Archived entries for Sparkling Wine

The Pre-Conference Journey to Fingers Lakes Begins: The 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference Pre-Trip, Day One

I met blogger extraordinaire Thea Dwelle at the Philadelphia International Airport and we geared up for a road trip.  The night prior to our journey to Corning, The Drunken Cyclist was nice enough to open up his home and invite us to his family birthday dinner.  The food was amazing.  The wines were ones that you only open for very good friends.  Jeff, I am honored you shared those last precious birthday moments, your family and those wines with us.

The next morning we began our journey of planes, buses and automobiles while traveling on badly marked and tollways that all seemed to be under construction.  For about five hours, it felt like we were on a journey to nowhere – the signage was cloaked, the exits were few, but the laughter was continual.

We arrived at the Radisson to begin our pre-trip tour and spent some time on the Seneca Lake Trail, which is home to 30 wineries, a distillery, cider producers and several breweries.  It is geographically located in the center of the Fingers Lakes.  Seneca Lake is the largest lake, covers 43,343 acres and spans 38 miles through the center of the Finger Lakes region.

The blogger bus took us to Villa Bellangelo.  The view was gorgeous and what a display of hospitality.   The winery was founded by Christopher Missick and his family, who left the corporate world in California, to focus on terroir and making cool climate wine.  Bellangelo is a boutique wine producer, crafting only 6,000 cases of wine each vintage.  We learned a lot about the soil – originally formed by “Ice Age” glaciers. 

We then had a chance to mingle and experience four tasting and education stages with several wineries – King’s Garden 20 Year Vertical Tasting of Finger Lakes Cabernet Sauvignon; the Bellangelo Riesling experience featuring a dozen different Rieslings; Side Acre Hills and Schtayburne cheese samplings, which produce local cow and goat cheeses; and “Others,” a portfolio of experimental and alternative wines made by Villa Bellangelo.

The theme of our evening venture, which was scheduled at Ventosa Vineyards, was all about Finger Lakes Women in Wine.  There was a bit of irony that the Wine Bloggers Conference (#wbc15) was hosted in Corning, NY, the home of the Corning Glass Museum, where one of the common themes became how women are breaking through the glass ceiling in the wine industry.

The stats are sobering – according to an article by Adrienne Vogt in the Daily Beast, half of the graduates at UC-Davis’ oenology program are female, but women lead only 10 percent of California’s wineries.  I couldn’t find any definitive research outside of California.

The discussions mirrored one that I had several years ago with Merry Edwards, the winemaker of Merry Edwards Vintners.  In 1984, she left Matanzas Creek to devote herself full time to consulting and her winery.  She told me over dinner about the difficulty in getting her first winemaker job and that she had to work harder.  I loved her ingenuity.  She would go to the Farmer’s Market weekly and gather the throwaway fruits and veggies to make wine.  Hint: rutabaga wine is not tasty.

Our panel of women winemakers, farmers, scientists and chefs were awe-inspiring.  They all shared the fact that they have made significant contributions to the sustainable food and farming movement across the Finger Lakes.  Marti Macinski, the Winemaker and Owner of Standing Stone Vineyards, candidly talked about the point when she and her husband decided she must transition from the “traditional hospitality role” to serving as the operator of the winery – without any training.  And while her first reaction was to put her head on the table and cry, it turns out she was damn good at it.  While she talked about her fear, it was clear that Marti is fearless.

Another amazing woman was Jenna LaVita, the winemaker of Ventosa Vineyards.  She was originally a law student who decided over a glass of Pinot that she wanted to be a winemaker.  She hit the road in her Saab and began her journey.  It took her from cleaning tanks to teaching over harvest break to even selling (unsuccessfully) bottle cap earrings in Etsy.  At 23, she was asked to become the full-time winemaker and inherited vineyard responsibility at age 25 when her vineyard manager was deported.  Jenna took us through the vineyard and we had an opportunity to pick grapes on different blocks in order to experience how a winemaker gauges ripeness.

And then we met our showstopper – Liz Leidenfrost, the winemaker, grape grower and activist of Leidenfrost Vineyards. What a cool and well-rounded women.  She talked about how she became interested in winemaking after she failed the image of being a classical musician.  With her tattoos, piercings and dyed hair, she thought she could make a difference in the family business and her father put her to the test.  She passed with flying colors and the fact that she’s also a burlesque dancer on the side makes her even cooler.

Kas Deys, a biochemist and grape geneticist from the Cornell Cooperative Extension, talked about the research that Cornell is doing on the grapes and the region.  She had an amazing background and clearly is making a big difference in her research in mining grape genes.

Our meal was prepared by Heather  Tompkins, the chef and owner of Opus Espresso and Wine Bar.  Here was our line-up:

Candy beet melon arugula salad with Red Jacket cheribundi-curry vinaigrette with Stony Brook pumpkin oil, First Light goat cheese and Stony Brook pumpkin seeds paired with 2014 Three Brothers Pinot Noir Rose and Leidenfrost Vineyards Blanc de Blancs.

Sweet corn muranda cheese, cheddar studded risotto cake, summer tomato-fennel coulis and jalapeno orange mascarpone with 2012 Ventosa Vineyards Pinot Noir and 2013 Standing Stone Vineyards Gewurztraminer.

Grilled Petit Finger Lakes Farms Filet Mignon and Scallop with wilted baby kale, Piggery Bacon vinaigrette with Cayuga Blue and pickled red onion with Three Brothers Wineries and Estates Degree of Riesling and 2011 Ventosa Vineyards Cabernet Franc.

Red Jacket peaches – ginger galette with Seneca salted caramel and shaved Seneca salt bark dark chocolate with Leidenfrost Vineyards Cabernet Port and 2014 Standing Stone Vineyards Gewurztraminer Ice.

On the menu was the wording – bold, fearless and original.  Absolutely a great descriptor of the women we met and the experience that we had.

 


Cavas Freixenet: Exploring the World of Cava

After surviving a business trip to Barcelona, I decided to take advantage of my time there and do some further exploring of cava.  The folks at Cavas Freixenet nicely agreed to add me to the general tour (in English) and a group of us embarked to experience cava.

Freixenet is located in the Penedés region and we traveled by train from Barcelona to the Sant Sadurni d’Anoia train station. We literally got off the 45 minute train ride, took a left and we arrived at our destination. The winery is easy to reach by both car and by train. In fact, the entrance to the caves is just 50 meters from the Sant Sadurní d´Anoia train station, just about 45 minutes from the center of Barcelona. The public tour we were a part of was about 2 hours and included both adults and kiddos. 

We started with a film about the history of the company featuring the iconic boy in the red cap, who has been a part of the company’s brand since 1914.  We also heard about the two families who came together by marriage to make the winery a reality after phyloxera occurred years prior.  We started in the oldest part of the winery, which was eight-levels deep.  I got a deep dive into the making of cava, the evolution of the technology as well the expansion of Freixenet into more prestigious brands including a King’s stamp of approval on one of the bottles. The grapes used are Xarello, Macabeu and Parellada that come from both Freixenet estate vines and over 1,200 grape growers in the region.

We then – much to my daughter’s delight – boarded a train to ascend into the new part of the winery where we saw the cellar evolution, blending, bottling and other examples of modern technology at work.   We ended at the tasting room, where the adults got a glass of the Freixinet Brut Barroco Reserva and my daughter was given grape juice.  It was an awesome learning experience and I’m definitely on a mission to explore more cava – I hope some of the reserve bottles of Freixenet will be part of that future learning experience.


Max’s Summer Menu: Chicken Fried Lobster and Champagne? Why the Hell Not?

Max’s Chef Patrick Russell

I was invited last week to the debut of the summer menu from Chef Patrick Russell from Max’s Wine Dive.  Color me impressed.  From the food to the wine to the general cool mantra of “Fried Chicken and Champagne?  Why the hell not?!”, the place is cool, fun, funky and my kind of place.  Throw in the Monday to Friday Happy Hour from opening to 6 pm, which features wines like Far Niente Chardonnay Nickel & Nickel State Ranch Cabernet, along with the “patio pounders,” which features mix and match cases, six packs and three packs to allow you to try a number of wines at a value, and you had me at hello…

 

This was our line-up.  We started with a pre-course of chicken fried nothing with a goat cheese dipping sauce, duck meatball crostini and blue crab and bacon dip with house-made pepper crackers.  This was served with Moet Imperial bubbly.  Wow!

We moved on to butter lettuce wedgettes with pan-roasted asparagus, bacon lardons and baby fennel on top of butter lettuce with green garlic parmesan dressing.  This was followed by short rib sliders and a chef’s nine cheese mac topped with bread crumbs.  This was served with a fantastic (can’t tell you how great this was) 2009 Chave Hermitage.  The sliders are really really good.

Our main course (was full on the second round) was pork spare ribs, a lobster tail 2.0 (chicken fried lobster tail atop a jalapeno sweet corn waffle topped with parsley butter served with a Moet Nectar.  This was accompanied by roasted mushrooms, barbeque sweet potato chips and creamed corn.

The cheese course was a selection of local cheese out of Patchi Patchi (need to confirm) out of Waco served with a 2011 Nickel and Nickel Ranch Cabernet. 

I look forward to  my next visit.   

 

 

 


Savor Dallas: Bringing Dallas’ Art District, Wine and Food Together

Many years ago, I was a board member on an organization dedicated to reinvigorating the Dallas Arts District.  We had a vision of people walking through the district embracing what Dallas had to offer culturally with a bevy of food and wine framing the experience.  Fast forward about eight years to Savor Dallas’ Arts District Stroll, which kicked off Savor’s four day wine and food event. 

We started at the Meyerson Symphony Center then moved to the Nasher Sculpture Center with a final stop at the Crow Collection of Asian Art.  This was a packed event hosted in the nation’s largest contiguous urban arts district, and I loved the diversity of the totally packed house.  It took the “wine is for white tablecloth venues” to task and I loved it.  Granted, if you wanted to truly taste and chat with the wine makers and restaurants, you probably want to look at the other events scheduled on Friday and Saturday, but Savor Dallas made me smile with the culture, wine, food and general experience with 40 plus winemakers offering wares, a variety of spirits and some restaurants offering great food.


Hawaii, Wine and Mixing Work with Pleasure

Aloha.  I had the opportunity last week to go on a sales incentive trip to Hawaii.  I left as the snow and traffic snares piled up in Dallas and landed in paradise.  As many of you know, I head marketing for a software company for the paying gig, so it’s fun when my passion for wine and job collide.

Because the sales team worked their collective butts off to get to Maui, this trip needed to be special.  I learned early about the sacrifices that spouses/significant others and families make for deals to get done.  And wine was going to be a significant part of the experience.

I needed to find the perfect balance of “off the beaten path” wines that would satisfy palates from around the globe at a cost that wasn’t too outlandish, but certainly didn’t taste that way.  Here’s what I chose – Iet me know how you think I did….

 I learned a few lessons along the way:

  • Avoid “porn star martinis” at all cost.  Trust me.
  • A 7:00 a.m. excursion will not attract the masses.  Three out of 14 actually showed for the ATV trip.
  • Speaking of ATV tours, do not try to overachieve or you may come dangerously close to tipping the vehicle.
  • Do not try to out dance a dance troupe, even if you were in one in your younger years.
  • Every party has a tipping point moment, try to identify that before it happens.

I hope my co-workers had as much of an amazing time as I did.

 

 


Minibar Launches in Dallas: The App Bringing Alcohol Your Way in a Zap

I usually do not wax poetic about another wine, spirits or beer related app.  I was recently introduced to Minibar, an experience that could easily be the most ingenious and dangerous app ever introducing to wine, spirits and beer loving consumers.

Minibar launched in Dallas on December 9th and the folks there gave me a $20 credit to try the experience.  The holidays got in the way, so it was actually December 27 when I downloaded the app, checked out the inventory and ordered my bottle of Domaine Carneros by Tattinger.  It took about 2 minutes to download from the app store (available on IOS, Android and the web); plug in my information including age (ID is checked for some and a $20 restocking fee is charged for those who cannot confirm being over 21) and credit card and then search the inventory available from the wine, spirits and beer local vendor partnered with Minibar near my location.  The service is free (you just tip the delivery person who is sourced by the local vendor).  Thirty seven minutes later and the bottle was at my door.  I had a $20 credit and probably put another $14 which included tip. The service also offers pairing recommendations, cocktail recipes, mixers and bar supplies – it’s truly one stop shopping in the palm of your hand.

The company started out of New York in February 2014.  After the completion of a $1.8 million round of financing, the service is available in New York, Dallas, San Francisco, Chicago and New Jersey.  And the folks at Minibar tell me there are many more to come.  The company was founded by two successful corporate business women with direct to consumer experience.  Co-founders Lara Crystal and Lindsey Andrews worked for successful businesses like Rent the Runway and FreshDirect.  They realized that almost every other service was available to consumers, with the exception of the trip to your local liquor store.

It truly is the perfect app for those on the go; those who want to restock their bars but have little time as well as those who are currently in celebration mode and should not venture out to the liquor store.  From app store to your door in less than an hour, Minibar truly breaks down the last delivery frontier from your friendly neighborhood liquor store.


Twas the Night Before …. A December to Remember? Maybe?

‘Twas the Christmas season and all through the abode, my liver was working overtime to keep up with the load.  Much to my delighted eye did appear, some of the best wines that I’ve seen all year. 

Come Dom, Come Schramsberg, Come Pierre Peters. Come Charles Heidsieck.  As far as the eye can see, there are full tables of delicious bubbly. 

Come Clos Pegase.  Come 24 Vineyards.  Come Terra Valentine.  Come Coquerel. Come Barnett.  Come Caymus Select.  Come Quilceda Creek.  Come Larkmead. Come Tercero.  But I’m not done yet.

The bubbles have sparkled, the magnums shone bright.  The posts have been many – each and every night.  Merry Christmas to all, and in the next year, the added bulge I will fight.


Bubbly for the Holidays: Why Yes, I Think We Will…..?

We are officially in holiday mode and that means it is the most “bubbly time of the year.”  According to the Wine Institute, 40 percent of sparkling wine and Champagne for the year is sold in the fourth quarter.

Although I am a year-round bubbly kind of gal, nothing embodies the holidays more than the festive pop of a cork.  As I plan for my annual sparkling wine tasting that I hold for my girls’ wine group, I am in festive mode.

Champagne is very different than sparkling wines such as prosecco, cava and Franciacorta.  Some sparkling wines are made in the traditional Methode Champenoise, not all of them can be called Champagne unless they are made in the region of Champagne, France.

Champagne and sparkling wines can be very dry (brut), slightly sweet (extra dry) or sweet (sec and demi-sec).  You will also see them identified as “blanc de blancs” (Chardonnay grapes), “blanc de noirs” (wines from black grapes such as Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier) or rose sparkling wines.

Here’s my list of sparkling wine and Champagne recommendations at all price ranges:  

De Chanceny Cremant de Loire ($13)
This wine from the Loire Valley is complex with notes of apple, flowers, white stone fruit and lime.  It is lovely and one of the best values out there.

Bocelli Prosecco NV, Italy ($17)
Made by that Bocelli that sings opera… It is full of green apple, tropical fruits, pear and floral notes.  The Bocelli family collaborates with Trevisiol, the first family of prosecco.

Fratelli Berlucchi Rose ($27)
Franciacorta comes from Lombardy in Northern Italy, which is the well-known region for Italian sparkling wines using the traditional method of re-fermentation in the same bottle and the first to obtain Italy’s Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) designation.

I can almost guarantee that you’d be introducing your guests to something that they had not had a chance to try before.

J Vineyards Brut Rose NV ($38).

This is one of my favorite sparkling wines.  I love the strawberry and cherries, baked French pastry and a silky texture.

Pierre Peters Cuvée de Réserve Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($56)
This is what I am serving at the girl’s tasting.  It is one of my favorite grower’s Champagnes, and is a favorite of many sommeliers.  It has notes of apple, apricot, floral, fresh bread, lemon zest and orange with a finish that lasts forever.

Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose Champagne ($80)
This is elegant, beautiful and is amazing.  I taste citrus, pear, raspberry, flowers with some herbs and spice at the end.

In the words of the late Lily Bollinger, figurehead of the Bollinger champagne house, describing her attitude toward drinking Champagne:

“I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it, unless I’m thirsty.” 

A very smart lady giving me the right direction on enjoying this holiday season.  Will you join me?

 


Cornerstone Cellars and J Vineyards Make a Vacation Better

Punta Mita, Mexico.  It’s become the home that I can’t afford away from home – at least on a sustained basis.  Of course there is always a story behind the story.  More than 10 years ago when I worked in a different position, I had to buy trip insurance because inevitably the company that I worked for would force me to cancel my vacations due to a crisis.  In their defense, the company was going through a SEC investigation and communication was very important.

One New Year’s Eve, my husband made me resolve that I wouldn’t cancel vacations anymore.  A few months later, we found ourselves at the Four Seasons Punta Mita.  This was the first time we had gotten away in ages and the first time we left our daughter who may have been 12 weeks old at the time.

We had an amazing trip and after several bottles of wine, we decided we were curious about the Residence Clubs the Four Seasons were building.  In the dark, we snuck under the fence, climbed into the unit and saw how amazing it was.  My childhood trips involved driving many miles in a station wagon, all of us sleeping in one room at the Radisson Inn and nothing that remotely resembled a Four Seasons experience.  Let’s just say that we made the decision to purchase and have not regretted it once.

But, wine is high on my Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and prior to this visit, I found the lack of selection along with the cost to buy imported wine in Mexico to be a hindrance.  I take a lot of care in selecting what we will take to dinner or drink watching the sun set.

Usually, I don’t take samples to Mexico, but in this case, I had great relationships with two wineries that I consider special and who happened to send wines that paired well with my happy experience.

The first is Cornerstone Cellars.  Managing Partner Craig Camp has been a long-time friend of all wine bloggers and I have been lucky enough to be included on Cornerstone’s media samples list.

We tried five wines from Cornerstone.  We began with three Sauvignon Blancs from 2009, 2010 and 2011 made in the Old World style that I love.  It was surprising to taste the changes from year to year.  This is a winery that highlights the terrior, the climate and the strengths of each vintage.  There is no size fits all blueprint for this winery.  Each wine tasted represents the spectrum from older to younger and what happens with a well-made wine with a little age.  Before I tell you how much I enjoyed each of these, the 2009 and 2010 wines are currently available as library wines, which command a premium price from the $30 2011 offering.  I loved each of them – from the complexity of the 2009 with notes of herbs, minerality and lemon peel to the freshness of the 2010 with pear, floral and oak notes.  And then there’s the younger 2012 which is also delicious with great minerality, citrus and melon notes.

My next bottle was the 2012 Cornerstone Chardonnay from Oregon.  This was a great mix of citrus, creamy textures and the steely notes of an Old World chardonnay.  The depth and textures of this wine was like unwrapping a beautiful package and the contents did not disappoint.

The last Cornerstone selection was the 2011 Pinot Noir from Oregon.  This was a great representation of Oregon Pinot with black cherry and herbal notes.

For those of you who have followed this blog, you know that I am a lover of sparkling wine and champagne.  We started with the J Vineyards Cuvee 20 NV Brut, which was delicious with lots of green apple, creaminess and lots of tropical fruit.  It was a perfect wine to sip on the patio while we watched the sun set.

Our final wine was the J Vineyards Brut Rose NV.  This is one of my favorite sparkling wines.  I love the strawberry and cherries, baked French pastry and a silky texture.

Cornerstone Cellars and J Vineyards thank you for making my vacation experience greater and sharing your wonderful wines with me.


My Wine Country Experience: The Intersection of Passion and the Paying Gig

The stars aligned.  The angels sang.  There were rainbows.  And even unicorns.  Exactly how I felt when I flew to San Francisco for the Platt’s P3 Partner Summit for a two-day conference.  Typically, my job as Chief Marketing Officer for an energy software company and a wine blogger do not intersect.  Last Monday, they came together in perfect harmony.

After hearing about the personal stories and losses from the Napa Earthquake, I wanted to see firsthand how wine country was faring so I could report back to you.  Platt’s had arranged for stops at three winerys – which surprisingly all had little to no damage.  Our tour bus took us through American Canyon, the epicenter of the quake.  From the bus, it looked as if it were business as usual – at least from a tourist point of view.  I’m not downplaying the millions of dollars that were lost and the massive cleanup efforts required by some wineries, but I can tell you with full confidence to come support Napa and plan your wine country trip in 2014.  Harvest is in full swing and it was fun to see the full cycle of farm to bottle.

Our first stop was at Grgich Hills.  Mike Grgich is considered one of the original godfathers of California wine and credited with putting Napa on the map from a worldwide wine drinking perspective during the French/Napa challenge.  Our guide – also named Mike — took us through two whites and four reds – I loved being able to try the Croatian Red that is only available at the tasting room. 

Grgich suffered the most damage of the wineries we visited that day – 10 barrels and several bottles.  But it was business as usual and they were busy with harvest.  The wines were lovely, true to their varietal and we ended our time with a Lucille Ball Grape Stomping challenge.

We stopped next at Stag’s Leap, which was the winery that made me fall in love with wine.  Many years ago I was on a work-related trip in preparation for a conference and the company told us we were not needed to help that day.  Three girls took off for wine country in a convertible, very little knowledge and happened to come upon Stag’s Leap Vineyards.  I was aghast that a winery could charge $9 for a taste of one wine – Cast 23.  But, I had to try it.  When I did, it was my “a ha” moment that made me fall in love with wine.  I remember in my early 20’s holding my breath that the credit card would go through for my $90 bottle purchase … it did.  But, I had another uphill battle to fight with my husband later about the justification of buying the bottle when we clearly couldn’t afford it.  However, when we opened it, he understood.

We didn’t try Cast 23 that day, but we had a delightful host named Carla who met us bearing a tray of Stag’s Leap  Sauvignon Blanc.  She then took us through the caves and showed off the winery that did not lose a glass during the earthquake due the bedrock foundation. 

Next we had an amazing lunch with a picturesque view of the winery’s lake over two more wines – the Stag’s Leap Chardonnay and the Stag’s Leap Cabernet. The setting was pristine, the wine was great, the company was charming and a canoe race even broke out between several participants at the end.

Our last stop was Mumm Napa.  I had done the full tour here before so I won’t repeat the details, but ending the day on the Mumm porch with glasses of aged sparkling wines makes it hard to wipe the smile off of your face.  We even stopped at the Golden Gate Bridge for a photo opportunity.  Thank you Platt’s for making your partners feel so valued and taking such good care of us.  




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