Starting the Day Off Right…With Cava

The second day of The Wine Academy of Spain’s Spanish wine course couldn’t have started any better. We spent the early part of the morning learning about Cava, and how can you have a bad day when it begins with bubbly?

Cava is second in the world for sparkling wine sales, and like Champagne (number 1 in the world for sales), it is made using the traditional method. However, while the method for making the sparkling wine may be the same, the grape varieties and the climate of the growing region for Cava are very different. Traditionally, Cava is made with 50% Macabeo (crisp, fresh acid), 30% Xarel-lo (elegance, body, structure), and 20% Parellada (creamy, soft body and delicate aromas) grapes. The climate in Spain is also significantly warmer than the climate in the Champagne region of France. On a very basic level, the Cavas we tasted were much brighter and fruitier than many Champagnes I’ve had, although both have toasty, yeasty characteristics that come from using the traditional method.

Tasting #1 on Day 2

3.5 Corks

Freixenet Cordon Rosado Brut (winery, snooth)
50% Garnacha & 50% Monastrell
Medium pink with a lot of persistent bubbles
Strawberry, raspberry, toast
A touch of creaminess and almost floral finish in the mouth
Very refreshing, good acidity with a slight sweetness

4 Corks

Juvé y Camps Brut Rosé Pinot Noir (winery, snooth)
Medium salmon
Bright red fruits, ripe strawberries, and toast
Very dry and creamy with a slightly bitter finish

Tasting #2 on Day 2

3 Corks

Gramonae III Lustros Gran Reserva (winery, snooth)
50% Macabeo, 40% Xarel-lo, 10% Chardonnay
Pale gold with small bubbles
Cream, buttered toasted, baked apples, caramel, pears on the nose
Apples, pears, bitter herbs in the mouth
Burbon-esque quality
Very different and very complex
Not my style, but good quality

4 Corks

Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut (winery, snooth)
Pale gold with small persistent bubbles
Granny smith apples, pears, toast, yeast, and a touch of herb
Light body, lime-like acid and a long, lingering, yeasty finish

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva (winery, snooth)
Pale-to-medium liquid gold with lots and lots of bubbles
Green apples, toast, yeast, touch of basil
In the mouth, the balance between the fruit and toast flavors is very refreshing
Light-to-medium body, very dry, high acidity

4.5 Corks

Aria Estate Segura Viudas Brut Nature (winery, snooth)
60% Macabeo, 20% Xarel-lo, 20% Parellada
Pale straw color with small, persistent bubbles
Green apples and rosemary with a touch of apricots, toast, and yeast on the nose
Apples, nectarine, and toast in the mouth
Creamy full body, but not aggressive

2004 Juvé Reserva de la Familia Brut Nature (winery, snooth)
33.3% Macabeo, 33.3% Xarel-lo, 33.3% Parellada
Medium lemon, flirting with gold
Sourdough bread, apples, touch of oak, sherry-like finish
Medium body and good acidity
Isn’t crisp, but is still beautiful.

*According to Jesus, this is one of the most traditional brands of Cava. The company uses slightly oxidized wines for dossage, which creates a flavor that shouldn’t be confused with the wine being “cooked.” Jesus said that this is a favorite of “old men in Spain.”

From left to right:

Aria Estate Segura Viudas Brut Nature 2004 Juvé Reserva de la Familia Brut Nature, Gramonae III Lustros Gran Reserva

Bliss with Barefoot & Bubbles

If you follow me on Twitter (@Alleigh), you know that last week was a ridiculously busy week in my office.  Every year, we hold a breakfast reception for people who come into DC, and we choose the date by looking at the popular Spring Break weeks for K-12 schools.  The purpose of picking the date this way is because there will be more families travelling, so we can see more people.  This year’s reception was last Wednesday, and it was the biggest one my office has ever had—over 250 people!  Now, that may not seem like a lot to people who are used to those types of big events, but as this is only a one-time-a-year reception, it is not something that my officemates and I are used to. 

For me, the reception meant a lot of talking, a lot of standing on my feet, and a lot of just “being on” all the time.  It also meant an overall increase in meetings, since people who attend the reception usually want to set up private meetings at another time.   All in all, it was a very successful week, but I was ready to collapse on Friday night when I got home.  I walked in the door, chilled a bottle of Barefoot Bubbly Brut Cuvee (vineyard, snooth), and plopped down on the couch to decompress w/ Hubby. 

Admittedly, I’m not the first to review the Barefoot Bubbly.  In fact, some of the blogs that I read regularly, like Wines by Benito, 1 Wine Dude, Brix Chicks, and The Wine Whore, have great thoughts to share on this sparkler.  Despite the diverse coverage, I still wanted to share my thoughts because, well, this wine fits perfectly into what A Glass After Work is all about.  As I read through the posts by other bloggers, what was most interesting to me is that while the wine was consistently described as not complicated, everyone gave it a thumbs-up—and I completely agree. 

The sparkling wine had a nice, medium lemon color, with big, strong bubbles rising to the top of the glass.  On the nose, there were pleasant green apple aromas.  In the mouth, the bubbles just danced off my tongue.  Again, there were green apple flavors.  There was also the slightest hint kiwi. 

Is this worth a glass after work? Definitely!  If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed. At $8.99, this wine is pure, uncomplicated happiness in a bottle.  It’s the type of wine that doesn’t require a lot of studying, but rather is just meant to drink up and enjoy.  The Barefoot Bubbly is very drinkable on its own, although I paired it with a tortellini and shrimp in an alfredo sauce, and it was a great match.  The Barefoot Bubbly wasn’t anything fancy, and certainly not something that I would say was a special occasion sparkler, but it was perfect to open after a crazy day (or week) at work and just settle into and relax while you sip.   

Overall: 3.5 Corks

Is That A Red Wine In Your Champagne Glass?

The other night I was feeling very experimental.  I’d had a few surprises at work that all turned out really well, so I figured I’d keep testing my luck.  I admit, it was probably a mistake. 

My WSET instructor mentioned in class that Australians love red sparkling wine and that one of their favorite wine tricks to play on Americans is to hand them a glass and watch for a  reaction, since our palates aren’t really used to red sparklers—rose, sure, full-bodied red, not so much.  That should probably have been my hint to stay away from the sparkling red wines, but I was too intrigued by the idea to say no when I saw the bottle of Hardy’s Sparkling Shiraz.

The grapes for Hardy’s Sparkling Shiraz (vineyard, snooth) were grown in South Australia, specifically in the McLaren Vale and Padthaway.  The wine was a deep, inky purple, so it was difficult to see the bubbles, but when I looked closely, the glass was full of rapidly rising, small bubbles.  The wine had a deep, fruit stew smell that was dominated by plums.  In the mouth, the wine was surprisingly light feeling and the bubbles were ver persistent.  The pluminess on the nose was just as strong in the mouth.   The plum flavors were followed by a by a hint of menthol, which gave the wine a very medicinal taste.  All together, the wine tasted like thick Dr. Pepper, with tiny champagne-type bubbles instead of the big, soda carbonation-type bubbles.

Is this worth a glass after work?  Eh…I think that depends on whether or not sparkling red wines are your thing.  At $19, buying a bottle of Hardy’s Sparkling Shiraz was a worthwhile experiment, but it confirmed that I prefer my bubbly to be light and refreshing, not heavy and dense.  I tried judging the wine on its merits as a shiraz rather than on my bubbly taste preference, since that was the purpose of this experiment, but even doing that, I think this sparkler was just OK.  It was too stewy to be anything more than that.   

Overall: 2 corks

Move Over Manischewitz, There Are New Kosher Wines In Town (WBW #56)

Between the mention of kosher and the mention of Passover, you may ready to click the “x” on your computer screen to close the window, but don’t! I have some wine reviews that may surprise you…they definitely surprised me. As I mentioned in my post last week, The Cork Dork picked fine kosher wines for the Wine Blogging Wednesday topic. Since I liked the idea of finding good wines for this year’s holiday, I decided to taste “Kosher for Passover” wines—four, to be exact.

  • 2005 Domaine Saint Benoit Laureline Chateauneuf-du-Pape (Mevushal)
  • 2006 Bazelet HaGolan Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Bartenura Prosecco (Mevushal)
  • 2006 Baron Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon

For those new to kosher wines, it’s worth a quick look at what it means for a wine to be kosher, as there are two methods and the wines I tasted are a sampling of both. The first method for making kosher wine dictates how the wine is handled—throughout the entire wine making process, the materials can be handled only by an observant, orthodox Jew. The other method dictates how the wine is prepared—it must go through boiling or flash pasteurization. This method is necessary for strict kosher laws and the result is mevushal wine. Mevushal wine can be handled by anyone. With either method, in order for a wine to be “kosher for Passover,” it not only must be made using one of these two processes, but also must not come into contact with chametz (bread, grains, or leavened products). Once made, a rabbi must certify that the wine has been prepared in accordance with Jewish law (one of these two methods).

Now, onto the wines…

2005 Domaine Saint Benoit Laureline Chateauneuf-du-Pape (Mevushal)

When I saw that there was a kosher Chateauneuf-du-Pape, which is among my favorite wines, I could barely contain my excitement. It’s also probably no surprise that it was the first wine I opened, both with the purpose of having a glass and making charoset—a traditional Passover dish made with apples, walnuts, cinnamon, honey, and, of course, wine.

The 2005 Domaine Saint Benoit Laureline Chateauneuf-du-Pape was a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, and Clairette grapes and was a mevushal wine. It had a nice, deep ruby color. Unfortunately, the great color did not match the rest of the wine. I was hit in the face with pungent medicinal strawberry and blueberry aromas, a smell that I did not enjoy. In the mouth, I was overwhelmed by a sour cherry flavor, which was followed by a hint of leather and a long finish of cherry cough syrup. For as little as I enjoyed the smell, I thought the taste was far worse.

Is this wine worth a glass after work? No…it’s not worth dirtying a perfectly clean wine glass.At almost $33, this wine is only a small step up from drinking Manischewitz and significantly more expensive.

½ cork

Needless to say, this first wine made me a bit apprehensive about the remaining three wines.

2006 Bazelet HaGolan Cabernet Sauvignon

As I couldn’t use the Domaine Saint Benoit for my charoset, I opened bottle number 2—the 2006 Bazelet HaGolan Cabernet Sauvignon (winery, snooth). This Israeli wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and is not a mevushal wine.

The Bazelet HaGolan had a deep ruby color, with hints of garnet showing on the rim. The black fruit, particularly blackberry, aromas were delicious and were followed with a touch of toastiness. In the mouth, the black fruit flavors were intense and balanced with a hint of vanilla and olives, and nice tannins.

Is this wine worth a glass after work? Definitely!  Regardless of whether or not you’re looking for a kosher wine, if you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed. For $27, you might actually want to grab two bottles—one to enjoy now and one to let age a little, since I think this wine has some good development potential.

4 corks

Bartenura Prosecco (Mevushal)

Several days into the holiday, I opened my one kosher sparkling wine—a Bartenura Prosecco. This mevushal Italian sparkler had a clear, gold color with large bubbles, although there weren’t a lot of them. On the nose, a pleasant medium-to-light yeasty smell was followed by a hint of fresh oranges. In the mouth, the Prosecco was more fizzy than bubbly. This sparkler was high in acid, which was exaggerated by the lime and grapefruit tastes. It’s a fairly simple tasting sparkling wine, but well-balanced and refreshing.

Is this wine worth a glass after work? Sure…you won’t be drinking anything out of the ordinary, but you’ll definitely have a decent, reliable glass of wine. For $14.50, this wine could be a good choice to accompany any tomato sauce-based dish. On its own, it was just ok, the type of wine that I would recommend if you were looking for a kosher sparkler. However, when paired with the high acidity of my matzo lasagna, the wine showed its true, vibrant colors. It was an enjoyable pairing that increased my opinion of the wine.

3 corks

2006 Baron Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon

As Passover is coming to the end, I opened my last bottle of kosher wine last night—the 2006 Baron Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon. This California Cabernet is not a mevushal wine. Appearance wise, it had a medium-to-light purplish-ruby color. My bottle was slightly reduced, so the sulfur smells were unpleasant and overpowering. Behind the sulfur, I had a hint of black cherry. I tried decanting the wine, which helped a little, but not enough to make the wine anything other than just passable. In the mouth, there were stronger black cherry flavors, which were accompanied by spice, tobacco, and cedar.

Is this wine worth a glass after work? Eh…if you have a bottle on hand, drink it, but if not, I wouldn’t go searching it out. The wine is only $14, so if you’re looking for an inexpensive kosher wine and your choices are limited, this probably could work. However, if you can afford the upgrade, it’s worth paying a little extra for a wine like the Bazelet HaGolan.

2 corks

**Special thanks to The Cork Dork for hosting Wine Blogging Wednesday! Clearly, there are some enjoyable fine kosher wines out there for Jews and non-Jews alike.

Bubbles, Bubbles Everywhere

Sparkling wine is often seen as a purely celebratory drink, but why do you need something special to happen in order to open up some bubbly?  Sure, you might want to keep your $150 bottle of Dom Perignon for a nicer occasion, but there are some wonderful, everyday sparklers that won’t break your wallet and are worth exploring.  Granted, not everyone agrees with me. but they don’t know what they’re missing! 

There is something contagiously happy about having the bubbles dance in your mouth, which is why sparkling wine is my go-to choice both when I’ve had a rough day at work and need a pick-me-up, as well as when I’ve had one of those days where everything went right and want to have my own personal celebration.  The Canella Prosecco di Conegliano (snooth) is the perfect choice for either of these reasons.  This Italian sparkler has a clear, lemony-yellow color.  The bubbles are large, persistent, and inviting.  In the photo, you can see how clear the wine is, as that’s my countertop that you can be seen through the liquid.  You can also get a feeling for how fast the bubbles race to the top by the streaking lines inside the glass.

The Canella Prosecco has a clean smell that hints of yeast and dough.  These aromas are followed by strong, refreshing fruit smells—mostly lime, apple, and pear.  When tasting the wine, the crisp bubbles pop off the tongue.  The sparkler has a high acidity, which complements the lime and green apple flavors that fill the mouth.  Those two strong fruit flavors are followed closely with hints of grapefruit.    

Monday nights are hectic in my household, as I head to my wine class right after work.  Sometimes I can grab a quick bite of dinner beforehand, but most of the time, I don’t eat until 10pm while standing in my kitchen.  Admittedly, this past Monday night after class, I drank a glass (ok, maybe two) of this Prosecco while I was eating an American cheese sandwich.  It was a surprisingly good pairing.  The salt and creaminess of the cheese was complimented by the acidity, fruitiness, and bubbles in the wine.

Is this worth a glass after work?  It’s worth more than one!  What are you waiting for?  For $16, the Canella Prosecco di Conegliano is a crisp, refreshing sparkling wine that is enjoyable on its own or with food.  If you’re looking to eat something other than cheese (or a cheese sandwich) while drinking a glass of the Canella Prosecco, you can’t go wrong with a some seafood–maybe a pan-fried flounder or a shrimp scampi.  Either way, you should consider popping a cork, pouring a glass, and settling in for a delightful treat.

Overall: 4.5 corks