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Sparkling Wine

Sparkling Wine For your Valentine, That’s Amore

Amore, Italian for Love. That is what Valentine’s Day is about. It’s not about gifts, or fancy dinners out. Those things are nice, but Valentine’s Day is about love. And wine.

Valentine's Day Sparkling Wine - agoodtimewithwine.com

Valentine’s Day Sparkling Wine

You can make a bold statement with a bottle of sparkling wine. From dry to sweet, there’s an Italian sparkling wine that’s perfect for you and your amore.

From Northern Italy and founded in 1887 by Francesco Mionetto in the village of Valdobbiadene,  Mionetto Prosecco Brut DOC is a great way to say I Love You. Made with 100% Glera grapes from the Veneto region, the Mionetto Prosecco Brut is ever so slightly sweet. The Italian sparkling wine is rich yellow color, with an aroma of white peaches.

Mionetto Brut Prosecco - a great sparkling wine for Valentine's Day - agoodtimewithwine.com

Mionetto Brut Prosecco – a great sparkling wine for Valentine’s Day

There are lively bubbles in the glass, and you first notice the minerality of the wine, followed by delicious notes of pear and white peach. Mionetto Brut Prosecco is widely available, and can be found in retail stores for approximately $14.

Pink and Valentine’s Day sometimes seem synonymous, so a rosé sparkling wine will suit your amore perfectly. From the Veneto region of Northern Italy,  Lamberti Rose Spumante is made with 34% Pinot Bianco, 33% Pinot Nero, and 33% Raboso. A soft, light pink color, you will notice an aroma of sweet red raspberry and strawberry wafting from your glass. The tiny, fine bubbles are persistent, but not too firm, just a beautiful, delicate sparkle.

Lamberti Rose Spumante Sparkling Italian Wine for Valentine's Day - agoodtimewithwine.com

Lamberti Rose Spumante Sparkling Italian Wine for Valentine’s Day

A touch sweeter than the Mionetto, the Lamberti Rose Spumante has a light, delicate palate of ripe red fruits. The hint of sweetness is brief, and the dry finish leaves you wanting another sip. Another $14 Italian Sparkling wine that can be found in stores and online.

As unique and interesting as the love of your life, Cavicchioli Lambrusco di Sorbara ‘Vigna del Cristo’ is an Italian Sparkling wine from the Modena region of Northern Italy. Lumbrusco is a wine that has different characteristics according to where it comes from, and there are  five Lambrusco DOCs, each with it’s own variety of Lambrusco grape. This affordable red sparkling wine is made with 100% Lambrusco di Sorbara, which is thought to be the highest quality Lambrusco grape since it is one of the more difficult ones to grow, having the lowest yields of grapes per vine, and thus more concentrated flavors.

Cavicchioli Lambrusco di Sorbara 'Vigna del Cristo' Sparkling Wine from Italy - agoodtimewithwine.com

Cavicchioli Lambrusco di Sorbara ‘Vigna del Cristo’ Sparkling Wine from Italy

The Cavicchioli Lambrusco di Sorbara ‘Vigna del Cristo’ is a dark pink color in the glass, with an inviting aroma of dark raspberries. Those dark raspbery scents belie the dryness of the palate, however. Soft dried red berry, cranberry and raspberry make up the flavors of this quite dry but fun sparkling Italian wine. It retails for $17, and paired with some dried salami, would be a delightful way to start your Valentine’s Day celebration.

Our fourth Italian sparkling wine, the sweetest of the group, is also from Cavicchioli. The Cavicchioli 1928 Sparkling Lo Spumante is made with 100% Malvasia grapes, and the beautiful bottle hints at the flavors inside.

Cavicchioli 1928 Sparkling Lo Spumante italian sparkling wine for Valentine's Day - agoodtimewithwine.com

Cavicchioli 1928 Sparkling Lo Spumante

An inviting aroma of white peach and white jasmine, the Cavicchioli 1928 sparkling lo spumante is a burst of white honeysuckle, white peach, and floral jasmine on the palate. It’s a very soft approach and mid-palate, the finish is medium in length, leaving a touch of sweetness lingering on your tongue.  Available in retail shops for only $14, this sweeter Italian sparkling wine is sure to please your Valentine.

Four Italian Sparkling Wines Perfect for your Valentie's Day - agoodtimewithwine.com

Four Italian Sparkling Wines Perfect for your Valentie’s Day

Any of these affordable Italian sparkling wines would be a perfect way to toast to the love of your life. So, pop a cork, and toast to another beautiful year with your amore! Cin-Cin!

 

Extra Dry versus Brut Champagne – Which Is Drier?

Mumm Champagne in the Desert - Photo: Nick Smith http://nicksmithphoto.wordpress.com/tag/mumm-champagne/

Mumm Champagne in the Desert – Photo: Nick Smith

You don’t like Champagne, I know. You’ve told me before that you don’t enjoy drinking a glass of liquid as dry as a desert. However, it could be that you don’t like dry Champagne, and there are other types of sparkling wines to be had. Don’t let the fact that brut Champagne isn’t your palate stop you from toasting with bubbles on New Year’s Eve.

The question I’m asked most often about Champagne for New Year’s Eve isn’t which to serve. I am always asked “Is extra dry Champagne more dry than Brut Champagne?” It’s confusing, because it’s EXTRA dry, isn’t it? No, unfortunately, it’s not. Another myth about wine dispelled. Extra dry is actually more sweet than Brut Champagne.  HUH?

What Does Dry Wine Mean?

When people talk about a dry wine, they’re talking about how much residual sugar (RS) is in the wine. Therefore, knowing the classifications of sweetness when it comes to Champagne will help you pick the right sparkling wine for your palate. People sometimes confuse the fruit flavors in a wine with sweetness. However, a riesling could be considered “bone dry” because it has no residual sugar, while still possessing flavors of super ripe peaches and nectarines. It can be confusing.

What Are The Sweetness Levels Of Champagne?

From most dry to sweetest the following terms express the sweetness of Champagne

Extra Brut > Brut > Extra Dry > Sec > Demi-Sec > Doux

In terms of Sugar content, Extra Brut has less than 3 grams of sugar per liter of wine, while the more common Brut Champagne has between 3 and 12 grams of sugar/liter. Extra Dry, a bit sweeter than Brut is between 12 and 17 grams of sugar/liter. Sec contains 17 and 32 grams, Demi-Sec between 32 and 50 grams, and Doux has more than 50 grams of sugar per liter. I’ve not found a lot of Doux dessert Champagnes in stores, though the sweet Demi-Sec Champagne can certainly be found.

Can You Recommend A Sweeter Sparkling Wine?

Mumm Napa Cuvee M sweeter sparkling wine

Mumm Napa Cuvee M

There are a host of Champagnes and sparkling wines that will tickle your sweet loving tastebuds! Most recently I enjoyed the Mumm Napa Cuvee M sparkling wine. For about $18, and very widely available, this 90 point Wine Enthusiast rated sparkling wine offered great fruit flavors, and a hint of sweetness.  A slight pink hue, the palate has flavors of baked apple with a little Granny Smith tartness, mixed with a touch of sweet baking spice that makes a brief appearance. The Granny Smith sweetness finishes clean and crisp, and there are excellent, persistent bubbles. While there is a warm toasty finish, this really all about fresh, ripe apples. You could pair this sparkling wine with the Harry & David inspired pear tart I created, or see what blogger Wine Harlots pairs with her Cuvee M.

Additionally, I’ve previously written about The Biltmore Pas De Deux sparkling wine. This is another sweeter sparkling wine for those who prefer a sweeter sip of bubbles. 

Now that you’re armed with an understanding of which Champagne is sweet enough for you, don’t be afraid to pop a cork or two this New Year’s Eve. Let me know what bubbles will tickle your nose as you count down to 2014 by leaving a comment below!

 

Mumm Champagne in the desert photo ‘borrowed’ from Photojournalist Nick Smith

Nine Wines For Your Thanksgiving Feast

Wines to Pair with a Happy Thanksgiving

Wines to Pair with a Happy Thanksgiving

It’s a scant few days before Thanksgiving, have you finalized your menu yet? Of course you have, and you’ve paired the perfect wine with the meal, right? Well, most wine writers and sommeliers will argue that there is no ONE wine that works perfectly for Thanksgiving. I’ve written about pairing wine with Thanksgiving meals before, as well as brought three wines for Thanksgiving to CBS 12, and maintain that the variety of palates your guests have and range of flavors at Thanksgiving calls for a variety of wines to be served with your Turkey. While there are some “typical or classic wine and Turkey Day pairings”, and I’ll cover them below, there are some addition wine pairing options that you may not have considered. I’ll summarize where I bought the wines and their prices at the end of the article. However, first, let’s take a look at nine different wines, some the same grape from different regions, to offer you some great Thanksgiving wine pairing ideas.

Chandon Brut Classic Sparkling Wine For Thanksgiving

Chandon Brut Classic Sparkling Wine For Thanksgiving

If there is one thing you can safely serve at any party or big meal, it’s sparkling wine. There are of course tons of options, a true Champagne from France,  Prosecco from Italy, Cava from Spain, or California bubbly like Chandon’s Brut Classic. A non-vintage (NV), budget friendly sparkling wine at $13, there are great flavors of green apples, peach, and a little toasted bread. These flavors work perfectly with appetizers, including cheese, fruit and even stuffed mushrooms. Champagne and sparkling wine love salty snacks, so salted nuts and even pigs in a blanket work perfectly. This is a slightly more fruit forward option, and if you like a traditional Champagne, feel confident that it’s a perfecting wine selection for Thanksgiving as well!

Chateau Megyer Tokjai Furmint 2012

Chateau Megyer Tokjai Furmint 2012

Chances are, you’ll surprise your guests with a wine from Hungary, made with a grape they’ve likely never heard of. Tokaji, pronounced Toke-eye, is a wine that can be dry or sweet, and made with one of six approved grapes: Furmint, Harslevelu, Yellow Muscat (Sargamuskotaly) Zeta, Koverszolo, and Kabar. The Chateau Megyer Tokaji Furmint 2012  is a budget friendly dry white wine option at $12. A light, clear yellow color and subdued nose leads to a palate that is reminiscent of riesling. Flavors of soft apricot, coupled with good minerality, this white wine will pair well with appetizers, as well as your turkey.  The sweet versions of Tokjai, Aszu or Eszencia, are perfect dessert wines. They are sweet enough wines to pair with the fruit pies that are common desserts at Thanksgiving.

DeBeaune Les Galopieres 2011 Pouilly-Fuisse wine for thanksgiving

DeBeaune Les Galopieres 2011 Pouilly-Fuisse

Chardonnay is a grape grown the world over. The wine can be lean and mineral driven, tropical fruit focused, or full of apple and pear ‘tree fruit’ flavors. The French styles of chardonnay are typically less focused on the burst of fruit flavors you’ll find in California wines. Additionally, if there is oak used to age the wine, it’s much more subdued than it’s California cousins. Pouilly-Fuissé is an appellation (AOC) for white wine in the Mâconnais subregion of Burgundy in central France. Pronounced Poo-Wee Foo-Say, Pouilly-Fuisse only permits chardonnay to make wine bearing the AOC’s designation. Though there is often oak aging involved with these wines, the $20 DeBeaune Les Galopieres Pouilly-Fuisse 2011 is unoaked. A lean, crisp white wine with flavors of green apples, minerals, and a beautiful finish of spice and smoke, this is a perfect all around wine for Thanksgiving. It will work nicely with your appetizers, your vegetables, your turkey and even your ham.

Sonoma-Loeb Chardonnay 2011 wine for thanksgiving

Sonoma-Loeb Chardonnay 2011

Another great $20 white wine selection is the Sonoma-Loeb Chardonnay 2011. A perfect wine to pair with ham, turkey, potato and stuffing, this oaked chardonnay has notes of vanilla and creme brulee, with a dominant fruit flavor of pear. There is a soft smoke and spice on the finish, but all of the flavors are balanced and none overwhelms the others.

Domaine Pignard 2011 Beaujolais wine for thanksigiving

Domaine Pignard 2011 Beaujolais

Beaujolais is not a revolutionary wine pairing idea for Thanksgiving. There is no doubt you’ve heard of Beaujolais Nouveau. However, it’s not the best expression of gamay, and it’s more a marketing ploy than anything else. It is not a wine I recommend or partake in. However, gamay grapes make fantastic wines, and the Domaine Pignard Beaujolais 2011 is a steal at $10. An easy drinking, fruit forward red wine, the DeBeaune Domaine Pignard Beaujolais is a great idea for Thanksgiving, as it will pair with fowl or meat. A soft palate, with flavors of dried fruits like blackberry and bing cherry, there’s a hint of oak as well. There is good acidity, which makes it a great food friendly wine. I did also try a Cru Beaujolais, the Domaine Mont Chavy 2011 Morgon. Less fruity and more earthy, this was another great French wine under $20.

Forever 2012 Pinot Noir wine for Thanksgiving

Forever 2012 Pinot Noir

I’m not the first wine writer/sommelier to recommend Pinot Noir wine for your Thanksgiving meal. I do, however, try to find new and exciting options for you to try. Like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir is found the world over. This year, my pinot noir Thanksgiving wine comes from California and Oregon, to highlight two different styles. Forever Vineyards Pinot Noir 2012 is a budget friendly $11 option. A nose of fresh berries, the palate is a mocha and strawberry mix with a hint of spice. Pork and Pinot are a favorite wine pairing, but of course turkey will work perfectly.

Domaine Loubejac Willamette 2010 thanksgiving wine

Domaine Loubejac Willamette 2010 thanksgiving wine

While tasting Clos Pepe Pinot Noir with winemaker Wes Hagen, he mentioned how Oregon winemakers are similar to their Burgundian counterparts. Domaine Loubejac offers a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir for $18 that certainly reminds me of French Burgundy. Dried strawberry and raspberry, with a nice spice on the mid palate and finish, the Domaine Loubejac Willamette 2010 has great acidity and is very food friendly. Your Thanksgiving turkey or ham will enjoy this wine. Feel free to pick up a bottle of Wes Hagen’s Clos Pepe 2009 Pinot Noir as well. At $54, the Clos Pepe 2009 is a well made red wine that will work perfectly with your 2013 Thanksgiving, or sit in your cellar and age nicely until 2010. I’ll feature the 2010 Clos Pepe Pinot Noir in an upcoming article.

Dr Loosen 2012 Blue Slate thanksgiving wine

Dr Loosen 2012 Blue Slate thanksgiving wine

I don’t drink a lot of riesling. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, and I’ve tasted a few German Rieslings this year that I really enjoyed. I just don’t reach for them frequently. I’ve recommended the wines from Dr Loosen previously, and will again say that riesling is a great Thanksgiving wine selection. The Dr Loosen Dr L Riesling is a bargain at $12. A perfect wine pairing for ham, turkey, fruit and cheese, the Dr L has fresh apricot and peach flavors with a very subtle minerality through it. For a more mineral and slate focused palate, the Dr Loosen Blue Slate (pictured left) is an excellent riesling selection as well, and cost only $22. It has enough white peach fruit and floral flavor to balance the flinty minerality that is typical from blue slate soils the vines are planted on.

We have already mentioned nine, well ten wines to serve with your Thanksgiving meal. However, I recently participated in a tasting of Bordeaux Superieur wine under $15 that had some real great selections. These samples were the second part of the Planet Bordeaux wine series I had previously participated in.  You may think a merlot from Bordeaux would be too overpowering for your Thanksgiving meal. However, the Les Hautes de Lagarde Bordeaux is bound to change your mind.

Les Hauts De Lagarde Bordeaux 2011 merlot wine for thanksgiving

Les Hauts De Lagarde Bordeaux 2011

I’ll feature the entire six wine Bordeaux tasting in a future article, but the Les Hautes de Lagarde Bordeaux 2011 was my favorite of the flight. An organic Bordeaux red wine that cost only $12, the Les Hauts de Lagarde is a blend of 65% merlot and 25% cabernet sauvignon. Flavors of blueberry and black currant with nice oak integration lend themselves to this soft, elegant red wine. There was a hint of spice on the finish that brought all of the flavors together nicely. A perfect wine to pair with beef, lamb, veal and pasta, it was light enough to enjoy with turkey, stuffing, and the rest of your Thanksgiving meal. As a side note, we decanted this wine for about 1 1/2 hours.

There are a few tips to keep in mind when serving these wines

  • Serve your white wines chilled, but not ice cold. Serving wine too cold mutes the flavors
  • Serve your red wines SLIGHTLY chilled. Room temperature for red is about 60 degrees, not your typical 75 house temperature
  • Decant your red wines for at least 30 minutes before serving. Chill it in the fridge for 30-40 minutes, then open and leave on the table 30 minutes before meal time
  • Don’t be afraid to decant your white wine. They’ll open up with a little air. Just keep them cool, perhaps in an ice bucket while doing so. Simply pull the cork and leave them open 15 minutes before serving.

I purchased all of the wines mentioned today, with the exception of the Les Hauts de Lagarde and the Clos Pepe Pinot Noir, which were media samples. They were all found easily, and you should be able to pick up one or more for your own party.

  • —Chandon Brut – Publix & Total Wine $13
  • Chateau Megyer Tokaji Furmint – Total Wine $12
  • DeBeaune Pouilly-Fuisse – Total Wine $20
  • —Sonoma Loeb Chardonnay – Publix & Total Wine $20
  • Domaine Pignard Beaujolais – Total wine $10
  • Forever Vineyards Pinot Noir – Total Wine $11
  • Domaine Loubejac Pinot Noir – Total Wine $18
  • Dr Loosen Dr L Riesling – Publix & Total Wine $12
  • Les Hautes de Lagarde Bordeaux – Whole Foods $12

Cheers to you and your friends and family this Thanksgiving season. I’d love to hear what your favorite wine is this Thanksgiving, and what dish you enjoy it with. Just leave a comment below!

French Sparkling Wine and Champagne from $15 to $40

French Sparkling Wine And Champagne for New Years

French Sparkling Wine And Champagne for New Years

While New Year’s Eve is not the only time to pop a cork on some bubbly, it’s certainly the most popular night for it. If you were ever unsure of what to pour in your glass while you toast to the New Year, I’ve got you covered. I visited CBS 12 WPEC and brought three French sparkling wines that are affordable and delicious. Whether you prefer a true Champagne, or a more affordable Cremant d’Alsace or Cremant d’Bourgogne, these three options will delight you and your guests on New Year’s Eve or any time.

 

I have previously recommended Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne, as I feel it’s a French sparkling wine that offers great quality for the price. The Perle d’Aurore Brut Rose is a Burgundy wine made from 80% Pinot Noir & 20% Gamay, and is bottle fermented for at least 24 months, much longer than the legal requirement of 9 months. This enables the lees, or yeast used in fermentation, to add both aroma and complexity to the palate. I mention the flavor profile in the tv segment above, and for $15.99, I feel this is a bottle of bubbles to have on hand for any occasion that calls for a toast, such as making it through another Monday!

Louis Bouillot Perle d'Aurore Rosé Brut French Sparkling Wine

Louis Bouillot Perle d’Aurore Rosé Brut

The Albrecht family has been cultivating vineyards since as early as 1425, with major developments beginning in 1930 after the phylloxera crises. Lucien Albrecht lead the family estate and has been assisted by his son Jean Albrecht since 1980. Albrecht sparkling wines have been recommendations of mine previously, and I believe they continue to offer great quality for the price. At only $19.99, the Brut Reserve makes a great budget friendly alternative to Champagne.

Jean Albrecht Brut Reserve French Sparkling Wine

Jean Albrecht Brut Reserve French Sparkling Wine

While Eric Roby and I discussed that the French sparkling wines will be close to the Champagne in the above TV segment, there is still indeed a difference. Champagne is not only about a name, or the premium soils in which the grapes are grown. It’s about hundreds of years of tradition making only Champagne, focusing talents and honing the skill to produce a premium product. There are some amazing Champagne houses producing excellent bubblies, and Mailly is indeed one. Their vineyards are Grand Cru, some of the top quality soil to produce Champagne grapes. Made from 75% pinot noir and 25% chardonnay, this non-vintage Champagne is a combination of wines of one single crop, with reserve wines more than 10 years old. The blend then ages in French oak barrels up to 15 years old. The result is a dry, elegant sparkling wine that has beautiful notes of yellow apple with green apples on the finish. Elegant sophistication for only $38, which I purchased at my local Total Wine store.

Mailly Grand Cru Brut Reserve Champagne

Mailly Grand Cru Brut Reserve Champagne

I hope your New Year’s Eve toasts all come true, and hope you toast with some of these French sparkling wine options. These and the other budget friendly sparkling wine options I recommended on CBS this week are available at Total Wine. You can follow Total Wine on twitter, and find their website on their profile.

Let me know what you serve this New Year’s eve!

 

Toasting The New Year On A Budget

Instead of Champagne toast New Year's Eve with these budget friendly Sparkling Wines

Celebrate New Year’s Eve with Sparkling Wine

Looking to toast to your family and friend’s good health and happiness this New Year’s Eve, but not spend a fortune? There are plenty of sparkling wine options available if you don’t want to splurge for Champagne. I visited CBS 12 and chatted with Eric Roby and Michele Wright to talk about three sparkling wines under $13 that are perfect for ringing in the New Year, or any time!

While the Gruet family started off making Champagne in France, in the 70s they migrated to New Mexico, and after meeting other European wine makers, started making sparkling wine. Over 4,000 feet above sea level, their vineyards are cool at night, prolonging the growing and ripening periods, offering great fruit for their various sparkling and non-sparkling wines. The Gruet NV Brut costs only $12.99 at Total Wine, and many other wine retailers, but doesn’t lack the flavors of more expensive bubblies. Made from 75% chardonnay and 25% pinot noir, this non-vintage sparkling wine offers great flavors of green and yellow apple, with slight toasty notes.

Gruet NV Brut Sparkling Wine For New Years

Gruet NV Brut Sparkling Wine For New Years

If you like more dry styles of sparkling wine, Cava is a great option. With less fruit and more tart flavors, the Conde de Caralt Brut is a good option at $7.99. Made by Freixenet, I like the dry, tart style of this sparkler. There are some notes of apples, and some citrus, but the fruit is very faint. This is a good sparkling wine to mix cocktails, especially if you like making mimosa as it doesn’t end up being too sweet! Cava generally has a budget focused price point, and I’ve recommended Rondel cava in the past.

Conde de Caralt Brut Cava

Conde de Caralt Brut Cava

Prosecco is a light, delicious sparkling wine style from northern Italy. From Treviso, located in the Veneto region of Italy, the Luna d’Or Prosecco is made of Glera grapes. For $12.99, this refreshing sparkling wine has fruit forward flavors of melon, apricots, and citrus, and is perfect for those who like a little more fruit in their sparkling wines. Prosecco is a great option for a toast on New Year’s Eve. I’ve recommended Lemberti’s Prosecco in previous New Year’s Eve segments!

Luna d'Or Prosecco for your New Year's party

Luna d’Or Prosecco for your New Year’s party

Check back later on, as I’ll be posting another CBS 12 segment on French sparkling wine and Champagne that won’t break the bank. I’ll also have some other options for bubbles that I’ve had in recent weeks that have been fantastic, such as the Barons de Rothschild Champagne that for $99 at Total Wine is a great classic Champagne from a prestigious producer.

Amazing appetizer to serve with Champagne

Dats Stuffed With Goat Cheese Best Appetizer for Champagne

Dates stuffed with Goat Cheese

If you’re like us, you have a ton of cookbooks that you sift through before every party. And if you’re like us, there’s one or two recipes that you always go to for those parties. Maybe they are easy recipes, or maybe they are amazing recipes to pair with wines. Or, perhaps they’re just great appetizers that get the party off on the right foot. I’d like to share one of our favorite recipes, taken from Williams-Sonoma, Entertaining, by George Dolese, that fits all of those categories. This recipe is easy, makes great appetizers, and those appetizers are perfect to pair with Champagne.

This delicious appetizer is so easy to make, my 12 year old son was the chef. He had a tiny bit of help from us, but in general, he did everything from preparing the dates, to stuffing them, topping them, and baking them. Therefore, even if you have no cooking skill, you can make a perfect appetizer to impress your guests.  We’ll cover the recipe step by step, and recap at the end.

Dates Stuffed With Goat Cheese

The Williams-Sonoma Entertaining book recommends you use Medjool dates, however, our grocery store just had “dates” and they worked fine. I don’t like to discriminate. Start by preheating your oven to 375 degrees.

Lightly oil a baking dish that is just large enough to fit your dates in a single layer

making goat cheese stuffed dates Coat Pan With Oil

Coat Pan With Oil

Take a paper towel and use it to wipe the oil on the pan, removing excess. You want your dates to not stick to the pan, but you aren’t deep frying them. That’s for Paula Dean!

Put 1 TBS of olive oil in a small fry pan and warm on medium heat for 1-2 minutes.

Warm Oil in frying pan for dates stuffed with goat cheese

Warm Oil in frying pan

Once the oil is warmed, you’ll pour 2 TBS of plain breadcrumbs (or panko)  into the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until they are evenly golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes.

cooked breadcrumbs for goat cheese stuffed dates

Golden brown breadcrumbs

Remove pan from heat and transfer crumbs to a plate, letting them cool. While the breadcrumbs cool, start pitting your dates. Using a sharp paring knife, slit the top of each date lengthwise, and carefully pry the pit out.

remove pits for dates stuffed with goat cheese

Pit the dates

Be careful not to make the slit on top of the dates too long, or your goat cheese will ooze out when baking. It takes a little practice, but you’ll get it. You want to make a little pocket in each date to stuff the goat cheese into.

date pocket for goat cheese appetizer

date pocket for goat cheese appetizer

Once all of your dates are pitted, you’ll begin filling them with the goat cheese. Using a small spoon, gently fill each date with enough goat cheese that it just crests the top of the date.

Stuff your date pockets with goat cheese

Stuff your date pockets with goat cheese

Once all of your dates are stuffed, arrange them in a single layer in your lightly oiled pan. Top each date with some of the toasted breadcrumbs.

Top Dates with toasted breadcrumbs

Top Dates with toasted breadcrumbs

Once all of your dates are stuffed and topped with breadcrumbs, you’re ready for the bake. Bake dates on 375 until warmed, about 10-12 minutes.

Bake Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates for 10 min on 375

Bake Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates for 10 min on 375

Remove from oven and carefully transfer to serving dish. The dates will be hot, so use a spatula or tongs.

Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates

Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates

These dates are simple to make, and delicious. They’re a surefire appetizer to serve at any party. The dates also  pair perfectly with Champagne or sparkling wine.

We paired our dates stuffed with goat cheese with an excellent Champagne from Vilmart & Cie, the NV Grand Cellier Brut, Premier Cru.

Champagne Vilmart & Cie Grand Cellier Brut Premier Cru

Champagne Vilmart & Cie Grand Cellier Brut Premier Cru

The Vilmart & Cie “Grand Cellier” Brut Premiere Cru is a blend of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir. The Brut NV Premier Cru Grand Cellier is the first in a line of specialty and Tete de Cuvees in the Vilmart line up. The blend is aged 3-5 years on the lees before degorgement, which helps create a full and rich mouth feel. This is a great NV Champagne incredible length, sophistication and mineral strength that is not usually found in non-vintage Champagne. The high percentage of Chardonnay provides a fresh apple and light tropical fruit note that is a beautiful and harmonious balance between crisp and full. Alder Yarrow from Vinograpy rated this $73 Vilmart & Cie “Grand Cellier” Champagne between 9 and 9.5 out of 10.

If you make these dates, let me know what you think. And more importantly, let me know what Champagne you pair them with.

 

Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates

ingredients

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 T fine dried bread crumbs or panko
  • 24 large dates, preferably Medjool
  • 1/4 lb soft fresh goat cheese

directions

  • Preheat oven to 375. Lightly oil a baking dish just large enough to hold dates in single layer.
  • In a small frying pan, over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the bread crumbs (or panko) and cook, stirring constantly, until they are evenly golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove pan from heat and transfer crumbs to plate, let cool.

  • With a small knife, make a small lengthwise incision in each date. Carefully remove the pits. Stuff 1 t of goat cheese into cavity left by the pit.

  • Arrange the dates, with goat cheese side facing upward, in the prepared dish. Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the top. (The dates can be prepared up to this point 24 hrs in advance. Store, tightly covered in refrigerator.)

  • Bake the dates until warmed through, 10-12 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter and serve warm.

Champagne and Sparkling Wine Ideas for New Years Eve

Champagne and Sparkling Wine For New Years Eve

Champagne and Sparkling Wine For New Years Eve

There will be no shortage of recommendations for Champagne for New Year’s Eve celebrations. I visited CBS12 and chatted with Suzanne Boyd about four options, three sparkling wines and one Champagne, that I’ll be serving at my own party. You can serve them with confidence at yours. The video talks about the four sparkling wines for New Years, plus some other tips to make your party awesome.

I mention it in the video, but the difference between Sparkling Wine and Champagne is the area in which it’s grapes are grown. The region of Champagne, France, fights hard to protect the name “Champagne”. In fact, with few exceptions, most sparkling wines no longer will call themselves Champagne if they aren’t from one of the five wine producing districts within the Champagne administrative province: Aube, Côte des Blancs, Côte de Sézanne, Montagne de Reims, and Vallée de la Marne. The towns of Reims and Épernay are the commercial centers of the area. Enough education, check out the video!

Now that you’ve watched the short video of the TV segment, and know what sparkling wine or Champagne you want for your New Year’s Eve Party, what about food that pairs with it? Appetizers is the quick and easy answer, and almost all of them you serve will pair. Specific favorites are lightly salted mixed nuts, shrimp cocktail or fried shrimp, potato chips and popcorn, hard and salty cheeses, french fries or tater tots. However, if you are going outside of finger foods, I love Champagne with white fish prepared almost any way, crab anyway, especially crab cakes, ham and many pork preparations, and chicken almost any way you can make it. A quick recap of the wines follows, and you’re ready for New Years Eve!

Barefoot Bubbly Rose Cuvee

Barefoot Bubbly Rose Cuvee

The first selection was the Barefoot Bubbly Rose Cuvee. Coming in at $8 in most of the US, this inexpensive sparkling wine will appeal to those who prefer sweeter wines. Sweet ripe cherry and strawberry dominate the palate, and the bubbles were persistent and lively. This budget bubbly surprised me, as it was sweet without being syrupy and is a fun, inexpensive sparkling wine. While they use the word Champagne on the label, I assure you this comes from California!

Lamberti Prosecco Extra Dry

Lamberti Prosecco Extra Dry

The second selection was Lamberti Prosecco Extra Dry. While Extra Dry is more sweet than a Brut, our next two selections, the Lamberti is not a syrupy sweet sparkling wine. Instead, it has notes of honeydew and lemon, with fantastic bubbles that make it a great option at $15. The price on this prosecco makes it inexpensive enough for any time, not just New Year’s Eve. It’s a fun wine to pour at the start of an evening, while guests are arriving at your party, or as the main wine for your party.

Lucien Albrecht Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine

Lucien Albrecht Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine

The third sparkling wine option hails from the Alsace region of France. While you may see the label as Jean Albrecht in stores such as Total Wine and More, but it’s the same great bottle of wine for $20. I love the notes of nuts, warm baked bread and green apple in this wine. It is dry yet has great fruit and other flavors that makes it a perfect Sparkling Wine for New Years. Lucien Albrecht Blanc de Blanc is not 100% Chardonnay, but rather a blend of  80% Pinot Auxerrois, 10% Pinot Blanc and 10% Chardonnay, and is made in the traditional Champagne method. Blanc de Blancs means White of Whites, and while many cases it’s 100% chardonnay, it means that red skin grapes, such as Pinot Noir or Pinot  Munier aren’t used.

Pol Roger Non-Vintange Brut Reserve White Foil Champagne

Pol Roger Non-Vintange Brut Reserve White Foil Champagne

The final option for Champagne on New Year’s Eve is Pol Roger Non-Vintage Brut Reserve White Foil. I’ve enjoyed and written about this Champagne previously, and believe it’s excellent at the price.  This is a classic Champagne, with a long history, including being the Champagne of choice for Sir Winston Churchill. It’s a blend of the three grapes typically found in Champagne, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Munier, and they offer vintage Champagne in excellent years, which is a treat to have. The palate of the Pol Roger Non-Vintage Brut has amazing notes of brioche, yellow and green apple and the most delicate, tiny bubbles, which makes it an excellent choice to serve as you ring in the New Year.

Regardless of what you select, I hope you have a very happy, safe, and prosperous New Year. I hope 2012 brings you everything you need, and a lot of what you want.

Cheers!

A toast – to #Champagneday

Matthew Horbund with some Veuve Clicquot

Matthew Horbund with some Veuve Clicquot

If you aren’t a user of Social Media platforms, such as Twtter, you probably have no idea why the pound sign, #, is in this article title. Likewise, you probably have no idea what #Champagneday is, or why I’m toasting to it. First, that pound sign is called a Hashtag, and allows twitter to aggrigate tweets or posts about a specific topic, in this case #Champagneday. Anyone who tweets with the word #Champagneday will be shown if you search for that hashtag.  More importantly is what Champagneday stands for. It’s sponsored by the Champagne Bureau, the PR firm for the region that produces amazing bubbly, and it’s purpose is to promote Champagne, as well as raise awareness that true Champagne only comes from the Champagne region of France.

Now, a good friend in the wine business said “If they spent more time talking about Champagne, instead of worrying about the name and where it comes from, more people would drink it. Then we wouldn’t need a day about it.” That may be true, as Richard Auffrey points out that America’s Champagne consumption lags behind other sparkling wine consumption, The US drinks about 17 million bottles of Champagne, out of about 127 million bottles of sparkling wine in total. I find it hard to argue that perhaps more energy should be spent promoting Champagne as a whole, rather than protecting the name.

The Champagne Region Of France

The Champagne Region Of France

However, it does make sense to note that true Champagne only comes from the Champagne region of France. The soil, or terrior in wine geek speak, as well as the micro-climate of the Champagne region of France produces great conditions for growing the three grapes that go into Champagne. Those grapes are pinot noir, chardonnay, and pinot meunier, the last poorly pronounced as pee-no moon-yay. And while some sparkling wine made in other parts of the world have carried the name “Champagne” in the past, I believe agreements on labeling will have that coming to an end.  Branding is big business, and protecting the name “Champagne” has definite business impact.

Enjoying Pol Roger Champagne

Enjoying Pol Roger Champagne

Now, lets get to the business of #Champagneday. On Friday, the 28th of October people around the world, or at least in my house, will be enjoying Champagne and sharing their thoughts on it. We will write blog posts about it, post about it on Facebook, and of course, tweet about it.  You can always follow me on Twitter, to see what I have to say. You can also follow the #Champagneday Hashtag to see what everyone, worldwide, is saying about Champagne.

I’ll be tasting at least 7 different Champagnes with friends on Friday evening, and will do my best to capture notes about them. I’ll share tasting notes, as well as general food pairings for Champagne, along with educational tidbits about Champagne in general. I hope you connect with me via Twitter or Facebook, as I love talking about wine,  and Champagne is indeed wine! I also hope you participate in the event. Champagne is a fun adult beverage that should not be reserved for special days and celebrations. Life is short, celebrate Friday with Champagne. You’ll thank me.