Wine Pairings for Home for the Holidays #SundaySupper

This week’s #SundaySupper theme “Home for the Holidays”, and is all about holiday traditions. Americans are such a diverse people.  As such, we have diverse holiday traditions that reflect our multitude of heritages. I prefer to focus on the common threads that run through the our diverse national fabric.  Among those common threads are family and tradition, and that’s  #SundaySupper movement is all about.

Our family tradition is to gather on Christmas Eve for our holiday meal and opening gifts (it used to be one gift when I was a kid, and when my kids were small – since we all adults now, and getting together can be like herding cats, we just open all the gifts on Christmas Eve). We’ve enjoyed Prime Rib, the last couple of years, but don’t really have a long-standing standard holiday meal. I guess, it’s more about getting together than what we eat.

Wine Lights Candles

Image courtesy of winecellarage.com

For this week’s “Home for the Holidays” theme, as best as I can, my wine pairing recommendations will reflect our diversity.  Aside from wanting to make my wine pairing recommendations congruent with this week’s theme, my reason for doing so also reflects some pragmatic food and wine pairing advice…that is pair the foods of a place with the wines of that place (Spanish wines with Spanish food, German wine with German food, etc).The flavors of food and wines that have “grown up” together over centuries (at least primarily in the case of the European “Old World” countries) are almost always a natural match. So where I could readily discern a heritage of the dish, my wine pairing recommendation(s) will be for a wine from that country. Of course, there are exceptions, but keeping this guideline in mind is a great place to start.

Here is this week’s stellar line-up of dishes.  My wine pairing recommendations are italicized.

Breakfast

Pair these breakfast dishes (except the coffee cake) with sparkling wine. Nothing like adding some sparkle to your morning to start the day!.  Look for Scharffenberger Brut Excellence, a California sparkling wine from Mendocino County.  It’s a blend of Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir with a lovely red fruit, apple, citrus and a touch of honey character.  

Pair the coffee cake with the Broadbent 10 year Malmsey Madeira. One of the things I appreciate about Madeira is that it’s relatively indestructible.  Once opened, it will keep for at least 6 months.  It’s a great dessert wine to keep on hand because it has a backbone of natural acidity.  It a great match for fruitcake, or rich desserts made with cream or chocolate. Or it can be the dessert in and of itself (If you have a sweet tooth, Madeira can satisfy it, and it has few calories too most other dessert choices!;-) 

Appetizers & Snacks

Pair these dishes with the Scharffenberger Brut Excellence

Main Dishes and Sides

Pair this 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 the following dishes with the 2011 Burgáns Albariño Rias Baixas a crisp, fresh food-friendly white wine from Spain with a crisp apple, apricot and peach character. 

Pair these dishes with Gruner Vetliner (Groo-ner Velt-Leen-er), the primary white grape variety of Austria.  It is typically medium-bodied, high-acid mineral driven wine that is very food friendly.  Look for the 2011 Laurenz V. Singing Gruner Veltliner. 

Pair these dishes with Sangiovese (that is if you prefer wine over the delightful Martinis;-). I recommend the 2010 La Mozza I Perazzi Morellino di Scansano. It’s a “Super-Tuscan blend of 85% Sangiovese, 5% Syrah, 5% Alicante, 2% Colorino and 3% Ciliegiolo.  It shows a wonderful mixed berry, and spice character with a bit of smoky tobacco, and licorice aromas. 

Pair this dish with the Scharffenberger Brut Excellence sparkling wine:

Pair these dishes with Torrontes, a white Argentine wine grape variety that produces delightful, spicy, perfumed wines.  Look for the 2011 Bodega Colome Torrontes. It’s off-dry with an aromatic fresh citrus, kiwi, and white flower character. 

Pair these dishes with a Riesling.  One of my favorites is the 2011 Josef Leitz Rüdesheimer Drachenstein “Dragonstone” Riesling. It’s an off-dry Riesling with an apple, pear, citrus, and mineral character with great acidity. 

Pair this dish with the 2009 Boas Vinhas Tinto Dao, a red wine from Portugal that is a blend of the indigenous Portuguese grapes Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro and Tinta Roriz with a  plum, dried berry, blackberry and spice character that is layered with supple tannins and good acidity.

Pair this dish with a Moscato d’Asti Moscato d’Asti from Italy.  Look for the 2011 Saracco Moscato d’Asti. It shows a sweet, fragrant, delicate, floral, tropical fruit, and a hint of honey character.  It’s “frizzante”, which means it’s not as effervescent as most sparkling wines. It’s also a wonderful example of why I love sparkling wines, they can work with all the courses of a meal from appetizers through dessert. 

Desserts

Pair these desserts with a Sauternes,  a sweet wine from the Sauternais region of the Graves section of Bordeaux. They are made from  SémillonSauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes affected by noble rot.  Look for the 2005 Guiraud Sauternes.  It has a full-bodied, honeyed, lemon tart, baked apple, baking spice, and  vanilla cream character

Pair these desserts with an Oloroso Sherry, a denser richer style of Sherry.  Look for the Lustau East Indian Solera. It’s a provocative sweet creamy Sherry with a toffee, fig, caramel, raisin, and baking spice  (cinnamon and clove) character. 

Pair these Italian desserts with the 2011 Saracco Moscato d’Asti.

Pair this dish with a late harvest Riesling.  Look for the  2011 Joh. Jos. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese. It’s a has an elegant, floral, spicy, exotic, and tropical fruit character. 

Pair this dish with an a German Red wine made from the Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir) grape variety. Look for the 2009 Friedrich Becker Estate Pinot Noir.  It’s a spicy treat with a strawberry, cherry, and earthy character that will stand up to having the Pfeffernusse dipped in it, or used as a based for gluhwein, a spiced red wine drink!

Drinks

What does it mean for you to be Home for the Holidays?  Please join on us on Twitter throughout the day during #SundaySupper on December 23rd.  In the evening we will meet at 7pm EST for our #SundaySupper to talk about our Holiday Traditions.  We are so excited to have you join us.  All you have to do is follow the #SundaySupper hashtag or you can follow us through TweetChat.

Please feel free to share with us and our followers your favorite Holiday recipe on our #SundaySupper Pinterest Board.  We are excited to have you!

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. 2010 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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Wine of the Week; 2005 Domaine Carneros Le Rêve

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  My Wine Of The Week is the 2005 Domaine Carneros Le Rêve

The Winery

Domaine Carneros was founded in 1987 by Champagne Taittinger of France in partnership with Kobrand Corporation. It is located in the heart of Carneros in Napa Valley, along with Gloria Ferrer. The Carneros terroir is ideally suited to producing Chardonnay,and Pinot Noir, typically the backbone of both Champagne, and California Sparkling wine.  That’s because Carneros offers cool nights, foggy mornings, and sunny, breezy days offering fruit of extraordinary elegance, complexity, and intensity.

Domaine Carneros is a beautiful Chateau that was built in 1988. The building was inspired by historic Chateau de la Marquetterie in Champagne France, which is the estate home of the Taittinger family.

 

The Wine

Domaine Carneros sources 95% of their fruit from organic estate vineyards, and all of their wines are labeled with the Carneros appellation.  Eileen Crane is CEO/Founding Winemaker.

This wine is a Blanc de Blancs,  which means the wine is produced from all white grapes. Le Rêve, which translates to “the dream” in French, is considered to be the tête du cuvee  (flagship wine) of the winery.  The wine is aged 6 years in Domaine Carneros’ cellars, carved into the hillside beneath the winery, before release.

2005 Domaine Carneros Le Reve

2005 Domaine Carneros Le Reve

My tasting notes follow

Light straw color with persistent bead of tiny bubbles, with brioche baked pear, tropical fruit, and a touch of mineral aromas. On the palate it shows a soft creamy mousse, and is elegant, balanced, and complex with stone fruit, apple, tropical fruit, and mineral flavors. Long finish – 93pts.

Rating: Highly recommended!

Pair with: It makes a great apéritif, but is also fantastic with fresh oysters and other shellfish, crab cakes,  and ceviche.  Try with an aged Gouda or other hard cheeses. And it makes a delicious counterpoint with triple cream cheeses.

The Wine Geek Stuff:

Alcohol: 12% alcohol.

Closure: Cork

AVA: > CaliforniaNapa / SonomaCarneros

Varietal(s): 99%% Chardonnay, 1% Pinot Blanc

Cooperage: Aged on lees in the bottle for five and one-half years

Retail: $95

Cases produced: 4,450

Purchased for review

Related posts you might enjoy:

T.G.I.F. Champagne And The Like…Piper Sonoma Brut

This week’s sparkler is from Piper Sonoma.  I’m not sure why I haven’t tried this wine before, but it’s the only Northern California sparkling wine producer whose bubbly I’ve not had the pleasure of trying.

Piper Sonoma was founded in 1980 by the Piper-Heidseick Champagne house.  This brand seems to be lagging behind other California sparking wine houses established by French Champagne houses like Chandon, Mumm,  Taittinger and Roederer.  It’s exchanged hands a few times.  Last year it,  along with Piper-Heidsieck and Charles Heidsieck brands from the Champagne region of France, was sold by  Rémy Cointreau to the Société Européenne de Participations Industrielles, or EPI.  Prior to that, Rémy Cointreau USA sold the winery to J Vineyards & Winery in 1997 and continued to make wine under contract there until 2007.  Then the brand was sold to Rack & Riddle Custom Wine Services in Hopland, followed by Rémy brand Bearboat.

This cuvée is a typical blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier that includes 20-25% reserve wines. Between 75-80% of the fruit is from Sonoma with the balance being from Dry Creek, and Carneros.

Piper Sonoma Brut

Where it’s from: California>Sonoma Valley

The grape(s) Chardonnay (60%), Pinot Noir (15%),  and Pinot Meunier (25%)

Production method: Traditional Method 

Alcohol: 13.5

Dosage: Brut

Aging: 18 months on less

 Retail: $18 (I purchased on sale for $12 – it’s frequently on sale at my local Safeway)

My tasting notes follow:

Light yellow straw color with lots of tiny bubbles with toasty biscuit, apple, and hints of floral and citrus aromas. On the palate, it’s between light, medium-bodied, and crisp with a surprisingly creamy mousse and green apple, vanilla, anise and mineral flavors. Medium finish. – 86pts

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food, because of their palate cleansing quality (think scrubbing bubbles;-). This one would be wonderful as an aperitif ,  and with first courses, such lobster rolls, crab cakes, or deviled eggs or salads.

Recommendation: This is a very good sparkler.  I see it as a step up from many of the Korbel sparklers, but sold at a price point just below comparable entry-level sparklers from Mumm, Chandon, Gloria Ferrer, etc.  It’s a “tweener” that offers good value at the sale price of $11.99.

Cheers!

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like…2007 Korbel Rouge

This week’s sparkler is from Korbel, which was founded in 1882.  They are one of the few US producers that include “Champagne” in the name of their products, rather than sparkling wine.  That’s because of a loophole in US laws that allows “semi-generic” products such as sparkling wine to be referred to as “Champagne” as long it’s labeled such that the name of the appellation of the place of origin is on the label.  For example, you’ll note this wine referred to as “Sonoma County Champagne” on the label below.  Ostensibly, this is meant to prevent consumer confusion, in this case, with “Champagne” produced in France in the region with the same name.

They sell over 1 million cases of “California Champagne” produced using the Méthode Champenois, so they can rightfully claim to be America’s most popular Champagne.

From a quality perspective, no one will mistake Korbel for Champagne, but the reality is that for the average American consumer all sparkling wines are referred to as “Champagne”.   And, I think that’s  Korbel’s market, the average American consumer.

2007 Korbel Rouge

2007 Korbel Rouge

Where it’s from: California>Sonoma County

The grape(s) Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel

Production method: Traditional Method 

Alcohol: 12.5%

Dosage: 1%

 Retail: $14

My tasting notes follow:

Ruby color with yeasty and cherry aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied with a moderately course mousse and cherry, spice and subtle cola flavors. Short finish. – 85 pts

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 would be pleasant as a sipper, but it’s better with food.  I drank it over the course of a couple of days.  One day I enjoyed it with spaghetti with spicy Italian sausage, and the next day it was spicy combination Indian tandoori  platter.  It was a very good match for both, but especially the tandoori.  This would be a nice Thanksgiving sparkler, or even BBQ (especially smoked meats) as well.

Red sparklers are a challenge to find, but I enjoyed this, especially with food.  I would buy again if it were more easily accessible.

Sparkling Wine Smackdown…Ten Sparklers; One Winner!

The most recent meeting of the Pacific Pointe Wine Tasting Club (“PPWTC”) was all about bubbly.  It also happened to be the 2nd anniversary of the PPWTC.  It was a great night of bubbly, food, and friends.   It’s been most is gratifying to experience the growth, and evolution of our wine club, and its members.

I want to give a special shout out to Jojo and Joy for co-hosting these last couple of years.  They are always fabulous hosts, and throw a great party…er wine tasting club meeting ;-) second to none!

As for the 10 sparklers, it was a diverse group dominated by California sparklers, but that also included 2 bottles from Champagne, a Prosecco from Italy, and even a sparkler from Bulgaria (which turned out to be pretty much undrinkable – I knew something was up I pulled the plastic cork)!

All Set Up And Ready For The Sparkler Smackdown (photo courtesy of Jojo Ong)

The ten sparklers we blind-tasted, in order, were:

  1. NV Domaine Chandon Brut Classic (Napa Valley>Yountville)
  2. NV Trader Joe’s Blanc de Blancs (California)
  3. NV Mumm Napa Cuvée Napa Brut (Napa Valley)
  4. NV Sarl Chopin Champagne Charles de Marques Brut (Champagne)
  5. NV La Marca Prosecco di Conegliano Tiffany Blue Label (Italy>Veneto>Prosecco>Conegliano)
  6. NV Nicolas Feuilatte Champagne (Champagne)
  7. NV Gloria Ferrer Brut (Sonoma County)
  8. 2007 Domaine Carneros Brut (Napa Valley>Carneros)
  9. NV Mumm Napa Brut Prestige (Napa Valley)
  10. NV Christa Sparkling White Wine (Targovishte, Bulgaria)

PPWTC 2nd Anniversary Photo (photo courtesy of Jojo Ong)

The winner with an average score of 89.6 point is….

NV La Marca Prosecco di Conegliano Tiffany Blue Label

No surprise here for me.  Prosecco is fruity and easy, and this one is very good!  Around $12. Here’s a tasting note from the La Marca website:

This sparkling wine is pale, golden straw in color. Bubbles are full textured and
persistent. On the nose the wine brings fresh citrus with hints of honey and white floral
notes. The flavor is fresh and clean, with ripe citrus, lemon, green apple, and touches of
grapefruit, minerality, and some toast. The finish is light, refreshing, and crisp

It’s widely available…pick up a bottle and give it a try! Cheers!

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like…2005 Iron Horse Vineyard Russian Cuvée

This week it’s another  sparkler is from Iron Horse Vineyards in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma.  It’s one of four Sonoma sparkling wine houses (the others being J, Korbel and Gloria Ferrer) in Sonoma County. They are a family owned winery founded by Audrey and Barry Sterling.  Iron Horse produces a variety of vintage sparkling wines along with still wines (Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay).  The winery produced their first estate Chardonnay in 1978, officially opened in 1979, and produced their first sparkling wine in 1980.  All Iron Horse sparklers are estate bottled and vintage except for Joy!, their cuvée de prestige that is aged 10-15 years on lees, and available only in magnums.

The Russian Cuvée commemorates the sparkling wines Iron Horse made for the Reagan-Gorbachev Summit meetings from 1985-89 that ended the Cold War.  It has a slightly higher residual sugar than the Brut Classic, and a higher percentage of Pinot Noir as well.  Speaking of Pinot Noir, I’ve notice a distinct trend of personally favoring sparklers with a higher percentage of Pinot Noir.  Have you taken note of whether you prefer a dominant grape variety in the sparkling wines you enjoy the most?

2005 Iron Horse Vineyards Russian Cuvée (click to enlarge)

2005 Iron Horse Russian Cuvée 

Region: California>Sonoma>Green Valley

Variety - 75% Pinot Noir 25% Chardonnay

Residual Sugar – 1.4 g/100mll

$33 – Retail , 13.5% a.b.v.

Production method: Méthode traditionnelle;  Aged an average of 4 years on lees

My tasting notes follow:

Appearance: Straw yellow color with lot of pin-prick bubbles

Aromas: Sweet yeast, apple and stone-fruit aromas

Body: Light-medium bodied with a creamy mousse

Taste: Apple, cherry, and vanilla flavors.

Finish: Short

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food, because of their palate refreshing quality (think scrubbing bubbles;-). This was delightful as an aperitif and would be delightful with food because it’s approaching medium bodied.   That little bit of extra residual sugar would enable this sparkler to pair well with moderately spicier foods like curries, or try with sweet and sour chicken.  According to Iron Horse, it would be great with a BLT too.  Now there’s an idea!

This is a very good sparkler, and compares favorably with entry-level Champagne. I recommend!  88pts   (Click here to find this wine)

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Top 10 Sparkling Wines Under $20

Over the last 30 or so weeks I’ve enjoyed sparkling wines from around the world on a weekly basis, and blogged about it in my “T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like… series.  One of the things I’ve learned, is that there are plenty of sparklers that offer great bang for the buck.  I’ve found some very good to excellent sparklers for less than $20, including, to my surprise a few Rosé sparklers, which are among the food friendliest of wines.  My top 10 list follows
  1. NV 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.
  2. Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rose - (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.
  3. 2008 Raventos i Blanc L’Heure Blanc Brut Reserva - (Spain)  Very light straw yellow color with plenty of tiny bubbles, and yeast, green 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
  4. NV Graham Beck Brut Rose - (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!
  5. NV 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. Short finish .
  6. 2008 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 toast flavors.  Medium finish.
  7. NV Jean Louis Denois Brut Tradition - (France)  Light straw color with bread dough, and apples aromas.  On the palate creamy, dry, and crisp, with good acidity with pear, apple, hazelnuts flavors along with a touch of minerals. Medium finish. Very good QPR.
  8. NV 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!
  9. Mionetto Brut Prosecco Treviso -  (Italy) Very light – the color of clarified butter, with sweet bread,wet stone and citrus aromas. On the palate, closer to off-dry than dry for me, fairly well-balanced, with sweet lemon-lime, fuji apple, and slight vanilla flavors.  It grew on me more and more with each sip. Medium finish.
  10. 2008 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.
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In addition to the sparklers noted above, there are a handful of sparklers I heartily recommend that didn’t make the list because they retail for more than $20.  However, because they are widely distributed, they frequently go on sale. When they do – grab a bottle and see for yourself!

(Listed in order of preference)