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

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

BRAND Napa Valley Launches #FromBRANDwithLove Giveback Sharing Package

Pritchard Hill winery, BRAND Napa Valley is running a giveback program, #FromBRANDwithLove for customers and Covid-19 first responders around the nation. Sharing the gift of wine, the “BRAND Care Package” is essentially a buy-1-get-1 for customers to spread the love with a distinguished bottle of wine and send another to a first responder as a token of appreciation for their selfless service.

Credit: BRAND Napa Valley, at Harvest 2019

BRAND Care Package

With the purchase of a $150 “BRAND Care Package”, worth $300 in value, customers receive a bottle of the prestigious 2016 BRAND Napa Valley BRIO Red Blend—an estate produced Bordeaux-style Red Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot—for the customer and for a first responder of their choice, who will receive an identical bottle at no cost to them. Customers can purchase the “BRAND Care Package” online, nominate their first responder, include a personalized note, provide shipping information.

Historic St. Helena Winery Charles Krug is Now Ropened For In-Person Tastings

On June 9th, Napa’s oldest winery, Charles Krug reopened its St. Helena estate adhering to local guidelines, after being closed since March 16th in compliance with California’s statewide Shelter-in-Place order. The reopening comes with a variety of new protocols that go above and beyond county and state recommendations to ensure health and safety for everyone.

Charles Krug Winery, Napa Valley
The New Cabana at Charles Krug for Safe Wine Tasting.

A Pleasant Physically-Distanced Wine Experience

5 new WiFi-enabled cabanas within the winery’s Picnic Grounds will be unveiled with the reopening. Although the cabanas were already under construction before the Pandemic, they are particularly timely to facilitate efficient physically-distanced wine experiences. The winery’s diverse culinary offerings will still be available on a modified schedule: artisan pizzas from Charles Krug’s wood-fired Mugnaini oven will be available Friday through Sunday, while local culinary partner, Tre Posti, will offer both cheese and charcuterie plates, as well as grab-and-go items.

Additional Winery Safety Measures

On top of meeting Napa County’s official safety guidelines including face masks worn by employees, extra hygiene protocol and more, Charles Krug’s tasting room consulted with Winery Safety Officer AJ Perez to implement stricter standards:

  • Comprehensive “Deep Clean” disinfecting, misting of general and targeted touchpoints in all areas of the winery before Grand Opening
  • Appointment-only booking to limit occupancy within winery
  • Outdoor-only tasting, with wine delivered in pre-poured glasses. Wine service will be guided by a masked Wine Ambassador from a safe distance
  • All tables, furnishings, and flat surfaces will be sanitized after each guest visit
  • A concierge will manage customer flow and monitor physical distancing while guests are waiting to be seated, entering or leaving the property 
  • Touch-free transactions, with goods being placed directly in the guest’s car or carried out by customers as they prefer
  • Water will be served in single-serve recyclable containers
  • Restrooms are cleaned every 30-60 minutes

About Charles Krug:
In 1943, Italian immigrants Cesare and Rosa Mondavi purchased the historic Charles Krug property, the oldest winery in the Napa Valley and longest-running tasting room in California. The brand was built on a foundation of family values, hard work and a European winemaking tradition; it remains a family-owned winery today, producing estate-driven, top of the line Napa Valley wines. The wineries are under the direction of Peter Mondavi Jr. and Marc Mondavi, who steward the family business passed to them by their father, legendary Napa Valley wine icon Peter Mondavi Sr.  The family is now proudly welcoming members of the fourth generation to the business, continuing a legacy started over 70 years ago and setting a foundation for generations to come.

Wine Tetris Blocks – How I Fell In Love with Wine

(Contributed by J. Onodera) My interest in wine is like a game of tetris, as the “blocks” slowly fell in place over time. It all started during spring break of my junior high school year, when I toured different colleges in the Northwest, one of them being Sonoma State University. As our tour group walked to the Wine Spectator Learning Center on campus, our guide mentioned that the university was the only one in California offering wine degrees in business topics, rather than the traditional Viticulture and Enology degrees. The idea of becoming a player in wine business sparked a sense of motivation in me, and that was how I laid the first row of blocks in the game of Wine Tetris.

“Wine Tetris”

Second Tetris Row – Learning about Wine through People

Laying the foundation of the second tetris row of wine had to do with interactions with other people.Having lived in different parts of California, I have many groups of friends from various demographics, which is also reflected in their drinking habits, ranging from drinking cheap beers to sipping pricier wines. Often at social gatherings with friends, we would open a bottle of wine and pair it with different foods, and then discuss the unique taste combinations that emerged. Through such experiences, I learned how to communicate and connect with different communities, and grow my wine knowledge.

Third Tetris Row – An Unforgettable European Trip

After my sophomore year at Sonoma State University, I decided to splurge on a 3-week cultural and food tour through Madrid, Barcelona, Milan, Venice, Florence and Rome. I’ll never forget that first day in Madrid, where I was introduced to Sangria – a glass jar filled with ice, red wine, green apples, oranges, and blackberries. Enjoying the ice-cold sangria with a spicy dish of paella was an incredible experience.  As I continued my tour across Europe, the wine and food encounters continued to blow my mind, and I fell more enchanted with the world of wine.

An Evolving Experience

Now as I pursue my degree in Wine Business, I’m really enjoying the chance to explore, develop my palette, and appreciation the diversity of wine. The tetris blocks are coming together faster now, and all of these experiences have made me more confident in my decision to study wine.

My Favorite Wine Tasting Experience at Caymus Vineyards, Napa Valley

(Contributed by K. Mead) My absolute favorite wine tasting was at Caymus Vineyards, one of the oldest Napa wineries, started by the pioneering Wagner family winemakers. Located just north of Napa in Rutherford, Caymus is situated amongst vineyards that produce some of the highest quality grapes Napa Valley has to offer. Each year they craft highly-regarded wines, such as their signature Caymus Cabernet.

Outdoor Tasting at Caymus Vineyards. Credit: Meyer Sound for Caymus Vineyards

Cozy Wine Tasting on a Cold Fall Day

I had the pleasure of stopping by Caymus for a tasting in late fall of 2019. Grey and overcast, it wasn’t the most pleasant of conditions for the occasion. Luckily, Caymus thoughtfully offered guests a fleece blanket, along with a complimentary Caymus wine glass. If visitors prefer staying indoors, Caymus welcomed them to a comfortable lounge area which emulates the personal Wagner family living room.

Friendly and Knowledgeable Tasting Associates

With top notch service, the Caymus tasting staff are not just inviting and friendly, but passionate and knowledgeable about the entire Wagner Family wine portfolio. Adding a personal touch to every tasting, they tailored each conversation according to the guest and the mood, gladly answering all questions, regardless of level of wine knowledge.

Delightful Wine Tasting Selection

The wine tasting menu consisted of a variety of wines from not only Caymus, but other wines in the family portfolio, such as Emmolo, Mer Soleil, and Conundrum. I was delighted that the final wine of our tasting was the celebrated Caymus Vineyards 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon. Words fail me each time I have the pleasure of tasting this wine. It tastes like a warm summer evening, when you can smell the crush in the air. Its full and comforting flavors were the perfect ending to a rather cold and dreary weather day.

Wine is My Love Potion: Adventures as a Harvest Intern

(Contributed by Alexandro Gomez) Wine is my love potion. Never before would I have thought wine could be this interesting. It all started in the summer of 2019 when I met the Robledo family, owners of Robledo Family Vineyards in Sonoma, California. They established the first tasting room in the United States that is owned by a former Mexican migrant vineyard worker and his family. After much discussion of my interest in wine, they offered me a harvest internship. Although I was very excited about this opportunity, I was also scared and nervous as I knew nothing about harvest or wine in general.

Robledo Family Winery
Harvesting grapes at Robledo Winery. (Credit: Robledo Family Winery)

First Day on the Job

As I was pulling up to the vineyard at around 5am, I noticed how fast the harvest workers already were at picking grapes. Luckily, my father taught me about hard work and how to quickly adapt to tough situations. I began picking as fast as possible, knowing these workers were also relying on me to do the job well. After about 6 hours and 24 blade cuts later, I sat under the shade for some water and thought to myself – I want more!

A Promotion to the Cellar

Seeing my instant enthusiasm, the Robledo brothers offered me work in the cellars where I would soon realize the art of winemaking. Again, it was an extremely fast-paced working environment, but I went with the flow, despite being very green. My curiosity and motivation helped push me to learn more. I was assigned to clean tanks, disinfect barrels, mop floors, clean hoses, and many other tasks. Working in the cellars was a major eye opener, because I learned winemaking techniques and the language of wine.  The experience was just what I needed to immerse myself into the wine production world.

My internship at Robledo Family Winery ended after four months, and I decided to focus on my final exams and also gain more experience on the business side of the wine industry. It has been a great learning journey so far and I’m looking forward to more!

Ten Great Reasons to Love California’s Wineries and Vineyards

(Contributed by Gregg McPherson) Californian’s have much to be thankful for – great weather, fabulous beaches, soaring mountains, and a thriving economy. Many people focus on Silicon Valley and the amazing technology that is produced there when they think of what drives California’s growth. Not as many people realize how important the wine and grape growing industry is to the people of the state. These are mostly small to medium family businesses that provide quality jobs and a product that is loved across the US and around the world. California’s wines generate roughly $32 billion in retail sales. That is a staggering number.

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Beautiful California Vineyard on Sonoma Mountain

The good news is that California’s vineyards and wineries have grown steadily since the end of prohibition. This growth is accelerating as we reach the late 2010’s. Here are some of the key financial, agricultural and employment highlights of California’s wine industry. We hope these numbers give you a greater appreciation for just how important this industry is to the state and the country. Created by the California Winery Advisor, publisher of the popular Best Wine Club Guide.

Tasting Sparkling Honey Wine at Heidrun Meadery, Point Reyes, California

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Visiting Heidrun Winery

(Contributed by Erica Schreckenghaust) On a beautiful sunny day a small group of Wine Sense Members visited Heidrun Meadery in Point Reyes. We were on a quest to taste “the wine of the Norse gods” – wine made from honey. Mead was the only beverage that the Norwegian god Odin would drink, and it had to be from Heidrun, a special goat that would produce mead in her udder.

About Heidrun Meadery

Heidrun Meadery is one of the few, if not the only, meaderies, who make their mead in the Methode Champenoise style, which creates a champagne style mead. Heidrun Meadery was first founded by Gordon Hull in 1997 in Arcata, CA. Over the years the popularity of their mead increased steadily and soon reached their production capacity, so they 2011 they relocated to their current property, a 16­acre farm in Point Reyes, only a mile from the Pacific Ocean.

How to Make Sparkling Honey

The Heidrun Team consists of five people who do everything from taking care of the bees and landscaping the property with native flowers, to hand disgorging and bottling the mead. In the production facility there are large vats of honey stored in steel drums, the size of oil drums.  These contain honey made on­site, as well as honey they buy from around the world. The flavor of the wine depends on the type of flowers the bees feed on.

The Production Process

The Production Process

The first step is to melt the honey in order to begin the fermentation process. They take a large tool that looks similar to a banana masher and place it on top of the large vat of honey. Over the next three days the tool will sink down to the bottom, heating the honey along the way. The liquefied honey is then placed into stainless tanks with 4 parts water, yeast, and yeast food so that it can ferment and create mead. Then the mead is boiled to remove any wax elements.

Next the mead is transferred to sparkling wine bottles and more yeast and sugar is added so the wine can go through secondary fermentation in bottle. The bottles are placed in large crates for aging, and after 4 months the crate is rotated on a gyro-palate so the yeast falls to the top of the bottle. Then the bottle top is frozen and the team disgorges the mead by hand and recorks it. No dosage is added. A label is applied and the mead is allowed to rest for a few more weeks before it is ready to be sold in the tasting room or to local restaurants and grocery stores.

The Honey Bee Garden and Hives

The Bee Hives & Garden

The Bee Hives & Garden

We then visited the true stars of the whole operation, the honey bees. Towards the back of the property there are hives that contain thousands of bees entering and exiting all day long. The bees can travel as far as five miles a day to find nectar and always return to their queen in the same exact hive. There is also a beautiful garden with various flowers to attract the bees.

Tasting the Sparkling Honey Wine of Heidrun

After seeing the incredible partnership between the Heidrun Team and honey bees, we were excited to try the final product. We headed into the tasting room to try five of their most popular meads: Hawaiian Lehua Blossom, Oregon Radish Blossom, Hawaiian Macadamia Nut, California Orange Blossom, and Alfalfa & Clover Blossom. We were also allowed to taste jars of honey made from each of these ingredients as well.

IMG_1631The sparkling meads were surprisingly dry and refreshing, considering they had such sweetly beautiful aromatics. There were no clear favorites among our group, as everyone liked different wines, but the two that stood out the most were the Oregon Radish Mead and the Alfalfa & Clover Mead. We had a fantastic afternoon in Point Reyes and cannot thank the Heidrun Meadery Team for taking the time to show us around!

The Innovative Wines of Delicato Family Vineyards

Liz Rice of Delicato

Liz Rice of Delicato

The Wine Sense Club had the honor of welcoming back Elizabeth Rice, an SSU alum and one of the founding members of the club, from Delicato Family Vineyards. She has worked at Delicato as their Director of International Marketing and Operations for the last 13 years. She has had the opportunity to travel all over the world representing the various brands under the Delicato portfolio.

Delicato Family Vineyards – 3rd Generation Family Growers in California

Delicato Family Vineyards is a 3rd generation family owned business with over 90 years of grape growing in California. They have a total of 3 wineries and 10 winemakers to create their amazing variety of wines. They are currently in over 70 international markets and have over 4,200 acres of grapes in Napa, Monterey and Lodi. They also proudly display their awards for Winery of the Year in 2011 and 2014.

The Innovative Wines of Delicato

Elizabeth brought 6 different wines from different branches of the Delicato brand, including a few that are only available internationally.

2012 LOFT Sauvignon Blanc: The first is a Sauvignon Blanc premium boxed wine called LOFT. Many people are often turned off by boxed wine, but Delicato is attempting to change this stigma. This wine is a premium wine retailing for about $30 and is for the savvy consumer, as it will stay good for up to three months after opening and even has the appellation on the box itself.

2014 Clay Station Viognier: Next we had a 2014 Viognier from the Clay Station Vineyard in Lodi. This vineyard is made up of 1,300 acres, situated on the slopes 200 feet above the valley.

10169247_10153216514063540_7002120323978289103_n2013 Gnarly Head Petite Syrah: We had a 2013 Gnarly Head Petite Syrah, which is currently only available for purchase in Europe. It’s a wine filled with hints of blackberry, chocolate and coffee beans.

2012 Brazin Old Vine Zinfandel: The Brazin Zinfandel is big and bold, offering flavors of black fruit and mocha and hints of vanilla. It is grown in Lodi and has won many awards such as a Silver Medal in the 2015 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

2010 Black Stallion Estate Winery Barrel Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon: This Cabernet Sauvignon is a limited production wine (24 barrels total) to celebrate the Year of the Horse grown in Napa Valley.

2012 Earl Stevens Mango­scato: Finally, we tried the Earl Stevens Mango­scato wine, created by platinum selling recording artist, E­40. This wine has a very sweet aroma, 18% alcohol and is not for the faint of heart.

Favorite Wines of the Evening

The favorites of the night were the Clay Station Viognier and the 2010 Black Stallion Reserve Cabernet.

Thank you to Elizabeth for her impressive presentation and sharing many exclusive, innovative and rare Delicato wines!

This post was Contributed by Erica Schreckenghaust.