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.

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

 

Ferrari Metodo Classico: Italian Sparkling Wine That Drinks Like Champagne

The Ferrari Metodo Classico prestige cuvée is called Giulio Ferrari, after the founder. It’s aged for a mind-blowing 10 years before bottling. In that time, the yeast creates heavenly toastiness and depth, though the freshness of the 100% chardonnay wine persists.

I’ve sipped a lot of sparkling wines in the past several years, but I was intrigued when I was invited to taste Ferrari sparkling wines. They’re from Italy, but they don’t make prosecco, Moscato or sports cars. Rather, Cantine Ferrari makes fine, metodo classico (classic method) sparkling wine.

While I love discovering methode champenoise sparkling wines from around the world, I have a tendency — like others — to compare them to the sparkling wines of Champagne.  The best champagne has this electricity to it, a combination of elegance and power.  Few sparkling wines made elsewhere have this quality, but Ferrari Metodo Classico does.

As I took my first sip of the Ferrari NV Brut, I might have thought the toasty nose and bright golden apple flavor sprang from the famed chalky soils of Champagne. But Matteo Lunelli was sitting next to me in a private dining room at Spruce in Presidio Heights, eager to talk about the beauty of his family’s wines from Trentino-Alto Adige.

Ferrari Metodo Classico is a line of fine sparkling wines from Northern Italy’s Trento DOC  that drinks like champagne. Here the Ferrari Perlé 2004 during a tasting at Spruce SF.

“Italian sparkling wine is very well appreciated. But there is a very low understanding of the high end sparkling wine,” he says, managing not to smile at his play on words.

For all it delivers, the 100% chardonnay Ferrari NV Brut is a shockingly affordable $25. The next wine, the Ferrari NV Brut Rosé with 60 % pinot noir/40% chardonnay, tastes of effervescent plums and red berries.  It’s dreamy with confited duck leg paired with a bittersweet duo of roasted pears and three kinds of endive, showing how well sparkling wine pairs with a range of foods.

At Spruce SF, duck leg confit with pears and roasted endive paired beautifully with the Ferrari Brut Rosé and the Perlé Rosé a vintage wine with pinot noir and chardonnay from special vineyards. Yes, sparkling wine is perfect for pairing with food.

Besides the beautifully crafted wines, Ferrari has a good story, too. The winery was founded in 1902 by Giulio Ferrari, an enologist who studied at Montpelier in France and San Michele all’ Adige, a prestigious Northern Italian wine school. Ferrari was a big thinker who wanted to elevate wine from a rustic, agrigultural product to something more fine and artistic. He realized that the cool climate and rocky hillsides of the Trentino Alto Adige on the edge of the Alps would be perfect for growing chardonnay and pinot noir. Ferrari is credited as the first to plant chardonnay in Italy.

His wines were soon poured by the finest hotels and cruise ship lines in Italy. After 50 years of building his winery, Ferrari ended up without heirs. He turned to his friend Bruno Lunelli — a family man and wine merchant — and told him he should buy the winery and continue his legacy. And so he did in 1952, paying it off over the years.

“Excellence is not a single act, it is an attitude,” is a favorite Aristotle quote that Lunelli says guides his family’s wine-making philosophy.

Matteo Lunelli, Chairman of the Lunelli Group which makes Ferrari Metodo Classico, says his father “always presented it as a great opportunity, but never forced me” to join the family wine business.

Here’s what I’ve noticed about the less expensive, international sparkling wines that shine next to champagne. They’re grown in a cool climate or at a higher elevation, ensuring that the wines have crisp acidity and beautiful aromas. Choosing the right grape varietal for the area — be it xarello in Spain’s Penedes or chardonnay and pinot noir as Ferrari does — is critical. Longer aging on yeast matters too. Rather than rushing the wine to market, which would be cheaper, most Ferrari sparkling wines age on the yeast for a minimum of  three years. The spectacular Giulio Ferrari 2001, the current vintage of their prestige cuvée, spends TEN years on the yeast, giving it this yummy, buttery richness, aromas of brioche and nuts. And all the Ferrari wines are crafted from pesticide-free grapes; I’ve noticed an extra-sheer quality in wines made from naturally raised grapes.

So, it’s no surprise that Ferrari Metodo Classico is the toast of Italy, poured at the Italian president’s house and events like the Venice Film Festival and the World Cup. It’s also appreciated by American cognoscenti at spots like to A16 in San Francisco to Eataly in NYC.

And now that I know, about this game-changing Italian sparkling wine, I’ll be joining them.

Drink American Bubbly, Just Like the Obamas

The Obamas feted British Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife with sparkling wines by Iron Horse and Thibaut-Janisson at a star-studded State Dinner.

There’s not much chance that I’ll ever have a wardrobe as cool as Michele Obama’s, or get to take the trips they do or meet the people that want to rub shoulders with POTUS and FLOTUS.

But, I can drink the same wines the Obamas do. That’s the cool thing about wine and food; it’s aspirational and accessible all at once. I think that’s why we’re all curious to know celebrities and other people who can eat and drink anything are enjoying at special events, like the White House State Dinner for British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Since everybody’s living the vida locavore these days, White House Wine Steward Daniel Shanks makes his selections from among domestic wines. The official wine list wasn’t released by the White House, but according to a report by Jon Bonné in the SF Chronicle’s Inside Scoop, two American sparkling wines were featured at the Cameron dinner.

Both are great methodé champenoise sparkling wines that I’ve tasted before. The NV Thibaut-Janisson Monticello Brut (about $29), crafted in Virginia is a crisp, elegant wine would complement dishes like the halibut in a crisp potato crust. The 2007 Iron Horse Vineyards Green Valley Russian Cuvée (about $38) from Sonoma is a subtly fruitier style that was poured with the steamed lemon pudding dessert.

U.S. Sparkling wines by Iron Horse and Thibaut-Janisson were featured at the White House British state dinner.

Both wines have been served at the White House before and would be equally welcome at your house. Incidentally, Iron Horse has gotten a lot of inside -the-beltway exposure lately. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden and visiting Chinese VP Xi Jinping toasted with the 2007 Iron Horse Chinese Cuvée during his visit last month.

Here’s a fun video of the White House chefs preparing for the dinner; it’s narrated by Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford.

1313 Main: A Lucky Wine Bar for Bubbly Lovers

The downtown Napa wine bar 1313 Main features adiverse selection of wines, servers that know Napa like insiders and a comfortable modern setting.

A couple weeks ago, a friend asked me the word for being afraid of the number 13. It’s triskaidecaphobia, though I admit I had to look up the exact spelling.

I didn’t think much of it until I realized that this month, which began with Sunday the 1st, would include a Friday the 13th.

But 13 isn’t always an unlucky number. A trip to Napa that started out poorly – when I discovered I’d left my wallet at home – ended with me feeling quite privileged to experience 1313 Main.

There’s a clever logo of mirrored 13s on the front, along with a window showcasing some of their favorite champagnes and sparkling wines. Inside, 1313 has a modern decor done in a range of neutral tones accented by warm red and carnelian touches.

Like most wine bars, 1313 Main offers a selection of flights. The Bubble Trouble features NV Mumm Napa Brut Prestige, NV Taittinger Cuvée Prestige and NV Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rosé. Since I was still getting over a cold, I limited myself to a taste of the Lucien Albrecht, a pristine 100% pinot noir traditional method wine with subtle flavors of plum and berries. The two-ounce tastes range from $3.50 for the Mumm Napa to $5 for the one I chose to $10 for Champagne Collet.

Every Friday, 1313 features a Bubble Bar with a rotating list of 13 sparkling wines by the glass. The lineup usually includes wines like sparkling vouvray from Domain Vigneau-Chevreau, Gruet Brut Sauvage and Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rosé. The lineup also includes something amazing, like Krug Grande Cuvée or Salon which are rarely seen in wine bars, let alone by the glass.

Can’t wait for my next visit to see what’s featured on the Bubble Bar.

Uncorked: Discovering My A-ha Moment with Champagne

An a-ha moment is when something becomes very clear to you. Kind of like the ideas in  Oprah’s back page column “Things I Know for Sure.”

During the recent Mutual of Omaha campaign to capture real people telling their own stories, I talked about the a-ha moment on the way to my becoming The Bubbly Girl. I remember being in Aspen for the Food & Wine Classic and sitting with a group of people at Nobu. One of managers at the restaurant asked me “why Champagne?”  I think I felt put on the spot a bit; it’s not often a stranger asks you to defend your chosen avocation. But I realized, “why not Champagne?”

I love wines with bubbles. I like the way there’s a sense of danger associated with opening a bottle, if you don’t handle it right. It’s like an implied message that this is special stuff and you have to respect it. The physical properties of a méthode champenoise wine force you to observe the ritual of chilling it, not shaking it up, holding the cork carefully so it doesn’t fly off in your face. Even an expensive bottle of Bordeaux doesn’t have that kind of power.

Then there’s the moment when the cork leaves the bottle – either with a pop or soft sigh. Either way, that bubbly is talking to you, loud and clear. Other wines speak once you get them in the glass and start to taste, but bubbly can make a statement before you take a single sip.

And then there are those bubbles, those magical and mesmerizing streams of tiny pearls that erupt once champagne or sparkling wine is poured into a flute. I love the way they a release a stream of memories; maybe it was the Sunday afternoon bubbly with a boyfriend or girlfriend,  the Dom Perignon at a wedding, the prosecco and prosciutto on a trip to Italy or the before-dinner champagne with a friend who’s not with us anymore. Thinking back, those moments were all happy ones, and that glass in our hand connects us to all those bottled up good feelings.

Plus when it comes to food-pairing, bubbly just happens to be the best category of wine in the world. I like the idea of  bringing more happiness to people’s lives, especially when it’s something as simple as opening a bottle of bubbly.

I think we have – or can have – a-ha moments all the time. Maybe even every day. We just have to be paying attention to that little voice inside that tells us “this is not for me” or “yes, this is what I want to do”

So what’s your a-ha moment?

Sparkling Grape Harvest in Sonoma
& the Tiziano Cocktail Recipe

Pinot noir grapes for sparkling wine are being harvested at Iron Horse Vineyards in west Sonoma County.Â

The sparkling grape harvest is under way in Sonoma wine country, and of course that means it’s time for harvest parties.

Saturday was the Flavors of Fall Festival at Korbel Winery in Guerneville, which is the largest sparkling wine producer in the United States. The history of the winery dates back more than 100 years when three brothers from Bohemia started a farm in Guernville. They found that nothing grew that well, except for wine grapes. They made their first vintage of sparkling wine in 1882, using grapes that were readily available locally and the same fermentation method as used in Champagne region of France.

If you’ve never been to Korbel, you’ll find it’s a very picturesque property that spreads out among majestic redwood trees. The garden tour takes guests behind a ornate wrought iron gate that’s usually locked and into pathways lined with creeping hydrangea, heirloom roses, elderberry, dahlias, anemone and a variety of other exotic plants. The garden is also a magnet for butterflies; deep sapphire blue swallowtails flitted about. One of the most impressive sights are the ancient redwoods, some of which are more than 1,000 years old.

This stand of redwoods at Korbel Winery in Guerneville is said to be over 1,000 years old.

The winery also offers a range of sparkling wines that can’t be found easily in the market. Since I was signing copies of The Bubbly Bar in the tasting room, I had time to taste some wine. My favorites were the 100% Chardonnay sparkling wine which was dry at just 1.0 dosage, creamy on the palate and full of golden apple and citrus flavors. I was also really impressed with the refreshing Sparkling Riesling made from fruit sourced in Mendocino County. It’s pleasantly off-dry at 3.6 percent sugar with a notes of stone fruit, slatey minerality and good acid structure.

I woke up Sunday to another sunny and hot day in west Sonoma county and the harvest party at Iron Horse Vineyards for members of the Corral Club. We walked up a pathway lined with hand-painted wine bottles holding zinnias from the Sterlings’ garden. Lunch started with duck egg omelets, local sausage and creamy golden cheese with I am the Ocean Reserve. We walked through the tomato, squash and pumpkin patches and hiked up the hill to the tasting room overlooking Green Valley while others line danced. Then the feast began lunch with grilled local lamb, spicy turkey tacos and a jumble of tomatoes along with a reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

We started the party with the Tiziano, a wine country cocktail made with fresh pressed grape juice and sparkling wine. If you decide to try this delicious and simple cocktail, juice your own grapes or buy some high-quality bottled grape juice like the Vignette Wine Country Sodas. Here’s the Tiziano recipe:

With fresh pressed grape juice and sparkling wine, Tiziano is a favorite harvest time cocktail at grape harvest time.

Tiziano Cocktail

15 to 20 red grapes for 3 ounces fresh-pressed red grape juice, plus 2 extra grapes

3 to 4 ounces brut sparkling wine

One red grape, for garnish

One green grape, for garnish

Puree grapes in a blender. Strain puree through a sieve into a champagne flute. Discard grape pulp. Top with Prosecco. Garnish with the red and green grape threaded on  a long bamboo skewer.

Variation: This cocktail takes on a whole different hue and flavor when made with green grapes or an aromatic variety like the Muscat.

Real champagne for $20? Mais oui if you know where to shop

Champagne Didier Chopin, a real brut rosé from the Champagne region of France, was one of the bargains I found at Grocery Outlet in Oakland this weekend.

For the past few weeks, a new friend has been telling me about the wine bargains he finds at a placed called Grocery Outlet. Actually, he calls it Gross Out, so  can’t say I had been in a hurry to get over there. But when he brought a couple white wines to dinner that were surprisingly good, my curiosity got the best of me.

It looks like a bodega outside, with bins piled high with oranges and mini watermelons. Inside, racks are piled equally high with everything from toilet paper and toothpaste to flower pots. I snagged some organic baby green mix in the produce section, then went to track down the wine. Along the way I noticed a very extensive cheese section, where a woman explained to her friend what “ricotta salata” was.

On the display opposite the cheese, I spotted my first wines. I picked up an Italian one in a familiar berry shade of magenta. The label said Casorzo D.O.C. Ricossa Antica Casa.  The description on the back read: “a semi-sweet sparkling frizzante style wine of fragrant floral aromas with hints of rose petal and a soft smooth taste.”

That description told me I had found a wine that contained some brachetto, the red grape from Piedmont typically made into sweetly balanced sparklers with distinctive rose and berry aromas and flavors. A wine with word brachetto on the label will usually run $18 to $22. Grocery Outlet was selling it for $7.99 – perfect for making sangria.

There's some brachetto blended into this Italian dessert wine that was just $7.99.

In the wine aisle, I spotted all kinds of wine, mostly unfamiliar. Many of the wines were blends, such as the Spanish white Pazo de Monterey that my friend had brought to dinner. It was marked $2.99 here, but drank much better. A Google search revealed that the blend of treixadura and godello grapes that had soft apple and floral aromas sells for $9 to $12 around the country.

But in the refrigerated wine case, I found the real bargains. Among a bunch of half bottles of botryitized semillon from Australia – a super bargain at $9.99 -  I spotted a few bottles of rosé sparkling with the name “Champagne Didier Chopin” and “product of France.” I didn’t know this wine either, but that doesn’t mean much since there are hundreds of smaller producers in Champagne that never make a name in the US.

I Googled the name from my phone and learned that Msr. Chopin started making wines in the Vallée de la Marne nearly 20 years ago. His brut rosé sells for around $55 in U.K. He’s a négociant -manipulant, meaning that he buys pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes and then fashions them into wine. We savored this fruity deep pink wine with its bold berry flavors and aromas. Even more delightful was picking it up for $19.99 at Grocery Outlet.

I’ll definitely be going back for more.

 

 

 

Big Bottles of Bubbly Make for Big Fun

This chart from Champagne Drappier illustrates wine bottle sizes from the personal sized bottle to the improbable Melchizedek, which could satisfy 200 of your closest friends.
This chart from Champagne Drappier illustrates wine bottle sizes from the personal sized bottle to the improbable Melchizedek, which could satisfy 200 of your closest friends.

As magical as it is to open any bottle of sparkling wine, opening a big bottle of bubbly when entertaining makes an even grander statement. Whether it’s a magnum which holds the equivalent of two regular bottles of wine or a massive 4-bottle Jeroboam, bigger bottles are a smart and easy way to please a crowd.

Looking back on bottles of bubbly with friends over the years, the larger format bottles seem to stand out. We celebrated wrapping up shooting for my book The Bubbly Bar with a magnum of Veuve Clicquot; I remember sharing the same wine with Tony Hawk and his friends at a party in their backyard. Krug’s rich and toasty Grande Cuvée flowed freely from magnums at an over-the-top press trip to show off the brand’s custom hot air balloon.

The cool thing about larger bottles is that ounce for ounce, they’re no more expensive than the 750. And besides their impressive size, larger format bottles win in the taste department when compared to the usual 750 ml bottles. I learned this lesson after a long and windy drive up to Mendocino County to visit Roederer Estate. The tasting room hosts pour their non vintage brut from a 750 ml bottle and a 1.5 liter magnum and letting guests taste the two side by side. The wine from the 750 was deliciously crisp and bursting with fresh green apples; the same wine from the magnum had these richer, toasty notes that usually are found in a wine that’s much older and more expensive.

Krug's Grande Cuvée tastes even better when its poured from a magnum.
Krug's Grande Cuvée tastes even better when its poured from a magnum.

Some fun larger bottles to try include Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut, the nearly organic Drusian Prosecco, Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut and Joy!, a sparkling wine from Iron Horse that’s aged for 10 to 15 years. It’s only available in magnums, to make sure there’s enough liquid happiness to go around.

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.