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holiday

Sparkling Wine, Wine Reviews

Can Sparkling Wine Age? You Bet!

December 26, 2013
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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.

Bubbly Girl Cocktail Recipes, Drinks, Sparkling Wine

The Lava Lamp: Three Easy Holiday Cocktails in One

December 27, 2012
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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.

Entertaining, Party Recipes and Pairings

A Quick Primer on Bubbly and Holiday Entertaining the Bubbly Girl Way

December 27, 2012
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Maria with sparkling Framboise Apricot Punch from The Bubbly Bar.

I know entertaining can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. All you need, really, are a few fool-proof recipes, a relatively clean house and an outfit that makes you feel stunning.

My first rule of entertaining is to plan on opening a bottle of bubbly — either Champagne or sparkling wine — as soon as guests arrive. People get excited when they see that curvy bottle and hear the pop as it opens. It reminds them of good times and it will put them in the party mood. You can serve it straight, pour it into a punch or a sparkling cocktail.

The great thing is that these days there are so many choices when it comes to sparkling wine and Champagne. So why not try something new? You could choose a champagne from a family who grows their own grapes and then makes it into a distinctive champagne that carries the unique taste of their vineyard. These grower champagnes — like the Champagne Saint-Chamant Blanc de Blancs NV — are bursting with flavor and personality. This one is made by Christian Coquillette, a charming 80+ year old man with a proper French mustache, who enjoys aging his wines a looong time. He has a mile’s worth of caves under his house, so why not? This 100% chardonnay wine is aged for seven years, giving it the rich flavors of a much more expensive cuvée, yet it sells for just $48 because Msr. Coquillette isn’t a household name.

Or perhaps you’d like to get even more adventurous and try a bottle of fine sparkling wine from somewhere else? There’s a growing number of producers around the world who use the  “Champagne method” to craft delicious sparkling wines that offer an amazing value. One of my favorite international producers is Graham Beck in South Africa, who makes wonderful cap classique — the South African term for méthode Champenoise wine. Beck’s wines, which use chardonnay and pinot noir, have crisp and clean flavors and usually sell for around $20 a bottle. And according to the Graham Beck website, Presidents Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela as well as super-spy James Bond like his wine, too.

Italy is a fabulous source of sparkling wine, as every prosecco lover knows. My greatest discovery from Italy this past year was Ferrari Metodo Classico. Since 1902, they’ve quietly been making fine bubbly that drinks like Champagne high in the hills near Trento not far from the Alps.

Sweet sparkling wines are always crowd-pleasers, whether it’s popular classic Moscato d’Asti or one of the crop of new pink Moscatos and other sweet pink sparkling wines that are winning fans because of their cotton-candy hue and easy to love flavors of peach and melon. Last year I was surprised by a well-balanced pink Moscato from Moldova; this year I succumbed and bought some of Torti’s Hello Kitty Sweet Pink. Though few are interested on what’s inside the cute bottle, it’s made with pinot noir from the Oltrepo Pavese region of Lombardy.

Don’t worry about pairing foods with sparkling wine; it’s surprisingly versatile. Anything salty, crispy, fatty or fried will be perfect. That list includes: popcorn, French fries, potato chips, prosciutto ham, Parmesan cheese, fried chicken and shrimp tempura. The Bubbly Girl recipe section has some good party appetizers like Posh Popcorn and Tartelette Flambée, an easy bacon and onion pizza you make with purchased puff pastry.

Shellfish of all sorts is delicious with sparkling wine because the wine’s acidity is like adding a squeeze of lemon to a shrimp or some cracked crab. A tray of nigiri and maki rolls from your favorite sushi spot is perfect with bubbly.

See how easy that is?

© 2012 Maria Hunt aka The Bubbly Girl.

 

Bubbly Events

More Bubbly Book Fun in San Diego

November 11, 2009

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The holidays are almost here, and admit it, you’re probably thinking about pulling out those same familiar recipes you make every year. I bet they’re good, but here’s an even better idea: join me for one of these three events in San Diego this month to pick up a bunch of new ideas and recipes for easy and delish drinks and party food.

Next Thursday Nov. 19 I’m teaching The Bubby Girl’s Ultimate Party Plan at the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Fest, which kicks off Nov. 18-22. We’ll be tasting great food like Mediterranean style lamb sliders, Alsatian Tarts and my super easy Posh Popcorn paired with deliciously affordable sparkling wines and seasonal cocktails from my new book The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion.  Click here to buy your ticket and make sure you get a spot in this tasty and useful class for anyone who wants to be better at entertaining.

Bring your canvas shopping back and meet me at the Little Italy Mercato from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday Nov. 21. Pick up some free Bubbly Girl cocktail recipe cards and ingredients for your Thanksgiving dinner at the market at India and Date streets. Click here for a map to the area.  If you haven’t been before, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the mix of cool food artisans, farmers and restaurants at this urbane market.

And to help inspire you  just before Thanksgiving, join me at the ever-so-elegant Cafe Chloe for a pre-holiday party and book signing from 4 to 6 p.m. on Monday Nov. 23. This is a free event, so come down and share a glass of wickedly delicious Framboise Apricot Punch from The Bubbly Bar and nibble on appetizers including duck confit with caramelized shallots, housemade charcuterie and ahi niçoise  – all featured on Cafe Chloe’s delicious party platters.

We’ll also make it easy to get started with holiday gift buying- I’ll be signing copies of The Bubbly Bar and Cafe Chloe’s  just made a new batch of their gorgeous rose syrup that’s perfect in bubbly or an Italian soda. Never tasted it? Rose Royale cocktails  will be available for half-price.