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

Hike, Picnic and Taste Wine at La Crema Winery’s New Outdoor Tasting Experience

As wineries slowly start re-opening in California, many are getting creative in the types of experiences they offer, because currently most tastings must be outdoors and include food. With this in mind, La Crema Winery took advantage of their beautiful Saralee’s Vineyard property to offer walking tours and picnics in the relaxing gardens surrounded by rolling vineyards.

Guests must make a reservation online in advance. When they arrive, they are provided with a map of suggested walking trails to explore the vineyards and take in the beautiful vistas of the Russian River Valley. Upon conclusion of the walking tour, they receive a pre-packed cheese and charcuterie picnic box with an estate wine to continue the La Crema outdoor experience at home or on the Estate, including at Richard’s Grove, the beautiful, expansive great lawn adjacent to the vineyards.

La Crema has prioritized safety by conducting training with its tasting room and culinary staff. All employees must wear facial coverings, conduct pre-shift health screenings, and thoroughly sanitize surfaces prior to and following all visits. Hand sanitizer stations are also available for guests. La Crema is following all the hygiene and health requirements consistent with CDC guidelines.

Reservations are available daily at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., and can be booked online  HERE. The experience, which includes the walking tour, lunch, and a bottle of wine is $100 per couple.

Photos courtesy of La Crema.com

 

 

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!

SSU Wine Sense Club Students Take Field Trip to Hamel Family Vineyards

Hamel Family Vineyards

Hamel Family Vineyards

(Contributed by Erica Schreckenghaust ) – One of the main goals of the Wine Sense Club is to create connections between wine professionals, wineries, and students. We appreciate all of the people who have come to visit us on campus over the years but wanted to create an organic way for students to get the all-encompassing experience of a brand. In attempt to do this the Executive Board have organized fieldtrips all over Sonoma and Napa Valley during the Spring semester.

Hamel Family/ Brand History:

To kick off our series of field trips we had the honor of visiting Hamel Family Wines in Sonoma. The 124-acre Hamel property has been within the family for many generations and they began making wine in 2006. The entire Hamel operation is very much a family affair, with George II and Pam as the owners, their oldest son George III the Managing Director, John the winemaker and their daughter Casey helping with administration duties.

Caves at Hamel Family Vineyards

Caves at Hamel Family Vineyards

The new tasting room was completed in June and opened to the public. The beautiful tasting room blends into the environment perfectly, so much so that you can’t even see it from Highway 12. The Hamel’s wanted the tasting room to blend in and add to the natural beauty of the property which is very evident when you step on the gorgeous patio with large minimalist couches to allow the breathtaking views of Sonoma county take the main stage.

Tour Details:

A group of students were led on a tour by Kirstie Dyer, Operations Manager, a recent Sonoma State and Wine Sense Club alum. Kirstie showed us their stunning 12,000 square foot cave, where they have invested in many concrete egg-shaped tanks. These types of tanks are breathable like regular barrels but don’t give off any of the oak characteristics to the wine. The egg shape also gives a natural stirring effect during fermentation.

The Hamel’s see the environment as an extremely important, if not the most important part of their venture so they have attempted to bring organic and biodynamic styles in their wine growing and gardens. They have a large garden full of fruits and vegetables in addition to various livestock that live on the property including baby goats and cows.

Tasting at Hamel Family Vineyards

Tasting at Hamel Family Vineyards

At the end of the tour the group was treated to a tasting on the patio of their four current releases: the 2013 Rosé, 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, 2012 Zinfandel and 2011 Isthmus, a red wine blend.

We owe a huge thank you to the wonderful Kirstie Dyer and the Hamel Family for showing us a fantastic afternoon at their beautiful new facility. We can’t wait to go back!