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Holiday Wines

Part 1: Sparkling Wines

Hello! Welcome to my second to last post of 2017. WOW!

Where has this year gone?!

So much has happened this year in California, our drought got some serious relief thanks to record rains early in the year. We had tremendously abundant harvests in our vineyards that began several weeks early, thanks to record heat waves near the end of the growing season. This was good and bad, in that many tons of grapes had to be cold stored until the presses could catch up. Then there were the devastating fires in Napa and Sonoma. Thankfully only a very small portion of each region suffered major losses, and the majority came through fairly unscathed. Now, Napa and Sonoma’s cousins down in Santa Barbara are facing major wildfires that are nowhere near being under control or contained. Let’s keep them in our prayers, that they make it through safely.

Closing out the year means the Holidays are upon us, and that means parties, lots of parties. Please remember that there are many transportation options available to you. If you plan to go out and imbibe, please plan to get home safely, as a close friend likes to say, “there are people at home waiting to see you again.” Let's make sure they get to.

Now, back to those parties. Many of us like to host parties or at least bring a nice bottle of wine or bubbly to the parties we attend. Bear in mind that you don’t have to break the bank to have really good wines for your guests. You don’t have to spend a fortune on a bottle you bring to a party, either.

More often than not, this is the only time of year many party goers will drink, no need to stockpile bottles of Opus One or Insignia. Save those for special occasions with folks who will appreciate them. You don’t have to go cheap either. The following are wines that will meet your hosting/gifting needs, and not break the bank. Enjoy!

We’ll start off with sparkling wine. When you don’t know what to bring to a party or to give as a gift, sparkling wine always works. Here are a few of my favorites under $45.

Champagne: Veuve Cliquot - the iconic “Yellow” labeled bottle holds one of France’s national treasures.


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Champagne snobs turn their nose up at anything other than Crystal or Dom Perignon. Good for those of us who enjoy a tasty sparkling wine, for that is what Veuve Clicquot is: a tasty sparkling wine. Notes of apple, pear, vanilla and fresh baked brioche escape your flute with the help of the tiny bubbles rising to the surface. The palate shows flavors of baked, lightly sweet apple, pear jam, a hint of vanilla and bread dough. Enjoy as a toasting drink or with hors d’oeuvres, or with desserts.
Price range: $37-$45

Another favorite sparkling wine of mine (definitely my favorite tasting of all), is Schramsberg’s ‘Blanc de Noirs.’

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I know I’ve recently reviewed this, but it is my most favorite sparkling wine when it comes to sheer taste. With its aromas of fresh strawberries, raspberries and a hint of vanilla bean, combined with fine, long lasting bubbles, and light flavors of strawberries and vanilla, who couldn’t love this California sparkler? Enjoy it with fresh fruit hors d’oeuvres, cheeses, nuts, just about anything you like. Try it with a ham or prime rib main course, and with crème brûlée, white cake or baklava for dessert.

Price range: $27-$35

My next favorite sparkling wine comes from Spain. The Segura Viudas ‘Pewter’ Cava.

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Cavas are made using the same “methode traditionelle” as Champagnes, however, there is one difference that make Cavas much more affordable than their French cousins... automation. Rather than paying “riddlers” to turn the millions of bottles of Champagne every year, Spanish Cava producers rely on robots to turn the bottles. This process is much more accurate, and much less expensive. The end result however, is nothing short of wonderful. For example, the Segura Viudas ‘Pewter’ shows beautiful notes of Apple, melon and a hint of citrus. The bubbles are fine and long lasting and flavors of fresh apple, melon, citrus and vanilla wash over your palate in a foamy, bubbly wave of flavors. Pair this with cheese and nut hors d’oeuvres, chicken, duck, turkey or seafood main courses, and for dessert, try it with a Basque favorite: hard cheese, walnuts and cubed apple jam.

Price range: $20-$28

Lastly, we have one of my favorite Proseccos from LaMarca.

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Everyone knows the “Tiffany” blue label, and the wine inside is worthy of such an iconic color. I like LaMarca because it is not a “Brut” style sparkling wine, but rather an “Extra Dry.” That means that it has slightly more residual sugar in it, and therefore helps to bring out the flavors of yellow apples, white peaches and vanilla. The nose yields a distinctly floral note of honeysuckle. Fresh cut apples and white peaches finish out the aromas. Prosecco has slightly larger bubbles than Champagne, and therefore appears foamier or frothier in your glass. Drier Proseccos are excellent for making Mimosas and other sparkling cocktails. Try this one with a hibiscus flower in your glass. You can find hibiscus flowers in syrup at your local adult beverage or grocery store.

Price range: $10-17
I hope you enjoyed this edition of the Wine Old Owl. Come back next week for my final post of 2017, where I will finish with my quick Christmas dinner picks and my dessert wine selections. Cheers everyone!