Past Meets Present at Culver Hotel Prohibition Ball

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Events & Misc., Wine Tasting Notes | Leave a comment

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If any good came of Prohibition, it’s the parties celebrating the end of it.

While over half the states in the US had gone dry way before the Volstead Act went into effect, the “prohibition of alcoholic beverages” officially kicked off on January 16, 1920. This meant that the “manufacture, sale, transportation, importation, possession or distribution” of any beverage of at least .5% alcohol was illegal–except under specific circumstances, such as religious ceremonies and medical necessity. It’s safe to say the 1920’s saw an uptick in reported backaches and insomnia…

 

Prohibition prescription for alcohol

Prohibition prescription for alcohol

When many folks went looking for a good time, however, it wasn’t the local doctor they consulted, but rather a gentleman behind a door, waiting for a password. If granted entry to one of these “speakeasies” (so named for the necessity to “speak easy,” relaxed, softly, inside and about such places, so as not to draw the attention of authorities), one might expect to find a glorious den of iniquities. Girls, gambling, gangsters—all those dangers that appealed to the types of desires the nation’s moral authority was desperate to eradicate.

 

While speakeasies were not as abundant as movies and television tend to portray today, they were popular in cities like New York and Chicago. They were also prevalent on Washington Blvd., in burgeoning Culver City, where three movie studios were feeding America’s love affair with glamour. Behind the scenes, the blind pigs were feeding the entertainment industry’s desire for hooch and high times.

 

Culver Hotel, 1938 | Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

Culver Hotel, 1938 | Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

Amidst this sea of enterprise and extravagance, Mr. Harry H. Culver opened the Hotel Hunt, in 1924. The flatiron, “wedge-shaped Renaissance revival-style beauty,” boasting “150 modern apartments for everyone to enjoy” was built by the LA-based architectural firm, Curlett and Beelman. This was the same team behind Los Angeles’ Park Plaza Hotel and the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Like these, Hotel Hunt—later renamed the Culver Hotel–was also a luxury property.

 

While the rest of the United States suffered through a financial downturn that would become the Great Depression, within Culver City, the 20’s roared gayly on. Like “the Heart of Screenland,” itself, the Culver Hotel was right in the middle of the action.

 

Welcome Wagon

The Welcome Wagon

On Saturday, September 6, the Culver Hotel—now with only forty-six rooms…but upgraded from one washroom per floor to a bathroom in each guestroom—celebrated their 90th anniversary. Needless to say, as a hotel born into the Golden Age of Hollywood, located on a street of free-spirited speakeasies, there was one heckuva birthday party.

 

Double Cross Vodka, Selvarey, Plymouth Gin, Chivas, Kappa, Ketel One, Nolet’s Silver, Johnnie Walker, Bulleit Frontier Whiskey, Templeton Rye, Antica Formula, Avion Tequila, American Harvest Organic Spirit, Marquis, Peroni, Absolut and Coastal Vines sponsored the alcohol. The only bathtub gin around would’ve been poured from the bottle into one of the actual, newly remodeled bathtubs; certainly there was enough of it for a soak. Nine different passed hors d’oeuvres, like spring petite lamb-chasseur, crab-stuffed mushrooms, lobster a la Newberg and boeuf terrine en gelee were plentiful and only the first course. An anniversary cake by Jamaica’s Cakes, plum pudding, key lime mini tarts and sweet rice fritters appeared after an hour or so, and the third shift began around 10pm, featuring an assortment of sliders and fries. One presumes the pub grub was intended to dry out those partygoers who weren’t planning to go home via their own private livery. Guests were provided with a special Uber offer, just in case.

 

Culver Hotel Prohibition Ball 2014

Culver Hotel Prohibition Ball 2014

For the most part, partygoers seemed happy to fully immerse themselves in the experience. Flapper dresses and fedoras abounded, and even the mixologists were in costume. Guests were welcome to explore the first three floors of the hotel, with a different craft cocktail in every bar and ballroom. Modern Cocktail Society Band, and Sylvia and the Rhythm Boys were there to play everybody’s Jazz Age favorites, as folks Lindy Hopped, Charlestoned, and Fox Trotted the night away. A few burlesque performers even came out to show how it’s done. On the third floor, the Culver Hotel’s rooms and suites were open for guests to tour on their own.

 

Renovated Culver Hotel Suite. Image courtesy Culver Hotel

Renovated Culver Hotel Suite. Image courtesy Culver Hotel

Although the Culver Hotel has a reputation for being one of the most haunted spots in the city, the only ghosts around appeared to be the specters of history, mingling with the hotel’s present incarnation and hints of a thriving future.

Lest Ye Be Judged: Guest Judging At The LA International Wine Competition

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Wine Tasting Notes | Leave a comment
Serious Business

Serious Business

When I check in to guest judge at the long registration table at the Sheraton at the Fairplex, in Pomona, California, my Wines of Bordeaux host hears my name and bounds across the room to greet me. Jana Kravitz is pretty, stressed, and very, very French…or pretty, French and very, very stressed… either way, she ushers me into a ballroom filled with round banquet tables covered in white tablecloths, before introducing me to the five other judges at the table where I’ve been assigned. On the walk over, I feel like one of those President/CEO characters, as she quickly briefs me on what to expect from the event before me.

Essentially, I’m here at the Los Angeles International Wine Competition to taste wines across several categories, record my notes and ultimately chip in to help select a few of this year’s Gold, Silver and Best of Class winners.

I sit down and the first flight materializes almost immediately.

We’re intentionally not given a lot to go on. We get the basics of vintage, varietal and whether the wine is foreign or domestically produced. It’s up to the wines to communicate the rest.

The Score Sheet

The Score Sheet

To be honest, I can’t even tell you what I tasted or what continent it was from. That’s how quickly we flew through the flights. One was six wines, another was 16: Sip, scribble a note or two; sip, scribble; sip, scribble. When the last judge finished his or her last note on the last glass, all evidence of that flight would disappear from the table. It was all very Zen. Then we’d go from person to person, giving our impression of each wine and defending our decision about whether it scored a “B” (for bronze), “S” (for silver) or “G” (for gold). For every “G” wine, judges were asked to assign a number value, from 90-100. When there was a unanimous gold rating, that wine would be set aside to compete for the “Best of Class” designation. Out of everything we sipped, across the handful of flights we judged, two wines received that honor.

Aside from the thrill of being invited to participate in an event like this, the fun of trying new wines and meeting new people, and the close proximity to Dr. Bob’s Ice Cream, one of the most rewarding aspects of the competition was how quickly we had to fly through the tasting. I struggle with being locked inside the windowless vault that is my own brain. I’ll delve deeper into this in subsequent posts, but a constant threat to my continued presence in the wine world is my seeming lack of ability to stop overthinking. When I overthink, my ability to taste is almost always thrown for a loop. And when my ability to taste is thrown for a loop, I feel frustrated and discouraged and I begin to check out. However, in this sort-of speed tasting, I didn’t have time to get too analytical, and as a result, my ratings tended to be on par with how the professionals were scoring. If this event didn’t earn high points on its own, I’d certainly give it some sort of recognition for that, alone.

Most of the wines are available for consumer tasting (see website for details). In recent years, competitions have also been added for beer, spirits, olive oil and dairy.

A complete list of all of the Los Angeles International Wine Competition winners can be found here.

Los Angeles International Wine Competition

Los Angeles International Wine Competition

 

Welcome to our updated website

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Announcement, News and Information | 1 Comment

GrapeSmart_Web_ThumbnailAfter being away for far too long we have returned with a brand new website.

Please look around and let us know what you think. The all-new GrapeSmart is going to be a cuvee of all sorts of good things. Stick around, take a sip and see!

50 Years of New Zealand History-Making: Villa Maria Wines

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Arianna's Wine Tasting Notes, Great Wines Under $20, Wines from the Grocery Store | Leave a comment

Whether you subscribe to the theory that humans have lived on the tiny island of New Zealand for 700 years or for 2,000, one can’t deny that in terms of human history, they haven’t been there for long.

Likewise, by the time the 1800s rolled around, most of the world’s major wine regions weren’t conquering new territory, they were playing large-scale games of Monopoly with land that had been planted for ages. By contrast, the first grape vines were planted in Kiwi country in 1819 – less than two hundred years ago.

In light of this, New Zealand’s own Villa Maria Estate and the current celebration of their 50th vintage, is kind of a big deal.

In 1961, when owner and managing director of Villa Maria, George Fistonich, first started the winery (with second-hand equipment, on land borrowed from his skeptical father), he wasn’t setting out to change New Zealand history, he was choosing a trade. Drinking wine was part of the Croatian culture Fistonich was born into, and it was also the family livelihood. Fistonich’s decision seemed as traditional as can be.

But that’s where doing the expected ended.

Sir George and His Barrels

Sir George and His Barrels

Back when New Zealanders were mostly drinking sherries, Fistonich deemed to drag the country in line with the European tastes of the time. He chose an international name that could be from anywhere, hired professional viticulturalists, identified different regional typicities around the country and encouraged his growers to let the terroir speak through the grapes. He’s also maintained a firm commitment to the planet; 100% of Villa Maria’s vineyards and contract vineyards are sustainable, and 30% are organic. Through these practices, Fistonich has helped guide his small country onto the world wine stage and able to compete with those other countries that started fermenting juice back when New Zealand was mostly uninhabited by humans.

Today, Villa Maria Estate produces close to twenty different wines, in four quality tiers (Villa Maria Reserve, Single Vineyard, Cellar Selection and Private Bin), from vineyards in Gisborne, Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay and Auckland. George also owns three additional wineries – Vidal, Esk Valley and Thornbury – which are much smaller than the 750,000 cases/year operation that is his original project.

Villa Maria’s large-scale production has not only helped New Zealand’s 5th largest winery reach all corners of the global market, it’s also enabled the company to keep a low quality-to-price ratio (QPR). In fact, I was amazed by how good these wines were for the cost – expecting them to be tens of dollars more expensive than the sticker price.

Of the wines I tried at a recent tasting, the “Private Bin” and “Cellar Selection” bottlings really stood out. The 2010 Villa Maria Private Bin Marlborough Pinot Noir is full of ripe cherry and raspberry, with hints of spice and soft tannin. The 2009 Private Bin Hawkes Bay

2008 Villa Maria Private Bin Marlborough Pinot Noir

2008 Villa Maria Private Bin Marlborough Pinot Noir

Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon blend leads from blueberry, blackberry, red raspberry and cassis on the nose to red raspberry, plum, blackberry, eucalyptus and chocolate on the palate. Both are less than $20.

The 2008 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Marlborough Pinot Noir has a nose of black cherry and baking spice, and flavors of big, ripe cherry and delicate tannin. This was my favorite of the day, even at around $25/bottle.

All ofthese wines – in fact, Villa Maria’s entire global production since 2003 – are bottled under screwcap, and they were the first winery of their size to embrace the technology. While stelvin closures are still slightly controversial, Fistonich wasn’t awarded the title of New Zealand’s Most Awarded Winemaker for nothing. In 2009, Fistonich was given knighthood for his contributions to the country’s wine industry. Today, Villa Maria Estate is consistently ranked among the world’s top 50 great wine producers.

I encourage you to join the modern era and taste New Zealand’s history-in-the-making. After all, Villa Maria has been around for a quarter of the country’s wine history. Clearly, that’s something worth toasting to.

2008 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Marlborough Pinot Noir

2008 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Marlborough Pinot Noir

Ravenswood: Joel Peterson and his Powerful Elixirs

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Wines from the Grocery Store | Leave a comment

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,

Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;

Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking

Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore -

What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore

Meant in croaking `Nevermore.’

In Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven,” a bird comes out of the night and leaves an indelible mark… In 1976, Joel Peterson paid $4000 for four tons of Dry Creek valley grapes. As he raced around the four-acre vineyard at harvesttime, hurling 50 lb wooden crates of fruit into the back of a truck, storm clouds rolled toward the vineyard, threatening to drown Peterson’s plans to become a winemaker. All the while two ghastly grim and ancient ravens perched and sat, nothing more, while night fell on the vineyard and Peterson struggled to insure it didn’t also fall on his future. In the end, almost by some sort of magic, Peterson dodged the rain and got the grapes to Joseph Swan’s winery, where the fruit was pressed into 327 cases, and Peterson called his company Ravenswood. Perhaps just as miraculous, this European-style red wine took home prestigious awards at a time when most of the country associated Zinfandel with something sweet and pink and Sutter Home-ly. Success continued to materialize from there. Perhaps it shouldn’t seem so miraculous that Peterson created something extraordinary out of bleak circumstances – after all, as the son of two chemists and he, himself, a clinical laboratory scientist, he was always within close range of a certain sort of alchemy. His father, Walter Peterson, a physical chemist by day, was the one who first introduced Joel to the magic of C2H5OH. When Joel was ten years old, his father had him record tasting notes at the elder Peterson’s twice-weekly group, San Francisco Wine Sampling Club (now the San Francisco Vintner’s Club). The younger Peterson was told to taste, “shut up and spit.” His spittoon was carefully measured afterward, but Joel clearly swallowed a great deal of knowledge from those sessions. Early in his career as a medical researcher, he helped make ends meet by consulting and writing about wine. Peterson’s mother, Frances, spent the first part of her career as a nuclear chemist, and later transformed her science experience into a celebrated knowledge of cooking – even testing recipes and helping Alice Waters edit her first cookbook. Her son turned his own experiences into the realization that he wanted to become a winemaker, and then parlayed that desire into an apprenticeship with Joe Swan. Swan taught Peterson a type of magic, as well. At a time when irrigation systems have nearly gone space-age, Ravenswood single-vineyard wines are dry-farmed. Fermentation is spontaneous, using ambient yeasts. Although most commercial enterprises rely on additives and extras, Peterson puts his faith in nature: “[When using native yeasts], stuck fermentations are a function of year. Commercial yeast has more stuck fermentations;” he avoids sulphur; and he keeps the bottlings pure, whereas “most Old Vine Zin is adulterated with other things.” He also still head prunes his vines. These are the old ways, based on the best wine-producing regions in Europe – the regions that produce the wines Peterson grew up with. These are the methods Ravenswood has used from the beginning, and they are the lessons Peterson learned from Joe Swan. Certainly there many in the industry who saw Peterson’s methods (including the growing of Zinfandel, itself, at a time when Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot were all the rage), and thought – like the chorus in Lucia di Lammermore, as the ill-fated Edgardo Ravenswood takes his own life – “Ritorna in te, ritorna in te!” (Come to your senses, come to your senses!). But Peterson did not commit [career] suicide; instead, he became one of the most important forces in the elevation of Zinfandel to a world-class grape variety. He put California Zinfandel on the map, and he has also served as consultant to hundreds of winegrowers and winemakers in California. In 2001, two years after Ravenswood went public, the company was purchased by Constellation Brands for $148 million. Peterson became a senior vice president at Constellation while continuing to be head winemaker at Ravenswood. His magic clearly works.

The wine brand with the three ghastly grim and ancient ravens on the label, has three hierarchical levels of quality. The first level comprises the value-priced juggernaut of Ravenswood Vintner’s Blend wines. At around $10/bottle, these are big, bold, badass and represent the Ravenswood motto, “No wimpy wines.” The Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Old Vine Zinfandel, Shiraz and Chardonnay are all made from grapes grown all over California and make up about

800,000 of the company’s 1 million cases of year produced. The middle tier are the Ravenswood County Series wines, with names like Napa Valley Old Vine Zinfandel and Mendocino Zinfandel, and average about $15 each. As the name suggests, these are appellation-specific, and represent a fairly significant jump in quality from the Vintner’s Blend wines. These are also often found in restaurants, although it is likely shoppers will find at least one or two on wine shop shelves as a bridge between the familiar, lesser-priced Ravenswood wines they see at the grocery store, and the third, most esteemed tier, which are the Single Vineyard designates. Barricia, Belloni, Big River, Dickerson, Pickberry, Teldeschi and Old Hill. These are the shining jewels in Ravenswood’s crown – the Single Designation wines. The vineyards were all planted pre-Prohibition, they’re dry-farmed, and they represent the epitome of what Peterson is most passionate about as a winemaker. And they’re bewitching. All but the Old Hill will set a shopper back $35 a bottle (the Old Hill is $60). What they get for that kind of investment is juice from vines up to nearly 130 years old. The Barricia Vineyard is in Sonoma and the 2008 has a nose of pure red fruit overlying a base of forest floor, with some slight notes of baking spice. On the palate, this wine is big and assertive with a spicy center, without being too heavy or jammy. Nice, fine, even tannins with excellent aging potential. 1000 cases produced. The Ravenswood 2008 Belloni Vineyard is more austere, more Burgundian – if you can use that phrase to describe a big California Zin/Petite Sirah/Carignane/Alicante Bouschet blend. It’s lighter, a little more feminine. Dark fruit, tobacco, espresso, with a soft finish. It’s from Russian River, and only 535 cases were made. Big River Vineyard is in Alexander Valley. There were 975 cases made of Ravenswood’s 2008 Big River Zinfandel - 100% Zin – and it’s all licorice and black berries and oak. Ravenswood’s Dickerson Vineyard is also 100% Zinfandel. The vineyard is in Napa, but Peterson says the vines think they’re in Sonoma, producing fruit with low acid and high pH. In 2008, this resulted in a wine that smells of red raspberry and a bit of mint, and bathes the palate in sweet fruit and a little mineral. 755 cases made, and can age for up to ten years. The 2007 Ravenswood Pickberry Vineyard hails from Sonoma Mountain and doesn’t contain any Zinfandel at all. It’s a blend of 58% Merlot and 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, and it’s all dense and chewy red fruit and spice box and pretty solid tannin. There were 1,045 cases produced and these wines have aging potential of up to fifteen years. The 2008 Ravenswood Teldeschi Vineyard is another Zinfandel blend that contains 20% Petite Sirah, 3% Carignane and 2% Alicante Bouschet to round out the cuvee. Planted in approximately 1883, Teldeschi Vineyard is in Dry Creek, and the fruit is packed with power and black cherry, chocolate and espresso, with additional notes of vanilla and cigar. This wine is heady and lush, with a long finish. 2800 cases produced.

 Old Hill Ranch Vineyard is probably Sonoma’s oldest, and the 2008 Ravenswood Old Hill Ranch Zinfandel is a field blend containing Zin plus 25% [???]. They could be any of an assortment of grapes; the only certainty is, the grapes are all black. There were 1000 cases produced of this orange pekoe/dark-chocolate/cherry-scented show-stopper. On the palate, the wine is rich and juicy and packed with vanilla and red and black fruit and baking spice. It’s been almost 40 years, but Joel Peterson’s raven is still beguiling sad souls into smiling, even today. There are reasons to try Ravenswood wines from any of the tiers. Whichever you choose, you’ll be drinking in a bit of California wine history – history spun by Joel Peterson. Because of his wines, California Zinfandel will be weak and weary…nevermore.

Drinking Out Of The Box… RED

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Arianna's Wine Tasting Notes | Leave a comment

When we last left you, we’d started on an exciting foray into the wonderful world of boxed wine. We’d done this because, while far less sexy, boxed wines (approximately four bottles per 3 liter box) are a better comparative value than their bottled counterparts. And because the plastic bladder inside the box collapses as the wine is emptied, boxed wines are naturally protected against oxygen spoilage, so they are usually good for around four weeks once they’ve been opened. A regular bottle will last for only a week or so with preservation measures taken, under the best circumstances.

We sampled ten wines – five whites and five reds – at a party with friends. Our sampling was extremely unscientific; we ranked our favorites, writing down our impressions on yellow-tipped Post-It Notes for the white wines and red-tipped Post-It Notes for the red wines. These were the results.

The Reds:

Big House, Small Price

2009 Big House The Usual Suspect Cabernet Sauvignon. Winemaker Georgetta Dane earned a Masters in Food Science from Galati University in her native Romania, and began working at a winery right out of school. A few years later, she and her husband moved to Monterey, California, where Ms. Dane eventually worked her way into the role of lead winemaker, or the “Warden.”

This wine blends 90% Cabernet with 10% Grenache, and I picked up notes of blackberry, currant and vanilla on the nose, and tasted vanilla, mocha and tar, blueberry and blackberry fruit in the glass. This is a pretty full-bodied wine with light tannin and a medium finish. Party guests described “Mixed berries, light. Great;” “Dark berry, ain’t too bad. Me like;” “Sweet, strong after taste. I like it. Berry.” ( 13.5% abv, $22 for 3L).

Back In Black

2009 Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon. Ryan Sproule was on a trip across the pond when he noticed how popular boxed wines were over there. When he returned from his trip, he launched Black Box wines – the United States’ first “super-premium, appellation-specific, vintage-dated wines in a box” – the kind he’d experienced in Europe, but wasn’t able to find stateside. Today, Black Box offers eight different boxed wines, with grapes sourced from some of the world’s top wine-growing regions, including California’s Central Coast, which is where Sproule gets the fruit for his Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon.

They said: Sweet…light. Pretty good.” I said: “Scents of oak, currant and vanilla. On the palate, this had medium tannin, and flavors of blackberry, cherry and watermelon. Not a ton of complexity, but great balance. Tied for favorite red of the night.(13.5% abv, $20 for 3L)

Good Tone, Nice Body

Jack Tone Vineyards California Red Wine Bottle Blend. McManis Family Vineyards – the makers of the Jack Tone red and white blends – are well-known in the value market for producing consistent, drinkable wines from the inner Central Coast of California. The Jack Tone Vineyards Red Wine Bottle Blend is a combination of Syrah and Petite Sirah, although the company says they may include Petit Verdot and Zinfandel in future years.

This was a guest favorite (“The red box!”). Some of the descriptions of it were, “Very dark and delicious. Hint of fruitiness. Very warm and full bodied aftertaste. WONDERFUL;” “Hints of tobacco, vanilla, a bit acidic, strong;” “Deep notes, charcoal, red notes – redwood;” “Bold flavor, Roquefort, aftertaste;” “Dark berry flavor. Tad sour. Yummy;” “Strong kick. Very good;” “Full, acid;” “Blueberry. Little Strong;” “Way too thick.”I picked up notes of tobacco, vanilla, mocha, plum and black fruit; with a rich, round mouthfeel. (13.5% abc, $20 for 3L)

Double Ohh! Seven

2010 Bodegas Osborne Seven Red Table Wine. Winemaker Jose Maria Nieto starts with tradition but then takes a “Nuevo Vino” approach with the rest of his winemaking technique for this easy drinker from Octavin Home Wine Bar. Nieto says his goal is, “To create a very distinctive, flavorful, modern Spanish wine that still reflects the traditional characteristics of our Spanish roots.” One way he’s accomplishing this is to blend traditional Spanish grapes in with other, international favorites, in this blend of seven varieties: 25% cabernet sauvignon, 25% merlot, 18% syrah, 8% petit verdot, 8% tempranillo, 8% grenache and 8% graciano.

There was a lot of feedback about this wine: “I like this one. Merlot. Light. Simple;” “Tastes like every wine you’ve ever had before;” “Very balanced basic wine. Good;” “Smooth. Very nice. Reminds me of berries and oak.” My impressions were: Blackberry, plum and raspberry on the nose, with a bit of earth and a little graham cracker and oak and alcoholic heat. This wine is thin but fruity, with flavors of mushroom, cherry, blueberry, vanilla, and chocolate, with a splash of heat on the back-end. This also tied for my favorite red. (13.6% abv, $22 for 3L)

Rock Around The Block

Trader Joe’s Block Red Shiraz. This Australian Shiraz from Trader Joe’s is sort of like a slightly more grown-up version of the grocery store’s famous “Two Buck Chuck.” At $10 for 3 liters, the math works out to about $2.50 per bottle. They’ve done an amazing job at getting 3 liters of wine into a very small package, and it’s definitely a budget option (I’ve never seen another boxed wine priced for less). At that price it’s certainly not bad, but I’ve gotta say, in this case you get what you pay for.

Them: “Full, fruity;” “Shiraz was not too sweet, which normally makes Shiraz terrible;” “Light, sour, ooh;” “Acidic, blasé, popcorn, cherry/plum, candy cane.” Me: Cherry, vanilla, oak. Very sweet. (13% abv, $10 for 3L)

 

Winners: Jack Tone, Seven

 

 

Drinking Out Of The Box… WHITE

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Wines from the Grocery Store | Leave a comment

 

Taste My Box…es

Boxed wines might not have the sexy cache of something in a green bottle one pulls off the shelf of a dark and dusty cellar, but they’re being increasingly recognized as both a great economical and environmental choice. While a little oxygen can help open up a wine (especially younger ones), too much exposure will quickly ruin it. For all of today’s technology, there aren’t many ways to keep this from happening to a traditional bottle of wine, especially at home. Wine in boxes are kept inside a plastic bladder. As wine is emptied, the bladder collapses around it, preventing air from getting in. This method keeps wine drinkable, longer (up to four weeks or so). And that’s in addition to the fact that boxed wine is generally priced at a bulk value (3 Liters =  about 4 bottles). Environmentally, when one compares the footprint of shipping heavy glass bottles and cardboard boxes, there’s really no comparison at all.

But even though they might operate using similar mechanics, all boxed wines are not created equal. So what’s worth drinking and what should be bagged and boxed? To answer this question, I conducted a little – absolutely unscientific – market research with the help of some thirsty friends. The wine we tried, boxed red and white, is commercially available, and priced between $10 and $25. This post focuses on the whites. Tune in next week to read about the reds.

To provide feedback on the wines, there was a packet of yellow-tabbed Post-It Notes and red-tabbed Post-It Notes, and party guests were asked to write down their notes – yellow notes for white wine, red notes for red wine.

The Whites:

 

A Slam Dunk For The Price

2010 Big House White. The Big House winery is in Soledad, California. In fact, it’s located right across the way from the Soledad State Correctional Facility, which was the inspiration for the name. Big House says their “cornerstone is rebellious New World winemaking and making blends of unconventional Mediterranean varieties.” Wines are blended from hand-selected, individual lots, and arranged in similar fashion to how a perfumer organizes individual scents to form a whole fragrance.

Big House White is steel tank fermented. The varieties in the 2010 vintage are: Malvasia Bianca, Gruner Veltliner, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Muscat Canelli, Viognier, Verdelho, Albarino, Pinot Gris.

There was only one party comment for this one: “Don’t like smell. Taste not bad.” I took my own notes… “Aromatic nose of white flowers and lychee. The palate is a blend of ripe peach and mango, pineapple and tangerine. Medium finish.” This is a great wine for the hottest months of summer. (13.5% abv. $20 for 3L)

Black Betty

2010 Black Box Chardonnay. The website for Black Box wines boasts that they’ve won “20 Gold Medals and 14 Best Buys,” and it’s easy to understand why. This Chardonnay from Monterey, California was my favorite of the whites: smooth, well-constructed, crisp and bright. Founder Ryan Sproule was inspired to create “super-premium, appellation-specific, vintage-dated wines in a box” after a trip to Europe, where he was surprised to see Europeans guzzling boxed wine en masse. In 2003, he launched Black Box wines as a way to offer consumers “freshness, value and convenience ” without sacrificing quality.

One commenter said the Black Box Chardonnay is “light but bitter…like…ummm…Can’t think of something clever enough…Good.” I noted that it had scents of cream corn, sea spray, freshly cut grass and pineapple; on the palate, there were notes of vanilla, honey, lemon and mango; with juicy, tart acidity and a somewhat rich, silky mouthfeel. (13.5% abv. $24 for 3L)

More than Cougar Juice

2011 Herding Cats Chenin Blanc/Chardonnay. Hailing all the way from South Africa, the idea behind the name is that winemakers Pieter Carstens and Adam Richardson “‘herd together’ signature South African grapes with popular varietals.” The wines are made in a New World style, and are designed to be crowd pleasers. In fact, this was my second-favorite white of the night. It’s not complex, it isn’t fancy, but it is easy and delicious and a ton of fun to drink.

Them: “Very mid-level,” and “Acidic, apple-y.” Me: “Scents of white flowers, orchard fruit and citrus, with flavors identical to the aroma. It had a tart finish, creamy mouthfeel and great acid.” Chenin (80%) Chardonnay (20%). (13.5% abv. $24 for 3L)

Jumpin’ Jack…Kinda…Flash

Jack Tone White. McMannis Family Vineyards – the California winery that produces the Jack Tone White blend – says, “Our initial White Wine Bottle Blend is a blend of Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Muscat. … We have maintained a ‘Non Vintage’ status with the wine in order to give us the freedom to ‘back blend’ between vintages to maintain continuity and consistency.” So there you have it – a flexible, easy-going white wine, that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The wines (both red and white) are named after the Jack Tone Road, the longest straight road in San Joaquin County, that connects the McMannis Family Vineyards in Rippin, CA to Lodi, where their fruit is sourced. That Jack Tone is in tribute to the famous Jack Tone, Gold Rush pioneer, who built the road, and died in 1902.

The sole party person who tried this one felt the wine was, “Light. Sweet. Very good.” I said it has “a nose of pear and apricot and some citrus; and flavors of candied apricot, citrus and green grass. It manages to have tart acid, despite being a bit flabby. The fruity finish was long and delicious.” Another great value. (12.5% abv. $20 for 3L)

Not Quite Silver…But Good

2009 Silver Birch Sauvignon Blanc: This wine comes from the famous Marlborough region of New Zealand – famous for the gooseberry notes in its Sauvignon Blanc. Winemaker Drew Ellis sources fruit from some of the best vineyards in the area, then stainless steel ferments, to produce a clean, crisp, fresh Sauvignon Blanc, designed to deliver “the quintessential New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc year after year.” This wine was chosen by Wine Enthusiast magazine as a “Best Buy.”

Them – “Tastes sweet.” “Sweet white grape FTW.” “Too sweet for me!” “Tastes like candy. Yes. I like it.” “Syrupy sweet white grape Welch’s.” Me – “Scents of pineapple, mango and gooseberry; flavors of grass, gooseberry, pineapple, kiwi and a little lemongrass. This had a slick, greasy mouthfeel and was fairly full-bodied. A big Sauvignon Blanc.” (13% abv. $24 for 3L)

 

Winners: Black Box, Herding Cats and Jack Tone

 

 

Abalone, You’ve Met Your Match

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Wine Tasting Trips | 1 Comment

Abalone (image by Julia Thiel, The Chicago Reader)

Abalone – those algae-eating, sea dwelling creatures, which are so delectable to otters and so strange to look at as they creep along the ocean floor – are part of the phylum Mollusca. They share this group with squid, clams, scallops, sea slugs and octopuses. So it’s no wonder they’re so tasty.

This deliciousness, enjoyed by both sea otters and humans alike, has led to a steep decline in wild abalone, but new advancements in abalone farming. I got to witness the latter, first-hand, at Cayucos, California’s The Abalone Farm. There, hidden away behind a cattle farm, and sprawled out against the sea, Brad Buckley gave a walking tour of the various stages of an abalone’s life, from the beginnings as tiny egg-specks through tanks and tanks of years’ worth of growth. Lucky for me, (but less so for the abalone), I was able to conclude my tour with the final act in the lives of several of these snail-like creatures. I like to think they sacrificed themselves for science.

My first meal of The Abalone Farm’s chief product happened at Cass House, in Cayucos, California. It was served as an accompaniment to olive oil-poached halibut, aside mussels, and decorated with leek and fennel and a bay laurel beurre blanc. The texture was a medium firmness, but velvety. The flavor had been strongly influenced by the rich and herbaceous sauce, but retained some of the animal’s fresh seawater taste. Right then and there, bathed in the glow of having just eaten exquisite food, I became a believer.

Olive Oil Poached Local Halibut with abalone and mussels, garden leek and fennel confit, parsley nage, bay laurel beurre blanc, frites, fennel pollen

The next day I went back to the stretch of seaside pale sand and dark warehouses that is The Abalone Farm, and Buckley fished through one of his adult abalone housing baskets, and pulled up a substantial creature approximately four inches in length and width, and about three inches across. He then quickly shucked it for me, deftly separating it from its life as he separated it from its shell. He showed me how a rigorous salt shower and subsequent scrubbing not only clean the abalone, it also speeds a sort of rigor mortus. Buckley then washed the stiff abalone in fresh water, sliced it into thin servings, and spritzed it with fresh lime.

This time, the abalone’s flavor was unadulterated, except for the burst of tart lime. It had the sort of soft snap familiar to anyone who’s eaten jellyfish. The flavor was subtle, clean and pleasant.

Flash forward to last month. A friend had organized a wine tasting/dinner party. The only rule was that everyone had to bring a dish, and every dish had to have a wine pairing. The rest was up to us.

Wanting to relive my Cayucos raw abalone experience, I chose to replicate exactly what I’d been shown.

…Then I got freaked out about having to prepare it for the first time at someone else’s house, for a room full of strangers, so I bought my live abalone from the Galleria market, in Koreatown, and they prepared it for me, sashimi-style. There was no salt scrub, but they cleaned and cut and served all six abalone beautifully. I paired the dish with a bottle of 2010 Domaine de la Pépière “Vieilles Vignes” Clos des Briords Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie.

What I found with the abalone this time around was that different parts of the animal had a different taste. Some slices echoed that fresh seawater flavor from my first experience, others were much more pungently fishy. Other parts almost tasted like the clean umami of yellowtail sashimi. I served the dish with wasabi, soy sauce and lime slices, and let people choose their own adventure. My favorite combination was like the first one I’d tried – nothing but flesh and lime juice. While the soy sauce was good, it tended to overpower the clear, delicate flavor of the meat.

2010 Domaine de la Pépière “Vieilles Vignes” Clos des Briords Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie. Long name, great wine

The wine pairing sang. The Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet is made from single-vineyard grapes that come from vines with an average age of about 80 years. This bottle was packed with mineral, with flashes of apricot, lemon and saline, which were perfect accents to the abalone. The focused acidity was enough to play against the baseness of the seafood, without competing with the presence of the fresh lime.

Like Buckley, Winemaker Marc Ollivier also seems to lean toward minimal embellishments when he’s presenting his work. Grapes are hand-harvested, fermentation is triggered by natural yeasts, and Ollivier employs a very light filtration. Clean, focused, pure.

Ready to try the wine, but don’t have abalone handy? This mineral-rich, chalky Muscadet is a natural (and traditional) pairing with oysters. Or, at around $16/bottle, it isn’t even unthinkable that you could try some pairing experimentations of your own…

Try Some Wine! Win A Contest! Tapena Is Here To Help.

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Wines from the Grocery Store | 1 Comment

“Your words are my food, your breath my wine. You are everything to me.” – Sarah Bernhardt

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I thought I’d talk to you a little about love. …And the Spanish company, Freixenet (known for it’s world-famous black-bottled Cava, Cordon Negro). Love is what built Freixenet. In the late 1800s, Pedro Ferrer Bosch, whose family owned La Freixeneda – a farming estate dating back to the 12th Century – and had been making wine since the 1500s; married Dolores Sala Vivé, whose family owned the wine export company Casa Salas, and had been making wine since the 1830s.

The Phylloxera epidemic hit hard around that time, wiping out vineyards across Europe. But the family stuck together and their love of working in wine persevered. Instead of continuing to export wines from Europe – which had become a daunting endeavor, since many of Europe’s vineyards were now gone – Pedro and Dolores joined forces with her father and changed the direction of Casa Salas; while once they shipped vino, from then on, they made it.

With France’s venerable Champagne region as their guide, the family decided to make traditional sparkling wines, and planted all white grapes – Macabeo, Xarelo and Parellada, to be precise – and dug cellars at their home in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, Spain. In 1915, under the name Freixenet (a nickname the locals gave to Pedro), the family began selling their own wines made in the Méthode Champenoise style. By the end of World War I, they were already shipping internationally.

Today, the Freixenet Group has distributors in 150 countries, and they rank number one in the world in production of sparkling wines made in the traditional method.

And they continue to look for ways to share the family’s love of wine.

To this end, the company is launching a value brand called Tapeña – a combination of the words tapas (“the American equivalent of bar hopping with an epicurean twist”) and peña (“slang for a group of close friends”) – the idea being that this wine is ideal to share over good times with the people you care about. What’s more, they offer a rewards program for fans to earn all kinds of cool stuff – just for drinking wine! – and at around $9.99/bottle, what’s not to love?

The Tapeña wines are made from primarily Spanish varieties, and there are four in all: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Verdejo, and Rosé (a blend of Garnacha, Monastrell and Shiraz). To introduce wine lovers near and far to these value vinos, the Freixenet Group is running a promotion, and winners will receive one bottle of each of the four wines, as well as nifty gifts like wine charms, a Spanish foods cookbook and a few other items, thrown in for fun (party pack is valued at over $100!).

How do you enter? Easy. In the comments section below, simply give us your favorite tapas recipe! That’s it! A winner will be selected at random on Friday, February 10, at 10am PST.

And if that doesn’t warm your heart, might I suggest picking up a bottle of Cordon Negro, to share in the rest of the world’s love of this classic Cava. After all, what Valentine’s Day isn’t made better by an intoxicating kiss of something sparkling?

“When you came, you were like red wine and honey, and the taste of you burnt my mouth with its sweetness.” – Amy Lowell

Happy Valentine’s Day!

#Winning (photo courtesy beausbarrelroom.blogspot.com)Love Tapeña wines?

 

 

Love Tapeña wines?

- “Like” them on Facebook

- Follow them on Twitter

 

  • Must be 21 years or older to enter. By entering the contest, you verify you are over 21.

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“Love is like red, red wine…” (photo courtesy blog.craftzine.com)“Your words are my food, your breath my wine. You are everything to me.” – Sarah Bernhardt
With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I thought I’d talk to you a little about love. …And the Spanish company, Freixenet (known for it’s world-famous black-bottled Cava, Cordon Negro). Love is what built Freixenet. In the late 1800s, Pedro Ferrer Bosch, whose family owned La Freixeneda – a farming estate dating back to the 12th Century – and had been making wine since the 1500s; married Dolores Sala Vivé, whose family owned the wine export company Casa Salas, and had been making wine since the 1830s.
The Phylloxera epidemic hit hard around that time, wiping out vineyards across Europe. But the family stuck together and their love of working in wine persevered. Instead of continuing to export wines from Europe – which had become a daunting endeavor, since many of Europe’s vineyards were now gone – Pedro and Dolores joined forces with her father and changed the direction of Casa Salas; while once they shipped vino, from then on, they made it.
With France’s venerable Champagne region as their guide, the family decided to make traditional sparkling wines, and planted all white grapes – Macabeo, Xarelo and Parellada, to be precise – and dug cellars at their home in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, Spain. In 1915, under the name Freixenet (a nickname the locals gave to Pedro), the family began selling their own wines made in the Méthode Champenoise style. By the end of World War I, they were already shipping internationally.
Today, the Freixenet Group has distributors in 150 countries, and they rank number one in the world in production of sparkling wines made in the traditional method.
And they continue to look for ways to share the family’s love of wine.
To this end, the company is launching a value brand called Tapeña – a combination of the words tapas (“the American equivalent of bar hopping with an epicurean twist”) and peña (“slang

for a group of close friends”) – the idea being that this wine is ideal to share over good times with the people you care about. What’s more, they offer a rewards program for fans to earn all kinds of cool stuff – just for drinking wine! – and at around $9.99/bottle, what’s not to love?
The Tapeña wines are made from primarily Spanish varieties, and there are four in all: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Verdejo, and Rosé (a blend of Garnacha, Monastrell and Shiraz). To introduce wine lovers near and far to these value vinos, the Freixenet Group is running a promotion, and winners will receive one bottle of each of the four wines, as well as nifty gifts like wine charms, a Spanish foods cookbook and a few other items, thrown in for fun (party pack is valued at over $100!).
How do you enter? Easy. In the comments section below, simply give us your favorite tapas recipe! That’s it! A winner will be selected at random on Friday, February 10, at 10am PST.
And if that doesn’t warm your heart, might I suggest picking up a bottle of Cordon Negro, to share in the rest of the world’s love of this classic Cava. After all, what Valentine’s Day isn’t made better by an intoxicating kiss of something sparkling?
“When you came, you were like red wine and honey, and the taste of you burnt my mouth with its sweetness.” – Amy Lowell

Happy Valentine’s Day!

#Winning (photo courtesy beausbarrelroom.blogspot.com)Love Tapeña wines?

Love Tapeña wines?
– “Like” them on Facebook
– Follow them on Twitter

Must be 21 years or older to enter. By entering the contest, you verify you are over 21.
Path:

Pop! Go The Bubbles: What To Pour For Your Most Sparkly Occasions

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Arianna's Wine Tasting Notes | Leave a comment

Whether it’s New Years Eve, Valentine’s Day, Easter brunch – or any festive holiday – sparkling wines are a wonderful way to celebrate. In fact, a good bubbly can turn even a regular ol’ Wednesday night into a special occasion.

So go on, indulge a little! This list features fizzies from $15 and up, so no matter what your budget, you’re sure to find something to sip.

La Marca Prosecco

La Marca Prosecco: ($15) Prosecco is to Italy as Crémant is to France. Except not exactly. But kinda. Sound confusing? I’ll make it easy: Just pick up a bottle of these bubbles – soft mousse, a little sweeter than traditional Champagne, with flavors of apple and honeysuckle and maybe the slightest bit of brioche. In fact, pick up two bottles, especially if you’re lucky enough to find this stuff for $11 or $12 (which you can, and I have). The pretty blue label makes it perfect for bridal and baby showers. The price makes it perfect for all of those little life celebrations, like birthdays, anniversaries, Saturday night… (100% Glera)

 

 

Von Buhl Riesling Sekt Brut

Von Buhl Riesling Sekt Brut: ($22) In case it isn’t immediately obvious, this sparkler hails from Germany. Wait, what? Yep. Deutschland is actually known for more than beer and clunky, communist architecture; in fact, there was a time when the country rivaled France as producers of the world’s most wonderful wein. If that comes as a shock, you might be equally surprised to learn that its most famous grape – Riesling – is responsible for far more than syrupy sweet Blue Nun. There are Riesling wines across the entire spectrum of sweetness levels. The one I reference here is actually bone-dry, with lots of bright, mouth-watering acidity. Although this is a vintage bubbly, it’s standard to find lots of stony minerality in the Rieslings from this region, as well as varying levels of apricot and citrus and right-out-of-the-oven baked bread. In general, this sparkler presents as light, lively and should be pretty much guaranteed to start conversations with less wine-savvy neophytes and to win major points with your more geeky companions. (100% Riesling)

 

J Brut Rose, Russian River Valley

NV J Brut Rosé, Russian River Valley: ($28) This soft pink bubbly out of Sonoma starts with an essence of strawberry seed and fizzes over the tongue with candied strawberry fruit, a bit of mineral and some citrus. The mousse is firm and frothy, there’s a peppy acidity, and the whole thing ends in a slow finish that almost seems too elegant for something so fun. (56% Pinot Noir, 44% Chardonnay)

 

 

 

 

 

Lanson Brut Black Label

Lanson Black Label Brut NV: ($30) My first experience with Lanson was at a super swanky wine tasting, where they were pouring over twenty Grand Marques Champagnes (that’s French for really fancy sparkling wine). I’d sipped Krug and Cristal, Pommery, Perrier-Jouet, Piper Heidsieck and Pol Roger, but I have a very clear memory of stopping dead in my tracks when I tasted the Lanson. The house style at Lanson Pere et Fils is tight, and I don’t mean that in the same way the kids today do. Unlike most bubblies, Lanson does not put their wines through malolactic fermentation, which means, simply, they’re very high in acid. These are great Champagnes to cellar, but the fresh green apple and citrus is so vibrant and refreshing, the bubbles so festive, the yeasty finish so long, that – provided you enjoy the style – there’s plenty of reason to just pop and pour. (35% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir, 15% Pinot Meunier)

 

Champagne Thienot Brut

NV Champagne Thienot Brut:($40) From a very old wine-producing region comes a very new Champagne house – Champagne Thienot. Yet despite being the new kid on the block at just 25 years young, their non-vintage blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier gives many of the competing, established sparklers a run for the money, especially in terms of QPR. Creamy and elegant with consistent, a delicate bead, this has flavors of peach and apple and a touch of toast. While the finish doesn’t go on forever, at that price, what you sacrifice in terms of length, you make up for in ability to actually afford a bottle (or two) in the first place (quite rare for quality Champagne). Group Thienot also owns the Grand Marques Champagne houses Laurent-Perrier (another personal favorite) and Canard-Duchêne.

 

NV Pierre Peters, Champagne Cuveé de Réserve Grand Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs

NV Pierre Peters, Cuveé de Réserve Blanc de Blancs Brut Grand Cru: ($50) Mineral and grapefruit and apples and yeasty biscuits and a million tiny bubbles that go on forever. Pierre Peters is a “grower Champagne” estate, which means they grow and make their own juice, unlike many of the region’s bigger houses, which sometimes source fruit from all over the area. They’re a family-run production from the early 1900s, and as far as I can tell, there hasn’t been a bad bottle since they started. OK, that’s probably an exaggeration, but these Champagnes – made with Grand Cru grapes – are light and crisp, focused and bursting with bright acidity. Every wine geek I know is mad for them. $50 is an indulgence, but these chalky, light-golden sparklers, with slight hints of mushroom and a dry, elegant finish, are just the thing when you’re looking to take it to the next level. (100% Chardonnay)

 

NV Camille Savès Champagne Brut Grand Cru Rosé

NV Camille Savès Champagne Brut Grand Cru Rosé: ($60) I recently read a review that said this Camille Savès is the perfect thing to pour for non-Champagne drinkers, because it’s such a universal crowd pleaser. That’s probably true, but this robust, red-fruit-and-sour-cherry delight, with soft bead and hints of mineral and zesty acid, is so fruity and so fun to drink, it almost seems like a shame to share it with anyone but your closest, most Champagne-loving friends. (60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir)

 

 

 

 

Bollinger Brut Rose

NV Bollinger Brut Rosé: ($90) At a recent tasting, I sniffed this and immediately thought of French toast with strawberry jam. The brioche and berry carry across the palate, with the addition of cherry and raspberry and a hint of nuttiness on the back end. This is a full, round rosé, with good acidity, soft mousse and a wonderfully long, dry finish. It’s unbelievably precise for a non-vintage Champagne. The Bolli Rosé is a treat, and goes down almost too easily – a $90 decadence, gone in an instant. But carpe diem, as they say…

 

 

 

Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Brut Rosé

Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Brut Rosé: ($100) One of the magical properties of wine is that it can transform itself to fit the environment in which it’s being enjoyed. For example, if you ask Miles about the ~ $3000 1961 Château Cheval Blanc he gulped (along with his pride), out of a paper cup at a burger joint, the swigging, sullen Sideways character probably wouldn’t give it a very high score. But I have personal memories of sitting on a dorm room floor, drinking the finest bottle of $5 plonk in my price range, basking in the love of good friends and laughing ’til dawn. I challenge any bottle on earth to taste as good. My first experience with Egly-Ouriet happened under similar cicumstances: It was my birthday, and my best friend and I had finished an incredible dinner at one of Chicago’s top restaurants. We were ending the evening at a Champagne bar, and as a fire popped and hissed in the fireplace behind us, we gossiped and giggled our way through an entire bottle of this. Is this sparkler, with flavors of rose and red fruit and bits of spice and mineral, really that good – or was it the experience that was so delicious? Treat yourself to this distinctive grower Champagne, and see for yourself… (60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay and Ambonnay Rouge)

 

Ruinart Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blanc

Dom Ruinart Blanc De Blanc: ($150+) Ruinart is the “first established Champagne house.” And although no one was intentionally producing sparkling wines way back in 1729, rumor has it that this is where the cork started to pop, so to speak. These vintage Champagnes, produced with 100% Grand Cru Chardonnay grapes, are delicious young, but have the potential to get even better with age. Typically, these wines show amazing depth, with unfolding flavors of honey and orchard fruit, cashew nuts and brioche (although each vintage shows its own colors). The mousse is typically soft and creamy, with firm acid and the kind of finish that leaves you smiling for days.

No matter what you pour to celebrate your sweetest occasions, here’s a toast to many, many more…

Cheers!