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

Christmas Giveaway: Sauska Tokaji


Because that’s what you do at Christmas, you give gifts to those you love! And I love all of you! This Christmas I’ve partnered with my friends at Sauska Wines (Sh-au-shka) to bring you an extra special Holiday treat.

Vinum Regum, Rex Vinorum, Wine of Kings, King of Wines

First of all, Hungarian wine is where it’s at. Their unique indigenous grapes make some seriously amazing wine[1]. And their Tokaji Aszú[2] wine specifically is OUT. OF. THIS. WORLD. So that’s why I want you to try some.

Head over to their Instagram account, follow them and you’ll be entered.

Head over to Instagram!

You have until Monday, December 26, 2016 at noon EST. A winner will be picked at random to receive a bottle of their delicious 2003 Tokaji Aszú, 6 puttonyos[3]. This wine is literally pure liquid gold. Notes of thick apricot and honey with a hint of vanilla. The desert wine to top all dessert wines. You may not want to share, although sharing is caring, and ‘tis the season.

Legend has it that Tokaj wine debuted on the world stage when Francis II Rákóczi, prince of Transylvania, gifted King Louis XIV of France with numerous bottles of wine from his Tokaj estate in 1703. When Tokaji wine was served at Versaille for the first time, King Louis XIV declared it “Vinum Regum, Rex Vinorum” or “Wine of Kings, King of Wines”.

Chateau de Versailles – Galerie des Glaces. #LivingRoomGoals

Merry Christmas Eve, Happy Chanukah, and Happy Christmas my friends! May your family be happy, your cookies delicious and your wine glass full!

Nature’s Refrigerator

Click to enter contest giveaway.


Lawyer Footnotes
[1] Like Kékfrankos, Furmint and Hárslevelű. More on those later, promise.
[2] Pronounced Toe-kai Ah-zoo. Still figuring this language out myself.
[3] Puttonyos is the unit given to indicate the level of sweetness of Tokaji wine. It was traditionally measured by the number of hods added to a barrel of wine. A hod is an antique grape picking bucket. Puttonyos are now measured in grams of residual sugar.

Breaking News – Wine Marathon – Star Wars Edition

Dearest Alleged Blog Readers,

You guys! It’s happening again! Its LastBottle Wine Marathon time! Our friends at LastBottle tell us that this one is going to be special. For starters, there’s a Star Wars theme, in honor of this week’s release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, so it’s bound to be out of this galaxy.[1] We’ve also got some stellar juice including bottles from Sine Qua Non, Colgin, and Aubert.lastbottle starwars

Tomorrow at 9 a.m. PST (or Noon, WineEsquire time) the marathon will begin. A 2-day period of crazy non-stop wine buying. No emails, no reminders. When the wine is gone, it’s gone, and it’s onto the next. You gotta get it in your cart and check out quick lest it disappears right before your eyes. Best of all is the free shipping[2]! My adrenaline is pumping just thinking about it! Last time I walked away with more than a case of intergalactic bottles. I’ve made my way through many of them, and all have been stellar.

By participating in the WineEsquire contest you’ll be entered to win one of the magical wine bottles that I purchase during the marathon madness! To enter all you have to do is sign up for Last Bottle using this link and email me confirmation that you signed up. You’ll get $5.00 toward your first purchase as an added bonus! It wouldn’t be a bad idea sign up for blog updates from Wine Esquire as well! I’ll be Instagraming and Live Tweeting as we go. Tag me throughout and let me know what bottles you snagged. We’re gonna have a lot of fun.

Do you think The Firm will notice if I have my Do Not Disturb button on for the next 24 hours? #multitasking

Contest Breakdown

  1. Sign up for Last Bottle here
  2. Follow Wine Esquire on Twitter and Instagram
  3. Email WineEsquire@gmail.com that you’ve signed up
  4. Partake in the wine buying marathon madness
  5. Drink some Wine

Note: If you’ve already signed up for LastBottle through WineEsquire, you can enter the contest by sharing this blog post on Facebook or Twitter and tagging @WineEsquire. Just send me an email and let me know that’s what you’re doing.

Questions? Comments? Hit me up on the Gmail, I promise I’ll try to respond, although I may be very busy buying wine. #winoproblems

Cheers!Last Bottle

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] Haha. That was so bad it was funny.
[2] As long as you live in the lower 48.

Sign up and Email confirmation must be received by 11:59 p.m. ET on December 17, 2015. Once you sign up, you’ll be entered to win one of the bottles I buy today. Contest open to U.S. shipping addresses only, subject to applicable shipping laws #lawyerlife.

Chef Bill’s Magical Christmas Feast

Warning: Epic amounts of Food and Wine will be discussed in the subsequent blog post. I recommend grabbing a snack and a beverage lest you feel overly jealous.

File Dec 14, 6 29 12 PMIf you follow me on TheInsta then you know we’re knee deep in the middle of my favorite time of year[1]. Something about the cheesy amazing music, the twinkling lights and the spirit of giving puts me in my happy place and I try to embrace it as much as possible[2]. We tend to entertain on a regular basis throughout the year, but we really step it up once the tree is up. Saturday night we hosted a fantabulous evening of food, wineFile Dec 13, 2 14 08 PM and Onyx Moonshine. The dinner was donated to raise funds for Husband’s alma mater, and clients of mine were kind enough to provide Chef Bill, a culinary genius that made some serious foodie miracles happen in our kitchen. I selected the wine with the help of the smartest ex-lawyer I know down at The Wise Old Dog. Everything turned out impeccable.

We started with crab and avocado on garlic crostini along with a baked brie withFile Dec 14, 6 30 52 PM cranberries and rum. The brie was so luscious, my inner beast really wanted to take the plate, hide in a corner and eat it all by myself[3]. But I behaved and only had one taste. Ok two. Maybe three. But it was just so good. These goodies were served with the CiderBerry Cocktail: cranberry juice, apple cider and Onyx Moonshine shaken then topped with a splash of ginger ale[4].

File Dec 13, 2 13 44 PMOnce our appetites had been thoroughly whetted, we moved to the dining room where the feast truly began. The sumptuous salmon bisque was almost too pretty to eat. It turns out that the 2013 Banshee Chardonnay was virtually made to be enjoyed with this bisque. Mild citrus with a hearty helping of medium bodied liquid gold. I had taken the bottle out of the fridge about twenty minutes prior to this course so it was chilled, but the flavors were really allowed to shine.

File Dec 14, 6 33 42 PMNext appeared two of the largest pan-seared[5] scallops I’ve ever had served with an orange and grapefruit reduction. These babies were shucked just days ago off George’s Island and were size “U10”, or 10 scallops per pound, which is freakin’ huge. They were paired with Domaine de la Madone Beaujolais Nouveau 2015.[6] People tend to think seafood must be served with white wine, but I wanted to change it up a bit and it paid off. The bright and fruity Beaujolais exquisitely complemented the hearty, tender scallops and played off the orange and grapefruit reduction like a dream.

And then there was bubbly. I know, I know, another non-traditional experience. Bubbly usually starts or ends the evening, but having it in the middle with the chocolate-balsamic drizzled green salad was a perfect palate-cleansing experience. I chose Monte Maria Prosecco, a non-vintage bottle from Veneto, Italy. The sweet, crisp bubbles enriched the ever-so-subtle chocolate balsamic, making eating your greens a highly enjoyable task.

File Dec 13, 2 13 05 PMBy this time we were all feeling good. Our bellies were warm and full, our palates had been cleansed and we were ready for the main event. Beef Wellington. I’d never had this before, though Husband and I have talked about it for years[7]. A cut of filet mignon topped with a layer of pâté, wrapped in pastry. Full stop. Does it get better? I don’t know how it could. Chef Bill’s take on this was superb. His eastern-European chopped liver with a mix of onions and mushrooms was exquisite on its own[8]. The filet was cooked perfectly. Literally. I’ve never had a filet come out so well done. And I don’t mean well done as in burned to a crisp. I mean well done as in perfectly pink, almost red, juicy, flavorful and delicious. I chose the 2011 Bordeaux by Château Gaby to go with this meaty masterpiece. We had decanted it just before our guests arrived, so it had been breathing for at least two hours. It was a rich, meaty red wine that stood up to the beef impeccably. This juice, coupled with the pâté and pastry encrusted filet was an absolutely euphoric experience; nobody could stop raving about it.

Now we were really in a good place. Fully sated and warm from the drink. Chef Bill, in all his wisdom, decided to make us take a break. Twenty minutes later we were all in the kitchen to watch him and his assistant Isiah make a fresh batch of pot de crème.[9] We witnessed his trick to separating eggs by using your hands[10], and saw as he expertly made bits of Ghirardelli chocolate transform into beautiful pots of delicious chocolate heaven.

File Dec 14, 6 35 59 PMWe returned to the table and were served the pre-made pots topped with freshly whipped cream and a fresh raspberry. This was paired with the Late Bottle Vintage Quinta Sta Eufemia Porto 2009. And then there was silence. Literally no one said a word for at least four solid minutes. We were in our own little worlds, unartfully chowing down on the thick, rich chocolate pots, then silently washing it down with the rich dazzling port.

After we recovered, the men-folk went out for an El Güegüense cigar and the women chatted ‘round the Christmas tree. It sounds sexist, I know, but who actually wants to smoke a cigar? Not this girl. Around the tree was right where I wanted to be, with another wee glass of port.

It was an epic evening to remember. We spent the whole of Sunday morning trying to figure out ways to incorporate Chef Bill into our lives on a regular basis[11]. While I work on that, you should think about hiring him to cook your next meal, or just turn on the Christmas music and pour yourself a glass of wine.


Lawyer Footnotes
[1] #ChristmasTreeOverload #SorryNotSorryFile Dec 14, 6 29 51 PM
[2] According to Husband, he came home to find I had “vomited Christmas” all over the house. I prefer to think of it as my way of spreading Christmas cheer. One piece of garland at a time.
[3] I’m not a very good sharer.
[4] I didn’t have my food blogger hat on, probably because I don’t own one of those, so my photos of the evening are almost non-existent.
[5] Pan-seared on Chef Bills 100+ year old cast iron skillet. Flavor for days.
[6] In case you didn’t know, this year’s Beaujolais harvest was superb. This was the third bottle we’ve tried and all of them have been stunning. Last year’s, not so much.
[7] Not actually making it, but wanting to have someone make it for us.
File Dec 13, 2 17 56 PM[8] We tasted it straight before it was slathered onto the two beautiful roasts. It was mind blowing. For real.
[9] He had pre-made the lovely wee pots we were going to eat; the demonstration pot de crèmes thankfully went into my refrigerator, waiting for me to eat all by myself share with my parents when they came over for Round 2 with all the leftovers. Hosting certainly has its advantages.
[10] Being the world’s worst egg-cracker, I’m sure this trick would not work out so well for me.
[11] In between washing the hand-wash only glass crystal stemware. This was a small price to pay since all of my hand-wash only china was washed and dried before the guests had even left.