Chocolate And Sparkling Wine Pairings For Valentine’s Day!

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

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Valentine table on set of WSLS Daytime Blue Ridge Television…

Chocolate and Champagne Pairing

All sparkling wines listed in this post are under $20 per bottle!

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RIVAROSE in Salon de Provence …  The lacy label is so pretty! Produced in the southern Rhône Valley, fresh with notes of strawberry and raspberry made from Syrah and Grenache grapes.

Love pink sparkly wine for Valentine’s Day!

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Duc d’O White Chocolate Truffles with Strawberry ~ perfect pairing with RIVAROSE!

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 Pierre Sparr Crémant Brut Réserve

Cremant is where it’s at! The word refers to sparkling wines made in France that come from specific regions; specifically NOT from Champagne. Cremants are a great way to start to learn the rules of which grapes grow in which regions: Cremant d’Alsace (Pinot Blanc), Cremant de Bourgogne (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay), Cremant de Loire (Chenin Blanc), Cremant de Limoux (Mauzac!), and on and on and on. Oftentimes, you’re getting similar quality and on-par deliciousness without the scary price tags that come with Champagne.” —Theresa Paopao (Ribelle) Boston, MA

Notes of biscotti, almond, lemon make this sparkling wine a perfect pairing with Baylee’s Best Lemonade Chocolates (tastes like you are biting into a fresh lemon dipped in rich dark chocolate).

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Chandon Rosé

The strawberry and ripe cherry flavors in this California sparkling wine pair perfectly with Fine Champagne Truffles and Milk Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

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A Dozen Rosés = A Bubbly Bouquet

Happy Valentine’s Day!

SPEC's FINE WINE

Please find here a bouquet of a dozen carefully selected Rosés, any of which will add a thrillingly pink sparkle to your Valentine’s Day.

MercatBrutRoseLargeMERCAT Brut Rosé Cava, Penedes, NV ($14.89)
A blend of 40% Macabeo, 40% Xarel-lo and 5% Parellada with 5% red Monastrell (aka Mourvedre) (all 15-40 year old vines) aged 18 months and disgorged to order with a final dosage to 0.75 residual sugar.     Pale-salmon-orange color and fully sparkling; dry, medium-light-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and light phenolics. Fine fruit-toast sparkling wine nose. Clean but slightly earthy with red fruit essence and enough citrus to keep it balanced. Delicious, fresh, mineral. Enough toast. Lovely balance. Delicious. BearScore: 92.

FRANÇOIS LABET Rosé, Crémant de Bourgogne, NV ($15.99)
From the owner of Ch. de la Tour in Clos Vougeot comes this methode champenoise Rosé sparkler made from 100% Pinot Noir grown in Burgundy.    Copper-pink in color, fully sparkling; just…

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Supernatural Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Paired With Raclette

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Saturday night was full of bubbly fun.  Our small plates dinner began with one of my favorite appetizers: Smoked Trout Dip With Sweet Onion Vinaigrette…here’s the recipe from Food and Wine Magazine:

http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/smoked-trout-dip-sweet-onion-vinaigrette

We paired the smoked trout dip with a rosé champagne ~ Champagne Louis De Sacy Brut Rosé Grand Cru and served the dip with rustic potato chips. This champagne is in the $60 range. Lovely salmon pink color. Notes of toasted almond and brioche. Creamy and balanced with the freshness of rich ripe fruit.

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And then a  pleasant surprise..Supernatural Sauvignon Blanc 2014…so different than traditional New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc…

Traditional New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc…wine aficionados either love it or hate it. Personally I hate it.  I usually find New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc to be grassy and green bell peppery and why would anyone put that in a glass?

But, the  Supernatural wine had such a cool label…I just had to try it!

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The Supernatural (the name refers to the estate’s viticultural practices) is farmed organically, vinified naturally and estate grown in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Hawke’s Bay is one of New Zealand’s warmest, driest regions and this has made it one of the country’s leading producers of wine. $25 – $30 range.

 The smoky and spicy notes of this wine are characteristic of the sun-drenched south sea days Hawke’s Bay is famous for. The Supernatural is complex with layers of citrus, passion fruit and honeysuckle.

This lovely wine was a fabulous pairing with Raclette cheese melted over buttered “one bite” tiny Yukon Gold potatoes.

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 Pictured above ~ Raclette cheese melting in a Raclette broiler.

Raclette is an ancient Swiss dish that dates back to the time when Herdsmen would pasture their cows high in the Swiss Alps. Once they had set up camp they would cut open their wheels of cheese and warm them on a rock by the campfire, scraping the edge of the cheese as it melted over cooked potatoes, sour pickles and baked ham to create a hearty meal.  Raclette comes from the French verb racler, to scrape.

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Accompaniments to Raclette included tiny Yukon Gold “one bite” potatoes, cornichons, watermelon radish pickles and pickled pearl onions, homemade hot sauce,  artichokes with sun-dried tomatoes and Parmesan cheese.  Served with my favorite Bok Choy Salad:  http://www.food.com/recipe/bok-choy-salad-184840

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Lovin’ Avocado Toast ~ Happy Healthy New Year!

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Lately I’ve been craving Avocado Toast…rich ripe mashed avocado on toasted baguette…it’s like butter baby!

Here’s “the rules” for making Avocado Toast which is an easy and healthy way to make dinner in a hurry:

  1.  Purchase a good quality baguette from your local bakery (Big box store baguette won’t give you the yummy toasty goodness required for this recipe).  Slice the baguette diagonally into 1/2 slices and place on baking sheet.  Broil the baguette slices in the oven until lightly toasted.  Remove from oven.  (No butter or oil required!)
  2. Spread toasted baguette slices with ripe avocado.  Keep avocado, tomatoes, red onion and other Avocado Toast ingredients in your refrigerator along with a baguette or two in your freezer so  you will always be ready to make Avocado Toast.
  3. Have fun being creative with toppings ~ my personal favorites are chopped fresh tomato, finely chopped red onion, arugula and freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Many more ideas for toppings include balsamic vinegar drizzle, crumbled bacon, finely chopped hard boiled egg, chiffonade of fresh basil, squirt of lime juice, fresh corn off the cob, chopped green onion, crumbled goat cheese and toasted pine nuts.  There are hundreds of ideas to top Avocado Toast on Pinterest too. https://www.pinterest.com/
  5. The important thing about the toppings for Avocado Toast is that they are fresh. I tried topping the avocado with a pre-made bruschetta topping instead of fresh tomatoes and it just tasted mushy. Embrace fresh for this toasty treat!
  6. Avocado Toast is easy to pair too…equally delicious with a chilled bubbly, red wine or fruity Sangria.

CHEERS TO A HAPPY AND HEALTHY NEW YEAR!

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ROSÉ CHAMPAGNES AND BUBBLIES YOU WILL LOVE FOR VALENTINE’S DAY!

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Happy Valentine’s Day February 14, 2017!
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Rose Petal Stiletto on our table at the Taubman Museum of Art 2016 Women’s Luncheon

So many bubbly rosé choices to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your love…here’s a sampling…expensive to affordable…

(Champagne prices listed in this blog may vary from the readers local stores and on-line sources.)

Rosé Champagne—A pink version of champagne, most often made by the blending of a little red wine with normally vinified white wine. Champagne is the only appellation in France that is allowed to blend red and white wine together. Rosé champagne can also be made with the saignée method, which involves macerating the juice on the grape skins in order to impart color.

http://www.champagneguide.net/information/glossary

If money is no object ~ $200 +

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  Krug Rosé Champagne NV

The Champagne Guide 2014-2015 rates Krug Rosé Champagne 98 points with these notes:

Pinot Noirs from the best vines in Ay are treated to a short fermentation on skins and then blended with pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay fermented in small oak casks as white wine, before aging for a minimum of five years in bottle.

Its ethereal restraint and delicate air seems a paradox in the grand decadence of Krug, but such is the detailed intricacy of this medium salmon-tinted cuvée that it dances with light-footed grace on a stage of epic complexity.  Absolute restraint and taut freshness of strawberry hull, white cherry, red apple and lemon zest slowly unravel to nuances of anise and mixed spice.  An impeccable acid profile and pinpont bead define a remarkable finish of mind-blowing seamlessness, impeccable line and unrelenting persistence.  Most thrilling of all, its minerality is all encompassing, mouth-embracing and emphatically chalk-infused.

My notes on this beautiful champagne which we enjoyed on our anniversary were, well, to be honest, I was so blown away by actually tasting such a fine champagne that I did not take extensive notes.  My husband clearly remembers that I remarked repeatedly “I love this bubbly”!

That magical evening I served one of my favorite Ina Garten appetizers ~ Lobster Salad on Belgium Endive:  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/lobster-salad-in-endive-recipe.html

$80 – $90 range:

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Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé NV

Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé NV ~ Wine Spectator rated this rosé champagne “92” with these notes:“Finely meshed and elegant, with mouth-watering acidity and a satiny texture carrying the delicate flavors of ripe raspberry, lemon shortbread, chalk and fresh ginger. Offers a clean, minerally finish. Drink now through 2020.”   

$70 – $80 range:

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 Laurent-Perrier  Cuvée Rosé Brut NV

Notes from The Champagne Guide 2014-2015:

Laurent-Perrier macarates its rosé for 12-72 hours, depending on fruit ripeness, until the color is fixed and the aroma resembles freshly picked raspberries.  So crucial is timing, legend has it that the first Chef de Cave, Edouard Leclerc, slept by the tank to stop it just in time! This wine has achieved that elusive ideal of volume and finesse, the world’s best-selling rosé champagne epitomizes the ultra-restraint of  rosé’s finest expressions.  All the more remarkable for the challenging  saignée method.

One of the first times that we served this delightful rosé, one of our guests exclaimed “Oh! Easter Wine!” She explained that her mother always liked to serve wine that matched her pink dining room drapes on Easter Sunday (White Zinfandel Wine). We all got quite a giggle over that story and we continue to call this  Rosé Brut “Easter Wine” to this day.

I paired this lovely champagne with slices of cucumber lightly spread with mascarpone cheese (cream cheese may be substituted) topped with smoked salmon and a dusting of fresh dill with a sprinkle of Old Bay Seasoning.

$60 – $70 Range  (price based on non-vintage)

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Veuve Clicquot Rosé NV 

50 to 55% Pinot Noir, 15 to 20% Pinot Meunier, and 28 to 33% Chardonnay. My notes: silky on the tongue, beautiful fine bubbles, lively black cherry and raspberry fruit and rich brioche.

Wine Spectator rates this rosé “91” with these notes:  “Bright and expressive, with mouth-watering acidity and refined texture, layered with black cherry, spiced plum, almond skin, honey and candied ginger notes. Shows lovely balance, offering a lasting finish of smoky mineral. Drink now through 2020.”

$45 – $50 range

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Argyle Brut Rosé Willamette Valley 2011

Wine Spectator tasting notes:  Argyle Brut Rosé Willamette Valley 2011. Light and refreshing, a refined style, with finesse to the balance of fruit and savory notes as the finish dances. Rated 91.

My tasting notes:

A lovely sparkling offering from Oregon. Tiny bubbles dance around the glass.  Pretty pale pink salmon color.  The first sip explodes with fresh ripe cherry flavors.  A blend of 70% pinot noir and 25% pinot meunier with a splash of chardonnay. The finish is creamy but with a little tingle on the tongue. This sparkly is well deserving of its 91 points. Cheers!

$25 – $30 range

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 Charles Duret Cremant De Bourgogne Rosé

 This French sparkling wine is made using the traditional method or Méthode Traditionnelle used in Champagne. Lovely small consistent bubbles. A touch of brioche in the wine’s bouquet,  followed by aromas of blackcurrants and redcurrants.

$18 – $20 range:

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Cleto Chiarli Brut de Noir Rosé

Rosé Vino Spumante Brut

I readily admit I am a sucker for a pretty wine label.  The Cleto Chiarli with its fancy label and frilly script pulled me right in.  Pretty pink in the glass. This sparkling is a wonderful value and a very enjoyable rosé  for relaxing sippin’.

Blend of Grasparossa and Pinot Nero grapes.  Raspberry and Strawberry notes are no surprise in this wine. The real surprise is the smooth finish…no acidic bite or tannins at the end of the sip…just a touch of refreshing lingering lemon at the very end.

After I purchased this bottle, chilled it and was sipping on it, I opened the Sunday, June 18, 2016 issue of the Wall Street Journal (thank you to my bubbly friend who always saves WSJ wine articles for me!) and found the article 20 Splendid Summer Wines – All Under $20.  The very wine I was sipping was recommended in this article:  The Emilia-Romagna region of Italy is as famous for Lambrusco as it is for cheese, though its Parmigiano-Reggiano may get more respect – or at least recognition – and that’s a shame.  A dry, frothy red like this is compulsively drinkable and great with food.  Serve well-chilled.  

$15 – $18 range:

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Graham Beck Brut Rosé Sparkling Wine

Wine Spectator notes:  “Soft and friendly, with good cherry and watermelon notes and an easygoing finish. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.”   A blend of 59%, Pinot Noir and 41% Chardonnay.

My notes: Sparkling wine from South Africa. Inexpensive but drinkable.  Nice, consistent tiny bubbles in the glass.  Later in the year this will be a fun “porch sittin’ sparkly” (Southern for “sitting on the porch drinking sparkling wine in the sunshine”!)

$17 range:

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Aimery Crémant Brut

‘Crémant’ sparkling wines are made using the same method as Champagne and with strict regulations around ageing. Ribbons of bubbles and sparkling notes of berries just like your favorite champagne, without breaking the bank.  Delicate, fresh with a long, mouth-filling finish. The color of this sparkling blushes just slightly and  tiny bubbles consistently rise to the top of glass.

$15 range:

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Royal Provence Rivarose Brut Rosé

One of my favorites in this price range. The lacy label is so pretty! Produced in the southern Rhône Valley, fresh with notes of raspberry made from Syrah and Grenache grapes.

Here’s an article from LA Weekly with fun Pink Sparkling Wine suggestions for Valentine’s Day:

http://www.laweekly.com/restaurants/top-5-pink-sparkling-wines-for-valentines-day-or-any-day-really-2378218

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Soleil Mimosa ~ Sunshine In A Bottle

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Soleil Mimosa Classic

“Soleil,” translates in French to “sun”. Soleil Mimosa is a  blend of freshly squeezed orange juice  and white wine topped off with a little effervescence. If you enjoy sangria type beverages or sweeter wines you may enjoy this “Mimosa”.  It reminded me of orangeade from my childhood with a little kick from the 8% alcohol. $10 price point. (Don’t forget to turn the bottle 5 times before opening it to make sure the orange juice and wine are completely mixed, but don’t shake because the contents will bubble over if you shake it before opening.) There are times when this beverage makes perfect sense…on a picnic at the lake or hiking in the mountains when it’s convenient to have your beverage already mixed instead of having to carry multiple bottles.

http://www.fresh-mimosa.com/classic.html

Since I like my beverages a bit on the dry side,  I prefer to purchase a less expensive sparkling wine such as Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut Cava  and mix it with fresh orange juice rather than purchase a pre-mixed beverage, but the Soleil Mimosa was fun to taste.

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Moët And Chandon Impérial Brut Champagne NV Magnum

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Moët and Chandon Impérial Brut Champagne NV Magnum

Elegant with notes of ripe pear, just a touch of citrus and lightly toasted brioche. Fine creamy mousse. Made from 50% Pinot Noir, 10% Chardonnay and 40%Pinot Meunier grapes. This bubbly is one of the largest-selling champagnes in the world.  I could sip on this lovely champagne all day.

As we are describing champagne, it is interesting to note that the term “bouquet” refers to the total scent of the wine, “aroma” is the scent of the grapes. The bouquet and the aroma together are referred to as the “nose”.

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Champagne bottle sizes (left to right):

Jeroboam: Equals 4 standard bottles or 24 (4 oz.) glasses

Magnum: Equals 2 standard bottles or 12 (4 oz.) glasses

Standard: Equals 6 (4 oz.) glasses

Split:  Equals 1/4 standard bottle or 2 (4 oz.) glasses.

The bottles get even larger than a Jeroboam…a Rehoboam equals six; a Methuselah equals eight; a Salmanazar equals 12; a Balthazar equals 16; and a Nebuchadnezzar equals 20 regular bottles of Champagne.

Many champagne bottle sizes were inspired by Biblical characters. For example:

-Jeroboam: “First King of The Kingdom”
-Methuselah: “Oldest Man”
-Salmanzar: “Assyrian King”
-Balthazar: “One of The Wise Men”
-Nebuchadnezzar: “King of Babylon”
-Solomon: “King Solomon, the wisest of all men, built the Temple in Jerusalem”
-Melchizede: “Name of several priesthoods in different religions including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”

Winston Churchill had a champagne bottle size named after him. “The Winston Churchill” bottle was produced by Pol Roger (Churchill’s favorite champagne) and held 20 ounces of champagne, perfect for Churchill’s breakfast consumption.
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