Celebrate Champagne Day This Friday with These Ideas!

This Friday (Oct 23) marks the 11th annual global Champagne Day. Besides sharing a bottle with family and friends, learning about the art of Champagne (see resources below), you can also try some delicious Champagne food pairings while playing a special Champagne playlist. Although it comes in a great variety, Champagne in general is surprisingly versatile to pair with different types of cuisines and tastes.

Credit: Comite Champagne

Know Your Dryness/Sweetness

First, pay attention to the sweetness/dry scale of your Champagne. If you are serving more than one bottle, start with the driest, working up to the sweetest.
The designations for Champagne from driest to sweetest are:

  • brut nature (driest)
  • extra brut
  • brut
  • extra dry/extra sec
  • dry/sec
  • demi-sec
  • doux/sweet (sweetest)
These champagnes all have different sweetness levels. Credit: Comite Champagne.

Dry Champagne pairings

A dry champagne with rounded acidity could pair well with shellfish seafood, such as oysters, shrimps and lobsters, but also rich soft cheeses like brie or camembert, or even devilled eggs. For mains, try buttery dishes like a cream-based pasta, such as alfredo, or earthy dishes like a mushroom risotto, or even a vegetable galette. To finish, a classic shortbread butter cookie pairs splendidly with a dry Champagne. If you like something tart, lemon meringue, crepes or cheesecake could work too.

Creamy, earthy dishes like this mushroom pasta pairs well with dry Champagne.

Rosé Champagne

With a bit more body, Rosé Champagnes could take more meatier and savory dishes, such as smoked salmon, cold cuts like prosciutto, fattier fish like tuna steak, and dishes with a hint of spice, or even duck. For sweet endings, try chocolate with raspberries, or, of course, chocolate-dipped berries of your choice.

Try Rosé with smoked salmon and rich cream cheese.

Sweet Champagne

Champagne pairs well with many fruits that complement their undertones, especially berries, lemon and peach. For desserts, try some subtly sweet flavors with slightly buttery or creamy textures, such as lemon snap cookies, vanilla ice cream with blueberries, or simply a handful of toasted hazelnuts or almonds.

A simple tart-based fruit like lemon curd complements the acidity of Champagne.

Surprise!

Guess what, you don’t need to break the bank for fancy oysters and Canapés to enjoy Champagne. Here are some everyday foods that Champagne complements just as well with:

  • Anything fried, such as chips and potato fries, as the crisp acidity of Champagne cuts through the fattiness. The heavier the food, the more acidic the Champagne should be.
  • Mac n’ Cheese: Use milder cheese so to not overwhelm the Champagne.
  • Chili con carne: a Champagne can balance its spiciness and sweetness.
  • Buttered popcorn with sweet Champagne
  • Egg rolls with chili sauce
  • A classic burger with pickles
Many simple foods pair just as well with Champagne.

Learn about Champagne!

If you want to learn more about Champagne, check out these resources: Champagne: From Cellar to Table Aroma Development of Champagne WinesTasting Sheet.

And of course, don’t forget to share with family and friends and post photos on social media for #ChampagneDay!   

Exquisite Wine and Dine Open-Air at the Breathtaking Ram’s Gate Winery

Known for their small lot premium wines, innovative culinary experiences and beautiful farmhouse-meets-modern design, Ram’s Gate is a modern winery nestled between Sonoma and Napa at the heart of Carneros Valley. This fall, Ram’s Gate will open new Veranda and Arbor venues for private outdoor tasting experiences. The very first Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs by Director of Winemaking Joe Nielsen, who joined Ram’s Gate team in 2018, will also be released. These wines will be featured throughout the tastings and available for purchase at the winery. 

Ram’s Gate Winery

Veranda By the Fire

The new Veranda Experience offers guests a privately hosted tour by an in-house wine expert, tasting of five wines with locally sourced cheese and charcuterie, and a complimentary Ram’s Gate blanket per guest to sit by the outdoor fire. This experience is available Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays and Mondays, at $165 per person.

Open-air tasting areas at Ram’s Gate.

Innovative Culinary Experience at The Vineyard Table

If you want a special Chef prepared experience with friends, the Arbor Experience is a six-course wine-pairing of seasonal, locally grown produce prepared by Executive Chef Stacey Combs, paired with selections by Nielsen at the Vineyard Table under the Arbor, with a tour of the winery and vineyards before the six-course pairing. This two-hour experience for up to 10 is available beginning October 16 at $275 per person.

Wine and dine at Ram’s Gate.

Open-air Tasting and Pairing

Notably, the Ram’s Gate tasting room is designed by renowned architect Howard Backen, as a modern take on the weathered farmsteads of old Carneros, blending the indoor and outdoor spaces. You can experience the Open-Air Tasting with a 5 wine flight at $50 per person, and an additional three-course Wine & Food Pairing Experience for a total of $105 per person.

Wine flight at Ram’s Gate.

Planning Your Visit

The Ram’s Gate tasting room is open Thursday-Monday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Reservations are required and can be made at https://www.exploretock.com/ramsgatewinery/.

New Rosé Wine Revolution in Puglia, Italy

Many regions of the world produce lovely “pink” rosé wine, but an area getting more attention now is the Puglia region of Southern Italy. Nestled along the Adriatic Ocean in the “boot heel” of Italy, Puglia – also called Apulia – and pronounced “pulia,” is producing rosé wines from their native grapes. However, in Italy, the term for rosé wine is “rosato.”

Rosé wine from Puglia in Southern Italy. Photo Credit; Association Instagram

What Types of Grapes Go Into Puglia Rosé Wine?

Rosé wines are usually made by pressing red grapes early and letting the juice sit on the skin for a few hours before it achieves the desired “pink” color.  Then the pink juice is fermented into wine in a very similar fashion as white wines are made. They age for a few months in stainless steel tanks and then are often bottled young and released in January and February to be enjoyed throughout the year.

The most common red grapes used to make Rosé are Grenache, Syrah, and Pinot Noir, but in Puglia, they are using their native Primitivo, Negramaro and Bombino Nero grapes, amongst many others. For more information on how Rosé is made in Puglia, click HERE.

Puglia in Rosé Association

Puglia in Rosé Association Spreads the Good News

Caterina Baldini is the president and co-founder of the Puglia in Rosé Association. Their purpose is spreading and boosting the good news about Puglian Rosè Wines from Southern Italy. To this end, they have developed a touristic and educational web portal.  It highlights the beauty of Southern Italy, and the wineries, farms, and restaurants that are producing Puglian products.

Furthermore, 2020 appears to be a positive harvest year in Puglia. According to Lucia Nettis, Director in Chief of the Puglia in Rosé Association, “The 2020 grape harvest has been great in Puglia. We registered a lower production but a better quality compared to last year.”

The Coast Line of Puglia. Photo Credit: Paolo Petrignani

Puglian Rosé Fashionable During COVID Lockdown

Furthermore, despite the COVID lockdown, rosé wine in Puglia has been the only style of wine to experience increased growth in 2020. “It’s fashionable,” says Nettis, “and producers nowadays are starting to drink it more frequently. In fact, 70% of those who produced rosé in 2019 have already sold out. Therefore, winemakers are rushing now to finish the 2020 harvest to be able to have Puglian rosé wine available at Christmas. They are also starting to produce more sparkling rosé wines.”

To find rosé wine from Puglia, check out your local wine shops or shop online.

Alberobello Village in Puglia. Photo Credit: Paolo Petrignani

How You Can Help Our Community Recover

Our wine community is fighting multiple challenges yet again, affected by the Glass Fire shortly after LNU fires were contained in an already difficult year. However, there are some ways you could make a difference while connecting with the community.
How? Here is a short list of resources for you to check out.

Offer a helping hand: Volunteer!

You can volunteer both in-person or even from home by preparing and delivering food, helping at animal rescue shelters, promote social media, translate, etc. For area-specific volunteer opportunities, visit:

Napa area: Napa Disaster Relief Volunteering

Sonoma area:Sonoma Disaster Relief Volunteering

Many ways you can help without leaving your home.

Volunteer from Home: help translate, promote social media, or even bake for foster kids all from your home!

**Remember to keep checking for more, as these lists are continually updated.

Wildfire-specific volunteering: Visit California Volunteers’ special wildfire page

The American Red Cross needs volunteers and accepts donations for wildfire relief not just in California but other states.

Help prepare and deliver fresh, healthy food in Sonoma for those living in poverty, alone without support or chronic disease patients through The Ceres Project  

Ceres Project volunteers preparing fresh healthy meals in Sonoma

Donate

You could donate to different relief funds set up for specific causes.

California Wildfire Relief

Providing emergency supplies including medicine, food, water for firefighters, low income families and animals affected by current fires.

The Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund
Offering gifts in forms of temporary shelter, meals, counselling services, other assistance, and even gift cards to evacuees and emergency relief services to those affected by the fire.

Wine Country Fire Relief Fundraiser

A Gofundme campaign to cover a variety of items, including food, supplies, shelter, COVID testing at shelters to ensure safety for evacuees, and gift cards so families or individuals can tailor to their specific needs.  

Special causes

Check out the Latino Community Foundation, an umbrella organization that works with Latino-founded / Latino-led organizations, with over 500 members and 22 Giving Circles. They recently set up a special NorCal relief fund for Latino-led organizations supporting families displaced by the current wildfires across all the state of California.

Help plant a tree with just a dollar at One Tree Planted, or even become an Ambassador to help global reforestation.

And of course, drink Napa and Sonoma wines!

Keep going…

These are just some ideas to get started. While this is sadly very unlikely the last time our community needs your help, every single effort can make a difference. Let’s join hands and help where we can.

A Silver Lining for Chianti Classico

Needless to say, 2020 has been challenging for most of us. Fortunately, some vintners in Italy are trying to make the most of the situation despite an overall decline in wine sales. Chianti Classico Consortium, one of the oldest Italian wine consortiums with 515 Chianti producer members, remarks how vineyards have “never looked so good” as a result of winemakers having extraordinary time to dedicate greater care on the 2020 vintage.

Beautiful vineyard slopes of Chianti.

New opportunities for Chianti wineries

To provide extra support for Chianti producers and boost local economy, the organization launched several initiatives, such as financing schemes and a wine tasting program collaborating with top restaurants around Tuscany. This situation also forced some wineries to rethink their online presence. For Ricasoli winery, which boasts an 800-year old Castello di Brolio family castle, started an online campaign on social media that includes sharing a Chianti “recipe” from 1872 by Ricasoli ancestors, a video showing Sophia Loren in their vineyards, and using drones to take footages. 

The Castello di Brolio owned by Ricasoli family in Siena. Credit: Ricasoli
One of the Chianti wine and dine participating restaurants

A Silver Lining?

Since Italy’s coronavirus measures started easing in July, visitors are slowly starting to increase. While sales has clearly not recovered to pre-pandemic levels, the Consortium believes that 2020 may just turn out to be an exceptional vintage as a result of the extra resources dedicated to it.

Safely distanced outdoor dining at one of the participating Chianti restaurants.

About the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico:

The Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico exists to protect, oversee, and valorize the Chianti Classico denomination. Since the Consortium’s founding in 1924, the organization has changed its name and the design of its logo, the Black Rooster, which since 2005 has been the trademark of the whole denomination. As one of the premier institutional organizations in the European Union in the grape-growing and winemaking sector, the Consortium represents 96 percent of the DOCG production. The entire production chain is supervised by a public tracking system, which enables consumers all over the world to check the bottle they’ve purchased via the Consortium’s website. The Consortium also conducts research and development in the agronomic and enological fields, in collaboration with prestigious educational and research institutes. For more information, please visit https://www.chianticlassico.com/

Josh Hart, NBA Player and Wine Fan, Announces New Scholarship with Wine Access

For centuries, wine has been a cultural experience that brings people of all backgrounds together. With this in mind, Wine Access, the online wine retailer curating the world’s highest quality wines and immersive tasting experiences, partnered with Josh Hart, NBA player and wine enthusiast, to create a Diversity In Wine Scholarship Program.

Josh Hart Announcing Wine Diversity Scholarship

This scholarship aims to promote diversity and inclusivity in the wine industry and increase representation of the BIPOC community. As a company made up of wine experts with different backgrounds and experiences, Wine Access strives to provide more opportunities for minority groups within the wine industry to receive credentials from CMS and WSET in order to get their foot in the door as they move through their journey of becoming sommeliers.

“I entered the wine world as a young Black man and was lucky enough to build some incredible relationships. However, I also saw how many barriers to entry there can be for other young people of color,” said Josh Hart, a professional basketball player in the NBA. “This industry can often seem intimidating, but Wine Access makes it more comfortable for newcomers to build their knowledge and expand their palate.”

Video on How the Scholarship Works

The scholarship will reward 100 members of the BIPOC community who currently work in or aspire to pursue a career in the wine industry with the chance to learn from top wine industry professionals and become WSET Certified. Top performers can even earn additional opportunities—including a trip to Napa with Josh.

To apply, applicants need to complete an online form HERE. The deadline to submit an application is October 31st, 2020. For more information, watch this short VIDEO of Josh describing the scholarship.

Josh Hart and Vanessa Conlin MW, Wine Access Head of Wine

About Wine Access

Wine Access is a leading online wine retailer focused on creating an immersive experience, empowering consumers to experience the under-the-radar winemakers and iconic producers who define the art of wine. Founded in 1996, Wine Access was the internet’s original unified wine portal which made it easy for consumers to shop for wines online and deliver them to their doorsteps nationwide. Today, Wine Access also offers a wine club, a robust online retail outlet, exclusive private-label offerings, regional events throughout the country, as well a comprehensive wine content platform spanning social media, video and podcasting. 

“We’ve gotten to know Josh Hart through this process and learn about his love of wine, so we’re excited to partner with him for this long-overdue initiative,” said Joe Fisch, CEO of Wine Access. “No matter what ethnicity, background or gender, wine is the great communicator that unites us all.”

Intercept Wine, Created by Black NFL Player Charles Woodson, Now Available Across the US

Charles Woodson is the only defensive player ever to win a Heisman Trophy, and now he has achieved another triumph. After launching Intercept Wine in partnership with O’Neill Vintners & Distillers in 2019, Woodson was confronted by an issue which many producers in the wine industry face – trying to get wine distributed in more than just a few states.  In the beginning Intercept Wine was only available in 15 states, but now it has achieved full national distribution through its partnership with O’Neill Vintners & Distillers.

Charles Woodson with his wine brand, Intercept

This makes Super Bowl champion, Charles Woodson, the first black NFL player to gain full US distribution with a wine brand. Named “Intercept” wine as a connection to his football career, Woodson currently offers four different wine styles: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and a Red Blend, all at a suggested retail price of $19.99. They can be purchased in stores across the nation, or online at his website, where it is available to be shipped directly to consumers in 28 states, with more to follow.

Line-up of Intercept wines

“In light of what is happening in the US currently and the worldwide uncertainty, I am in awe of the reception that Intercept has achieved in less than one short year,” said Woodson. “I have always thought that wine was universal – that it brings people together – and I can’t be more grateful for the response we have seen from distributors, retailers and, most importantly, wine fans.”

Charles Woodson in the vineyard

Breathless Winery Wins “Rising Wine Star Winery of the Year” Award

In less than 10 years since it opened, Breathless Wines has already won multiple awards, including the San Francisco Wine Competition, American Fine Wine Competition, Wine Enthusiast, among others. This time, it is awarded by LuxeSF, a luxury marketing organization, as their “Rising Wine Star Winery of The Year”, after a tough competition with 74 other nominations across 5 award categories, selected by a 14-person panel of respected industry veterans.

Have you tried Breathless Wines yet? They are currently offering a special duo Blanc De Noir and Brut Rose pack at $60 including shipping this week until September 18. Better yet, you could visit their winery in downtown Healdsburg and try a flight of 4 wines for just $16 in their outdoor patio, or join their Friday Bubbly Happy Hour, or try a Breakfast at Breathless Breton Crepe paired with their sparkling on September 27. For more options, check this page out!

Breathless Brut in their flutes.
Lady on a Flying Cork, a poster from 1920s, used as Breathless Wines Logo.

Ferrari Cars Celebrate With Ferrari Trento Sparkling Wines

Two iconic Italian brands come together in Florence on September 12 and 13th to celebrate the 1000th Grand Prix. The famous Ferrari car company partners with the historic Ferrari Trento sparkling wine company for this special occasion.

Photo Credit: Ferrari Scuderia and Ferrari Trento Sparkling Wine

For the first time in its history, the Mugello Circuit will host a FIA Formula 1 World Championship™ class race, and its coinciding with the important milestone of Scuderia Ferrari –the only team present in all of the 70 editions raced till now – has created the perfect occasion for celebrating in style in Florence with a Gala Dinner in the Sala dei Cinquecento inPalazzo Vecchio. The Ferrari Trentodoc bubbles will welcome the guests as they enter the venue.

This collaboration represents a bond between the two symbols of special magic from Italy. Both are emblems of the story of two visionary men, two dreamers, two entrepreneurs – Enzo Ferrari and Giulio Ferrari – who were perfectionists obsessed with the details and research of excellence that have made unique the products they were capable of imagining and creating. These two dreams today still live on in anyone who pronounces the name “Ferrari”, one of those words that speaks of Italy and that fills the heart with passion.

The Ferrari Team. Photo Credit: Ferrari Scuderia

About Ferrari Trento Sparkling Wine

Founded in 1902 in Trento by Giulio Ferrari and since 1952 run by the Lunelli family, Ferrari is Italy’s leading traditional method winery and a symbol of the Italian Art of Living. 

All Ferrari labels are Trentodoc, bottle fermented sparkling wines produced with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes cultivated with passion and respect following the principles of sustainable mountain viticulture in Northern Italy’s Trentino. Ferrari is the toast of Italy par excellence and accompanies the most important moments in culture, sport and entertainment. Ferrari Trento was named “Sparkling Wine Producer of the Year” for the third time at the 2019 Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships.

Ferrari Trento Sparkling Wine. Photo Credit: Ferrari Trento

A Legacy Sparkling with Personality

Hailing from a pioneer winemaking family in Napa, Paula Kornell is a Napa native who has seen the region’s rise from idyllic countryside to a world-renowned premium wine destination. Paula has acquired decades of experience throughout the wine industry, having held management positions at Mondavi, Phelps and other wineries. She has been a member of the Board of Napa Valley Vintners and served a term as its President, and has also chaired the famous Napa Wine Auction several times.

Paula Kornell serving her wines at home.

Meeting Paula Kornell and Tasting Her Very First Vintage

Now, Paula is carrying on her family legacy, having launched her own line of methode champenoise (traditional Champagne method) wines last October with Vintage Wine Estates. I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet Paula and experience her great hospitality over a cordial wine lunch at her eclectic St. Helena abode and learn about the many colorful stories behind her brand.

Paula opening her bottle of Blanc de Noir

Kornell Family Legacy

The Kornell family history is interwoven with the Wine Country, starting with Paula’s father, Napa wine pioneer Hanns Kornell. Originally from Germany, Kornell studied winemaking at Geisenheim Enological Institute in the 1930s and applied that training working for French and Italian wineries. After a narrow escape from Dachau Concentration Camp, he arrived in America with $2 in his pocket. Hanns worked in wineries until he was able to purchase the historic Larkmead Estate, one of California’s oldest wineries, which was established by Lillian Hitchcock Coit in 1884.

The historic Larkmead Winery. Credit: Napa Wine Project

Paula’s Wine Beginnings

After college, Paula’s adventurous spirit led her to a brief period working in vineyards around Europe and studying winemaking at Geisenheim, as did her father. Later, she did a stint selling Burgundy wines for the famous New York wine merchant Sherry-Lehmann. Although she enjoyed filling orders for celebrities on Madison Ave, her father eventually persuaded her to fly back to California on a one-way, first class ticket to work for Kornell Cellars.

The iconic Sherry Lehmann on Madison Ave.

The Difference Between Sparkling Wine and Champagne

While sharing her Brut, an elegant blend of Central Californian Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Paula noted how American consumers were unaccustomed to the “sparkling wine” definition initially. “Champagne” was perceived as better, but consumers increasingly understand why the change in nomenclature was made. International laws restrict the Champagne label to wines made only in this French appellation, even though many premium sparkling wines are made elsewhere using the same method. Her family has long used this traditional Champagne winemaking method in making their California wines.

Kornell Brut in a bucket.

Paula’s Blanc De Noir

Paula also opened a bottle of her inaugural 2017 Blanc De Noir, made with 98% Pinot Noir from the classic Mitsuko’s Vineyard in the Los Carneros area, ideally situated to catch breezes from San Pablo Bay. Remarkable was how it tasted like a more aged Champagne: complex, with toasty notes and a crisp hint of zesty citrus. It was an absolutely delightful pairing with her homemade galette made with fresh vegetables from her yard.

Our wine pairing lunch.

How the Wine Started

Paula’s own wine brand came into being when she was approached by long-time family friend and CEO of Vintage Wine Estates, Pat Roney, who wanted to boost their premium boutique wine portfolio with great sparkling wines. The winemaker behind Paula’s wine is Robin Ankhurst, who has worked harvests from Burgundy and Languedoc to Marlborough and Barossa and now directs winemaking for several esteemed Napa wineries. I noticed the beautifully etched Riedel glasses with her logo, which she explained was the Men of Canaan – the same logo used in years past by Hanns Kornell Champagne, denoting Israelites carrying grapes to the “Promised Land,” which for her family was California.

Paula, her Blanc de Noir and me.

Staying Positive and Resilient

It’s not only Paula’s great wines and the history that stand out, but also her resilient and jovial spirit. To be sure, lockdowns caused by the current pandemic will pose challenges for wineries needing to sell excess inventory, but she sees pockets of opportunity for those who build relationships and continue to get involved. Despite the current pandemic, Paula has managed to progress with building partnerships through Zoom calls.