A Breathless Experience: My First Time Breaking A Wine Bottle With a Saber

Have you seen a champagne or sparkling wine bottle being broken open with a saber? I have not, until I was very lucky to have a chance to try it at Breathless Wines, known for their traditional method (the original method for making Champagne) sparkling wine in Healdsburg when Dr. Thach and our group visited!

What is Sabering?

A saber is a type of sword with a curved blade associated with light cavalry in the early modern and Napoleonic periods. The technique of breaking open a champagne bottle using a saber, called “sabrage”, was popularized after the French Revolution, when Napoleon’s cavalries celebrated their victory by using sabers to open champagne bottles.

A saber breaking open a champagne bottle. Credit: Last Bottle Wines

Safety First!

For someone who has never held a saber, let alone cut a bottle open with one, it can be quite intimidating. Luckily, Breathless has very careful protocols guided by their friendly experts. I was led by Sharon, one of the Founding Sisters of Breathless Wines. The “Saberer” first puts on protective heavy duty gloves and safety goggles. Because of Covid-19, an extra pair of disposable gloves are worn before the heavy duty gloves, and of course I was masked up like everyone else. Also, using a cold bottle makes it easier to break.

The saber, cold Breathless Blanc de Noir bottle, and protective gear

Power Pose

Having the correct posture helps to wield power. To start, Sharon demonstrated how to stand sideways, almost like an archer, and hold the body (where the label sits) using my non-dominant hand. Of course, the bottle must be pointed far away from anyone – everyone needed to stand back!

Sharon demonstrating the power pose and how to hold the bottle.

Learning The Technique

Next, Sharon demonstrated the actual technique of holding the saber, and how to strike the bottle. With the saber in hand, the blade sits at an angle to the bottle, and I took a few turns running the blade along the bottle towards the lip, which is the breakage point.

How to hold a saber and where to guide it

Blast off!

Finally, the wire cage was taken off as an extra step to make it easier. Shortly after the demo, I was ready. My hand went faster than I was mentally prepared and POP! Went the top. I did not apply much force, and it felt a lot smoother than expected. Indeed, I read later that it is simply the force applied at a fragile point of the bottle – with already much internal pressure – that breaks it. Some wine was lost, but I held it up in victory, still shocked at what happened just seconds ago. I was relieved no one was hurt!

This happened within seconds!

Serving the Wine

What good is opening a wine if you can’t enjoy it? After sabering, make sure to check for shards before serving. We all got to enjoy a fresh glass afterwards!

Dr. Thach gets the first glass!

Certified Saberer!

Certificate and cork wrapped in Breathless Seal

Breathless Wines awards every Saberer with a “Certificate of Completion”, and the cork sealed with their signature Breathless label. I am really grateful for such an unforgettable experience, and hope to lose less wine next time!

Try it Yourself!

For more information and to schedule this exciting Sabrage Experience, please click here:
https://www.breathlesswines.com/Visit-Us/Sabrage-Experience

Make a Prosecco Cocktail to Celebrate National Prosecco Week

Hurray!  It is National Prosecco Week – a perfect reason to run to the store and buy a bottle or more of Prosecco. As you probably know, true Prosecco is only made in Northern Italy from the Glera grape. It is light, fruity and bubbly – a perfect drink before dinner, or many other occasions. When you shop for Prosecco make sure to look for the Prosecco DOC symbol to insure you are buying a true Prosecco approved by the Consorzio di Tutela – the Italian organization that monitors production.

So Many Prosecco Cocktail Recipes

The other great thing about Prosecco is it is perfect to use to make delicious and beautiful cocktails. The Consorzio di Tutela provides some excellent Prosecco Cocktail recipes on their website at this link. Following are a few that are very fun to try.

Rossini – A Prosecco Strawberry Smoothie

Ingredients:

½ cup (10 CL) PROSECCO DOC

1 cup (5 CL) FRESH STRAWBERRIES

1 cup ICE

Directions: Pour the Prosecco Doc and fresh strawberries into a blender with ice. Puree, and then pour into a glass flute. Garnish with a strawberry.

James Bond Prosecco Vesper

Ingredients:

¼ cup (5 CL) PROSECCO DOC BRUT

1 1/2 tablespoons (2,5 CL) VODKA

1 tablespoon (1,5 CL) CRÈME DE POIRE WILLIAM

1 tablespoon (1,5 CL) LEMON JUICE

1 DASH OF ANGOSTURA BITTERS

DRIED PEAR SLICE

ICE CUBES

Directions: Serve in large Prosecco glasses. This cocktail is built directly in the glasses. Fill the glass with ice cubes and place the dried pear garnish inside. Pour the Vodka, Crème de Poire, lemon juice and Angostura bitters and mix with a stirrer. Finish by topping off with Prosecco DOC and stir gently to avoid losing all the lovely bubbles.

Hugo – Prosecco with Elderberry and Mint

Ingredients:

1/4 cup (6 CL) PROSECCO DOC

1 1/2 tablespoons (2 CL) ELDERBERRY SYRUP

1/4 cup (6 CL) SODA

MINT LEAVES

Directions: Pour the Prosecco DOC, elderberry syrup and soda straight into a flared white wine glass with plenty of ice. Top with the mint leaves and stir gently with a bar spoon. Serve with a slice of lime.

Prosecco Fruit Bowl

Ingredients:

1 glass (5 ounces) PROSECCO DOC

Mixed fruit cut into bite-size pieces (strawberries, cantaloupe, melon, peaches, etc.)

Directions: This recipe is courtesy of Brooke Sabel, a Master Teacher for Prosecco. Brook describes one of her favorite Prosecco recipes for brunch or dessert. Simply cut up some of your favorite types of fruit into bite size pieces.  Toss in a bowl with a glass of Prosecco.  Yum!

Favorite Winery Experience at Quatro Quatros in Baja, Mexico

(Contributed by Melanie Sanchez) My favorite winery experienced happened at Quatro Quatros Winery in Ensenada, Mexico.  “Quatro Quantros” means “four fours” in English, and refers to the 144 acres on which this winery is located. It also includes a hotel with 19 cabanas, spa and restaurant. What is very exciting about this winery is its location on a hill overlooking the ocean. Also, it is only 80 miles south of San Diego, so you can cross the border and visit for the day.

Ocean View, Vineyards, and Cabanas at Cuatro Cuatros Winery

My family and I drove down from San Diego to celebrate my birthday. They knew I loved wine and so they chose the perfect spot for my birthday celebration. It was my first ever winery tasting experience, and I was pleased that it was a warm spring day with a refreshing ocean breeze.  When we arrived, we parked in a lower parking lot, and then were transported by 4×4 off-road vehicles to the mountaintop winery with an incredible view overlooking the Pacific ocean.

Melanie with Her Family at Quatro Quatros Winery

Wine Tasting on an Ocean View Hilltop

The winery used an open outdoor rustic concept with stacks of hay covered with table cloths serving as tables and chairs. It was functional and comfortable outdoor furniture, but they also had stylish wood tables if you didn’t care for hay furniture. It was so simple yet still very sophisticated.

Hay Bale Furniture at Quatro Quatros Winery in Baja, Mexico

Once we settled around our hay table, the server welcomed us warmly and recommended the 2013 Quatro Quatros Cabernet Sauvignon. We purchased this along with a cheese, meat and nut platter, which paired nicely with the red wine, tasting of semi-sweet red and black cherries. The server was very experienced and explained about all of the grape varietals grown on the estate. Altogether, they have 40 acres of vineyards, with 82% red grapes and 18% white grapes.

The whole experience was very memorable for me not only because the location and ambiance, but because of the excellent customer service where we learned so much about the wines and estate. The ocean view was the cherry on top. I feel so thankful that I got to have this special moment that I will always remember in one of the most beautiful wineries in Baja, Mexico.

Toast to an Eclectic Mix of Live Music this Summer with Robert Hall Virtual Concert Series!

Paso Robles winery Robert Hall is hosting a virtual music concert series, Robert Hall At Home Sessions, live-streaming indie musicians directly from their homes starting this Wednesday July 22. After each concert, the audience will have a special chance to peek behind the scenes and learn directly from the artists about their journeys, personal stories and more.

First Up: Roots Rock Duo, Larkin Poe

A different artist will be revealed before each session. This four-session series kicks off with Grammy nominated Larkin Poe, a roots rock sister duo Rebecca and Megan Lovell based in Nashville. Their latest LP, “Self Made Man,” is a tribute to their journey as artists from constant touring to producing their own music. 

Larkin Poe: Jul 22 Concert
Credit: Robert Hall Winery.

“The Good Life. Well Earned”

The chosen artists reflect Founder Robert Hall’s philosophy and the company’s tagline, “The Good Life. Well Earned”: endless dedication to producing the highest quality results, from every bottle to music for all to enjoy. Unwind, sip and enjoy the rest of the summer with great wine, beautiful music, and feel the community spirit virtually!

Four Sessions Starting July 22 at 5pm PST

Robert Hall At Home Sessions is live on Facebook starting July 22 at 5pm PST on the winery’s Facebook page @roberthallwinery. Future Robert Hall At Home Sessions will be streamed on August 5, August 19, and September 2 with new artists announced the week before each show. To receive updates on the line-up and see exclusive interviews with the artists, head to www.roberthallwinery.com/At-Home-Sessions

Have You Ever Heard of an Italian Wine Grape Called Colombana?

Considered to be a very ancient grape, Colombana Bianca is a white grape from Tuscany, also known by the names “Colombana Peccioli and Verdea.”  Legend states it was brought to Italy by an Irish missionary called St. Columban. He travelled throughout Europe, and gathered many followers who brought vine cuttings to northern Italy. They planted the vine and began to make wine near the towns of Pisa and Milan, but over the centuries the Colombana vines were replaced by other varieties, so it became very rare and was thought to have nearly disappeared.

Slopes of Fattoria Fibbiano. Credit: Fattoria Fibbiano.

Rediscovery of Lost Colombana Vines in Vineyard

Recently the Cantoni family, who own Fattoria Fibbiano Winery south of Pisa, Italy, rediscovered some lost Colombana grape vines growing in their vineyard. Upon analysis, they realized they were identical to those cultivated in Lombardy, Italy, under the name of the Verdea grape. They were excited by this discovery, because in the past, wine made from the Colombana grape in that region was known for its therapeutic properties.

The vines among Fattoria Fibbiano. Credit: Fattoria Fibbiano.

What Does Colombana Taste Like?

Because the grape is so rare, Fattoria Fibbiano decided to craft a new wine made with 100% Colombana grapes. The wine has a brilliant straw yellow color, with rich notes of exotic fruits, such as banana, pineapple, and papaya, with a nose of pressed flowers. It has a notable tanginess from marine soils, with rich acidity that makes it refreshing and deliciously easy to drink.

Colombana wine by Fattoria Fibbiano.

Crafting Colombana Wine

This 100% Colombana wine is produced with cold maceration on the skins at 50 degrees Fahrenheit in stainless steel tanks for 5 days, after which skins are pressed and the must obtained is fermented at a controlled temperature of 54F without using selected yeasts, bringing greater character to preserve authentic qualities of this variety of noble origins. After fermentation is complete, the wine is transferred into concrete tanks, where it rests for 4 months before bottling.

Where to Purchase Fattoria Fibbiano Colombana

Due to the rarity of the Colombana grape, Fattoria Fibbiano winery, was only able to produce only 3,000 bottles of wine. It was released in June 2020, and will be available in select wine shops in the US in the near future.

Not Just Your Average Canned Wine – Tips on Finding the Right One for You!

They are everywhere: from Trader Joe’s to online stores, pop-up bars to your friend’s party. Since Sofia Coppola’s pretty pink cans of blanc de blanc sparkling debuted in 2004, canned wines have exploded especially in the past few years. According to Nielsen, canned wine sales grew 69% year-on-year in 2018, and 79% in 2019. The variety is now diversified to seltzers, wine coolers offering “zero sugar” and “lower alcohol” options, even sake and more.

Sofia Mini Brut Rosé Coppola 4 Pack
Sofia Coppola’s Brut Rose.

The Case for Canned

Although canned wines often have no vintage, specific AVA or vineyard, and are not meant to age like fine wines, they are a great choice for many: it’s portable, chills faster, one can try something new without buying a whole bottle. Cans protect wines from oxygen and light, and a thin layer of plastic inside prevents imparting metallic flavors, which keeps white, rose and sparkling wines surprisingly well. Finally, they’re environmentally-friendly: aluminium cans are often recycled, and lighter weight means less carbon footprint during transport.

And contrary to what some critics say, it’s not just cheap wines that get put into cans – reputable vintners have been canning their wines too. That includes Sommelier and Wine Director of NoMad New York, Thomas Pastuszak, who started Vinny using exclusive Finger Lakes grapes, and ex-Sommelier Gina Schober of Sans Wine, who makes premium organic canned wines.

Credit: Vinny Wines.

My Positive Experiences with Drinking Canned Wines

My first canned wine was the much-hyped BABE rose, which I had seen across social media, and was excited to buy a pack at Vinexpo in Hong Kong 2017. Since then, I have tried canned Prosecco, Rose and Pinot Noir. I was very curious to find a canned Pet Nat from Nova Scotia, which is normally made by bottling before end of fermentation to preserve wild yeast and create light sparkling. Fermenting in a can is quite a feat! I’m also keen to try urban warehouse winery Infinite Monkey Theorem, who sources grapes from western Colorado and High Plains of Texas, and they’re available at my local BevMo.

2018 Benjamin Bridge pet-nat in 250mL can, $8.99 ea., available in Atlantic province liquor stores.
Benjamin Bridge Pet Nat 2019. Credit: Toronto Star.

Sizes of Cans and Drinking Tips

Canned wines come in a range of sizes, usually: 250ml, equal to 1/3 of a standard wine bottle, or 1.6 standard glasses; 375ml, roughly 2.5 glasses; 500ml, about 3.33 glasses. Just remember to share and drink responsibly, and finally, canned winemakers have noted a difference when you pour it in a glass, even if it’s plastic. Try for yourself!