Beaujolais After Baby

wine and dine

Gamay, Beaujolais Nouveau and Wine Tasting Adventures

First, let me start by saying that being Wine Esquire and having a baby are not always so compatible. Little baby fingers like to grab things they shouldn’t;[1] and little baby lungs like to cry as soon as you sit down to type/sleep/drink wine/fold laundry/eat/shower, etc. I’m writing now with a baby on my lap. This is a first and he’s suddenly discovered that his life’s burning desire is to type! But we’re working through it, slowly but surely. One glass at a time.

wine baby laptop
But Mom, I wanna type too!

I’ve also noticed that my palate is totally different post-Baby. Going wine-free for 9ish months[2] clearly had an impact. My favorite big, smoky Cabs now find me smacking my lips and looking for a glass of sparkling water to cleanse my palate. Instead, I’m now gravitating toward lighter grapes like Pinot Noir, Gamay and Pinotage.

This evening’s glass[3] is a lovely French Gamay; an easy drinker, perfect for my new sensitive palate.

Georges Duboeuf Juliénas Château des Capitans

Slight traces of sweet raspberries on the soft pretty nose make way for a soft, silky and jammy sip of wine with a touch of sparkle on the finish. Now this is what I’m talking about!

Georges Duboeuf Juliénas Château des Capitans

… fast forward one week and I’ve finally gotten the chance to get my computer open again…[4]

The bottle was the 2015 Georges Duboeuf Juliénas Château des Capitans[5], 100% Gamay grown on the grounds of a 19th-century castle in the heart of the AOC Cru Juliénas, on a tiny plot of land known as Les Capitans. Juliénas is a village named after Julius Caesar; local vintners believe this area was home to the first vines planted in Beaujolais by the Romans during their conquest of Gaul.

Unbeknownst to me when I opened last weekend’s bottle of Gamay, it

Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2017 photo courtesy of Quintessential Wines
Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2017 photo courtesy of Quintessential Wines

was Beaujolais Nouveau release week! Never heard of Beaujolais Nouveau?[6] On the third Thursday of November, the winemakers of Beaujolais, France[7] release the product of their most recent vintage. The wine, having just been picked weeks before, is fresh, new and ready to drink right away[8]. Georges Duboeuf essentially introduced the Beaujolais Nouveau holiday in the US in 1982, and quickly gained recognition with his iconic, colorful wine labels. He is perhapss the most well-known producer from the region, and he’s not just a fly by night marketing genius, his family’s history of wine making spans four centuries.

 

Beaujolais Day happens to arrive just in time for Thanksgiving every year… coincidence? I think not! Light, fruity Gamay is PERFECT to pair with turkey and all the fixins[9].

Given that it was a wine celebration week, I continued on the Beaujolais path and attended a fabulous tasting at Max’s Oyster Bar. This was my first wine event since Baby Wine Esquire and I have to admit, I was a bit rusty,[10] but it was a great reintroduction to the wine world, confirming that I’m ready to be back.

wine and dine
The 2017 Terres Dorées L’Ancien by Jean-Paul Brun

The tasting started with the 2017 release of Terres Dorées L’Ancien by Jean-Paul Brun, paired with an excellent pate de foie gras. The wine was super juicy and screamed of bright cherries. Jean-Paul Brun ha been a staple in Beaujolais since the late 1970s, producing 400,000 bottles per year from grapes planted on his 40 acres throughout the region.

As the tasting moved on, with a delectable Soufflé au Homard[11], Bourride Pyramidale[12] and Poulet en Fricassee Louhaannise[13], so did the ages of the Beaujolais. It’s important to remember that not all wine grown in Beaujolais is the unaged nouveau release; Gamay ages quite beautifully. The next selections were all beautiful wines, but the rusty WineySquire forgot to take home her notes. I’ll be better next time. Promise.

Bourride Pyramidale aka Fish Stew #fancy

The important takeaway here is that Gamay from Beaujolais is a serious winner, with lots of stunners for less than $25. So if you haven’t shopped for Turkey Day yet, head out and try some Beaujolais!

Cheers![14]

Lawyer Footnotes

[1]My fellow bloggers know how difficult it is to get something published as it is; now with a little bundle of joy bopping around, it’s been proving even more difficult.
[2] It was 9 “ish” because this baby took 41 weeks to make his world debut and by the end, he was fully cooked, and a little bit of wine did us both a lotta good.
[3] And by “this evening” I mean last Sunday. #winebloggerproblems
[4] Baby Wine Esquire is currently amusing himself by trying to eat his crinkly and squishy Very Hungry Caterpillar Book … #teething
[5] A sample I received from Quintessential Wines. Merci!
[6] If that’s the case, then you probably live under a rock!
[7] Beaujolais is a region, not a type of grape. Roughly pronounced Beau-ju-lay.
[8] Similar to Bordeaux’s En Primeur concept, only this wine is very drinkable right after harvest.
[9] Speaking of which, I’m so excited for all the fixins. #sweetpotatoparsnsipsandgreenbeansohmy
[10] So much so that I left the menu with my notes on the table. #amateur
[11] Lobster Soufflé
[12] Fish Stew
[13] Braised Chicken
[14] BTW, during the course of finishing this blog, Baby Wine Esquire became completely disinterested in his crinkly book, got super fussy and is now napping. #thankgodmybabylovestosleep

Aussies in NYC

Sometimes I have really great ideas. Driving into New York City, by myself, during rush hour, on a Friday afternoon, did not happen to be one of them. I’ve never driven into the heart of Manhattan before, at least not by myself. Now that I’ve done it, though, I think I can pretty much conquer the world. If you find yourself having to do this, I found that blasting classical music helps to keep tempers calm[1].

But let’s get to the important stuff. Like why I was driving into NYC, by myself, during rush hour, on a Friday afternoon. It was because I was on my way to meet with Paul Smith, winemaker at Wirra Wirra Vineyards in McLaren Vale, Australia. I’d met Laura at the Wine Bloggers Conference out in Lodi earlier this year and she works for Negociants USA, an Australian-focused wine negociant and distributor[2]. They brought Paul in to New York to do some tastings and events, and I was lucky enough to meet up with him before he got back on a plane to head back Down Under.

Wine Esquire & Wine Maker
Wine Esquire & Wine Maker

Our meeting was supposed to be at 4 p.m. I had snuck out of the office[3] left work early to drive in to the city and when I left, Waze told me I’d arrive by 3:00[4]. That would give me enough time to check in to the Library Hotel, freshen up and make my way to Flinders Lane, an Australian restaurant in NYC. Well, time passed and the traffic increased, and soon my ETA was 4:45. I let Laura know I’d be a wee bit late, but they were very understanding. My arrival time ended up being around 5:30[5]; I was a bit stressed, but once I arrived, caught up with Laura, met Paul and started tasting the wine, all was well again in the world.

Flinders Lane NYC
Flinders Lane NYC

Paul described Wirra Wirra’s McClaren Vale as the place where the vines meet the sea[6], and told me that Wirra Wirra roughly translates to among the many “gum” or eucalyptus trees.

Aerial view of Wirra Wirra vineyards on the edge of Gulf St Vincent
Aerial view of Wirra Wirra vineyards on the edge of Gulf St Vincent (C) Wirra Wirra Vineyards

Founded in 1894, the winery was started by an eccentric cricketer named Robert Strangways Wigley. His wine business lasted until the early 1920s but then fell into disrepair after his death. Cousins Greg and Roger Trott revived the vines and began making wine again in 1972 after rebuilding from the ground up. Since then they’ve become a household name in Australia, with their Church Block red blend becoming the number one by-the-glass wine in Australia[7].

Wirra Wirra Lineup
Wirra Wirra Lineup

As you may have guessed, the Church Block vines are grown around a little church; with such a long running history, it has become a tradition for families to come to the winery each year to taste and purchase each vintage. The blend of Cabernet, Shiraz and Merlot spends 15 months in a mix of French and American barrels. The result is a luscious, smooth and velvety juice. The nose on the 2013 Wirra Wirra Church Block is almost flowery, the mouthfeel is gorgeous,[8] and at $21.99, it’s not going to break the bank. So far so good, Wirra Wirra.

The medieval trebuchet
The medieval trebuchet

The storytelling that accompanied the wine was top notch and next up was the 2014 Catapult Shiraz. With a drawing of a catapult on the label, I knew the story was going to be good. Founder Greg Trott had the brilliant idea to build a medieval trebuchet, or catapult, for a very important and serious purpose: to hurl wine bottles at neighboring wineries for a bit of good fun[9]. He figured that if he built one, so would his neighbors, and they could build a bit of a tourism draw to the catapulting wineries of the McLaren Vale. Surprisingly, none of his compatriots thought it was a good idea and the plan never materialized. His Wirra Wirra successors, however, revived the idea[10] and built a three story high Catapult in 2010. While no wine bottles have been flung[11], watermelons are tossed with regularity[12].

The 2014 Catapult Shriaz was lovely. A bit of raisins and berries with a slightly spicy finish. A gentle and delicate Shiraz that was a very easy drinker. Interestingly 1% of the blend is Viognier, which may play a part in the delicacy of this wine. Paul told me how these grapes are pressed before the tannins get too hard and then spend 12 months in French oak.

I asked Paul how he got into winemaking, and another enchanting story ensued. He started out as a young man wanting to be a sheep herder[13], so he packed his bags and moved far away from home. Paul tried to get into vet school but didn’t have the grades, he also didn’t have the money to get home. His friend found him a job with Francois Jacquard, a well-respected Australian winemaker, pruning grapes before the harvest. His friend told Francois that Paul knew what he was doing, which was a bold faced lie. After observing Paul’s work for a bit, Francois took him aside and said, “You should be called Edward Scissorhands, you cut everything!” From there, Francois took Paul under his wing and taught him to prune. Paul fell in love with the agricultural process and wine has been part of his life ever since.

Dead Ringer
Dead Ringer

We tasted several more wines, including the Dead Ringer Cabernet, one of their flagship lines. A delicate nose, definitely not a fruit bomb. A hint of tobacco with dark, deep plum fruit and nice chewy tannins. Great texture and structure. Leathery with a long finish. This wine spends 18 months in a blend of new and old French oak. The history of the name Dead Ringer peaked my lawyerly interest. This line of wines started out in 1989 being called Angelus, and it is still known this way in Australia[14]. But Château Angélus in Bordeaux took exception to the similar sounding name once it made its way over to mainland Europe. Lawyers were hired, a cease and desist letter was sent, and Wirra Wirra’s Dead Ringer was born, because it was a proverbial “dead ringer” for the wine formerly known as Angelus[15].

We wrapped up our tasting and said our goodbyes. Laura and Paul were both flying out early the next day and I was tired from my strenuous journey. I headed back to my lovely abode at the Library Hotel.

Tea and Chocolates ... Yes Please!
Tea and Chocolates … Yes Please!

I was able to catch the tail end of their evening reception in the Reading Room with free flowing wine, bubbly, cheese and sweet treats. My inner book nerd went crazy for the hotel’s collection of 6,000 books, organized according to the Dewey Decimal System. Each floor of the hotel is a Dewey Decimal category, and each room features a collection of books on a unique subject.

We stayed in the Money Room, appropriately placed next to the Law Room. Bookmarks Lounge, the hotel’s rooftop bar, overlooks the New York Public Library and served up lovely bubbly concoctions that Younger Sissy and I thoroughly enjoyed.

Library Hotel MontageA trip to the Library Hotel simply wouldn’t be complete without a book nerd photo shoot in the rooftop lounge. Sissy found an old edition of Mark Twain and we had a ball.

#BookNerd
#BookNerd

Thanks so much to the Library Hotel for hosting us!

Welcome to the Library Hotel
Welcome to the Library Hotel

Until the next glass, wine friends!

Cheers!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] It didn’t, however, help with the sweaty palms.
[2] The girls from Negociants USA hosted what I heard was a wild Aussie wine tasting after-party back at their house during #WBC16. Unfortunately, my lameness factor was on high though and I missed it. #SleepyHead
[3] #lawyerlife
[4] It also told me that I’d only have to make TWO turns off the West Side Highway in order to get to the parking garage. TWO. Not TWENTY TWO. TWO. #RushHourReDirect
[5] This may have slightly exceeded the “Fashionably Late” concept.
[6] Officially added to the Wine Bucket List.
[7] The folks at Wirra Wirra like to say it’s the “one church that unites us all”. #cheeky Over the course of our wine tasting, it quickly became apparent to me that having fun at Wirra Wirra is a top priority for everyone, winemaker included.
[8] Their website suggests pairing the Church Block with “Beef, mushroom and red wine pie.” WHAT IS RED WINE PIE AND WHY HAVE I NEVER HEARD OF IT BEFORE?! Don’t worry, I found a recipe. You’re welcome. Husband will be making this for dinner in the very near future. I’ll let you know how it goes.
[9] Such a good idea.
[10] With some inspiration from this crazy English Lord who likes to muck about by catapulting flaming pianos and CARS on his estate. What?! #NBD

[11] Something about dangerous broken glass … #liability.
[12] A tour of the vineyard will apparently reveal random divots here and there, evidence of past watermelon tossing.
[13] This in itself is so awesome.
[14] The name Angelus, of course, had its own history. Back in the 80s, a Wirra Wirra winemaker had swapped a few cases of wine for a ¾ ton bell that came out of a church in Adelaide. They hung the bell at the vineyard to signify the start to the work day.
[15] ANOTHER twist to the story is that in China, one of Wirra Wirra’s bigger markets, the wine is known as the Golden Bell, because apparently anything with “Dead” in the name won’t sell. #InternationalBusiness

How Do You Say Gewürztraminer?

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[1], I was lucky enough to cure the problem, and let me tell you, it’s about damn time!File Aug 20, 9 25 43 AM

Pronounced, Geh-VIRTZ-trah-MEE-ner[2], the grape originally hails from Italy’s Alto Adige region[3], an ancient wine growing community in the Dolomites[4] bordering Austria and Switzerland. Italy’s smallest wine growing region makes around 40 million bottles of wine on a yearly basis[5] and is the oldest German speaking[6] winemaking area in the world; they’ve been honing their craft for the last 3,000 years[7].

Wine Tasting AlsaceThe 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”[8]. It was one of those tastes where spitting would be a crime…so I didn’t.

Alsace Wine

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”[9].

Tasting Notes on the Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer Grand Cru Hengst 2013

A high residual sugar content (45 grams per liter[10]) 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[11]. 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.

File Aug 20, 9 23 26 AM

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[12]. 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[13]? 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
[1] You can read my first recap of the conference here.
[2] Practice it in the privacy of your home and you’ll be good to go. #thatsnotweird
[3] The Wine Folly has a great overview of Alto Adagio and the grapes grown there. Check it out.
[4] 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!

© Consortium of Alto Adige Wine
Castles, towers and vineyards, oh my! © Consortium of Alto Adige Wine

[5] 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.
[6] 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.
[7] 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.
[8] I’m super good at tasting notes.
[9] #bilingual
[10] Residual sugar generally refers to the sugar content remaining in the wine after fermentation stops or is stopped.
[11] Ahhhh #FancyinFrancey. That was fun.
[12] Like your good friend Wine Esquire here.
[13] Viognier is Vee-own-YAY. Blaufränkisch is Blahw-FRAHN-keesh. And here’s a link to more pronunciations. You’re welcome.

Gewürztraminer

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