Champagne…More Than Just a Celebration Drink

The first documentation of using the Champagne method to make sparkling wine appeared in the 1600s, and many of today’s most well-known Champagne houses, including Taittinger, Moët & Chandon, and Ruinart, were founded in the 1700s.

The Champagne appellation was formally created in 1936. Major houses launched marketing campaigns in the United States that portrayed Champagne as the ultimate luxury beverage for celebrations and aperitif-style sipping. Today, many Americans use the word Champagne to mean any and all sparkling wines.

Because of a combination of place, soils, grapes, and the Champagne process, Champagne is one of the most unique beverages in the world. Vintages vary dramatically due to the region’s marginal climate. For example, the differences between Champagne’s 61 Grand and Premier Cru villages are vast. Specific vineyards within those villages have unique terroirs, some of which are small, even tiny, parcels with completely different soils and aspects than those just next door.

Champagne has just three key grape varieties, with seven permitted in total. In addition, decisions about viticulture, aging, and blending create a huge variety of finished wines to study and dissect. Think of blanc de blanc, blanc de noir, rose, cuvee…

This diversity is one of the reasons why a Champagne-only pairing menu can emphasize the wine’s overall food-friendliness. With a combination of refreshing acidity and palate-cleansing bubbles, Champagne pairs with foods ranging from raw oysters to fried chicken, and everything in between. Those bubbles are not only lively to look at and refreshing to drink, but they offer you a drink relatively low in alcohol and fairly high in acidity.

The Old Sugar Mill

Mention wine tasting in northern California, and the obvious destinations come to mind. Napa, Sonoma, Lodi, Livermore Valley, Mendocino…just to name a few. Ask about Clarksburg and you might get some puzzling looks. Others realize the area as a great place to grow Chenin Blanc grapes. But, they don’t really know much else. And, they might not realize it’s also a great place to taste wines.

Locals knew the area before grapes were the main crop.

Sugar beets used to be harvested on the same area where rows and rows of grapes now sit. The Old Sugar Mill was constructed in 1934 by the Amalgamated Sugar Company, and was an operating sugar mill until 1993. At its peak, they processed 900,000 tons of sugar beets into 100,000,000 pounds of sugar.

That’s a whole lot of sweet.

Fast forward to today. The beautifully restored, red brick buildings sit surrounded by perfect rows of grapes…not fields of sugar beets. It took some work. Transformation from the Old Sugar Mill and its processing of sugar beets to what we see today began in 2000. With new owners and investment partners, the property has been transformed into a showplace wine facility.

It’s like the transition to wine tasting was a natural progression.

Currently, the Clarksburg vineyard appellation encompasses almost 60,000 acres in a 16-mile long, eight-mile wide area. This appellation is home to over a dozen wineries, 13 of which call the Old Sugar Mill home…Clarksburg Wine Company, Heringer Family Estates and Vineyard, Todd Taylor, Three Wine Company, Carvalho Family Winery, Elevation Ten, Rendez-Vous Winery, Due Vigne Di Famiglia, Draconis by Matt Powell, Perry Creek Winery, Bump City, Batia Vineyards, and Seka Hills Winery.

Wine varietals from all over northern California, some of which include Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera, Tempranillo, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Sangiovese. In fact, there are ovver 35 different varietals grown here. Wineries from other parts of California buy grapes from here to bottle wines under their own labels.

Tasting the wines…I can see why.

The climate for the Clarksburg AVA creates a moderately long growing season with plenty of airflow and light. Located on the Sacramento River, this maritime influence of the Delta offers cool evenings, warm days, limited summer fog, and a significantly less probability of spring frost. Less rainfall is a good thing as well. Not having rain during critical growing stages, like late spring, depletes the ground water faster.

Good? You bet. The vines become stressed sooner and the flavors increase. Try it for yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wine Walk Through the Village…What’s Not to Love?

 

When staying in the Languedoc Roussillon area of France, and our host suggested we might like a ‘wine walk through a village’, we readily agreed. What foodie and wine lover wouldn’t like to have the opportunity to taste some of the 30 or 40 local wines, sample gourmet food prepared by an excellent chef, visit with wine makers and growers throughout the day, and experience a beautiful natural park near the village?

Sign us up…

Nestled between scrubland, ponds, and hills, the village of Peyriac de Mer sits on a diversity of soils, including limestone, chalk, and gravel. Combine those soils with the variety of microclimates found here and you have the perfect combination for enhancing the character of different grapes. Hence, producing exceptional wines.

So far, sounds amazing…

Ready for our wine tasting and gastronomic walk, we bundled up and headed off to meet our host. Since a pesky cold front was hanging around, we wore layers. I do mean layers. As we headed out onto a dock along the edge of the lake, the wind whipped up white caps and threatened to knock us into the choppy, gray water.

Quickly, we realized we were not walking through the delightful village, but up and around the lake, past an old, working salt flat, across a high ridge where the views of the Mediterranean were fantastic, and through the Nature Park. Walking shoes would have been appropriate for the six plus kilometer journey that took us up over 300 meters from where we started. The village…that’s where we ended.

What did we get into?

Another reason the wines here are special, is the wind. It contributes to soil ventilation, thus improving the quality of the wines. All well and good, unless you’re trying to walk along the top of the ridge as the wind is determined to blow you into one of the lakes below. I’m quite sure it could have blown me off the top and into the Mediterranean had I not been hanging on to my husband.

So, what did we think once we finished our ‘walk’ and headed into the village for coffee and sunshine?

Wines…they were fantastic. All of them. What’s not to like about a glass of Montfin Blanc from Chateau Montfin, a glass of Grenache Blanc from Chateau Fabre-Cordon, or a glass of Rose from Abbaye Sainte Eugenie? Visiting with the wine makers and growers, often the same person, made those glasses even more special. I almost hated to leave one wine stop and hike to the next one. Until I tasted the next group of wines, that is.

Food…also fantastic. Who wouldn’t want a piece of fresh, crusty bread with perfectly sliced beef carpaccio, copeaux or shavings of semi-soft goat cheese, and rosemary sprigs to pair with your glass of Carignena? Next stop, salmon gravelax, sprinkled with petit peas, and a dollop of lemon cream, and our choice of Grenache Blanc or Vent Marin Blanc. Of course the epaule or shoulder of lamb with sprigs of thyme, olive oil, and petardon peas was perfect with my glass of Mire la Mer. When we made it to the dessert stop, we were ready to be on flat ground again as we ate our crème caramel with candied oranges, beurre sale, and almonds. Paired with either a sweeter Musc’ito or a Banyuls Ame de pierre, a blend of Grenache, Grenache Blanc, and Grenache Gris made us smile as we headed to the village. We were in Heaven…and full.

The walk…incredible views, friendly people, knowledgeable wine growers, and even some hunters who offered homemade salami and saucisse. Yummy, beautiful, and nothing like we had ever done before.

Asked by our host if we would do this again…even with the weather, terrain, and wind as challenges. Absolutely. Why would we complain about being in the wonderful French countryside, eating delicious food, and drinking amazing wines?

After all, this was not any ordinary ‘wine walk’…it was so much better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Valpolicella Wines…Do You Like Them?

THE HARVEST 2017 WILL BRING THE FRUITS OF AN EXCEPTIONAL YEAR. THE 6th OF SEPTEMBER THE PRE-HARVEST CONFERENCE ORGANIZED BY THE CONSORTIUM FOR THE TUTELAGE OF VALPOLICELLA WINES

The Consortium clarifies the members of the crucial points about the new telematic fulfillment for the traceability of wines. With this aim, it will discuss the wine-growing campaign, whose harvest this year promises very well, controls and registrations during the September 6 pre-harvest meeting at Park Hotel Villa Quaranta.

The year 2017 will certainly be remembered among the best millésimes of Valpolicella. An optimal grape quality, both from the health point of view and analytical parameters. Distressed problems related to meteoric events, unlike many other Italian territories, which have been not so fortunate, with the only element of difficulty found in water shortage, caused by the low rainfall affected by non-irrigated vitrified soils.

Following the greeting of President Andrea Sartori, Renzo Caobelli, the Consortium agronomist, will analyze the climate and the course of the pathologies and highlight how the vine withstanded the warm and dry course of the season and at the same time hampered the spread of “moisture lover” diseases and insects.

The grapes ripening status, found in the vineyard stations that are monitored each year, will be illustrated, measuring the main chemical and phenological parameters.

“This year’s results show an early grape ripening, compared to last year, with optimum values ​​for both sugar content and total acidity. This is a vintage that leaves a great hope in the export, “says Olga Bussinello, the Director of the Consortium.

Moreover, Luca Sartori from Siquria, will discuss about vineyard and fruit control in relation to the harvest in progress and to conclude Roman Popa from the company Validus, will give operational indications on the keeping of telematic registers, now mandatory after the actual conclusion of the “accompanying period” and the official entering into force of the DM 293/2015. In particular, he will analyze the traceability of products that will be trademark with the RRR logo (the Sustainability Certificate created by the Consortium), starting from the 2017 harvest.