Spirits of the Season 2014: Fabulous Affordable Sparklers, Cavas and Proseccos For Holidays

Spirits of the Season 2014 will bring you the hottest new recipes, spirits and wines from the coolest distilleries, vineyards, restaurants and bars from all across the globe!

The holidays and sparkling wines, be it Champagne, Cavas, Proseccos or ‘Methode Champenoise’ sparkling wines are joined at the hip.   Champagne (France), Cava (Spain) or Prosecco (Italy) are the classic wine choices for parties and celebrations. Lucky for us some of the best sparkling wines are made in California.

Below are a fantastic selection of under $30 (most under $25) wines to have on hand, as these wines add depth to a range of savory, seafood, poultry and meaty flavors; they have an unparalleled crisp acidity that cuts through rich, fatty dishes and are brilliant with a variety of cheeses as appetizer courses and a few that were meant to serve with desserts.

Check out the newcomer:

Freixenet Cordon Negro Sweet Cuvée

freix use
Brand new to the USA market, this Freixenet varietal is a sweeter finish and perfect to pair with a spicier menu.  Make sure to have an array of Freixenet on hand for holiday mornings, brunches and unexpected crowds.

“What’s the secret of good wine? There isn’t one. The land and the vines give us their best, while we contribute all our skills of refinement, along with experience and ingenuity.”
- winemaker José Ferrer Sala

freix

Freixenet’s “black bottle bubbly” Cordon Negro, is a family-owned company that grew from humble beginnings in rural Catalunya. Food & Wine Magazine recommends Freixenet as a winery to visit in their article on Spanish Wine Country. It is one of three Penedès wineries featured.
Food & Wine Magazine, October 2013 “Propelled by the phenomenal success of its two flagship cavas, Carta Nevada and Cordon Negro, Freixenet has become an international powerhouse, with wineries and vineyards all over the world. Still family-owned, it’s a terrific source for consistently delicious and well-priced cava.”

Whether you reach for buttery pastry or crisp bacon at brunch this Christmas, have a mimosa made with Cordon Negro’s Sweet Cuvée ($12). With a charmingly smooth palate and lower acidity than a typical sparkler, this sweeter version of the “Black Bottle Bubbly” mixes perfectly with fresh orange juice for a new take on a classic cocktail.

Freixenet focuses solely on méthode champenoise wines, and continually innovates and invests in the latest winemaking technology to bring quality affordable sparkling wines to market.  Newcomer Cordon Negro Sweet Cuvée is delicious, refreshing and smooth redolent of peaches and cream with lively pinpoint bubbles that raise through the glass.

The roots of Freixenet stretch back to 1861 and are embedded in the history of two longstanding winemaking families, the Ferrers (Gloria Ferrer is a California notable vineyard) and the Salas, who collectively have delivered inexpensive and fantastic méthode champenoise sparkling wines of note to the entire world.

Mia Sparkling Moscato

mia-bt-moscato

Light, sweet and crisp, pair with salty appetizers or serve with a dessert. Mia launched thanks to the passion of a young Barcelona winemaker named Gloria Collell, who partnered with Freixenet to realize her dream of marrying the diverse grape culture of Spain with the flair of Barcelona. They sell charming little splits of this wine too, a great stocking stuffer for the ‘of age’ gift recipients.

Sweeter finish than the bruts and cuvees, Mia Sparkling Moscato has a delightful fruity aroma and a hint of floral notes, a perfect blend of sweetness and acidity creates a delicious, bubbly finish. From the freshly pressed must of Moscato grapes and a small addition of Tempranillo red wine, alcoholic fermentation starts slowly, at controlled temperatures, in stainless steel tanks until 5-5.5% alcohol is reached. The tanks are then hermetically sealed, and a second fermentation – called “prise de mousse” – is started at a lower temperature. When the alcohol reaches 7%, we stop the fermentation by reducing the temperature to 30F. The wine is then filtered to remove any remaining yeasts and transferred to a sealed, controlled temperature tank and prepared for bottling.

VOVETI Prosecco

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VOVETI Prosecco DOC is a drier and more Champagne like finish than the Mia, and perfect to serve with a meal or with an assortment of cheeses from Spain and Italy. It’s lovely and refined, more than La Marca which seems to be everywhere, this is a wee bit harder to find but make an effort-it’s actually LESS costly than La Marca, and so much better.

This top-notch Prosecco comes from a cool-climate viticulture of northern Italy’s most acclaimed Prosecco regions in Veneto, predominately Valdobbiadene, Vidor, Col San Martino, and is vinified from the superb winemaking skills of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, in total over 100 years of family winemaking expertise. Together with the Ferrer family’s sparkling wine legacy with the Collavini family’s mastery in crafting some of Italy’s finest whites, we benefit here with this refreshing Prosecco that has a lingering depth and sophisticated finish.  I would recommend having this on hand in multiples.

Grapes are hand-harvested late in September and transported to the winery in 10 liter lug boxes to protect them from bruising and pre-mature crushing.  Blended from different base prosecco grapes and multi-sourced for complexity of flavors and textures.

 

Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad

segura bottle
For the holiday table, we recommend Reserva Heredad, pictured above.  Drier and still creamy with hints of brioche, honey, fruit and flower petals with a palate impression that is fruity and full of flavor delivering a delightful sense of abundance, it goes with practically everything you could be dishing out this holiday season. Slightly more expensive, this is so worth the investment (Total Wine sells it for under $20) and the impressive sexy bottle makes it the perfect gift wine to bring to a party. It’s one of our favorite Cavas hands down.

From the renowned Cava region of Spain, the Segura Viudas wines come from the renowned Penedès region of Spain just outside of Barcelona. Segura Viudas handcrafts distinctive, artisan méthode champenoise sparkling wines. All the Cavas from Segura Viudas are fine bubbles for the price. Winemaker Gabriel Suberviola blends the highest quality grapes, producing this exceptional Cava with personality and complexity.Segura Viudas has always focused on quality, expressing the ancestral vineyards and the special indigenous vines grown there, while utilizing the most modern technology.  Reserva Heredad is described as the estate’s crown jewel, a Cava blended from just Macabeo and Parellada that enjoys aging on the lees for 30 months or longer and riddling by hand.

Today, seven of Segura Viudas’ most outstanding sparkling wines are available, in limited quantity, here in America: Brut, Extra Dry, Brut Rosé, Gran Cuvée Reserva, Reserva Heredad, ARIA Brut, ARIA Extra Dry, and ARIA Pinot Noir.

segura group

 

 

Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs

blanc de noirs
Non-Vintage from Carneros, California

Exceptional wines come from Gloria Ferrer vineyard, the offspring of Freixenet of Spain, the world’s largest producer of sparkling wine. Drawn to the promise of California, Freixenet established a California winery, naming it after the wife of Freixenet’s president.  Their winery in Carneros is one of the best stops in all of Wine Country. Visit the aging caves carved in the hillside and enjoy the sun-soaked deck while noshing on roasted almonds and tasting and sipping their varietals, it’s a must do!.

Carneros is a part of Napa Valley, straddling both Sonoma and Napa counties. It’s the Napa region closest to the San Francisco peninsula and the San Pablo Bay, which is instrumental in controlling the climate of the area. The winds from the San Pablo bay create a cool weather pattern ideal for growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes.

Both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Carneros are delicate, yet complex, with firm structure and acidity. And while the pair are the most popular varieties of the region, some winemakers have branched out, particularly with Syrah. The cool climate Syrah of Carneros is well structured and stylistically similar to Syrah from the Northern Rhone, though often fuller-bodied.

Blanc de Noirs is predominantly made from hand-harvested Pinot Noir grapes, which are a vibrant red fruit character. A distinctive blend of 92% Pinot and 8% Chardonnay, this light-bodied sparkling wine displays has a blush, a slight pink color resulting from a special pressing technique. Bright strawberry and black cherry aromas underscored with vanilla highlights. Stone fruit and citrus define its lush palate, with pinpoint small, lively bubbles and a creamy finish.  The rosy hue are a result of a small addition of Vin Gris, which was blended into the base cuvée. Over forty different clones and selections of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are planted on their 340-acre estate in the Sonoma Carneros district. This allows Gloria Ferrer to consistently produce cuvées with complexity and even standards.

It’s pretty darn sexy, and not too expensive. Buy a case.

Accolades:

  • “Fun and festive, with floral raspberry and graham cracker aromas leading to crisp and succulent lemon and strawberry flavors. A reliable value in California bubbly.”
    – -90 Points Wine Spectator
  • 96 POINTS – 2014 Press Democrat North Coast Wine Challenge
  • 95 POINTS, BEST OF CLASS – 2014 California State Fair
  • 2014 GOLD MEDALS- Dallas Morning News Affairs of the Vine
  • 87 POINTS, SILVER MEDAL – 2014 Sommelier Challenge
  • 92 POINTS, GOLD MEDAL, BEST OF CLASS – 2013 Los Angeles International Wine Competition
  • 90 POINTS, EDITOR’S CHOICE – “Deliciousness marks this blend of 92% Pinot Noir and 8% Chardonnay. It’s forward and sweet in raspberries, strawberries and vanilla, with hints of brioche, white chocolate and buttered toast. Gorgeous all by itself, it will pair well with everything from sushi to steak.”
    Wine Enthusiast, Advance Buying Guide, November 2013
  • 88 POINTS – “Creamy raspberry and spicy red apple aromas lead to crisp yet succulent cherry and graham cracker flavors. One of the most consistent values in California sparkling wine.” – Wine Spectator, November 2013
  • 2013 GOLD MEDALS
    Affairs of the Vine Wine Competition
    Critics Challenge International Wine Competition
    Florida State Fair
    Indiana International Wine Competition
    International Womens Wine Competition
    LA International Wine Competition – Double Gold
    North of the Gate Wine Competition – Double Gold, Best of Show
    Orange County Fair
    Riverside Wine Competition- Double Gold, Best of Class
    San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition
    Sonoma County Harvest Fair – Double Gold
    Sunset International Wine Competition
    U S National Wine Competition
    Channel TVAwards aka Next Gen – Double Gold, Best of Show
    Winemakers Challenge
    Pinot Noir Shootout
  • 90 POINTS
    “Fun and festive, with floral raspberry and graham cracker aromas leading to crisp and succulent lemon and strawberry flavors. A reliable value in California bubbly.”- Wine Spectator, October 2012
  • SWEEPSTAKES WINNER
    Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs wins the sweepstakes at the Pacific Rim Wine Competition in San Bernardino. View article Pacific Rim Wine Competition, April 26, 2012
  • 90 POINTS, EDITORS’ CHOICE
    “There’s a lot going on for the price in this honeyed, rich blush wine. Pinot Noir gives hints of strawberries, while Chardonnay contributes limes and oranges. The result is a smooth, crisp sipper for drinking now.” – Wine Enthusiast, December 15, 2011
  • 2011 GOLD MEDALS
    California State Fair Wine Competition
    Critics Challenge International Wine Competition
    Florida State Fair – Double Gold, Best of Show Sparkling Wine
    Grand Harvest Awards
    Indiana International Wine Competition
    International Eastern Wine Competition
    International Women’s Wine Competition
    Jefferson Cup Invitational
    Monterey Wine Competition
    National Orange/Pacific Rim Wine Competition
    New World Wine Competition – Double Gold, Best of Class
    Next Generation Wine Competition
    North of the Gate Wine Competition – Double Gold, Best of Class, Sweepstakes
    Riverside Wine Competition
    San Diego Wine Competition
    San Francisco International Wine Competition – Double Gold
    Sonoma County Harvest Fair
    West Coast Wine Competition
  • 91 POINTS, EDITORS’ CHOICE
    “More full-bodied than the winery’s brut, this Pinot Noir-based bubbly also is richer. It’s just beautiful in raspberries and strawberries, with brighter touches of lime, and although the wine has a honeyed sweetness, its zesty acidity makes it finish dry.” – Wine Enthusiast, December 15, 2010
  • 89 POINTS
    “Vibrant and loaded with fruit, but still crisp, showing zesty flavors of strawberry, graham cracker and spice.” – Wine Spectator, December 31, 2010
  • 88 POINTS
    “A touch of fruit sweetness makes this a gentle, rosy sparkler…” Wine & Spirits, December 2010
  • 91 POINTS – “Reddish-peach hue; very active mousse with a fine stream of bubbles. Alluring bouquet of sliced green apple and cherry fruit. Creamy palate with caramel, pear and citrus notes in a foamy texture. Tart stone fruit with sweet cherry overtones in an elegant finish.”
    Wine News, December 2008/January 2009
  • 90 POINTS, EDITORS’ CHOICE – “Almost exclusively Pinot Noir, this is a deeply colored, full-bodied wine, rich and crisp in strawberries, lees and vanilla. A touch of Chardonnay adds a refreshing note of lime. Delicious and easy to like, especially at this price point.”
    Wine Enthusiast , December 31, 2009
  • “Smoother mouthfeel than most; lots of ripe fruit.” – Consumer Reports, January 2013
  • “Rich and aromatic, this is pinot noir on fine display. Full and pungent, a meaty sparkler that works well with food.” – US Airways Magazine, January 2012
  • “A Simple, Sparkling Brunch for Mother’s Day” View article – Wine Spectator, May 3, 2011

Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs

blanc de blancs
Non-Vintage sparkling wine from Carneros, California

Made exclusively from hand-harvested Chardonnay, Ferrer’s Blanc de Blancs is the superb result of meticulous grape growing, artisan cellar practices and a winemaker’s considerable blending skills. Blanc de Blancs is prized among sparkling wine connoisseurs for the flavor profile, the rich textural qualities, complex aromas and flavors, flat-out elegance and solid aging potential that Chardonnay offers.

This was our favorite of all the sparklers tested, all of which were pretty fantastic especially for the price point. The Blanc de Blancs taste is dry and crisp and laced with enticing orange blossom bouquet, with some aromas of apple, citrus and a touch of white chocolate with a lively fine bubble trail and creamy mousse on the tongue. On the palate, the wine is clean and incredibly versatile to pair foods with as it delivers a well-balanced finish.

Serve this with scallops, shrimp dishes, salmon, baked halibut and fresh oysters. Drink it naked. Have it on hand! A fabulous find.

*For cheese, pair alongside a rich Brie or soft goat cheese or a baked Havarti en croute, here is a super easy recipe for that fabulous appetizer and a twist on the ubiquitous Baked Brie everyone else serves:

EASY Baked Havarti with dill en croute

  • Take one frozen puff pastry sheet; let it thaw enough to flatten on a floured surface like a cutting board.
  • Take a package of creamy Havarti cheese (6 x6 x 1) –  set aside
  • Spread good (Maille) Dijon style mustard on pastry, not too heavily. Snip fresh dill over the mustard, lay the cheese in the middle and wrap it up like a Christmas present with the dough.
  • Bake in 350 degree oven until dough is crusty golden brown- about 20 minutes.

Will be enough for 10 people to sample, or 4 cheese freaks

Accolades:

  • 91 POINTS, GOLD MEDAL – 2014 Sommelier Challenge
  • 89 Points Wine Spectator

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