My Annual Review, Laurent-Perrier Champagne, & A Casserole

*** I received this wine as a sample. ***

First off…today is my 8-year Blogiversary, so a quick thank you for being loyal readers!! I’ll post more on my celebration in the next few days. With that, onto the blog post.

Last Tuesday started off with my annual review. No matter how good one feels about his/her job or boss, review time is always nerve-wracking. This year, though, I actually outlined a few new things in my self-evaluation that will expand my role in the association, push me outside my comfort zone, and, hopefully, provide some good career growth. Thankfully, not only to the Big Boss have great feedback about my performance, but also he was very supportive of the goals I outlined. Now, the hard part will be implementing it!

After my review, I was off to meetings with Senate staff for most of the day. Then, I finished things off with a killer spin class at my local spin and barre studio. By the time I walked home, Hubby had dinner–Pinch of Yum’s creamy chicken quinoa and broccoli casserole–in oven, so all that was left was to open a good bottle of wine.

Laurent-Perrier Demi-Sec – At $40, this Champagne from France dances in the glass and in your mouth.  The cost makes it a more of a splurge, but the beautiful flavors, and food-friendliness can’t help but bring a smile to your face. Rating: 4 out of 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

Laurent-Perrier Demi Sec

The Laurent-Perrier Demi-Sec (winery) is a sparkling wine from the Champagne region in France and is made with a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier grapes. The bubbly had a medium yellow color with a lot of small, persistent bubbles that danced in my glass. The characteristics on the nose and in the mouth with similar–juicy white peaches mixed with lemons and brioche. The wine had a medium body with medium-to-high acidity and a hint of sweetness.

Is this worth a glass after work? Definitely!  If you see this sparkler in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed. At an SRP of $40, it is definitely more of a weeknight splurge, but I thought that a good review was qualified. And, since I’d actually enjoyed this Champagne for the first time a few weeks ago, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. Sometimes, I find that Champagne can be almost too subtle, but this bubbly has enough going on that I’m aware of it without it drawing my attention away from conversation or food every time I take a sip.

Admittedly, I enjoyed several glass over the course of the evening. My first was while Hubby finished making dinner. It was a lovely choice for catching up about our day, although it admittedly went down so smoothly that I was ready for my second glass by the time dinner was served. The acidity and bubbles were perfect for cutting through the cheese in the casserole, and the more delicate flavors matched nicely with the lighter seasoning of the chicken and quinoa in the casserole. After dinner, I poured by third glass, grabbed my latest knitting project, and watched a few episodes of Call the Midwife, my latest Netflix addiction.

Question of the Day: What is you’re under-$50, but still a splurge go-to sparkling wine?

Suggested Retail Price: $40
Received as a sample.
Overall: 4 Corks

Work “World Tour of Wine” Tasting

For those of you who are Facebook fans, you already know that, at the end of May, I was working on a wine tasting for work.  After having put together a Spanish wine tasting for coworkers during our April slow period, one of my colleagues talked to The Big Boss about my wine experience and about our staff bonding event.  He was thrilled, and, as a wine lover himself, thought it would be fun to have a wine tasting for the staff in both of his DC offices.  The tasting was held the Tuesday before Memorial Day.

Half of the people attending the wine tasting were at my Spanish wine event, so I decided that instead of doing a second Spanish-focused tasting, this one would be a “World Tour of Wine.”  As the fun part of a tasting is being able ­to try new wines and broaden wine horizons, I wanted to focus on wines that moved away from the typical Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots, and Chardonnays by presenting varietals that are easy to find in wine stores, but that many inexperienced wine drinkers might shy away from buying.  Additionally, since I was expecting 30+ people at the event, I wanted to make sure that I covered a range of wine styles.

With all of that in mind, I decided to begin the tasting with a traditional French Champagne—Montaudon Extra-Dry (snooth).  The palate cleansing & revitalizing sparkler was followed by two white wines—a 2008 Paul D Grüner Veltliner (winery, snooth) from Austria and a 2009 Spy Valley (winery, snooth) from New Zealand.  Following the lighter white wines were a South African Pinotage—2008 Painted Wolf (winery, snooth)—and a California Zinfandel blend—2008 Orin Swift’s “The Prisoner” (winery, snooth).  The tasting finished with a Spanish Sherry—Nectar by González Byass (winery, snooth).

Everyone enjoyed the Champagne, which was no surprise to me or to them.  However, the other wine that received the most questions and the most refill requests was Orin Swift Cellers’ The Prisoner, followed closely by Paul D’s Grüner Veltliner.  The wine that received the most mixed reviews was González Byass’ Nectar, although everyone was happy to have tried it as almost everyone mentioned that it was not a wine they would have tasted on their own.

The Big Boss was very happy with event, particularly as he found a new wine that to enjoy.  My coworkers tasted some wines that they loved, as well as some wines that they didn’t like, but there was a lot of conversation about those wines, as the likes and dislikes varied greatly.  All in all, it seemed like everyone had a good time and that the tasting was a huge success.

***As a note, while the wines above are the ones I planned to offer and prepared tasting notes for, the wine store was actually sold out of the Spy Valley on the day of the tasting.  Therefore, I used a 2009 Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc (winery, snooth) as a fallback.  I will do a separate review for the Oyster Bay, but wanted to keep the Spy Valley as part of this tasting, as I thought it was a slightly better wine.

Books, Haikus, and Wine

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Anne mentioned that she had an extra ticket to Michael J. Gelb’s book launch, and she asked if I would like to attend with her.   The event included a wine tasting, some food, and a copy of Gelb’s book.  Combine all of that with Anne’s good company and there was no way I was going to miss the event.  So, Monday night after work, I headed to Zola Wine & Kitchen, where the DC launch for Wine Drinking for Inspired Thinking: Uncork Your Creative Juices was held.

Overall, the event was fun and well attended.  There were 5 wines to taste—2 French rosé sparkling wines, 2 Sicilian red wines, and 1 French dessert wine.  There were also some delicious hors d’œuvres, which were made while we were watching, and wonderful cheeses and chocolates.

Gelb’s approach to tasting wine is differs from the traditional taste-and-take-notes approach in that it focuses on the idea of using wine as a muse.  Therefore, after we all had a chance to get comfortable and taste a few sparkling wines, he read a little from his book and then asked all of us to write wine-inspired poetry instead of traditional tasting notes (I did a little of both).  He then collected what everyone wrote and read several winners aloud.  While mine wasn’t chosen as a winner, I think that was because there wasn’t enough grape juice flowing to get my creative juices going.  That said, here is my Haiku:

Juiciness takes over,
Luscious and warm in my mouth.
Wine is perfection.

Michael Gelb reading from "Wine Drinking for Inspired Thinking: Uncork Your Creative Juices"

As for the wines themselves, the night started with bubbly—a Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rosé and a François Billion Brut Rosé Champagne Spécial.

The Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rosé (vineyard, snooth) was made with 100% Pinot Noir grapes.  The sparkler was a light, salmon color with persistent bubbles.  On the nose and the mouth, there were red fruits and flowers, with a hint of toastiness.  The wine had nice acidity, was refreshing, and made for a pleasant start to the tasting.  At $20, this is definitely a sparkling wine worth looking into.
Overall: 3.5 corks

The François Billion Brut Rosé Champagne Spécial (vineyard, snooth) was a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes.  The wine was a medium pink, with a lot of small, persistent bubbles.  The sparkler had a beautiful nose, full of toast and a hint of strawberries and cherries.  In the mouth, there was toast, cream, cherries, and strawberries.  The wine had a crisp acidity, which was very refreshing.  At $55, this wine was by far the best of the night.
Overall: 4.5 corks

The two red wines were both made in Sicily from the Nero d’Avola grape—the Cossentino and the 2006 Feudo Maccari Saia.

The Cossentino Nero D’Avola (snooth) was a deep purple.  On the nose, there were big fruits, lots of wood, and some herbaceousness.  In the mouth, the wine had something “funky” mixed in with blackberries.  It was very acidic, and even at $12, it’s not a wine I would recommend.
Overall: 2 corks

The 2006 Feudo Maccari Saia Nero d’Avola (vineyard, snooth) was also a deep purple.  On the nose and in the mouth, there were blackberries, cooking spices, and lavender.  The wine had a full, luscious body, with smooth, soft tannins.  At $42, this wine offers something a little different from the better-known Italian wines.  If you’re looking for a new grape, this Sicilian red is worth considering, even at the higher price-point.
Overall: 3.5 corks

The last wine of the night was an intense dessert wine that paired beautifully with Zola Wine & Kitchen’s handmade chocolates.  My favorite was pairing the salted caramel squares with the 2007 Domaine du Mas Blanc Rimage Banyuls (vineyard, snooth).  The Rimage was a dark, inky purple.  On the nose and in the mouth, there were ripe dark cherries, raspberries, and cocoa dust.  The fuller body mixed nicely with the creaminess of the caramel in the chocolate.  At $30, this wine is a nice dessert wine that isn’t overly sweet.
Overall: 3.5 corks

I was surprised to be the only blogger at the event, but that worked out well, as it gave me a chance to talk with Gelb not only about his books, but also about wine blogging and twittering. I was also thankful that Anne was able to give me the ticket for $30 instead of the full-priced $60, as that was probably a little over priced for this event.  That said, I had a good time tasting wine, listing to other attendees’ wine-inspired writing, and meeting Michael Gelb.

I look forward to sharing my thoughts on Wine Drinking for Inspired Thinking: Uncork Your Creative Juices, once I’ve had a chance to read it.  In the meantime, Kudos to Heather Freeman PR, Hooks Books, and  Zola Wine & Kitchen for putting together a good event and to Michael Gelb for publishing his latest book.

Bubbly & BBQ Bash…The Results

Last Wednesday was my condo associations’ big holiday party—the Bubbly & BBQ Bash. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve written up several wines (here, here, and here) that I decided against having at the party for a variety of reasons. It should be no surprise that several readers have contacted me to ask if I planned on sharing what sparkling wines I finally decided to offer, and of course I plan to share! I wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to share sparkling wines, particularly since they are my admitted weakness.

As the association’s social committee chairperson, it was my job to plan all aspects of the party, not just the wine. Last year, we had Red, Hot, & Blue BBQ, which was a huge success. Up until that time, it was our largest community party and there were hardly any leftovers. I decided that there was no reason to mess with a good thing, so Red, Hot, & Blue was on the menu again this year. The challenge came with finding the sparkling wine because, to be honest, bubbly isn’t exactly what comes to mine when you think about eating BBQ. However, it’s a surprisingly good pairing and all the residents were thrilled. We had more people at this year’s holiday party than ever before!

As I researched sparklers for the evening, I was looking for two types of wines—ones that would act as good palette cleansers and ones that would pair well with the food itself. I also wanted wines that were a variety of price ranges and were fairly easy to find. I wrote up festive tasting notes, with a picture of each bottle’s label in order to make it easier for anyone who wished to purchase the wines at any of our local wine stores. In the end, we offered 6 sparkling wines—2 Champagnes, 2 Cavas, 1 Prosecco, and 1 California sparkling wine. I rated all of the wines with 4 corks or above, and they are all bottles that I drink in my own house.

The 2 Champagnes were fairly traditional—Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut NV (5 corks) and Montaudon Extra-Dry (4.5 corks). The Veuve Clicquot was one of the favorites of the night, although the Montaudon was not far behind. The fresh, brightness of both helped awaken taste buds between the pulled pork and pulled chicken.

The 2 Cavas were Segura Viudas Brut Reserve (4 corks) and Mont-Ferrant Brut Rosé (4 corks). The Segura Viudas, which I’ve reviewed before, served as a palette cleanser and the Mont-Ferrant was a nice accompaniment with the BBQ. As a heavier sparkling wine, the Mont-Ferrant has enough body and complexity that it didn’t get lost in the strong flavors of the BBQ, but rather added a nice, almost fruity compliment. It was definitely the sparkling wine that caused the most discussion, as people either absolutely loved it or hated it. The people who loved it seemed to come back for more at the expense of drinking the other wines and the people who hated it dumped it out after a few sips.

The Prosecco—Canella Prosecco di Conegliano (4.5 corks)—is another wine that I’ve reviewed in the past. This sparkler has a beautiful fruitiness that, when combined with its crisp acidity, worked well as an apéritif.

Finally, the California sparkling wine—Korbel Brut Rosé—was a nice, light rosé that both complimented the BBQ or was enjoyable once finished eating.

It’s a slight departure from my usual presentation, but in the spirit of the holidays, here are images of the tasting notes we used.







Popping the Cork on a Wednesday Night

For as smooth of a day as last Tuesday was, last Wednesday was exactly the opposite. Taking over a 271-page document that was originally drafted by someone else, but became my responsibility when I started my new job, was no small task. I not only was responsible for familiarizing myself with the original document and the background information that the document was based on, but also making changes to the draft document to improve it, as I thought necessary. Thankfully, one of my fabulous co-workers helped with the task, but at the end of the day, the project was all mine. So, after my co-worker and I finished discussing the last round of major changes and minor edits, I set about the task of actually documenting our conversation. At 9:00pm on Wednesday night, when I finally had a “final” document ready to go, I emailed it to the necessary higher-ups and headed home feeling exhausted, but satisfied with the work. When I walked in the door of my condo, I greeted Hubby and popped the cork on a bottle of Champagne that was a candidate for my condo association’s Bubbly & BBQ Bash. It seemed like tasting the Champagne would be a nice way to celebrate my sense of accomplishment.

The Taittinger Brut La Francaise (winery, snooth) is 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay grapes with a medium-to-deep gold color and a lot of small, persistent bubbles. On the nose, there was an entire fruit bowl— green apples, pears, peach, and apricots, with a touch of toast. In the mouth, there were granny smith apples, pears, and peaches, with a touch of something yeasty. The sparkler had a nice acidity, although there was something funny that I couldn’t identify on the finish.

Is this 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. At $40, this sparkling wine offers everything you expect from a traditional Champagne, but nothing more. It was enjoyable on its own and would probably pair well with Red, Hot, and Blue’s southern BBQ, but for my condo association’s holiday party, I’m looking for something that is less “average” and “knock-my-socks.” In this price range, there are other traditional Champagnes that I’m going to turn to, but if you end up with a bottle of the Taittinger Brut Champagne, you won’t be going wrong.

Overall: 3 Corks