Monthly Archives: May 2016

U.S. Sparkling For The Summer!

In anticipation of the summer season, Wine Spectator published an article:  Sparkling Summer ~ As consumers thirst for bubbly, U.S. producers continue to shine.   Here’s a list of U.S. Sparkling Wine from Wine Spectator with rating and release price:

Included in the article are the Top Values ~ sparkling wines that won’t break the bank.  I will try as many of these sparklings that are available to me and will report back here.

Korbel organic

Mr. Bill’s Wine Cellar brought in the Korbel Brut California Organic Grapes NV for me.

It rated a score of 90 on the Wine Spectator Top Values list.  They describe it as crisp and luscious, this is a winning bubbly for a party. Aromas of cinnamon, ginger and citrus lead to flavors of pear and blanched almond. $14

I enjoyed the tiny bubbles in the glass and the honey notes and a bit of earthiness in this sparkling wine.  Somehow I can’t get away from the Korbel brand and my memories of “graduating” from Korbel to finer champagnes in my twenties.  The “organic” on the label helped to sell me on this bottle and the $14 price point was appealing.

I freely admit that I arrived at this glass with a positively jaded life experience. Nonetheless this is a nice effort at the price point and is the best Korbel I’ve tasted.

Korbel bottles have the term “California Champagne” on the label…how can they legally include champagne as part of their label?

The French organization Comite Interprofessionel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) regulates the use of Champagne on wine labels outside of Champagne region. The European Union protects the Champagne designation and limits its use on wine labels to wines from Champagne. Many countries signed the agreement and do not use champagne on their wine labels. The United States entered such an agreement as well, but with a grandfather clause. Wineries who were operating and producing sparkling wine before the agreement was signed in 2005 are legally (according to US law) able to use the term “champagne” on their label. One wine company that continues to use the term champagne on their label is Korbel.

Korbel has been producing “California Champagne” since the late 1800s. They have continued to label their sparkling wine as champagne and because they are grandfathered in the agreement they legally they have no reason to change this practice.

Tequila Watermelon Sparkler and Szigeti!


This fanciful cocktail was featured in the June, 2016 Food and Wine Magazine.  Tastes like a watermelon margarita on the rocks! Use good quality tequila in this recipe to make a fabulously refreshing cocktail. “Aguas Frescas” is “Fresh Waters” in Spanish.  Fruits, flowers, cereals and seeds are combined with sugar and water to make refreshing beverages often sold by street vendors in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and the United States.

Tequila-Watermelon Aguas Frescas with Prosecco

Makes 12 drinks

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

1 chilled seedless watermelon (15 lbs.), rind discarded and watermelon cubed (20 cups)

3/4 cup tequila blanco

6 limes, thinly sliced

3 mint sprigs, plus mint leaves for garnish


1 bottle chilled Prosecco

  1.  In a small saucepan, combine the water and sugar and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Transfer the simple syrup to a heatproof bowl and let cool.
  2. In a food processor or blender, puree the watermelon in batches until smooth. Strain the puree into a large bowl or pitcher. Stir in the simple syrup, tequila, lime slices, 3 mint sprigs and 1/2 cup water.
  3. To serve, pour the watermelon agua fresca into ice-filled glasses, leaving 1 inch at the top.  Top off the drinks with Prosecco and garnish with mint leaves.

 Make ahead:  The strained watermelon juice can be refrigerated overnight.

Here’s a fun peachie drink to enjoy while we wait for fresh peach season to arrive:

Peachtree City

1 oz vodka

3 or 4 oz lime juice

1 oz berentzen peach schnapps

1 or 2 oz cranberry juice

1 or 2 oz simple syrup

Add all ingredients to shaker tin, fill with ice, and shake.  Double strain into cocktail glass and garnish with channel knife lime peel.

champagne seizler

The name Szigeti is intriguing…this lovely Austrian sparkling wine tickled my taste buds. I was pleasantly surprised at the first sip – creaminess on the palate with crisp apple notes.

Grape Varieties: Grüner Veltliner

Region: Lake Neusiedl – Burgenland

Tasting Notes from website:
Lovely golden colour with light green tinges. Delicate aromas of apple with a touch of white pepper. Dry with crunchy acidity, hint of honeysuckle and kiwi over elegant lime notes.

My notes: Creamy, fruity with apple notes.

Locally sourced at Mr. Bill’s Wine Cellar, Roanoke, Virginia ($21.00 range)

From Karen MacNeil’s WineSpeed Newsletter:

 Wine question of the week:  Which of the following is the driest style of Champagne or sparkling wine?

A. Brut   B. Extra Dry   C. Demi-sec    D. Extra Brut

Answer:  D. Extra Brut is a very dry Champagne or sparkling wine with less than .6 percent of sugar per liter.  Brut is a dry to very dry style containing less than 1.5 percent sugar per liter. Extra Dry is slightly sweeter than Brut. And Demi-sec, with 3.3 to 5.0  percent of sugar per liter, is sweeter than Extra Dry.

Rose kind of day

Rosé Magnum!

Another reason to love summer! Entering my rosé phase!  The June 2016 issue of Food and Wine shares this tidbit of wine advice: The latest Côte d’Azur trend…equipping your mega-yacht with a special refrigerator designed specifically to hold three-liter (or larger) bottles of rosé.

The Côte d’Azur, often known in English as the French Riviera, is the Mediterranean coastline of the southeast corner of France, also including the sovereign state of Monaco.

Fortunately rosé can be a less expensive wine choice, so you can keep a copious supply and drink it at your leisure while saving $ to purchase that fancy dancy refrigerator for your mega-yacht.

Rose magnum(Magnum on left = 2 bottles)

Chateau Léoube Rosé de Léoube 2015 Côtes de Provence, France,a blend of  grenache, cinsault, syrah and mourvèdre made from grapes grown at the Ch Léoube vineyards.  Very pale pink.  Tasting notes from the Chateau Léoube website: The nose fresh: a blend of exotic fruits with light spice flavours. The palate is supple and elegant without being in breach of liveliness. Under his pale color, the Château Léoube rosé unveils a full complex wine.

Links to fun articles about the current rosé trend:

Derby Day Gala, Rockledge, Roanoke, Virginia, 2016


Mary Ellen hat original

My bubbly friend rocks in her one-of-a kind Derby hat from St. Barts.

Orange hat

On Saturday evening we celebrated the Kentucky Derby with 200 friends at Rockledge on Mill Mountain, Roanoke, Virginia.

derby hunter

Celebrity Bartender ~  Hunter Johnson, owner and  mixologist Extraordinaire,  Lucky and Fortunato Restaurants, Roanoke, Virginia, prepared these signature cocktails for us. JP Powell, owner, Lucky and Fortunato Restaurants and  the fabulous Brittany Nicole Jones, mixologist, Lucky Restaurant, also donated their time and expertise at the “Lucky Celebrity Bar” that evening:

celebrity drinks

Orange hat

derby bartender vest and bow tie

Festive Kentucky Derby Vest!

derby shoes

Hand-Painted Kentucky Derby Shoes!

derby socks

Pink Flamingo Derby Socks!

Proseccochampagne glass

Derby Day Gala at Rockledge Signature Welcome Prosecco ~ Via Del  Milleri Extra Dry “Mille”~ 85% prosecco, 15% verdiso perdra and bianchetta grapes from Veneto region. Nice, affordable bubbly. Notes of bright green apple.

derby sugarDerby sugar detail

Gorgeous centerpiece ~ ornate sugar sculpture by Chef Extraordinaire John Schopp.

pimento cheesePimento Cheese delightfully displayed on charred wood planks.

Derby Day Gala at Rockledge catering donated by the talented Southwest Virginia Chapter of the American Culinary Federation. Chapter President Ted Polfelt, Vice President Darla Mehrkens.

dessert derby

derby hat beigederby day hat Martyderby hat orange

derby hat wild

Derby Hatderby hat blue

derby hat yellow


Happy Derby Day!

The “Riddle” of Champagne

riddling rack

riddling rack sign

My champagne bottles are so happy to have a place to rest…120 bottle riddling rack from Epernay, France.

The Riddling Rack was invented by Madame Nicole-Barbe Clicquot (Veuve Clicquot) in 1816.  Recognizing that her champagne would be much more appealing without all of the sediment swimming around in the bottle, she set out to make a crystal-clear champagne.  Her first rack was just holes cut into her kitchen table. Knowing that the sediment had to go somewhere she forced it into the neck of the bottle by following these steps which we now recognize as “riddling”:

  1.  Every one to three days grab the bottom of the bottle and give the bottle a little shake. Then give it a hearty twist.
  2. Drop the bottle back in the riddling rack with just a bit more angle to the bottle. This process was done by hand for years and is still done by hand in some of the Prestige Cuvées houses. Due to the high cost of manual labor many champagne houses use machines these days to complete the riddling process.
  3. After several weeks the neck of the bottle(where the sediment has gathered) is frozen which forms a “plug” which has to be removed from the bottle. The process of removing the plug is known as dégorgement.
  4. The final step is the corking and labeling of the champagne.

champagnechampagne pour

The House of Ruinart is the first established champagne house in 1729.  I love everything about this fabulous champagne.  Ruinart Blanc de Blancs and Rosé are equally sparkly and magical. For those who think they do not like champagne, please try this one – it will surprise and delight you with it delicacy, tiny consistent bubbles, toasty notes, fine mousse and long finish.  The unique shape of its bottle is a tribute to the historic bottles of the eighteenth century.

champagne toast

Warm weather has finally arrived in Roanoke, Virginia…celebrating this happy bubbly day with champagne on the deck!

Wine Thought Of The Day:  Cabernet Sauvignon loves fat and proteins, pairing classically with meat – the redder the better. If you’re a vegetarian, fear not, it also pairs well with bitter vegetables like eggplant, arugula, and radicchio. 



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