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Sparkling Wine

Bubbly to Try Next: Richard Grant Cuvée Rosé Brut

September 20, 2016

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.

Sparkling Wine, Wine Reviews

Can Sparkling Wine Age? You Bet!

December 26, 2013
wine_grape_clusters
This 1987 bottle of Schramsberg Reserve Sparkling Wine still had plenty of golden fruit, along with nutty flavors, when we opened it 26 years later.

This 1987 bottle of Schramsberg Reserve Sparkling Wine still had plenty of golden fruit, along with nutty flavors, when we opened it 26 years later.

So as I looked in my wine fridge for a wine to bring to a holiday dinner, I discovered a bottle of Schramsberg Reserve sparkling wine from 1987.  What a thrilling discovery – vintage bubbly! But I kind of worried too that I had aged it into a bottle of Napa Valley pinot noir vinegar.

Both the front and back labels call it “Napa Valley Champagne.” Back in 1987, a gallon of gas cost 89 cents. The most popular car was the Ford Escort (MSRP $6,895). That was also the year that The Simpsons and FOX Broadcasting debuted and Prozac went on the market. I was barely old enough to drink legally. So much has changed in the past 26 years.

Fortunately, well-made sparkling wine can wait. Once uncorked, the wine was a deep golden color with deep notes of golden apple, nuts, toast and Madeira wrapped in mouthwatering acidity. The bubbles were persistent but so very tiny, that we could really enjoy the flavor of the wine. It was beautiful on its own, as well as with Dungeness crab cakes and a juicy pork loin.

I resolved to start aging more sparkling wine — and think you should try it too.

Of course, if that bottle of bubbly you’re thinking of laying down costs under $20, you may have nothing but vintage vinegar at the end of your experiment. But if it’s a fine méthode champenoise wine that was carefully crafted and had some extended contact with yeast in the first place, it absolutely has that potential.

While they don’t have high amounts of tannin or sugar — two factors that allow other cult red wines like Screaming Eagle to age — sparkling wines and champagnes are naturally graced with a high amount of acidity. This acidity helps preserve the wine and allow it to develop in a positive way, just like a great German riesling or white Burgundy.

So next time you go to your favorite winery and pick up a bottle of their special release, consider putting it away in a cool place and forgetting about it for 20 years or so.

The back label says the wine is nutty, toasty and ?? - and it was still true 26 years later.

The back label says the wine is nutty, toasty and well aged – and it was still true 26 years later.

Champagne, Drinks, Sparkling Wine

5 Organic Champagnes & Sparkling Wines for Earth Day

April 17, 2013
wildflowers_vineyard_recaredo

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

 

Bubbly Girl Cocktail Recipes, Drinks, Sparkling Wine

The Lava Lamp: Three Easy Holiday Cocktails in One

December 27, 2012
modernist_lava_lamp_cocktail

I have a confession: the Lava Lamp is probably the most simple cocktail from my book The Bubbly Bar. And maybe for that reason, or the fact that people love the tangy mix of pomegranate and sparkling wine, it’s also the most popular. If you’ve never tried it, here’s the classic recipe:

The Lava Lamp

1 ounce Pama pomegranate liqueur

4 ounces brut sparkling wine

3 pomegranate seeds

Add the pomegranate liqueur to a champagne flute. Top with the brut sparkling wine. Garnish with the three pomegranate seeds.

I’m glad people still enjoy this cocktail, but I’ve created a few variations on it, and I thought you might like to try them. I’ve found that all sorts of tangy deep red winter fruit juices like blood orange, hibiscus, pomegranate juice, cranberry work well too and make a lower calorie drink. I’ve subbed Pür Spirits Blood Orange Liqueur for the alcohol. And I’ve changed up the garnishes as well. Use the formula below to make your own variation on this holiday drink.

START WITH:

4 ounces brut sparkling wine (or brut rosé or sparkling water for a non alcoholic drink)

ADD:

1 to 1-1/2 ounces of either: Pür Blood Orange, pomegranate juice, cranberry juice, hibiscus juice, tart cherry juice, Cherry Heering Liqueur

GARNISH WITH:

3 pomegranate seeds or slivers of candied ginger, pickled cranberries, candied Meyer lemon peel, a candied hibiscus flower, a flavored cocktail foam

For a modernist (aka molecular cuisine inspired) take on the Lava Lamp, I topped it with a foam made with Pür Blood Orange Liqueur and pomegranate-cranberry juice. I know a lot of people have soda siphons like the iSi at home for making soft drinks; you can also use it to make a velvety foam to top cocktails. I mixed 1-1/2 cups of juice with 1/4 cup of the liqueur and 6 egg whites. Put it in a cold iSi soda siphon, charge it with one cartridge, then shake and chill.

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.