Bubbly, Babies, Christmas Trees and Cigars, Oh My!

Highclere Castle Cigar

I know, I know, we all say it every year, but the holidays REALLY flew by this time. Like, completely disappeared. Maybe it had something to do with having Baby Wine Esquire around, but I didn’t even have time to watch Love Actually. Or Elf. Or It’s A Wonderful Life[1]. I’d like to go back to Thanksgiving and have a do over. Preferably without having to go to work this time. Who’s with me?

Thankfully, I did have some time to drink some wine, change some diapers, sip on some bubbles, change more diapers, and … smoke cigars. Yes, you ready that right. Cigars. Not something I typically do, but Husband’s new venture had me hard-pressed to take a puff. In between sips of course.

Highclere Castle Cigar

Highclere Castle Cigar is a partnership between Husband, Nick Melillo, master cigar blender/ founder of Foundation Cigar Company, and George Herbert, the 8th Earl of Carnarvon, owner of Highclere Castle, also known as the Real Downton Abbey[2].

Quite the unlikely trio, but you never know where life will take you. A few years ago, it took Husband and I across the pond to Highclere to meet Lord Carnarvon and his lovely wife Fiona[3]. I fondly recall our jaunt up to Scotland where the zero-tolerance drinking and driving policy turned me into the designated driver on our tour of Scottish distilleries.



On the wrong side of the road.

On the wrong side of the car.

Let’s just say there were some white-knuckle moments, and a few extra laps around a few wee rotaries. Since that trip, they’ve been working on all manner of projects, including Highclere Castle Gin, the botanicals for which are being grown at Highclere as we speak, and is set to be launched this year, and Highclere Castle Cigar, which was launched this past July.

Highclere Castle Downton Abbey

With Melillo’s cigar genius, they created a cigar reminiscent of those that would have been smoked at Highclere at the turn of the century. Cigars have long been part of life at Highclere, with the family importing cigars to the castle by the hundreds, while also keeping a well-stocked humidor at The Ritz in London.

It turns out cigars go very well with red wine, and even bubbly[4]. Now I’m in no way a cigar connoisseur, but I got some serious tobacco on the nose of these babies. I think I’m just about ready to start a cigar blog[5]. No but seriously, people with legit cigar blogs have been loving the way these babies smoke. And for not being a cigar smoker, or a smoker of any kind, the puffs I puffed were magically smooth and delicious.

Highclere Castle Cigar

As for the bubbles, I had a bit more luck in picking out some flavors there. So far, my favorite of the season has been Santa Julia’s Blanc de Blanc, an organic sparkling Chardonnay from Mendoza, Argentina. Bready with a hint of honey, this was the perfect start to our Christmas Eve soirée. The ultra-fine bubbles paired rather well with the delectable selection of cheeses Mother-in-Law gifted me[6]. And for bubbly under $15, this is a serious must have.

Santa Julia Blanc de Blanc

Blanc de Blanc translates to “white from whites” and is used to describe sparkling wines made purely from white grapes, most frequently Chardonnay. I’ve been enjoying Blanc de Blancs for years without knowing this. It’s really true that you learn something new every day.

As for babies and Christmas trees, I really just added that to the title so I could share this shot with you. Isn’t he precious?[7]

Baby Wine Esquire
Babies Love Christmas Trees

Until the next glass my friends, Cheers! Oh, and Happy New Year! Can’t wait to celebrate with you all, one new bottle at a time!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] The list goes on and on. But I am watching White Christmas as I write this. Better late than never.
[2] Where my Downton fans at? They sorta kinda just announced the movie, I’m so excited! #spoileralert Little Sissy is still heartbroken about Matthew and refuses to watch after Season 3.

Downton Abbey Highclere Castle
The Red Couch!

[3] And yes, I got to sit on THE red couch! AND see Mary and Matthew’s bench!

Downton Abbey Highclere Castle
Their Bench!

[4] But honestly, what DOESN’T go with bubbly?
[5] Just kidding. The cigar aficionados of the world take these sticks seriously, and they love to Instagram their smokes almost as much as us winos!
[6] Because cheese is ALWAYS the right thing to give at Christmas! Such a good idea!
[7] #SantaSuitForTheWin

Tea Time By The Sea Side

File Feb 05, 5 42 39 PMSoooo…..this post is not about wine. Well, it’s not all about wine. I know, I know, this is a wine blog, but sometimes, not often, I do drink other things. And last Sunday, I had the opportunity to drink some non-alcoholic beverages in the most glorious of settings. So of course, I want to tell you about it.

File Feb 05, 5 45 39 PMHusband’s Aunt was celebrating her birthday and a fancy tea party was planned at Inn De La Mer. If my personality has come through at all on this blog, you’ll know that I love any excuse to get dressed up, especially if it involves wearing fancy headwear[1]. So I made my way down to the sea shore and pulled up to my destination. It was an old church that has been lovingly converted into one of the most beautiful bed and breakfasts I’ve had the occasion to visit. One of those places where your jaw literally drops the moment you walk in the door.

File Feb 05, 5 43 06 PMWe had lots of tea and lots of lovely little bites, all of which were delicious[2]. From avocado stuffed cucumbers to turkey, brie and cranberry puffs, we ate like Queens. For dessert there was a trio of chocolate mousse cupcake, fresh fruit drowned in fresh whipped crème, and a lemon meringue mousse tart. Heaven. The presentation was spectacular, every detail was planned out and executed beautifully. Even the weather cooperated and we enjoyed a record-breaking 60 degree Sunday. In January. In New England.

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Once the party games had been played[3], and the guests said their goodbyes. I broke out the bubbly[4], offered our host a glass, and went around on a photo binge. I couldn’t not photograph this place, and I might as well drink some bubbly while I was at it. Am I right? The owner and I had a great chat, but I tried not to overstay my welcome, so I only popped one bottle, but I can guarantee you, I will be back. I’m thinking a #WineEsquire wine dinner. What do you think?

#SundayFunday at its finest folks.

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] My fascinator collection is extensive. I even have a few from Jolly Old England.
[2] If this were my tea party, we obviously would have had some #bubbly too, but alas, it was not my tea party.
[3] An exciting rendition of What’s In Your Purse, and Draw a Tea Pot on Your Head. I won the tea pot drawing game after a tie-breaking second round with Gram. #artist. I really wish I had a photo.
tea party tweet[4] Yes I brought bubbly. You just never know. A bottle of my go-to, always keep a bottle in the fridge, Segura Viudas Brut Cava.

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This chandelier is glorious. We learned that the tin ceiling and walls were original to the church and had survived there since the 1800s
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Looking down on the festivities from the old choir loft
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The appropriately named European Suite
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I can just imagine curling up by the fire for hours with a bottle of wine and a good book
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In the third story bell tower they’ve created a lovely sitting nook with floor to ceiling bookshelves featuring photos of couples that were married at the church. How amazing is that?

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Rooftop Rosé

It’s been a week since my last post! Yikes! Sorry! #lawyerlife. I had a great post laid out in my head. The title was “Memorializing the Weekend”[1] and I had some great photos, but I just never got around to writing it. It’s been a bit crazy at The Firm. Lots of work. Lots of extracurriculars. While everyone else was Barbequin’, I spent a few hours at the office on Memorial Day and that’s kind of how the week went from there. You know how it goes. But now it’s Friday afternoon and Middle Sissy, Mom and I are on a mini “vacation” [2] visiting Grandma in Baltimore. It’s quite heavenly on our rooftop patio and my craving for Bubbly has finally been satisfied. Thank the wine gods!

To:                  Alleged Blog Readers
From:              WineEsquire
Date:               May 29, 2015
Wine:              Navarro Correas Brut Malbec-Rosé
IMG_6551This is a bright, gorgeous pinky red Rosé. Perfectly fitting for this hot spring day. On the nose I immediately get strawberries and grape jam, the kind you had as a kid on a piece of white toast when you didn’t want anything else for dinner. I’m still full from lunch and trying to get hungry for the delicious dinner we’re about to have[3], but I think this would go perfect with the Fontina cheese sitting in the fridge. It’s fairly light bodied but it leaves a pleasant finish in your mouth. As far as bubbly Rosés go, especially for $12.99 this is a huge win. Per Middle Sissy, “Sparkling wines really are the way to go.” Per Mom, “I’m not a fan. I’m a Chardonnay snob.”[4]

Wine Dossier
The website for Navvaro Correas is in Spanish with no option to go to English. If Husband were here, I’d ask him to translate, but since he’s not, I’ll have to rely on the information available from Wine.com. According to them, the Navarro Correas “family history dates back to 1798, when Sir Juan de Dios Correas planted the first vine seeds in the lands of Mendoza at the foot of the Andes ridge.” This means they’re a very old winery in Argentina. I can tell from their website that they grow many types of grapes. This one was a Brut Malbec. According to Wine Spectator’s Dr. Vinny, “brut”[5] is a word used to describe the dryness of your bubbly.  I wouldn’t say this one was particularly dry; in fact, I didn’t get any dryness at all. Maybe they just used the term to convey that it was sparkling.  Malbec is one of the varietals traditionally blended into Bordeaux wine. I always associated Malbec with South America, but as it turns out, Malbec was originally a French grape until a French botanist began growing it in Argentina in 1868. It also turns out that French Malbecs tastes very different from their Argentinian counterparts. I’ll have to do a comparison one of these days. #bucketlist


Lawyer Footnotes
[1] We drank a lot of great wine that I never wrote about. C’est la vie!
[2] I use the term vacation lightly since I spent the day answering emails and revising loan documents, in between the singalong and 4 p.m. happy hour with the nursing home residents.
[3] At a Lebanese BYOB place that has to-die for Baba Ganoush. Wine pics to follow I’m sure.
[4] Mom is not a snob of anything. Her go-to Chardonnay is Tisdale, which she buys for $3.99. She’s also on her third glass of the Rosé and singing along with James Taylor YouTube videos.
[5] Google translate tells me that the word “brut” translates to “gross” so that is not very helpful.