of it before, I was surprised to read that it is Spain’s third most planted varietal, behind Airen[10] and Tempranillo.

Looking at the front and back labels, it’s tough to decipher who the producer is. I’m sure that’s because it’s in Spanish, and even though I took four years of the language in high school, I’ve got nothin’. “Old Vines” figures prominently on the front, and the back lets me know that the grapes came from 60 to 80 year old vines. I read that the varietal proved resistant to the Phylloxera vine disease[11] in the mid-19th century, so maybe that’s why the vines are so old.

Whoever does the marketing/branding for this producer needs some help, or they need to be fired. After 10 minutes of searching The Google, I still can’t find anything about who made this wine. Maybe it’s the day I’m having, but I don’t really think so. I finally found it on Wine-Searcher, so you can check it out if you want to snag a bottle. I paid $8.02 during the marathon, but you can get it for $12. At either price, it’s a steal and well worth it!


Lawyer FootnotesFile Oct 21, 8 51 29 PM
[1] When he came home last night and had a bowl of said Life Cereal. $50 fine for finishing milk.
[2] Hungry, because, see footnote 1, supra.
[3] This drives me insane!
[4] Because we need milk, see footnote 1, supra.
[5] Is that a thing?
[6] So technically it’s what Husband ordered for me, chicken with rice and beans. I’m not sure if he ordered wrong or they just put the wrong thing in, but when I usually order chicken with rice and beans there, I don’t get huge chicken pieces on the bone. So I’m still eating what I wanted to eat, I just have to do work to eat it…I shouldn’t complain, it’s delicious.
[7] If you don’t know about Last Bottle yet, go sign up. Awesome wine deals sent to your email everyday. Get a group of coworkers together who also love wine and then you can get free shipping!
[8] Because that’s pretty much how the day was going.
[9] The Irish Times called Bobal “Spain’s hidden gem.” The Irish clearly know what’s up.
[10] I’ve never heard of this one either, so don’t feel bad.
[11] So this was a HUGE problem in Europe because it ate the roots of the vines and destroyed almost every vine in existence. Talk about apocalyptic ish! There’s still no cure, so vintners have to be vigilant as it can spread easily. Read more here.