Sex in a Glass: A Sparkling Wine from Michigan

Sex is the titillating name of a rose sparkling wine from Michigan by Larry Mawby.
Sex is the titillating name of a rose sparkling wine from Michigan by Larry Mawby.

There are lots of drinks described as sex in a glass: pinot noir; champagne; and there’s even a Sex in a Glass cocktail made of Cointreau, Kahlua and Angostura bitters. But as it happens, Sex is the name of a sparkling wine from Michigan that I tasted recently.

It’s made by a quirky winemaker named Larry Mawby. For the past 10 years, Mawby has made nothing but sparkling wine in the Leelanau Peninsula, in the northern part of the state.

Mawby likes to get people’s attention. His newest wine is a fruity and slightly sweet sparkling wine called Detroit, that blends riesling with the rather obscure grapes traminette and Cayuga. But he’s probably best known for his M.Lawrence range of sparkling wines with titillating, tongue in cheek names like Wet, Fizz and Sex.

He also makes a more “serious” range of methode champenoise wines under the name L. Mawby. I ordered one of those too – The Talismon. I opened that at a party on the Fourth of July and was very pleasantly surprised. The wine was a delicious balance of citrusy flavors and aromas with toasty ones. It had a nice long finish and the first sip made me want another. I thought it was a of the better domestic sparkling wines I’ve tasted, and for just $30 a bottle. The only thing I found odd about it was the tiny cork – probably the shortest I’ve ever seen on a sparkling wine.

Larry Mawby uses tiny corks on his wines, compared with the size of a Dom Perignon cork at right.
Larry Mawby uses tiny corks on his wines, compared with the size of a Dom Perignon cork at right.

Sex was a different story – a $15 wine with a pretty pink blush color, nice bubbles on the tongue, followed by a hint of indistinct fruit and some distracting musty aromas.

While Talismon and the other L. Mawby wines get their bubbles from a second fermentation in the bottle – just like French champagne – Sex is fermented in a tank. Tank fermentation is a cheaper way to make wine and it’s great for wines like prosecco and moscato which have delicate aromas and flavors that would be lost in a traditional fermentation. But tank fermentation can’t produce a wine of the complexities and nuances of a methode champenoise wine.

So if you’re looking for a fling with a fun sparkling wine with a racy name, something to eat with pepperoni pizza and barbecue ribs or a gift for a bachelorette party, then Sex might be it.

Like they say, Sex is a lot like pizza. Even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.

Weekend in Napa: Bottega & Domaine Chandon

The Venetian 75 is one of the lovely, Italian-themed cocktails at Bottega in Yountville.
The Venetian 75 is one of the lovely, Italian-themed cocktails at Bottega in Yountville.

I’m tired of waiting for summer to start here in the part of the California Bay Area that includes San Francisco and Oakland. You’d be hard pressed to melt a Popsicle in this grey and chilly clime. So this weekend, I’ve decided to drive up to a place where it’s about 10 degrees warmer and the mood is always resort-y and light. I’m talking about the Napa Valley.

As if you needed any enticement, here are a couple more great reasons to make the trip yourself.

Bottega Napa Valley is the grand new restaurant by Michael Chiarello of NapaStyle fame. Located in the tony burg of Yountville – home of The French Laundry – it’s set in an imposing building with a two large outdoor fireplace on the wrap-around porch. Inside, we sat at a long rustic communal table flanked by buttery yellow chairs.

When I opened the cocktail menu, I knew I’d order the Venetian 75, an Italian take on the classic French 75. Instead of champagne, this drink got its sparkle from a splash of prosecco, the sparkling wine of Italy’s Veneto region. And the drink’s gorgeous shade of pink makes me think of the vivid hues created by Venetian painters like Titian, Bellini and Tiepolo.

Venetian 75
2 ounces 209 Gin
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 ounces hibiscus syrup
1 piece candied ginger
2 ounces prosecco
fresh basil leaf, for garnish

Add the gin, lemon juice, hibiscus syrup and candied ginger to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until well-chilled. Strain into a champagne coupe or small martini glass with a sugared rim. Top with the prosecco and garnish with the basil leaf.

After enjoying house-made salumi and some of the ridiculously good salsa di Parmigiano – a mix of finely crumbled Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, olive oil, fresh parsley, garlic and a hint of red pepper flakes – I’d wander over to Domaine Chandon, the LVMH-owned winery just over the highway from downtown Yountville.

Domaine Chandon has always been one of my favorite places to unwind and sip bubbly in a beautiful setting. The winery is modern yet feels like its part of the landscape that includes beautiful old oaks, gentle slopes and a moat filled with aquatic life. As they approach the entrance, visitors are greeted by a patch of rock sculptures that resemble beige mushrooms.

The newest feature is an installation of 21 large metal wind sculptures throughout the grounds. Designed by Utah sculptor Lyman Whitaker, the copper and steel pieces inspired by natural motifs are designed to move with the wind.

I can almost taste the bubbly now.

A series of wind sculptures is the newest art installation at Domaine Chandon in Yountville.
A series of wind sculptures is the newest art installation at Domaine Chandon in Yountville.