Food with A Gentleman in Moscow

My blog has basically been defunct since law school. I’ve posted here or there, but I’ve struggled to find time to really sit down and write. However, my 2L year is over now and I’m still quarantined. With that, I have been doing a lot of reading. So, as a way to ease back into blogging, I’ve decided to share some of my favorite food quotes from a recent book I read: A Gentleman in Moscow. I would be lying if I said I was incredibly familiar with Russian history or almost anything that crops up in this novel. Yet, I felt myself get swept away. It’s definitely not a beach read, but it has an incredible amount of layers and a lot of heart. Of course, the food scenes were particularly engaging. Let me know what you think of the one’s I have shared below!


“Turning his attention to his okroshka, the Count could tell at a glance that it was a commendable execution- a bowl of soup that any Russian in the room might have been served by his grandmother.”


“On his spice shelves was a compendium of the world’s predilections and in his cooler a comprehensive survey of birds and beasts hanging from hooks by their feet. As such, one might naturally leap to the conclusion that 1912 has been a perfect year in which to measure the chef’s talents. But in a period of abundance any half-wit with a spoon can please a palate. To truly test a chef’s ingenuity, one must instead look to a period of want.”


“The young man hesitated and then picked  up the wine list with uncertain hands. It may well have been the first time in his life that he had ordered a bottle of wine. Never mind that he didn’t grasp the merits of the 1900 versus the 1901, he didn’t know a Burgundy from a Bordeaux.”


“‘I’ll have you know, dear sister, that careless seating has torn asunder the best of marriages and led to the collapse of the longest-standing detentes. In fact, if Paris had not been seated next to Helen when he dined in the court of Menelaus, there never would have been a Trojan war.'”


“‘Tell your boys that my lamb is served rare. If someone wants it medium, they can go to a canteen.'”


“Popular wisdom tells us that when the reel of our concerns interferes with our ability to fall asleep, the best remedy is the counting of sheep in a meadow. But preferring to have his lamb encrusted with herbs and served with a red wine reduction, the Count chose a different methodology altogether.”


“But a cocktail is not meant to be a melange. It is not a potpourri or an Easter parade. At its best, a cocktail should be crisp, elegant, sincere- and limited to two ingredients.”


“The Count paused in his pacing to peek behind the Ambassador, where he had carefully hidden the Dom Perignon. Preparing for a potential celebration is a tricky business. If Fortune smiles, then one must be ready to hit the ceiling with the cork. But if Fortune shrugs, then one must be prepared to act as if this were just another night, one of no particular consequence- and then later sink the unopened bottle to the bottom of the seam.”


These were the highlights for me. Every sentence in this book was beautifully crafted, and the ones about food made me wish I were there to enjoy those meals. If you get a copy, buy a bold red wine and dig into this novel. Extra points if you pair it with some of the foods mentioned throughout this novel. It clocks in at around 500 pages, so you might want to buy two bottles to get through it all. It may not be a breezy beach read, but as it looks like none of us will be going to the beach anytime soon, it might be the perfect book to hunker down with.

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Wairau River, Giving Me Shivers

Hello and Happy Post Holidays! By the time this posts, I’ll be back in school, but I will be done with my first semester. I did not bomb all of my classes, so I’ll be sticking around there for at least one more semester of law school. As I now have my bearings, I am hoping to catch up on all the wines I received since September and churn out a blog post every other week. We shall see how all of that turns out, but for now…onto the wine.

wrr pinot gris grapes on the vine

All the way back in September, I was sent a bottle of wine from Wairau River. I was particularly excited to try a wine from here because Chris and Phil Rose released their first bottle in 1991, so the label is just a touch older than I am. It’s exciting to see what some of the newer labels are capable of as I feel like a lot of attention is placed on wines that come from very old/celebrated wineries. The label is also 100% family owned and run, which seems particularly commendable after the holiday season where most of us were probably ready to get some distance after a week among our families. Before getting the bottle, I had never noticed anything by this winery in any of the local wine shops. However, once I received the bottle, I suddenly realized it’s everywhere. So, if any of what I say below sounds interesting, I know that I’ve seen a bottle in every wine store I’ve checked out in Philly. If you’re local, look for one yourself!


As far as the bottle I tried goes, this was the 2016 Wairau River Pinot Noir. This single varietal wine came from Marlborough. While I have had many a wine from Australia, I don’t believe I’ve had much from New Zealand. Overall, it was very fruit forward with lots of ripe red berry notes that came through. Cherry was the most prevalent note to me. To round out some of those berry notes and add a little complexity, this had an edge of spices and vanilla to it. The SRP is roughly $24.99. If you are a Pinot lover and are looking for a decent bang for your buck, this would be a solid option to try. On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re still new to Pinot Noir but want to explore some more, I believe this is an approachable bottle that doesn’t require any brooding over notes. If you’re one of those people who drink certain wines during certain seasons (which is a mentality I decidedly do not prescribe too), this is perfect for the autumn when the weather is just turning and you want something with just a little grip, or in the winter months if you want something to shake you out of those winter blues.


Additionally, the 2017 Sauvignon Blanc is the bottle I noticed in most stores and is only $16.99. If $24.99 is just a little too steep or a price you aren’t comfortable spending on a new brand, I recommend checking this white bottle out to get a feel for the winery and what they can do. That one is next on my list to try, too! Have you had any wines from Wairau River? If yes, what did you think? I hope you all had a great holiday seasons and that your year is off to a great start! Cheers.

These wines were kindly provided to me by the wineries/importers listed above, but all opinions are my own.

Also, thank you to Terlato Wines and Donna White PR for the photos I was able to use for this post. 

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#WineStudio: The Italian Battalion

Hello and happy fall! I have been a bit M.I.A. on this blog for a couple of months as I acclimated to law school. In between reading, re-reading, outlining, making flashcards, and occasionally having a few sips of wine, I didn’t have any time to write about it. However, I finally set aside some time to catch up and hope to have a blog post every other week. Up first, my experience with Montefioralle Wine.


While I have tried many Italian wines in my time since I practically grew up in an Italian restaurant, I haven’t studied the wine with the vigor that this area demands. If you are like me, here are some things to know before diving it: Chianti and Chianti Classico are two distinct DOCGs with the Classico being a smaller sub-region, the area stretches between Siena and Firenze, and the black rooster has come to represent wines from this area. A wine associated with a cute critter without being a cute critter wine.


As far as the winery owners themselves, they were a joy to experience throughout this #WineStudio session. Our first interaction with them was on Facebook, and trust me, there’s nothing sweeter and more fun than seeing an Italian grandpa and his family lead a discussion about their passion for wine. They also discussed why it’s important to them to be family run, their sustainable measures, and what it means to be a small winery among a powerhouse like Chianti. Sure, we all drink wine because it tastes good and it makes us feel lighthearted, but the stories are what help you remember the bottles. I’ve had a number of fantastic wines off a restaurant menu, but I probably could only name one or two of them off the top of my head. However, the wines friends have brought to BYOs or ones that I’ve experienced after getting to know a winemaker are much more memorable. That’s part of what makes wine fun.


First up, the 2015 Montefioralle Chianti Classico DOCG with an SRP of $19. Made up of mostly Sangiovese, this was a fruit-forward ruby colored wine. Now, when I say fruit forward, I don’t necessarily mean overly fruity or light and fruit-forward like some Pinot Noir. It had a lot of mature fruit flavors, but they were layered. It had depth and body to it, yet was still incredibly smooth. If you’re new to Italian wine, this is the perfect one to buy if you’re settling in for some pasta and want something that will please many palates.


For those who might be craving a step up from that, we also tasted the 2014 Montefioralle Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG at $30. This one should be able to age for about 15 years, so save it for a special occasion and see just how far $30 can take you in the world of wine. Right now, the wine has a lot of complex fruit flavors, mostly ripe red berries and currant. Alongside the fruit notes ran a woodsy element. The mouthfeel had a bit more oomph to it than the first bottle with a textured aspect that made it pleasing to come back to. If you like some linger, this is the bottle for you.


For the finale, the dessert wine. I don’t usually open too many dessert wines, but during a girls night I opened the Vin Santo. With just a little bit of chill, this was an option with tons of caramel notes. Every sip reminded me of molasses, and in a small dessert wine glass, those few sips were all I needed to end the evening right. Yet even the great flavors weren’t enough; dessert wine is one I always need to enjoy alongside food. Normally, it’s with the cheese boards I put together because I find dessert wine with dessert to be a bit too much. With this one, I did both. Although wine and cheese almost never goes wrong, I was nervous to taste it alongside the Corn Cookie from Milk Bar. Since the cookie wasn’t overly sweet, it actually worked. The intensity of the wine and depth of it contrasted against the funky flavors of the soft and buttery cookie. Although I’ll probably always prefer a cheese board, this pairing opened up my eyes to other options. With an SRP of $35, I think this one could be too much for a first timer to dessert wines, but if you are a tried and true dessert wine lover (not just Harveys Bristol), I think this one is well worth the price tag.


Have you tried these wines? Do you love all things Italian wine? If you haven’t tried it, I think these are a great introduction to Italian wines and the winery itself is one that I encourage supporting. A good wine is good, but a good wine with a great team behind it is significantly better. Cheers!

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#WineStudio: Drink Pink

Before I started participating in #WineStudio, I have to say that I didn’t drink much rosé. Despite the alluring color, many of the rosés I came across seemed dull, flabby, and more of a marketing ploy than anything else. I think I’ve shared all of this before, but despite having good things to say about some rosés in recent years, I always had that thought nagging me in the back of my mind. However, #WineStudio, the interactive wine education program which I participate in, recently changed that. No session highlighted the diversity of rosé more than the one from earlier this summer. If you are like how I used to be and just don’t get the obsession behind this wine, read on and see how distinct each bottle I opened was. It changed my mind, and I think if you take the plunge and try one or two of these, it’ll change yours too.


The first wine we opened was made up of Mourvedre grown in the shale soils of South Africa. The 2017 Babylonstoren Mourvedre Rosé had a lot of big citrus fruits like grapefruit and tangelo on the nose, which came through on the palate as well. Additionally, there were notes of wet stone, lemon, and a touch of fresh strawberry. Robin, who blogs at Wine and Wonder, opened this alongside a flatbread topped with steak, blue cheese, onions, and other potent flavors.


Unlike a shy rosé meant for lighter flavors, the Babylonstoren held up against such an intense food choice. Encased in a simple bottle meant to highlight the earth that produced this wine, this pink drink took everything I thought about the basic rosé and amped it up. I suggest buying a bottle to share with friends, no matter what food is on hand, or maybe even two to be safe since the SRP is only around $19. We were able to try ours through Red Wolf Imports, which just goes to show that making the wine is just the first step to getting it on our tables. There’s a whole world behind the bottle that can be explored. But that’s a blog post for another day.


If you’re looking for something more homegrown (assuming you’re from the United States), the 2017 Eric Kent Rosé we opened up was pleasing to the eye and palate. From my experience, most wine nerds are also nerds about something else. In the case of Eric Kent‘s owners Kent and Colleen, it’s art. The winery produces bottles with captivating labels created by artists they admire. It’s a multi-step process where Kent tastes the barrel samples, really gets a feel for the production, and then chooses art that looks like the wine tastes. In the case of this bottle, it was a colorful and intricate piece that highlighted the vibrancy on the inside. On the nose, watermelon, strawberries, and other red berries came through more than anything else.  Also, the hibiscus notes were very pronounced, which I can’t say I would have been able to put my finger on if I hadn’t been drinking hibiscus juice by the gallon while in Mexico last summer. It was good cold, but those assertive berry notes were even better as it warmed. It was one of those wines I wanted to keep revisiting. So, if you’re looking for something that tastes fruit-forward yet powerful, looks beautiful in the glass, and is produced by people you can admire, this rosé is for you.


If the Babylonstoren was the mature version of the rosé you’re probably used to and the Eric Kent was the bottle that captured how fruity and fun can also mean depth, the 2017 Bedell Cellars Taste Rosé from Long Island was the edgy rock star. First founded in 1980 and then purchased in 2000 by an art collector, Bedell Cellars is the opposite of a winery that adheres to Old World norms. It’s a solidly American operation that embraces the modern. Hoping to produce wines low in alcohol with a crispness and bright aromatics, here the winemaker created a creative wine that jumped out of the glass. Full of strawberry notes, acidity, and salinity, this one had a lot of energy behind it, which seemed captured by the stark black and white label adorning the outside. At $18, it’s an option for someone who wants to pop open a bottle with lunch, sit back, and let the day pass by.


Although I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve tasted a decent variety of wine, it’s sessions like this that reinforce why wine is so cool. Each winemaker approaches the craft in a different way. Give the same grapes to any of these wineries, and they would all put their own unique stamp on them. Wine is kind of like going to a live show. Every performance is distinct, the audience enjoying it influences the experience, and every so often the band knows when they just created their next big hit. That’s why I keep coming back to wine. How about you?

These wines were kindly provided to me by the wineries/importers listed above, but all opinions are my own.

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A Toast to Left Coast

Sometime around the end of May or early June I received samples from Left Coast, a wine estate located in the Willamette Valley. I’ve had the opportunity to try wines from this winery once before, but this time I was opening bottles ideal for spring and summer sipping that seemed a bit more off the beaten path than the usual summer fare. As I board a flight to Vegas today, these seem like they could be perfect choices for the hundred degree weather I am about to subject myself to. Read on and see if you agree!


The first bottle I opened was the 2017 White Pinot Noir, which I thought of as the most unique offering from the winery. This poured almost clear into the glass and was one of the fruitiest whites I’ve ever opened. The notes of early season peaches, donut peaches, clementines, sweet lemons, and pear all abounded both on the nose and on the palate. I craved a touch more acidity with this one, but there was a salinity that was very enticing with each sip. This wine first began in 2011 as a small experiment, and Left Coast liked it so much they have continued to create this very distinctive option since then. At $24, it is one to at least experiment with and form your own opinions on. I’d certainly buy another bottle, especially for a cook out with friends!


In the height of pink season, the second bottle was the 2017 Rosé, which was a blend of 54% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier, and 6% Pinot Blanc. Fermented and aged in 100% neutral French oak, this sunrise-colored wine was crisp with notes of cherry, ripe red berries, and orange zest. Despite these flavors, it didn’t have a particularly fruity feel and gave off the impression of a more mature rosé. It wasn’t something you would want to turn into frosé, but rather pop open during a book club after finishing Nana. It had a long linger and paired perfectly with the goat cheese and crackers I snacked on alongside this bottle. With an SRP of $24, it’s a solid choice that would pair well with a variety of foods and could easily become a summer staple.


The third bottle I opened was the 2017 The Orchard Pinot Gris, a grape that has intrigued me much more since trying the Adorada with #WineStudio all those months ago. Comprised of 91% Pinot Gris and 9% Pinot Blanc, this was a very fragrant choice that gave off aromas of pineapple, tropical fruits, and lemon verbena. On the palate, it was a full wine that provided notes of melon, juicy pears, lemon curd, and just the slightest touch of stone. I drank this while I ate some lox on rosemary bread with chive cream cheese and fresh tomatoes. While I wouldn’t say the wine was essential to have with food, it was a great choice for easy sipping. Clocking in at $18, it’s a wine I suggest associating yourself with.


After my two experiences with Left Coast, I feel confident in saying they make quality wines for a good price. If you come across a bottle in a store or decide to check out their website, please pick up a bottle or two! These wines aren’t going to break the bank, are great for sharing, and all offer up interesting flavors to explore alongside food or on their own. I can’t think of anything better than a good wine to invest in for these dog days of summer, can you?

These wines were kindly provided to me by the wineries/importers listed above, but all opinions are my own.

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