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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!

Going Barefoot

Matthew Horbund with Jennifer Wall Winemaker from Barefoot Wines

Jennifer Wall, Winemaker from Barefoot Wines

When I “Met” Jennifer Wall, winemaker at Barefoot Wine on twitter, it was after tweeting about my dislike for Beaujolais Nouveau last November. So when the 16+ year veteran winemaker asked if I’d have time to meet her during her January 2012 trip to Florida, I was a bit nervous. I’ve always said I prefer my women barefoot, not my wine, and told Jen this. She told me that she’d love the chance to change my mind, and I eagerly accepted her invitation.

Jen is one of the original Barefooters, joining the winery in 1995 as their sole winemaker. She’s racked up over 2,500 medals and awards for the brand in that time, and she’s passionate about what she does. With a goal of making wines that accurately reflect their grape, are fruit forward, and affordable, Jen now makes six different Barefoot Bubbly and 13 Barefoot still wines.  She is extremely knowledgeable, about her own brand and wine as a whole, and was an absolute pleasure to talk to.

Barefoot Bubbly from Barefoot Wines with Matthew Horbund and Jennifer Wall

Barefoot Bubbly

What did I learn while interviewing winemaker Jennifer Wall? First, her quote “People talk dry, but drink sweet.” resonated with me. I had just finished a visit with my dad, who likes everything sweet. From breakfast to dinner, he wants to eat sweet and drink sweet. I am quite the opposite, preferring savory and tart, so when my dad’s habits mixed with Jen’s words, it really struck me. There are a lot more people out there who prefer sweet, or at least fruit focused wines than not. And Jennifer had the barefoot facts to back that up. In the past 52 weeks, Barefoot Wines has sold about 4 million cases of wine. And with about 60% of those cases being 1.5 liter bottles, that … well that’s a lot of bottles.

While I aim to “Make Wine Approachable”, and hope to help people find fine wines they’re comfortable with, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with picking an inexpensive bottle that you like from time to time. Frankly, I was impressed with more than one of the Barefoot wines I sampled with Jennifer and other Barefooters that day. They make a great option when you don’t want to spend a lot, but still get a sound bottle of wine. Which brings me to the next thing I learned from Jen. Barefoot likes to think there are a lot of Sunday-Thursday wine lovers, and Barefoot fits their budget.

Some Barefoot Wine Matthew Horbund taste with winemaker Jennifer Wall

Barefoot Wine Lineup

While I try to bring to the table as many wines under $15 that rock your socks as possible, Barefoot does it time and time again. As a matter of fact, I believe all of their wines, bubbly included, are under $15. Which makes it budget friendly for just about anyone, even starving college students (over 21, of course!). You may not find the next Robert Parker 99 point rated wine in their collection, but you’ll find something that works for almost every palate.

Another conversation I had during my winemaker interview with Jen was about cork versus screwcap. While I am a fan of screwcap enclosures, especially for inexpensive wine you expect to drink in the next few months after purchase, you won’t find Barefoot wines with screwcap closures anytime soon. This falls under the “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” category for Barefoot, and they just don’t have people asking for them. I can understand that, though I did tell Jen that I was toe-tally not a fan of the synthetic cork. We agreed to disagree. I then asked about boxed wines. Jen feels that there would be a little something lost if they went from bottles to box, and doesn’t see it in the cards soon. I can understand, though I’m always looking for box wines that don’t suck and will continue to do so.

I enjoyed sipping some Barefoot bubbly with Jen and her team, and she really did change my view on her wines. I brought a bottle of Barefoot Chardonnay home this Saturday, and Robin and I enjoyed it while cooking outside in the Florida heat. It was very tropical fruit forward, a touch of oak, and refreshing on an 85 degree February day. Jen and I built a rapport to where when she came back a month after our first meeting, I drove down to Miami to chat with her again. In the next week, I’ll cover that meeting on my sister site Pour Me Another, and talk about some Barefoot Signature Cocktails.

So, tell me, when was the last time you went Barefoot?

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.

Toast The Royal Couple With Champagne

Prince William and Kate Middleton (pic:Reuters)

Prince William and Kate Middleton (pic:Reuters)

On Friday April 29, 2011 Prince William of Wales will marry Catherine “Kate” Middleton as millions across the globe tune in. Whether you are wholly uninterested, or throwing your own Royal Wedding Party at home to watch the affair, one thing that should hold your excitement is the bubbly served at the event. There had been lot of speculation about who’s sparkler will be served, but it has been confirmed that it will be a true Champagne, from Pol Roger.

As the second largest consumer of Champagne in the world, England has a long love affair with Pol Roger Champagne. Began in 1849 in Epernay, France, Pol Roger was the Champagne of choice for Sir Winston Churchill from 1908 until his death in 1965. Sir Winston Churchill was such an influencer of the producer that upon his death in 1965 they added black borders to their lables, and in 1984 they released a prestige cuvee bearing his name. The top of the line, the Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill is a premium Champagne, bold, like the man who is it named after.

However, you do not need to be a Royal or British elite to sip and savor the bubbly served at the Royal Wedding Friday. The Pol Roger Brut Reserve White Foil is reasonably priced at approximately $40 USD, but has all of the finesse and flavor you expect from a fine Champagne. Pol Roger Champagne is imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons, and distributed widely throughout the country.

While I’m sure the chef’s of the Royal Wedding will be pairing caviar with Champagne, you can pair foods with Champagne that are a little more budget friendly. Salty foods go well with brut Champagne, from smoked salmon to tater tots. I’ve served “pigs in a blanket” and a spicy brown mustard with Champagne before, knocking people’s socks off. And if you’ve watched “7 Year Itch”, the delightful Marilyn Monroe educated everyone that potato chips pair perfectly with Champagne.

I’ve put up tasting notes about Pol roger Brut Reserve White Foil Champagne before. It was part of a number of sparkling wine recommendations for Valentine’s Day. However, it can clearly be served at many, and any, occasion.

The following is a press release from the Champagne Bureau, with information about the origins of Champagne.

Comite Champagne Logo

Comite Champagne Logo

Amid the hubbub surrounding the Friday, April 29, wedding of Catherine Middleton and Prince William, one detail is not to be missed: the happy couple will be honoring tradition by serving Champagne at the reception.

England is the second largest consumer of Champagne, after France and ahead of the United States, according to the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC), the trade association comprised of all the grape growers and houses in Champagne. By choosing Champagne to celebrate their marriage, Catherine and William are following the custom of many other royal weddings, including that of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981.

“Champagne only comes from Champagne, France, but it is consumed around the world at celebrations large and small,” said Sam Heitner, director of the Champagne Bureau, the U.S. representative of the CIVC. “Given the prestigious nature of the occasion, it is fitting that guests at the royal wedding will have the chance to toast to the couple’s good fortune with a glass of authentic Champagne. For those of us who will be watching at home, enjoying the event with a glass of Champagne is a lovely way to join in the celebration.”

Champagne is only produced in one unique region, which covers less than 80,000 acres and lies 90 miles northeast of Paris. The grapes are handpicked and processed in accordance with strict regulations and an intricate hands-on method, carefully developed and cultivated over 300 years. While there are many other good sparkling wines produced around the world, only Champagne is the traditional wine of royal weddings and coronations.

About the Champagne Bureau

The Champagne Bureau is the official U.S. representative of the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC), a trade association which represents the grape growers and houses of Champagne, France. The bureau works to educate U.S. consumers about the uniqueness of the wines of Champagne and expand their understanding of the need to protect the Champagne name. For more information, visit us online at www.champagne.us. Follow us on Twitter at ChampagneBureau.

Valentine’s Day Wines Made Easy

Wine for a Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s Day

Everyone likes options. While I tossed out a few great picks in my latest CBS Segment on Valentine’s Day and Superbowl Wines, some friends asked for a few more selections. Of course, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of perfect wines for the day of love. However, these are a few wines that I’ve sipped in the past few months that will work well for most of your Valentine’s Day needs.

Whether starting your night with a sparkling wine or pairing a Champagne with your meal, I’ve got three selections that I absolutely love. The first two are under $20 and widely available, and hail from the Alsace. Domaine Lucien Albrecht is one of the oldest leading Alsace family owned estates, tracing its roots back to 1425. The Albrecht Brut and Albrecht Brut Rose are two lovely sparklers from France, the Brut crisp with tart apples, the Brut Rose has notes of plums and tart cherries. Both of these sparklers make a great aperitif, and pair nicely with a cheese plate perhaps with goat cheese or Brie.

Lucien Albrecht 2009 Sparkling Gift Box

Lucien Albrecht 2009 Sparkling Gift Box

If you’d like a sparkler from Champagne, the Pol Roger Non-Vintage Brut White Foil is a great option. It cost approximately $40, and is delicious. Though a brut, meaning dry Champagne, I found the palate a little softer and fruit forward. It wasn’t as dry as perhaps the Pol Roger Pure Non-Vintage, another $40 option that is delicious. Again, perfect as an aperitif, and a beautiful pairing with fruit, cheeses, or even popcorn. Yes, popcorn! Champagne loves salty foods, so popcorn, potato chips and oysters are a natural pair. For those who’s French is as poor as mine, the name is pronounced pawl roh-ZHAY.

Pol Roger Non Vintage Brut White Foil

Pol Roger Non Vintage Brut White Foil

If you’re looking for a big, bold red wine for your evening of love, look no further than Mount Veder 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon or Trefethen Family 2004 Oak Knoll Cabernet Sauvignon.

A $40 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon that definitely is worth it’s price, Mount Veder Cabernet Sauvignon has a nose of black cherry and a medium palate with medium tannin. There is great fruit burst up front with nice complexities, including a little vanilla, a little cocoa, a little pepper and spice. I think it’s well balanced, and good on it’s own or with food. If you are looking to pair a red wine with your Valentine’s Day dinner of grilled or roast meats, whether it’s beef, veal, even pork, this wine will do the trick.

Mount Veder Winery Cabernet Sauvignon

Mount Veder Winery Cabernet Sauvignon

I’ve been in the Trefethen Family wine club since 2008, and love the surprises they send me every few months. I enjoy their regular Cabernet Sauvignon quite a bit, which retails for about $50. For a special occasion I open the Trefethehn Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, which for $100 is a very special wine. Whether pairing with prime rib, rack of lamb or sipping alone, the big bold tannin grabs you, and the delicious black cherry and spice keeps hold of you.

Trefethen Cabernet Sauvignon

Trefethen Cabernet Sauvignon

Zinfandel is for lovers, or at least I think so. It’s a warm, cozy wine, and it pairs well with anything from pasta to ribs to steak. Titus Napa Zinfandel will run you about $25, but it’s well worth it. Big and bold, like your love for your Valentine, there are fantastic flavors of ripe red berries, offset by huge pepper and spice on the finish. This wine needs some air to open up, though the second you pop the cork you will will instinctivly pour a glass and enjoy the powerful flavors this wine offers.

Titus Napa Zinfandel

Titus Napa Zinfandel

Not quite the powerhouse that Titus is, the Paso Creek 2007 Zinfandel is very round and approachable. Jammy berries, chocolate notes and even some caramel, this wine is a perfect sipper for under $20. Perfect alone, or with food, this wine will make your Valentine feel the love.

Paso Creek Zinfandel

Paso Creek Zinfandel

If you have questions about other wine options for Valentine’s Day, food and wine pairings, or anything in general, feel free to leave a comment below! I’d love to play cupid, minus the diaper!

Wine for Super Days – Valentine’s and Super Bowl

Intense battles will be won, or lost, in both love and football. With The Super Bowl today, and Valentine’s Day next week, having the right wine will help you be on the winning side for both special days. I visited CBS 12 WPEC this week to offer a few wine options to make sure you’re scoring on the big day. In the following clip, we’ll first talk about two Valentine’s Day selections, and then, two Super Bowl Sunday selections.

Biltmore Estate Pas de Deux Sparkling Wine for Valentine's Day

Biltmore Estate Pas de Deux Sparkling Wine for Valentine’s Day

The first wine is a delicious sparkling wine from Biltmore Estate in NC. A sweeter option, in the Sec style, this wine has a fruity nose of pears and dried apricots, and a fruit forward palate of ripe and fresh fruit. Almost as sweet as your Valentine, this option will be perfect as an aperitif before dinner, or with desserts such as fresh fruit, strawberry cheesecake, or even chocolate truffles. I’ll have an easy recipe for Chocolate truffles at the bottom of this post.

The Biltmore pas de Deux is made with 100% Muscat Canelli grapes, which are sourced from Monterey CA, Arroyo Seco AVA. It retails for around $19, and can be purchased from Biltmore Estate directly, or at your local wine shop.

J Vineyards Nicole Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008

J Vineyards Nicole Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008

Looking for a wine for your Valentine’s Day dinner, whether out at a fancy restaurant, or with a delicious home cooked meal? Look no further than J Vineyards Nicole’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008. Available at “White Tablecloth” restaurants nation wide, or direct purchased from their website, this $50 option is spectacular. The wine has soft and silky palate, with complex layers of fruit, chocolate, and light smokey notes. The winemaker suggests pairing with venison, bison burgers, wild pig or salmon. I paired it with a horseradish crusted brisket and it was fantastic. I’ll have a separate post in the coming days on this wine and the brisket itself.

Valserrano Crianza 2006 Rioja

Valserrano Crianza 2006 Rioja

When it’s time to pair your big, bold flavors at your Super Bowl party, you may want to look for Valserrano Crianza 2006 Rioja. Made from the Tempranillo grape, this old world style wine has a little new world flair to it. Crianza means the wine was aged for at least two years, with at least six months in oak. It will appeal to fans of dry wines, with earthy flavors of tobacco and leather, and a bit of red berry fruit as well. Perfect for roast dishes, whether a roast pig or a roast beef, this wine is definitely food friendly. It should also do pretty well with your chili or even wings at your party.  It cost about $15 at your local wine store, and is an interesting wine to try. It will appeal to fans of dry, earthy wines, Super Bowl game or not.

Sobon Estate Rocky Top Zinfandel

Sobon Estate Rocky Top Zinfandel

The final selection can be enjoyed on either special day, or any day. It’s Sobon Estate Rocky Top Zinfandel, and for about $16 it’s awesome. Their grapes are farmed organically, and wine megastore Total Wine often features Sobon Estate wines in their “Green and Earth Friendly” category of wines. It’s bouquet is somewhat floral, and the palate is pleasant ripe, round berries, dark plums and raisins. I love the backbone of spice this Zinfandel has, and it makes this wine perfect for everything you serve at your Super Bowl party. We enjoyed it with just burgers and grilled Italian sausage, but it’ll go nicely with everything from wings to chili to steaks and cheeses. Sobon Estates Rocky Top Zinfandel is available nation wide, and is part of a family of red wines I’ve recommend in the past.

If you’re even remotely coordinated in the kitchen, these chocolate truffles are easy to make, and delicious. I added just a small amount of ground cinnamon and loved the flavors. It worked nicely with the Biltmore Pas de Deux, but also worked lovely with the Sobon Estate Zinfandel. I’d love to hear your thoughts

Decadent Biltmore Truffles

Winemakers Suggestion: Enjoy with Biltmore Estate® Blanc de Blancs or Pas de Deux sparkling wines for a festive and decadent treat. 

Ingredients:

8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
Cocoa powder or semi-sweet chocolate, as needed
Optional additions: 2-3 tablespoons liqueur, roasted chopped nuts, chopped dried fruit, toasted coconut, fruit jam, peanut butter, sweet potato, caramel topping, chopped toffee or cookie pieces, extracts or flavorings.

Method: To make the ganache, place chocolate into a bowl. Bring the cream to a boil and pour over the chocolate. Stir together until all is combined and chocolate is melted. Mix in any additions (see above for suggestions) to the ganache you desire. Let the ganache set and scoop into portions and place onto parchment or wax paper. Refrigerate for 10–15 minutes then take out and round into balls. Roll into cocoa powder or coat in semi-sweet chocolate and serve.

Makes about 20 truffles.

Sparkling Wine Selections for Your Holiday Party


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Conventional wine wisdom dictates you should always have a bottle of bubbly on hand, as you never know when cause for celebration will arise. That wine wisdom holds especially true at this time of the year, as we celebrate holidays, family gatherings, and of course, ringing in the New Year. Fortunately, there are a number of options available in every price range, so serving your family and friends a delicious sparkling wine is nearly foolproof. Whether a Champagne, a Cava, or a sparkling wine from Napa, pouring the perfect bubbly is simply a cork pop away.

Champagnes , and sparkling wines made in areas other than Champagne, France,  come in a number of sweetness levels. The most common levels are Brut, Extra Dry, and Sec, with Demi-Sec and Doux rounding out the five levels. Each denotes how much sugar is in the sparkling wine, with Brut being the most dry with less than 1.5% sugar and Doux being the most sweet with over 5% sugar. Today we’ll discuss Brut,  Extra Dry, and Sec options.

J Vineyards & Winery Cuvee 20 Sparkling Wine

J Vineyards & Winery Cuvee 20 Sparkling Wine

Our first selection comes from J Vineyards & Winery, the Cuvee 20 which is a Brut sparkling wine from the Russian River Valley appellation in Sonoma California. A blend of the three grapes Champagne can be made from, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, this dry sparkling wine has great flavors.  Dry on the palate, there are crisp lemon citrus flavors with a typical yeasty, doughy note. There’s a light floral and nut note as well, and the sparkling wine is fresh, crisp and clean. Perfect on it’s own, the J Cuvee 20 will pair nicely with appetizers or little bites, whether smoked salmon and caviar or popcorn and french fries. This wine can be found relatively easily, and retails for about $22.

Lamberti Prosecco Extra Dry Sparkling Wine

Lamberti Prosecco Extra Dry Sparkling Wine

Our next selection is the affordable Lamberti Prosecco from Vento, Italy. For about $14, the Lamberti Extra Dry Prosecco has a fabulous crisp palate, with flavors of lemon zest and amazing bubbles. Even though it’s an Extra Dry, there’s very little sweetness, and it must be on the cusp of Brut / Extra Dry. This is definitely a great option to offer as an aperitif, a little bubbly to serve to your guests as they arrive and get comfortable at your gathering. Perhaps a little less widely available, you should be able to go into any reputable wine store and ask them to order this, as the importers Frederick Wildman are fairly well known.

Mumm Napa Cuvee M Sparkling Wine

Mumm Napa Cuvee M Sparkling Wine

Rounding out our sparkling wine selections is the Mumm Napa Cuvee M. The sweetest option offered today, the sparkling wine is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Pinot Meunier. You’ll taste fresh peaches and tangerines on the palate. There are also secondary notes of vanilla and honey, yet for all of it’s sweet flavors, this wine is far from cloying.  Perfect for the holidays, your guests will want to toast you again and again with this sparkling wine in their glass. Also perfect as an aperitif, the Mumm Napa Cuvee M is flexible enough to pair with spicy foods as well as creamy desserts.  This wine can be found in a broad range of stores, and retails for approximately $20.

Looking for the best sparkling wines for the holidays, whether a Champagne such as Pol Roger, or a Cava such as Rondel? While these certainly will fit the bill,  I’ll have a few additional selections available on my website in the coming days.  Cheers.