The changing face of Prosecco

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When you think of Prosecco, most often, you probably think of the inexpensive fizz that is poured at brunch, with a bottomless mimosa, or as an everyday drink . I admit, I was no big fan of Prosecco before I experienced the journey I’m going to share with you.  Made in the bulk, or Charmat method, the bubbles tend to be large, the flavor is – to say the least- unique, and it tended to be a bit low brow.  Or so I thought. Enter #winestudio this year, when I was exposed to the changing face of Prosecco and the new DOCG:  Prosecco Superiore.  The Prosecco Superiore DOCG has elevated the art and style of Prosecco to be not only more competitive with other sparkling wines of the world, such as American sparkling wine and Champange, but also raised the standards of quality and taste within the category. There are three DOCGs for Prosecco, Conegliano Valdobbiandene Superiore which encompasses 15 communes, Conegliano Valdobbiandene Superiore Rive, in which wines must be made from a very specific commune or vineyard, and Valdobbiandene Superiore di Cartizze, which is about 107 hectares.  All of these DOCG areas are smaller, and technically a subset of the larger Prosecco DOC, which also includes the Prosecco DOC Treviso and Asolo Prosecco DOCG.  Confused yet?  Let’s just think of it as concentric circles, where the outer ring is Prosecco DOC, and the DOCGs are smaller, inner rings, where the DOCGs fit snuggly in the center side by side.  This handy graphic above from the Prosecco folks explains it much better: Located a short 50 kilometers from Venice, Conegliano Valdobbiandene is a steeply hilled area of 15 small commnues that was originally recognized as a DOC in 1969.  When, as Italy does, the communues and productions area rules were refined and revised in 2009, the area was upgraded to a DOCG, recognizing the highest quality wines. Having had the opportunity to taste through he portfolio of both Nino Franco, as well as the vast variety of several producers from Conegliano Valdobbiadene (more on that later), I am excited at the endless styles and improved quality this Italian sparkler has to offer. These wines were provided by the winery, PR agency, and #winestudio in consideration for participation in the weekly online tastings at #winestudio.   Some participants paid a fee to receive certain wines. Before we get in to the deails of Nino Franco, let’s review what makes Prosecco Prosecco.  By definition, is not Champagne.  While the term Champagne is often used like Coke for soda, or Kleenex for tissues, it is in fact a proprietary name based on the region and a few additional factors.  Prosecco is much the same.  The most obvious difference is that Prosecco is from Italy, but it is also produced from a particular white grape – glera.  Glera is a white grape that is thought to have originated in Slovenia.  Until 2009, Glera was referred to as Prosecco in that region of Italy, making for a somewhat confusing […]

Make the Holidays Sparkle with Franciacorta

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Nothing 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. Frst 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.           The 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.   Finally, 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

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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. 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, which 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

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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

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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

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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

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At last, 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!

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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! Google

Mumm’s the word

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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 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. 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, […]

The People's Wine

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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 […]

Sparkling Stars on a budget

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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 […]

Mumm's the word!

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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 […]

Drinking for a cause!

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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!

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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 […]