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.

Riesling Is a Viable Option

I’m usually not a big Riesling drinker. Maybe if someone is serving it with dessert I’ll have a small glass, but it’s not something I buy. It was always one of those wines that left a bad taste in my mind. I remember having it one night in college[1], and since my college budget didn’t allow for me to buy anything except a sugary bottle of what could only be called Riesling-esque juice, I wound up hungover not feeling well the next morning and swore it off for good.

Until, that is, I heard that it may be good with spicy foods[2]. And after having that sweet, delicious experience, it made me consider trying more of this lovely grape. So when I walked into one of my favorite wine shops last week and my best good wine friend mentioned a unique Riesling I might enjoy, I decided to give it another swirl.File Jul 22, 9 08 04 PM

Tasting Memo: 2015 Dönnhoff Riesling Trocken

Melon and honey on the nose. Wow. A lot of body; a great, full mouthfeel. I get the faintest fizzy pop of carbonation, not full blown bubbles, but just a hint[3]. It’s quite refreshing. Maybe a bit of green apple on the finish with a touch of a dry bite. Fruity without being sweet. A wonderfully delicious treat. I sipped on this without any food[4], and it was great on its own. I could also see pairing this with some apple slices slathered in Brie[5]. Yum. Goodbye to my Riesling prejudice, I think I’m officially a convert!

File Jul 22, 9 07 52 PMThe producer of this bottle is the highly esteemed Dönnhoff family who has been producing wine in the Nahe wine region of Germany for more than 200 years[6]. The estate is now run by father and son duo, Helmut and Cornelius. Their Riesling, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc grapes are grown on twenty five sloping, hilly hectares in Oberhausen an der Nahe, a teenytiny wine growing village about an hour southwest of Frankfurt.

(c) Weingutt Dönnhoff

As of 2013 there were a grand total of 379 full time residents in Oberhausen an der Nahe, the Dönnhoff family presumably being several of them. Eighty percent of their vines are Riesling, and this bottle was the Trocken, or dry offering. Made from 100% Riesling grapes, it was fermented in a mix of stainless steel and large German oak barrels.

File Jul 22, 9 07 34 PM

This may not be the easiest wine to find, but it is available throughout the US for, you guessed it, under $25 a bottle (this was my selection for the July edition of the #Under25Challenge[7]). I’d highly suggest trying to get your hands on some whether you’re a Riesling fan or even if you’re on the fence. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Salem liked it, so will you!
Salem liked it, so will you! #catlady

Until the next glass, cheers!

Lawyer Footnotes

[1] In my college quest to be, or at least appear to be, classy. Sometimes. #collegelife
[2] Thanks to my friends at Cutruzzola Vineyards.
[3] The winery calls this a “tingling minerality.”
[4] Don’t ask me why, this is very unlike me.
[5] Because how else does one eat apples?
[6] By the way, this place is going on the Wine Bucket List. It looks simply stunning.

(c) Weingutt Dönnhoff

[7] If you haven’t jumped on the #Under25Challenge bandwagon yet, you’re missing out on some fun. Find a new wine store, ask for a recommendation for their best bottle $25 or under, then open it up with us on Twitter. Check it out next month, August 16 at 8 pm EST. See you then!

File Jul 22, 9 10 34 PM
Liquid Courage and Provisions from the Wise Old Dog

Come Join The #Under25Challenge

Next #Under25Challenge: Tuesday, July 19 8 PM EST

If you’re on the Twitter[1], then you probably know I host a monthly Twitter chat called the #Under25Challenge with my #winefriend TL Summerville on the third Tuesday of each month. The goal is to find a new wine shop and a new bottle of wine for under $25 each month. So consult with Yelp on your drive home from work and head to a place you’ve never been before, ask the wine lover there to recommend their best bottle $25 or under. Bring the bottle home, chill it, decant it or just pop it open at 8 PM EST and chat with us about it!File Jun 21, 1 30 01 PM

Directions to the #Under25Challenge:

  1. Go to new liquor store;
  2. Ask a new wine friend there to recommend their favorite and/or best bottle in the store for $25 or under;
  3. Buy said Wine;
  4. Save it for #Under25Challenge Twitter Chat;
  5. Follow @WineEsquire and L. Summerville on the Tweeter;
  6. Be near your Tweeting Device at 8 p.m. EST;
  7. Uncork that bottle, pour a glass, drink up and Tweet with us;
  8. Repeat next month.

See you in a few hours[2]!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] If you’re not, come on, get with it.
[2] I still have to go find my bottle! #procrastinator File Jan 31, 10 06 50 AM

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.