Bubbly to Try Next: Richard Grant Cuvée Rosé Brut

Richard-grant-brut-roseI never know where I’ll discover a great sparkling wine that I’ve never tasted before.

This summer, it happened at the grand opening of the Axiom Hotel, a tech-enhanced 152-room boutique hotel near Union Square in San Francisco. The owners kept vintage touches like scrolled columns and exposed brick, adding tech amenities like Bluetooth enabled 42-inch flat-screen TVs in rooms, Pac-Man and Space Invaders in the upstairs lobby and fiber-optic cable Wi-Fi that’s lightening fast and free.

The hosts were showing off their signature cocktails like the Axiom, an updated sour with rye, honey, lemon and two kinds of bitters. And it was hard to ignore the dancers in the green LED-light suits.image

But I was more interested in the unfamiliar bottle of sparkling wine I spotted behind the bar: Richard Grant Pinot Noir Cuvée Rosé Brut. When I finally got a glass at the downstairs bar, I loved the deep and intense flavors of berries and pink grapefruit in this dry sparkling wine.

Who is Richard Grant?

It turns out the full name of the man behind this wine is Richard Grant Peterson. Most California wine lovers don’t know who he is, but Dick Peterson just may be the most influential person in the California wine industry you’ve never heard of.

His two daughters are quite famous though: Holly Peterson is a chef and former instructor at the Culinary Institute of America Greystone in St. Helena, while Heidi Peterson Barrett of La Sirena is the original winemaker who made cult labels like Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle and Grace Family famous.

Richard Peterson is a scientist and inventor whose wine career started with E&J Gallo in the late 1950s. He’s credited with bringing dry wines and bubbly to Gallo. Next he took over Beaulieu Vineyards from the legendary André Tchelistcheff, later working for The Monterey Vineyard and Atlas Peak.

His biggest impact may be his innovations in wine making techniques and equipment, such as creating the metal wine pallet system that’s used in wineries all over the world. When I interviewed Heidi Barrett a few years ago, she remarked how her dad unselfishly gave that invention — known as the Peterson Pallet — to the wine industry, never seeking a patent or any compensation. thewinemaker cover ss

And here’s another fun fact about Peterson: he created the first wine cooler. We turn up our nose at them now, but when I was just about 21, wine coolers opened a gateway to white Zinfandel, which led to Chardonnay and then international sparkling wine — and the rest is history! You can learn more about Grant’s childhood and his fascinating life in the wine industry in his 2015 autobiography called The Winemaker.

His sparkling wine probably owes some of its distinctive flavor profile to the fact that it’s made from the rare and ancient Wrotham pinot noir clone. Get a taste of Grant’s Pinot Noir Cuvée Rosé Brut at the bar at the Axiom, or order a bottle at Cellar Collections. Grant’s wine sells for an unbelievably modest $22, but trust me — it drinks like a wine twice the price.

#TopItOff with Louis Roederer Champagne & the Tablehopper

At Top It Off hosted by Louis Roederer Champagne and the Tablehopper, the Brut Premier flowed.
At Top It Off hosted by Louis Roederer Champagne and the Tablehopper at The Cavalier SF, the Brut Premier flowed freely.

A few days before the end of 2013, I had a preview of New Year’s fun to come at a sparkling party with my friend the Tablehopper Marcia Gagliardi and Louis Roederer Champagne. Dubbed Top It Off, the party offered a chance to experience the exclusive, members only event space at The Cavalier in SoMa and to enjoy the most agreeable Louis Roederer Brut Premier.

Cavalier is tucked away off Jesse Street on the backside of the Hotel Zetta; smart red awnings announce that you’ve arrived. It offers a San Francisco interpretation of a slightly posh London pub, with fish and chips, sticky pudding and Pimm’s Cups. In the style of many famous London establishments like Quo Vadis in Soho, the Cavalier has a clubby private space with a bar they call Marianne’s.

 

A smartly dressed coterie in Marianne's at The Cavalier. Can you spot The Tablehopper?
A smartly dressed coterie filled Marianne’s at The Cavalier. Can you spot The Tablehopper?

The room is dimply lit with tiny flickering tiny white votive candles placed about the room amid low sofas covered in a pastiche of materials like black-and-white houndstooth or hair calf. Velvet ottomans, Oriental carpets, and bric-à-brac like ceramic horse heads, taxidermy, old books and vases completed the vintage look.

Lots of champagne lovers go ga-ga for tête de cuvées like Cristal, but I prefer the versatility of a well-crafted non-vintage brut. Like its American cousin, the Roederer Estate Brut made up in Anderson Valley, the Roederer Brut Premier had generous fresh fruit flavors, mixed with hints of toast and refreshing acidity. That winning combination gives Brut Premier marvelous drinkability.

And since the blend is lead by pinot noir, it pairs with so many foods. All sorts of tempting appetizers flowed from the Cavalier kitchen. Besides fresh oysters with mignonette, we nibbled grilled ham and cheese sandwiches cut into long fingers and served with a hollandaise dipping sauce, cured salmon on toast points, gougères filled with Welsh rarebit gravy and  perfectly seasoned sliders that I’m guessing were kobe beef on brioche.

Chef Jennifer Puccio's gorgeous gougères were filled with a Welsh rarebit sauce.
Chef Jennifer Puccio’s gorgeous gougères were filled with a Welsh rarebit gravy.

We were treated to a performance by stunning jazz and cabaret singer Veronica Klaus. Her alto voice resonated beautifully in the small room as she sang standards like Peel Me a Grape. Here she is singing Wild is the Wind.

Klaus has a smooth voice that’s just as drinkable as a good glass of champagne… like the Roederer Brut Premier. I looking forward to more of both for Valentine’s Day.

The Bubbly Girl Featured in The Quick Sip column

Photo credit: Alisa Damaso
Photo credit: Alisa Damaso

I receive all kinds of mail via my website, but it’s especially fun when it reconnects me with someone from the past. In mid-December, I heard from Jessica Yadegaran, the clever wine and food writer for the Oakland Tribune and San Jose Mercury News. We met some years ago when I was a staff food writer and she was a news assistant at the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Each week for her Quick Sip column, she interviews a local wine blogger about what they’re drinking right now and gets suggestions for fun food and wine pairings. We talked about some of the fabulous breakout bubbly I’d discovered this past year, like Illinois Sparkling Company‘s traditional method Brut crafted amid the cornfields, the Bodkin sparkling sauvignon blanc that’s perfect with sushi and lots of clean and fresh traditional method sparkling wines from Brazil’s Vale do Vinhedos, especially Cave Geisse and Casa Valduga.

Click to read the full interview with Jessica, and get a great recipe for an Asian style dipping sauce that pairs perfectly with Dungeness crab and brut sparkling wine.

 

 

 

Five Fabulous New Year’s Eve Cocktails from Pinterest

It seems I have thousands of pictures of champagne and sparkling wine cocktails on my poor overworked MacBook. But that’s part of why I love Pinterest, because it collects all sorts of inspiration, and so beautifully. Here are five fabulous cocktails from my Bubbly Cocktails board on Pinterest, along with links to the recipes. Be sure to follow me for more!

 

1. Sloe Motion

This cocktail from The Continental Midtown in Philadelphia was featured in Saveur. Though the recipe is just three ingredients, quite often simple things have the most impact. Love the licorice garnish!

Plymouth's Sloe Gin gives this cocktail its name. Photo credit: Christopher Gabello.
Plymouth Sloe Gin lends this cocktail its name. Photo credit: Christopher Gabello.

 

2. Campari and Orange Sparkling Cocktail

I find Campari’s bitterness tough to take on its own. But when I tasted a cocktail by Paul Mant at Quo Vadis, which mixed with  Italian aperitif with orange, lemon and champagne, it started a whole new chapter. This easy drink from Cooking Light will show you just what I mean.

Campari, orange juice and sparkling wine make for a complex cocktail. Photo credit: Oxmoor House.
The Italian aperitif Campari, orange juice and sparkling wine make a deliciously complex drink. Photo credit: Oxmoor House.

 

3. The Kismet Cocktail

The combination of pomegranate and brut sparkling wine is a winner  – just look at all the pins for my cocktail called the Lava Lamp. The Kismet, which means “fate” takes a sophisticated twist on that flavor combination by adding ginger and passion fruit. Pomegranate, ginger and passion fruit are all supposed to be aphrodisiacs… and in my opinion, champagne is too.

Pomegranate, passion fruit and ginger make for a thrilling winter cocktail. Photo credit: Maria Hunt.
The pomegranate, passion fruit and ginger Kismet cocktail. Photo credit: Maria Hunt.

 

4. The Antoinette

This cocktail from Saveur‘s article called Bubblicious is a bubbly take on the Bramble with prosecco mixed with blackberries, lemon, vodka and Cointreau. It’s poured at Oak restaurant in Dallas.

The Antoinette from Oak in Dallas. Photo Credit: Helen Rosner
The Antoinette from Oak in Dallas. Photo credit: Helen Rosner.

 

5. Christmas Cranberry Mojito

This gorgeous pin lead me to a blog called Style Celebration – Style Celeb for short – which shares all sorts of info on fashion, shopping, cosmetic trends, runway reports. A Tastemaker post shared this seasonal cranberry mojito, with cranberry juice, light rum and mint. It would be even more sublime if you sub some brut bubbly or prosecco for the sparkling water.

The Christmas Cranberry Mojito from Style Celeb. Photo credit: Roya Mirgoli of Style Celeb.
The Christmas Cranberry Mojito from Style Celeb.
Photo credit: Roya Mirgoli of Style Celeb.

 

 

 

Can Sparkling Wine Age? You Bet!

This 1987 bottle of Schramsberg Reserve Sparkling Wine still had plenty of golden fruit, along with nutty flavors, when we opened it 26 years later.
This 1987 bottle of Schramsberg Reserve Sparkling Wine still had plenty of golden fruit, along with nutty flavors, when we opened it 26 years later.

So as I looked in my wine fridge for a wine to bring to a holiday dinner, I discovered a bottle of Schramsberg Reserve sparkling wine from 1987.  What a thrilling discovery – vintage bubbly! But I kind of worried too that I had aged it into a bottle of Napa Valley pinot noir vinegar.

Both the front and back labels call it “Napa Valley Champagne.” Back in 1987, a gallon of gas cost 89 cents. The most popular car was the Ford Escort (MSRP $6,895). That was also the year that The Simpsons and FOX Broadcasting debuted and Prozac went on the market. I was barely old enough to drink legally. So much has changed in the past 26 years.

Fortunately, well-made sparkling wine can wait. The wine was a deep golden color with deep notes of golden apple, nuts, toast and Madeira wrapped in mouthwatering acidity. The bubbles were persistent but so very tiny, that we could really enjoy the flavor of the wine. It was beautiful on its own, as well as with Dungeness crab cakes and a juicy pork loin.

I resolved to start aging more sparkling wine – and think you should try it too.

Of course, if that bottle of bubbly you’re thinking of laying down costs under $20, you may have nothing but vintage vinegar at the end of your experiment. But if it’s a fine méthode champenoise wine that was carefully crafted and had some extended contact with yeast in the first place, it absolutely has that potential.

While they don’t have high amounts of tannin or sugar – two factors that allow other cult red wines like Screaming Eagle to age – sparkling wines and champagnes are naturally graced with a high amount of acidity. This acidity helps preserve the wine and allow it to develop in a positive way, just like a great German riesling or white Burgundy.

So next time you go to your favorite winery and pick up a bottle of their special release, consider putting it away in a cool place and forgetting about it for 20 years or so.

The back label says the wine is nutty, toasty and ??   - and it was still true 26 years later.
The back label says the wine is nutty, toasty and well aged – and it was still true 26 years later.

Cocktails from Chicago: The 13 Degrees at The Gage

The 13 Degrees cocktail from the Gage is by barman Thomas Mooneyham.
The 13 Degrees cocktail — with prosecco, sage, velvet falernum and gin — was created by Chicago barman Thomas Mooneyham at The Gage.

I just came back from visiting my family in Chicagoland. I mostly hung out in the ‘burbs, but I did foray into the city one afternoon. I saw the Picasso exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago — it was great seeing the genesis of his famous Chicago woman/bird sculpture as well as a series of pen-and-ink drawings.

Looking at art made me thirsty and hungry, so I went across Michigan Avenue to The Gage, a lively new American restaurant and tavern.  It was a warm day at the 13 Degrees was perfectly smooth and refreshing, with lots of wonderful herbal flavors from the Velvet Falernum and the Death’s Door Gin, which is made in the Midwest.

Creator Thomas Mooneyham, who was kind enough to share his recipe, makes the drink unique with his pear-sage syrup. But flavored syrups like this one are actually quite easy to make at home following the instructions below.

13 Degrees

3/4 ounce Velvet Falernum
3/4 ounce Death’s Door Gin
1/2 ounce lime juice
1/2 ounce pear-sage syrup (see note)
Prosecco float
sage leaf

Add the Velvet Falernum, gin, lime juice and pear-sage syrup to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until well chilled. Strain into a cocktail coupe. Add prosecco float. For the garnish, slap or spank the sage leaf between your hands and place on top of the drink.
Makes 1 cocktail

Note: To make your own pear-sage syrup, boil 2 cups pear nectar or juice with 1 cup sugar and 2 sage leaves in a 2-quart pot. Once it boils, turn it down to simmer for 10 minutes then turn off and let the syrup steep. Once it’s cool, strain it, then bottle it and refrigerate for up to a week.
 

 

 

 

Like I Said … Keep Calm and Drink Champagne

keep calm champagne

This really doesn’t need much text — the sentiment expressed is quite self-explanatory. In fact, I’m a bit chagrined I didn’t think of this myself. Bubbly is an instant mood tonic, and I’ve been encouraging everyone to enjoy the Bubbly 365 lifestyle for a while now.

This adorable poster from the Keep Calm Shop on Etsy is pretty in pink, as well as a range of other vivid shades like gold, turquoise and emerald, because they want you to be happy. The poster is just $16 retail, which is the same price as a decent bottle of domestic U.S. sparkling wine, cava, or prosecco, but alas just a glass of champagne.

Drew Barrymore Has a Wine Brand… But Did You Know She’s a Foodie?

Actress Drew Barrymore is the latest celebrity to go into the kitchen with culinary legend Eric Ripert and share a dish. - Photo by Eric Damassa
Actress Drew Barrymore is the latest celebrity to go into the kitchen with culinary legend Eric Ripert in his Reserve Channel show and dish on cooking, work and life. – Photo by Eric Damassa

 

We all know Drew Barrymore as the actress who’s grown up on screen, from E.T. to He’s Just Not That Into You, which also earned her an executive producer credit. But did you know she’s also emerging as a bonafide foodie?

I had the chance to meet the lovely Barrymore, 37, a couple weeks ago when she popped into Pebble Beach Food & Wine festival to talk about her Barrymore Wines and her love of cooking. In case you haven’t tasted it, Barrymore’s pinot grigio is a light and refreshing wine she says is “feminine” sourced from the Tre Veniezie in Italy. But now she’s turning up the heat when it comes to her status as a culinary trend-setter.

In a special webisode that appears today, Barrymore cooks and has a great time cooking and chatting with dreamy French chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin restaurant fame. They explore her family history, knife skills and how the shape of the wine glass changes the flavor of a wine. Here’s the link if you want to watch Drew Barrymore in On the Table with Eric Ripert or you can watch it below.

Her dish? Clams Montecito, a buttery mix of clams, garlic, parsley and Barrymore pinot grigio that’s served over crusty French bread. It’s the dish she loves to make when she’s having a girls’ weekend at her estate home in the tony enclave of Montecito near Santa Barbara, where Oprah Winfrey also has a home.  She loves cooking for friends and it really became important when Barrymore and husband Will Kopelman were expecting their daughter, Olive. Keep reading to the end to try her recipe.

Drew Barrymore signs a chalkboard with her recipe in an On the Table With Eric tradition. Photo by Eric Damassa
Drew Barrymore signs a chalkboard with her recipe in an On the Table With Eric tradition. Photo by Eric Damassa

Drew Barrymore is just one of of the stars that has appeared on the show with Ripert, which is fun to watch because the guests like Roger Waters, supermodel Chrissy Teigen, Tom Colicchio and Elizabeth Olson get to share their thoughts on anything from food to politics to life and goof off a bit too.

This isn’t the first time the actress from a legendary Hollywood family has cooked on air: Drew made an Indian-spiced pasta dish in on The Ellen Degeneres Show and paired it surprisingly with her pinot grigio. And it appears it won’t be the last. When we talked at Pebble Beach, Drew told me she adores cooking shows. And now she’s executive producer through her company Flower Films on the new show called Knife Fight which debuts on April 23 on the Esquire Channel. In the meantime, here’s her dish Clams Montecito:

Drew Barrymore’s Clams Montecito 
1 Bag of MANILA clams – the smaller the better.
1 cup of Barrymore Wines Pinot Grigio

 

5 cloves of chopped garlic
1 large jalapeño (with a few seeds)
1 lemons
1 stick of butter

 

 

Instructions

 

·         Melt butter and add garlic and jalapeño

 

·         Cook for 3-4 minutes on med heat in a saucepan and add Barrymore Wines Pinot Grigio

 

·         Cook down for about 5 minutes

 

·         Remove from stove and squeeze lemon into butter mixture.

 

·         Turn on grill to med high and spread clams on cookie sheet and spread around until they open.

 

·         Warm butter up if need be

 

·         Toss onto clams and coat.

 

·         Serve with warm baguette

 

·         Best served with pan-seared cod fish

 

*Recipe serves two

 

Five Wonderful Organic Champagnes & Sparkling Wines for Earth Day 2013

Wildflowers grow in the biodynamic vineyards at Cavas Recaredo in Spain.
Wildflowers grow in the biodynamic vineyards at Cavas Recaredo, a high-end producer in Spain’s Penedes region.

Isn’t that a pretty picture? It’s from the 100% pesticide and herbicide-free vineyards of Cavas Recaredo in Spain. Earth Day is approaching, and I’m looking forward to celebrating at the Iron Horse Vineyards’ Green Valley Earth Day Party.  Since I last wrote about organic champagne or sparkling wine for Earth Day, there has been a large increase in the number of organic wines on the market, and that applies to bubbly as well.

While some people aren’t convinced that wines made from organically raised grapes taste any different, I swear I always pick up an extraordinary level of clarity in these wines. It feels like drinking a liquid crystal, if that makes any sense. And of course, the fact that the grapes aren’t sprayed with chemical fertilizers or pesticides means that it’s better for the workers who have to tend those grapes as well as Mother Earth.  Here are some great organic champagnes and sparkling wines to uncork this weekend or anytime:

recaredo brut nature 2006 label

Cavas Recaredo  – One of the most distinctive wineries I visited in the Penedes region of Spain was Recaredo, which has produced cava since 1924. Ton Mata, the lead winemaker and owner, took me on a tour of the lovely natural vineyards with rusty red soil studded with mineral deposits where he grows the xarello, parellada and macabeo grapes according to biodynamic methods. Biodynamic is a more exacting standard than certified organic, meaning that the growers work in harmony with nature and their practices help nourish the soil. He’s also a believer in long-aging of his xarello-dominant wines and the brut nature style, in which no sugary dosage is added at the end. It doesn’t get much more biutiful than this when it comes to Catalan sparkling wine.  About $38.

mionetto kind cocktails

Mionetto Prosecco Organic D.O.C. – Just like the other high-quality proseccos it makes, Mionetto’s organic brut  has floral aromas and bright, fresh flavors of golden apple and citrus. It’s made from organically grown grapes, and vinified separately in the winery. The materials that go into the bottle, label and shipping package are all recycled. Click here for a recipe for my Kind Cocktail from Alicia Silverstone’s San Diego book party with Mionetto Organic.   About $15.

Fleury Brut Rose

Fleury Organic Champagne – While you’re toasting Mother Earth, be sure to raise a glass Fleury, the first producer in Champagne, France to plant organic vineyards. Actually, the Fleury vineyards have been 100% biodynamic since 1992. Whether you like lean blanc de blancs, juicy rosé or richer blanc de noirs, Fleury makes it it in a crisp, pure and organic champagne. I’m sure they’d appreciate a like on the Fleury Champagne Facebook page.  About $40 to $50, depending on the wine.

 

Korbel OrganicBrutLarge1

Korbel Organic Brut Non-Vintage – When the largest producer of sparkling wine in the U.S. starts making an organic cuvée, you know it’s much more than a niche trend. Korbel’s Organic Brut is clean and tastes of bright citrus, green apple and white peaches. The blend of French colombard, chardonnay and sangiovese grapes was made with the same method used in Champagne, France. About $12.

tarantas sparkling rose

Tarantas Sparkling Rosé – While Spain is known as the land of cava, there are other styles of sparkling wine made there. This sparkling rosé from family-owned Tarantas fits the latter category, since it’s made from certified organic bobal grapes that were grown in the hills near Valencia, Spain. While this wine isn’t sweet at all, it has flavors and aromas of strawberry and red currant. It pairs with all sorts of Spanish foods from jamon to paella, and apparently the bobal grape (aka carignane d’espagne) has super-high levels of the antioxidant resveratrol, as if you needed another reason to try a bottle.  About $15

 

Delicious Chocolate & Champagne Candies for Valentine’s Day

Words of love are screen-printed on champagne ganache chocolates filled with raspberry pâte de fruits. Sea salt caramels topped with red salt complete the box from Socola Chocolates.

Probably because they’re both foods associated with indulgence and pleasure, people love to talk about eating chocolate while sipping champagne for Valentine’s Day. Know what that combo makes me think? Yuck!

A typical brut champagne is far too acidic to pair with a sweet food like chocolate, so even your favorite champagne will taste tart and thin. And the wine does nothing to improve the flavor of the chocolate. It’s really a waste of both.

Here’s how we can stop the madness:  with chocolate truffles that are made with champagne! This way, the champagne lends brightness, fruit and a hint of luxury to the chocolate.

If you’re feeling ambitious, it’s easy to make Chocolate-Champagne Truffles yourself with this recipe from Martha. She rolls hers in white sparkling sugar, but it would be fun to use different colors.

But if you don’t fancy cleaning chocolate and sugar off your kitchen cabinets and floor, here are some great champagne and chocolate truffles to buy for your sweet — or yourself for Valentine’s Day:

Socola Chocolatier’s Aphrodite’s Delight: This chocolate gift starts with raspberry pâte de fruits enrobed in champagne ganache; each one is topped with the word love in different languages. The other half of the box is filled with grey sea salt chocolate caramels topped with red Hawaiian salt. Super-cute sisters Wendy and Susan, who are based in San Francisco, just became the featured chocolatiers for Zaarly, a cool site that curates all sorts of services. New members can go to Zaarly and snag the 12-piece Aphrodite’s Delight box for just $15; shipping is free in San Francisco and $5 elsewhere.

 

 Recchiuti Champagne Truffles: Chocolatier Michael Recchiuti adds the deeply toasty and fruity Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs to super creamy dark chocolate. They’re rolled in powered sugar as the final step. Pick them up at the Recchiuti shop in the Ferry Building, at the new Chocolate Lab Café in Dogpatch or online.

 

Moonstruck Chocolate Pink Champagne Truffle Heart: I met a sweet lady from Seattle’s Moonstruck Chocolates at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco and was eyeing these cute pink hearts. A candied raspberry is at the center, surrounded by a white chocolate ganache flavored with champagne and raspberries and finally a white chocolate shell. Like all of their confections, it’s hand painted.

 

 

Teuscher Champagne Truffles: While I’ve not tried these yet, the website for the Palo Alto-based confectionery makes a compelling claim: company founder Dolf Teuscher Sr. invented the chocolate truffle back in 1946 in Switzerland.  A buttercream center infused with Dom Perignon Champagne is wrapped in either dark or milk chocolate. The milk chocolate original is dusted in confectioner’s sugar for a juicy sensation, while the dark chocolate is rolled in bittersweet cocoa powder for a drier, deeply flavored bite.

 

Vosges Haut Chocolat Champagne Truffles: These truffles and I go way back: We’re both from Chicago. The stylish chocolatiere Katrina Markoff mixes Krug Champagne Grande Cuvée with 85% chocolate and a splash of rosewater. The truffle is finished with a dusting of cocoa powder before being popped in a purple box.  You should know that the Vosges website has a range of other Krug and chocolate gifts, just please promise you won’t drink the champagne and the chocolate together.