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Posts Tagged ‘Sparkling Wines’

Wine Review Snapshot

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Wine Tasting Review

Sipping for Wine Reviews

Sipping for Wine Reviews & Education

As a wine educator, I am tasked with tasting wines on a frequent basis. Yes, break out the guitar and play a blues song for me. So, since I drink wine almost daily, I thought it was time again to share some tasting notes. For another wine review snapshot, check out my post on Warm Weather Wines ideal for fall.

What follows is a wine review snapshot of wines I’ve enjoyed recently.


My Wine Tastings Highlights

Domaine Peiriere by Paul Sapin


Pays d’Oc

Salad with orange slices

Salad with orange slices

I love blends. The Viognier in this blend gives it a bit of freshness and lemon zest, while the Chardonnay brings a great golden color that hints of oak. I wish more American Chardonnay producers would blend their white wines instead of making pure single variety wines.

This wine would be a nice accompaniment to a salad with mandarin orange slices or one with pieces of avocado. The acidity would compliment the citrus while matching nicely with the creaminess of the avocado.

It’s not a complicated wine but I’d drink it again as one of my simple, everyday wines. I believe it is priced under $10.


2011 Robert Craig Affinity

Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa Valley

This wine has great legs and a beautiful deep, purple color. On the nose, I got plum and blackberry fruit. Although the wine was young, I tasted masculine dark, plum and jam-like fruits. It also had surprisingly tamed tannins.

For a Napa Cab, the Robert Craig Affinity at $39.95 is priced quite reasonable. If you can buy two bottles, you should. Then, you can drink one now and lay one down for another 3 to 4 years. This is a wine that will taste even better in a few years.


2012 Ramey

Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa Valley

This Cabernet will set you back around $50, but it is worth every penny. It tastes like a Cab that cost twice as much. And that certainly is not a bad thing given the hefty prices most Napa Cabernets.

Its appearance is an intense dark red but the nose was a bit trickier. I smelled cherry and Thanksgiving spices, which only hastened my desire to taste it. So I gave into temptation and was rewarded with beautiful black cherry and raisin flavors. The tannins were as beautiful as the wine.

After drinking this wine, I was so intrigued that I went to the website to find out more about the winemaker. Dave Ramey developed an impressive resume working in the industry prior to opening his winery  with his wife Carla, in 1996. They have a tasting room in Healdsburg, which I will surely have to visit on my next trip to the region.

To learn more about their vineyards, click http://www.rameywine.com/vineyards/


Mumm Napa

Sparkling Wine Brut Prestige

Napa Valley

Champagne Classy Enough for a Wedding

A Sparking Wine Classy Enough for a Wedding

I could drink champagne and sparkling wine every single day of my life. I love it that much.  And this sparkling is a staple in my wine captain. A Napa stalwart, it is refreshing and has a creamy brioche finish typically only found in expensive French champagnes. It is medium bodied, with a citrus flavor and the perfect amount of acidity.

Mumm’s sparkling wine is classy enough to serve at a special occasion such as a wedding; yet it won’t break the bank. The complexity will have your guests thinking you spent far more. It’s a perfect food wine that typically retails for around $17.


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Yarra Valley Balloon & Wine

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Aussie Day Wine Tour

Yarra Valley Hot Air Balloon

Yarra Valley Hot Air Balloon

Imagine starting your day soaring over the vineyards of beautiful Yarra Valley in a hot-air balloon. May is Aussie Wine Month.  So what better way to get in the spirit than by planning your Bucket List Vacation to the land “down under”.

Located just east of Melbourne, Australia, the Yarra Valley is a cool-growing wine region.  The region has a long-growing season, allowing it to produce excellent quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Yarra River through Melbourne

Yarra River through Melbourne

On this wine lover’s excursion, you’ll enjoy a hearty breakfast accompanied by an Australian sparkling wine.  Then, it’s off for some serious tasting.  As you swirl, sniff and sip wines produced from the nearby vineyards, you’ll learn about the wine-making process from knowledgeable winery staff.  At each stop, sample wines from family-owned and boutique wineries.

During your included lunch, you will enjoy a full glass of wine before leaving on your next winery visit.  The Yarra Valley benefits from close proximity to Discovery Bay, making for less summer rain.  You will learn how this helps the ‘diva’ Pinot Noir vines avoid growing problems like coulure or millerandage.

Champagne's good friend, Chardonnay

Champagne’s good friend, Chardonnay

And about that sparkling wine you had with breakfast, well it’s produced in this region also.  You’re probably familiar with the French champagne house Moët et Chandon, right?  Well, in 1986 they established Domaine Chandon Australia.

You champagne lovers know that Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are two of the three grapes (the third is Pinot Meunier)  used in champagne production.  The Yarra Valley climate helps the grapes produce exceptional fruit that is excellent enough to bear the name of one of the finest champagne houses in Epernay, France.  Your wine tour concludes with a tour of the facility and, of course, a glass of bubbly.


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Sparkling Wine for Easter Dinner

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Gruet Blanc de Noir – NV New Mexico

Easter EggsIf you are looking for a wine to kick off your Easter dinner, a sparkling wine would be an ideal choice.  I discovered this great sparkling from New Mexico, yes you read that correctly, about four years ago.  I highly recommend it for your upcoming Easter get together.

Owner Gilbert Gruet has been producing champagne at his Bethon, France estate since 1952 so he’s no Johnny-come-lately winemaker.  The New Mexico sparkling wine house began production in 1983 and his run by his tow children.  The “Land of Enchantment” vineyards are at 4,300 feet, making them among some of the highest in America.

Gruet Brut Sparkling Wine

Gruet Brut Sparkling Wine

On appearance, the wine is a lot lighter in color than one may expect given it’s made using Pinot Noir grapes, which are black.  However, you’ll get over that quickly. I sure did.  It has a wonderful brioche aroma that screams sparkling wine.  My taste buds were saying, ‘Well what are you waiting for?”  So I obliged and took a sip.

Sparkling Wine for Easter

Lush, Creamy Sparkling Wine for Easter



The creamy texture was refreshing.  I love that Saturday morning toast flavor that is prevalent in well-made sparkling wine. The fruit is a pleasing raspberry with a nice punch of acidity.  The acidity will be as welcome as one of your guests when you start mixing and matching the myriad foods that make Easter dinner so special.

The $17 price is just right for a small-to-mid-sized Easter gathering.  HAPPY EASTER!


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South African Sparkling Wine

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Graham Beck Wines Brut, NV, Méthode Cap Classique


Small Bubbles are Best for Champagne

Small Bubbles are Best for Champagne

At Graham Beck Wines in South Africa, their mission is: The eternal pursuit of the perfect bubble. Cellar Master, Pieter Ferreira philosophy’s can be summed up in this quote, “The smaller you can create that bubble, the better the chances that the wine will develop gentle flavours.” And may I add, The greater the chance you won’t wake up up with a headache. This is evident when you taste their sparkling wine.

They begin this quest by handpicking the grapes. Then the Chardonnay (55%) and Pinot Noir (45%) clutters are whole-bunch pressed, fermented separately and finally, blended along with a bit of reserve wine. Bottles are left on the lees for 15-18 months.

Their non-vintage Brut shows that classic aroma of yeast as soon as you pick up the glass. I love the breakfast-toast taste of that first sip, followed by lemon zest. I also picked up some crisp, green apple. This is a moussey sparkling with a delicious, rich creamy finish.

Graham Beck Brut Sparkling Wine

Graham Beck Brut Sparkling Wine

Graham Beck sparkling wine is produced in the Robertson region, a district of the greater Breede River Valley appellation in South Africa. It is adjacent to Paarl, another top-producing district. The winery is located approximately 90 miles outside of Cape Town.

Robertson is not the most hospitable area for wine cultivation. The nearby Breede Valley, not surprisingly has sand deposits, which makes for fertile soils. In the higher elevations, shale and red clay are the predominant soils.

Irrigation System  for Robertson Vineyards

Irrigation System for Breede Valley Vineyards

Also, with Summer, comes a hot climate, with very little rainfall. Irrigation is a must but even that is sometimes not enough. Growers also rely on wells, in addition to stored water captured from the rains. Furthermore, vintners must contend with insects, fungi and disease. In order to protect the wines, they must attack these enemies with continual spraying.  To make wines in these conditions takes passion.

I’m not saying this wine is good luck but it does happen to be the sparkling toasted by Presidents. The first democratically elected President of the Republic of South Africa, Nelson Mandela toasted his historic election victory in 1994 with a bottle of this carefully made sparkling wine. President Obama and First Lady Michelle also enjoyed a glass or two of this Brut on Nov. 4, 2008, to celebrate his historic election win.

In San Diego, you can purchase this lovely sparkling wine from Bine and Vine on Adams Ave.  It costs around $15. They carry a nice selection of South African wines.





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Champagne Terroir is Acknowledged

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The Terroir of Champagne is Unique

Map of China

Map of China

This may be your last chance to buy Chinese Champagne.  Thank your lucky stars for that.

China has finally recognized Champagne as a protected region. Really?  Champagne has been around only since the 17th century. The Chinese government has agreed to use the name and process “Champagne” only when discussing the sparkling wine made in France’s Champagne AOC region.


By agreeing, China will stop labeling their sparkling wines with the word “Champagne”.  How big of them. It’s about time they got on board.

Champagne is truly special.  Champagne may only be labeled as such if it is grown and produced in the distinct region of the same name, located about an hour east of Paris by train.  In addition, the only grape varieties that can be used are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.  However, it may be produced in different styles.

France's Unique Champagne Region

France’s Unique Champagne Region

Blanc de blanc champagne is made from the region’s only permitted white grape, Chardonnay.  Blanc de noirs is produced from the black grape varieties, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.  Rosés are made by blending red and white base wine.

However, there are a handful of sparkling wine producers who are allowed to use the term.  In 2006, the United States and the European Union signed a wine trade agreement stating that no new producers would use the term on bottles.  However, if a winery was granted permission prior, they were grandfathered in, meaning they may continue using the term champagne on their labels.

The French are serious about their wines and their terroir, the special name given to describe the unique characteristics of the soil in a specific region.  Sparking wines produced in other parts of France must label bottles as cremant, even though most are produced in the exact method used by Champagne producers.  And, it’s been this way for a very, very long time. How long?  Since 1919.  That was when the Treaty of Versailles was signed, ending WWII.  The French were thinking way ahead and got a limitation on the use of the word.  They knew they had something special.

Black Couple Toasting Champagne

Couple Toasting Champagne

Many war veterans returned home with a taste for French champagne, my father included.  My dad was stationed in Europe.  Before heading home, he bought a bottle of champagne. When got his orders to return stateside, he cradled this bottle home to share with my mom.  Unfortunately, my grandfather got to to the bottle before my parents had a chance to drink it.  He was not very sophisticated and took one sip and poured it bottle down the drain.  It wasn’t funny at the time but my mom laughs about it to this day.

Champagne and Champagne Flutes

Champagne and Champagne Flutes

This long-awaited action by China brings them into compliance with other nations who promise to recognize the distinct characteristics and attributes of a specific wine region or spirit production area. China also officially recognizes to Napa Valley, Scotch and Cognac. Four down, hundreds to go.  The rest of the wine-producing nations have been on board for some time.

The Italians have their own style of sparkling wine called spumante or prosecco.   If you’d like a glass of sparkling wine when visiting South African , you should ask for Cap Classique.  Spain and many United States wineries produce  sparkling wine in the same, more expensive method as champagne.  Spanish Cava comes from an area just outside of Barcelona in the Penedès region of Catalonia.  Producers use two black grapes called Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada, the only white grape variety authorized.

Try an experiment.  By a bottle of cava, a California sparkling wine and a French champagne.  Cavas are quite inexpensive and there are several responsibly priced California sparking wines available. Taste then side by side, taking time to look at the color, voraciousness of the bubbles and of course the mouth feel.  Write a comment and share your experience.  See if you can taste the terroir from each region.

China is an awakening consumer giant, but I guess sometimes even giants must take baby steps.



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Wines to Pair with Thanksgiving Dinner

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Great White & Red Wines to Pair with your Thanksgiving Meal

Autumn Harvest and WineAre you thinking about serving a bottle of Chardonnay with your Thanksgiving turkey?  Do you plan on bringing a nice bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon over to a friend’s?  Don’t even think about it.  Why?  These wines are too dominant. They are great as the stars of the table but when combined with all the food combinations on a Thanksgiving table, these wines want to be the “King of the Table” and can’t seem to play nicely with the varied dishes.

Okay I see you with that deer-in-the-headlights look, wondering what on earth you are doing to do now that I’ve crushed your little plan.  Come on. You know I wouldn’t leave you hanging.

Instead of the old standards, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, I have some far better choices for you.  And these versatile wines won’t clash with the abundance of meats, sides, sauces, and desserts.  The common mistake people make with wine and food pairing at Thanksgiving dinner is only thinking about the turkey, dressing or the mashed potatoes; and do not consider the herbs and spices used in the preparation of these foods.  If herbs traded on the stock exchange, I’d buy them in October and sell in January.  During the holidays we ramp up our use of thyme, rosemary, sage, garlic, cinnamon, and nutmeg; only to neglect them the rest of the year.  But their use, completely changes the food and wine pairing game. Read More >

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Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava

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An Affordable Sparkling Wine great tasting enough for a Wedding, Anniversary or any Special Occasion

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava NV or non-vintage sparkling wine from Spain is an excellent value.  Made in the expensive traditional French champagne production method called méthode champenoise, this crisp sparkling has great floral notes, a green apple flavor profile and a slight yeasty finish.  And best of all, it is delicious and affordable. Read More >


Top 5 Champagnes & Sparkling Wines for Everyday Drinking

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Champagne brings a celebratory joyousness to any occasion and not even the finest wine can compete with the euphoria people feel when drinking champagne.  And I believe a key element in being a Fine Living Enthusiast is acknowledging that everyday is special; and therefore, worthy of celebration. For example, my wife and I popped open a bottle of champagne simply because it was 09-09-09.  How’s that for using any excuse to celebrate?

Drinking champagne doesn’t have to be a budget buster. And you don’t have to sacrifice flavor either. Read More >

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