Grapenuts Famous Five n Dime – All French/Bridge Ten Brasserie/”Jack-Challenge”

As we look forward to our Wednesday June 26 “Grapenuts Famous Five n Dime Happy Hour” (and “Jack-Challenge” at Dave Desimone’s Bridge Ten Brasserie, excitement is building as the choices are high value and quite tasty – I think they will all be quite popular.

Added to this event is a special drawing to compete in the “Jack-Challenge” – A lucky winner gets to Test their Taste in a blind tasting against me!  The drawing winner gets two tickets to next Quantum Theatre Grapenuts Night and bottle from my personal cellar – should be fun!

Here are the by the glass choices:

WHITES

$5 Cuvée de Peña, Vin de Pays des Cotes Catalanes – From Southern France on the Mediterranean coast nearly on the Spanish Border, this white wine is made from Viognier grapes which deliver trademark exotic/tropical fruit flavors and characteristically ‘old-world’ clean finish.

$5 Vin de Pays de Méditerranée Blanc, Elicio – Another treat from Southern France, the Elicio uses the Rolle grape, possibly more familiar under the Italian name Vermentino, but whatever name we choose, this is a popular hot climate white grape that is sure to please with pleasant floral aromas and slightly spicy finish.

$10 Gilles Morat, Pouilly-Fuissé – Stepping up in complexity and sophistication, we travel north to Burgundy, France’s best region for Chardonnay, and some would argue the World’s Best Chardonnay region.   Gilles Morat’s Pouilly-Fuissé, like nearly all White Burgundies, is 100% Chardonnay and delivers mouth-filling apple and pear flavors with characteristic crisp acidity at the finish.

ROSE

$5 Villa des Anges Rosé – The quintessential outdoor summer patio drink: light enough to be uplifting, rich enough to deliver satisfying red berry and strawberry flavors, and crisp enough to invite the next sip – rose is the newest summer-drink sensation!

REDS

$5 Château des Tuquets Bordeaux – This Bordeaux wraps 40% Merlot, 40%  Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Cabernet Franc into a light to medium bodied package that offers savory dark fruit and earthy flavors and lingering finish, a great food wine that shows Bordeaux Reds need not break the bank to taste good.

$5 Château Ollieux-Romanis, Capucine – This pleasing red shows us (again) why so many great values come from Languedoc region in Southern France.  This blend of 25 % Carignan, 25 % Grenache noir, 25 % Syrah, 25 % Merlot (all traditional grapes associated with Languedoc) immediately delivers a rich and balanced mouthful of medium bodied fruit – AND the estate owner, Pierre Bories recently visited Pittsburgh!!

$10 Château Aimee, Médoc Bordeaux 2009Cabernet and Merlot join together to create this solid example of a Medoc (a large sub-region of Bordeaux’s left bank wine region) Red.   Rich dark fruits with nice mineral structure balance each other nicely in this wine.  Structured enough to pair with food, but fruity and rich enough to drink by itself – highly recommended!

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Jean Luc Colombo “Cape Bleue” Rose Provence 2012 – Screaming Good Deal !!!

This is my ‘go-to’ Rose for this summer!

Walking through our local wine store (all of them run by the State of Pennsylvania in our home state), one can see many Rose choices, some may be less expensive than the $10.99 cost of this wine, but one sip of this one and my palate was transported back to Southern France – so I declare this wine is a Screaming Good Deal!

Jean-Luc Colombo and his wife Anne Colombo opened their wine laboratory back in the 1980s, and since 2010 they are joined by their daughter Laure Colombo.   Together the Colombo clan have become legendary in the Rhone as they have put their names on countless highly-regarded wines.

Back to the wine… served cold enough that the glass of wine shows condensation as it is held up to the sun (since you are likely sitting on your back patio, enjoying the evening), the “Cape Bleue” Rose looks beautifully light blush in color with aromas of peach and red berries.   Flavors are luscious and round with notes of strawberries, raspberries and a hint of watermelon, all seamless and nicely balanced.   As is the case with most Jean-Luc Colombo wines, even at this price point, the wine is carefully made – the blend is 40% Syrah; 40% Mourvèdre; 20% Counoise (a common blend for Southern France Rose), and these grapes are cold-fermented in stainless steel vats, which contribute to the wonderful freshness in every sip.

I paired this wine with charcuterie and a salmon salad – it worked well – especially because we were outside – I highly recommend this Rose for outdoor summer meals!  (In Pennsylvania: Jean Luc Colombo Cape Bleue Rose Provence 2012, Abv: 12.5%, $10.99, PLCB Code: 31612)

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Raw/Vegan Wine dinner at EDEN

Although Raw/Vegan is not my usual fare, we were excited to work with Chef Hillary Zozula at EDEN www.edenpitt.com and create a four course, four wine dinner for our “Off the Grid” www.off-the-grid.ws dinner group.   Because the food is raw, but occasionally quite rich, I tried to identify wines with some element of acidity (without getting too tart of course) so that the wines’ freshness would provide counter to the rich flavors.    This dinner sold out in less than 24 hours, so I was stoked to try some new combinations!

We started Southern French Rose – which, on a hot, humid afternoon is a style of wine that I consider perfect – and with the veggie chips and spicy cabbage, several people felt the flavors together really ‘popped’.   The second course had some richness from the avocado, but this was nicely countered by the Heitz Sauv Blanc – a wine that was not as mouth-puckering as a typical New Zealand Sauv Blanc, but leaner and more focused than most Napa Sauv Blancs, so I was pleased with the balance.   The third course used nuts in several configurations, so I wanted something richer than a white, but still fresh, I chose a Saumur Champigny – 100% Cab Franc from France’s Loire Valley and a lovely, deeply flavorful wine but not too heavy or sweet – loved it!   Finally, the Spumante Rose provided more a compliment than contrast to the dessert, with a slight sweetness providing a fine partner to the complex mixture of strawberry/fig/chocolate dessert flavors.   All in all, a very popular effort!  Menu below:

1st Course

Veggie Chips AND Spicy Cabbage Noodles  (green peas, red peppers, carrots, sliced almonds, ginger, sesame and a creamy spiced almond sauce)

Chateau d’Or et de Gueules Rose 2011

2nd Course

Avocado and Arugula “Dumpling”

Heitz Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2011

3rd Course

Amarntha and Quinoa Gnocchi (spinach, butter beans, sun dried marinara and cashew parmesan) AND Stuffed Portobello (riced cauliflower, chopped kale, coconut ricotta and smokey sunflower sauce)

Reserve des Vignerons Saumur Champigny 2010

4th Course

Cardamom and Strawberry Cake/ Cacao and Coffee Cake

Zardetto Vino Spumante Rose NV

 

 

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Wine and Cheese Iberian Style – Tasty Stuff!

Another Wine and Cheese event at Marty’s Market (http://martysmarket.com/), another sold out crowd – even had an active waitlist for this event!   Given the tasty wine and cheese line-up combined with Marty’s Market’s gracious accommodation; I am not surprised this was a popular event.   The friendly and engaging atmosphere was typified by the quick offer from our wine-enthusiast friend Jerry P. to help pour and distribute the wines (more than 200 glasses total!), despite the fact that he and his wife came to relax and enjoy the event – I was missing one helper, so Jerry stepping in was certainly appreciated.    My Co-Conspirator David “Cheese-ologist” Bennett and I especially enjoyed the intelligent and thoughtful comments from the attendees, even when sometimes disagreeing with one of us!  We are looking forward to our Italian tasting on April 18th….

The four tastings below are all wonderful individually, and in some cases the combinations were positively romantic – one person commented that the final combination of Valdeon and Rioja Reserva caused her to want to “make out with someone”!   Sounds good doesn’t it!??!

Here they are in the order we tasted:

FIRST COURSE

GARROTXA – Garrotxa is a pressed cheese made from unpasteurized goat’s milk. The cheese is named for the area of Catalonia where it was traditionally made. It has a firm white interior and a natural grey rind. Garrotxa is produced in small, two-pound wheels. Production of this cheese almost completely disappeared until a revival in making it during the 1980’s.

ANNA DE CORDONIU CAVA – From ultra-historic-and-famous Codorniu Cava house in Spain—not far from Barcelona—30% traditional Cava grapes compliment a heavy dose of 70% Chardonnay. The wine is produced using the French “Methode Traditionale”. The light effervescence and delicate flavors provide a satisfying start to any event.   (PLCB Code: 33033)

SECOND COURSE

AZEITÃO – Azeitão is a distinctive raw sheeps’s milk cheese that is coagulated with cardoon thistle instead of traditional animal rennet. Azeitão is named for the villaige where it is made in the foothills of the Arribida mountain range in Portugal where sheep feed in lush pastures of grass and herbs. There is a simple farmhouse beauty to this round shaped cheese, and the taste is exquisitely gourmet.

ESPORAO RESERVE WHITE – From Portugal’s Alentejo district, east of Lisbon near the Spanish border, this medium to full bodied white wine is unapologetically rich and full flavored with notes of stone fruits and spice. Blended from indigenous Portuguese grapes, the Esporao Reserve White shows the complexity and sophistication of a fine White Burgundy.  (PLCB Code: 45923 $18.99)

THIRD COURSE

ZAMORANO – Zamorano is a hard sheep’s milk cheese very similar to Manchego, but it has a more robust taste and a much smoother texture.   The cheese is made in Zamora, Spain, where it is aged 6 months.  The cheese is rubbed with olive oil, which results in a brownish rind (whereas Machego is more green, they both have the same zig-zag pattern on the rind).  The milk is from 2 breeds of cold weather sheep, the small Churra and the Castilian sheep.

QUINTA DOS MURCAS ASSOBIO – From Portugal’s famous Douro Valley (where Port has been made for past 400 years).   This wine has a deep, vibrant red color and the spicy aroma of berries and violet. In the mouth the delicious flavor blend of berry and black cherry envelope the mouth with long persistent finish.  (PLCB Code: 38001 $15.49)

FOURTH COURSE

VALDEÓN – Queso de Valdeón is wonderful blue cheese from the northeast province of León, Spain. It is wrapped in sycamore maple or chestnut leaves, and is often compared to its sharper cousin, Cabrales. It’s a mixed milk cheese, in that it uses milk from both from cows and goats. I am often asked which cheese is my favorite, and usually this cheese is at the very top of the list.  You can pair this cheese with a BIG red, or sometimes it goes equally well with a port.

MARQUÉS DE RISCAL RIOJA RESERVA – From Spain’s most famous wine producing region, the Rioja Valley, this Reserva contains 90% Tempranillo grapes with small amounts of Graciano and Mazuelo to finish the blend.   Winemaking includes two years in American Oak casks (possibly some from Pgh Region!) and minimum one year in bottle before distribution.  An elegant wine with vanilla and red fruit notes, the finish is full and smooth.  (PLCB Code: 6372 $18.99)

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French Cheese and Wine at Marty’s Market

Who doesn’t like cheese ?!?!?  – Certainly we love cheese, especially when paired with wine! (there’s an idea!) – so when Owner of Marty’s Market (http://martysmarket.com/) asked my good friend and co-conspiritor David “Cheese-Guy” Bennet and me to do a series of Cheese and Wine tastings – our answer was an enthusiastic YES!

So we figured we would start out with one of the world’s top Cheese/Wine producers: FRANCE!   David and I have some reliable combinations and totally enjoyed sharing them with a sold-out crowd at Marty’s Market.   Can’t wait for next month!

Cheese notes below are from David Bennet, wine pairings from me:

Brillat-Savarin – Brillat-Savarin is a triple cream cow’s milk cheese that is named after the 18th century French food writer Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.  A triple cream cheese is made by adding cream to the milk to enrich the flavor (and decadence). The cheese was created in the 1930s by cheese-maker Henri Androuet.  Brillat-Savarin is produced Burgundy and comes in 5 inch diameter, 1.5 inches tall, and is aged for one to two weeks.  There is a very similar cheese called Pierre Robert that is aged longer and therefore has more intense, earthy flavors. The taste is often butter, salt and cream, sometimes mushrooms, hazelnuts or truffles. The interior paste is buttery-white in color with a dense, moist and slightly chalky texture. The best reason to buy Brillat-Savarin is to pamper someone.  It pairs best with Champagne, Crémant de Bourgogne or Rose.

Paired with Cremant de Bourgogne Brut NV – Made with same process as Champagne, but in region a few miles to the south of Champagne, this Cremant is fresh and crisp with tightly focused flavors – a great starter.

Ossau-Iraty – Ossau-Iraty is an extraordinary sheep’s milk cheese from the Pyrénées Mountians, in the Basque Region of France. The name dates from 1980 and comes from the combination of 2 place names, but the cheese is ancient, traditionally made by shepherds in mountain huts as they worked their way up the mountains with their flocks in spring and back down in autumn.  It’s always better to look for the raw milk version of this cheese, it features an extraordinary nutty taste and an exquisite texture.  This is truly one of the world’s great cheeses.  The milk is mostly from Manech Ewes,  hardy mountain sheep with black or red heads.  Aged for at least 90 days in caves.  Ossau-Iraty is creamy and buttery in the mouth with flavors of nuts, fruits and herbs. Ossau-Iraty pairs with both red and white French wines. Esspecially wonderful with a dry white Bordeaux or Sauvignon Blanc.

Paired with 2010 Chateau Merlet Bordeaux Blanc Sec – Traditional white Bordeaux Blend – 55% Semillon, 40% Sauvignon Blanc and 5% Muscadelle.  This white is light, tight, citrusy and fruity – a fine compliment to summer foods!

Mimolette – Mimolette is a cow’s milk cheese produced around the city of Lille, France.  It was originally made at the request of Louis XIV, who was looking for a French made cheese to replace the very popular Edam imported from Holland.  To differentiate Mimolette from Edam, he made it orange using annatto, a natural colorant. It has a grey exterior crust and an orange interior color, very much like a cantaloupe.  Cheese mites are intentionally introduced to create a distinct flavor.  One thing to appreciate about Mimolette is to understand the distinctly French qualities of the cheese, despite its origin as a copy of the Dutch.  The taste is butterscotch and caramel, lemony and sweet.  Mimolette has a unique crumbly or chalky texture. Pairs well with red wines from Bordeaux or Côtes du Rhône.  Also goes nicely with Ales.

Paired with 2009 Chateau Cabous Bordeaux Rouge – Traditional “right bank” Bordeaux Blend – in this case 90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc.  Earthy red fruit with some background smoky elements. Smooth and silky, easy drinking.

Fourme d’Ambert – Fourme d’Ambert is a cow’s milk blue cheese from the Auverge region of France.  Fourme d’Ambert is one of France’s oldest cheeses, and dates back to Roman times. It has a distinct, narrow cylindrical shape. ‘Fourme’ comes from the Latin ‘forma’ (form), referring to the container used to make the cheese.  The semi-hard cheese is inoculated with Penicillium roqueforti spores and aged for at least 28 days.  A likeness of the cheese can be found sculpted above the entrance to a medieval chapel in La Chaulme (Auvergne, France).  The texture is smooth and creamy, very moist, even for a blue cheese.  The taste is exquisite and fruity.  Some detect anise, nuts or mushrooms.  Pairs well with Sauternes, Port or a bold Côtes du Rhône.

Paired with 2010 J.L.Chave Selection “Mon Coeur” Cotes du Rhone – Roughly equal parts Grenache and Syrah, this wine is produced by the uber-famous J.L.Chave family (“from father to son, since 1481”).   It is a rich and muscular wine that seeks to express the rustic terrior of the Southern Rhone.

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Australia Day Dinner with Aussie Wines at Cafe Zinho!

Three years running we have celebrated Australia Day with our favorite Portuguese Chef Toni Pais – while he isn’t Australian, he HAS cooked for the Australian Prime Minister, so we feel perfectly comfortable trusting his culinary skills to our humble Oz Day Celebration.

The wines were well received and all in attendance virtually beamed after the tasty dinner – here is our menu and wine choices, don’t hesitate to try them if you have a chance, we recommend them all!!!

Hors d’oeuvres – Roasted Salmon with Kiwi-Apple Salsa on Crostini

Taltarni Brut Tache (Sparkling)

Starter – Grilled Prawns with Almond Butter Sauce

Rolf Binder Highness Riesling 2011

Salad -Field Greens with Roaring 40′s Blue Cheese (from Tasmania!!)

Main -Lamb Braised in Red Wine with Winter Root Veggies

West Cape Howe “Bookends” Cabernet 2008  and John Duval Wines “Entity” Shiraz 2009 (former chief winemaker for the world-renown Penfolds Grange)

Dessert – Lamington with Pecan Creme Anglais

With Sullivan’s Cove “Salamanca” Cream Whisky Liqueur from Hobart Tasmania

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Holiday Big Bubbly Blowout!! Third Annual – Yay!

Join Grapenuts and our guests the “Clever Wine Group” December 5, 6pm at Braddock’s in the Grand Lobby of the Renaissance Hotel downtown Pittsburgh for our THIRD ANNUAL Grapenuts Holiday Big Bubbly Blowout!!

Here are our simple – but effective – party ingredients:

Bubbly in glasses (carefully selected, you won’t find this list that these prices anywhere in the USA!!!)

Bubbles in the air (who doesn’t love a bubble machine!?!?)

Tasty small plates from Braddock’s Chefs Brian and Dean (by the way, Sparkling Wines compliment nearly all food varieties!)

A huge crowd of NICE PEOPLE!

And as if to ring a bell for Pavlov’s Dog, here are the tasty sparklers with which we plan to party:

Spain – Anna de Codorniu Chardonnay Brut Cava NV – Jack’s blog declared this a Screaming Good Deal! From ultra-historic-and-famous Codorniu Cava house in Spain, 30% traditional Cava grapes compliment a heavy dose of 70% Chardonnay. The wine is produced using the French “Methode Traditionale”. Great stuff!

Argentina – Pascual Toso Sparkling Brut – Great blend of Chardonnay and Chenin grapes (both traditional French varietals). This bubbly is bright and fresh, truly an unapologetic Argentine, and we like it!

France – Caves de Mancey Cremant de Bourgogne NV – When you think of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, you will likely think of Burgundy… so do WE! So here is a great blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Burgundy, made in the same process as their northern neighbors (in Champagne) – super tasty!

USA – Gruet Blanc de Noirs Sparkling Wine New Mexico NV – This bubbly is brought to us by a French Champagne Family (Gruet) that settled in New Mexico and brought all their history and expertise with them, we like this 100% Pinot Noir bubbly from right here in the USA!

South Africa – Graham Beck Brut Rose NV – Are you feeling romantic? Or maybe you just like feeling the rich flavors of Rose Bubbly? We feel both of course! Thanks to several hundred years of South African winemaking traditions, we get fantastic wines. The red-grape richness from 70% Pinot Noir balanced with 30% Chardonnay make for a wonderfully satisfying sip!

France Taittinger Brut “La Francaise” Champagne NV – This is top stuff! Taittinger ages their Champagnes in salt caves dug during the ROMAN EMPIRE 2,000 years ago! That is some crazy history, and I think a little of that history finds its way into the complex-earthy-berry-yeasty flavors and brilliant texture of this Champagne. The real deal!

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Screaming Good Deal !! Anna de Codorniu Chardonnay Brut Cava VAP NV

A good deal is always welcome – and a good deal on a quality offering is especially welcome! This is an instance in which the PLCB (Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, purchaser/retailer of all wine in Pennsylvania) and the occasionally maligned Chairman’s Selection program hit ‘pay dirt’ for bubbly lovers across the fine Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Imported from Spain, the Anna de Codorniu Brut Cava NV is listed at a mere $8.99 (reportedly discounted from $15.00). Codorniu is one of Spain’s most storied Cava Houses, documenting their history back to 1551. The name Anna has great significance for the Cava House as it is the name of the first heiress to the Codorniu estate, who married Miguel Reventos in 1659. Since then, the Estate has been owned by the Reventos family, who have made wines for centuries, and Cavas since the late 1800s.

With all this history and tradition, it is not surprising that this Anna de Codorniu Cava is made with the “Methode Traditionelle” process (the same fermenting process used in Champagne, France). The result is a bubbly that definitely punches above its weight. Reasons for this likely include the modern blend, which is incorporates 70% Chardonnay, a significant component of most Champagnes, combined with the traditional Spanish Cava Grapes: Parellada 15% and Xarello/Macabeu 15%.

The palate is effervescent (though not as dry-as-a-bone-evaporates-on-your-palate like many traditional Cavas) and nicely balanced throughout, with apple and citrus flavors dominating the floral/herbal hints from the traditional Cava grapes. Small bubbles and creamy texture (again a hallmark of “Methode Traditionelle”) follow through to a clean finish that lingers, inviting the next sip… Super-complex Champagne this is not, but for a single bottle of high quality Champagne, one could purchase five of Anna de Codorniu Cavas!

In my estimation, this Cava is a Screaming Good Deal. In fact, I have not tasted an $8.99 bubbly that I would say I liked better. The PLCB stores are well-stocked with this Cava – so it should be as easy to find as it is to purchase!  Make sure it is ice cold and Enjoy! (11.5%, Anna de Codorniu Chardonnay Brut Cava VAP NV, $8.99 PLCB Code: 33033)

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Happy Hour at Bridge Ten Brasserie – Featured Wines

We are excited for the Grapenuts Five n Dime Happy Hour next week at Bridge Ten Brasserie (18Nov12 6-8PM, http://www.bridgeten.com) – below are the wines we chose for the tasting.   These are fantastic values that all display the character of their origin.   (By the way – ALL of these wines are on the Bridge 10 Brasserie wine list – you can get them any day you want!!!)

$5 SPARKLER

 Crémant de Limoux NV Je t’aime Brut Rosé – From Southern French Region, this approachable sparkler is a pale salmon colored rose sparkler with light berry flavors wrapped in a pleasingly dry package.

 $5 WHITE

 2011 Capucine “Les Ollieux” South of France – Château Ollieux Romanis estate owner Pierre Bories visited Pittsburgh last year and met with a number of us Grapenuts!  This Capucine Blanc embodies the characteristic of the winery and ‘punches above its weight’.

 2011 Château Merlet ‘Cuvée les Collines Fleuries’ Bordeaux – This wine shows why so many people enjoy Bordeaux Blanc wines – fresh, flavorful and friendly, this wine provides easy sipping and fine accompaniment to light foods.

 $10 WHITE

 Domaine Paul Thomas “Chavignol” Sancerre – Mmmm, when you think of pure Sauvignon Blanc, what do you think of?   I bet after you try this beauty you will think of SANCERRE!   You will taste beautifully balanced citrus and grapefruit flavors with a hint of grassiness – all with serious intensity and length.

 $5 RED

 Côtes de Bourg 2009 Château Côtes de Bellevue – A Bordeaux from one of the finest vintages in past two decades, dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes, this wine has typical Bordeaux-style flavors of earth and peppery dark berries.

 Côtes du Rhône 2010 Domaine de la Solitude – A wine that had big fruit flavor wrapped in a rustic package – The blend reflects the Chateauneuf du Pape producer that uses Syrah, Grenache noir, Cinsault, Carignan – all successfully brought together in this pleasing, good-with-food, red.

$10 RED

 BOURGOGNE 2009 Domaine Bernard Moreau Mancey – Burgundy is all about finesse and refinement – Moreau’s Bourgogne Rouge is not a bruiser, but rather medium bodied balance of structure and red fruit, especially nice with food

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Five Champagne Dinner: NICOLAS FEUILLATTE, NATALIE FALMET, MICHEL LORIOT, BRICE

Every now and then, I get the urge to do something a little crazy – fortunately I am generally risk-averse, so my occasional craziness rarely ends in fisticuffs or embarrassment for my family.

Recently, I have run across a number of instances in which a hotel or restaurant or event boasted a “Champagne Reception”, or offered a “glass of Champagne” with a dinner, but what they meant was “we offer you the cheapest possible bubbly junk-juice”.   Being a fan of the “real deal” Champagne (Sparkling wine made in the traditional method IN Champagne), I took offense and decided to try and correct the gaff…  This never works.   Such is the food industry’s pervasive desire to squeeze the most possible margin out of the customer that lying about bubbly is broadly accepted.  

After hearing from my wine-ing and dining pals similar stories of “Champagne” (as advertised) rarely being actual Champagne – I decided that we could all educate ourselves, AND have a fantastic meal if we put on a dinner with ONLY CHAMPAGNE accompanying the food courses.   From a culinary standpoint this might crazy, since Champagne’s high acid levels can wreak havoc on the palate and burn out the taste buds unless paired carefully with foods that are complimentary in flavor and acid balance.   Even though one or two Champagnes might be plenty, we made plans for FIVE Champagnes and FIVE courses (go big or go home!).

The Amuse course paired a Smoked Salmon wrapped Parmesan Crisp with NICOLAS FEUILLATTE BLANC DE BLANC 2004.   This Feuillatte 100% Chardonnay Blanc de Blanc is one smooth customer –  from the tiny bubbles and smooth effervescence to the even-keeled citrus and green apple flavor notes – I enjoyed tasting this Champagne, especially with the smooth richness of the smoked salmon!

 

First course we went a little over the top with TWO Champagnes (is more of a good thing ever bad?).   We chose a head to head comparison between grower/winemaker NATHALIE FALMET’s BRUT and BRUT NATURE.   These share a similar blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but the BRUT NATURE receives zero dosage (the sugars added to make the otherwise austere Champagnes more easily palatable) at the end of the winemaking process, whereas the BRUT gets the typical 12 grams per litre (anything less than 15 g/litre is considered BRUT).  The comparison was certainly instructive, with slightly more than half the diners preferring the traditional brut style to the more intense, zero dosage sibling.  The food pairing worked nicely with these two Champagnes.   The Ricotta Agnolotti (reminded me of a ravioli) was especially successful in countering the intensity of the zero dose BRUT NATURE.

 

Second Course we moved to a Blanc de Noir (“white from black grapes”): CHAMPAGNE MICHEL LORIOT BRUT RESERVE NV which is a somewhat rare instance of 100% Pinot Meunier.   The third most popular grape of the three Champagne Grapes, Pinot Meunier is generally thought to be un-ageworthy by itself and used mainly as a blending grape to impart lush fruitiness to cuvees of mostly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.   However there are a few geographic areas thought to be excellent for Pinot Meunier and Michel Loriot is located in one of these areas, a few miles due west of Epernay (one of Champagne’s two main cities along with Riems).   In this instance Loriot goes all the way with Meunier and the result was a very positive reception and possibly the most popular Champagne of the evening – the wine was fresh and fruity with a earthiness at the finish that I thought was a spectacular match with the Mushroom Risotto.

 

For the third and final food course (dessert was the final course) we went big in every respect.   Chef Alan created two treatments of duck to counter the richness of the CHAMPAGNE BRICE GRAND CRU VINTAGE 2002 “MILLESIME”.   With 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Chardonnay from four of the most famous Grand Cru locations (Ay, Bouzy, Cremant and Verzenay), this wine is rich, and complex and much like Remi Brice’s description during our visit in 2009, “more like an beautiful wine than a Champagne”.   Very impressive, and a wonderful way to finish out our evening of LOTS of Champagne – hopefully all taste buds left intact, and our intellects were appropriately stimulated in the pursuit of Champagne experience – there were certainly many smiles among the diners as people slowly filed out.

 

Off-the-Grid Sunday Supper Series

Champagne Dinner at Marty’s Market

September 30, 2012

 

AMUSÉ

Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Blanc de Blanc 2004

Smoked Salmon Wrapped Parmesan Crisp with Chive Crème Fraiche

 

FIRST COURSE ~ HEAD to HEAD

Champagne Nathalie Falmet Cuvee Brut Nature NV

Champagne Nathalie Falmet Cuvee Brut NV 

Roasted Pear Crostini with Speck,

Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue Cheese and Arugula

 Ricotta Agnolotti with Mirai Corn Puree

 

SECOND COURSE

Champagne Michel Loriot Brut Reserve NV “Blanc de Noir”

 Mushroom Risotto

 Melted Leeks with Shaved Pecorino Romano

 

THIRD COURSE

Champagne Brice Grand Cru Vintage 2002 “Millesime”

 Seared Duck Breast with Crispy Smashed Red Potatoes, Apple and Fig Jus

 Seared Duck Rillettes with Orange Marmalade

 

FINISH

Big Picture Farm Goat Caramels

Askinosie Chocolates

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