Keep New Years Eve Traditional with Champagne and Sparkling Wine

December 25th, 2006

It’s Christmas Day. 2006 is winding down and New Year’s Eve celebrations are less than a week away.

If you plan to have or attend a New Year’s Eve party and like to keep things traditional, then a bottle or two of Champagne or sparkling wine is a must.

There are plenty of choices available – some of it good and some of it not so good. My advice is to spend a few extra dollars and avoid the ultra-bargain priced sparkers, which tend to be overly carbonated, slightly sweet and flavorless. But also be aware that prices for some labels – particularly Champagne – can sometimes vary by as much as $5 to $10 a bottle at different locations.

nullSo shop wisely, drink responsibly and enjoy the occasion. Here are a few personal favorites:

Mumm Napa Non-Vintage Blanc de Noir (about $15 to $22): From California comes this lovely sparkling wine with floral aromas, delicate fruit flavors and a slightly creamy finish.

Argyle 2001 Brut (about $18 to $23): This delicious sparkling wine from Oregon’s Willamette Valley has plenty of pear and mineral flavors, topped with a crisp, yeasty finish.

Perrier Jouet Non-Vintage Grand Brut (about $35 to $45): A true French Champagne blended primarily with Chardonnay grapes. It’s rich and aromatic with layers of toasty, baked apple flavors. A bit of a splurge, but worth every penny.

Serving Wine at a Cocktail Party is Perfectly Acceptable

December 18th, 2006

Is it acceptable to serve wine at a cocktail party? Absolutely – and especially when you consider this – some people don’t like the taste of hard liquor and others aren’t able to drink it at all.

If that’s the case, it’s always a good plan to make sure that wines are available for these particular guests. I like to have at least one red wine and one white wine on hand. And don’t skimp by buying a couple of $7 liters of the cheap stuff – especially if you’re serving premium liquors. The idea is to include the wine drinkers with the rest of the party, not isolate them into a corner of the room with a plastic glass and a straw.

nullSelect wines that you know are reliably good based on past personal experience or from the recommendations of others. It’s also perfectly acceptable to let those who prefer wine to offer to bring a bottle of their own. This helps insure they’ll like what they drink and you’ll also have a greater variety of wines from which to choose.

How much wine do you need? That depends entirely on the number of non-cocktail drinking guests attending. When in doubt, err on the side of supplying a few extra bottles because anything unopened at the end of the evening can always be used at a later date. This is also a good practice because almost inevitably one or more cocktail drinkers may decide to switch drinks and try a glass of wine for a change of pace.

A well-stocked bar – including wines for those who don’t drink cocktails – is an indicator of good planning and consideration of everyone on your guest list. They’ll be happier for it, and you won’t be wasting time racing to the store to pick up beverages that are in short supply.

More Northwest Wineries Bottling Malbec as a Stand Alone Varietal

December 11th, 2006

I was sifting through my archives and discovered that it’s been over two years since I’ve written anything about Malbec. The last time I featured the wine I noted that it was fairly standard stuff in countries such as Chile and Argentina, but it remained somewhat obscure here the Pacific Northwest.

Things certainly have changed in the past couple of years. Although many Northwest winemakers have used and continue to use Malbec for blending purposes, more and more wineries are bottling it as a stand-alone varietal; Reininger Winery, Pleasant Hill and Fidelitas are just a few that come to mind.

nullLocal winery Mount Baker Vineyards also produces a Malbec, and their 2004 vintage was recently released. This delicious red wine rivals their award winning 2002 vintage, displaying a lovely deep garnet color and lots of blackberry, blueberry and pomegranate flavors. It’s priced around $20 a bottle and is available for purchase in local stores and also at the winery tasting room.

If you prefer your Malbec from South America, give the Viu Manent Secreto 2005 Malbec a try. Dark and inky with a pleasant nose of fresh berries, the wine has plenty of jammy, ripe blackberry and plum flavors.

This tasty, fruit-forward Chilean wine is usually priced in the $9 to $11 a bottle range and can be found in both wine shops and the wine section of your grocer. I picked up my bottle at The Vines, located at 1319 Cornwall Avenue in downtown Bellingham.

Wine Class at BTC

December 9th, 2006

2:00 to 4:30 pm – Beginning Wine Tasting. The perfect class for those just getting started with wines. The format will be relaxed, yet informative, with plenty of wines to sample. No wine snob attitudes permitted! Click on the Wine Classes Page for more information.

Chardonnay Still the King of White Wines

December 4th, 2006

Although varietals such as Pinot Gris and Viognier continue to grow in popularity, Chardonnay is still the undisputed king of white wines among Americans.

One of the reasons for Chardonnay’s success is its versatility. It can be made in a light, crisp style, oaked or unoaked, fruit-forward, or rich and buttery, to name just a few possibilities. It also pairs up well with a variety of foods, giving it broad-ranging appeal and the perennial favorite of many white wine drinkers.

I spoke with Kurt Schlicker, Owner/Winemaker of Walla Walla’s Rulo Winery during a recent wine tasting at Compass Wines in Anacortes. Schlicker echoes the sentiments of many Washington winemakers by feeling the need to branch out with different varietals. And yet he continues to produce Chardonnay, primarily because the state has a number of vineyards that consistently yield top quality grapes.

His 2005 Rulo Chardonnay (about $22) is a case in point. This beautiful wine is big, bold and tastes full in the mouth. It’s filled with buttery, baked apple flavors topped with creamy, butterscotch accents and a well-rounded, toasty oak finish. Outstanding!

As a contrast, you might want to try the 2004 Bogle Vineyards Chardonnay(about $11) from California’s Sacramento Valley. This is what I would consider to be a lighter style Chardonnay, with nice citrus and green apple flavors and hints of vanilla on the finish. If you prefer red wine, Bogle also produces a dynamite Petite Syrah that generally retails for only about $13 a bottle.

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