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Bubbly Events, Sparkling Wine

Iron Horse Harvest 2012 – Join the Party

September 18, 2012

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

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 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 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.”

Sparkling Wine

Celebrate New Year’s Eve with the Best Bubbly of 2011

December 31, 2011

Vouette et Sorbée is a biodynamic grower champagne house in the Aube that's becoming a sommelier favorite.

It’s hard to believe another year is coming to a close! As we get ready to welcome 2012, I can’t help but think back to all the delicious champagnes and sparkling wines I’ve enjoyed this year.

Here’s some of the bubbly that I’d love to taste one more time as the calendar changes:

NV Vouette et Sorbée Saignée de Sorbée

I heard about this grower champagne house in the Aube from both Christine Dufault and Rajat Parr while interviewing them for a story this year. I was thrilled to get to taste the range at the Arlequin Champagne Tasting. Each of the wines had a singular quality; the Blanc de Argile is extremely lean and austere, while the Saignée de Sorbée is a bold wine, extra-brut with flavors of plum, strawberry, minerals and smoke. About $88.

Champagne Lanson Black Label has a bright crisp quality balanced by the right hint of French champagne toastiness.

NV Champagne Lanson Black Label

I first tasted Champagne Lanson at the Grand Champagne Tasting at the Fairmont Hotel this spring, and rediscovered it again this winter after meeting Lanson Managing Director Paul Beavis. I love the way Lanson Black Label has a bright and fresh quality mixed with an edge of toastiness that to me says fine champagne. According to Beavis, the difference is that Lanson is made without malolactic fermentation, so the acids in the champagne stay bright and crisp, like a green apple. About $40

Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs tastes even better at the winery's Sonoma County tasting room overlooking the vineyards.

NV Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs

I love blanc de noirs  – sparkling wines made from a mix of pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes – for the way they showcase the flavors of those red grapes. This style is extremely food-friendly as well, working with richly flavored dishes like salmon, pork or lamb. Every time I taste the Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs, it delights me with hints of strawberry, baked apple and white flowers.  About $14.

Schramsberg's first wine release was the Blanc de Blancs and it remains one of their best offerings.

Schramsberg 2008 Blanc de Blancs

Jack and Jamie Davies’ Schramsberg was the first U.S. winery to make a méthode champenoise blanc de blancs, which is crafted from chardonnay grapes. It’s still one of the best, with a 2008 vintage that’s vibrant with flavors of citrus balanced by a richness from two years on the yeast. This wine became internationally known in 1972 when then President Nixon served it at Toast for Peace in Beijing, China. About $25.

Four bottles of Krug Grande Cuvée on ice - what a beautiful sight!

NV Krug Grande Cuvée

With its blend of youthfulness and age, simplicity and complexity, each time I taste Krug Grande Cuvée, it inspires me. A tasting at the Hotel Vitale was even more memorable by the opportunity to meet the charming Maggie Henriquez, CEO and President of Champagne Krug. About $135