Champagne Tasting…Stradivarius!

Stadivarious champagne

What could be better than a wine tasting at one of our favorite restaurants ~ River and Rail in Roanoke, Virginia…a champagne and sparkling wine tasting! This restaurant was the perfect setting for a bubbly tasting…”An intimate bistro featuring local, seasonal, southern fare and craft cocktails in a stylish modern space.”

http://riverandrailrestaurant.com/

Bill Phillips, proprietor, Mr. Bill’s Wine Cellar, in Roanoke, treated us to  a series of sparkling wine and champagne.  To our delight, one of the champagnes he served that evening was 2000 Charles de Cazanove Stradivarius with raw oysters on the half shell.

http://mrbillswinecellar.com/

http://www.champagnedecazanove.com/uk/house/index.php

oysters

Charles de Cazanove describes their Stradivarius Brut Champagne, “a symphony of meaning and passion; its unique flavor reflects the finesse of the vintage and provides an original harmony. The bouquet opens on ripe fruit, walnut, toffee and almond aromas.  A powerful, hearty finish for an outstanding wine.” This champagne brings back memories of when we visited the Charles de Cazanove champagne house in Reims, France. Such an impressive grand “masion” (mansion in French) and sipped the Stradivarius champagne for the first time. I fell in love with the beautiful musical label on the front of the bottle. I found the bubbles inside to be delicate with a creamy mousse, seventy percent chardonnay, 30 percent pinot noir.  The 2000 is toasty with notes of pear, walnut, almonds and a full finish.

Over the weekend we also enjoyed a 1998 Stradivarius. Beautiful golden color. Notes of brioche and buttery toasted nuts. Fabulous lingering finish.

lily

champagne sign dance

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Bacon Wrapped Chili Lime Shrimp

 shrimp citrusI

Love these appetizers to serve with lemony Veritas bubbly!

 Bacon Wrapped Chili Lime Shrimp

24 Jumbo raw shrimp, peeled, deveined and (remove tail if desired)

2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning

12 slices lean bacon, cut in half

Place shrimp in a plastic bag. Sprinkle shrimp with Old Bay seasoning. Shake bag to coat shrimp with seasoning. Remove shrimp from bag. Wrap half slice bacon around each shrimp. Place on baking pan seam side down.

Prepare lime honey vinaigrette:

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

3 tablespoons honey

1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes

Combine lime juice, honey and red chili flakes in a small bowl. Add more honey and or chili flakes to taste.  Set aside.

Place bacon wrapped shrimp under broiler in the oven.  Broil 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until bacon is crispy.  Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.  Place shrimp on a serving plate and drizzle with lime honey vinaigrette. Enjoy!

veritas champagne 2

Veritas Scintilla, Monticello Virginia sparkling wine is an excellent pairing with the bacon wrapped chili lime shrimp.  Made in methode champenoise this bubbly pops with tiny bubbles all through the glass.  Buttery lemon aromas with notes of crisp green apple followed by a quick finish.  Veritas website recommends pairing with oysters, Marcona almonds, salty potato chips and caviar.

One-Bite Roasted Potatoes with Fresh Lemon Aioli

Optimized-potatoes

“Tasteful Selection” brand one-bite potatoes available at Fresh Market (fingerling potatoes cut in half can be substituted if one-bites cannot be found at the market).  The perfect appetizer  to serve with champagne because…

Optimized-champagne sign

A special thank you to Kelly for sending me this photo from London, England!

Here’s the recipe:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

24 ounces one-bite potatoes

3 tablespoons butter

1 large shallot, sliced very thin

1/4 teaspoon salt

freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

Place butter on baking sheet (I like to use my flat cast iron pan for this recipe) and put in oven to allow butter to melt. As soon as butter melts, remove pan from oven and spread butter around on the pan.  Place the sliced shallots on the pan and lay the potatoes on the pan on top of the shallots.  Sprinkle potatoes with salt, pepper  and toss to coat the potatoes. Sprinkle potatoes with chopped rosemary during the last 10 minutes of baking, toss to coat the potatoes with the rosemary.  Bake potatoes for 30 minutes or until fork tender.

Fresh Lemon Aioli:

1/2 cup Dukes brand Mayonnaise

zest of 1 small lemon (I like to use my microplane to zest the lemon rind and grate the garlic)

1 clove garlic grated

1 tablespoon lemon juice

dash salt

freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Place aioli in refrigerator – serve icy cold as a dip for the potatoes.

Bubbly Surprises In A Special Bottle Of Champagne!


It’s always fun to taste a champagne that is new to us and find it surprisingly fabulous!

champagne with flower 2

A very pleasant surprise:

NV Agrapart & Fils “Terroirs” Blanc de Blancs, Avize Grand Cru, Champagne

This past weekend we opened a magnum of this lovely champagne…so much character!  We enjoyed every bubble!  Special thanks our new friend Bob Sprentall, proprietor of B21 Wines in Tarpon Springs, Florida, where we obtained this lovely bottle (on-line):

http://www.b-21.com/

During his extensive wine travels he developed a relationship with the  Agrapart winemaker and encouraged us to taste their lovely champagne. Here’s his explanation of the winemaker, Pascal Agrapart’s style:

“Based in Avize, (2002 Agrapart Blanc de Blancs is 100% Avize chardonnay 59.99) the young and most serious Pascal Agrapart is making exceptional Champagne. The style, with barrel fermentation, is a heavier and richer yet very clean and bright with the complexity rarely found at this price. Artisanal, honest and pure, this wine surpasses in quality a number of champagne names we all know – at triple the price.”

Bob’s tasting notes:

“The NV Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Terroirs emerges from the glass effortlessly with layers of fruit. This is an especially large scaled, generous Terroirs that impresses for its sheer depth and body. Clean mineral notes frame the striking finish. This, too, is a breathtaking expression of pure Chardonnay fruit. The Terroirs is equal parts 2006 and 2007 juice from the Grand Cru villages of Avize, Oger, Cramant and Oiry. Disgorged July 2011. Anticipated maturity: 2011-2015.

I realize I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but these are once again the finest wines I have tasted from Agrapart. From top to bottom, these Champagnes are simply stunning. All of the wines are 100% Chardonnay and see full malolactic fermentation.”

I agree with Bob when he encourages us to drink champagne… “Everyday is worth a celebration!”

Agrapart is what’s known as a ‘growers’ champagne – i.e. made by the winemaker who grows the grapes rather than assembled from wine from several growers as is often the case with the larger champagne houses. Along with the pleasing mineral notes we enjoyed aromas of bright apple and Anjou pear in this delightful champagne.

To accompany our champagne I prepared delicious appetizer potato skins topped with sour cream and fresh chives.

potato

Homemade Potato Skins

  • 8 (3-inch-long) russet potatoes, scrub clean and pat dry (white potatoes may also be used for this recipe)
  • 2 tablespoons butter (1/4 stick), melted
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces) – I like to shred a block of cheese for this recipe, more flavorful than prepackaged shredded cheese.
  • 8 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 6 fresh chives

 If using Russet potatoes look for potatoes in 5-pound bags, as they tend to be smaller in size than loose potatoes.

Add your own favorite toppings to these potatoes:  green onions, Parmesan cheese, pepperoni, crumbled sausage, black olives, salsa…

  1. Heat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
  2. Pierce each potato several times with a fork or sharp knife. Place the potatoes directly on the oven rack and bake until the skins are crisp and a knife easily pierces the potatoes, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Transfer to a wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes.
  3. Slice each potato in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out the flesh, leaving about 1/4 inch intact; reserve the flesh for another use. Brush the insides of the potatoes with the melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Flip the potatoes over, brush the skin sides with butter, and season with salt and pepper. Pre-heat oven broiler. Evenly space the potato halves skin-side up on a baking sheet and broil until the skins start to crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes (keep a close watch so they don’t burn). Flip the potato halves over and broil until the top edges just start to brown, about 2 to 3 minutes more.
  4.  Fill each skin with cheese and crumbled bacon. Place in the broiler and broil until the cheese is melted and bubbling, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the broiler, cool slightly and top each with 1 teaspoon of the sour cream and a sprinkling of the chives. Serve immediately.
 champagne napkin

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Guinness Black Lager Corned Beef Hash

Yummy breakfast on a snowy winter day…Corned Beef Hash made with Guinness Black Lager…happily reminiscing about sitting in my favorite pub with my favorite guy enjoying our hearty breakfast!

corned beef hash

Makes 6 hearty servings

Place raw corned beef brisket (approximately 2 pounds) in a slow cooker. Cover with Guinness Black Lager (2 – 3 bottles) and sprinkle with spice packet that is included in the corned beef package. Cook on high for 4 hours or until corned beef can be cut easily with a knife.  Turn off heat and allow to cool. Cut corned beef into small cubes (cut off any fat) and set aside.

1 small onion, diced

24  fingerling potatoes sliced into thin slices

4 ounces butter (+ more butter if needed)

freshly ground black pepper

12 eggs

Rye, whole wheat or French bread toast

Melt butter in a large skillet. Add onion and sauté until onions are transparent and starting to brown. Add fingerling potatoes and spread evenly across the bottom of the skillet. Allow to cook over medium heat until potatoes are soft and lightly browned. Add more butter if needed to keep the potatoes from sticking to skillet.  Sprinkle potatoes with freshly ground black pepper.  Keep potato onion mixture warm while preparing eggs.

Prepare over-easy/medium or poached eggs to serve with corned beef hash and serve with your favorite type of toast.

 Toast

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The best Champagnes for Christmas and New Years Eve

Bubbly tips to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year! Cheers!

The Wine Wankers

At this time of year, Champagne is your best friend!  It helps you survive the office Christmas party, the tension fuelled family get-togethers and finally the chiming in of the New Year.  Choosing the wrong Champagne, or indeed ‘sparkling wine’, could be a recipe for disaster – thankfully the Wine Wankers are here to set you straight! 

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