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Sparkling Wine

Sparkling Wine

Ferrari Metodo Classico: Italian Sparkling Wine That Drinks Like Champagne

November 28, 2012

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.

Bubbly Events, Sparkling Wine

Iron Horse Harvest 2012 – Join the Party

September 18, 2012
iron_horse_party_trifle_tray

You couldn’t have asked for a more picture-perfect day than Sunday when Iron Horse Vineyards celebrated the 2012 harvest. It was a sunny 80 degree day, with hardly a cloud in the sky — I even spotted a young deer lurking near a twisted oak as I drove up the 101.

What I love about Iron Horse is that it’s one of the few places that you can have a rustic and natural experience, all the while sipping an exquisite glass of méthode champenoise sparkling wine.

Sometimes pictures tell a story better than words… so here are some images that capture the effervescence of Sunday’s party.

After parking under oak trees, we walked up a pathway lined with zinnias in decorate bubbly bottles.

At the end of the walk, guests were greeted with an Iron Harvest harvest cocktail of fresh pinot noir juice in the 2007 Brut X.

After noshing at Chef Ciara Meany’s bruschetta bar filled with grilled Costeaux French Bakery ciabatta, heirloom tomates from Barry Sterling’s garden, pesto, grilled bacon and other seasonal toppings, we sat down at two long tables set in a V-shape. Joy Sterling, president of Iron Horse, praised her brother Lawrence for his work running the winery, toasted her parents on the occasions of their 60th anniversary and thanked friends and Corral Club members for coming.

 

I loved the simple place settings topped with sprigs of lavender, the plates that look like this season’s fashionable jacquard prints and the Laguiole-inspired cutlery.

The first course was a lovely salad of fresh field greens — again from the estate garden — topped with pickled radishes, roasted sweet corn and Laura Chenel goat cheese followed by a delicious grilled quail stuffed with Swiss chard and sausage.

Dessert was a petite cup of trifle layered with late summer apples, vanilla cream and amaretti crumbles paired with a glass of Russian Cuvée.

Food + Recipes, Sparkling Wine

Got Peaches? Try this “Bellini” Sorbet Recipe from Zazu

July 31, 2012
girl_holding_peach

Ripe peaches and Moscato sparkling wine make a deliciously fresh and light Bellini summer sorbet.

A couple summers ago dining with friends at Zazu in Santa Rosa, I spotted this recipe on the wall. I snapped a picture of it, so I could try it during peach season.

Duskie Estes and John Stewart, the chefs of Italian inspired Zazu, are known for their way with pork and Black pig bacon. But they also make crazy-good wood-fired pizzas, seasonal pastas and desserts.

Technically, a Bellini is made with white peaches and prosecco, the light and fresh tasting dry sparkling wine from the Veneto. (Click to read more about prosecco on The Bubbly Girl.com.) This recipe features Moscato d’Asti, another popular Italian sparkling wine that’s sweeter and less bubbly.

Since Moscato naturally and has flavors and aromas of peaches and apricots, I’m guessing that’s why the Duskie and John chose it for this sorbet. They suggest their favorite Bonny Doon Moscato del Solo, but it can be made with any good quality Moscato.

I spotted this Bellini Sorbet recipe on the wall at Zazu Restaurant in Santa Rosa.

Zazu Bellini Sorbet

1-1/4 pounds ripe white peaches
1/2 cup sugar, or to taste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup Moscato d’Asti

Peel the peaches with a small knife. Combine the peaches, sugar and lemon juice in a food processor bowl. Process until you have a smooth purée. Stir in the Moscato. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions or freeze in a shallow pan and fluff up every hour or so using the granita method.

Recipe courtesy John Stewart and Duskie Estes of Zazu Restaurant.

© 2012 Maria C. Hunt, aka The Bubbly Girl.

 

Pop Culture, Sparkling Wine

Prosecco Party: Getting Bubbly With Francesco Zonin

July 25, 2012
francesco_zonin_prosecco_scion

Francesco Zonin is at a loss for words.

Dressed in a dark bespoke suit crafted by a tailor in Naples, the president of Zonin USA is  friendly but reserved, with the bemused air of someone who has been very fortunate in life. During a tasting with friends and writers (including BrokeAss Gourmet Gabi Moskowitz and Morgan First of Second Glass/Wine Riot) on the patio of Colosseo in North Beach, the model-handsome scion of one of the most important wine families in Italy seems like he’s used to being master of his universe.

Yet, when I ask him why Prosecco has gotten so popular, Zonin gives that Italian “non lo so” shrug.

“We’ve been trying to figure that out over the past few days,” he says, sipping a glass of their flagship wine. “The answer is we really don’t know.”

“Prosecco is gaining market share from other sparkling wines in Italy,” Zonin says.  “And sparkling wine sales are growing in the US.”

If it seems like prosecco is everywhere lately, it’s not your imagination; prosecco sales in the US grew by 50 percent in 2011, according to the Champagne Category Report. It’s estimated that prosecco is on pace to outsell Champagne for the first time ever in the US.

Prosecco 1821 is the flagship wine for Casa Vinicola Zonin.

“We have an idea that depending on the style of wine it’s made with a grape that’s lightly aromatic,” Zonin said. “It’s between brut and extra dry, so it’s refreshing and as with any Italian wine, it is a perfect match with a lot of food.”

He was right about that. Our hosts at Colosseo put out a spread of prosciutto, dry white cheese, salami followed by a first course of fritto misto. The 1821 Prosecco — Zonin’s flagship wine — paired beautifully with all of these foods, gently cutting through the fattiness while lifting the flavors.

This sparkling wine made in Northern Italy is so appealing because it’s easy to drink, without the strong carbonic acid burn that you get while drinking other sparkling wines.

While we call both the wine and the grape prosecco, it;s actually made from the glera grape. The wine is made in a number of places in Northern Italy, like Friuli, the best prosecco comes from around the towns of Conegliano and Valdobiaddene.

I believe so many people enjoy prosecco for the same reason they’ve taken to wines like pinot grigio and gruner veltliner: It’s refreshing, uncomplicated and affordable. Zonin says Italians are discovering the same thing, and rather than treating prosecco as an aperitif, they’re drinking it more than ever, too.

“We needed an excuse to drink it before, but the interesting thing is in Italy, people are starting to have sparkling wine more often,” he says. “The phenomenon (to drink prosecco) during lunch or during dinner is recent.”

Prosecco is also my favorite mixing bubbly of all time; its softer green apple and pear flavors don’t compete with other elements in a drink. In a vintage Bubbly Girl post called La Dolce Vita, I shared five prosecco cocktail recipes using everything from strawberries and limoncello to lavender and honeydew melon. And if you haven’t tried it yet, the Lilikoi Batida, a creamy passion fruit cocktail from the Four Seasons Maui Resort at Wailea, is crazy-good.

The fashion for cocktails made with prosecco makes Zonin smile; the family is the supplier to the Cipriani restaurant Harry’s Bar in Venice, which made the Bellini popular.

Since white peaches are in season, check out this post on Maria’s Good Things, for an easy recipe from the chefs of Zazu Restaurant for Bellini sorbet with sparkling wine.

 

 

Drinks, Lifestyle, Pop Culture, Sparkling Wine

Toast the Year of the Dragon with Iron Horse’s Chinese Cuvée

February 9, 2012

Iron Horse Chinese Cuvée was created to celebrate the Year of the Dragon.

It’s early February, and we’re about two weeks into the Year of the Dragon. According to the Chinese astrological charts, dragons are ambitious and dominant, passionate, creative and prefer to live by their own rules — know anyone like that? Many Chinese families plan to have children this year, because it’s the most auspicious year for a baby to be born.

Iron Horse Vineyards in Sonoma is especially excited about their new Year of the Dragon baby, a very limited bottling called the Chinese Cuvée. Created for export to China, only a lucky in the US few will get to taste this new wine.

Come toast the Year of the Dragon with Iron Horse President Joy Sterling and taste the new cuvée at a dim sum and party from 2 to 5 p.m., Saturday Feb. 11 at Press Club. After the party, head outside to view the Chinese New Year Parade, which dates back to 1860 and is one of the last illuminated Chinese New Year parades. Sponsored by Southwest Airlines, it starts at 5:30 p.m. and passes near Press Club.

Sterling says their winery has a historic connection to China. “The Clintons served Iron Horse at the State Dinner for President Jiang Zemin at the White House in 1997,” she said.

That history led Chinese wine importer Jaguar Wines to approach Iron Horse about making a special cuvée for export to China. The wine’s gold and red label has both English and Chinese and is adorned with a dragon on a fan at the bottle’s neck.

“My family and I are very proud that we have created a top quality American wine that is now an export success story,” Sterling says.

The number 8 is considered especially lucky in Chinese culture, so 8’s were attached to the Chinese Cuvée wherever possible. Of the 1,000 cases made, 880 were shipped to China and the remaining ones are available here in the U.S. The bottle sells for $98 — in numerology, the sum of the digits is 17, which in turn add up to make 8.

The wine is predominantly Pinot Noir from the 2007 vintage. Its dosage — the final mix of wine and sugar added to sparkling wine to determine the level of sweetness — was designed to make it perfect for pairing with soy, chilies and other savory flavors in Chinese cuisine.

“It never ceases to amaze me that four milliliters can so dramatically change a wine,” says Iron Horse Winemaker David Munksgard. “Dosage can affect color, aroma, weight, finish. It is like the seasoning in cooking. We had Chinese cuisine in mind with the Chinese Cuvée.”