What Dessert Pairs Best with Sparkling Wine? Korbel & Bianchi’s Provide Some Answers

Erica Mandl of Korbel Champagne Cellars

Erica Mandl of Korbel Champagne Cellars

For the last tasting of the semester at the SSU WineSense Club, we focused on a holiday theme of sparkling wine and dessert.  The beautiful Erica Mandl, head winemaker at Korbel Champagne Cellars, led the tasting by introducing five different Korbel bubblies.  These were matched to delectable desserts from the new bakery in Rohnert Park, Bianchi’s.

How Sweet is Your Sparkling Wine?

Erica cautioned that it was important to understand the level of residual sugar in a sparkling wine, in order to determine the type of dessert with which to pair it.  The official listing of allowed sugar levels from the Comte Champagne website (http://www.champagne.fr/en/diversite_champagne.aspx) is as follows:

  • Brut Natural = less than 3 grams sugar per litre
  • Extra Brut (0-6 grams/litre)
  • Brut (less than 12 grams/litre)
  • Extra Dry (12 -17 grams/litre)
  • Sec (17-32 grams/litre)
  • Demi-Sec (32-50 grams/litre)
  • Sweet (more than 50 grams/litre)

The level of sweetness in a sparkling wine is determined by the dosage, which is added after the wine finishes second fermentation in the bottle.  All Korbel sparkling wines are fermented in the bottle, using the traditional method developed in the Champagne region of France.  Korbel is still allowed to use the term “California Champagne” on its bottles, because it is one of the oldest sparkling wine houses in America, dating from 1882, and has grandfathered regulations to use this term in the US.

Matching Sparkling Wine to Dessert

The less sugar in your sparkling wine, such Korbel’s Natural (.75%, $13.99), indicates it will pair better with a dessert that is slightly less sweet.  If the dessert is too sweet, it will make the wine seem more acidic.  Therefore, Bianchi’s almond cookie was a good match for this Korbel bubbly with its apple and lemon notes.  Fresh fruit and cheese also make a good pairing with a more dry Champagne.

For the Korbel Brut Rose (1.5% sugar, $10;99), which is sweeter than the Natural but still tastes dry with bright cherry and strawberry notes, Erica recommends dark chocolate.  Bianchi’s dark chocolate brownie was a perfect foil for this wine.

The other three Korbel bubblies we tasted that evening were progressively sweeter in style.  They are listed below with descriptions, sugar level, and suggested dessert pairings.

Sparkling Wine

Sugar & Price


Dessert Pairing

Korbel Riesling California Champagne 3.8%(38gpl)$21.99 Semi-sweet with flavors of orange blossom, apricot, and pear. A hint of clover honey at the end. Bianchi’s lemon bars, or other creamy and tart desserts such as custard or flan.  Also consider warm gingerbread
Korbel Moscato Frizzante 4.8%(48gpl)$21.99 Moderately sweet wine with suggestions of tart green apples, kiwi fruit, and lemon citrus flavors. Light chocolate cake with rose petal sauce or caramel and ice-cream, champagne poached pears.
Korbel Sweet Rose 6.0%(60 gpl)


Korbel’s sweetess champagne with very bright fruit flavors and aromas, but a cleansing acidity on the finish. Can be used as dessert on its own, or served with white or milk chocolate desserts.

For more information on these special sparkling wines, see Korbel Champagne Cellers at http://store.korbel.com/premium-champagnes-c4.aspx.  For more information on Bianchi’s Bakeshop, please see https://www.facebook.com/bianchisbakeshop

Balletto and DeLoach Wineries Celebrate the Pinot Noir Harvest with SSU Millennials

Forty-four Millennials showed up to Thursday evening’s SSU Wine Club tasting called “Pinot Party.”  Not only did the students get to taste pinot noir wines from both Balletto and DeLoach wineries, but they were also treated to fresh Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris grapes from the vineyard.

Favorite wines of the evening were the 2011 Balletto Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($29), which has notes of dark cherry cola, violets, earth and rhubard, and the 2009 DeLoach Green Valley Pinot Noir ($45). According to the winemaker notes, this latter wine is very aromatic, with touches of raspberries, black cherries, rhubarb, rose petals and a hint of cola.  It pairs well with salmon and other rich fish.

An interesting variation on the food plates were the inclusion of fresh raspberries, dried plums and red grapes, as well as cheese plate to accent the Pinot Noirs.

Kenwood and Valley of the Moon Winemakers Entertain SSU Millennials with Varietal Showdown

Another sold out crowd showed up this past week at the SSU Wine Club meeting to listen to veteran winemakers, Patrick Henderson of Kenwood Wine Estates and Greg Winter of Valley of the Moon.  In addition to honoring the “end of summer,” the tasting featured a fascinating “varietal show down” of how two wines made of the same grape varietal can taste completely different based on appellation and/or winemaking techniques.

Valley of the Moon’s Greg Winter started with out with an unoaked chardonnay and then compared it to an oaked wine.  He explained that consumers liked different styles, and so they produced both.  When he asked for a show of hands, about 2/3 of the Millennials preferred the unoaked to 1/3 voting for the oaky chardonnay.

Other “varietal taste offs” included two zinfandels from different AVA’s – one light and jammy, and the other more dark, brooding, and spicy.  The “piece de la resistance” was a taste off of Kenwood’s Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon against the iconic Jack London Vineyard Cab.

Favorite Wines of the Evening

When it came time to vote for the two top favorites, the white wines triumphed with the crowd that evening.  Valley of the Moon’s 2011 Unoaked Chardonnay ($17) with crisp acid and fresh lemon/green apple notes was a favorite, as well as Kenwood’s 2011 Pinot Gris ($16) from Russian River Valley.  It was a semi-sweet white with notes of melon and jasmine.

Once again the SSU Wine Club Executive Board were present, and provided everyone with great appetizer plates filled with salami, cheese, fruit and two types of chocolates.  Another successful tasting at SSU thanks to the excellent wines of Kenwood and Valley of the Moon wineries.

Why Millennials Don’t Read Emails

Last night we had our annual SSU Wine Club Board planning meeting at my house.  This is usually a relaxed event where we identify the wineries we want to invite to campus next semester, and enjoy a BBQ dinner with many fun wines.  This year’s planning dinner was equally enjoyable, but I was struck by our conversation about how we will promote our educational tasting seminars.

“We will market the seminars via word of mouth and Facebook, of course,” said our new VP of Marketing.  “Most college students never read emails.”

As a college professor, I already knew this, but I was concerned because so many businesses still require email communication.  “Well, I will read email if it is part of my job or a grade depends on it,” another board member responded “but Facebook or texting are much more reliable.”

I leaned back in my chair, took another sip of wine, and scratched my head — feeling trapped in an electronic communication time warp.  It seems that with each new technology introduction communicating between the generations becomes more complex.

“But what about the Constant Contact email campaign you just mentioned you were using to reach people for your job on campus?” I asked our new VP of Marketing.

“Oh, that is to reach out to alumni and community,” she answered.  “We use Constant Contact to send emails to them, but it just doesn’t work with students.  Instead, I have to communicate with them via Facebook using event postings and special group messages.  I just wish Facebook would allow us to send messages to many individuals, but they are not there yet.”

I sighed and took another sip of wine thinking back to the charity golf tournament I spend the last 6 months organizing.  It was the first year we actually used online registration via Constant Contact for our 19th annual golf tournament, but we could only get half of the players to use it.  The others insisted on completing paper registration forms we sent via regular mail.

“Why is it an issue?” another Millennial Board member interrupted my reverie.  “Email is passé.  We don’t need to bother with it when communicating with people in their twenties.”

But I can’t help thinking about all of the marketing and promotion campaigns that are now forced to use multiple platforms to reach different generations.  We live in a time when one age group still requires paper communication; a second relies on email; and a third will only respond to text and Facebook.  How and when do we span this technology gulf of ages?