Wines for Easter & Spring Celebrations : The Today Show

Easter is a joyous day celebrating family, faith and friends. But, the kids don’t have to be the only ones enjoying goodies. From greens to eggs & ham to lamb, these affordable spring sips will make your gathering shine.

 

TO START…

Chandon Brut Sparkling Wine, California (single serving size $6-7)

chandon-singles

The famed Napa Valley-based California sparkling house, Chandon, is a serious bubbly producer, but doesn’t take itself too seriously. These mini bottlings — each serving about a glass — are all about fun. Dry but crisp and fruity, this sparkler is ideal alongside Easter brunch from start to finish.

 

WITH GREENS…

2015 Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viogner, California $12-15

As one of California’s most unique blends pairing Chenin Blanc from California’s Clarksburg area with Viognier from Lodi, I’ve long been a fan of this white wine. Fresh and zesty with a whisper of sweetness, it’s the ideal choice with fresh-from-the-garden green salads, spring asparagus and a crudité appetizer platter.

 

WITH EGGS…

2016 Fleurs de Prairie Rosé, Côtes de Provence, France $15

 

This newly-launched wine captures the essence of southern French pinks – delicate, aromatic and stylish. The name means wildflowers and just looking at the beautiful bottle takes you on a virtual visit to Provence while adding a touch of class to your table. A blend of Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah, it’s a wine to pair alongside the earthiness of a mushroom omelet with melted brie cheese. Make sure to stock up, though, as it will disappear tout suite!

 

WITH HAM…

Kim Crawford Rose of Merlot, New Zealand $18

 

Look to New Zealand’s Hawke’s Bay for a hearty pink made with Merlot. Kim Crawford is a Kiwi staple and their succulent take on rosé marries seamlessly with the sweetness of ham basted with a brown sugar glaze.

 

2015 Cloudline Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon $18

 

 

You will not find a better under-$20 pinot noir than this wine. Period. Made by the talented hands of Veronique Boss-Drouhin of Domaine Drouhin fame, the fruit hails from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The red is elegant, spicy and silky. We know pigs and pinot are the perfect pairing, but this is a beauty for Easter ham…and beyond.

 

WITH LAMB…

2014 JAM Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, California $18

 

What’s better than LAMB & JAM? This succulent, fruit-o-licious wine pairs with lamb’s rustic flavors while offsetting its earthy richness. The full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon also goes from main course to dessert as it has a touch of sweet, dark berry fruit notes to pair with chocolate.

I recommend making a simple wine glaze by reducing one cup of wine then add a spoonful of grape jam. Simmer until thickened then give a dash of balsamic vinegar to add complexity. You can use on the lamb or swirl the glaze into premixed brownies before baking to make a grown-up Easter treat.

There’s a myriad of wines and ways to celebrate any of your spring celebrations this year. Be it ham or lamb, eggs or greens, enjoy my favorite wines in my favorite season!

And remember, the upcoming season is SUMMER!

 

 

 

Premier Pairing – Sessions at the Presidio – Recap


My 2017 Sipping Smarts class series kicked off at the end of February with a Premier Pairing at Sessions at the Presidio. Our devoted crowd of attendees — many of whom have been at ALL of my classes over the years – gathered for a 3+ hour extravaganza.

humbolt-vodka-sterling-caviarWe started with a CAVIAR & VODKA BAR showcasing two types of decadent Sterling Imperial Caviar (one freshly-harvested and the other aged for a year) from California’s top producer, Sterling Caviar. The tins were scraped clean with many exclaiming it was the best caviar they’d ever tasted. Served with Mionetto Prosecco and Humboldt Distillery Organic Vodka, it was a delicious way to begin.

We then had three flights of wine, beer and food pairings. As I usually do, I couldn’t decide what to pour, so I showcased 13 different wines including a special magnum of 2006 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon pulled from my cellar. (No one seemed to complain.) For the full list of wines, click here! 

Add to that a fantastic beer pairing on each flight from Session’s beer-expert, Jordan Spaulding, a certified Cicerone, and perfect (and hearty) pairings from Chef Michael Bilger. Needless to say…we had an educational and highly entertaining day! Uber got some serious business, too.

 

I hope you can join me for the next Sipping Smarts class focused on Spanish Wine and Food. It will be held Sunday, May 7th from 2pm-5pm at Canela restaurant in San Francisco.

Paella, anyone?

Sparkling Rosé from Around the World

Is there anything more perfect for a celebration that a bottle of pink bubbles? From the slightest blush of pink to a deep salmon hue, Brut Rosé is an elegant yet lively party in a bottle. And you’re not just going to find one region making these effervescent delights; Italy, California and of course France are turning out beautiful pink bubbles in everyone’s price range. Take a look at some of my favorite Brut Rosé to use at your next weekend brunch or for a romantic getaway. Because nothing says romance like a bottle of pink sparkling wine.

 

From California with Love

These three gorgeous pink sparklers all hail from California, more specifically Sonoma and Napa Counties.

Gloria Ferrer, Brut Rose – $35

This beautiful wine hails from Sonoma County and is one of Gloria Ferrer’s most popular sellers. Enjoy it for it’s beautiful color and versatility when pairing with food.

J Vineyards, Brut Rosé – $45

This vibrant Rosé has a brilliant salmon hue that offers layered aromas of berries, rose petals and even a hint of hazelnut. This wine’s lively acidity make it a perfect pairing to smoked salmon and even blue cheese. Enjoy it on a romantic picnic with a delicious cheese plate.

Schramsberg Brut Rosé – $39

The Schramsberg Brut Rosé is another gorgeous example of California pink. With aromas of berries and brioche, followed by a fresh juicy acidity, this is a very drinkable bottle of pink sparkling wine. Serve it for the guests at your next brunch or just pop it open for a glass in the bathtub, either way you deserve it.

 

Fun and Affordable  

Sometimes you just want to pop open a bottle of bubbles because you survived Monday. These bottles are just as delicious as their more expensive counterparts but are a little friendlier on the wallet.

Korbel, Brut Rosé $15

One of Korbel’s most popular wines, the Special Edition Luscious Brut Rosé is also a conversation piece. Bring it as a gift or drink it at home, either way the bottle’s design is gorgeous and the medium-dry rosé inside of it is meant to be savored on those warm summer nights with friends.

Chandon, Rosé $24

A deal at $24 a bottle, this elegant sparkling rosé is a delightful pink color with berry, cherry and watermelon flavors. This sparkling wine is also excellent in cocktails, like the Rose Rosa Rosé!

 

 

Go a Little Crazy

If you’re looking to spend a little (or a lot) more on a bottle of real pink champagne, these two choices are for you.

Ruinart Rosé $78

This gorgeous champagne is intensely fruity and aromatic, due to it’s blending of french Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. A little spice paired with floral notes make this worth the splurge.

Moet & Chandon 2008 Grand Vintage Rosé, $69

With an actual vintage year, the Moet & Chandon 2008 Grand Vintage Rosé is a unique bottle of champagne and an example of the best of that year’s harvest. This “pink” champagne is actually more gold in color and has a powerful aroma of tropical fruits and nectarines. Finish up with a refreshing taste of grapefruit and ginger and this pink champagne is going to have you and your significant other sipping pretty, in pink.

 

Classic Champagne

Sometimes only the classics will do. Like Audrey Hepburn in a bottle, these classic champagnes exude sophistication and style in a glass.

Charles Heidsieck, Champagne Rosé Reserve $89

Charles Heidseick’s Rosé Reserve is a classic example of pink champagne. A dusty pink color with a delicate sparkle, this gorgeous wine smells of fresh strawberries and gingerbread. This wine is powerful and stylish, as anything French must be.

 

Duval Leroy Champagne, Rosé Prestige $69

Duval Leroy’s Rosé Prestige is a beautiful marriage of Premier Cru Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. This salmon colored champagne offers up aromas of wild cherries and figs and showcases some of the very best that Duval Leroy has to offer.

Exotic and Erotic 

Call these the 50 Shades of the wine world, both erotic and extremely exotic in their flavors. Enjoy with a little romance this Valentine’s Day.

Montenisa Franciacorta – Brut Rosé $40 

This Italian Brut Rosé is an exotic example of sparkling pink wine. Franciacorta, literally “short French”, is known as a region, a type of wine as well as a production method. The bright cherry flavors of this sparkler, finished with a note of toasted almond, make it a unique wine to bring to the party, especially if that party only involves two.

Alfred Gratien, Champagne, Brut Rosé $50

Alfred Gratien Brut Rosé is the definition of erotic. With floral notes that invoke rose petals strewn across a bed, it sparkles energetically, making it perfect to sip and savor in front of a roaring fire. Watch those bubbles sparkle in the firelight as you enjoy it’s slightly smoky finish. This is perfect to enjoy on Valentine’s Day, savoring the wine and the one you love.

Fun and Flirty

No Valentine’s Day would be complete without some innocent flirting. This year, write your “Clicquot Message” on the bottle, or even speak it into the “Clicq’all” which allows you to record your very own message and gift it along with the champagne!

Nothing is more flirtatious than saying it with bubbles!

Veuve Clicquot Rosé –

Clicquot Message or Clicq’all – $69

 

New Year’s Cocktails with Hoda and Kathie Lee

In case you missed it, I had the pleasure of talking holiday cocktails with Hoda, Kathie Lee and Ray Isle of Food & Wine ! It’s always a good time for cocktails, especially with New Year’s upon us. These delicious cocktails are perfect for the winter months and might also class up your sports parties as well!

Fourth Hour Fizz

1 ½ oz vodka

½ oz Elderflower liqueur

2 oz New Age Red wine, Valentin Bianchi family, Argentina

Tonic water

Shake the vodka and Elderflower liqueur with ice. Strain into martini glass. Top with New Age red and tonic water. Garnish with sprig of mint or basil for holiday red and green

 

 

Tawny Crème

My lighter, eggless take on classic eggnog flavors:

1 cup almond milk 

1 tbsp sweetened condensed milk 

1.5 ounce Tawny Port 

Garnish with Cinnamon stick

On low heat warm the almond milk, whisk in the sweetened condensed milk until lightly frothy (can also use a frother). Pour into mug and add Tawny Port. Stir with cinnamon stick. 

 

Ginger Spice Punch

This spicy sip can be made in single servings or scaled to make punch:

1 part bourbon to 5 parts apple cider (not apple juice).

Stir together over ice and top with ginger beer or ginger ale to taste. Garnish with orange slices. 

Asian-influenced “Coco-Nog”

 The idea for this refreshing, eggless take on eggnog came to me as I was sipping a unique style of Japanese whiskey named Kikori. Made from rice aged in American and French oak for more than three years, this aromatic, light-styled whiskey whispers elegance. 

 1 oz. sweetened condescend milk

1 ½ oz. vanilla coconut milk (if you can’t find vanilla versions, just use plain coconut milk and add a ¼ teaspoon of vanilla extract)

1 oz strong green tea

1 ½ oz Kikori Japanese whiskey

 

Blend all with ice in a blender. Pour into glass and top with combination of matcha green tea powder (available in Asian markets or online) and powdered ginger. 

Check out the video!

Sparkling Wines to Ring in the New Year

As we all watch the ball drop on New Year’s Eve (GOOD RIDDANCE 2016) the festivities lend itself to only one thing, bubbles. Sparkling wine is the best way to celebrate, whether it’s the New Year, your birthday or some random Wednesday. The effervescent nature of sparkling wine can lift any party from fun to FABULOUS, and there’s nothing like the pop of a cork to lift your spirits.

 

Sweet

Sparkling wine that’s on the sweet side is a perfect pairing for the end of the year festivities, especially if you’re serving dessert. The Carpene Malvolti ($19) is a lovely elegant prosecco, with a apple aftertaste. Greet your guests at the door with a glass of this beautiful sparkler!

The Pizzolato Moscato 2015 ($15) is an excellent way to end the meal or festivities. Served best with dessert, this organically grown sparkling Moscato smells of custard and finishes with a spiced apple finish. Look in the aisles of your local Whole Foods to grab a bottle.

 

Bubbles of Beauty

While any bottle that houses bubbles is a thing of beauty, a gorgeously designed bottle is an excellent hostess gift for that New Year’s party.

The Chandon Brut ($24) “Merry Whatever” bottle was designed by Rebecca Minkoff and comes in both white and black. This bottle is gorgeous to give but even better to drink!

Nothing wows however like the Segura Viudas Bruta Reserva Heredad Cava ($20). With metal embellishments adorning the bottle, this cava not only drinks beautifully but is sure to impress!

Sparkling Splurge

Sometimes you just want to spend a little bit more on those bubbles. The Palmer and Co Brut Réserve ($50) is true champagne, which must come from the Champagne region of France. These bubbles are a blend of the most prestigious terroirs in Champagne and display the region with finesse and elegance.

If your tastes run to Italy instead of France, the Bisol Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore Cartizze ($45) is simply the best. A fruity and elegant Prosecco, this wine is a well balanced and delicious splurge.

Tis the Sparkling Season

Let’s be honest, nothing says the holidays like holiday colors. The Piper-Heidsieck Brut Champagne ($38) delights with not only it’s red festive label, but as one of the world’s most beloved champagnes, it delights with the classic crispness and elegance of a true champagne.

As always, if there are to be bubbles, some of them must be pink. This Schramsberg Brut Rosé ($44) is a gorgeously festive color to ring in the new year. Enjoy it with every course or on it’s own, celebrating with friends or with a loved one, these beautiful pink bubbles are not to be missed.

As 2016 draws to a close thank you to everyone around the world who makes beautiful wines for us to savor and enjoy, especially during this holiday season. Gather your family, friends and loved ones around as we toast to the end of another year and the hope for a wonderful 2017.

Happy New Year!