My New Everyday Bubbly; Kirkland Prosecco!

A friend of mine,  who adores sparkling wine, especially Prosecco,  IM’d me last week. The message said “Martin go get yourself 2 bottles of Costco brand prosecco…….it will blow your mind for the price….I was just shocked”.

He drinks a lot of Prosecco.  That’s high praise.

Since my wife and I were hosting a wine tasting a couple of days hence, I figured I’d give it a try.  Sparkling wines make a great aperitif, and go with just about anything.

I headed over to my local Costco.  The Kirkland Prosecco sells for $7.49!

The packaging immediately reminded me of another popular Prosecco that I’m quite fond of and have purchased many times…La Marca Prosecco which also sports a blue label. It sells at Costco for $10.99.  In fact, the two were sold side by side….

photo 1 (7)

When I looked at the back label, I noticed two things:

The first thing is that the fruit was sourced from the Friuli region, rather than the more typical Veneto region.

The second thing, I noticed is that it’s imported by Cameron Hughes (“CHW”).  I recalled CHW also, relatively recently, released a Prosecco.

photo 2 (9)

I started feeling all investigative journalist - ish, so I popped over to the CHW website and checked out their Prosecco.

Hmmmm…their Prosecco is also sourced from Friuil…

Could it be the same Prosecco sold by Cameron Hughes for $14 is packaged differently and sold at Costco for $7.49?

I don’t know, but here’s what I do know…This Prosecco is flat out delicious!

Here are my detailed tasting notes…Very pale straw color with apple, citrus, brioche and honey aromas. On the palate, light-bodied and between dry and off-dry with a prickly mousse and crisp refreshing apple, mandarin orange and honey flavors. This is my new house bubbly! 11.5% alcohol| Retail – $7.49

Rating: B+: Mind blown…This one is a charmer with an amazing QPR.  Will buy (much) more. You should too!

Pair with: Great an an aperitif, it’s also versatile at the table – Some of my favorite foods to pair with Prosecco include tamales, moderately spice Asian cuisine, fish ‘n chips, and fish tacos. Works wonderfully with a wide variety of finger foods like potato chips and popcorn too. In fact, try it with Sriracha Popcorn!

Sample purchased for review

Ratings Key:
(A+) – 98-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 94-97/Outstanding
(A-) – 90-93/Excellent
(B+) – 86-89/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail
__________________________________________________________________

Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

T.G.I.F. Bubbly – Segura Viudas Aria Estate Brut

My wife and I make it a point to drink sparkling wine on a weekly basis.  It’s typically Friday night…thus “T.G.I.F. Bubbly”  It’s a celebration of sort to the end of the workweek.  She get’s to drink, and enjoy the bubbly, while I get to drink, enjoy and blog about it!  This week’s bubbly is Segura Viudas Aria Estate Brut , a Cava from Spain produced by Segura Viudas.

Cava isn’t from a particular region in Spain, rather it’s a term used for Spanish sparklers made in the traditional method (known as Méthode Champenoise) used in France.  While there are some other regions in Spain that also make Cava, about 95% of the production comes from the traditional home of Cava, the Penedes region in Catalunya (a.k.a. Catalonia) The basic rules for making wines that may be called Cava are as follows:

  • Must be made in the traditional method (secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle)
  • Must age on lees in the bottle in which it will be sold for a minimum of 9 months, 18 months for Reservas and 24 months for Gran Reservas.
  • All the grapes used for must be white grapes – the 3 most common being Macabeo (a.k.a. Viura), Parellada (pronounced pa-re-yada), and Xarel.lo (pronounced cha-rel-low) – unless you are making a Rose, in which case certain red grapes are permitted.
  •  Macabeo (a.k.a Viura in Rioja) contributes acidity, freshness, and fruitiness; Xarel-lo brings body, alcohol and depth of flavor, while Parellada adds delicacy, and elegance to the blend.

The producer, Segura Viudas, is part of the Freixenet family of wines that includes Gloria Ferrer in Sonoma.   They use proprietary yeast strains cultivated at their in-house yeast farm, in the secondary fermentation.  This cuvée is composed of 7 different base wines: 3 of Macabeo, 3 of Parellada and1 of Xarel·lo.

I’ve been keen to try this one, but I keep buying the Segura Viudas Brut Reserva which is our ”house” Cava. It’s also a wine that also made my “Top 20 Sparkling Wines Under $20” list last year.  In addition to the two wines noted here, Segura Viudas makes 5 other Cava’s imported here to the U.S. –  Extra Dry, Brut Rose, ARIA Extra Dry, ARIA Sparkling Pinot Noir, and Reserva Heredad, their top of the line Cava (which along with the Brut Rosé is on my wins to try list!).

Segura Viudas Aria

My tasting notes follow:

Very pale green yellow color with fresh bread, stone-fruit, and nutty aromas. On the palate, it’s light-bodied with a surprisingly explosive moderately soft mousse with apple, pear, and mineral flavors. Medium finish – 86pts

Rating: Recommended!  I prefer the Brut Reserva which has some citrus notes (which I prefer) that I didn’t pick up in this one, and this one is a couple of more bucks, but I’d buy again!

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food, because of their palate cleansing quality (think scrubbing bubbles;-). I think this one works well as work both as an aperitif (Kettle-style potato chips, and seasoned popcorn are coming to mind), or main courses like pizza, grilled poultry or prawns, sushi, sashimi or lobster mac and cheese. Even pair with a light dessert like shortbread cookies, or fresh fruit!

Looking for more ideas? Segura Viudas USA has one of the cooler websites I’ve seen in terms of pairing their wines with food.  They give you the choice of using their food pairing app (it’ll cost you your email address), or connecting to Facebook, and according to their website…

Using your food-related LIKEs and restaurant check ins on Facebook we can instantly find a wine that is perfectly matched to your tastes!

The Wine Geek Stuff:

  • Alcohol: 12.1% alcohol.
  • Closure: Cork
  • Where it’s from: > SpainCatalunya> Cava
  • Varietal(s): 50% Macabeo, 35% Parellada, 15% Xarel-lo
  • Production method: Traditional Method; Aged on lees at least 15 months
  • Dosage: Brut
  • Retail: $11.99 (BevMo), but available for as low as $8.
  • Cases produced: Unknown
  • Drink: Now
  • >>Find this wine<<

Wine purchased for review

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Top 20 Sparkling Wines Under $20!

Over the past couple of years I’ve made it a point to blog about sparkling wines. For a time I blogged about a different sparkling wine on a weekly basis (At one point I tried 30 different sparkling wines over a 30 week period!).  Though I’ve gotten away from it in recent months, it’s not because I stopped drinking sparkling wines (I still drink bubbly pretty much on a weekly basis; I don’t wait for a special occasion and neither should you!), rather it’s because after a year and a half of trying more than my fair share of sparkling wines from around the world, I’ve found many I enjoy that have become repeat purchases.

While I love Champagne, it’s more expensive (entry-level examples start at around $30) than its sparkling wine brethren (I did find one for under $19.99, but didn’t care for it enough to purchase it again).  There are just too many other sparkling wines i enjoy more (especially since I’m footing the bill;-)…

Please allow me a moment on the Sparkling Wine soapbox..

  • Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne, the real stuff only comes from the Champagne region of France
  • Sparking wines are great wines – drink as you would other wines (i.e. don’t limit your consumption to special occasions), including trying different styles (White, Rosé, Red, Blanc-de-blancs, Blanc-de-noirs, Brut, Extra-Dry, etc.)
  • Sparkling wines are under-appreciated food friendly wines – If I’m not sure about a food a wine pairing, you can bet I’ll reach for a bottle of bubbly!  Besides being the only wine that’s socially acceptable to have with any meal, sparkling wine is one of the few wines that can take you from appetizers to dessert!

Ok…now that that’s off my chest…

Champagne Glasses

Image couresy of Grape Sense – Glass Half Full

Your best bets for finding quality for the price sparkling wines under $20 are to:

  • Here in the U.S. – look for sales on most major California labels, Chandon, Gloria Ferrer, Mumm, and Roederer are in wide distribution and frequently significantly discounted. At least one of those brands is on sale at my local grocery store every week for less than $20 ( and often less than $15…)
  • If you prefer sparkling wine with as Champagne-like character, look for Cava from Spain, or  Crémant from France (Crémant de Bourgogne, Limoux, Alsace, and Loire). They’re produced using the same method as Champagne, so you’ll get a more yeasty character,and save some coin.
  • If you prefer sparkling wine with fruitier aromas and flavors, and you’re not hung up on the method of production, look for Prosecco from Italy.
  • Sparkling wine is made the world over, so you can find good value in sparkling wines from South Africa, Australia and even South America.

Here are my Top 20 sparkling wines under $20 (click on the bold italicized links for my more detailed blog posts from my T.G.I.F. series of weekly sparkling wine tastings) It’s a diverse list geographically, and stylistically. There is with bubbly from Argentina, Australia, California, Spain, Italy, and South Africa. And there is Brut, Rose, Blanc de Noir, and even a dessert sparkling wine. Many can be found at grocery stores, or large beverage retailers like BevMo, and Costco. Others may be more challenging to find, but are definitely worth seeking out.

  1. Taltarni Brut Tache - (Australia)  Lovely pale salmon color with floral, stone fruit (peaches/apricots), and fresh-baked scone aromas. On the palate, approaching medium-bodied, with a creamy mousse with watermelon, red berry, and a bit of hazelnut flavors. Dry with a light fruitiness, good acidity, and a clean medium long finish. >>Find this wine<<
  2. Schramsberg Mirabelle North Coast Brut Rosé - (California) Delicate pink color with strawberry and bread dough aromas.  On the palate, moderately creamy mousse, good acidity, focused, fruity, yet dry, and lively, with strawberries, raspberries and a touch of citrus, and spice flavors. Medium finish. >>Find this wine<<
  3. 2011 Raventos i Blanc L’Heure Blanc Brut Reserva - (Spain)  Very light straw yellow color with plenty of tiny bubbles, white flower, yeast, apple aromas. On the palate, a wonderful creamy mousse uncommon at this price point, dry, and approaching medium-bodied with apple, and a hint on citrus flavors. Medium finish >>Find this wine<<
  4. Törley Doux Tokaji (Hungary) The only dessert bubbly in the bunch – Pale straw yellow color with lots of pin prick sized bubbles and brioche, apricot, mineral and vanilla aromas. On the palate, it shows a creamy mousse, and is sweet but nicely balanced very good acidity with apricot, peach, and vanilla flavors. Made from Furmint grapes. 11% alcohol >>Find this wine<<
  5. Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley - (California) - Light golden straw color with plentiful, persistent stream of tiny bubbles, and sweet yeast, fresh-cut green apples aromas. On the palate, medium-bodied with soft texture, zippy acidity, between dry and off-dry with sweet green apples, a bit of pear, hazelnut and vanilla flavors.
  6. El Xamfra Cava Mercat Brut Nature - (Spain)Pale straw yellow color with lot of bubbles, and floral, stone fruit, citrus and slight sweet yeast aromas. On the palate, it has a surprisingly explosive mousse, and approached medium-bodied with stone fruit, citrus, and toasted nut flavors. Medium finish. 11.5% alcohol. Zero dosage. A great value! >>Find this wine<<
  7. Mumm Napa Brut Prestige - (California) - Light golden tinged straw color with biscuit, sweet citrus, red fruit and subtle floral aromas. In the glass it displays lots of tiny bubbles. On the palate it is medium-bodied with fairly creamy mousse and cherry, vanilla, and citrus flavors. >>Find this wine<<
  8. Vinos de Terrunos German Gilabert Penedès Brut Nature Rosat - (Spain) Cherry red color with a frothy mousse showing tiny dispersed bubbles with yeast and red fruit aromas. On the palate, it’s dry owing to zero dosage (no added sugar) with fresh cherry, raspberry, and a hint of mineral flavors. This Rosé is a blend of Trepat and Garnacha. >>Find this wine<<
  9. 2012 Antech “Cuvée Eugénie” Crémant de Limoux - (France) Light straw color with brioche, Fuji apple, and floral aromas.  On the palate, crisp with zippy acidity, a moderately creamy mousse, and sweet green apple, pear, and a bit of citrus flavors.  Medium finish. >>Find this wine<<
  10. François Chidaine Montlouis-sur-Loire Brut (France) Light straw yellow color with lots of tiny bubbles, and brioche, and apple aromas. On the palate, it has a delicate mousse, is off-dry with apple and mineral flavors. 100% Chenin Blanc >>Find this wine<<
  11. Graham Beck Brut Rosé - (South Africa) Watermelon pink color with a hint of silver with aromas of yeast, and raspberries.  On the palate, a creamy mousse, fruity, yet dry, with crisp acidity and raspberries, cherries flavors, with a slight mineral overtone, and a hint of citrus on the back palate.  Short-medium finish. Great QPR! >>Find this wine<<
  12. La Marca Prosecco - (Italy) Very pale straw yellow color with white flowers, stone fruit, and a whiff of tangerine aromas. It shows an active stream of tiny bubbles. On the palate, it’s light-bodied, and fresh with a creamy mousse and peach, and tangerine flavors. Medium finish. >>Find this wine<<
  13. Deligeroy Crémant de Loire Brut - (France) Pale yellow color with a bit of bronze tinge and brioche pear, raspberry, and mineral aromas. On the palate it was light-bodied,and between dry, and off-dry with good acidity, and a prickly mousse with pear, raspberry, and mineral flavors. A Blend of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Franc. >>Find this wine<<
  14. Scharffenberger Brut Excellence - (California) Pale yellow-bold color with tiny bead of bubbles that dissipated somewhat quickly, and bread dough, faint apple aromas. On the palate it’s light-medium bodied, with a moderately creamy mousse, and sweet fruity sweet apple, and lemon-lime flavors. >>Find this wine<<
  15. Gruet Blanc de Noirs - (New Mexico)  Salmon color with an abundance of dispersed tiny bubbles with brioche and apple aromas. On the palate approaching medium bodied with a moderately aggressive mousse, balanced with pear, sweet baking spice, vanilla, and nuanced citrus flavors. >>Find this wine<<
  16. Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut(California) – Very light straw color with persistent bead of smallish bubbles, and fresh bread, apple, citrus,and a bit of ginger aromas.  On the palate, it shows a moderately creamy mousse, with apple, pear, and citrus flavors. >>Find this wine<<
  17. Reginato “Celestina” Rosé of Malbec - (Argentina) - Intense strawberry red color with intermittent stream of tiny bubbles with baked bread and ripe cherry aromas. On the palate, fruity, yet pleasingly more dry, than off-dry with an explosive, creamy mousse, and with delicate almost imperceptible tannins, with flavors of cherries, raspberries, and a hint of spice. >>Find this wine<<
  18. Segura Viudas Brut Reserva - (Spain) Light straw color with fine bead of bubbles with bread dough and lemon-lime citrus aromas.  On the palate, light bodied, with moderately creamy mousse with green apple, and tart citrus flavors. Short finish. This one is “everyday” sparkler for me.  It’s a great value at $9/bottle! >>Find this wine<<
  19.  Blason de Bourgogne Crémant de Bourgogne Cuvée Brut(France) Very pale straw yellow color with toasty pear, citrus and hint of spice aromas and tiny bubbles. On the palate it’s fresh and fruity with pear, fuji apple, a vanilla, and sweet baking spice flavors.  Wonderful QPR @$10! Available at Trader Joe’s
  20. Korbel Natural - (California) Pale golden-yellow color with yeast ,red fruit, and apple aromas.  On the palate light bodied, crisp, between dry and off-dry.  Straight-forward with cherry, apple, minerals, and a touch of honey flavors.  Short-medium finish. >>Find this wine<< 

What are your favorite sparkling wines under $20? I’d love to give them a try!

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Pairing Wine with #SundaySupper Comfort Food Favorites

When I saw the theme for this week, ”Pairing Wine with #SundaySupper Comfort Food Favorites”, my mind was flooded with thoughts of some of my favorite comfort foods.  The thoughts seemed to come in chronological order.  My first thoughts were of my favorite comfort food when I was a child – Grilled Cheese sandwiches prepared with a ton of butter slathered on the bread, with a couple of sliced of American cheese, and a tomato! Then came my adolescent years and Beef Stroganoff, made with ground beef, popped into my head.  Isn’t it amazing how you connect food to certain memories in your life?

Seafood Gumbo

My favorite comfort food – Seafood Gumbo; Image courtesy of whatdidyoueat.typepad.com

Then I had to ask myself the $64,000 question – If you HAD to pick one favorite comfort food what would it be. After what was a few seconds, but seemed longer, of running through a myriad of possibilities, I ultimately came back to my first thought – Seafood Gumbo.  I make it each year for New Year’s Day.  We invite my folks, kids and friends by to share the deliciousness and good times.  Thinking of it puts a smile on my face.  For me, that’s the essence of the #SundaySupper movement – breaking bread with family, and friends, and making memories!

Check out this week’s dazzling array of comfort foods from the #SundaySupper team!  My recommended wine pairing are italicized.  Cheers!

Comfort Food |Soups

Pair these soups with Chardonnay.  Look the 2010 La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, which is widely available. It displays aromatic citrus, pear and hints of floral aromas that are followed by citrus, buttered toast and a hint of honey flavors.

Pair these soups with an Old World Sauvignon Blanc, which tends to have more minerality that New World Sauvignon Blancs. Look for the 2011 Domaine Cherrier Père & Fils Sancerre from France.  It displays a delightful lemon curd, verbena and herbal character.  

Pair these soups with a red Rhone Blend.  I recommend the 2011 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas (the white wine version is recommended for some main dishes below), a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Counoise. The Syrah adds dark fruit, flavors and spice.  The Grenache brightens the flavors and add acidity, while the Mourvèdre adds meatiness,  and the Counoise adds a bit of complexity.

Comfort Food  | Main Dish

Pair these main dishes with a Blanc de Noir style sparkling wine.  A Blanc de Noir is made with dark-skinned grapes used to make red wines like Pinot Noir , Pinot Meunier and/or other grapes.  I recommend the Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noir.  It’s made with  90% Pinot Noir, and has wonderful red fruit and vanilla aromas are followed by creamy red fruit and citrus flavors. 

Pair these dishes with a Chardonnay.  Look for one that is moderately oaked such as the 2010 Wild Horse Unbridled Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyards Santa Maria Valley. It has a been aged in French oak for a few months.  It has a creamy lemon, green apple, and creme brulee character accented by fresh acidity and a touch a minerality.

 Pair these dishes with a white Rhone blend.  What’s great about blends is that the combination of grape varietals creates vinous synergy – a wine that is greater than the sum of its parts. Look for the 2011 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas Blanc.  It’s a blend of Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne.  It’s a crisp and aromatic wine with honeysuckle and stone fruit aromas that follow onto the palate.  It also has very good acidity and an appealing minerality that make it versatile food partner. 

Pair these dishes with Sauvignon Blanc.  Look for the 2011 Stoneleigh Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand with enticing grapefruit, and tropical aromas with juicy stone fruit,  and tropical fruit flavors. This one is available at Costco.

Pair these dishes with Pinot Noir.  I recommend the 2011 Hahn Winery California Pinot Noir. It has wonderful cherry, lavender, and spice aromatics, that follow onto the palate.
Pair these dishes with a Sangiovese. Look for the 2009 Ninety+ Cellars Reserve Lot 57 Rosso Toscana.  It’s a blend of mostly Sangiovese (80%) with the balance split between Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.  Therefore it’s a what’s referred to as a “Super Tuscan”.  It’s loaded with blackberry, black cherry, and spice character.
Pair these hearty dishes with a hearty wine.  I recommend the 2010 Bonny Doon Vineyard Contra Old Vine Field Blend.  It’s a rich blend of Carigane, Syrah, Zinfandel, and Petite Sirah loaded with dark fruit, spice, and a bit of smoke aromas and flavors.
Pair these dishes with a hearty Zinfandel.  Look for the 2009 Artezin Mendocino County Zinfandel.  It’s a well-balanced Zinfandel with plum, clove and spice aromas, followed by raspberry, plum, black cherry, and spice flavors. 

Comfort Food | Desserts

Pair these desserts with a sweet Moscato wine.  Try the 2011 Ecco Domani Moscato with its slightly spritzy mandarine orange, nectarine and honeysuckle character.

Pair this dessert with the 2011 Frisk Prickly Riesling a blend of 89% Riesling and 11% Muscat Gordo. It’s a slightly fizzy wine with very fresh acidity, that displays pear, guava, citrus and floral aromas, followed by peach, pear and a hint of mango flavors.  Available at Costco. 

Pair these wine delightful desserts (except the Smores Hot Cocao which will be just fine on its own!) with Graham’s “Six Grapes” Port

We have a very special guest this week, Lee Woodruff, wife, mother of four, author, CBS This Morning contributor and  founder of ReMIND.org.  We would be honored to have you join us on Twitter throughout the day during #SundaySupper.  We’ll be meeting up at 7:00 pm(Eastern) for our weekly #SundaySupper  live chat where we’ll talk about our favorite Comfort Food Recipes.

All you have to do is follow the #SundaySupper hashtag or you can follow us through TweetChat.

We’d also love to feature your easy go to recipes on our #SundaySupper Pinterest board and share them with all of our followers, too.

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Five Most Food Friendly Wines For #SundaySupper

When I saw the theme for this week’s #SundaySupper - Dishes in 5 Ingredients or Less – my first thought was “Wow, that’s going to be a challenge”,  because I’ve seen the creativity and passion my  BFFs (Best Foodie Friends;-) bring to the #SundaySupper table. Then I thought, why not try to pair the undoubtedly diverse menu with only 5 five wines?  As I’m sure it was a challenge to use only 5 ingredients and still get great flavor, it’s challenge for me to limit myself to a list of the 5 most food friendly wines. Ah, but in challenge lies opportunity!

As I contemplated the five most food friendly wines, I kept coming back to wines that are flexible in structure and in style. By structure, I mean all the wines have a great backbone of acidity, a core of succulent fruit, lower alcohol, and modest or no tannins.  What I mean by style is that the grape produces wines in a wide range of styles from light to full-bodied.  That diversity of style makes these wines versatile pairing partners with a broad range of foods.

Sparkling Wines

Champagne and other sparkling wines like Cava, and Prosecco have an incredible affinity for a wide range of foods.  Aside from the aforementioned high acidity and lower alcohol, there’s the bubbly effervescence!  I always have a chilled bottle of bubbly on hand!  Unfortunately, most folks only drink bubbly when it’s a special occasion or as a cocktail without food.  But now you know better. Right?!

Sparkling wines work especially well:

  • To accompany raw fish (sushi, sashimi, oysters, etc.),
  • Tart foods: citrus, vinegars, pomegranate, dill, capers, and tomatoes
  • As a counterpoint for foods that are salty, moderately spicy, rich and creamy, or deep-fried. (For example, a classic pairing is buttered popcorn with sparkling wine)
  • With many Latin dishes (empanadas ceviche and mole), Asian cuisines (Tempura, gyoza, Chinese deep-fried dishes, fish cakes, Indian Samosas, etc.), Middle Eastern dishes (hummus, baba ghanoush)
  • To accompany dishes that are challenging to pair with other wines like egg dishes and soups.
  • To pair with dishes that are inherently toasty like canapes or puff-pastry dishes.

Riesling

Riesling is widely regarded as the most food friendly white wine.  It’s among the most versatile wines because it’s made in a wide range of sweetness, from bone-dry to very sweet dessert style wines.

Riesling goes well:

  • Almost any fatty poultry like goose, duck and other gamy birds.
  • Rich, salty meats such as ham, sausages, and charcuterie. LIkewise for mildly salty cheeses such as Gorgonzola.
  • Sweet shellfish such as crab, lobster, and prawns.
  • Dishes seasoned with exotic spices, such as curries, cardamom, clove, mace, star anise, etc.
  • Quiche and other egg-based dishes.

Sauvignon Blanc

You know how a squeeze of lemon seems to enhance almost anything?  I think of Sauvignon Blanc as a vinous equivalent.  It can be a polarizing wine. It’s a bit like cilantro – people tend to either love it or hate it.  But since this a wine that is made in a diverse range of style, I believe there is something for virtually everyone.  It’s a matter of finding the style that suites you!

Sauvignon Blanc goes well:

  • With dishes emphasizing fresh herbs, or dressed with a  vinaigrette dressing.
  • With dishes prepared with a variety of cooking methods, from low-impact such as steamy to high-impact such as smoking, and grilling.
  • With most vegetarian soups.
  • As a counterbalance to rich dishes made with light-cream or butter-based sauces.
  • With acidic or sharp ingredients such as citrus, dairy (yogurt, sour cream,etc) dill, capers, olives, and tomatoes.
  • With spicy hot dishes – the acidity and generally lower alcohol level refreshes the palate.
  • With a wide variety of cheeses. Goat cheese is the classic pairing, but try it with Brie, Gruyere, Neufchatel, or sharp cheddar.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is known as the Chef’s wine  because its affinity for such a broad range of foods. It’s also the wine most often described in sensual terms! Depending on the vintner’s choices, it can be delicate and light-bodied, or bold and full-bodied!

Pinot Noir pairs well with:

  • Damn near everything (which is why it’s often the first choice for a food-a-palooza like Thanksgiving) because it’s so flexible.
  • Dishes that complement its inherently spicy flavors such as dishes spiced with coriander, cumin, cinnamon, or ginger.
  • With foods that are smoked, lightly charred, or grilled, especially if you’re serving one with a more oak-driven style.
  • Many fish – especially Salmon, tuna or swordfish.
  • With veggies (especially mushrooms) and dishes with earthier flavors such as cooked beans, greens, lentils, or dishes seasoned with Dijon mustard.
  • A multitude of Asian cuisines – Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean foods.  That’s because these cuisines often have sweet-salt flavor combinations with which Pinot Noir plays well.

Sangiovese

Sangiovese is produced  in diverse range of styles.  In Italy, where the wines are named after geographical regions rather than the grape varietal, there is, of course, Chianti, but there’s also Brunello, Montepulciano, and “Super Tuscan” variations of Sangiovese.

Sangiovese goes well:

  • With dishes with tomato-based sauces.
  • Dishes  that are slow braised, grilled, or lightly smoked.
  • With dishes featuring fresh herbs such as basil, thyme or sage.
  • Richer, full-bodied soups such a bean soup, or minestrone.
There you have it, my short-list of the 5 most food friendly wines (for a more comprehensive list click here)!  Equipped with these five wines, and spirit of exploration to find what works for your palate, pairing food and wine will go from daunting to delightful!  I’ve added a new feature this week.  Click on the hyperlinked name of the wine to find where you can buy. Also, since I’m limiting my wine recommendations to five, no dessert pairing this week:-(

Here is this week’s great #SundaySupper menu:

Breakfast, Starters, Butters and Jams:

Pair these dishes with Korbel Natural, a “California Champagne” made of 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay.  It’s a crisp, dry sparkler with cherry, raspberry and apple character.

Main Dishes:

Pair these main dishes with the Korbel Natural mentioned above:

Pair these dishes with Sauvignon Blanc.  Look for the 2011 Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc Te Muna Road Vineyard. It’s from New Zealand and it’s full of citrus, gooseberry and tropical fruit character:

Pair these dishes with a Riesling.  One of my favorites is the 2010 Trimbach Riesling.  It’s dry wine from the Alsace region with delicate aromas that belie its rich, fruity tropical fruit, peach and citrus flavors:
Pair these dishes with Pinot Noir.  Look for the 2009 Dashwood Marlborough Pinot Noir from New Zealand.  This one has a fruity cherry, raspberry, herb, and spice character. 
Pair these dishes with a Sangiovese. Look for the 2009 Ninety+ Cellars Reserve Lot 57 Rosso Toscana.  It’s a blend of mostly Sangiovese (80%) with the balance split between Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.  Therefore it’s a what’s referred to as a “Super Tuscan”.  It’s loaded with blackberry, black cherry, and spice character.

Desserts:

Please be sure you join us on Twitter throughout the day during #SundaySupper. We’ll be meeting up at 7:00 pm(Eastern) for our weekly #SundaySupper live chat where we’ll talk about our favorite 5 Ingredient Recipes! All you have to do is follow the #SundaySupper hashtag, or you can follow us through TweetChat!

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What Are The Best Types of Wines For Picnics?

Now that Memorial Day weekend upon us.  And it’s widely considered to be the unofficial beginning of summer.  And summer is primetime for picnics….well you get the picture.  Here’s a list of the types of wines that will be a good match for picnic fare, along with some recommendations to get you started!

12 Most Picnic Friendly Wines

After a couple of weeks of much-needed rain, Spring is finally getting “Spring—ish” here in Northern California. For the first time this year, temperatures in the 80s are being forecast and my thoughts have turned to warm temperatures and al fresco dining, especially picnics.

Picnic wines are different than BBQ wines. BBQ is all about bold and spicy flavors, whereas picnic foods compose a broader range of lighter foods like salads of all kinds, cold fried chicken, charcuterie, cheeses, ripe fruits etc., mostly served cold.

Great picnic wines are 1) Light and refreshing, 2) A good match for a variety of foods, and 3) Inexpensive ($20 or less).

Image courtesy of thriftysolutionsforanurbangal.blogspot.com

1. Rosé

A dry Rosé would be my first choice. Rosé combines the best of white and red wines, while maintaining their own unique charm. They possess the crisp acidity, delicacy and freshness of white wines, and the body, and flavors of red wines. Look for Bodegas Muga Rosado.

2. Cava

Cava is perfect for picnics. It’s produced using the traditional style Champagne method, which can lend a bit of complexity to it. And bubbly will add that extra celebratory feel to your picnic. Here’s another advantage of sparkling wines — Forget the corkscrew? — No problem with sparklers!! I recommend Segura Viudas Gran Reserva Cava.

3. Rose Sparkling Wine

For some vinous synergy, go with a Sparkling Rose wine. They go with virtually anything you serve for your picnic. I recommend Mumm Napa Brut Rose.

4. Vinho Verde

Vinho Verde is a wine from Portugal. Vinho Verde isn’t a grape variety. While it literally means ‘green wine”, it translates into “young wine” – as in it’s meant to be consumed within a year of bottling. It’s made in white, red, and rose styles. Vinho Verde has a hint of effervescence which is further enhances its refreshing qualities. Go with either a white or rose Vinho Verde. Look for Quinta de Aveleda.

5. Torrontés

Wine made from this grape (Argentina’s only truly indigenous grape) produces a juicy fragrant wine with citrus pineapple and spice flavors. This would be a great match for a seafood, or spicy Asian salad. I recommend the Bodegas Colome Torrontés Estate.

6. Riesling

It’s probably the most food-friendly white wine. Choose either a dry or off-dry (slightly sweet) style. Look for Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling.

7. Chardonnay

Look for a lighter style, either an un-oaked or a lightly-oaked, chardonnay because it will be a better match for a broader range of foods than the heavily oaked style. I recommend Joseph Drouhin Macon Villages.

8. Sauvignon Blanc

This is a classic picnic wine because it’s fresh and crisp, with a citrusy flavor profile and lively acidity. It’s a great match for goat cheese! Look for Casa Lapostolle Sauvignon Blanc from Chile.

9. Moscato

If your taste in wine leans toward the sweeter side, try Moscato. It’s like summertime in a glass with its fruity orange blossom, tropical, citrus, or melon aromas and a touch of effervescence. If you’ve got something spicy in your picnic basket, the sweetness will tame the heat. The best are from Italy. I recommend Martini and Rossi Moscato d’Asti.

10. Albariño

Albariño is a refreshing light, juicy and aromatic Spanish wine. I like it because, along with some citrus, it brings melon or peach to the party. Look for Burgans Albariño Rias Baixas.

11. Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir, a.k.a. the “Chef’s wine” is so named because it goes with such a wide range of foods. It’s also a red wine that takes a bit of a chill well (put it in an ice/water bath in your cooler for 10-15 minutes) if the alcohol level is not too high (preferably below 14%). It’d be great with anything with mushrooms. Look for 2008 Gloria Ferrer Pinot Noir.

12. Sangria

For a bit of home-made flavor, make your own sangria. It’s easy to make and can be made with either red, or white wine. Sangria is a great way to capitalize on the bounty of fresh fruits coming into season — and make sangria that’s all your own! Click here for some recipes.

Happy picnicking! What are your favorite picnic wines?

This article was previously featured on 12 Most and is republished, by the author Martin Redmond

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like…NV Scharffenberger Brut Excellence

This week’s sparkler is from Scharffenberger Cellars.  I don’t know about you, but I was more familiar with the Scharffenberger name through Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker, than Scharffenberger Cellars.   John Scharffenberger founded both.  Scharffenberger Cellars was established in 1981 in Anderson Valley.  It’s been through a few transitions, including being called Pacific Echo from 1998 through July 2004. The name has been restored back to Scharffenberger Cellars under the management of Maisons Marques & Domaines, the U.S. sales and marketing arm for Champagne Louis Roederer and its California winery, Roederer Estate (which also happens to be located in Anderson Valley. They’re about 5 miles apart).  Scharffenberger later, along with Robert Steinberg, established Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker in 1996.

As a mostly irrelevant aside…Scharffen Berger chocolates is one of my all time favorite chocolate makers (I’m giving up chocolate for Lent this year – but I have a Scharffen Berger Limited Edition Bên Tre Dark Chocolate Bar with my name on it waiting for me.  As I write this I’m seriously jonesing for it as I literally count down the hours until Easter – um…but I digress ;-)  Yum…er Um…yes this is a wine blog.  On the bubbly!

NV Scharffenberger Brut Excellence

NV Scharffenberger Brut Excellence

Where it’s from: USA>CaliforniaNorth Coast>Mendocino County

The grape(s) Chardonnay (67%), and Pinot Noir (33%)

Production method: Méthode Traditionelle; Aged about 2 years on lees

Alcohol: 12%

Retail: $19; I purchased for $16 at the Wine Mine 

My tasting notes follow:

Pale yellow-bold color with tiny bead of bubbles that dissipated somewhat quickly, and bread dough, faint apple aromas. On the palate it’s light-medium bodied, with a moderately creamy mousse, and sweet fruity sweet apple, and lemon-lime flavors. Short finish. 

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food, because of their palate cleansing quality (think scrubbing bubbles;-). This one would make an excellent aperitif, but would also be a good match with lighter foods like seafood, or  pasta or risotto dishes, especially those creamy sauces rather than tomato sauce.

This is a very good bubbly, and at $16 is a good value (and may be found for less).  It’s comparable to other entry-level sparklers from Gloria Ferrer, Mumm, and Chandon. It’s a bit more challenging to find, but worth seeking out. I’d buy again, especially if couldn’t find one of the aforementioned sparklers on sale. (Click here to find this wine)

Wine Of The Week: NV Contadi Castaldi Franciacorta Rosé

My wine of the week for March 17-23 is the NV Contadi Castaldi Franciacorta Rosé.  Franciacorta, refers both to the territory, located in the Lombardy region of Italy, and the sparkling wine produced from grapes grown within the boundaries of the territory.  Since 1995, Franciacorta has had DOCG status, the highest echelon of Italian wine classifications, applied solely to the sparkling wines produced in the region.  Here’s a quick rundown on the main regulations that come along with that DOCG status:

  • Franciacorta is the only region in Italy that requires sparkling wine be made by the traditional method (“metodo classico” in Italian)
  • Grapes are grown in strictly delimited vineyards from within 19 different communes
  • Permitted grapes are Chardonnay, Pinot Nero, and Pinot Bianco, with 85% planted Chardonnay, 10% to Pinot Nero, and 5% to Pinot Bianco
  • Non-vintage (NV) Franciacorta must aged at least 25 months after harvest, with at least 18 months in contact with the yeast in the bottle
  • Vintage Franciacorta must be aged at least 37 months after harvest, with a least 37 months in contact with yeast in the bottle
  • Franciacorta rosé must contain at least 15% Pinot Nero
  • Dosage levels(i.e., the level of sweetness) are exactly as they are in Champagne

You’re probably pretty familiar with the most popular kinds of Italian bubbly (a.k.a “spumante” in Italian), Prosecco, and Asti Spumante, which are often described as alternatives to Champagne. Think of Franciacorta as Italy’s answer to Champagne!  So while Prosecco and Asti are almost always produced using the less expensive Charmat bulk process, Franciacorta is produced using the same traditional method used in Champagne.

Here’s an interesting factoid.  The producer of this wine, Contadi Castaldi, is the only winery to have vineyards in all 19 communes permitted to grow grapes for production of Franciacorta.

My tasting notes follow:

Beautiful copper color with steady bead of pin-prick bubbles, and brioche, fruity, fresh red fruit aromas. On the palate, it displays a creamy mousse, and is approaching medium-bodied with fresh strawberry, raspberry flavors, and a hint of spice flavors. Medium finish.  65% Chardonnay, and 35% Pinot Nero

It’s always fun for me to try something new.  As I like to say, I’m very much still in the “promiscuous” phase of my oenophilic journey, and I’m glad I’ve had the pleasure of Franciacorta.  It’s got me thinking of an Italian mènage à trois…Prosecco as an aperitif, Franciacorta for the entrée, and Asti for dessert.  That my friends will be bubblelicious!

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like…2007 Schramsberg Crémant Demi-Sec

This week’s bubbly is from Schramsberg. Schramsberg is Napa’s second oldest winery (Charles Krug, established in 1861 was the first winery in Napa) according to Keith Hock, the winemaker.  It was established in 1862.

Schramsberg produced California’s first Crémant in 40 years ago.   Crémant is French for “creamy” and traditionally referred to a wine with light effervescence (less carbon dioxide equals fewer bubbles), and lower bottle pressure.  Traditional Champagne, and other sparkling wines are bottled at 5-6 atmospheres, whereas this wine is bottled at 2-3 atmospheres. The lower pressure results in the wine having a creamier, softer feel in your mouth.  Crémant, in the traditional sense, made with less carbon dioxide and bottle pressure is relatively rare these days.  Nowadays crémant refers to a French sparkling wine made outside of the Champagne region (Loire, Burgundy, Languedoc-Roussillon, etc.).

Aside from the fact that this wine is intentionally produced at less pressure to create a creamy mouthfeel, the other thing I found interesting about it, is that it was produced using the Flora grape, a unique grape which is a cross of Semillon and Gewürztraminer developed at UC Davis.

2007 Schramsberg Cremant Demi-Sec

2007 Schramsberg Crémant Demi-Sec

Where its from: California>; North Coast (66% Napa, 17% Mendocino, 16% Sonoma, 1% Marin)

The grape(s) 67% Flora, 18% Chardonnay, 15% Gewürztraminer

Production method: Méthode Champenoise; Aged about 2 years on lees

Alcohol: 13%

Retail: $38 (Paid $30)

My tasting notes follow:

Pale gold color with a nice bead of tiny bubbles with fruity stone fruit aromas. On the palate it’s creamy, medium-bodied with zesty acidity, and white peach, apricot, mango, and baking spice note flavors. Medium finish

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food, because of their palate cleansing quality (think scrubbing bubbles;-). I enjoyed this with a couple of different desserts. It worked well with a plain cheesecake, but I thought it was even better with apple strudel. It would also be a good match for fruit tarts, light cakes, panna cotta, or crème brûlée. While the first thing that comes to mind for me is dessert, it would also work well with spicy Asian food, bleu cheeses or foie gras.

I heartily recommend! 89pts (Click here to find this wine)

T.G.I.F. Champagne And The Like…NV Nicolas Feuillatte “Blue Label” Brut Champagne

Have you ever wondered what’s the best-selling brand of Champagne in France?  Sure, all the big names in Champagne are there, but I’m thinking the average middle-class French consumer doesn’t have the coin for Moet and Mumm on a regular basis.   The answer is the maker of this week’s bubbly, Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte.  Feuillatte hit my radar on the on the strength of favorable staff reviews at my favorite wine retailer K&L Wines Merchants.

Last year Feuillatte celebrated their 35th anniversary. That makes them a baby when compared to  brands such Moet & Chandon,or Veuve Clicquot, which are 200+ years old.  Not only is Feuillatte the best selling brand of Champagne in France, it is also the number three brand in world-wide sales behind Moet and Veuve Clicquot.

Surely some of their meteoric rise is due to savvy marketing, like their “One Fo(u)r Fun” mini bottles of Champagne with a wrist strap, or their iPhone App with a  virtual toast where the user can pop a bottle of Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte and pour it in to a friend’s virtual flute, but make no mistake, they source high-quality fruit for their Champagne. Additionally, Feuillatte has been making quarter bottles of Champagne since 1990, and today is the market leader in the segment.

This week’s Champagne a.k.a. Brut Resèrve Particulière  is their entry level offering.  In addition to this Champagne they offer six other in the “Essentials” line, four “Gourmet” Champagnes, and the aforementioned One Fo(u)r Fun mini bottles.

NV Nicolas Feuillatte “Blue Label” Brut Champagne

Where it from: FranceChampagne

The grape(s)  40%Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier, 20% Chardonnay

Residual Sugar – Unknown

$25 – Retail , 12% a.b.v.

Production method: Méthode Champenoise;  Aged just under 3 years on lees

My tasting notes follow:

Pale gold color with brioche, spice, and dried fruit aromas. On the palate it is creamy, and light-medium bodied with apple, and pear flavors with a hint of honey. Medium finish

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food, because of their palate cleansing quality (think scrubbing bubbles;-). This was very nice as an aperitif, and just as nice with food.  Pair with fish tacos, light pasta dishes, or just for fun popcorn!

This is a very good sparkler. I prefer it to the ubiquitous Veuve Clicquot  and it cost $20 less!  I recommend!  89pts   (Click here to find this wine)