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Pairing Wine With A Fried Chicken Sandwich

Fried Chicken SandwichI was really excited to eat at the brick-and-mortar location of a favorite food truck around Seattle, Skillet, and had picked up a tip on twitter to try the fried chicken sandwich. And though I enjoyed a beer with my lunch, I’ve been thinking about what wine I would pair with it the next time I stop by or get one to take home.

The fried chicken has some fennel seed in the crust and comes with a kale slaw and pickled jalapeño aioli on a potato roll. (Note: a salad was offered in place of the fries. Suggestion denied.) Fried food has a real affinity for bubbles, so that’s the direction to go. I’m dreaming how they would refresh between each bite, and tame the slight heat from the jalapeño. Naturally I am recommending you have Champagne (especially a non-vintage with a lighter/crisper style), but if you are feeling less indulgent any high-quality Cremant, Cava, or Prosecco will do nicely. If you must drink a still wine, I think a Sancerre or racy Sauvignon Blanc, with some grassy, herbal tones would really work well with the fennel seed and kale.

Any other suggestions? I’m willing to do as much research as necessary. Though I may have start thinking about the salad option more seriously.

Belated thanks to Jane (@callingindead) for inspiring this post.

Champagne: V is for Vilmart

Vilmart Champagne
I can admit to being a bit finicky and quite opinionated about Champagne. My strident feelings bubbled (hee hee) over at the uncritical stance many of my colleagues have towards Grower Champagne. (As opposed to negociants who often purchase grapes or juice to blend into their Champagne, growers own the land, harvest the grapes, and make the wine. You can tell a Grower Champagne from a negociant by looking for the tiny “RM” at the bottom of the label versus “NM”, respectively.) While most of my favorites are from growers, I felt that the discussion surrounding these Champagnes, sometimes affectionately referred to as (seriously) “Farmer Fizz”, and the larger houses seemed to cleave in an all-too tidy “us versus them” dichotomy. Just because a Champagne house is big (or owned by a large company) doesn’t mean it’s bad or that Grower Champagne is good solely based on heartstring-tugging sentimentality. Part of my stance on this issue I will admit comes from my penchant to be a contrarian, but I like to judge and recommend Champagne based on the most important criteria: taste.

But lest you think I sit around all day guzzling Fortune 500 Champagne, I must tell you about my new favorite producer. And it happens to be a grower. (“You liberal hippie!”) Tasting the Champagnes of Vilmart was a game-changer for me; they are simply the finest producer of the loveliest sparkling wines.

I’ll address the rosé first, the Cuvée Rubis. Wowzers! It’s as beautiful to look at as it is to drink. Sometimes there is a bit of hesitancy on the part of people to try rosé Champagne; but for bubbles fanatics like myself, they are often the most memorable and pleasurable. The Rubis teases out flavors of every red berry fruit you can imagine, from the sweet to the tart, with a rich finish that’s like a dollop of some yet-to-be-discovered, otherworldly creamy goodness.

The 2004 Grand Cellier d’Or is a stunner. Like Krug (which is in my mind the gold standard of Champagne; the 1996 may be the best wine period I’ve ever had), Vilmart ferments and ages the still wine in barrels before transforming it into Champagne. This process gives the wines a richness and complexity that does a gorgeous dance with Champagne’s natural acidity and liveliness. Somehow the Grand Cellier is both substantial and ethereal at the same time.

So what Champagnes are you looking forward to enjoying this holiday season?

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Thanksgiving Picks: Unveiled

Thanksgiving Wines
Yup, it’s that time of the year. Roll out the Thanksgiving picks! Though I will be detailing numerous selections from near and far, I’d like to point out that there is no correct or, better yet, no incorrect wine to serve during this holiday meal. Whether you’re having turkey with all the traditional fixings, a standing rib roast, a vegetarian feast, or take-out Chinese, here’s the best wine to drink: The one you like.

Having said that, it is my duty to point out the wines that make me happiest around a large table of contentious, loud, and sometimes embarrassing (mostly me) family members. Naturally sparkling wines come to the forefront. Not only are they seriously underrated food wines, what’s more festive than popping a few corks and knockin’ down some bubbly while you watch football (if you’re lucky) or get pressed into kitchen duty (if you’re not so lucky)? My first two picks: Prosecco from Italy and Cremant from France. The Adami is a perfect way to start your day and the Antech is a gorgeous rose at a give-away price. And if your feeling a bit celebratory, the Voirin-Jumel Champagne is my new go-to. It’s an all Grand Cru fruit, grower Champagne (the people who own the vineyards make the wine), and a Blanc de Blancs. I like the style of Blanc de Blancs: all Chardonnay and they always seem to be a bit livelier and crisper than their red grape-blended counterparts.
Thanksgiving Wines
I have a real fondness for the white wines of Northern Italy and the above are three perennial favorites. All are very dry, elegant, and fantastic with everything from seafood to poultry and vegetables. And, with my well-documented penchant for the obscure, I like drinking wines made from the Kerner, Arneis, and Cortese grapes, respectively.
Thanksgiving Wines
Though we just hit the Beaujolais Nouveau season, I’d like you to turn your attention to Cru Beaujolais, especially from the justifiably-hyped 2009 vintage. These two from Dominique Piron are gems; I’d proabaly choose these Gamays over any Pinot Noir in the same price range. A slam-dunk!
Thanksgiving WinesFor the last three years I’ve had these two wines from South Africa’s Mulderbosch on the table. Love the Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé and the dry Chenin Blanc. Great labels, screw caps; I like how they look on the table. It’s not often you have a rosé made from Cabernet that is this pale and light; really nice stuff. The Chenin is lovely; has wonderful ginger notes and a little bit of weight and richness for fall cuisine. And even though we’re pushing December, rosés are a great food wine year-round and are probably the only wine that can hang with the cranberry sauce.

Finally, lest you think I am an unrepentant foreign wine snob, here are a couple picks from one of my favorite Washington wineries, Syncline. Tiny production Rhone-style wines (and some Gruner Veltliner and Pinot Noir to boot), they have wonderful balance and are not overdone with sweet oak and pumped-up alcohol levels.
Thanksgiving Wines

So what will you be drinking on Thanksgiving?

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Welcome to the Esquin Wine Blog!

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Greetings, fellow wine lovers! This is Jameson and I am taking the reins of all things blog-related for Esquin Wine Merchants. Before I get started, let me give you a little background about myself.  I moved here from Chicago (where I dabbled in the food and wine industries) almost six years ago to pursue my desire to work in the wine business full-time. And I haven’t looked back since. Here’s what you can expect to find here:

  • Passion and enthusiasm about wine
  • Lots of food and wine talk, with an emphasis on pairings
  • A love of all esoteric and unusual wines from Picpoul to the Puget Sound
  • Loads about Washington wine
  • Unwavering desire to see more regular sparkling wine and Champagne consumption
  • Interviews with local, national, and international wine personalities
  • Dispatches from vineyards and wineries near and (fingers crossed) far
  • Notes about restaurants from the humble to the fancy
  • Beer. Yes, beer. Occasionally. As any winemaker will tell you, it takes a lot of beer to make a good wine.

Here’s what you won’t find here:

  • Superior, snobby, elitist attitudes about wine
  • The word “seamless” and all other worthless wine descriptors
  • Lackadaisical, sporadic updates by robots

Please let me know what you would like to see and read about; I appreciate all praise, kudos, flattery, constructive criticism, and glancing blows. Cheers, everybody!

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