#Vinopanion #Wine Bits & Pieces: Holiday 2017 Edition

The winter sun, it burns!

The end of 2017 is nigh…that means really good reasons to drink #wine and, in particular, bubbles! And while the Lady and I are lovers and club members of our very local Domaine Chandon sparkling wines, we do have quite a tasty spot for Spanish Cava.  #Cava is the most renown sparkling wine from Spain and an actual DO (or appellation) in the Spanish Denominación de Origen system. Freixenet is one of the most common producers and always a solid daily buy, but we’ve tasted through a ton of good Cava over the years.

Vivino

Another sparkling wine region that has been smokin’ hot the last few years has been Prosecco from Italy.  It has both DOC and DOCG appellations for its finer wines and has been really making a splash in the US market for the last 3 years.  I’m a Featured User for Vivino, and they’ve even put together a list of the 20 most scanned Prosecco wines of 2017 on their app, from thousands of users:

  1. La Marca Prosecco – 3.8 Stars
  2. Casa Vinicola Zonin Prosecco – 3.5 Stars
  3. Valdo Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore Marca Oro – 3.6 Stars
  4. Carpenè Malvolti Prosecco Superiore Conegliano Valdobbiadene Extra Dry – 3.7 Stars
  5. La Gioiosa et Amorosa Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore – 3.6 Stars
  6. Ruffino Prosecco – – 3.7 Stars
  7. Mionetto Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore – 3.6 Stars
  8. Mionetto Prosecco Treviso Prestige Collection Brut – 3.6 Stars
  9. Gancia Prosecco – 3.5 Stars
  10. Mionetto Prosecco Treviso Brut – 3.6 Stars
  11. Allini Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry – 3.5 Stars
  12. Mionetto Prosecco Treviso Prestige Collection Extra Dry – 3.6 Stars
  13. Martini (Martini & Rossi) Prosecco – 3.5 Stars
  14. Cavit Lunetta Prosecco – 3.5 Stars
  15. Cantine Maschio Prosecco Treviso Extra Dry – 3.5 Stars
  16. Vini Santa Margherita Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore – 3.7 Stars
  17. La Gioiosa et Amorosa Prosecco Treviso – 3.5 Stars
  18. Nino Franco Spumanti Rustico – 3.8 Stars
  19. Plaza Centro Prosecco Treviso – 3.4 Stars
  20. Cantine Riondo Prosecco Spago Nero – 3.8 Stars

2016 Bervini 1955 Millesimato Prosecco DOC Extra Dry2016 Bervini 1955 Millesimato Prosecco DOC Extra DryThe Lady and I enjoyed a Prosecco on Christmas with her family and the 2016 Bervini 1955 Millesimato Prosecco DOC Extra Dry rather delighted the whole family with its mix of super tasty & zippy yellow apple and peach, alongside some nice yeasty and good floral notes. The wine is imported by Wine Trees USA and was a sample from Balzac Communications.

Hagafen CellarsAnother holiday favorite around the world are kosher wines, of course.  While Kosher wine has gotten a bad rap over the millennia, there are quite a few amazing wines produced in California, as well as around the world, that also happen to be kosher. As Jay Buchsbaum, Executive VP Marketing and Director of Wine Education at Royal Wine Corp states:

To be considered kosher, Sabbath observant Jews must supervise and sometimes handle the entire winemaking process, from the time the grapes are crushed until the wine is bottled. Any ingredients used, including yeasts and fining agents*, must be kosher.

Local favorite wineries in our valley of Napa include Hagafen Cellars, just down the road from Yountville on Silverado Trail. I’ve biked past it while training for my triathlons dozens of times…it’s a beautiful estate and producer of many great, tasty wines!

Short Pours:

  • Hello Penny Bar!
    Photo courtesy of Hello Penny Bar.

    Live in SoCal and need a bar for your party? The very cute, Hello Penny Bar will do just that, complete in a mobile and restored, 1946 vintage trailer.  Sweet!

  • Wines ‘Til Sold Out completed an incredible charity drive for #NapaFire and #SonomaFire victims, raising a total of $17,500 from WTSO members, equally matched by the wine flash sale retailer.  Bravo!
  • USGS geophysicists have recently completed a LIDAR study of Napa Valley vineyards that “suggests that earthquake-related deformation just below the Earth’s surface can be quite different from how it is expressed at the surface,” following the 2014 Napa Valley earthquake.
  • PG&E‘s Wine Industry Efficiency Solutions (WIES) program, in conjunction with its partner wineries, has “saved its customers more than 3.3 million kilowatt hours of electricity and 150,000 therms of natural gas – enough energy to power 246 average homes for one year. The average annual energy cost savings totaled $559,000 per year.”
  • The 33rd annual Winesong 2017 charity event on the Mendocino coast on September 8th & 9th in Fort Bragg was again a huge success, raising more than $700,000 for the Mendocino Coast District Hospital.

Mumm Napa Wine Blogger Brunch

Bubbly is a beautiful thing.  Sparkling wine has always been considered a wine of celebration; its intriguing bubbles rising up to toss forth a froth of scented effervescence, enlivening spirits at any accompanying event.  For me however, bubbly, bubbly, and more bubbly is the way that I prefer to shimmy through life.  My lady Elizabeth Fontaine, the beguiling star behind the brightness of my life, would only agree, with a most sensible of nods.  Bubbles are her vinous companion, and at times, her artistic muse.  We go through stretches where there is a bottle of bubbly to accompany each day…the other nice thing about sparkling wine is its low percent alcohol. 😉

And so it was with great fervor that we responded with a resounding YES to an invitation to attend a wine blogger luncheon last December at the renowned Mumm Napa (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog) estate in the Napa Valley, courtesy of Brand Action Team and Thea Dwelle of Luscious Lushes (Twitter, Facebook). As an interesting aside, Spoontonic Lounge (Twitter, Facebook) in Walnut Creek, one of our favorite haunts, has carried the Mumm Napa Napa Valley Brut Prestige for a little over a year.  As a number of us adopted the bubbly as our signature drink, the tasty value non-vintage cuvée spread like wildfire and proprietor Jeffrey Sun has proceeded to clear through a good amount each month.

Beth and I arrived early at the Estate, up on Silverado Trail in the Rutherford AVA.  While we’d had some poor weather earlier in the week, the sun had burst out that winter morning and was almost painfully exhilarating, sparkling through the moisture on the sleeping vines.  We greeted Thea whom arrived a few minutes after ourselves and marveled at the number of people that were lining up to visit the popular winery, prior to its 10am opening.

We entered the winery once the large wooden doors were opened, revealing the courtyard in the center of the property.  There we were greeted by Assistant Winemaker, Tamra Lotz and Mitch Davis. Mitch with his tall, clean looks and high energy, probably immediately brightened the mornings of many of the ladies in attendance.  Tamra Lotz, a fellow Vintage High alumnus and classmate, is the easy-going, highly engaging sort that you’d want to lead you on a tasty tour of her winemaking facilities.

We were also greeted with my favorite sparkling wine of the day, the fantastic 2006 Mumm Napa Napa Valley Devaux Ranch Brut. Made with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and their signature inclusion of Pinot Gris, this sparkler forced me to give it a QPRWK and AwesomeWK wine badges, yet it only clocks in at $36.  That is a phenomenal price for a wine that features this much complexity.  The fruit was sourced from their Devaux Ranch vineyard in Carneros, named for their founding winemaker, Guy Devaux.  I’d summarize my tasting notes on this wine, but I think that it deserves the full breakdown of its deliciousness:

Color: A mix of yellow gold and brighter canary highlights, a very fine bead and frothy mousse.
Nose: Fantastic, with a complex fruit mixture of drier citrus, more rounder tropical fruit and yellow apple. Cream and light brioche is here as well, along with a zing of minerality.
Palate: Also awesome, this shows that same complex mixture of fruit from the nose, along with a beautiful round and yet very vibrant and creamy palate, with that same fine bead. Dustier toast comes in as well, finishing alternating clean citrus and creamier brioche. Extremely good and actually underpriced: AwesomeWK, QPRWK.

With the Devaux Ranch in our hands, we headed off into the winery for a tour of their facilities.  Mumm Napa was founded in 1983, by M. Devaux for the G.H. Mumm Champagne house, based in Reims, France.  The winery is a well-deserved and huge destination in the Napa Valley, with its regular tours, flight tastings, permanent Ansel Adams photography collection, and rotating  photography exhibitions.  While we were there, Media Ant and Mutineer Magazine‘s own Ashley Teplin was showing many of her photos of local food and wine artisans.  It’s no wonder that they host over 130,000 visitors each year!

Tamra took us through the entire winemaking facilities that bright morning, starting with the tank room, where much of the current 2011 vintage wines were undergoing cold storage.  This process allows (harmless) tartrate crystals to precipitate out, naturally leftover in the finished wine from the brightly acidic grapes that go into sparkling and most white wines.  Most of the tanks were caked with frost, their glycol jackets at slightly freezing temperatures in order to get the wine cold enough for full stabilization.  Following the crushpad tour, we had a short blending demonstration, which clearly showed the how each of the varietal wines mentioned earlier can contribute to the wine.  Chardonnay for mouthfeel and pitted fruits, Pinot Noir for cherry fruits and further depth, Pinot Meunier for more darker fruit notes and earthiness and finally, Pinot Gris for more tropical fruits and floral notes.

Walking down the hall back to the tasting room, we encountered…BOB: their large and incredibly efficient robot that handles the bottling and handling of the wines, before they are transferred to the riddling room.  Making sparkling wine is much more manually intensive than other wines.  First you must make the still wine, filter it, and then it is time for the second dose of sugar and yeast that goes in to provide the bubbles.  It is literally a second fermentation in the bottle, for the high end Traditional Method, or “méthode traditionnelle,” as it is called around the world in the French language.  Following that, there is months to years of riddling, or the process by which the eventually spent yeast and their debris is shaken down into the neck of the bottle 1-2x per day, until it is ready to be removed for final bottling, called disgorgement.  The final act is to top off the now sparkling bottle with a syrupy mixture of still wine and sugar, called the dosage, that tops up the wine and creates the proper house balance between acidity and sweetness for that particular label.

Whew!  After all of that info, we were a bit thirsty.  We moved on into a more private area of the main tasting lounge, where Winemaker Ludovic Dervin greeted us with the warmest of smiles coming from his strong, but kindly-featured face and barrel-strength body.  Starting with a brief bio, he then began to walk us through the wines and touching upon the 2011 vintage, one which he described as “really a growers year, [with] a lot of work in the vineyard.”

Starting with the aforementioned Brut Prestige, we then traveled through almost their entire line, in the order listed below.  All of the value wines, up through the Cuvée M, all featured very bright fruit flavors and a ton of crispness in style, with a hint of cream underlying everything.  As we got into their higher end wines, I found two more that entered into my favorites.  The Mumm Napa Napa Valley DVX 2003 featured a ton of complexity, with its brioche and more Old World complexity, still brightened by great acidity and the finest of bubbles.  Additionally, the Mumm Napa Napa Valley Brut Reserve Rosé NV showed off super-crisp red and citrus fruit, alongside a great zing of cherry and minerality.  In all, both Beth and I felt that their line included sparkling wines for any palate.  Ludovic’s engaging personality and delight to answer any question made the tasting all the more entertaining and educational.

Beth’s and my own thanks go out to Brand Action Team, Thea, Tamra, Ludovic, and everyone else at Mumm Napa for the wonderful day tasting their wines and learning about their sparkling winemaking process.

You can find all of the wines listed below from that bright day at Mumm Napa (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog) in December.  They are all tagged with “MummN2011Brunch“, so that you can list them in your own WineLog.  All of the photos can be found on my Flickr in their own set and also on the Vinopanion Facebook page, in their own set. Cheers!

Mumm Napa (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog):

 Mumm Napa Napa Valley Devaux Ranch Brut 2006

Color: A mix of yellow gold and brighter canary highlights, a very fine bead and frothy mousse.

Nose: Fantastic, with a complex fruit mixture of drier citrus, more rounder tropical fruit and yellow apple.  Cream and light brioche is here as well, along with a zing of minerality.

Palate: Also awesome, this shows that same complex mixture of fruit from the nose, along with a beautiful round and yet very vibrant and creamy palate, with that same fine bead.  Dustier toast comes in as well, finishing alternating clean citrus and creamier brioche.  Extremely good and actually underpriced: AwesomeWK, QPRWK.

Mumm Napa Napa Valley Sparkling Pinot Meunier 2008

Mumm Napa Napa Valley Brut Prestige NV

Mumm Napa Napa Valley Brut Rosé NV

Mumm Napa Napa Valley Cuvée M NV

Mumm Napa Napa Valley Blanc de Blancs 2007

Mumm Napa Napa Valley Brut Reserve NV

 Mumm Napa Napa Valley DVX 2003

Color: Medium to finer bead, deeper canary yellow.

Nose: Brioche, bread, earth, dried lemon and yellow apple, all with good intensity.

Palate: Weightier, very yeasty and savory, drier apricot, peach and very dry lemon bar.  Good acid, savory and even showing some slight tannin: OldWorldWK.

 Mumm Napa Napa Valley Brut Reserve Rosé NV

Color: Beautiful strawberry pink, very fine and very robust bead.

Nose: Crisp red fruit underlaid with a nice earthiness and line of minerality.

Palate: Very vibrant feel and zesty acidity, then some weight and rounder fruit comes in, finishing with a citrus and mineral finish: OldWorldWK.

Mumm Napa Napa Valley Santana Brut NV

Mumm Napa Napa Valley Brut Prestige Extended Tirage Selection NV

Mumm Napa Napa Valley Sparkling Pinot Noir NV

 

All wines on WineLog.net from Mumm Napa:

[winelist query=”Mumm%2BNapa” num=”100″]

Speedy Holiday Wine Recommendations

The holidays get busy.  You barely have time to shop, decorate, make food, attend parties, try not to get drunk and, OH YEAH, still work!  All of this stress adds up, manifesting itself in strange ways and differently within each person, as evidenced by the varying types of “holiday spirit” seen in the photo on the right.

You don’t have time for this!  Your time is too precious to waste upon wondering which kind of wine to bring to coworker Aaron’s holiday party and wait, is it Aaron or Erin…CRAP, you’re so stressed you can’t even remember!  It is with these conundrums in mind that I have constructed my Vinopanion holiday wine recommendations and pairings, listed below.  Short, sweet (or dry!) and to the point.  Let’s drink.

[Note: Reeeally in a hurry?  Skip to the bottom for the list of wines recommended and no jibber-fabber.]

Bubbly:

Pair with just about everything, including the high pressure, yet celebratory mood of the season.  Blammo!  You just paired everything at once, how fast is that!?

 Freixenet Cava Cordon Negro Brut NV – $9

This under-$10 Spanish sparkler is our hands-down, go-to daily bubbly.  Yes…we drink bubbly that often.

[winebadge id=”6093″]

Color: Meyer lemon yellow, with green highlights and a medium fine, robust bead.

Nose: Clean and bright lemon with just a tinge of cream, and some kiwi to round things off, along with some light florals.

Palate: Crisp and zesty, with that same, but now juicy lemon from the nose, those same white florals enter in the mid-palate and ride out to the juicy, multiple layered lemon finish. Good as always, and always a great value play: QPRWK.

Freixenet Cava Elyssia Pinot Noir Brut NV – $18

Another Spanish bubbly win that while not made from a traditional Spanish varietal, this a great example of a well-made rosé sparkler.

Color: Beautiful darker watermelon red, with a fine and very robust, fine bead.

Nose: Great red fruited nose of juicier strawberry and bright Bing cherry, complemented by some zestier red grapefruit.

Palate: Medium-bodied, with that same fine and zesty bead on the palate, with great red grapefruit acidity and an underlay of cream and toast. Finishes with smooth, sweeter Bing cherry.

 Schramsberg Vineyards North Coast Brut Rosé 2004 – $40

Here’s your heavier hitter, featuring some creaminess and added complexity to the fine examples already listed above.  This is our favorite producer of domestic bubbly.

Color: Pale salmon, fine bead, robust mousse.

Nose: Cherry with strawberry cream.

Palate: Starts with citrus, bright cherry and then some cream and lemon at end. Full body. Very good: NewWorldWK.

Rosé:

Why dry rosé, you ask?  Well, it just so happens to match most everything on the table, as well, with its tasty acidity and lack of tannin.  It’s also perfect for those guests that say bubbles give them a headache, or the other one that only eats fish…and drinks bold red wines.

 Georis Carmel Valley Estate Les Abeilles Rosé 2008 – $22

This is the high-end rosé from my favorite winery and the one that introduced me to good, dry rosé.  Just a phenomenal mix of vibrant acidity, complex and juicy fruit, all mingling with some extra floral notes.  Outstanding fun.

[winebadge id=”51487″]

Color: Light salmon pink

Nose: Quite good and a bit crisper than last vintage with bright strawberry, celery root and light florals.

Palate: Also very good and right up there, perhaps even surpassing the superb ’07.  Good complexity again here of bright, crisp red fruit, light fresh garden herbs and even lighter floral notes, finishing with a crisp strawberry, juicy cherry mix! AwesomeWK.

Albret Navarra Rosado Garnacha 2010 – $15

Another Spanish wine here showing very good quality (hmm, could there be a pattern!?).  This has all that I like in my dry pinks: zesty acidity and juicy red fruit, cut with robust citrus.

Color: Light ruby, with almost clear edges.

Nose: Very juicy and bright red fruit on the nose and some red apple as well. Very inviting.

Palate: Very bright, great mix of citrus, tart cherry and cranberry, with some strawberry underneath. Very zesty acidity, some hint of tannins, but still lighter bodied. Good.

 County Line Anderson Valley Elke Home Ranch Rosé 2010 – $18

This is just a heavenly wine, with such crazy complexity for a rosé that you almost forget to just sit back, enjoy and have fun with it…almost.

Color: Beautiful light salmon pink and copper colored.

Nose: Earthier but still ripe and bright, strawberry and cherry.

Palate: Good bright and juicy acidity with the lightest of tannins complement this light-bodied strawberry, raspberry and dusty cherry rosé. Finishes with zesty plum skin. I’ve been a fan of this wine for a number of years, great stuff from Eric Sussman, yet again: NewWorldWK.

Lighter Reds:

OK, you’ve been plowing through the bubbly and dry rosé with your friends whilst avoiding your family and now you’re looking for something a little heavier and YOU’RE RIGHT!  You only want to reach for reds that are on the lighter side; all that tannin, toasty oak, and big alcohol is going to squash your food.  So shoot for things like Pinot and Cabernet Franc, for instance.

Wild Horse Central Coast Pinot Noir 2008 – $20

This is one of my favorite wineries to mention when someone asks me about affordable pinot noir.  Yes, $20 isn’t cheap, but for the finicky grape, it’s quite low, yet this has quality that is quite high: yesss.

Color: Ruby core, light ruby edges

Nose: Distinct fresh cherry pie, complete with toasty pie crust, very bright.

Palate: Cherry pie here as well, fuller body and smooth and chalky mouthfeel, toast out to the cola finish: QPRWK.

[winebadge id=”60608″]

Masút Vineyard and Winery Mendocino Estate Pinot Noir 2009 – $40

This one brings the bigger guns to the table, but only in comparison to other pinot.  This has phenomenal savory aromas and flavors to balance the silky soft tannins and earthy red fruit.  This Estate vineyard is also organically farmed, by the family that brought organic farming to the vino mainstream, the Fetzers.

Color: Medium to lighter ruby, clear edges

Nose: Very reductive at first, but with 30 minutes of air, it totally reverses, showing earthy red fruit, slight baking spice, light toast and slight loam.

Palate: Light bodied, good brightness, earthy red fruit, with nice touches of more savory flavors hinted at, then the light tannins and good acidity kick in for a long spicy, rhubarb and cola finish: OldWorldWK.

 Titus Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Franc 2009 – $36

This one almost breaks my lighter rule with its alcohol, but it’s so sexy smooth and filled with great food pairing components like soft tannins, juicier acidity, and nice savory notes that it fits right in with this crew.

Color: Deeper ruby with some highlights of violet, medium ruby edges.

Nose: Very good, with some integrating toast, followed by cherry tobacco, deep red fruit with darker hints of cassis and some rose petal just showing through, loam.

Palate: Very smooth and while bigger in alcohol, the balance is definitely here, with that same deep red/black fruit from the nose, soft and almost silky tannins and very food-friendly acidity, all with a finish that show some savory earthiness, sweeter tobacco and toast: NewWorldWK.

And there ya go!  You can find all of these wines tagged with “2011Holidays” to put in your own WineLog and they are also conveniently listed below.  Cheers!

[winelist query=”2011Holidays” num=”100″]

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