I don’t know about you, but this is one of those wines I gloss over on the wine list, walk past at the wine shop, and avoid saying out loud at all costs. At #WBC16, I was lucky enough to cure the problem, and let me tell you, it’s about damn time!
Pronounced, Geh-VIRTZ-trah-MEE-ner, the grape originally hails from Italy’s Alto Adige region, an ancient wine growing community in the Dolomites bordering Austria and Switzerland. Italy’s smallest wine growing region makes around 40 million bottles of wine on a yearly basis and is the oldest German speaking winemaking area in the world; they’ve been honing their craft for the last 3,000 years.
The bottle of Gewürztraminer I sampled was an absolute gem. Breakout sessions were scattered throughout the conference, and I had the foresight to attend May Matta-Aliah’s session on the Wines of Alsace. We sampled three typical Alsatian varieties, a Riesling, a Pinot Gris, and finally, the Gewürztraminer. The Riesling and Pinot Gris were both lovely; soft, light and elegant. The Gewürztraminer was a slam dunk. My tasting notes started off with “Wow” and “Incredible”. It was one of those tastes where spitting would be a crime…so I didn’t.
As we were sipping, my new wine friend Laura explained how the word is broken down: Gewürz translates roughly to aromatic or seasoning, Tramin refers to Tramin an der Weinstraße, often abbreviated to Tramin or Termeno, the specific location where the grape comes from, and er means “of”. So, Gewürztraminer pretty much means “aromatic seasoning of Tramin”.
A high residual sugar content (45 grams per liter) made this one a bit on the sweeter side. Not something you’d want to drink with dinner, but after dinner, before dinner, with dessert, without dessert, would all work just fine. I got a bright, full mouthful of pineapple and a slight minerality on the extra-long finish. The wine kept going and going; I didn’t want to let it go. It was almost moist, a great, lush mouthfeel; very reminiscent of my Sauternes tasting experience in Bordeaux. This Gewürztraminer has characteristics similar to the Sauternes I tasted, being a sweet wine with great depth and body. I’ll have to try some more of these Alsatian Gewürztraminer beauties and let you know if they’re all as amazing. In the meantime, grab one of these if you can find it.
Maybe not a wine to throw back with your beer-guzzling neighbor, as it will set you back at least $70 if you can find it, but it is certainly something to be shared with loved ones. A highly acclaimed vintage, Wine Enthusiast rated the Zind-Humbrecht 2013 a 94 and Decanter bestowed a 97. Not too shabby.
Grapes for this bottle were grown in the Zind-Humbrecht Hengst Grand Cru vineyards in Wintzenheim, Alsace. The Zind and Humbrecht families joined forces in 1959; their ancestors have been growing grapes in Alsace since 1620.
Is there a wine you’re scared to pronounce? Get on the Google and don’t let it stop you! You could be missing out on an amazing wine!
Until the next glass, Cheers!
Lawyer Footnotes  You can read my first recap of the conference here.  Practice it in the privacy of your home and you’ll be good to go. #thatsnotweird  The Wine Folly has a great overview of Alto Adagio and the grapes grown there. Check it out.  The Dolomites have been on my travel bucket list forever, but I had no idea there was wine! Another addition to the Wine Bucket List!
 To put that number in perspective, in 2015, the State of California produced 229 million cases. I don’t understand how this could be possible because that is two billion seven hundred forty-eight million BOTTLES. But, I found it on the internets, so it must be true.  Wait, but I thought this was Italy? Given that it’s been making wine for 3,000 years, you can imagine that a lot has happened in the area over the past few millennia. A power struggle between Italy and Austria has been going on, pretty much forever, and tensions still run high. Also this.  America was born in 1776, or 240 years ago. To put that in perspective, this small area of Italy has been producing wine for 2,760 years longer than America has been around. WOW.  I’m super good at tasting notes.  #bilingual  Residual sugar generally refers to the sugar content remaining in the wine after fermentation stops or is stopped.  Ahhhh #FancyinFrancey. That was fun.  Like your good friend Wine Esquire here.  Viognier is Vee-own-YAY. Blaufränkisch is Blahw-FRAHN-keesh. And here’s a link to more pronunciations. You’re welcome.
Who’s Playing Well, we don’t know yet. The way this tournament works is players have to earn enough points to qualify to play. It was all started in 1927 by Samuel Ryder, a golfer who didn’t pick up the sport until after he was 50 years old. With some exceptions, the tournament has been held every two years and more than 300 golfers have participated in 40 Ryder Cup tournaments.
Teams of 12, one from the USA and one from Europe, compete against each other for the Ryder Cup. Team Captains will hand pick several players and the rest of the teams will be determined by a point system administered by the PGA. The top qualifying players at the conclusion of the Barclays Tournament on August 28 will make the teams.
The current US players in the top 12 are Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, Jimmy Walker, Brooks Koepka, Zach Johnson, J.B. Holmes, Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar and Rickie Fowler. So it looks like these guys have a chance at representing Team USA. A lot can happen in 10 days though…so we’ll see.
What You’ll Be Drinking If You Go Mouton Cadet, the most popular Bordeaux brand on the market and the official wine of the Ryder Cup, will be pouring a special cuvee designed specifically for the tournament. The Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec is as smooth as the golf course where the Ryder Cup will be played. Robert Trent Jones, Jr., architect of the Hazeltine golf course, sketched the bottle’s label design of a caddy as a tribute to his father, also a golf course architect.
Official Rules to enter the contest can be found here. Happy snapping! See you at the 9th hole!
Lawyer Footnotes  A fancy, famous golf tournament for those who didn’t know #golflife  As if golf wasn’t confusing enough already! #pointspread
My adventure started in First Class on American Airlines, and when I landed in Sacramento, I was upgraded to a VW Bug Convertible at the car rental counter. I don’t think I’ve ever actually driven a convertible before, so obviously I put the top down and went on my merry way. Things took an interesting turn when I arrived at my destination. It turns out that when a lot of wine bloggers gather in a location with a minimum number of hotel rooms, sometimes, your accommodations aren’t so stellar. Even though this hotel got a higher rating on TripAdvisor than some other local options, I think I got the short end of the hotel stick. But I’m really not complaining. Everything else was fabulous.
The welcome reception was held at the Mohr-Fry Ranches in Lodi and it just happened to be the proprietor’s 53rd wedding anniversary. Cheers to them for allowing 100+ strangers to invade their front lawn for an evening of wining and dining. I met up with some Twitter friends and finally connected social handles to faces. The evening was lovely, and the cold Vermentinos that were being poured really hit the spot. I always knew Lodi was the place for Old Vine Zinfandel, but I had no idea there were so many amazing white grapes being grown there. From Vermentino to Viognier, I was one happy, if not a bit tired, camper wine blogger.
Given my East Coast roots, I was thoroughly jet-lagged for the first two out of the three days and found myself up before dawn. So I did what any normal person would do. I hopped in my convertible and went out seeking the sunrise. I couldn’t find a “go to” place for sunrise in Lodi, but I put my compass app on and headed East. It worked out pretty well and I got some stellar sunrise views over the vines.
The conference exposed me to a whole host of wine bloggers from around the world. It also exposed me to a lot of wine in a very short amount of time. More on that later. The connections I made and insights I gained from the speakers and presenters were well worth the few days away from the office. Being awarded the scholarship was my impetus to go on this wine adventure, and it was an absolutely invaluable experience.
Coming Soon: A recap of my amazing small group excursion adventure at Jessie’s Grove and Spenker Winery, featuring wine, turtles and goats. Oh my.
Lawyer Footnotes  I was lucky enough to receive a scholarship to assist with travel expenses and registration fees. THANKS to all the scholarship donors! I’ll be donating to the fund to help a newbie attend next year! You can donate too!  Thanks, Uncle Bob! This was smart given that it was 98 degrees, the sun was shining and I had no sunscreen. But whatever. #priorities  Hello Motel 6. That being said, this was a total #FlipFlopsInTheShower kinda place …  Like @Dracaenawines, @10KBottles and @WineAntics to name a few.  This is so unlike me.  Despite my attempts at Googling the same.  #SpeedTasting  BHAHAHAHAHA. That was funny right? #lawyerlife
A Tale of Wine, Buggies, Brunch and State-Run Liquor Stores
It was a Friday morning at the Firm and I was planning to take the day off leave early around 11 a.m. But closings, phone calls and emails managed to get in the way, per usual. I arrived home around 2:30 and we were on our way to visit our friends in Amish Country by 3:15.
As we drove further away from home, the cornfields in fields and valleys sprung up on either side of us. It’s amazing how the landscape of this country can change so dramatically and driving through this new territory was breathtaking. ::insert dramatic landscape picture here::
We arrived at our destination around 8:30, only three and half hours late after we planned. Not too shabby. Several bottles of wine and a few Secret Stashes on the rocks later, we headed off to bed.
I knew nothing about Amish Country prior to our visit, but everyone else seemed to. Lancaster, Pennsylvania was our destination and everyone I mentioned it to knew about it. As it turns out, it’s pretty much the heart of Pennsylvania’s Amish Country. A bustling city at its core, but drive seven minutes outside downtown, you’ll find yourself surrounded by corn, wagonfuls of children being pulled by donkeys, horse drawn buggies and homes disconnected from the grid. The home of the Amish.
What I didn’t expect was such a vibrant dining and drinking scene downtown. Breweries, distilleries and restaurants populate almost every corner of downtown Lancaster, and wine bar choices are plentiful. The architecture has been well maintained and restored to its glory days of yore. America’s oldest continually operated farmer’s market operates every weekend where rows of fresh cheeses, meats, flowers and donuts abound.
If you have a chance to visit, there’s lots to do and see. And if you have 24 to 36 hours to spare, I’ve got the perfect itinerary mapped out for you.
Lancaster in 36 Hours
The humidity was a bit stifling but we started our Saturday off with a walking tour of School Street Hills, through Franklin & Marshall College and made our way downtown. Block after block of grand old houses grace lush, green tree-lined streets; it was almost like walking a movie set.
Per usual, we got started on the later side of the morning, and by time we arrived at the Lancaster Central Market, the famous Shady Maple Long John donuts had long been sold off to the early birds. Heading out donut-less, we continued our walking tour, with a quick stop to look inside the historic Fulton Opera House.
Next stop was Wacker Brewing and Thistle Finch Distillery about a quarter of a mile away. We grabbed some paninis, pretzels and pints from the brewery, which shares a classic hipster-vibe tasting room with the distillery. The beer was awesome, and given their extremely small set up, so was the pub fare. Our distillery guide took us through the history of the tobacco shed-converted distillery and tasting room, and walked us through the production process from grain to glass. We rounded out the tour with a sampling of their distilled offerings and I walked away with a bottle of barrel-aged gin.
We finished up our tastes, hopped in the car and drove approximately seven minutes out to Amish Country where we wove our way through cornfields, spying our Amish neighbors on their pedal-free scooters and horse-drawn buggies along the way. We stopped at a group of shops and found out that for $60, we could do a bike tour through Amish Country and end up at a private Amish home for a candle-lit dinner. Had it not been for the intense line of looming rain clouds hovering right above us, we would have signed up on the spot.
After a quarter pound of fudge had been tucked safely in my purse, we headed back home and got ready for dinner at Pour in downtown Lancaster.
Again, given that we were in the middle of Amish Country, Pennsylvania, I wasn’t expecting a top notch dining experience. But as soon as we stepped into the trendy downtown restaurant, my feelings began to change. Low lighting and brick walls adorned with original art work surrounded a group of city-goers at the intimate bar. A quirky, craft-inspired cocktail list greeted us and while the rest of our party sampled the artisanal libations, I stuck with a bit of bubbly. The small but intricate menu changes weekly, and it was tough to choose from the mouth-watering options. We started with a charcuterie selection of delectable meats and cheeses that were out of this world. Humboldt Fog chevre is my new favorite. Seriously. Wow. Soft, creamy with a touch of saltiness. It was incredibly epic.
Claret, as we know, is a Bordeaux style blend of grapes. This one included 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 15% Tannat, 13% Petit Verdot, 8% Syrah and 1% Petite Syrah.
Three of us had the porchetta, and boy, it was delicious. A beautiful cut of meat, deboned, stuffed with herbs and wrapped in a thick cut of crispy bacon. Yes. You read that right. Bacon. It was absolutely divine. And the wine label had footnotes, so clearly I was in love.
There were some serious legs on this baby. It was big and bold and needed a bit of time to open up. When it did, it was peppery with nice notes of plum. On the drier side with a subdued fruit finish. The big wine paired perfectly with our rich, hearty Italian dinners.
When the bill came the sticker shock was palpable. I was expecting a big number. After all, we had indulged in cocktails, charcuterie, a nice bottle of wine and four entrees. But the total was less than $200 for four people. Supremely reasonable, a fantastic value.
Being the hobbits that we are, after dinner we decided to head home and go to bed so we could rest up for brunch in the morning.
On our Saturday walk we happened upon Citronelle, a quaint little French restaurant that advertised Sunday brunch. And it was BYOB. So clearly we made reservations for Sunday morning. Now, the booze situation in Pennsylvania is a bit precarious. It’s one of several states where the liquor stores are state run. This means decent prices with little to no selection. We stopped into the “Fine Wine and Good Spirits” shop before dinner to get some bubbly for the morning, and while I was thankfully able to get a bottle of Mumm Napa Blanc de Blancs, there was little else to choose from. The ability to get into the state-run stores is based purely on numbers, so small producers without a lot of market share are locked out; this means you get a whole lot of big labels and not much else. A tragedy to be sure for the fine folks living in the Keystone State.
After brunch we packed up our gear and headed back East. We took the scenic route home through the picturesque Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, and so did the massive rain storm that followed us. The Whole Way Home. Our five hour journey morphed into seven, but the scenery was beautiful, and we made up a few car games along the way. A perfect weekend getaway to the heart of Amish Country. And I assure you, we will be back.
Have you been to Amish Country? What’d you think? Would you give up the internets for a life of peaceful farming?
Lawyer Footnotes  Oh wait, I apparently didn’t take any. #photoOp  But the five hour drive gave us the opportunity to get an education. The history is fascinating, and most surprising to me, 90% of Amish born choose to remain Amish, even after given the opportunity to experience life in the “real world.” Read here about Rumspringa. They also have an abnormally low rates of allergies, autism and cancer. Makes you wonder what we’re doing with all these I-thingies and interwebs. I don’t know if they’re allowed to drink wine though. #dealbreaker  Literally surrounded. It’s everywhere. I felt like I was back in Kansas.
 Far better than what’s available to Wine Esquire back at home. #HartfordHasIt … or does it?  Frizzy Hair Don’t Care  Not to worry, we made up for it with some local goat cheese.  Alas, our vehicle did not magically appear; one of our hosts decided to take a soggy jog home during the tour to grab it so we wouldn’t have to walk in the pouring rain. Ever the gentleman, Mr. Dell. My sincere thanks.  The theory behind being pedal free is that pedals would allow one to travel too far from home. Turns out you can’t actually go very far, even with two wheels, if you have to propel yourself.  And my predictably poor choice in footwear for such a jaunt. Dressy flats ≠ walking shoes. At least I looked cute.  We’re already planning a trip back so we can do this in the fall.  No offense.  Obviously.  Translation: goat cheese  I wonder what my cholesterol levels are like. #meatandcheese  Hartford, did you hear that? There was four of us. And we all ate and drank. A lot. And it was really good. Think we can maybe do something like this? Maybe? Thanks.  #priorities  Big deal breaker for Wine Esquire.  State-run operations are rarely good for anyone. #biggovernment  I think their motto should be “Where the Wine is Fine but the Spirits are Just So-So.” Whaddya think?  For the record, Husband is not very good at 21 Questions. #CoveredBridge