I’ve had a fabulous year with bubbles, and those are the ones I’m going to share as being HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for this coming weekend’s celebrations.

  • I’m going to start with a new one… I’m calling it a “Bubbly on Training Wheels.” It’s a great one for a younger generation that may also love adventure, innovation, and may even be on a restricted budget ~ given our present economy. It’s [yellow tail’s] Bubbles Sparking white wine. You can try it on its own, or you can create cocktails. Flavors are tropical and fun, and a bit sweet on the palate… hence, the training wheels.
    • Try [yellow tail] bubbles on its own and then you can taste it in a cocktail. Below are three effervescent drinks from Jonathan Pogash of The Cocktail Guru. He created the Cinn-Apple Sparkler, Blackberry Fizz and Ginger-Passion Sparkler using [yellow tail] bubbles, just for his followers. These recipes are great year-round, but since it is the holidays, it is an even more opportune time to shake and stir these cocktails for you and your friends.

Cinn-Apple Sparkler
4 oz. Yellowtail Sparkling Wine
1/2 oz. cinnamon schnapps
1 oz. apple cider
Directions: Add ingredients directly to a champagne flute.
Garnish: floating red apple slice

Blackberry Fizz (served at Madison & Vine, NYC)
2 large fresh blackberries (or 1 oz. blackberry puree)
3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
3/4 oz. simple syrup
2 oz. Yellowtail sparkling wine
1 oz. Lillet Blanc
1 oz. Gin
Directions: In a mixing glass muddle the blackberries (or add the puree), along with the lemon, simple, Lillet, and Gin. Then add ice and shake well. Strain into a chilled champagne flute and top off with the sparkling wine.
Garnish: blackberry on rim of glass

For a large crowd, why not pop for sparkling wine in a magnum? Two that I highly recommend are J Cuvée 20 Brut NV – 25th Anniversary and 2007 Iron Horse’s Joy.

  • J Cuvée 20 Brut NV – 25th Anniversary ~ The non-vintage J Cuvée 20 “Anniversary Label” is deliciously crisp and clean with citrus flavors and it has a very delicate yeast aroma.  On my palate, I also enjoyed grapefruit and honeysuckle, with a slight almond on the finish. This is a delightful crowd pleaser, and in magnum size, there’s plenty to go around. My family and I celebrated with this one over the Christmas weekend, and J is about five miles from my home, so I have easy access to their magnums. If you don’t, two bottles will do nicely. (It’s $24 for a 750 ml bottle, and $50 for the magnum. It’s easily well worth the money spent on either bottle of this sparkling wine.)
  • 2007 Iron Horse’s Joy ~ “Joy! is produced exclusively in magnums. The current Joy! is 100 percent Chardonnay, 13 plus years on the yeast in the bottle. A gorgeous combination of elegance, refinement and power. Each bottle is labeled with the disgorgement date.” Only 300 magnums exist… Now, only 299, thank you very much! This one is for those very fancy New Year’s parties, when elegance and impressing your guests really counts. A true bubbly classic, on the nose, you’ll definitely pick up yeast, considering how long this wine rests on the yeast. And on the nose, you’ll also enjoy rich, ripe apple flavors, and I loved the creamy textures. ($179.00, another short trip for me to make.)

This year I experienced a tasting of Champagne, brought to me by my friends at Fat Cork, who are based in the Northwest. This company delights me, as I knew owner Bryan Melitas’s dad years ago, and now it’s the next generation living the dream. It’s a sweet story of how this Portland native began selling Champagne’s finest grower selections to a world wide audience, starting with high school jobs in a distributor’s warehouse and ending up with meeting the right woman at the right time. It’s a true love story deserving of lots and lots of Champagne…

  • 2002 Adam-Jaeger Blanc de Blancs Millésime (100 percent Chardonnay) ~ ($55.00)
    • For my palate, this was an extremely delicious and refreshing Champagne. This lemon yellow sparkling wine was like sunshine across the meadow on a moist and warm sunset of a day. Its nose was abundant with aromatics of that summer’s day wheat drying in the fields and pears almost becoming ripe. A perfect balance on the palate with flavors that delighted me (malic flavors with a light herb), and beautiful finish, made this wine so enjoyable to discover.
  • Champagne Perrot-Batteux et filles Blanc de Blancs ~ ($45.00)
    • This one was shared with my friends (pre my grandson just being born), when they visited from Maine, to visit my daughters. The traveling grandmother had helped to raise my kids, and wanted to see them, now that they’re starting their own families. This was a true celebratory wine that we all cherished. The colors were like a cool spring morning adorned with light fog. More of the white grapefruit type Champagnes, this one held the promise on the nose and on the palate. Dry on the palate, it enlivened my palate, and made me salivate for pork BBQ ribs… Okay, I’ve got a thing for ribs right now…. It gave us all the energy to continue with our job. The wine and the goodbye were poignant and begging for more. We all agreed we would meet again. Another round will seal the deal, as we clinked our long flutes!

Think Pink… NV Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé Sparkling Wine ~ ($34.00)

    • In the late 1970’s, Claude Taittinger, the president of Champagne Taittinger, proclaimed his faith in the future of American wines and began the search on U.S. soil for a suitable winery site. In 1987, Champagne Taittinger, along with partner Kobrand Corporation, selected a 138 acre parcel in the heart of Carneros, a viticultural appellation they recognized to have the potential to produce world class sparkling wines. Also in 1987, Claude Taittinger selected Eileen Crane to oversee the planning and development of the property, as the winery’s first and only winemaker.
      • This gorgeous sparking wine, made from a Champagne house in the US, is a blend of 55 percent Pinot Noir, 45 percent Chardonnay. The Brut Rosé has hints of jammy  strawberries and rose hips and a touch of Georgia peach notes. While it’s pale pink in color, this Brut Rosé isn’t sweet. It’s a true Brut.

Another Pink bubbly:

2006 Iron Horse Brut Rosé ~ Jose and I enjoyed this Brut Rosé with dinner at Chinois, and Chang Liow (owner, chef, and Master Sommelier) did join us. I enjoyed it with their Asian Pot Stickers , served with balsamic citrus-soy sauce sprinkled with toasted chili flakes. the rich flavors of the pot sticker sauce paired beautifully with this delicately flavored rosé bubbly.  ($50.00 ~ Think rose petals ~ Yum!)

Over the course of the year, I was also able to taste and enjoy other bubbles from Iron Horse. Here they are:

      • The wine had aromas of raspberries from this richly colored rosé (having sat on the skins for an extended period of time). That then gave way to strawberries and plum flavors, and it had a delicate summer fruit finish, with a bit of pepper spice. All so good!
    • 2006 Iron Horse Russian Cuveé ~ This one was enjoyed on a Saturday afternoon, while spending the day catching up on my blog. I like to be ahead by a couple of weeks with stories, but the summer delivers too many playing opportunities, and my writing fell a bit behind. (This is why I enjoy writing in advance, so when play time arrives, I can partake with no worries.) I popped some corn and added some butter… Oh, yeah, decadent and sinful, and popped the cork. ($38.00)
      • This sparkling wine was gloriously refreshing, and took away the guilt of pairing it with popcorn. It’s 75 percent Pinot Noir and 25 percent Chardonnay. The caramel and vanilla on the nose led to a rich, creamy palate. The White House served this one with Pecan Pie for the Queen Mother. I felt like a queen with my bubbly and popcorn on a late Saturday afternoon.
    • 2006 Iron Horse Brut X ~ “Brut X means extremely dry, extremely bright, extremely expressive. The doasge is under 0.5% residual sugar – barely perceptible, but adds just the right amount of ‘polish’.” ($50.00)
      • What a beautiful Sunday wine. I opened it on Saturday, before I left the house with Jose to go interview Joel Peterson of Ravenswood. It was so dry… Hey, Brut X tells you all you need to know about it, as regards what this wine is going to taste like. Dry, baby… desert. After tasting it, I got to thinking, “What foods would I pair with that?” All I could think of was something creamy or cheesy, and off I went to Sonoma to meet Joel.
      • On the Sunday as I wrote about this one, and I was hungry. “How to best use that Brut X?” I went for cooking a quick hamburger lunch. (Hey, I wouldn’t do this any other time with this wine, but I feel it’s important to taste each of these sparkling wines in a somewhat timely way). So, I loaded the cheeseburger, on oat grain bread with purple onions, rich, ripe tomatoes, red leafy lettuce, and gooey mozzarella. Jose and I were dripping with richness, satisfying it with delicious Classic Brut X. From there I got into house cleaning, listening to Hip-Hop and R&B… finding myself dancing and wanting to share how great this wine is … Now that I think about it, this was a perfect sparkling wine for just enjoying this Sunday.
    • 2006 Iron Horse Classic Vintage Brut ~ “…is a ‘classic’ blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, ‘vintage’ quality in every sense of the word and ‘brut’ level dry. All Iron Horse Sparkling Wines are disgorged to order, which means that this release is aged four years on the yeast making it rich, creamy and delicious.” ($34.00)
      • This sparkling wine reminded me of days when I lived in Maine, and I’d gather up all my Girl Scouts and head to an orchard. We’d pick (and eat) fresh apples from heavily laden trees… Yup, it was that fresh, clean, and delicious. This Brut changed a working Saturday for me into a day of delicious moments. While Iron Horse wines should be for very special moments, given all the care and attention to detail they take to make them, every-so-often, it’s delicious to just treat yourself. That’s what the Classic Vintage Brut became… Special writing moments. I wrote with great joy for the rest of the day.
    • 2007 Iron Horse Wedding Cuvée ~ “…is without doubt the most romantic of our Sparklings. Made from predominantly Pinot Noir, it has an exhilarating rose color. The 2007 vintage is elegant, vibrant and creamy. Truly, a fun wine. Aged three plus years en tirage.” ($38.00)
      • This sparkling wine is as pink as a blushing bride. (Do they even blush, anymore?) The rush of tiny bubbles was balanced by listening to On The West Side, by Jeff Golub… A perfect mood setter for my palate. Lots of strawberry on a white wedding cake with marzipan flowers, it just tastes that perfect…. This one would be delicious with fresh vegetables drizzled with garlic infused olive oil, fresh oregano, a squirt of lime, and a sprinkle of sea salt (and some of that cake would be very lovely as a reward for the veggies). Heavenly…
    • 2003 Iron Horse, Green Valley of Russian River Brut LD ~ Smooth as silk, luscious as a day of freedom to do what you want, unencumbered by anything… ($85.00)
      • LD stands for Late disgorged. This 2003 vintage was aged for 8+ years on the yeast in the bottle, which immediately explained to me why this wine was so creamy smooth. This wine is Iron Horse’s Têté de Cuvée; while it’s called a Brut, given their low dosage, they “could have easily have called it ‘Extra’ Brut LD.” Its crisp, clean flavors, with the underlining creamy textures from the extended aging sur lie, makes this Brut one very scrumptious, unctuous sparkling wine.
    • 2006 Iron Horse Ocean Reserve ~ US ~ The Ocean is the source of food, rain, oxygen and beauty; but today, pollution, overfishing, and climate change have placed the ocean in crisis. Iron Horse calls this wine a sip of hope. ($40.00)
      • Iron Horse Vineyards is partnering with National Geographic to help restore the ocean to health. From the winery, “Continuing our commitment, every bottle purchased Iron Horse will donate $4 to establish marine protection areas and reduce overfishing around the world.”