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Champagne, Drinks, Sparkling Wine

5 Amazing Organic Sparklers for Earth Day

April 17, 2013

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

The Bubbly Girl Drink of the Week: Sparkling Strawberry Summer Sangria

June 19, 2011

This Sparkling Strawberry Summer Sangria stars everybody’s favorite berry, apricots and brachetto, the sweet-tart red sparkling wine from Italy that tastes of roses, currants and raspberries.

Summer is almost upon us, so I figured it was time to start concocting one of my favorite styles of summer drinks: sangria.

Sangria, which takes its name from the Spanish word for blood, is usually a mix of red wine, fruit, spirits and a little spice.  But really, any inexpensive wine — red, white, or bubbly — can be the start of delicious sangria, as I learned while travelling through Spain’s cava sparkling wine region. Gareth of Mont Marçal Cava shared his Spanish sangria recipe that works equally well with red or white wine.

They can be made year-round with whatever fruit you have on hand, but to me sangrias are most delicious in summer, when they showcase fleeting gems like apricots, white cherries and ripe berries. One of my favorite sangria recipes ever is this Apricot & White Cherry Sangria I created a couple seasons ago.

Best of all, if you’re hosting a party, sangrias are crowd-pleasers – even people who claim not to like sweet drinks will be back for another fruity glass. The trick is achieving a balance between the sweet, tart and spirited elements in your mix.

Last weekend I discovered a bargain bottle of brachetto, a sweet-tart sparkling wine from Piedmont, Italy at a store called Grocery Outlet. Priced at just $7.99 this wine bursting with aromas and flavors of raspberries, strawberries and roses begged to be mixed with fruits in a sangria. So I gave in.

Sparkling Summer Strawberry Sangria

1 cup Limoncello liqueur

1 cup apricot liqueur

1 cup fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and quartered

1/2 cup fresh raspberries

4 ripe apricots, cut in slivers

4 key limes, thinly slices

¼ cup lime juice

1 bottle brachetto Italian sparkling wine, chilled

1/2 bottle peach sparkling cider

3 shakes orange bitters

whole strawberries, for garnish

If you’re starting your sangria a few hours or the night before you plan to serve it, combine the Limoncello, apricot liqueur, strawberries, raspberries, apricots, limes , and lime juice in a glass pitcher. Just before serving, add the chilled brachetto and the sparkling cider. Garnish the glasses with a whole strawberry.

Makes 6 to 8 servings


© 2011 By Maria Hunt aka The Bubbly Girl


Cocktail Recipes

Cocktails to Crave: The Old Cuban

November 19, 2010
This delicious Old Cuban was mixed at Rye, by co-owner Jon Gasparini.

This delicious Old Cuban was mixed at Rye, by co-owner Jon Gasparini.

After doing a little event for a group of women attorneys at The Bubble Lounge last week, I went out for drinks with Heather and Marie, a pair of new foodie friends.

As we scanned the menu at a hip vintage style watering hole in the Financial District, Heather was disappointed that the Old Cuban — her favorite new drink — wasn’t on the menu. I told her to ask for one anyway. It’s my new favorite too and a modern classic that any bartender worth his salt knows how to make.

Apparently not. The waiter brought over two pale cocktails that looked like mojitos. Close — since the Old Cuban is a variant of the mojito. Both are made with lime, mint, simple syrup and benefit from a good golden or dark rum with some age, like Zaya, Smith & Cross or El Dorado 12.

But what makes an Old Cuban really fine and so appealing is the Angostura bitters. A proper Old Cuban — as created by the brilliant Audrey Saunders at Pegu Club in New York — has a few dashes of Angostura bitters in the mix.

I’ve read that some bartenders are making their version of an Old Cuban sans Angostura bitters. An Old Cuban without bitters isn’t an Old Cuban, it’s a Hemingway Mojito, which gets finished with a slug of champagne instead of club soda. Plus, it’s a huge mistake in terms of flavor.

Angostura bitters are made in Trinidad from a secret blend of roots and herbs.

Angostura bitters are made in Trinidad from a secret blend of roots and herbs.

Bitters aren’t a garnish here, like they are atop the foam on a Pisco Sour. In an Old Cuban, Angostura bitters make the cocktail. Bitters turn the drink the desired shade of reddish brown — think of an Old Cuban cigar. And they also bring the drink’s flavors into sharp focus while imparting a mysterious, complex quality that makes an Old Cuban so beguiling. And since Angostura bitters were originally created as a digestive aid, I can’t think of any better way to begin a meal.

One can find a good Old Cuban in the Bay Area at Rye in the Tenderloin and  Beretta in the Mission.

But since not much tastes better — especially in winter — than a fine cocktail from your home bar, here’s the recipe:

Old Cuban
5 fresh mint leaves, plus a sprig for garnish
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 to 3/4 ounces simple syrup
1-1/2 ounces tasty rum
2 to 3 dashes Angostura bitters
2 ounces brut cava or champagne

Muddle the mint leaves, lime juice and simple syrup in the bottom of a mixing glass or cocktail shaker. Add the rum, bitters and ice and shake until well-chilled. Strain into a smallish footed cocktail glass or vintage champagne coupe and top with the sparkling wine or champagne. Garnish with the mint sprig. Repeat.

Bubbly Girl Cocktail Recipes, Cocktail Recipes

Two Sparkling Sangria Recipes for Mother’s Day Weekend

May 6, 2010
Sangria makes a perfect way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo weekend, especially when it's one like this with fresh berries and the Italian sparkling wine Brachetto or it's made in the traditional Spanish-style.

Sangria makes a perfect way to celebrate Mother’s Day weekend, especially when it’s one like this with fresh berries and the Italian sparkling wine Brachetto or it’s made in the traditional Spanish-style.

It’s hard to feel like celebrating when Cinco de Mayo falls smack dab in the middle of the week. And then the next thing you know, here comes Mother’s Day.  I see no reason why you shouldn’t roll the two celebrations into one by mixing up a pitcher of wickedly delicious sangria that everyone in the family will love.

With fresh strawberries, raspberries and blueberries coming into season, a perfect way to use them is in this Ruby Red Sangria that’s included in my book The Bubbly Bar.  Instead of a dry red wine, the base of this one is brachetto, a sweet tart sparkling wine from Piedmont Italy. It tastes of raspberries and roses and was a favorite tipple even in ancient times.

The inspiration for this recipe came from Tom Mastricola, a fabulous mixologist originally from Boston who served it at the pool deck at Arterra in the San Diego Marriott Del Mar. It’s refreshing but has a way of sneaking up on you with the crème de cassis and cognac.

I’ll be showing how to make my Ruby Red Sangria and a Sangria Blanca made with the Spanish sparkling wine cava and sharing some great  summer drink tips  as the guest mixologist June 5 & 6 at the Sunset Magazine’s Celebration Weekend 2010. More than 20,000 people will be flocking to the magazine’s gorgeous campus in Menlo Park to pick up inspiration and ideas on summer cooking, home entertaining, and gardening. The event sells out, so book early if you want to get tickets.

Ruby Red Sangria

This fragrant sangria stars fresh summer raspberries, blueberries and strawberries with the sweet -tart red sparkling wine from Piedmont, Italy called Brachetto d’Acqui.The cognac and crème de cassis add an extra layer of depth and flavor.

16 raspberries
16 blueberries
16 strawberries
1 cup Landy cognac, chilled
1/2 cup crème de cassis
1/2 cup Homemade Sour Mix
1/4 cup orange juice
1 bottle Brachetto d’Acqui, chilled
8 slices orange
8 slices lemon

Add the berries to a cocktail shaker and muddle them to a juicy pulp. Transfer the muddled berries and juice to a pitcher. Add the cognac, crème de cassis, sour mix and orange juice. Stir well to combine. Just before serving, add the chilled Brachetto to the pitcher. Fill the serving glasses halfway with crushed ice. Add an orange slice and lemon slice to each glass, then fill with the sangria.
Makes 8 servings

Mont Marcal winery is set in a 17th century masia ( Catalan farmhouse) where nuns called the Barefoot Carmelites once lived.

Mont Marçal winery is set in a 17th century masia ( Catalan farmhouse) where nuns called the Barefoot Carmelites once lived and made wine. (The Bubbly Girl)

I recently picked up some more ideas about sangria while travelling in the Penedès region southwest of Barcelona, which is the center of Spain’s cava sparkling wine production. Gareth York, the Brit export manager for Mont Marçal Cava — available all over the U.S. —  shared his own recipe for a Spanish-style sangria. The secret ingredient is European Lemon Fanta, which he says adds just the right sweet tart flavor.

Gareth’s Sangria

1 750 ml bottle cava (or decent red wine)

750 ml European Lemon Fanta
3/4 cup ruby port wine
1 small glass of brandy or cognac
1 orange, washed, pitted and sliced
1 lemon, washed, pitted and sliced
1 apple, washed, pitted and sliced
1 ripe peach, washed, pitted and sliced

Mix all the liquids together in a large pitcher, add the fruit and macerate in the fridge for four to five hours. Don’t add too much ice as this waters the sangria down. The Lemon Fanta works well as it has a nice balance of sugar and acidity and there is no need to add sugar. The proportions of the wines and Fanta are approx. if you want it to have more of a kick then add a bit less Fanta.

What is important is that the wines are of a decent quality and drinkable. I always said when I was in the kitchen, if you put good wine in a dish, it will be good – if you put a bad wine in a dish it won’t get any better!!

Sparkling Wine

Four Organic Sparkling Wines for Earth Day Weekend

April 23, 2010
Terra Savia's Blanc de Blancs is just one of the many sparkling wines from organic grapes on the market today. (Courtesy photo)

Terra Savia's Blanc de Blancs is just one of the many sparkling wines from organic grapes on the market today. (Courtesy photo)

The weather was odd this Earth Day 2010, with strong showers  and wind alternating with patches of sun. It’s like Mother Nature is bi-polar, or she’s trying to show off all of her stuff in one day.

One of the best ways to show your love for the planet and your body is by drinking wine made from organically grown grapes. These wines used to be hard to find, but these days with increased awareness about the dangers that pesticides can pose to the earth, farm-workers and end consumers, there’s lots of choice. One of the best places to find international organic wines online remains The Organic Wine Company and Whole Foods Markets around the country also have a good selection. Read up on all sorts of organic wines at Organic Wine

I especially like sparkling wines made from organic grapes. My favorite sparkling wines have a sheer and elegant quality to them and this seems to be magnified in sparkling wines and champagnes made from organic grapes.

Plus I find that winemakers who produce an organic sparkling wines – one of the hardest styles to make – share this reverence their vineyards and nurturing them so they yield the best clusters of grapes. On a recent trip to Spain, winemaker Ton Mata of Cavas Recaredo told me that he tested out growing without pesticides or chemical fertilizers, his vineyards let him know that this was what they needed. Now their production of 300,000 bottles of long aged cavas called gran reservas are all made with organically grown grapes. I found the same passion for the land talking to Jim Milone of Terra Savia in Mendocino and Eileen Crane of Domaine Carneros in Napa.

Some people feel guilty about drinking wine that has had to be shipped for thousands of miles, because of the fossil fuel burned up along the journey. So in the interest of being completely eco-friendly this Earth Day, I’m offering a list of some great green wines from around the world.

Terra Savia Blanc de Blancs – I stumbled across the wine at Andy’s Market in Sebastopol one day and bought it because I was thrilled to find an organic grape sparkling wine for under $25. My friends and I loved its bright green apple notes and clean flavors balanced with a hint of toastiness.

La Cantina Pizzolato Prosecco

La Cantina Pizzolato Prosecco

La Cantina Pizzolato Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene For five generations the Pizzolato family has been growing grapes in the northern Italian town of Treviso. In 1991, their Treviso vineyards were certified organic. They now produce a range of organic proseccos including from the Treviso and Valdobbiadene DOCs as well as a sparkling chardonnay and a raboso, a red grape that produces sprightly, fruity wines. The prosecco typically sells for around $15-16.

Domaine Carneros Brut Rose

Domaine Carneros Brut Rose

Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé Cuveé de la Pompadour – Since 2005, all the wines from this Taittinger-owned house in Napa have been made from organically grown grapes; the estate’s vineyards were certified organic in 2008.  Winemaker and CEO Eileen Crane says the vines just seem more vigorous, it’s better for the workers and the wines taste even better. The Brut Rosé is completely dry, but has wonderful strawberry and plum flavors thanks to the predominance of pinot noir.  It’s $25 to $30 a bottle.

Cavas Recaredo Brut Nature 2006

Cavas Recaredo Brut Nature 2006

Cavas Recaredo Brut Nature Cava 2006There are so many little details that go into producing Cavas Recaredo, which are poured at the best restaurants in the world including Arzak and The French Laundry in Yountville. All the cavas are aged long on the yeast to produce a complex flavors, they’re aged on the cork, disgorged by hand and are finished with no sugar in the dosage, making them brut nature in style. About $35.