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Drinks, Sparkling Wine

Why Pét Nat is the Bubbly to Drink Right Now

April 11, 2018

If you’re one of those people who scans the sparkling wine and champagne list at every hip restaurant you visit, you’ve probably noticed a lot of biodynamic bubbly. If you’ve ordered one, you’ve probably been thrilled with the luxurious mouthfeel, exotic aromas and exuberant flavors.

What the list probably doesn’t tell you is that these wines often are made using a process called pétillant-naturel  or  pét nat for short. For me, it’s one of the most exciting, unpredictable and delicious styles of bubbly to drink right now.

melaric globules roses wine

Everyone wanted more of the Mélaric Globules Roses, a méthode ancestrale cabernet franc sparkling wine from the Loire.

A pét nat sparkling wine employs a minimal style of winemaking perfect for multi-taskers.  It’s a one-step process that creates wine and adds bubbles at the same time. While the yeast is still eating sugar in the grape juice and producing alcohol and CO2 during the primary fermentation, the whole mixture is bottled.  While fermentation happens inside the bottle, like with champagne, but the final wine is very different from the precise and controlled méthode champenoise.

That’s because with pét nat wines, the yeast, effervescence, aromas and flavors that develop stay inside the bottle until you get ready to disgorge and drink it.  Also known as méthode ancestrale, this hands-off technique produces lively wines of such character that it’s been embraced by many biodynamic winemakers today.

I’m looking forward to trying more pét nat wines like the Johan Vineyards Melon de Bourgogne from Oregon — they also make a pét nat pinot noir rosé —  at the Demeter International Biodynamic Wine Conference on May 6-7, 2018 in San Francisco. In the meantime, here are a couple of my favorites:

Mélaric Globules Rosés

One night while making our way down Mississippi Street in Portland, we stopped at Olympia Oyster Bar. The wine list was overflowing with carefully sourced biodynamic and organic treasures. I loved all three sparkling wines, but the one that spoke to me was the biodynamic Mélaric Globules Rosés from the Loire. This cabernet franc wine delivered an intense explosion of  wild strawberries, red plums, earth and toast that immediately reminded me of  Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé with a sauvage edge. The stunning thing is that the Mélaric delivers so much flavor and impact for right around $22 a bottle — a fraction of the Billecart-Salmon.

The next day, the next week, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. But when I went home, I couldn’t find it

melanie and aymeric Hillaire

Mélanie and Aymeric of Vins Mélaric

anywhere. I sent plaintive emails starting with “AIDEZ MOI” to a handful retailers in France. But in the end, I located the wine at Corkscru, an indie wine importer and retailer in Portland run by a guy named Dan Beekley. He writes wonderful emails that evoke a sense of adventure and discovery. Read one and you’ll feel like you’re with him on a bicycle bumping down a dirt road in the Loire to meet a family and try their little handcrafted wine.

Aymeric and Mélanie Hillare, the duo behind Mélaric Globules Rosés live in the south Saumur, a beautiful region that’s a hotbed of biodynamic winemaking. They met studying viticulture at Montepelier and worked together at wineries in Bandol, Sauternes and Chinon. In 2006, they moved to the new appellation Saumur Puy Notre Dame, acquired vineyards and started making wine.

The Mélaric isn’t listed on the Corkscru website, but call and they’ll be happy to send you a bottle or six.

Sarah’s Rustic Bubbles

I met Sarah and her husband Guy a few years ago at a picnic during the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival.  The dinner line was moving slooowly and Sarah has a big smile, so we started talking.   I learned that her dad, Kurt Schoeneman owned the acclaimed Ferrington Vineyard, which supplies pinot noir and chardonnay grapes to Williams Selyem for a vineyard designate bottling, along with Poe and Schramsberg’s J. Davies brand, among others.

We’d been out of touch for a while when we reconnected by email, and Guy told me about their family winery called Fathers and Daughters. Their first bubbly is a chardonnay blanc de blancs made in the pet nat style.  It’s a slightly wild form of bubbly, since the yeast does its thing and stays in the bottle until you decide to carefully chill the bottle, open it and drink it.

I almost don’t have words to describe this wine. It was a multi-sensory experience, starting with my heart racing a bit as as I got ready to disgorge in the kitchen sink.  I followed the instructions to get it really cold first , so when I uncapped it over the kitchen sink, so I didn’t lose much.

Aromas ranged from fresh golden apples to peanuts to white flowers. The wine had a beautiful mousse like a fluffy meringue. At times it tasted like chardonnay, other times it was like drinking a dry cider or an aromatic wheat beer.

It felt like the wine was alive — which is part of the joy of pét nat wines.

 

 

 

Bubbly Girl Cocktail Recipes, Drinks

Make My Bittersweet Naughty Negroni

February 1, 2018

Anyone who loves classic cocktails or things Italian knows the Negroni. It’s a bracing and bittersweet cocktail that stars Campari, sweet vermouth and gin.

Lately, I’ve noticed that riffs on this traditional Florentine cocktail have been making the rounds.

count-camillo-negroni

From camillonegroni.com

Just the other day, GQ Magazine penned a love letter to the Negroni Sbagliato, a version that adds a sparkling wine, such as Prosecco, to the mix. The name “sbagliato” roughly means broken or incorrect, as if adding Prosecco is a bad thing.

The original Negroni is named for Count Camillo Negroni, an esteemed patron of Caffè Cassoni in Florence. He usually drank Americanos (Campari, sweet vermouth and club soda), but one day in 1919, he asked barman Fosco Scarselli to swap the soda for gin!

What may have started as libation to erase a bad day has become an Italian contribution to the classic cocktail pantheon.  The Count even has his own tribute site and inspired a couple books.

Judging from the drink, I bet he liked other bitter elixirs like Italian espresso. I found my first Negronis a bit too bitter and viscous for my palate. So while I was developing recipes for my book The Bubbly Bar back in 2007, I made a softer version.

My Naughty Negroni includes a splash of Moscato d’Asti. This refreshing sparkling wine from Piedmont adds freshness and lightens. But it’s still a perfectly bittersweet aperitif  and a great way to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

The Naughty Negroni 

1 ounce Campari
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce gin
3-4 ounces Moscato d’Asti, chilled
1 orange peel spiral, for garnish

Add the Campari, vermouth and gin to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until your hands are cold, then strain into a champagne flute. Top with Moscato and garnish with the orange peel.

Makes 1 cocktail

© By Maria C. Hunt – Author of The Bubbly Bar. All rights reserved.

Drinks, Sparkling Wine

Drink This: Richard Grant Cuvée Rosé Brut

September 20, 2016

I 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.

Bubbly Events, Champagne

#TopItOff with Louis Roederer Champagne & the Tablehopper

January 8, 2014

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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-a-brac like ceramic horse heads, taxidermy, old books and vases completed the vintage look.

Lots of champagne lovers go ga-ga for têtes de cuvée 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, gougéres 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.

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.

Cocktail Recipes, Drinks

Five Fabulous New Year’s Eve Cocktails from Pinterest

December 28, 2013
kismet_cocktail_flutes

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 the  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.