Category: Wines & Vines (Page 1 of 3)

Booze Clues ~ Dom Perignon Vintage 2002

Welcome to our new series, Booze Clues, where we spend some quality time doing one on one interviews with wine, spirits and other tingly beverages.  If you have a suggestion or would like us to review your products, drop me a line at  Enjoy! 




ITS:         Wow, you sure are packaged gracefully, can I call you Dom?

Dom:     Of course you can, but graceful isn’t the word I’d use to describe my package.  Let’s go with bold and beautiful, shall we?

ITS:         Sure!  Just so you know, I’m so excited to sample your contents and speaking with ‘a bit of the bubbly of this caliber is a bit unnerving.   

Dom:     Hey, I’m vintage baby, which allows for some of that grace you mentioned before and bragging rights.  Did you know that Wine Advocate  gave me 96 points?  And, for all my size and power, I show remarkable suppleness and elegance.

ITS:         Yes, I did hear that, congratulations.  There were other raving reviews which described you as earthy, smoky, and pearly with an exotic maturity.  Many used the word ‘sensation’ and ‘fullness’ in some very interesting ways.  Can you say, “I’m too sexy for my box?”

Dom:     I’ll sing it for you ~ off the record of course. 

ITS:      Looking for to it.  Your makers seem to consider you a bit of a dichotomy; do you agree? 

Dom:    Yep, check out what they said, “The presence of the wine on the palate is immediately captivating. Paradoxically concentrated yet creamy, it is energetic and warm in the mouth, focusing on the fruit, then gradually taking on more profound bass notes. The whole holds its note perfectly, intensively, with just a subtle, elegant hint of underlying bitterness.”

ITS:      Apparently others have this same take on you, but the experiences (and adjectives) range from smoky, to fruity, to harmonious and huge; floral, jasmine, layers of flavor-biscuit, candied lemon peel, peach, coffee liqueur, chamomile, pine, and crystallized honey.  That’s a hell of a lot of terroir going on over there in Champagne land. How does this make you feel?

Dom:    A little full, but pretty damn good.  Just so you know, we all tend to agree that if you cellar me for awhile, I’ll drop some of this baby fat and just get better with age. 

ITS:      Does this mean I have to wait to try you?  Geez, and I was so excited!

Dom:    For you baby, no problem.  Besides, didn’t you chuck me in the frig the moment I showed up at your door?

ITS:      Oops, sorry about that.  But then again, I’m not.  Now I have the perfect excuse to cork you and get on with it.

Dom:    Let me sing for you first…..and, um, if you want to pair me with a nibble or two, a very ripe strawberry dipped in a  bit of dark chocolate would be ideal.  Then, maybe you can sing for me!

ITS:      Anytime…..

The Fundamentals of Wine Tasting

The Fundamentals of Wine Tasting

By Chef and Sommelier, Joe LaVilla

Just in case there are some newbies out there gearing up for all things wine at the Savor the Central Coast event, we enlisted the services of our in-house sommelier to help you out.  His expert advice will guarantee you fit right in whilst looking, sniffing, tasting and ranking the gorgeous wines from the Central Coast of California.


I’m approached by someone carrying a bottle of wine more often than I’d care to admit.  Normally, this would be a good thing as I keep my cork screw and my tasting cup next to the cell phone….on my belt.  The look of confusion and fear on his or her face tells me what’s coming – The Question.  This question doesn’t necessarily fit into the more daunting genres of in-depth viticulture, growing practices in Southern Arizona, or the science behind biodynamic farming.  Nope, it’s much more complex;  The Question being, “Is this good?”

“Good” is a relative term.  Whether for the goose or the gander, what is ‘good’ literally translates to “Do you think I will like this?”   How the heck do I know?   Unless the ruler of the universe allows me a direct link to your taste sensory perception, it’s nearly impossible for me to answer.  There is some level of quality that can be determined by region, producer, grape variety, etc.  Therefore, I will take the high  road and educate you as best I can (it’s what I do) and in my own unique way, assist you in finding the answer to The Question.


 Tasting wine, as opposed to drinking wine, is more about sipping and interpreting what you taste.  We sommeliers do call that drinking.  Tasting is a much more analytical process, and can yield a ton of information to anybody who wants to enjoy a glass by the pool, pair it with food, or expand their horizons.  It’s easy if you try, so let’s get started with four simple steps to have you tasting like a pro! 

Step 1: Look

That’s right – look at it!  Tilt the glass away from you at about a 45 degree angle, and gaze lovingly at the variation in color.  What you see can tell you if the wine is healthy or not, and potentially how old it is.  If the wine is cloudy, you may not want to try it (this is pretty rare).  Typically, a nice healthy wine is clear and somewhat shiny.  Young white wines often start out practically colorless, and get darker (a little more golden) with age.  Red wines start out very purple when young, and gradually get more red to mahogany as they get older.

A visual review matters because of flavor profile changes based on the wine’s age.  The younger a wine, the fruitier and refreshing it may seem.  As wines age, new flavors develop that are not fruity – such as leather and tobacco in red wines.  If you like those flavors, look for older wines.  If you like fruit bombs, go for the young ones. 

Step two: Sniff

Smelling a wine is a great way to determine whether or not it will be appealing to you.  The aromas and bouquet you perceive on the nose often, but not always, reflect what you are about to taste. Firstly, you should be able to determine if the wine is healthy or not. If it smells like musty books, burnt matches or boiled cabbage, I wouldn’t move on to step three. On the other hand, you may not always smell fruit.  European wines often bring forth smells like stones, herbs, and good old terroir (dirt) before you notice the fruit.  The rest of the world tends to make “fruit forward” wines, tending to give fruity aromas in the foreground.  You may be able to detect bits of sweetness, acidity and savory on the nose, but the true test will come on your palate.

Step three:  Okay, now taste it

At this point in the game, you may have already made up your mind – yum or yuck!  STOP YOUR PALATES!  If you are anything at all like the ladies at into the Soup, you’ll chug it no matter what the verdict.  Let me remind you, however, that there is more to tasting than simple personal preference.   If your  first reaction upon tasting makes you pucker at the tangy, smack at the sweet, or cringe at the bitter, consider that those profiles may compliment a sharp cheese, a robust ragout, or a decadent chocolate dessert. 

To taste alone does not a determination make.  Consider context.  What you like in a wine as a nice glass before dinner may not be the best match WITH dinner.  I like orange juice and minty toothpaste…but I don’t like them together! 

Step Four: Rank…and file

The final thing a sommelier does when he or she tastes wine is to determine its quality and maturity.  For the casual wine taster, differentiation is the name of the game.  Once you get some wine tasting under your belt, you will begin to see similarity in what you like and what you don’t; opening the door to greater appreciation and a wider range of choices.  Personal preference does come into play once you open your mind and practice, practice, practice.  With your newly acquired  breadth and depth of knowledge The Question may now be  “Hey, Joe!  Care to have a glass of wine with me?”  My answer, “Good question…and yes!”



Chef LaVilla is the Academic Director for the Culinary Arts programs at the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Nashville. Besides being a Certified Executive Chef, Chef LaVilla also holds a certification from the International Sommelier Guild (ISG) as a Certified Sommelier. In addition, Chef LaVilla is experienced in food styling, food and wine pairing, the hospitality industry, culinary arts management, and more.


Heard Through the Grapevine: interviews Western Wine Awards Finalists

Hey there wine-lovers (or those of you who are trying to determine whether or not we are bat-s#&! crazy)! We’re back with our next installment of interviews with Sunset Magazine’s Western Wine Awards Finalists. That’s right, we’re interviewing the wines themselves. This process started off quietly, but after a few bottles, the conversation flowed freely. Good thing we took notes because we barely remember this particular press junk-it…




Our next Category is Connoisseur –  those middle-of-the-road wines hitting you up for $26 to $40 per bottle.

Abraxas Vin de Terroir

Welcome.  How are you today?


In a world where so many struggle with self-image issues, it’s refreshing to meet someone without a problem. Did you want to tell us a little something more about you?



Stop calling me Wine!!!!

OK – can I call you Abe?  I tend to shorten names, especially when I’m writing

Yea, alright.

So, Abe, it might be easier for you to explain yourself and your characteristics in some choice describing words.  Can you do that for me?

YES!!  I explode. I am pure. When you swirl me I become beguiling.  I am crackling energy, ethereal, vivacious and luscious.  I taste pretty damn good, too.

Looking forward to experiencing that.

If you’re lucky, heathen.  I AM A GOD!!!! Oh and I’m also made up of 43% Pinot Gris, 32% Pinot Blanc, 15% Gewurztraminer, and 10% Riesling.

I’m wondering if we should warn the others so they can avoid the rogue lightning bolts.


And now, a few words from one of the red finalists…

Andrew Murray’s 2008 Esperance Grenache Blend

That’s a unique name – where did it come from?

Well, Andy is kind of a HOPEless romantic.  In fact, he’s a huge HOPEless romantic and that makes him really special and quite HOPEful, in my mind.  I HOPE I don’t mess up this interview.

Hey, you’re doing really well.  So, really, what’s the deal with your name?

You’re kind of slow aren’t you?  “Esperance” is French for hope.

Oh, I knew that.  By the way, I love your outfit.

Yea, it’s pretty badass, right?  I’m 60% Grenache which rhymes with badass if you put the right stress on the word.  The bottling reflects that through the black and red labeling, and Andy says that I’m a hedonistic pleasure – which rhymes with leather.  So, there you go.

Well, just to cover mine, I’ve also been told that you are a rich, concentrated wine with aromas and flavors of ultra-ripe strawberries, black cherries, and blueberries, mixed with the spiciness of cinnamon and vanilla from the toasty new French oak. Your cap is a Stelvin ScrewCap to preserve the freshness and avoid ‘off’ flavors. Along with the Grenache, you are blended with 25% Syrah, and 15% Mourvedre and that is 100% delicious which rhymes with – darn, I need my rhyming dictionary.

OK – I guess you’re not that dumb but you probably shouldn’t write poetry.  Can I go now?

Sure, see you at the show.


Here it is, folks–the “deep pockets” category for all you big-spenders. These are wines in the $41-$60 price range.

Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay 2009

Truth be told, it’s not every day that I get to have a meet and greet with wine in your price ra—I mean of your caliber. Please excuse my shaky hands.

Oh, honey—it sounds like you just need a little glass of me! I’m never shaky –though at 14.9% Alcohol, I’m on the verge of a nap most of the time.

Wow, that’s pretty high for a Chardonnay, isn’t it? Your berries must be very ripe at harvest.

Absolutely, darling! I hope you don’t think me vain, but my winemaker thinks that my vintage (2009) might be THE vintage of the decade. It was a long, cool summer so all of our grapes were able to hang and ripen in near-perfect conditions for an extended period of time.

Sounds like you had a beautiful childhood and you’ve aged so well!

Thank you, I would have to agree. 14 months on the lees have definitely made me a more complex wine. I keep trying to tell people that those bargain-bin wines are great if you want to crack something open and mindlessly slug away, but for dependable quality and that “je ne sais qua” that  makes you sip, savor, and pause for few seconds with your eyes closed, you have to dig a little deeper into those pockets.

I wouldn’t know anything about mindlessly slugging away…That’s simply irresponsible wine consumption!

Please! I had my people do a background check on you. You need to cool it with the 2-buck chucks. Imagine for a moment, enjoying “lush, luxurious aromas and flavors of melon, honeysuckle, apricot, pineapple and flint all held together with bright acidity, good structure and elegant balance.”

That sounds simply beautiful, but isn’t there usually at least a hint of oak and butter in you Chardonnays?

I was aged for 14 months in French oak (75%) and stainless steel (25%). This means I have a lighter, brighter flavor than those Chards that are aged in American oak, making me more climatically versatile.

Ms. Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay, it was a pleasure. Best of luck to you!

Moving on to our red contender…


Peay Syrah “Les Titans” 2008

I just finished interviewing a finalist from the white wine category who may just be your polar opposite. She was floral and fruity with a hint of minerality, whereas you have been described as “meatier and masculine.”

 Yes, I’ve been compared to a “rosemary, lavender, black pepper and garlic-encrusted beef roast”, but with “an intense lilac quality dancing gently around a blue fruit, roasted meat and blood core” in the nose. I call it my “Man-musk” and let me tell you, it really gets the ladies.

Ahem. That’s quite a profile you have going on there. Are you on Facebook?

I’ve been considering a fan page, but I feel like that would lump me into the masses. I’m a unique syrah, different from the more traditional Rhone variety. As a new-world Syrah, I’m more fruit forward and intense, but perfectly balanced by the meat, blood, and white pepper aromas of old-world Syrah.

You really have a lot of personality. Do you only grow better with time, or would you call this your peak?

Absolutely not! If we’re talking actors, I feel a certain kinship with Jeff Bridges. I’ve got staying power, baby. I’ll mellow with time, but keep the edge that you love so much.

Wow, Jeff Bridges? Excellent! Just a quick word of advice though: Try to keep it more “True Grit” and less “Tron”, deal?

I’ll think about it and I’ll catch you at the Western Wine Awards Dinner and Gala. I’ll be the guy surrounded by all the ladies.

Stay tuned for the final installment of this series!

Join Sunset Wine Editor Sara Schneider and Sunset Editor-in-Chief Katie Tamony for one of the weekend’s most anticipated events. The Sunset Western Wine Awards are recognized as the highest honor for Western winemakers and focus solely on wines produced in the Western United States. Sunset’s panel of professional judges includes Western wine writers, sommeliers, and winemakers.

Click here for a complete list of selected finalists and come try each and every one of them, paired to perfection, at the Sunset Western Wine Awards at Pismo Beach Pier on the Central Coast of California September 30th, 2011. We’ll save you a glass.

Click on the logo below for more information on this fabulous, 4-day event.











Heard Through The Grapevine: interviews Sunset Magazine’s Western Wine Awards Finalists

The finalists for the Sunset Western Wine Awards have been announced, and lucky us! We got the opportunity to sit down with some of them to discuss this coveted distinction. The tiara (or septor) will go to only one of each of the reds and the whites in the 6 categories (based on price range). The titles will be presented on Friday, September 30th as part of the Savor the Central Coast culinary event at Pismo Beach Pier. This is personification at its finest, folks! Remember–we’re a little bit fruity.



Our first category is “Steal” : Bottles $15 and under 



Liberty School 2009 Chardonnay (Central Coast)


Nice to have you with us.  You’ve got a great looking label. Can I buy you a drink later?



Just because I’m a steal doesn’t mean I’m cheap…or easy.



You’re absolutely right. Please excuse me. Why don’t you tell us a little more about yourself and what makes you unique?



Well, OK, let’s see. I was born and raised in Paso Robles, and I think my uniqueness stems from how well I was taken care of during my infancy. 



What do you mean by that?



My grapes were picked when the flavors were ripe and before the essential acidity dropped too far.  My creators drove back and forth from the vineyards over and over again as harvest drew near to make sure my fruit was picked at the peak of its perfection. I’ve been told I’m kind of high maintenance.



Sounds like a lot of work!



…right, and care and compassion.  You see, they made sure I wasn’t inoculated with bacteria, which would cause malolactic fermentation and totally overwhelm me!  In addition, I was kept in a separate barrel room in order to ensure that not a single one of those red guys tried to spontaneously inoculate me without my permission.



Yes, those big boys can be quite persistent.



Yea, my creators are pretty protective. I’m not allowed to get my ears pierced or that butterfly tattoo. I’m also pretty germaphobic now because my personal space was always sanitized with ozone – no big, bad bacteria getting’ in here, and I never missed a day of school.



We’re big Chardonnay lovers here at into the Soup and can’t wait to give you a try at the Awards Dinner. You are unmistakably Chardonnay.



Oh, how sweet of you to say! Um, and I’ve had a change of heart; I might just take you up on that drink-offer if we can hit the “Deep Pockets’ table.



I think we can probably work something out.


Next up in the “Steal” category on the red side…

Project Paso 2009 Grenache Blend by Don Sebastiani & Sons (Paso Robles)


Let me start by highlighting your blend: 37% Grenache, 16% Zinfandel, 14% Petite Sirah,11% Mourvedre, 9% Barbera, 8% Lagrein, 3% Tempranillo, 2% Sangiovese.  Wow, you’ve got a lot going on in there.  Maybe they should have named you something like “Celebrate Diversity.”



Well, they certainly could have.  I do loads of gushing with my multi-layered aromas.  I’m just screaming berries and flowers!



Is it difficult to have all those varietals vying for someone’s palate?



That can happen with some multi-blends, but we were taught at a young age to just get along and complement each other. Have you seen the Partridge Family? I can guarantee that our reality would be very different if we had some bell bottoms and a colorful tour bus.



Sounds like you’ve got some serious harmony going on!



What’s really groovy is the way our fruitiness compliments the white pepper and spice along with the deepness of the caramel and walnut we get from our French/American oak aging process.  The fresh acidity that Barbera and Lagrein bring to the team removes any wrinkles, and our low tannins help us play well with just about anything. 



Really, anything?



Well, almost. I’m fond of an intimate Bolognese for two, but if you want to crack me open for a Garden Party or a Project Runway Finale – I go great with a Hawaiian pizza or a Tim Gunn.



Thank you for your time and keep up the good…um….blending.



Toodles!!  See you at the show.



Let’s move on to our next category “Good Value.”  These wines are priced between $16 to $25. 

King Estate’s 2009 Domaine Pinot Gris


I heard your vineyard is pretty famous for Pinot Gris – what’s the secret?



Well, it’s really no secret that I’m one of America’s finest white wines and a go-to for Pinot enthusiasts in the U.S.  I’m also 100% steel tank fermented and aged for 11 months on the lees. That makes me pretty special.



If I remember correctly, on the lees (or Sur Lie Aging) is the process of leaving the lees (deposits of yeast and other solids formed during fermentation) in the wine for a few months to a year, accompanied by a regime of periodic stirring. Certain wines such as Chardonnay and Pinot Gris benefit from autolysis because they gain complexity during the process which enhances their structure, gives them extra body, and increases their aromatic complexity. Aging sur lie with stirring can result in a creamy, viscous mouth-feel.



Excuse me, I was told you didn’t know much about wine, so what’s the deal with all the lingo? Don’t make me look dumb.


Well, OK, you got me.  I ‘Googled’ it.  Truth be told, King Estates has been my go-to Pinot Gris for many years. You make me want to be a better wine drinker.



Well, that’s very Jack-Nicholson-circa-“As Good As It Gets” of you.



Do you have a brother? 



Uh, no, and now you really do look dumb.  I’m late for an appointment with Wine Spectator so for those of you keeping score at home, I’ll make it simple for you: I’m a Platinum Blond. Some say “white gold or straw,” but for me, it’s platinum or nothing, baby. You’ll notice me when I pass under your nose. You’ll be overcome with crisp aromas of pear, cantaloupe, lime zest, tropical fruit and spice. Bring me to your lips, and they’ll tingle with flavors of honey, citrus, mango, and pineapple. I’m a great weight (I work out and eat right), and the balance between my acidity and sugar is spot-on. The first taste of me will stick with you because I have a long finish, ending in minerality that will leave you refreshed, but ready for more.


Wow, are you sure you don’t want to go to dinner?



Where’s my rep?  I’m outta here.


Next in this category on the red side…

 Beckmen 2009 Cuvee Le Bec


Congratulations on your nomination – how does that make you feel?



Kind of tingly, but as my creator, Steve, would say “Dynamite!” 



Why would he say that?



It’s how he describes me! He also uses phrases like…”the aromatics JUMP out of the glass” and “enticing!” I’m easily excited! WOO! HI MOM!



Wow, we’re fond of exclamations, aren’t we? So, what’s enticing about you?



For one thing, I grew up on a hillside and the views of Santa Ynez Valley were spectacular so I was always happy. Steve and his Dad, Tom Beckman, took a big chance on the dream so I feel pretty special coming out so well. Their great care and their passion most certainly have something to do with my success! Oops, sorry. I let one slip out again.



What do you think makes you rise above your two competitors?



I kind of slap you in the face with aromatics and my white pepper-spice.  After that, I bring it back down with some plum and licorice.  At the end of the day, I display an excellent balance between acidity and tannins, so I hang right in there. I think people like that kind of dedication.



If you’re talking staying power, we agree with that assessment wholeheartedly.  From what I’ve read, it sounds like Tom is a pretty cool character!



Well, we don’t like to tell anybody, but on occasion, as he’s driving around on his tractor, he sings to us.  He’s so cute.





Stay Tuned for our next installment of “Heard Through the Grapevine”, where you’ll get to meet some of the pricier contenders for the Western Wine Awards. Until then, if you find yourself talking to your wine like us, you’ve probably had too much.

The Western Wine Awards are brought to you by Sunset Magazine’s Savor The Central Coast. For more information on this incredible 4-day celebration of food, wine, and the central coast, click the logo below.

Pairing Wine with Barbecue: Texas Style

By Pat Broderick, “The Wine Guy”

One of my good friends at The Smokin’ BBQ Pit,  posed a question to me the other day; “Pat,” he mused, “what wine goes best with barbecue?”
Initially it seemed a simple question, but as I started to formulate an answer it dawned on me that there is no simple response.





  • First, one must consider the different regional styles of barbecue: Carolina, Memphis, Texas and Kansas City, not to ignore the International flare of Brazilian churrasco, Argentine, Spanish , Asian and on and on.  All regions have unique aspects in rub, sauce, preparation and presentation, as well as certain factors in common.
  • Second, there is the base protein to consider: beef, pork and poultry; but the genre needs to be expanded to include the fruits of the sea and the sportsman’s take of venison, wild fowl and game.
  • Third, you need to consider the most complex factor: the ambiance and the subjective nature of this question has to take into consideration; the time, place and people in the equation.

My initial approach to understanding wines was to learn the different regions, so, taking a similar tack with the regional styles should, in my opinion, lead to the inclusion of the other pertinent factors, hopefully with some final conclusion to sure-bet wines that enhance the barbecue experience.  It is difficult to spend over seventeen years as a fine wine consultant without developing an affinity for fine food as well, and my girth is testament to that!

First in this series, we’re heading south, to Texas, where we find some variation from the classic Kansas City style that so many folks are familiar with.

  • First, the meat is usually smoked over mesquite wood rather than hickory. This is merely due to the local availability of each wood.  The mesquite adds a bit of a spice note to the meat not found in hickory.
  • Second, the meat is smoked ‘naked’ meaning no sauce preparation is applied during the cooking process. The sauce is either served alongside the meat, or ladled on just before serving.
  • Third, the sauce itself is a tomato based sauce, similar to Kansas City sauce, but it tends to be less sweet and much spicier.    

One thing I have learned over time is that hot spicy food preparations and oak aged wines are not very compatible. So my first recommendation is to avoid oak aged wines

Since beef is the main protein featured in Texas barbecue, and everything is bigger in Texas, I recommend big reds that are made to accentuate their fruit character.  Some Italian reds would fit this profile such as a Barbera D’Asti, but my tendency would be to focus on the ‘fruit forward’ styles of red wines predominantly made in the western and southern hemispheres. 

For brisket, a nice Zinfandel is a good match, or a California Central Coast blend, many which feature four to five different wines. For the ribs I am thinking a Petite Sirah or a substantial Shiraz from Australia. Also look for Chilean Carmenere in an unoaked style. You need the substantial body to pair with the big flavors of the beef ribs.

Pair your Beef Brisket with Zinfandel

The other predominant meat is a large smoked sausage, the character of which can vary greatly. Suffice it to say it will be spicy. Just how spicy only a taste will tell, so this is often a difficult pairing.  For this category I would recommend something with a hint of sweetness. The residual sugar in the wine will cool the fire of the spice in the sausage and the sauce itself. The challenge is to find a red wine with that profile.  If you have a well rounded wine shop in your area, you could ask for a late-harvest style of Cabernet.

I get some of these from South Africa, Australia and Chile; however the true masters of full body reds with a nice fruity finish are the Eastern Europeans, specifically the Romanians and the Hungarians.


A Full-Bodied Hungarian Merlot

The wines they make are well balanced, full of body and certainly on the sweet side but they are not widely distributed unless you are doing business with a specialty broker such as myself (wink wink)! They will cool the fire, but yet have the body and character to pair with the meat.

One other rather out of the box recommendation would be a German Late Harvest Spatlese, since one of the components in most Texas sausage is some pork and the heat is ever present. This type of wine would be a pleasant accompaniment particularly on a deck in the middle of summer.

The most important thing is to trust your own palate, as it will never lead you astray. For hints and tips on how to make Texas style barbecue visit my buddy, Bubba Q, over at  The Smokin’ BBQ Pit.

My next stop on this virtual tour of barbecue and wine will be in Memphis, and if Elvis likes it you know it has to be good!

I welcome your questions and comments. Operators are standing by, so drop me a note at my blog,  Pat The Wine Guy.

Or e-mail me directly at:

Sparkling Wines for the Holidays and Any Day

by Josh Hebert

During the holidays, it’s easy to find an excuse to celebrate.  Personally, I like to crack open a bottle of sparkling wine anytime I am in the mood. I am here to tell you that it is OK to drink a sparkler outside of a celebration. It is wine, BTW. Measuring by the sales at POSH, though, it’s fair to say most people still think of them as a holiday indulgence. So, I thought this would be a good season to address these special wines.

First, some basics. The primary difference between many sparkling wines and Champagne is where they originate (e.g. Champagne comes from the Champagne region of France). There are many methods for making a still wine sparkle. Method champenoise is the term for the classic method invented by Dom Perignon. Go figure, a Benedictine monk made an innovation in alcohol. 🙂 

I will say that method champenoise does make a more complex wine. So, if you are into getting a real nice bottle, then go with the real deal from France or from Domaine Chandon in California – the California arm of the famed French parent company Moet & Chandon. It is up to you, but Domaine Chandon makes a nice Blanc de Noir made from the red grapes Pinot Noir and Petite Meunier for about $16. 

The big prestige houses, such as Krug, Salon and Bollinger continue to hold their high prices, so look to the lesser known producers such as Piper Heidsieck, Duval Leroy and other smaller producers in Champagne for values.  Prices that once reached $50-$60 to start a few years ago, are now back down to $35, so it is still a bit of a splurge, but not bad for the quality.

Now for the sparklers most of us will drink. You know, the ones that comes half full of orange juice with holiday breakfast!  For your mimosa, you have 3 options: sweet, dry, or bland. If you want a mimosa to taste like OJ, try something bland like Asti Spumante from Italy… hello headache! If you like your mimosas dry like I do, go with a Cava from Spain like Casteller Cava from Penedes. This is a tasty option for people who drink their mimosa OJ free. Now, if you like ‘em fun and bubbly, try the Italian Prosecco. Most are at least a touch on the sweet side and not expensive. This will liven up any mimosa. Try Trevisiol. It is about $10 and easy to find.  

Whichever you choose, remember to stop and enjoy. These great wines will add sparkle to any day and make it a holiday.

Happy Holidays,



To Shop for Sparklers Online Click Here: Champagne and Sparkling wines


About Joshua Hebert

To make an online reservation at POSH click here: Online Reservations

Chef Joshua Hebert is Executive Chef at POSH Restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is the winner of this years C-CAP Heavy Medal Culinary Competition and a Sommelier. He is nearly a native of Scottsdale.  He began his career at Tarbell’s in Phoenix and spent his 20’s in San Francisco and Tokyo. He returned to head the kitchen at Tarbell’s, North and Dual, before making POSH his obsession.  Joshua is married, has no kids, but an awfully cute pound puppy named Kassy. 

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