Monthly Archives: December 2016

All That Sparkles

Happy New Year! … from my sparkling blogger friend…Tonya…

fourth generation farmgirl

I absolutely love fizzy and sparkling wines!  And, since New Year’s Eve celebrations are fast approaching, I thought it may be fun and helpful to share some information about Champagne and sparkling wines.  I’ve also included a few of my favorites.


First, all that sparkles isn’t Champagne.  Sparkling wine can only be called Champagne if it’s from the Champagne region in France and made in the traditional method (méthode champenoise).  The traditional method is a labor intensive, multi-step process (two fermentations) that contributes to the expense.  Champagne can be made from three grapes:  chardonnay and red-skinned pinot noir and pinot meunier.  Sometimes the label will use the terms “blanc de blancs” meaning the wine was made from white grapes, or “blanc de noirs” indicating that the Champagne is a white wine made from the dark pinot noir and pinot meunier varieties.  There are also different levels of dryness/sweetness…

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The Weekly Bleat: Goodness and Light

A lovely harmony for the holidays…from my friend Tonya at Please visit her blog….lots of wonderful prose along with photographs of her fun farm pets including these adorable sheep!

fourth generation farmgirl

“Do You Hear What I Hear?” is a song written in October 1962, with lyrics by Noël Regney and music by Gloria Shayne Baker.  This song was written as a plea for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

“Pray for peace, people everywhere.”

~Noël Regney

Many thanks to our friend and wonderful photographer, Doug Frassa for sharing these beautiful photographs.

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English Sparkling Wine – everything you need to know about this Champagne-beating style

Looking forward to tasting more English Sparkling Wine!

The Wine Wankers

If you’re only hearing about English Sparkling Wine now, then you need to play catch-up on this Champagne beating wine style.

Drew from The Wine Wankers ventured to England’s wine country in September 2016 – these are the facts you need to know

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How to Choose Champagne — Grape Adventure

Choosing a bottle of Champagne can be stressful for a couple of different reasons. In the first place, Champagne is not cheap, so it’s not a purchase to fool around with. Additionally, Champagne’s production methods, regional differences, and labeling jargon can make it quite intimidating to most of us. The notes below will help you […]

via How to Choose Champagne — Grape Adventure

It’s the Champagne Time of Year — Tom’s Wine Line

The Wine Media Guild’s annual Champagne luncheon signals to me the true start of the holiday season. It always falls on the first Wednesday of December, and it always spotlights between 15 and 20 excellent true Champagnes; this year, all Blanc de blancs. Curated again this year by colleague and friend Ed McCarthy – author […]

via It’s the Champagne Time of Year — Tom’s Wine Line

Spicy Bacon Butter Recipe For The Holidays!


I am always looking for a fun delicious spread to serve on crackers or spread on hearty ridged potato chips during the holidays.  As a Chef friend of mine says…”Just add bacon and everyone will love it!”…so I added bacon to one of my favorite spreads to create “Spicy Bacon Butter”.

Spicy Bacon Butter

2 (2.52 ounces) packages pre-cooked bacon (microwave bacon until crisp), crumbled

8 ounces cream cheese

2 tablespoons butter

1 ounce ranch dressing and dip mix

2 cup finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 bunch green onions, white and some of the green part, chopped

2 ounce jar pimentos, drained

1 tablespoon medium peri-peri hot sauce (add a little more if you like super spicy!)

Cracker assortment for serving

Place cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl and bring to room temperature to soften.  Add ranch dressing and dip mix and mix until well combined.  Add cheddar cheese, green onions, bacon, pimentos and peri-peri sauce and mix until well combined. Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve. Serve on assorted crackers.

As we get ready to greet a new year…

 thought I would share some of my favorite signs from the past twelve months…Happy New Year!

cat-signkittycatcat with champagne



wine sign



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Champagne and Cava Recommendations To Make Your Holidays Sparkle!



Across the nation wine distributors are sharing their best and bubbliest with restaurateurs and fine food and beverage retailers in preparation for the winter holidays and New Year’s Eve.  Today I had the pleasure of being a guest at the Roanoke Valley Wine Company’s (Salem, Virginia: champagne and cava tasting. I am looking forward to purchasing these bubbly sparklies  at Tinnell’s Finer Foods in Roanoke, Virginia (


Clásicos del Mediterraneo, Los Monteros Cava Brut (NV) was a favorite cava with the tasters today.  Made according to the traditional method resulting in tiny consistent bubbles in the glass. Lemony notes. 100% Macabeo grapes. Delicious and affordable at $20 or less a bottle.

I found this pairing suggestion from Red’s Table four course tasting menu (Restaurant in Reston, Virignia: and it sounded perfectly delicious. “Pearls before Swine” White Stone oysters on the half shell tapioca pearl mignonette, shaved prosciutto served with Clásicos del Mediterraneo, Los Monteros Cava.  The lemony notes of the cava would be perfect with the oysters and the saltiness of the prosciutto would give the pairing a perfect finish. Yum!

roseRose kind of day

Another Cava favorite was the Prelada Brut Rosé Cava (NV) from the Catalonia region in Spain. Garnatxa (74%), Pinot Noir (18%), Trepat (8%) made according to the traditional method. Pretty pale cherry red color.  Bubbles dissipate quickly.  Light with a quick finish. Another affordable cava at $20 or less.

I would serve the Prelada Brut Rosé Cava as a “toasting bubbly” during the holidays to say cheers to my guests. The Clásicos del Mediterraneo, Los Monteros Cava Brut would be my choice as a sipping bubbly or to pair with food.

LOVED every champagne they served to us during the tasting.  All of the champagnes we tasted were “Grower Champagnes” meaning that the champagne house grows all of their own grapes and does not purchase anyone else’s fruit.  They grow their own grapes and make the champagne ~ truly artisan wines . One of my favorites is currently available at Tinnell’s Finer Foods:


Champagne Voirin-Jumel, Champagne Grand Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs (NV)

I found this champagne to be delightful.  100% Grand Cru Chardonnay grapes.   Voirin-Jumel is a tiny producer located in Cramant, one of finest areas for growing Chardonnay in France.  Bright and elegant. $42 range. This bubbly will make a nice pairing with caviar, oysters or white truffle popcorn and a nice gift for the holidays.

Champagne Chapuy Brut Reserve (NV)

A fabulous selection for our tasting.  100% Grand Cru Chardonnay grapes. Fresh with a fine mousse and a bit of lemon on the finish. This champagne would pair nicely with coquilles Saint-Jacques.  My notes I wrote in my notebook about this champagne said simply,  “Love this!”


 André Clouet Champagne Brut Bouzy Grande Reserve Brut (NV)

Just look at this beautiful label!!! This bubbly will make a fabulous holiday gift! 100% pinot noir grapes.  The wine spends 6 years on the lees giving it a rich mouth feel with notes of brioche and a creamy mousse.

From The Champagne Guide 2014-2015 by Tyson Stelzer (page 25): Lees are defined as sediment that settles in the bottom of a tank, barrel or bottle, comprised primarily of dead yeast cells. Acidity is the key to champagne, but its astringency makes these wines unapproachable in their youth. The mellowing, softening effect of age is crucial to the champagne style.  Dead yeast cells (‘lees’) from the second fermentation remain in the bottle and contribute subtly to  champagne’s complexity. The longer this process of “autolysis” persists the better, improving mouthfeel and longevity, and adding biscuity, bready nuances to the flavour profile.

The mandatory minimum in champagne is 15 months for non-vintage and three years for vintage wines, but reputable producers always far exceed these minima…prestige cuvées sometimes 10 years or more.



Gatinois Champagne Brut (NV)

90% pinot noir and 10% chardonnay.  This wine spends at least 3 years on the lees. Apple and cherry followed by lemon notes. Our host suggested pouring some of this champagne in a decanter and allow the fizz to die down somewhat, then serve in a pinot noir glass (like the red pinot noir wine) paired with pork or a filet.  Sounds like a fun pairing to try!


Champagne Michel-Arnould Champagne Grand Brut (NV)

70% pinot noir and 30% chardonnay. Complex yet balanced with notes of ripe apple, apricot and a touch of cherry. Any grapes this producer does not use he sells to the Bollinger champagne house…one of my favorites.

“Which champagne do you like the best?”, I casually asked our host and his reply…

I love them all, just like my children.”

Here’s a link to an interesting article about why WE SHOULD NOT WAIT TO CELEBRATE! This article includes information about grower champagnes:


Happy Holidays! Cheers!

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