Make the Holidays Sparkle with Franciacorta

logo-franciacortaNothing says festive like a bottle of sparkling wine.  Whether you celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, Festivus, or any other holiday, we all love to ring in the new year with a sparkling libation.

Sparking wines are made all over the world.  From the world famous Champagne region in France, to surprising sparkling Shiraz from Australia, there are delicious options everywhere.  But none of my favorite classic sparklers comes from Italy.  No, it’s not Prosecco, or even Asti Spumante, but rather something that is made in the Methode Classico (or champagnoise), from the Lombardy region in the north:  Franciacorta.

I have been fortunate to experience the many colors and flavors of Franaciacorta with Franciacorta USA’s partnership with Balzac Communications.  We have been treated to an annual tasting of several different examples of this iconic Italian bubbly; recently, I was able to attend an informal and delicious tasting of three very special wines at A16 in San Francisco.

contadicastaldi_roseFrst up, one of my favorite producers from previous tastings, the Contadi Castalidi Franciacorta Brut Rosé NV, which is a blend of 35% Pinot Noir and 65% Chardonnay.  This budget friendly pink is a great example of why you should pay attention to this region.  With light fruity flavors, brioche notes, and velvety plum notes, you will love the holiday wallet friend price point of under $25.

 

 

 

 

 

img_2207The next selection was a gorgeous 2012 Le Marchesine Saten, which in the DOGCG of Franciacorta, must be a Blanc de Blanc from Chardonnay and or Pinot Bianco (Blanc). Slightly more expensive than the the other two at $30, it’s still a very friendly price point for sparkling of this quality.  With spicy white flowers and bright notes of citrus layered over fresh cream, this is the perfect mid point in this lovely trio of wines.

 

img_2204Finally, the all-star of the evening was the Biondelli Franciacorta Brut, an elegant 100% Chardonnay start hat is bottled aged no less than 2 years.  Officially certified organic since 2014, the 8 hectare vineyard is hand harvested and gently pressed and fermented in stainless steel barrels.  The gorgeous floral notes of this sexy sipper give way to peach blossom, toasted almonds, hazelnuts, and just a hint of citrus.  This is my top pick and even at an average price of $20 (if you can find it) you should be buying it by the case.

Franciacorta is not the poor man’s Champange.  Despite the user friendly price points on many of these fine wines, the quality and flavor profiles are world class.  Franciacorta wines are widely available at better wine shops as well as online.  Experiment, try a few, and enjoy this holiday season!

Special thanks to Franciacorta USA for sharing these delights!

 

 

 

The Perfect Pairing: Potato Chips & Bubbles

We’ve all heard it before:  There is no better wine pairing than potato chips and sparkling.  Could this be true?  Was it the holy grail?  Quite possibly.  But what happens when you take some amped up Neal Brothers’ kettle chips, in flavors like Pink Himalayan Salt and Spicy Sriracha, and pair them with Iron Horse Vineyards fizz?  Pure magic.

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With the pure, sweet, spicy and just plain tasty flavors, we found a perfect pairing for each of the Iron Horse sparkling wines, as well as each of the four chip varieties.

2012 Iron Horse Ocean Blanc de Blanc – this limited edition wine supports National Geographic’s Ocean Initiative, and is bursting with crisp apple notes and salinity that makes your mouth water.  Notes of citrus and chalky minerality make this a natural pairing for bright, clean flavors for the Pink Himalayan Salt was the perfect match.

2012 Iron Horse Wedding Cuvee – with a hint of raspberry, strawberry and blood orange, the sweet hints coming from the 78% Pinot Noir paired perfectly with the Spicy Sriracha.  The sweet and spicy Sriracha brings forward the blood orange and ruby red grapefruit in the wine.  The Wedding Cuvee also matched the intensity of the Montreal Steak Spice, with strong pepper and herbal notes.

2012 Iron Horse Classic Vintage Brut – the classic, clean flavors of this wine, with grapefruit, brioche, and stone fruit play off of the Pink Salt, as well as the Sraiacha.  Often, Classic Brut can feel dryer than dry, but the special quality of the Pink Himalyayan Salt chips tone this day and create a savory explosion.

2012 Russian Cuvee was originally made for the Reagan-Gorbachev summit meetings, Iron Horse Vineyardswhich helped to end the Cold War.  This wine is a richer style, with bold flavors of strawberry, blood orange, and dried tropical fruit.  Surprisingly, the crazy Maple Bacon flavor of the Neal Brothers chips was the perfect match for this wine, which can be perceived as sweet and fruity.  The sweet maple and savory bacon really played off of the Russian perfectly.

What is your favorite potato chip pairing?  We tasted several more sparklers from Iron Horse that are sold out, so I won’t tease you, but go out, and have fun.  Pick up a few bags of Neal Brothers kettle chips and experiment!

 




Sparkling Countdown: Côté Mas Crémant de Limoux


There really is no place quiet as magical as the south of France.  Not only is Limoux, in the Languedoc, the ancestral birthplace of sparkling wine, but there is a plethora of amazingly affordable and delicious rose wine to choose from.

In today’s sparkler, the Cote Mas Cremant de Limoux Rose Brut fits the bill perfectly.
This enticing blend of 70% Chardonnay, 20% Chenin Blanc, 10% Pinot Noir is fermented in stainless steel before it’s Methode Traditionelle  secondary fermentation in bottle.

A beautiful pink color with bold peach and stone fruit flavors, effervescent with blood orange and strawberries.  At $15, it’s an everyday value and is fantastic with cheese or potato chips!

Another sample from our friends at Gregory White PR, we salute you!

Sparkling Countdown: Faire la Fête

Monday Monday.  It’s Monday, and I hate Mondays.  But, on the update, it’s the last Monday in 2015.  So how do we celebrate?
With Faire la Fête of course!  Faire la Fête is a blend of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir, from Limoux, France.  Much like yesterday’s Crémant, this wine is from the birthplace of sparkling wine, and is where there is a month long carnival (fête) each year before Lent.

This is a fun, lively bubbly, that is full of bright white peaches, lemons, cherry blossoms and fresh cream.  This wine encourages you to celebrate every day life, and is a fête in itself.  At under $20, it is a great everyday fizzy that you can enjoy with oysters, desserts, or a warm afternoon in the sunshine.

Thank you to Banner Media Group for introducing me to this great wine!

 

Countdown to 2016: Ferrari Trento

Next up, we celebrate Sunday, and the arrival of my dear friend from another continent, by traveling to Italy in our glass.

While many people know about Proscecco, and perhaps the magic of Franciacorta, Lombardy’s sparkling wine, Ferrarri Trento has been making sparkling wines in the Italian Alps since 1902.

At ony $25, the Brut, which is 100% Chardonnay, is a steal, and will leave your guests wondering – “Is it Champagne, or is it Ferrari!”  Unlike Prosecco, which is typically fermented in bulk, Ferrari bottle ferments (just like Champagne), and is aged for at least 24 months.

Delicate and lively, with bright citrus and apple notes, enveloping the bouquet of white flowers.  Slight hints of freshly baked bread, this is a wonderful way to end the evening, or just get it started, Ferrari Trento is one of the best values in sparkling wine outside of France.

This is the base level for Ferrari, but if you want to explore more, try this European Winery of the Year’s delicious reserve wines.  Still affordable luxury, and oh so delicious.

Thank you to my friends at Gregory White PR for this scrumptious way to ring in the New Year!

 

 

Countdown to 2016

At laLaurent-Perrier Brut Champagnest, Christmas has come and gone, the beacon that is the end of 2015 is drawing near.  To count down in style, I have decided to enjoy a different sparkling wine every day!

Pop goes the cork on 2016.

Today, on December 26th, Boxing Day, or the day after Christmas – what ever you call it – I am enjoying Champagne Laurent-Perrier Brut.  This family owned Champagne house has been in operation since 1812, and is a fantastic last minute or host/hostess gift.  Readily available and priced at a user friendly $45, it’s a great way to say Happy Holidays with classic Champagne.

Classic flavors of citrus and brioche, with a nutty finish.  Beautiful dusting of nutmeg on the chalky finish.  A great entry point in to Champagne, particularly if you are trying to impress your friends and visiting family.

 

Thanks to the lovely ladies at Teuwen Communications for the sparkling party in a glass!

 

 

Celebrate with Franciacorta!

During the holidays, more often than not, we celebrate with something sparkling.  For some it might be the old classic Champagne; others, California Sparkling.  But have you tried Franciacorta?

Franciacorta, the DOCG region in Lombardy, Italy, is known for it’s excellent sparkling wines made in the traditionally method – meaning, the secondary fermentation occurs int bottle and not by, shall we say, the soda stream for wine or a bulk method.  Lombardy is perfect for sparkling wine, where the Alps meet the Lago d’Iseo, moderating temperatures and making the traditional grapes for sparkling wines grow so well.  Since Franciacorta was the first Italian sparkling wine to have the secondary fermentation int he bottle, and since the producing region is the first traditional method sparkling wine in Italy to reach DOCG status, they really are a treat.

Since becoming a DOCG (the highest level of regional wine designations in Italy) in 1995, Franciacorta has set strict rules governing the production of it’s sparkling wines.  Using the same Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc (Bianco) and Pinot Noir grapes that are traditionally used in France, Franciacorta requires lengthy aging and hand harvesting, to maintain in increase quality.

With five distinct styles, there is something for everyone!

Some of my favorite products that I have been enjoing this season are reviewed below.  So this holiday, go out and say Cin Cin to Franciacorta!

Berlucchi Franciacorta Brut – 90% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Nero (Noir).  Yeasty, buttered toast, crisp lemon curd.  Beautiful bright acidity with the richness of cream and ripe pears.  This would be fantastic with oysters or brunch, and at $30, an affortable alternative to Champagne.  With only 12.9% ABV, this is a sipper you can enjoy all day!

Contadi Castaldi Franciacorta Brut – 80% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Nero (Noir), 10% Pinot Bianco (Blanc) –  a field of flowers, with rich  yellow and green hues, Tuscan melon and lime jump out of the glass along with stone fruit and a slight green herbal note.  $23 for this beauty rivals some of the better Proseccos and would be lovely in a Spritz or other cocktail.

If you would like to check out some of the other styles of Franciacorta, they range from dry to sweet, and have a host of other style elements such as the typically 100% Chardonnay Saten.  A Millesimato is vintage sparkler that is aged at least 30 months.

So, the next time you are having a party, consider stocking up on some Franciacorta, and wow your party guests with Italy’s fastest growing sparkling wine category!

 

These bottles of deliciousness were provided as PR samples, but all sips and tips are mine!

 

 

 

 

Viva Espana!

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Summer is in full swing, and so is Spain!  Do you like paella?  Dancing?  Wine?

Join Gloria Ferrer at the Catalan Festival on Saturday & Sunday, July 19th & 20th for a party benefiting Sonoma Valley Education Foundation.

Honoring the spirit of the Ferrer family, each day guests can stroll Las Ramblas, recreating Barcelona’s popular main street with the colors, smells and sounds of Spain. Along the way they will sample savory tapas, enjoy paella and cooking demonstrations, and participate in educational seminars, cocktail demonstrations,food & wine pairings and a festive grape stomp.

Along Las Ramblas, stop and state the Gloria Ferrer Carneros sparkling and estate varietal wines, as well as select wines from the Ferrer family’s Spanish wineries.

Live Flaminco music will be playing and you can learn to dance, and admire the artist replica of the Gegants de Mataró made specifically for Gloria Ferrer!

The festival runs each day from noon to 4:00 p.m. and tickets can be purchased HERE for this fabulous benefit event!

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Mumm’s the word

Mother’s Day is coming up, and hopefully you are able to spend some time with your mom to celebrate her.  What better way to celebrate mom putting up with your crazy than some bubbly?

Recently, I visited Mumm Napawith Vindulge’s Mary Cressler, my partner in crime and bubble buddy who was visiting the Bay Area.  While there, we took the tour through the production facility, which includes a taste of the still wines that will become the magical sparkling wonder – made in the traditional way, Méthode Traditionnelle.

On the way to the winery, we stopped by the demonstration vineyard and heard more about the varietals Mumm uses in their sparkling program.  While many producers focus only on the classic chardonnay and pinot noir grapes for their bubbles, Mumm adds in Pinot Muenier (“Little Miller”), a grape that I think is underused in both still wine and sparkling wines in the US.

pinot meunierPinot Meunier tends to have less sugar and a higher acidity, and is harvested earlier ,which lends a brightness and cleaness to the wines made from it.  Mumm has between 40-60 unique growers that they work with, including their own vineyards, which allows them to select from the best grapes to make the best sparkling wine.  

As we toured through the facility, we stopped to taste the still component wine, and play wit the blends.  This has to be the best part of being a sparkling winemaker.  As we had two glasses of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (white juice, no skin contact), we played with the blends that make up the largest percentage of Mumm’s production.  using the component wine, which is not at all like a finished still wine, we created our own blends and began to see how the flavor profiles develop in the sparkling.
After our blending fun, we walked through the now famous permanent collection of Ansel Adams works.  This is the largest single collection and is truly breathtaking.  In addition to the permanent collection, currently Mumm is showcasing The Golden Decade Photography at the California School of Fine Art, 1945-1955.  These works capture the post war boom and growth in California and is a wonderful way to enjoy a glass of sparkling wine.
As we emerged in to the bright sun, we were escorted to the Oak Terrace by our wonderful guide Charles.  Waiting for us was a beautiful table, ready to taste through the sparkling lineup.  We also had the artisan cheese plate to pair with our wines ($25) which I highly recommend.  Tastings on the Oak Terrace are $40 per person, and include two glasses of your favorite library wine – which is a wonderful value.  With some library selections going back several years, this is a great opportunity to taste older sparkling wines, magnums, and rare production wines which aren’t generally available.Mumm Oak Terrace
As there were three of us, we were able to taste and share just about everything.  This is also a great way to do Mumm – bring a few friends, and order something different.  The generous tasting pours make it easy to share your favorites.  There are so many options to taste, I am going to highly my favorites:
  • 2001 DVX – this library selection of the flagship tête de cuvée honors the work of Guy Devaux, who founded Mumm Napa in 1979.  This rich golden oldie is full of brioche, yellow peaches, vanilla custard and baking spice.  Made with only 11 select lots of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, this special selection had 15% barrel fermented to add richness and depth.  Sitting quietly for 13 years, this was a special treat.  $85
  • 2007 Santana – yes, it’s that Santana.  Carlos Santana and Mumm Napa have had a partnership going back several years, and every year the legendary local musician creates a new blend.  The 2007 was soft and lush, with deep red fruit and figs.  With a hint of Syrah added to the mostly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, this is a fun wine that benefits the Milagro Foundation.  $56
  • Brut Reserve Rose Magnum – there is something special about wines in large format bottles.  This non vintage bottling of a classic Pinot Noir & Chardonnay blend was my favorite, with bright cranberry, raspberry, and cherry flavors.  It was completely different than the 750 bottling, which we also tasted and was a great way to show off how wine ages differently in different size bottles.  $68
  • Sparking Pinot Noir – a rare sparkling red, this dry red wine created in the traditionally champagne style is something totally different and fun.  Ripe plums, baking spice, blackberry pie and chocolate all in one, this unique wine leaves you thinking and wanting more.  $34

Mumm Napa is open 7 days a week, and is located on the Silverado Trail in Rutherford, just north of the city of Napa.  Treat your mom to a special Mother’s Day and stop by next Sunday!  Mumm is also widely available in your favorite wine shop or retail outlet and offers excellent value in sparkling wines.

A special thank you to Charles, our tour host and conversationalist, and Kate Regan at Folsom & Associates for arranging this visit!

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The People's Wine

So I’ve told you a bit about Cava, and a bit about the history of Segura Viudas. Now, let’s dive in deeper.

While Cava is Spain’s sparkling wine, it is also the national beverage. It’s a drink for the people, and isn’t reserved for special occasions. Cava can be seen every day, in bars, in restaurants, in hotel lobbies, and on the dining room table. The high value proposition makes this an ideal beverage for any occasion.

So, let’s review:

Cava is Spain’s version of sparkling wine, traditionally made from indigenous white varieties – Xarel·lo, Macabeo and Parellada.  Most Cava is made in Catalonia, a region at the north east tip of Spain.  Cava must also be made in the méthode champenoise, whereas sparkling wine made in other (shall we say, less than desirable in my opinion) methods may only be called vinos espumosos (sparkling wines).

Historical records show that some form of sparkling wine has been made in the Catalonia region of Spain since the 14th century; it wasn’t until the late 19th century however, that serious efforts were made to compete with France for a sparkling wine with a similar profile to Champagne.

In the US, probably the most recognizable brand of Cava is Frexinet’s Cordon Negro, in the signature black bottle.  This budget bubbly gets a bad rap, and while I was one of the guilty poking fun, it’s a great, fun, simple Cava to serve at parties or in mimosas.  At a recent twitter tasting I participated in, I was pleasantly surprised that my memory of a product similar to Cook’s was completely wrong and the Cordon Negro is really a perfectly fine sparkling wine.

Any way you put it, the value proposition for Cava is excellent.  With most bottles hovering around $8 and many more up to $20, there are some great examples at any price point but it’s a great wine to enjoy anytime.  While there are certainly more expensive cavas out there, you can easily find a great example for under $20, which is very affordable in my book.

My hosts at Segura Viudas focus on making cava of distinction, in the traditional method.  While you are allowed a certian  amount of other grapes, head winemaker Gabriel Suberviola focuses on the local grapes to create special cavas  that really exemplify the region.  While they are a large operation by American standards, the team at Segura Viudas is careful to maintain the quality of the fruit by hand harvesting the grapes, and evaluating each load carefully.  The grapes are then graded, and sorted in to what wine they will become.    You could make the argument that you can just throw everything in the hopper and see what comes out, but they won’t settle for that.  Less quality grapes go in to the every day wines; not lesser quality wines by any means, but these are your $10 every day cavas, vs the iconic Reserva Heredad ($25).  Gabriel and his team can tell on site, and through a detailed process with 17 data points, what wines each small bin is destined to become.

Up next, we blend our our base wine!  This could get interesting…so, pop a bottle, clink your glasses to life, and enjoy cava!

 

Sparkling Stars on a budget

It’s that time of the month again!  Time for Wine Blogging Wednesday, when a particular theme is used to inspire bloggers to post on a single subject all over the blogging world.

This month, in honor of Valentine’s Day (hurl), Tim Elliot of WineCast asks us to think about sparkling wines on a budget.  In this case, budget means anything under US$25.  Well I can do that!  There are literally dozens of sparkling wines from all over the world that match this price point.  I am spoiled living here int he Bay Area, as I have access to many local wineries – at least 10 sparkling houses among them, as well as excellent retail locations that offer wines of all types and cost levels.

Sparkling wine is used to celebrate all around the world.  Sparkling wine is known for toasting at weddings, or romantic dinners.  Well, I’m having none of it I tell you!  Sparkling wine is for every day!  It’s for potato chips and picnics.  Why save something so delightful for a few times a year?  With a few budget selections, you can make it an everyday wine.

I have been hard at work … um…researching this for you.  What did I discover?  There are so many to choose from, it’s difficult to walk down the wine isle at the grocery store and not find an excellent wine under US$25.  For my picks, I am going to go for three

specific wines:

 

1.  A house “genertic” from Trader Joes.  TJ’s has realy upped the game from Two Buck Chuck.  Trader Joe’s North Coast NV Sparkling Wine.  For $10, you really can’t go wrong.  TJ’s has been consistantly improving thier house labels over the years; this wine is no exception.  It was very well balanced, and had a roundness of body that I particularly enjoy.  Lots of pear, Asian pear, and apple flaors, with a touch of brioche.  This north coast fruit is 60% Chard, 40% Pinot Noir, from somewhere in the vast North Coast catch all AVA.  It’s hard to tell where it’s really from,but given the cooler growing climate up there, it’s prime for bubby.

This will make a frequent appearance at my house!

2.  A favorite of mine, is the Roederer Estate NV.  Typically under $20, and often much lower (like at Safeway, when it’s on sale for $16.99) this is an outstanding example of a domestic sparkler, and one I never get tired of.  Roederer Estate, located in the cooler climate of Anderson Valley, is the US arm of the French house Louis Roederer.   Surprisingly, the NV is a low alcohol wine, so yes, at 12% ABV by all means!  Drink more!  I love the bright green apple, pear, and creamy flavors in this wine.  Bight with citrus, it tastes like it cost a lot more than it does.

For a splurge, try the L’hermitage!

3.  A surprise guest appearance of a NEw Zealand sparkling wine, Quartz Reef Method Traditionalle NV, from Central Otago.  Quartz Reef is known as “The House of Pinot Noir”, and this bubbly kicked off our #nzwineday celebration wonderfully.  A slightly fuller bodied bubbly, there was wonderful stone fruit and lemon curd.  At $22 (JJ Buckley) this is another one to seek out if you can find it locally.  I haven’t had much sparkling wine from New Zealand and was really pleased with this.  I plan to harass my friends at JJ Buckley to ensure I can get some of this!

Other honorable mentions:

  • Mumm – the value tier of wine is generally ~$15 at retail and there are several good picks.
  • Gruett – an oddball hailing from New Mexico, actually offers a great Rose and Brut.
  • Gloria Ferrer – The Brut and Carneros Cuvee are personal faves, and are best enjoyed from tehir terrace in Carneros!

Happy Sparking Wine Blogging Wednesday!  And remember, bubbles are for every day, a celebration, a consolation, or just because.  Why hide them away when they are so affordable?

There were many more wines that I tried, and some of them are still in my fridge.  Never fear, I will post about them all, just over time as I continue my…research!  I have tasted sparklers from South Africa, Burgundy, and Spain and I vow to continue my quest as long as my champagne stopper keeps working!

Happy drinking!

 

Mumm's the word!

It was a cool crisp morning here in Northern California, when I got up entirely too early for a Saturday. After my first 10 cups of coffee, I was somewhat alive, so I packed myself up in to my trusty German wine mobile, and headed up to the Silverado Trail for a 10am breakfast tour of Mumm Napa Valley.

As fate would have it, the roads were clear (mostly) of traffic, save a few particularly slow tourists, and I got to Napa in record time. As we gathered at the gates of Mumm, eagerly hoping they would open the door, the fog just started to back off the valley and we could see the winter vineyards layed out before us.

Finally, at last! The doors openeed and our assorted posse of bloggers was greeted by the Mumm assistant Winemaker Tammy Lotz and self appointed cruise directory Mitch Davis with a morning glass of Deveaux Ranch.

But first, who was Monsieur Deveaux? Mumm Napa was started as a joint venture between G.H. Mumm, the French Champagne House, and Seagram & Sons. As luck would have it, it has changed hands, and now is owned by the same parent company (Pernod Ricard) as G.H. Mumm, so there is a sense of continuity and quality that carries through.

Guy (that’s Gee by the way, not Guy as in Guy Smiley) founded the Napa operation, and he was convinced that the Silverado Trail location would be a perfect balance of foggy, cool nights and hot long days; these conditions are idea for sparkling wine’s dance of acid and ripe fruit. Having a location in the New World also allows Mumm Napa to play beyond the constraints of the rather strict Champagne region bylaws – adding Pinot Gris to the blend for example, and to play with the best wines from the best regions.

So, here we are, on a chilly Saturday morning, glass of rather delectable 2006 Deveaux Ranch in our hands. This sparkler is a perfect representation of Mumm Napa, since it blends 58% Pinot Noir, 28% Chardonnay, 9% Pinot Meunier and 5% Pinot Gris, something that you might see in a Cremant, but never in a Champagne. This is a perfect start to the day with green apple, pear, and tropical flavors with a crisp acidity. For something different, you should RUN out and grab this wine. Yes, you’ll need to go to the winery, but who doesn’t want to sit on the terrace and sip bubbles? ‘Nuff said.  This is a winery exclusive wine, but it’s worth a trip.  It’s what I opened on New Year’s Day and it was simply stunning – well worth the $36.

As we meandered through the production facility, we stopped to try our hands at blending the 2011 Chard & Pinot, to create the different blends that Mumm creates. While they were still base wines, you can easily see how the high acid and low sugar content in the base wine creates a beautiful acid in the finished sparkler. I wouldn’t recommend drinking them however, as still wines, if you value the enamel on your teeth. I liken this exercise to tasting 70 New Zealand sav blancs in an afternoon; after a while your tongue is furry!

Winding our way through a rotating art gallery, next we were served the 2008 Pinot Meunier. While this is a common varietal in Champagne, it is often difficult to find in a domestic sparkler. This delightful wine is only crafted in exceptional vintages and evokes classic Champagne to me, with yeasty toast, and warm bread. This wine is aged 29 months sur lie, which really develop the flavor. If you are looking for something different, check it out! I love a 100% Petite Meunier, and this is a classic offering.  Go for it!  $36

As we gazed at Ansel Adams as well as rotating local artists, we worked our way back to the tasting salon, we were greeted by no less than 8 samples of sparkling wine. Whoo! Now this is what I call a Saturday! Winemaker Ludo Dervin, himself from Champagne entertained us with a pyramid of bubbles. Starting with the least expensive, but in no way inferior, wines of Brut Prestige, Brut Rose, and Cuvee M, we worked up to the Blanc de Blanc and Brut Reserve before the top of the line DVX. But, we were also surprised with a special bottling of the Santana Brut, a special join effort with the musician and, another treat, the Brut Reserve Rose.

While I enjoy the more commonplace offerings (aka found everywhere) of the Brut Prestige, Brut Rose, and Cuvee M, I have to admit they are somewhat boring to my spoiled taste buds. That said, at approximately $15 a bottle here in CA you really can’t beat that price.

More interesting to me were the Blanc de Blanc (made entirely of Chardonnay grapes) and the Brut Reserve for their clean, crisp flavor profile and toasty back notes.

Finally, at the top of the food chain, we tasted the DVX. The DVX isn’t made every year, and the first vintage was 1990.  I used to love this wine, but it wasn’t really hitting the spot for me on this particular day. I remember when I was a young wineaux and a member of the club here at Mumm that this was my favorite, but it was either the weather or the flavor profile that just wans’t working for me today.

Finally, back to taste the Santana.  This one of a kind wine was first created in 1999 as a partnership with the musician and Mumm Napa, with the proceeds going to the Milagro Foundation.  Right!  Drinking for charity is always something on my agenda!  Made with with a pinch more dosage than the Brut Reserve, this wine had wonderful stone fruit, brioche and green apple flavors that I just adored. It’s a splurge, but well worth it in my opinion at $45.

The Brut Reserve Rosé, which is 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, is also a special wine made with 5% of the Pinot Noir being a super ripe Carneros  component that is blended back in to the base wine.  The result is that you get crisp bright red fruit, but ti’s much drier than the Brut Rosé.  This is a wallet friendly $22 and should absolutely be examined, for…research purposes.

And remember, you can add fizz to a oaky buttery chard, but you’ld have a disgusting fruit punch!  (Thanks to Ludo for this slightly parapharased quote to protect the innocent).  Making sparkling wine is an art form.  You can truly screw it up or you can make magic.

I’ve come to find that I really enjoy a drier style of sparlking these days.  Over the years, as my knowledge has increased, my taste has changed.  A fairly natural progression, I moved from sweet whites and roses to much drier and, I suppose, Austere sytle.  That said, all of these wines are delicious, and you really should teaste them for yourslef.  If you appreciate a slightly sweeter or fruity edge, try the Brut Prestige, Rose, and Cuvee M.  These are alle  excellent values and should be tasted at your own pace.

Thanks to the team at Mumm for entertaining us! You can discover Mumm Napa for yourselves on the Silverado Trail. They are open from 10am every day of the week, with the first tour (no tasting), or the Tour & Tastings starting at 11.  If you prefer, you can relax in one of two tasting areas as well, overlooking the valley just below.

Drinking for a cause!

It’s that time of the year again!  Yep, Holiday in Carneros is this weekend, when 20 wineries throw thier doors open and celebrate the season with wine and food pairings!

Featured wineries this weekend include:

  • Tin Barn
  • Adastra,
  • Anaba Wines
  • Bonneau Wines
  • Ceja Vineyards
  • Cline Cellars
  • Enkidu Wine
  • Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards
  •  Homewood Winery
  • Jacuzzi Family Vineyards
  • Keating Wines
  • Larson Family Winery
  • McKenzie-Mueller Vineyards & Winery
  • Meadowcroft Wines
  • Parmelee-Hill Wines & Vineyards
  • Robledo Family Winery
  • Schug Carneros Estate
  • Talisman Wines
  • Tin Barn Vineyards
  • Ty Caton Vineyards

Tickets are $39 for the weekend, and include a souvineer glass.  You can purchase them in advance HERE or on the spot.  Proceeds from this event benefit scholarships for both Santa Rosa Jr. College, as well as Napa Valley College.

This year, there is a special additoin to this event.  Tin Barn Vineyards, which is located in the Eighth Street East wine garage district, will be hosting an art exhibition to benefit a local veteran’s recovery program.

Thanks Any / Way: A Photographic Exploration of Gratitude will be on display during the Holiday in Carneros weekend, Saturday and Sunday, November 19th & 20th from 10am – 4pm.  On Saturday, a Thanksgiving Feast will be served as you gaze at 25 images from both professional and emerging photogrphaers.  Proceeds from art sales will go to The Pathway HOme, a local facility that assits veterans with Post Tramatic Stress Syndrome.

There is also a section of the exhibit featuring work by the veterans who have been helped by The Pathway Home, which offers therapeutic photography as a part of it’s treatment program.

 Can’t make it to the event?  Don’t worry!  The images will be on display and up for auction at Bidding for Good, as well as on and on display at Tin Barn Vineyards during tasting room hours  through the end of the year.  

Bubbles bring me Joy!

It’s a terrible thing, be able to enjoy sparkling wines whenever I want to.  I personally love bubbles with potato chips, hamburgers, and at the ballpark, but that’s just me.  I’m a firm believe that wine (especailly sparkling wine) is made to celebrate life, and not just life’s special occasions!

In celebration of my life and my friends, Iwas invited crashed dinner with friends, including the venerable Chuck Hayward of JJ Buckley Wine, his Girl Friday Paige (also of JJ Buckley) and my sistah from anotha motha, as well as Joy Sterling, CEO of Iron Horse Vineyards, the far western Sonoma County bubble house.

Iron Horse was founded by Audrey and Barry Sterling in 1976, in a quiet corner of Green Valley, in the lush rolling hills of Green Valley.  This western Sonoma area is in the rainy side of town, and it’s a perfect place to grow Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  So off they went, to grow grapes for still wine.

But why would a vineyard, known for creating delicious Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, make the leap to sparkling?  It’s not exactly easy.  The answer is easy – necessity is the mother of invention.  In 1980, the first vintage of sparkling wine was made when there was an excess of still wine.  Since 1985, Iron Horse sparkling wine has been served in the White House continuously.  Not too shabby for a creative solution to a common problem.

Audrey and Barry passed on the Iron Horse legacy to their children, Joy and Laurence.  Joy, educated in paris and at Yale (yeah, she’s a smart cookie that one), is the face of Iron Horse and the CEO.  Her brother Laurence and his wife Terry live on property and he is the Director of Operations.

I was lucky enough to meet Joy through Paige several years ago, and it’s so much fun to drink with her!  But that’s enough about that.  Never one to say no to a glass of stars, we ran through all (oh yes all) of the  current releases at dinner.

2006 Ocean Reserve is a special bottling that was created in partnership with National Geogrraphic to help raise funds to protect marine areas.  This 100% Chardonnay is aged for 4+ years and has a briny flavor that actually does taste like the ocean.  There is a seaweed taste in there, with a creamy limestone and bitter lemon note that tastes of oysters and burnt toast.  So very interesting!

2006 Classic Vintage Brut is fresh and bright, and has a classic (no pun intended) flavor of freshly baked bread.  There is a ton of fresh lemon and bright crisp citrus as well.  With 68% Pinot Noir, it’s a great example of a Green Valley wine.

The 2007 Wedding Cuvee  has a lot more color than in most years.  The gorgeous strawberry and raspberry notes had a fresh floral feeling, with rose petals and cream.  Delicious!  This is probably my favorite Iron Horse sparkling wine.

The 2006 Brut Rose is a gorgeous deep salmon blush color.  With Blood orange and oom on the nose and almost a bit of tomato, this purpose made rose has a rich flavor that brings some thing different to the table.

The 2006 Russian Cuvee is another classic, with buttered popcorn flavors springled with fresh yeast.  It is slightly sweeter than the others and has delcious stonefruit falvors .  This is my other favorite!  Starting it’s life as the same base wine as the Classic Vintage Brut, the Russian is given a richer dosage (more sugar).  This makes the Russian more opulent, and fitting for any Czar.  It’s got a touch of sweetness, and was created for the Reagan-Gorbachev summit at the end of the Cold War.  Pretty cool!

 

Iron Horse Vineyards is located on Ross Station Road, just outside of Sebastopol in western Sonoma County.  If you go, make sure you you bring your four wheel drive and mud boots in the winter, and a hat int he summer!  Sitting on the top of a hill above the vineyards in the valley, you will be able to sip wine among the apple trees, in the outdoor tasting bar.  There is no table serviec here, just pure fun!

Happy 4th of July!

Normally, I refrain from posting anything that is particular patriotic, political, or US centric because hey – you never know who is reading my blog these days.  Today however, I feel like I have a lot to celebrate:

  1. It’s over 60 degrees in San Francisco and there is no fog on the 4th, which has happened maybe 3 times in the 36 years that I have lived here
  2. I don’t have to work today horray!  Any time I get an extra day off to drink, eat, and play is fine by me!
  3. There are great tunes playing on KFOG, my local passion radio station.  You can listen online too – and I highly recommend it!

So, here I am, making cookies for home made Its Its (if you don’t know what an Its It is, I feel sorry for you!  A Bay Area institution, this ice cream sandwich concoction is heaven in a freezer) and I popped open the Domaine Carneros Brut Rose.  Domaine Carneros makes some of my favorite domestic bubbly, and I never say no when there is some in the fridge

 

chilling.

A pale salmon copper color, this bubbly is 58% pinot noir and 42% chardonnay, where traditionally blanc de noir is all pinot.   Crisp and  refreshing, there are dry wild strawberries and white peaches.  A touch of shale and mineral gives this a nice refreshing body with hints of orange juice (no i did NOT make a mimosa first!) and spicy back notes on the finish.  It really is the perfect brunch beverage and I am enjoying it on my lazy summer day.

For $35, this is a MUST BUY if you love bubbly!

Happy drinking!

Thank you Tattinger (parent of Domaine Carneros) for providing me this yummy treat for today!

 

 

 

 

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