Thursday, October 27, 2011

Happy Champagne Day!

As far as I am concerned, every day is champagne day, but today is actually the official day of celebration for this bubbly from France.

I’ve spent a lot of time with one of my favorite beverages in the past year. Last fall, I left my home in Champaign, Illinois, and took a trip with the French tourism board to Champagne, France. I spent four days there learning all about the beverage and the region. During that trip I was able to spend a wonderful night at the Veuve Clicquot estate, Manoir de Verzy. I also had a tour of the winery and went through my first champagne cave.

My trip to Champagne also included a chance to sit down with the Krug winemaker Julie Cavill and learn about the process of making champagne. I came home with a bottle of their Grand Cuvee and opened it up on my birthday (it’s wonderful). Krug Master Sommelier Roger Dagorn had his own celebration in New York a few weeks ago when he was honored for his lifetime achievements.

In March, I had the pleasure of being invited to Paris for the 200th Anniversary Celebration of Perrier Jouet. It was a black tie affair, full of celebrities and a dedicated piece of art by Daniel Arsham to the champagne. It was then I got to taste what has become one of my favorites, the Belle Epoque 2004.

Champagne should be savored whether or not there is a special occasion. It will certainly be a part of mine.  I actually enjoyed a glass of the 2002 Laurent-Perrier Brut with my dinner at Bernardus Lodge in Carmel. My first Wine and Spirits Travel Guide will actually be about champagne (the drink and the region) and I hope to have it available in the next few weeks. In the meantime, pop the cork and celebrate the day!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Pairing and Sampling the Wine & Spirits

Flavor! Napa Valley is the ultimate wine and food pairing. This four day event will take place November 17-20 and sommeliers and chefs are joining to put together four days of tasting. There will be demonstrations and dining experiences, as well as seminars that will explain how the pairing process comes into play.

The ultimate food and wine event at Flavor! Will be held at The Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena. Over 100 Napa wineries will be paired with over two dozen of the valley's restaurants. For tickets and more information, visit the official website. You can also follow @FlavorNV on Twitter.
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Experience Napa -- and Sonoma and Champagne -- pairings in Phoenix, as the Arizona Biltmore begins its 22nd season of Winemaker Dinners. The first one (ZD Winery of Napa) was this week, but there's plenty more to come. This is about more than the pairings as guests can hear about the wines direct from the winemakers themselves. There's also fashion and jewelry shows by Saks Fifth Avenue to keep it even more interesting.

The menu of four-to-six course dinners are created by Arizona Biltmore Executive Chef Todd Sicolo and Executive Sous Chef Conor Favre, pairing each course with an appropriate wine.  Upcoming wineries include: Rombauer Vineyards,
St. Helena, CA;  Henriot Champagnes, Reims, France;  and  St. Francis Winery, Santa Rosa, CA

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I love hearing about dinners that pair spirits. The Mercadito in
Chicago is doing a series of them, with Fortaleza Tequila October 17th; Hennessy Cognac November 21st; and El Tesoro Tequila December 19th (they had Belvedere Vodka in September). Guests first taste the spirit and then learn about how Executive Chef Aldo Ayala and Chef Patricio Sandoval chose the cocktails and dishes. The Spirited Dinners are $55 per person. Call 312-329-9555 for reservations.

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And speaking of sampling, I've received some great wine lately that I thought I would tell you about. The first was Nine Walks Sauvignon Blanc from W.J. Deutsch & Sons. I'm a big fan of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and this one -- which is only around $10 a bottle -- is everything they are supposed to be. There's a bit of mineral and earth, and lots of citrus. I even got a bit of tropical fruit in there. It's certainly worth keeping around the house for that price.

The other wine was also a Sauvignon Blanc, but quite different. It's Emeri by DeBortoli and it's a sparkling wine by this wonderful Yarra Valley, Australia house. I really enjoyed it as it's light and refreshing, and full of fruit. I tasted both lemon and peach, for an easy drinking aperitif. They also sent me a bottle of the  Sparkling Pink Moscato, which is safely tucked away at the right temperature!