People who love to drink wine are always the best people

To paraphrase the quote about food from Julia Child, the best part of attending the Colorado Mountain Wine Fest is the people you meet.  From the new friends we met on the bus tour, to our VIP tent compadres, to the people manning the wine tasting booths, and all the vendors and festival organizers, there was not a bad egg in the bunch.

This year we opted to spring for the expensive VIP experience again because last year it was so worth it.  Just a short line to get into the tent, where we were greeted with a “breakfast” of a deviled egg prepared by culinary students from Western Colorado Community College.  The food kept coming all day, too.  Charcuterie, Chinese steamed buns, mediterranean tuna sandwiches, salmon and avocado, coconut cream, macarons, and on and on.  In the VIP tent, all of the award winning wines from The Governor’s Cup and Mesa County Fair were available for tasting, although we wish they were ALL available ALL day because I didn’t get a sip of my favorite Grande River Sauvignon Blanc until late in the day.

With over 50 participating wineries, our plan was to only visit award winners and people who were are friends.  We stopped in at Black Arts Cellar to try our luck at “Corcko”, say hello to our neighborhood winery, and taste their delicious Le Diable and Le Mort.

There are way too many wines and wineries to mention so we will just mention some of our favorites:  Graystone port (that’s all they do, and they do it well!), Kingman Estates 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Fox Fire Farms Traminette, and our favorite from the bus tour, Whitewater Hill 2014 Shiraz.

Next to our friends at Black Arts and Turquoise Mesa, the award for the friendliest winery of the day goes to Vino Salida, who lured us to their booth with the promise of a mead like we’ve never had.  That was true, but it was their 2013 Petit Verdot and 2014 Stomp Syrah/Zin blend that made us promise to take a day trip out to see them.  What great people.

However, our favorite of the favorites are Mary Joan Bueb and her gang of jesters at Turquoise Mesa.  Just like last year, we ended the day hanging out in their booth, sneaking tastes of the Cabernet Franc with the green chile bouquet, and meeting new friends from Bookcliff Vineyards, who were not officially in attendance, but helped Mary Joan out in the booth.

It was another great day, and we are already saving the date for 2017.  One sad note:  Aspen Peak Cellars suffered a tragedy last week when a semi-trailer failed to negotiate a curve, destroying their building in Bailey, CO.  Our condolences to them, and we sure missed them at the Winefest.

 

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Grand Valley Wine Country Bus Tour

Last year we enjoyed the all day scenic wine country bus tour so much that we knew we had to do it again, but this year we agreed that we wanted to have more wine and less driving.  So, we opted for the half-day tour, which promised a limo-bus and 4 wineries in 4 hours.

First stop, the Wine Country Inn, to have a little hair o’ the dog (see yesterday’s post about staying up to late drinking too much wine), a BLT and some veggie fries.  Not for nothing, this Inn is really, really, nice.  Someday, when our ship comes in, we may stay there.

IMG_3034.jpgJust like last year we picked the bus up in Riverbend Park in Palisade.  Our awesome driver Richard greeted us with a big smile, and we were on our way.  And that’s when I realized I had left my memory card in my pc back in Denver.  Blogger fail.  These pictures are all from our trusty iphones.

 

First up, Colorado Cellars, the oldest winery in Colorado, founded in 1978!  They grow their own grapes, keep bees for honey wine if you like that sort of thing, and are family owned and operated.  We tasted the Chardonnay, the Pinot Grigio, Cab Sauv, Merlot and Syrah, but the highlight was a taste of one of their library wines, a beautiful 1985 Cabernet Sauvignon.  

 

Next up, Carlson Vineyards  We had done our research and knew Carlson had some Governor’s Cup award winners, so we were eager to check it out.  They had a tent set up in the backyard under the trees for the tasting, with at least 20 wines on offer, most of them sweet or fruit.

One of us loved the Cougar Run Calico, a bordeaux style red, fruity and full of blackberry.  The other favorite was the T-Red – Lemberger.  Super dry, with a strong licorice bouquet.  Peter Carlson himself gave us a little lecture on the lemberger grape, since it was new to us.  Apparently it’s an Eastern European varietal, grown in Washington, Oregon, The Finger Lakes of NY, and, lucky for us, Colorado!  Many of our tour buddies were enjoying a little cocktail of peach wine mixed with some sugar and spice to taste like a warm peach cobbler in a cup, as well as cherry n chocolate dessert wine, served with a swipe of chocolate sauce on the edge of the glass.

It was harvest time and the pickers were out in force, but we intervened to taste some sweet grapes right off the vine.  Kaylin (sorry if we misspell your name) told us to walk to the top of a hill to get some prime views of the valley below.  Thanks!

Next up, Whitewater Hill, Governor’s Cup double-gold and gold medal winners for their 2014 Shiraz, 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, respectively. Nancy gave us a nice little overview of the vineyard before our tasting, which did NOT disappoint.  The award-winning Shiraz was especially yummy, with that signature spicy flavor and the soft tannins.  We also really enjoyed 2014 Ethereal, which was a blend of Cab Franc, Cab Sauv, Shiraz and Merlot.  These were truly some of the best wines we tasted on this tour.  Whitewater has a massive vineyard, from which is supplies many of the other wineries in the region, including some of our favorites, like Alfred Eames and Augustina’s.

 

We rounded out the day at Debeque Canyon Winery.  They were prepared for a crowd, with 2 additional temporary tasting tables and a to-die-for chocolate cherry cake fresh-baked to pair with the chocolate-loving red wines.  When I mentioned I was saving my taste of Merlot for the chocolate cake, our tasting hostess, with a little glint in her eye, reached under the counter and pulled out her special stash of dark chocolate.  What a transformation that was!  She then gave us specific instructions for tasting the Pinot Noir…take a bite of chocolate, taste the wine, and finish with a bite of chocolate.  This particular pinot noir was rife with the taste of scotch whiskey, very desserty, but not in a sweet way.  We found the standouts at the winery were the dry reds…Merlot, Cab Franc and Cab Sauv, in addition to the Pinot Noir mentioned.

Filled with wine and chocolate, we waddled back to the bus and to home.  We made some great friends on the bus again this year, but have to say we missed Monty, our guide from last year.

Tomorrow we attend the festival!  Make no mistake, we’ll be first in line when they open.

The drive to our Colorado wine mecca, a yummy dinner, and a cool condo.

This weekend is our second annual pilgrimage to Palisade, CO to attend the Colorado Mountain Wine Festival.  It’s the largest festival featuring Colorado wines, and ever since we recovered from last year’s, we have been planning to attend again.

We could tell from the start that this would be another charmed trip…traveling west from Denver on I-70 in the middle of rush hour we hit no traffic jams, and in a quick 4 hours we made it to Grand Junction, CO.  It was a beautiful drive, with startling yellow aspens just starting to dot the hillsides, and it’s always a shock to see the alpine landscape turn into the stark gray mesas of western Colorado.

On the drive we were very serious about finding a place to eat, and since we were celebrating birthdays, Yelp told us about Bin 707 Foodbar.  We made a beeline right there, sat at the bar and had a manhattan-like cocktail, some rosé and white wine, and a delicious charcuterie.  The highpoint of that selection was the chicken liver paté, which was served in a small glass jar with sourdough bread.  We did have ambitions to try the crispy cauliflower and truffle fries, but decided we couldn’t fit another bite, and headed out to our condo.

These events are the perfect opportunity to check out online home rental marketplaces.  Hotels are overpriced during festivals, and having a place with a living and dining room where we can eat most of our meals and work at night, meets all our needs.  We have also found that individually owned condos or houses are nicer and about half the price per night, and we each get our own bed and bath.  This year we hit the motherlode.  On VRBO we found a very nice woman named Lizzy who has a beautiful condo that is clearly a 2nd home, so it was spotless with all the amenities we needed, plus some extras that she graciously left for us, like soaps, lotions, a good blow dryer, coffee, creamer, and bottled water.  Today while we were out (she asked if it was okay) she left homemade cookies and some Palisades peaches.  Who does that?  We love you Lizzy!

We stayed up way too late and drank way too much wine, agreeing that even if the rest of the weekend was crappy, we already were way ahead of the game.

The 6 S’s of Wine Assessment

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SEE:  While the least informative part of the assessment, one can deduce come clues as to the grape type and age of thawing through sight.

SWIRL:  This does more than just make you look super cool. It actually volatilizes the alcohol and aromas of the wine to help carry them to the dime sized patch of nerves responsible for smell, the olfactory epithelium. Swirl for 6 seconds.

SMELL:  Quite possibly the most important step of testing. It is at this stage that one can tell if a wine is flawed and really get a great idea of the grape type. With your nose in the glass, you smell the wine’s aroma. As you pull the glass away from the nose, you smell its bouquet.

SIP:  Now, the real fun begins – smelling is fine, but drinking is better! At this point, it is important to recall that we aren’t drinking, just tasting. So, just draw enough wine into your mouth to be able to spread it all around – about .25 – .5 oz.

SWISH:  One of the biggest differences between taking and drinking. Basically, pretreat that the wine is mouthwash and get it all over the surfaces of your mouth. This will help you assess the structure of the wine an deduce its origin. For example, if you feel a prickle on the end of your tongue, the wine contains sugar.

and finally,

SPIT:  In a professional environment, we taste too many wines to swallow them all and still be able to be helpful, so we prefer to expectorate. However, most of the time, we prefer to swallow!

Uncork Colorado Virtual Wine Tasting

Last night we were invited, along with other bloggers and media folk, to taste five Colorado wines..all of them 2015 Governor’s Cup Competition winners.  (http://coloradowine.com/governors-cup/).  The event is the second in a series of 3.  The tasters (that’s us!) interacted with the winemakers and other tasters virtually, via Twitter.  We also periscoped the event, which we have edited down to a few snippets:

The format started with each taster receiving 5 bottles of wine.  Most received them in the mail, but we are lucky enough to be local, so attended the event at Turquoise Mesa Winery in Broomfield, CO with Mary Joan and Tom Bueb as our hosts.  Also in attendance were 3 of the 4 winemakers in person, as well as Doug Caskey, the Executive Director of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board.  He and Kyle Schlachter, the Research and Outreach Coordinator from the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board, tweeted throughout.

We were allowed to send questions to the winemakers ahead of time (we didn’t) and ask some at the beginning of the session.  Then the tasting began.  Ten minutes for each wine, tweeting as we went.

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Wine 1:  Bookcliff Vineyards​ 2014 Viognier.  This wine is 100% Viognier, one of our favorite white varietals. The official tasting notes say tropical fruits on the nose and firm minerality on the palate.  Aromas of honeydew and cantaloupe precede flavors of wet stone and hints of lemon grass.  Tasting consensus:  All of the above with some pear.  One taster was new to Viognier but loved this one.

John Garlich and Ulla Mertz, the owners of Bookcliff, were in the room with us and had these additional comments/answers to tweets:  Frost affected the 2014 Harvest but Viognier fared better than other varietals. Apparently this varietal is susceptible to over cropping in a bountiful harvest like 2015.  This wine pairs well with salmon because the oil in the salmon smooths the tannic finish.

Wine 2:  Turquoise Mesa Winery​ 2013 Colorado Crimson.  This is a Rhone-Style blend of Colorado Syrah, Mourvedre, and Viognier. The official tasting notes say blackberry, black pepper, black currant, hints of floral.
The abundant flavors are complemented with smooth tannins that ensure a smooth mouthfeel and will age gracefully.  We tasted light spice, pepper, and a little bourbon (not sure why).

Mary Joan and Tom gracious as always, replied to a specific tweet that the  Colorado Crimson blend may differ from one year to the next depending on the availability of the grapes.  This wine has paired lovely with lamb (Colorado lamb is arguably the best in the world) and with striped sea bass.  One other taster noted via Twitter that it was a “nice solitary sipper.”

Wine 3:   Boulder Creek Winery 2012 Syrah We had no official tasting notes but did find out that this wine was aged 14 months in 2-year old Hungarian oak barrels, and we did know that the 2013 Syrah was “big, velvety, jammy and bold”  With the help of Mike Thompson from Boulder Creek sitting across from us at the table, we learned that this vintage was less big, less jammy, and more dry.  Other tasters noted “good spice, long finish, bright fruit, earthy fruit, broad palate.”

In response to a tweet Mike noted that that Hungarian Oak (and European oak in general) is more vanilla flavored than the American Oak varieties, and that this wine pairs well with lamb, elk and wild boar.

We are really sad this winery is closing it’s doors on December 13, but as Mike says, he is “ready to drink wine instead of producing it”.

Wine 4:   Turquoise Mesa Winery 2013 Syrah  This wine is 100% Syrah, and the official tasting notes say aromas of berries, pepper, black tea, cocoa, and hints of oak.  Flavors are balanced with firm tannins and a broad, smooth mouthfeel.  We got a lovely dry wine, tannins on the back of our tongues, more spice than the other Syrahs, as well as “dusty tannins”, “velvet texture”.   This was a wine we had tasted before because it tied for Best of Show award at Colorado’s 2015 Governor’s Cup Competition.

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Wine 5:  Anemoi 2013 Lips
This wine is also 100% Syrah,producing aromas of cherry cola, coffee, cedar wood, raspberry jam and creamy vanilla. Chokecherry, pencil shavings, freshly ground coffee, and a touch of chocolate and bay leaf and perfect balance in this second vintage of Lips.  We tasted a little vanilla and dust, too.  “Simply delicious”, “Long Finish” were some of the tasting notes.  One taster said it had him craving herb-crusted lamb chops.

Canyon Winds didn’t have a representative with us in the room but Jay Christianson was a tweeting fool for  Canyon Winds Winery.  The wax seal on the Anemoi Lips stymied some, was aesthetically pleasing to others.

Anemoi tied for the Best of Show award at Colorado’s 2015 Governor’s Cup Competition.

This event was designed to promote Colorado wines and we hope you will try some if you get the chance.  If you would like to follow any of the wineries please click the links in the tasting summaries above, and for more wine fun follow the other #uncorkColorado tasters on their blogs:

dallaswinechick.com

Lenn Thompson newyorkcorkreport.com

William Pollard Jr wild4washingtonwine.com

Dezel Quillen myvinespot.com

Mary Cressler vindulgeblog.com

Michelle Cleveland (@MCWineMaker)

Finally THANK YOU Doug and Kyle for hosting this stellar event.   We can’t wait for the next one on January 21, 2016, when we will be tasting and tweeting (twasting?) fruit wines, mead, ciders and dessert wines.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this format of wine tasting or on this event in particular.  Leave a comment and let us know!

 

Colorado Mountain Wine Fest Day One: Scenic Wine Country Bus Tour

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We just got home from the Scenic Wine Country Bus Tour, as part of the Colorado Mountain Winefest, and we were thrilled with the experience.  To be honest, we thought we would go from one winery to another, have lunch, then more wineries, and then come home.  While the wine was certainly a big part of this tour, the tour itself, with Monty Haltiner as the guide, and Levi of Smith Coaches as our fearless (and I mean it….there were hairpin turns that I wouldn’t go around in my car) as our bus driver, was definitely the highlight.  We got to sample wines at 3 places, ate lunch at a wine country deli/winery/art gallery, and spent a lot of time on the bus checking out the scenery.  Monty’s passion for the geology of the region made the tour so special that it exceeded our expectations.  If you’ve never toured the Grand Mesa, doing it in the comfort of an air conditioned bus, with the sweet buzz of some Colorado wines in your blood, is the best way to do it.

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We had tastings by very gracious hosts at Red Fox Cellars, Alfred Eames Cellars at Puerta del Sol Vineyards, and Williams Cellars.  Each winery was pretty far from the other, which gave us time to meet our fellow winos, which was also a highlight.  We were treated to lunch by The Apple Shed Deli, and that was delicious, also.  We picked up some yummy smelling candles in the gift shop, too.  We restrained ourselves from purchasing any of the beautiful artwork and flavored olive oil…but just barely.

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Monty is super knowledgeable about the Colorado wine industry, as well as the Grand Valley area in general.  You get the idea that if you asked him where to find anything he would have the right answer.

What a great day!  Tomorrow is the Wine Festival, and we are VIP’s, baby!  We hope to see some of these folks there…

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Have you ever toured the Grand Mesa or Grand Junction/Palisade?  What was your experience?

Summer Wines: Viogniers and Pinots and Rosés, oh my!

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“It’s apocalyptic!” That’s what we heard someone gasp during a particularly heavy rainstorm at Red Rocks the other night.  Okaaaaay….we wouldn’t go THAT far, but certainly Colorado is experiencing unusually rainy weather this year.  We haven’t had a full week without rain, when typically it’s unusual to go a full week with rain. It does make the trees and grass green, and if anyone complains about the rain, other Coloradans will admonish “We really need it, though”. And that’s the truth. Our summers are usually hot and dry and we’ve had many years of drought.

Which brings us to our latest blog and video topic: Summer Wines. One of the many pleasures of doing what we do is sampling..err, or maybe more than a sample…wines in all kinds of weather. Believe me when I say our corkscrews could do a LOT of talking about 20 years’ of lazy summer afternoons that transition into cool Colorado evenings on either of The Two Wine Women’s back decks.

Today we are talking about 5 summer wines: A rosé from France, an Italian Pinot Grigio, Viognier from Washington State (with a nod to Virginia Viognier), a Napa Valley Zinfandel, and a French Cabernet Sauvignon.

  1. 2013 Domaine De la Modorée Rosé Côtes du Rhône – Fruity and floral on the nose, dry and mineral taste. Meg tasted some tannins in this one, and Beth tasted some strawberry and watermelon. It’s a refreshing wine, and would pair well with anything. (Except later that evening we paired it with a rather stinky triple crème cheese, and it made both the cheese and the wine taste bad).
  2. Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio – A very widely distributed wine. Crisp, clean, with flavors of tropical fruit. It’s a very versatile food wine. Just a note: Pinot Grigio is what this varietal is called in Italy, but other places call it Pinot Gris.
  3. Cougar Crest 2013 Estate Grown Viognier – Walla Walla Valley, Washington. Has some characteristics of Chardonnay, smells of citrus fruits, super strong aroma.  Pairs well with all types of summer food, but is also “a drinker” (a wine that does not need to be drunk with food).
  4. Rosenblum Vintner Cuvee XXXVI Zinfandel – A heavy red wine like this one is not the first thing that comes to mind when it’s hot out, but this smooth wine with subtle tannins and cherry, plum, vanilla and mocha flavors lends itself well to pork ribs, hamburgers, or the usual bbq suspects.
  5. Fat Bastard Cabernet Sauvignon – Screw top!  Super convenient for on-the-go, like watching fireworks in the park on Independence Day.  Plus, this smooth, peppery wine with a long finish also pairs well with barbecued meats, and is accessible to just about everyone, in terms of price point and distribution.

The thing about drinking wine in the summer is that you typically want to have something refreshing, because it’s HOT! The 2 white wines and the 1 Rosé we mentioned in our video are certainly that, as are other light whites, like white Burgundy, white Bourdeaux, and California Sauvignon Blanc, to name a few.

However, we all have that friend who will only drink red wines, or the poser who believes red meat = red wine, so, even hamburgers on the grill or pork ribs smothered in BBQ Sauce require a red. If you have those people in your life, or if you run out of white wine at your backyard party, you can certainly find a place for red wine in the Summer. For barbecue sauce, with its smoky, spicy and sometimes sweet flavors, think young, spicy, and/or fruity. A Côtes due Rhône or a Zinfandel should pair nicely. Grilled meats like burgers or steaks will go nicely with a young Cabernet, Zinfandel, or Beaujolais.

To learn more about the wines mentioned in this blog post, please view our video, and tell us about your favorite wines!

Thanks for stopping by.

The Russian River Valley

One of our first “If Our Corkscrews Could Talk” adventures was in our favorite place to go wine tasting: The Russian River Valley, in Sonoma County, CA. Sonoma is arguably the 2nd most well-known wine region in the United States (next to the Napa Valley), and while Napa and Sonoma are in close proximity to each other, we think they are a world apart in many ways.

The Russian River Valley is an American Viticultural Area (AVA) and got its name when the Russians came down from Alaska and settled Fort Ross at the mouth of the River. They eventually offered to help Mexico keep those intrusive United States citizens out of the region, but Mexico’s response was to create more settlements in the area and protect it themselves. Those settlers planted the first grapes. The Russians eventually left, and when gold was discovered, the first wine boom occurred. The rest is history, albeit a very slow moving history until the 1960’s when farmers in the area were urged to grow cool climate grapes like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

What we like about The Russian River Valley is the winding back roads, the wineries hidden up long driveways, less traffic than Napa, the river, and its laid-back vibe.  (In fact, on our first trip in 1999 they weren’t even charging for wine tasting yet).  But most of all, because the growing conditions and varietals of the grapes are so diverse, a visit to RRV (we figure we can use the locals lingo since we have so much of their wine running in our veins) means we can sample just about any kind of wine…the above-mentioned Chard and Pinot, as well as Zinfandel, Shiraz, and Pinot Gris….you name it, and you will find a good one in RRV.

In our latest YouTube video, we talk about three particular varietals from the Russian River Valley:

  1. 2012 Martin Ray Chardonnay – Fruit forward, green apples, pear, lemon. Crisp, clean and not oaky at all. We can imagine drinking this outside on the deck as the sun sets on your vineyard. Everyone has a vineyard, right?
  2. Arista Pinot Noir – We decanted this very special pinot to bring out all these deep, dark flavors of cherry, cola, raspberries, and plum flavors.
  3. Bearboat Syrah – A spicy wine with dark fruit pairs great with rich and spicy food.

Please watch our video to learn more about these 3 awesome wines, and about our favorite wine destination.

And here is our obligatory Call To Action!  If you like what you see on this blog, please subscribe to get our updates, subscribe to our videos, and give us a thumbs up just for grins. Thanks for reading and watching!

– The TWW

All About Sparkling Wine

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What better way to celebrate than with a glass of sparkling bubbles?

We often hear people talk about “champagne” as a generic term for sparkling wine, but it should be reserved for sparkling wines that come from the Champagne wine region of France.  Other popular sparkling wines are Cava, from Spain, and Prosecco from Italy.

The 3 types of sparkling wine we discuss here have different characteristics:

Champagne:  Legally, only sparkling wine that is made from grapes of the Champagne wine region of France is supposed to be called Champagne.  Sort of.  Some wineries in the U.S. have been grandfathered to allow the use of the term champagne via a very complicated legal decision, which dates back to the Treaty of Versailles.  You can read more about it here.

But we digress…

Champagne must also follow the rules about secondary fermentation to produce bubbles, and be made according to the appellation rules.  Champagne is made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay grapes.  One dubious legend states that Dom Perignon invented champagne by accident, crying “I’m drinking stars!”  Truthfully, while he did contribute a lot to improving the quality of wines in Champagne, the credit for “inventing” sparkling wine should go to a 17th-Century English scientist named Christopher Merret.

Cava:  This popular Spanish sparkling wine is made in Catalonia, with some unusual and not so common grape varieties:  macabeu, parellada and xarel·lo, or in the case of rosé cava, a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha or Monastre grapes are added.  Cava is a relative newcomer to the sparkling wine world, dating only to the 1870’s, when the winemaker Josep Raventós traveled to Champagne for inspiration on what to do with a large volumne of white grapes in the vineyard in Penedès.

Prosecco:  The Italian version of sparkling wine is made in the very northeastern part of Italy.  The grape, Glera, originated in the town of Prosecco, near Treiste.  Trieste is nestled between Croatia and Slovenia on the Adriatic coast.

Both Cava and Prosecco can be tasty, inexpensive substitutes for Champagne, and all sparkling wines can be enjoyed without food.  If you do want to take it up a notch, they make an excellent pair with seafood, especially raw oysters or anything with a citrus or stone fruit sauce.  The bubbly can also be a marvelous accompaniment to goat cheese, burrata, or a rich remoulade.

Part of what makes sparkling wines such a great choice for celebrations are the aesthetics around serving them, which engage all of the senses.  You first see the sweating wine bucket that holds a chilled bottle nestled in a bed of ice, then anticipate the *pop* of the cork, and hear a little sigh as it is released from the bottle.  As the wine is poured you marvel at the beautiful straw or golden bubbles and hear the fizz as it’s poured into glasses.  As you finally get to taste, the bubbles explode in the mouth, with yeast, or citrus, or wood, or one of a thousand other flavors.

So the next time you want to celebrate, whether it’s the purchase of a new house, a marriage, or just the end of a long work day, think about popping open a sparkler, and make some memories!

If you’d like to hear more about Sparkling Wine, check out this video: