Wine Tasting Dinner Party

wine

A wise man once said, “The only club I want to be part of is a wine club.” I’m not sure which wise man said this, or when he said it, but I’m sure a wise man said it. Or maybe it was a woman.

Special Delivery For Wine Esquire

These wine clubs are popping up all over the place and it seems like a pretty fun concept. Bright Cellars was created by two MIT grads who developed an algorithm[1] to determine which wines you should try based on your flavor preferences.[2] I took my quiz and let them know which kind of chocolate I preferred[3], how I take my afternoon tea, my go-to drink (when the wine has run out),[4] my ideal wine pairing and how adventurous I am when it comes to food and wine. They then paired me up with a few samples, so I decided to have a little tasting party to check them out.

Husband and I planned out a menu and chose three of the bottles to sample. We started with a cheese spread of Cranberry White Cheddar[5] and a stinky Raclette[6].

Wine and Cheese? Yes, please!

The hors-d’œuvres were paired with the 2016 Cameron Corner Verdelho from South Eastern Australia. Melon and citrus on the nose led to a mouthful of herbal green grass. Well balanced, medium bodied, an excellent wine for sipping with cheese. It turned the cranberry cheddar into a mouthwatering explosion. Verdelho is traditionally a Portuguese grape varietal, but it migrated to Australia in the 1820s. Australia is producing some great wines with this grape at attractive price points.wine

During a brief eating interlude, where husband and I had to finish making the next course[7], the 2014 Zinsane Zin was opened to allow it to breathe a bit. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, we[8] took the roasted butternut squash and apples out of the oven, scooped the insides into the blender, poured in some chicken stock, added a dash of cinnamon and pressed purée. After it had attained the desired consistency, it was transferred to a soup pot to let it simmer on medium for a few minutes before serving. Garnished with a smattering of freshly chopped parsley and Voila, we had a soup course!

wine zinfandel
Oh, you fancy, huh?

The Lodi Zin was unexpectedly on the heavier side, but it was a great pairing with the light and healthy soup[9]. A touch of nutty coffee, definitely full bodied, it countered the sweetness of the soup to make it a well-balanced pairing. This was a great example of Lodi doing really interesting stuff with Zinfandel.

For the finale, Husband had been cooking My Mother’s Sauce[10] on low all day. The cast-iron seared meatballs and sausage were added just two hours before dinner to finish cooking. Doing my fair share, I went out in search of homemade pasta to serve it with. I’ve discovered a lovely little place near our new digs[11] called Pasta Vita. I opened the doors and angels started singing.[12] I was greeted by row after row of homemade gourmet takeout and fresh made pasta and ravioli. Hello dinner! I went with ricotta and spinach,[13] which turned out to be a hit.

wine shiraz
Love me some homemade ravioli, especially when I’m not the one home making it!

We’d opened the next wine during the soup to get that ready for the main course. The 2015 Talbingo Hill Shiraz, also from Australia, was a great pairing. Leather on the nose with a touch of cherry sweetness on the finish. Almost like a cherry tobacco. Dry with some chewy tannins. It met its match with the heavy red sauce, fresh ravioli and pork/veal/beef meatballs.

All in all, three good bottles, served with three great courses, if I do say so myself.

Receiving a case of wine in the mail is like having Christmas on a Tuesday. Opening presents is always fun, no matter the season, and when there’s wine inside it’s even better. If you’d like to get in on the fun, my friends at Bright Cellars are offering friends of Wine Esquire 50% off your first shipment. Go through this link to take your quiz and select your personally paired wines and a $30 credit will be added to your order. When you try it out, let me know what you think!

wine

Cheers wine friends, until the next glass!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] Pretty sure this has something to do with math. #smart
[2] Overachievers.
[3] Dark please, preferably with some almonds. #healthnut
[4] Mimosa, obvi.
[5] Which I served with cranberry almond crackers. God I’m good. #snackmaster
[6] Turns out Raclette is typically used for melting. We just spread it on apple slices. As long as you can get past the smell long enough to get it in your mouth, you’ll be a happy camper.
[7] Because making soup is no big deal, right?
[8] By “we” I do mean Husband, but I was supervising and providing general kitchen direction.
[9] Although our dinner guest did suggest that next time we may want to add some heavy cream to the soup to thicken it up a bit. Not sure he’s part of #fitfam.
[10] The recipe comes Straight Outta the Bronx. Super authentic Italian American. It’s the best. I’ve been clandestinely dipping illicitly broken off bread chunks into this sauce while it cooks since I was old enough to clandestinely break bread. I’d give you the recipe, but … #whathappensintheBronx ….
[11] Oh yea, we moved. Packing and unpacking in less than 30 days is now on my resume under “Skills.” Now that we’re settled, we’re loving the new place.
[12] Sort of like what happened on my visit to Château d’Yquem.
[13] And a basket full of other goodies, like stuffed peppers, parmesan risotto, and a healthy sampling of fresh baked cookies that I really did mean to share with everyone. #oops

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

Wine Flies When You’re On a Plane

You may recall that I flew out to California in August for the Wine Bloggers Conference[1].

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.

Welcome to Lodi
Welcome to Lodi

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.

California Life
California Life

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[2], 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.

Tasting Room at Miner's Leap
Tasting Room at Miner’s Leap

We tasted some wines and then headed to our next stop: Lunch[3]. 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.

Singin' the Blues
Singin’ the Blues

By this point in the trip, I had four bottles packed in my suitcase[4] and I didn’t think I had room for more. Getting the wine home is always such a dilemma[5]. We had at least two more places to visit and I couldn’t buy any wine[6]. 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[7]. 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.

Bogle Vineyard California
Vineyard Life

We were running a bit low on time[8], 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[9]. 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.

Bogle Wine California

Time continued to tick, and Robin really wanted to show us one last place, The Sugar Mill. We weaved along the back country roads[10] 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[11] but it was a nice taste of what the Clarksburg area had to offer.

Bogle Wine California

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.

Wine Vino Volo Airport
Pre Flight Vino Volo

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!

Wine with a view
Wine with a view

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.

Wine Book Plane

I arrived home safe and sound, and so did my wine, even though I failed to properly seal the box[12].  Thanks Wine Flights in Sacramento!

Safe and sound!
Safe and sound!

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!

Lawyer Footnotes

#WBC16
#WBC16

[1] See Pre-Cap, Recap, Gewürztraminer, and Goats. When’s the next wine trip, Universe? I’m ready!
[2] He insists on doing it himself. No OCD here at all. But it does look good.
[3] Because, #priorities.
[4] Which was only medium sized, not my jumbo.
[5] #WinoProblems
[6] HashtagSadface

Crazy California landscape
Crazy California landscape

[7] Hello Book Club.
[8] That whole “catch a plane thing”.
[9] Thank god I had some extra room!
[10] With the top down. Obvi.
[11] 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.
[12] Oops.

 

Wine Blogger Friends
Wine Blogger Friends

 

The Old Sugar Mill
The Old Sugar Mill
View from the air
View from the air

Wistfully Remembering Sauvignon Blanc Weather

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[1]. 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.

Sauvignon Blanc White Wine
Summer Sipping

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[2]. 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[3]. 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[4]. We paired it with some apple slices and cheddar cheese, but mostly just sipped it on its own.

Sauvignon Blanc White Wine
Keepin’ it Chilled

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[5], 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?

Sauvignon Blanc White Wine
The rear end of the Nimble hog …

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[6].

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!

White Wine Sauvignon Blanc
Cheers!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] 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!
[2] How insightful of me, and it’s coming true already.
[3] That is, if you had a garden with wild flowers that survived the elements.
[4] 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…
[5] No distribution yet and no online sales. Give them a call to arrange a visit at 707.433.9844, OR shoot an email to hello@nimblevineyards.com and they can ship you some!
[6] I can see it now: Bachelorette Party Gon’ Wild! First you taste the wine, then you hunt the hogs….Just kidding! #liabilityproblems #lawyerlife