Sparklers for New Year’s Eve, Part Deux

Sparklers for New Year’s Eve, Part Deux

Last year, I wrote an exhaustive post on Champagnes and Sparkling wines that I can’t hope to beat. If you’d like a peek, go here.

Surprisingly, there were sparkling wines that I didn’t mention in that review but that were mentioned in the comments. Today I bring two of those to your attention (plus a couple more, lol!).

Gruet Blanc de Noirs Methode Champenoise American Sparkling Wine Albuquerque, New Mexico Alcohol 12% by Volume – on sale for $14.99 at BevMo!

A delightful, non-vintage sparkling wine (or maybe that was just Christmas Eve? lol…), the Gruet should certainly be on your go-to list. It is on par with the Domaine Chandon Blanc de Noirs, though I have to admit I prefer the Domaine’s pretty pink color. The Gruet didn’t have a pink tinge to it (which is expected when you see Blanc de Noirs on the label). Bottled from the Pinot Noir grape, most blanc de noirs sparkling wines have that pretty color – this one did not, even though their website cites a “a fine salmon color”. The only drawback I can see to this wine is that my local grocery store doesn’t carry it, which means you may have to hunt for it.

Another new favorite of mine is Domaine Carneros by Taittenger, 2007 & 2008 Brut   Methode Champenoise – Napa Valley, California Alcohol 12% by Volume, on sale at Vons for $19.99 .

We had the 2007 on Christmas morning, and I will definitely be buying another bottle of it.

Lovely neighbors also brought us over a bottle of the 2008 as a Christmas present, so we’ll probably be popping it on New Year’s Eve. Another upscale bottle with a good price to it. Definitely impressive!

For fun bubbles, to share with a younger crowd perhaps (that might not be quite so judgmental),  try Yellowglen’s Pink and Yellow sparkling wines, from Australia. I’ve picked up both of these from BevMo! over the years, and have found them thoroughly enjoyable. (Especially terrific in the summer when you want something fun and festive – but equally at home for a big New Year’s Eve party.)

I taste tested these a couple of years ago at BevMo! – they are running $6.99 on a Club Bev membership (which is free), normally double that. The bottles are fun and festive, the wine is lively and the bubbles fairly small. All in all, a good value for the money.

I am surprised (and pleased) that there are so many different sparkling wines that I have yet to taste!  Which one is your favorite to ring in the New Year with?

On a sober-er note, please go visit Natalie Hartford’s blog today, where she shares with us the proper way to be a responsible hostess with Holiday Mocktails. They sound delicious, and I’m eager to try them! Plus MADD has come out with non-alcoholic cocktails that she said were terrific – give it a look see.

May you say goodbye to 2012 with no regrets, and look to 2013 with an open and eager mind, heart, and spirit. Thanks so much for being a part of my life this year!

~ Until the next time, cheers – and remember to drink responsibly! ~

Demon Soul, Blood Dreams and Demon Hunt are all available for the Kindle! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?

Sparklers for the New Year

Sparklers for the New Year

I’m talking sparkling wine, of course. Not those sparkly fire-works things that are totally illegal in my neighborhood. (But if you’ve got ’em, outside at midnight on New Year’s is the perfect time to use ’em! Not that I’ve ever done such a thing…ahem.)

Sparkling wine, champagne, prosecco – this is, to me, the perfect wine. You can serve it to your sweetie with breakfast in bed; order it with a celebratory lunch, or woo your significant other with it prior to a romantic dinner for two. It’s also great with cheese and crackers as you sit on the beach.  I am a sparklingwineaholic and I’m not ashamed of it!

To get us started, let me run down the order of driest to sweetest in the sparkling wine lingo. Ready?

Rating Sugar content
(grams per litre)
Brut Nature (no added sugar) 0–3
Extra Brut 0–6
Brut 0–12
Extra Dry, Extra Sec, Extra seco 12–17
Dry, Sec, Seco 17–32
Demi-Sec, Semi-seco 32–50
Doux, Sweet, Dulce 50+

Thank you,  Wikipedia !  (I will say, I don’t know if I’ve ever drunk an “Extra Brut” sparkling wine – though I have had a Natural.) So, Dry = sweet. I can’t handle sweet sparklers any more – Asti Spumante is not my thing, but lots of people like it. Most of the wines below fall in the “brut” category.

There ARE sparkling wines out there under ten dollars and over the years, I’ve tasted them all. Well, almost all. But I’m bringing you my favorites first, those that haven’t seen a ten dollar price tag in years – if ever.

I mentioned one of my favorites, Etoile by Chandon, last week and you can find that post here. Go all the way to the bottom of the post, and you’ll see the gorgeous bottle. Last week, the hubby found it at BevMo for under $20 – but don’t expect to find it for that price for very long. Their lesser-priced sparklers, Domaine Chandon Brut and the Brut Rose are very good – and contrary to my faulty memory last week, usually go for $11.99 at Vons on sale. Not a bad price at all!

I’ll squeeze Piper Sonoma Brut in here, as it’s in this same price range between $11.99 and $14.99 on sale, depending on who’s doing the pricing at Vons that day. (Just kidding…) Also a great value, terrific flavor, a real nice sipping sparkler.

Another tasty favorite is by the Mumm’s brand. Mumm’s Cuvee Napa with the dark blue label is another go-to bottle for me This usually goes for $14.99 at Vons on sale – when I can find it for lower, I grab two bottles, just in case. Right now, I believe it’s at $13.99. Mumm’s also has another, black label champagne that runs the same price but it’s just a little different.

Going pricier, and unfortunately no longer available, is the French  Moet & Chandon’s White Star non-vintage champagne. It ran around $50 full price a year or so ago, but you could usually find it in the $30’s price range (and I remember when it was really expensive at $25 a bottle). This wine won all sorts of awards, and in 2010 M&C pulled the plug on it. You can’t find it anywhere, it’s not being made, and those people who have a case stowed away in their wine cellar aren’t talking – and they’re not selling, either.  A real disappointment.

There’s a reason Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Yellow Label  is a favorite of mine. It was one of the last Christmas gifts my brother Scott gave me. Plus, it’s tasty! Another non-vintage champagne from a terrific house. This wine is found in wine shops – maybe your grocery store around New Year’s eve. You can also find this at BevMo for about $35 – it’s got a traditional, French yeastiness to it (or, maybe that’s just me) that I really like. On the splurgy side, but hey – the bubbles are REALLY small. If you want to spend the big bucks to impress that special someone who’ll know you spent the money (I’m talking between $120-$150 per bottle), then you want to go for the Veuve Clicquot Grande Dame 1998 vintage.  I had the 1996 vintage  – and it was superb.

Others that I’ve had that are on the pricier side of things: Roederer Estate Brut, about $25Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc, $36.  Piper Heidsieck Brut Cuvee, $45. These are all straight prices found on the internet, no discounts or sales. If you look about, I’m sure you’ll find them for less.

On the less expensive side of things, I do appreciate Korbel Brut. The low man on the totem pole is often under $10; if you go for Korbel Natural (with the green label, instead of the white label), it goes up a bit to around $14.99 and can be considered on a par with Piper Sonoma. But this is the sparkling wine without any sugar added (see table, above).  BAREFOOT  also puts out a decent sparkling wine, and it’s around $8.99. I’ve had it, I liked it, and I will buy it again, but it’s not my all-time favorite.

ONES TO STAY AWAY FROM: (And please remember, this is just my opinion!)  Cooks , $5.99. Frexienet (the black bottle), $7.99. ANYTHING under $4. These wines tend to be sweeter than the others and have big bubbles, both of which will give you a huge headache the next day (or maybe that same night). They might be okay if you’re using them for mixed cocktails; but still, buyer beware.

I speak with full knowledge of both these wines. Way back at the dawn of time, when I was  young and unemployed, my best friend Tammy and I would sit and drink Cooks or Frexienet and eat french bread pizza and watch General Hospital (this was the Luke and Laura wedding year). I have put money into those bottles, and loved them well at the time. Now, however, I like to think my palate has grown more sophisticated and as such, I can’t – literally, can’t – drink these wines.  (They’re really too sweet.) This doesn’t mean that you can’t drink them and enjoy – as I am sure many people do! They definitely fill a niche in the market.

So, there you go. I’ve given you a lot of different sparkling wines (and a couple Champagnes) to think about for your New Year’s celebration. Here’s another handy tip – keep a few bottles of Sparkling Cider around, for those designated drivers or those who don’t drink who may want something more exciting than cola. It comes in a lot of different flavors, not just apple; and as the commercial says, it’s festive! (Plus most places have a deal on it right now.)

Whatever you choose to do this New Year’s Eve, whether it be to curl up with your new Kindle Fire or to party hearty in Las Vegas, may you have a safe and joyous New Year’s Eve.  Cheers – and remember to drink responsibly!

~   ~   ~

The opinions above are mine and mine alone, based on years and years of taste-testing Champagnes and Sparkling Wines. If YOUR favorite sparkling beverage wasn’t listed here, feel free to send me a bottle and I’ll be happy to give it my thorough attention – and an honest review.



Rose Wines are Made for Summer

NOTE: Please assume the accent over the “e” on the word Rose. (Pronounced rosAY.)

Rose wines and summer just seem to go together. So while I was in my local grocery store, I looked for Roses. I found two – and they were both in the sparkling wine category. (Quite good and I’ll get to one of those in a minute.) For straight, still wine called Rose, I found exactly – one. One. ONE. Are the wine buyers crazy?

Whatever happened to Rose? I remember in the late 1970’s, Mateus used to put out a decent Rose, in a nifty bottle, too. Almaden also put out a Rose. Then, somehow, when I wasn’t looking, in the early 1980’s white Zinfandel hit the scene and took over.  The new category of “blush wine” appeared, forever altering the state of Rose in America.

Let’s get something clear. White Zinfandel, or any other “blush” wine, tends to be sweet and lower in alcohol (and often, cheap). Because of this, many casual wine drinkers think that all pink wines taste the same. Not so, grasshopper! I mean, yes, any wine with the word “white” before the varietal is most likely sweet. And while that isn’t necessarily bad, it’s most definitely not a Rose.

I shall now quote from the EVERYTHING GUIDE TO WINE book by Peter Alig: “Even though a rose has acidity and tannins acquired from the grape skins, its fruit flavor disappears quickly, which is why you should always buy the most recent vintage available. Like a white wine, a rose should be served well-chilled.”

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that short rant out of the way, on to the wines! I’ve got one sparkler and two still Roses for you today.

Chandon Sparkling Rose Alcohol 13% by volume. Regularly $19.99 a bottle, on sale for $12.99 (I know – but for sparkling wines, I’m upping my limit to $15.!)

On The Label: “Methode Traditionnelle. At Chandon, we are true California sparkling wine pioneers. Founded in 1973 by Moet & Chandon, we draw on our French heritage and the innovative spirit of California to create sophisticated and vibrant sparkline wines that enliven all occasions. Taste profile: Strawberries, spice, creamy finish. Pairs with: Salmon, paella, fruit desserts.”

The color is flawless, a pretty deep pink with the bubbles absolutely making my glass shimmer. If I were throwing a wedding, THIS is the champagne I’d use – it’s pretty, it’s relatively inexpensive, and it tastes good. Not sweet, but not too dry – plus it is an American sparkler, which means it doesn’t have the French yeasty taste (which you either love or hate).

I think the winery shortchanged themselves. This sparkling Rose would go fantastic with Asian foods of all kinds, cut through spices, brighten up a roasted chicken or a pork chop. I must say it went very well with my 4th of July fireworks. Fresh and fabulous, it’s a celebratory wine to share with girlfriends – or the perfect wine for Valentine’s dinner at home.

My Rating: ~ Stay away! This is MY wine, you slut! ~

Nine Vines Rose, Vintage 2008 Angove Family Winemakers, South Australia Grenache 70%; Shiraz 30% Rose Regularly $8.99, on sale at Von’s for $4.99 (Score!) Alcohol 12.5% by volume

On the Label: “Argove’s Nine Vines Rose is a blend of Grenache and Shiraz, picked early to capture the vibrant natural fruit flavours and freshness of each variety. Zesty fruit flavours of red currant and raspberry from the Grenache combine with spicy cherry of the Shiraz to give a refreshing drinking experience. Enjoy this wine with spicy warm chicken salad or your favourite curry. The red wine drinker’s white wine.”

Hmmm. This was a solid wine. Not sweet at all, which made it taste better in my book. It had an easy sipping to it, with not much fruitiness which makes me think it was the 2008 vintage (maybe a 2010 would have been fruitier? dunno…). It went well with a spicy Mexican casserole, and would also have made a good sipping wine.

Was it my favorite by far? No. Was it a stand-up Rose? Absolutely, especially for the price. I had a Rose by Zaca Mesa that probably sat around too long – as it was about the same in flavor, but cost four times as much. (That was back when I was still a part of their wine club. I miss that wine club!)

My Rating: ~Drinkable~ And at $5 a bottle, I might have to load up on some for the summer.

Beringer California Collection White Merlot 2010 Regular price, $6.49 on sale for $4.43 at Vons. Alcohol 12.5% by volume (Hmmm…same as the Nine Vines…)

On the Label: “This carefully crafted wine has enticing flavors of ripe red berries. It is soft, smooth, friendly and delicious. If you enjoy our White Merlot, make sure to try our Pinot Grigio. Serve chilled.”

Okay. First off, I thought I’d plucked an infamous white Zin off the shelves at the store. When I pulled this out of my fridge, I was properly shocked that yet another terrific grape had been “blushed” for the masses. Oh well. The white Zin will have to wait.

The wine color is pretty – pink and sassy, and the red berry fruit is definitely there. But swirl the glass, and you’ll see the sweetness in how slowly the glass sheds the wine. It is sweet. It is almost Kool Aid sweet, but not quite. I’m drinking it right now because there’s nothing else open, I just had a job interview, and it’s after 10:30 on a hot summer night. Plus I don’t want to pour it down the sink, and hubby’s been doing his part in consuming it. (He likes sweeter wines than I do.)

For me, even after dinner, this is too sweet. Diluted strawberry cough syrup comes to mind. For me, even under $7 at regular pricing, this wine is too expensive since I really just want to pour it out.

My Rating: ~Barely Drinkable~ (Hubby says ~Drinkable~) It just totally depends.

Remember, I’m rating based on my taste buds, mood, the moon’s phase and all that other stuff. Your tastes will undoubtedly vary.

Do you have a favorite Rose? If so, where in heck did you get it? Please share!

Oh, a side note: OceanFresh, the place that sold salmon sausages last week, did so well in selling them that they’ve put them on the regular list!!! Woo! More salmon sausages…I’d better get some this weekend while they’re still at the $5.99 introductory price.

Happy weekend, and cheers!

~   ~   ~

Have you read DEMON SOUL yet? You can find it at Crescent Moon Press or Happy Reading!