It’s the most wonderful time of the year

The holidays are fast approaching. And while I would love to continue my summer fantasies, reality has hit. I am sitting here in a coffee shop, wrapped in a scarf, sweater and tall boots; trying to warm up with a latte. Out the window is drizzle and bare trees. In Seattle, this means the holidays are near. So instead of longing for those summer nights, I am buckling down and focusing on one major thing, wines I will be drinking this holiday season. It all starts with Thanksgiving and pairing the perfect wine with this gluttonous holiday.

What I love about Thanksgiving is the time I spend with my family and friends; eating, laughing, telling stories and shopping the next day. And of course, I love the wines we will open for this dinner. For the next month, my blogs will focus on wines for the holidays. Those to splurge on, those case-worthy and those that will pair delightfully with all your holiday meals.

When in doubt, bring on the bubbles…

Let’s start with Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, Sparking wine, bubbles… etc. Whatever you call it, these little effervescence’s of love taste delightful with many holiday meals, particularly Thanksgiving. They are festive, cleanse the palate and versatile. Because we eat a variety of foods on Thanksgiving, Sparkling wine is a great go-to because it tastes delightful with all stages of the meal (even with the pies).

Bubbles can vary greatly in price. I am a true believer that you can find a perfect Bubbley bottle for $20-30. While Champagne has the glamorous the reputation, there are many other Sparkling wines that are just as tasty and easier on your wallet.  Here are a couple options.

**If you need a little refresher course on all the different types bubbles, refer to my past blog on 9/19/2010 – Too much wine? It’s explains the definition of Cava, Champagne, etc.

Splurge: Eric Rodez Cuvee des Crayeres, Grand Cru Brut – (a Growers Champagne)

Around $50.00, The Grape Choice

For many this is a splurge, others it is a steal. According to my pocket book, it’s a splurge… but a delicious, smooth, dance in your mouth one at that! This Chardonnay/Pinot Noir Champagne has notes of honeysuckle and pear and is simply decadent; a crowd pleaser. He also makes a Rose Champagne as well, that’s just as amazing. If you are unable to find an Eric Rodez Champagne, ask your local wine shop for other Grower Champagnes. If I am going to throw down the cash for a Champagne, I always search for a Growers Champagne. These Champagnes come from smaller, local vineyards in the region of Champagne, France. They are described more as artisanal wines. The vineyards are usually independently owned around a single village (as opposed to Moet et Chandon who buys grapes throughout the Champagne region). I am a fan of small, local businesses, which is probably why I am pulled towards Growers Champagne.

Thanksgiving Splurge

Thanksgiving Splurge

Steal: Domaine Carneros – Napa, California

$28.00-100.00

I have talked about Domaine Carneros before and I will say it again, they produce marvelous Sparkling wines. Founded by Taittinger (a Champagne), so they know exactly what they are doing. For the “steal” I would pick up a bottle of their Domaine Carneros Brut Vintage ($28.00). This is one of my standard go-to wines (it helps that I belong to their wine club; I receive a shipment every other month). It is vibrant and fresh; hints of lemon zest, pear and mineral. This wine will add a spark to any holiday meal. I have been able to find this wine in most wine shops and markets. You can also make a purchase through their website http://www.domainecarneros.com/.

Domaine Carneros Le Reve

Domaine Carneros Le Reve

*This is a picture of their Le Reve, which is a splurge at $99.99. This is my Thanksgiving contribution though. This Blanc de Blanc is made of Chardonnay grapes and aged 6 years before release. This will be my first Le Reve and I am beyond excited! I will let you know if it’s worth the price!

Other Options:

If you are concerned about price, look into Prosecco’s and Cava’s. While I often find Prosecco’s slightly sweet on my palate, they are easy on the budget and will likely be a hit with everyone. Just today I saw a great deal on Prosecco at Trader Joes. Cava is also another fantastic option.

Whether you splurge for that $50.00-100.00 bottle of Champagne or go for the $9.99 Trader Joe’s Prosecco, Bubbles are the hit wine for Thanksgiving.

Gobble Gobble my friends!

Carolyn

Time for Bubbles

Bubbles, Champagne, Sparking Wine, Prosecco, Cava, etc. It doesn’t matter what your favorite is or what you call it…. just call it often. Even though I am strategically posting this blog this for the upcoming “Hallmark Holiday” (or what some people call it: Valentine’s day), I think that any time is bubble time. I always keep a bottle or two around for any occasion. Even if it’s a I- made- it- through- the- day occasion. It’s always a good idea to keep bubbles on hand. You never know when a glass will call your name…..

It has been a while since I have talked about bubbles, so I thought I would up-date you on a couple of my new favorites. I am not going to get into the differences between Champagne, Sparkling wine, Prosecco and Cava – because if you go back to Sept 2010 on A Wine Journey, you will find detailed descriptions. This is just a quick guide on two amazing bubbles to pick up for the Hallmark Holiday or (if you are me) any day of the week .One is a splurge and another is a mid-priced wine.

Tonights Tasting:

Pierre Peters Champagne Cuvee de Reserve Grand Cru

$54.99, The Grape Choice, Kirkland WA www.thegrapechoice.com

This growers champagne knows how to make good champagne. Pierre Peters has been making delicious bubbles since 1919 – and since then has been killing it with awards in France and the US. This wine is no disappointment. It’s made from Chardonnay grapes and is crisp, dry and dances on your tongue. It has the flavors of apples, apricots and minerals. It’s an intense and expressive Champagne.  At a growers champagne tasting, it was my favorite of the night. It may be a challenge to find, but if you call Perry at The Grape Choice (425-827-7551) in Kirkland, he will be able to find it for you! It’s worth the hunt and the price.. I guarantee you will love it.

Pierre Peter Champagne

Pierre Peters Champagne

Domaine Carneros by Taittinger – Napa Valley, CA

$27.00 www.domainecarneros.com

For a more reasonable treat, Domaine Carneros Brut is a such that…a delticable treat. I tend towards French Champagne’s and Cava’s, but this US sparkling wine is on my top 10 favorite bubbles list. It has crisp, mineral and citrus flavors that lingers in your mouth. It’s a classic sparkling wine made from both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. This wine can be found easier then Pierre Peters. I have seen it at most local wine shops, Whole Foods and of course, its website. I belong to the Domaine Carneros wine club and have not been disappointed in any wine that I have received.

Domaine Carneros

Domaine Carneros

Whether it’s Valentines day or a Tuesday, it’s always a good day for bubbles!! Pop a bottle open and remember to “Keep Calm and Drink Champagne.” Cheers!

On a snowy day… drink bubbles!

Or you could drink a hot cocoa, hot buttered rum, hot toddy, Irish coffee, kahlua and milk, etc. I prefer bubbles. To me, champagne, sparking wine, bubbles are an any occasion drink. Hot or cold weather, special event or a night in watching movies. Sparkling wine creates good moods and let’s you feel fancy. So, after 4 days of being cooped up with a 2 and 6-year-old due to “Snow Extreme 2012” in Seattle, I needed a night to relax with some bubbles.

I appreciate quality bubbles. Ian and I took a “growers Champagne” class – which promotes small, boutique wineries in the area of Champagne, France. I came home with a bottle (or two) of small vineyard Champagne’s. Unfortunately, these champagne’s are not cheap. Each bottle that we tasted during the class priced around $35-$100. I have to say though, worth every penny. I have never tasted such smooth, lively, quality sparkling wines.  On the other side of that, our wallet’s did not appreciate the price of the smooth, lively, quality wines.

Not everyone is able to spend large amounts of money on a sparkling wine. Which is why I am here to help you. Now, I would suggest if you have a little extra money to spend, head to your local wine shop and talk to the owners about a growers champagne. If you are able to find a bottle, snag it. Or if you are at your brother-in-laws on Christmas you are lucky enough to enjoy a 1984 Dom Perignon, then take a moment to really enjoy that glass (because it probably won’t happen again). But, if the mood hits for a nice, inexpensive bubbly, I have one for you!

Tonight’s Tasting

Mumm Napa, Brut Rose, Napa Valley, CA (Safeway, $15.99).

Mumm Napa

When the mood  calls for bubbles, then this is wine I will purchase. Mumm Rose Brut is a go-to bubbly. This wine can be found in most major grocery stores.  It’s relatively inexpensive, has a dry/sweet/bouncy flavor that lingers in your mouth and a smell to awaken your soul. It is primarily a Pinot Noir grape with a little splash of Chardonnay thrown in. On the nose you smell strawberry, cherry and a slight citrus breeze – all with a taste to match. I have brought along this bottle to non-wine drinkers, which they have enjoyed its pop, fizz and smooth finish. And since Valentines day is right around the corner, you will be a favorite if you show up with pink bubbles. If rose isn’t your color, their other sparkling wines are also decent (try to find the reserves if you can).

I guarantee you will be able to find this wine almost anywhere. So, when an occasion like snow hits, put on your snowsuit and head to the store. Cozy up by the fire and enjoy!

http://mummnapa.com

Cheers and stay warm my friends!

Too much wine?

 Can there be too much wine? Maybe.  I guess there can be too much of anything. Over eating, over shopping, too much TV, too much talking, etc. So yes, there can be such a thing as too much wine, I guess…..

When a 5-year-old tells his mom, as they are coming over to my house at 1:00 in the afternoon, that he needs to bring me a bottle of wine (his 3-year-old brother argues no, she needs a coffee) it lead me to ask the question:  “Am I drinking too much wine?” I mean, if a 5-year-old thinks he needs to bring me a bottle of wine when he comes to my house (prior to that comment, he saved an old Trader Joe’s paper wine bag to give me as a present for my wine) and my own 5-year-old argues she must drink her milk/water/apple juice out of a wine glass at dinner – maybe I am talking about/drinking too much wine.

Some of you may agree, but some may think not. We all have our own opinions, especially the topic of alcohol.  What I do know about my interest in wine, is that I enjoy learning about it, just as much as tasting and drinking it. I have a fond respect for wine, without over indulging in it. So does that mean it is too much?

I feel the history, making, and the process of wine needs more respect than the abuse of it. Yes, I have a glass of wine with most of my dinners, when we go  to a dinner party I make sure to bring a bottle the host will enjoy, random evenings with my husband we will have wine tastings (when kids are finally in bed), I take wine classes and  have a growing number of wine books around my home. Maybe by some standards, yes I do focus too much on wine.  But in no way would I do the wine industry injustice by abusing it. 

My answer on this topic is: I will keep on enjoying wine..I work hard, love my family and friends and have other non-wine interests. However, after a long day there is nothing better than getting the kids in bed and relaxing on the couch with an amazing glass of Cab (or Merlot, Syrah or blend)!  So, if a 5-year-old wants to bring me a bottle of wine, bring it! I just ask that it not be a Carlo Rossi!!

Tonight’s Tastings

In light of my topic, tonight’s tasting will not be on wine – but on Sparkling Wines. Champagne/Sparkling Wines are not my forte, yet. However, I do know a delicious Sparkling wine, Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, when I taste it. I will give you a very brief low-down on the four I mentioned:

Champagne: Carbonated wine from the region of Champagne in France. Legally, it can only be called Champagne if created in that region. Usually, Champagne is medium bodied and will pair well with many different types of foods. Just remember for “real” Champagne, most decent bottles will cost you a decent penny. (fyi – you can find some value Champagnes around the $40 price point).

Cava: Spanish medium-bodied sparkling wine from the Catalonia region of Spain. When I lived in Spain, this stuff poured out of barrels like crazy. It was actually on “tap” at many local restaurants, and it was almost a requirement to have a glass or two during lunch (which is probably why they still have Siestas). Cava has to be one of my personal favorite Sparkling wines (see below for a recommendation).

Prosecco: Italian light-bodied Sparkling Wine from the region of Veneto. You can also find a great Prosecco at a steal of a price in many speciality wine/grocery stores.

Sparkling Wine (U.S.): Many great Sparkling Wines are coming out of California and Washington these days. Some tops wines recommended by Wine Spectator are: Domaine Chandon, Napa $18, Domaine Caneros, Napa $25 and Domaine Ste. Michelle, Lux Columbia Valley $23. These are great deals! Sparkling Wine, Cava and  Prosescco are great way’s to add a touch of class to any dinner party (and obviously you don’t have to spend a lot). If you are going to a dinner party and in doubt about what kind of wine to bring the host – always grab a bottle of bubbly.

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva (non-vintage) –$8.99 Whole Foods

This is a Cava I had the other night – it was clean, fresh and fragrant – with a scent of honied apples. The price is outstanding as well, $8.99,  a can’t beat price for a delicious glass of bubbly.

Segura Viudas - Spanish Cava

I hold up my wine glass and cheers my daughter’s wine glass of milk! And cheers to all of you as well!