Grower Champagnes – Drink Up at Dr. Champagne’s Feb. 23 Dinner at Picco

Jean Vesselle's Oeil de Perdrix, a blanc de noirs champagne, is one of the grower wines featured at Dr. Champagne's dinner on Feb. 23 at Picco in Larkspur.
Jean Vesselle's Oeil de Perdrix, a blanc de noirs champagne, is one of the grower wines featured at Dr. Champagne's dinner on Feb. 23 at Picco in Larkspur.

With Valentine’s Day behind us, it means that the unofficial but traditional Bubbly Buying Season that started with Thanksgiving is over. But really, why does the fun have to stop? There are plenty of ways and reasons to enjoy sparkling wine and champagne, especially with events like these coming up. This year, expect to see lots of events highlighting grower champagnes which are made by Champenoise families who grow the grapes and make it into small quantities of finely crafted champagne.

Grower champagnes with names like Pierre Gimmonnet, Henri Billiot, Gratien and Vilmart are sought after in Europe and they’re what savvy sommeliers sip at home. Their reputation is growing here thanks to the work of people like Terry Theise of importer Michael Skurnik who believes this “fun family fizz” offers a much more interesting flavor experience than a mass-produced bubbly. This year the Independent Champagne & Sparkling Wine Invitational – first large U.S. event devoted to exploration of grower champagne – pops off from April 15-18, 2010 in New Orleans with classes, pairing dinners and tastings.

Here in California, Dr. Champagne aka Jerry Horn is presenting a champagne-soaked four course dinner showcasing grower wines at Picco in Larkspur on Feb. 23. The dinner created by chefs Bruce Hill and Chris Whaley starts with hamachi crudo with tarragon, blood orange and crispy onions paired with Egly-Ouriet Premier Cru Brut, a family owned winery with vineyards in Ambonnay and Bouzy, some of the best areas for pinot noir. Next comes poached lobster and caviar with another grower champagne, the Jean Vesselle Brut Oeil de Perdrix, an elegant wine blanc de noirs Dr. Champagne introduced me to. It has a hint of rosiness, like the eye of a partridge.

The dinner starts at 6:30 p.m. cost is $150 per person, plus tax and gratuity. To RSVP, call 415-924-0300 or visit the Picco web site to download a faxable reservation form.

Last Minute Ideas for Delicious Valentine’s Outings from San Diego to the Bay

Can't decide what to do for Valentine's Day? Let me play Cupid.
Can't decide what to do for Valentine's Day? Let me play Cupid.

Still pondering where to go for Valentine’s Day? Here are a few spots in Northern and Southern California planning some creative and romantic offerings.

The Bubble Lounge in San Francisco is pulling out all the stops with a jazz singer performing, a special menu of aphrodisiac foods and featured romantic cocktails by moi, The Bubbly Girl on Feb. 14. They’ve selected the Elderbubble (St. Germain, raspberry vodka and champagne) and the gorgeous Belle de Jour, a mix of Lillet Blond, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur and rosé champage created by Jackie Patterson and featured in my book Bubbly Bar. Couples can also order a bottle of Dosnon & Lepage Brut Rosé Champagne and have it sabered open – (by the way, there’s a web site devoted to the art of Saberage). Bubbly Lounge chefs are cooking up a sexy menu of sweet roasted beets with micro greens and goat cheese, caviar from the California Caviar Company served with blinis and creme fraiche, a seafood platter with oysters and shrimp and a heart-shaped Scharffen Berger Chocolate cake. The fun starts at 6 p.m. at 714 Montgomery St.; for reservations call 415.434-4204.

The Grand Del Mar, a five-star resort in northern San Diego, is offering a seductive set of food and wine experiences on Feb. 13 and 14 that are sure to spark a romance. On Feb. 13, enjoy a three course Chocolate and Red Wine Tasting menu from 4 to 7 p.m. in the Lobby Lounge for $25 per person; Grand Del Mar Sommelier Jesse Rodriguez will stop at your table and chat about the pairings. Or if you don’t feel like chatting, pick one of the cozy corners of the Lobby Lounge, and sip Another Day In Paradise a cocktail for two featuring rose petal and raspberry infused vodka. Strawberry Chocolate Decadence, a dessert with layers of strawberry confit and dark chocolate, is also available for $19 paired with the sparkling red wine Rosa Regale Brachetto d’Acqui[/caption]

If you’re craving a total culinary experience, call 858.314.1900 and make a reservation for Executive Chef William Bradley’s lavish six-course Valentine’s dinner in Addison’s dining room. The chef — a very happy newlywed — is sure to be cooking with his heart on his sleeve; seductive courses include baby sea scallops, roasted endive with caramelized pears, butter-baked salmon and pistachio nougatine with honey comb gelato. The dinner is $125 per person, or $185 per person with wine pairings plus gratuities, but hey, Valentine’s Day only comes once a year. Meanwhile at Amaya, Chef Camron Woods’ tempting dishes include winter mushroom consomme with truffled ravioli, seared Diver scallops with parsnip puree and golden raisins, and a limoncello semifreddo. That repast is $110 per person or $155 with wine pairings, plus gratuity. For reservations, call 858.314.2727