holiday cheer at the cellar

Celebrate the Season!

This Friday from 4-6.30pm, the Cellar will host a very special Holiday Tasting.

When I popped in yesterday to say hello to my daughter Angelica,(above), the shop was buzzing with activity; Paul  Greenhaw was hanging ornaments from the ceilings while Dave Skarlz took orders – both keeping an eye on the customers who were perusing the shelves. The whole vibe was very festive, with wreaths, bows and a bit of glitter glamming up the place!

Angelica (who is expecting my fourth grandchild in early February), was in her office on the computer, tieing up all her loose ends before the Holidays kick in for real, followed closely by her baby’s arrival!

“This is going to be a fun tasting!” She told me. “Lots of bubbles, plenty dessert wines – sweet and sparkly for the Holidays.”

We’ve all tasted sparkling wine, at the very least around the holidays or when celebrating a special occasion, yet many of us have no idea what the difference is between wines such as Champagne, Cava and Prosecco—or how they even get the bubbles into the wine in the first place.

Sparkling wine is a carbonated wine, a wine that has bubbles, which usually takes on the name associated with the region or country specific to where the wine originated. The carbonation in sparkling wine is created using one of two methods: Méthode Champenoise (Champagne method) or Metodo Italiano, which is also known as the Charmat-Martinotti method.

There are many legends of how sparkling wine came to be created, but the one I like best is one my late father told me; the story of the monk, Dom Perignon.

As the story goes, sometime in the 1600s the monk was making white wine in the Champagne region of France. He bottled the wine he had fermented earlier than usual because, when he checked the fermentation tanks, it seemed to him that the yeast had finished converting all the sugar to alcohol.

In fact, the winter temperatures in the Champagne region had become so cold that the yeast in the tanks had simply gone to sleep, even though they weren’t done eating all the sugar. When the spring came and the wine in the bottles began to warm, the yeast woke up and began gobbling up all of the leftover sugar.  As they ate the sugar, the carbon dioxide they were creating had no place to escape, as it would in a large fermentation tanks, so instead the CO2 was absorbed by the wine, thereby carbonating it.

When Dom Perignon went to check on his wine he encountered corks popping all around him; he tasted the wine and loved the results, thus the birth of Champagne.

Since the discovery of the Champagne method, which is often called the traditional method, Champagne has exploded across the world, quickly becoming the most well-known and highly regarded bubbly.

Food-wise, Champagne is pretty versatile. It’s an obvious aperitif, exquisite with smoked salmon and cured meats and excellent with seafood of all kinds, including sushi. It doesn’t end there though, try pairing with rich buttery sauces, roasted chicken and many cheeses. It even works with chocolate or fruity desserts and is one of the few wines that can be enjoyed from breakfast until party time.

“In fact, all the wines we are pouring for this tasting, pair beautifully with traditional  Holiday meals,” Angelica said.

Along with classic Champagnes, there will be other sparkling wines to taste.

The sensation of bubbles and high acidity in most sparkling wine makes them taste less sweet than they actually are. When you taste more of the different varieties, you’ll notice certain grape varieties smell sweeter (and thus taste sweeter) than others. For instance, if you try a Demi-Sec traditional Champagne (which is usually a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) it will taste less sweet than a Demi-Sec Sparkling Moscato even though both may have the same amount of sugar.

Dessert wines are meant to be enjoyed in small glasses and treasured like a glass of fine Scotch or Cognac. There  a few styles of dessert wine, from delicately fizzy Moscato d’Asti to the rich brooding vintage Ports.

Sweet wine is produced with extra sweet wine grapes. In order to make them sweet, the fermentation is stopped before the yeast turns all the natural grape sugar into alcohol. There are several ways to stop the fermentation, including super-cooling or adding brandy to wine.

Both methods create an environment where yeast won’t survive.

Southern will be here and their theme for the Holidays is “Celebrate!” Angelica explained.

“They have three sparkling wines, as well as a dessert wine, not to mention a few California classics!”

Southern’s list for Friday reads like a wine lover’s dream:

-Bottex Bugey Sparkling Rose

-Antica Chardonnay

-Roederer Estate Brut

-Merry Edwards RRV Pinot Noir

-Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon

-Grahams 20 yr tawny port

-Piper Heidsieck Champagne (coincidently, my dad the story-teller’s, favourite bubbly.)

“I’ll email the rest later,” she said as her phone rang.

I picked up a bottle of organic Cotes du Rhone to take home with me, and as he rang it up, Paul Greenhaw, smiled and said, “how cool you picked out this one – it’s one of our wines.”

Paul and his wife Martha, who moved here from NYC (with a brief stop in Kansas), and literally landed in the Cellar’s lap, are the PM in PM Distribution. They will have a table at the Cellar on Friday, and will be pouring six of  the organic (low intervention) wines they focus on.

-A Toscano Bianco from Azienda Loghi (Italy)

-A Pinot Grigio from Redentore (Italy)

-A Sivi Pinot from Stekar (Slovenia)

-Both the Piedi Grandi and Sumu Kaw

from La Clarine Farms (CA)

-A Carignane from Les Lunes (CA)are,

Charles Baston will be pouring for Fiasco. On his list is:

-A Champagne

-Dominique Corbin Pouilly Fusse

-Chateau Thivin Reverdon Brouilly

-Catherine & Pierre Breton Trinch Cabernet Franc

-Nardini Tagliatella (Grappa, Sour Cherry, Orange, & herbal after dinner liqueur)

Sweet dessert wine, Champagnes, and other sparkly wines – not to mention 10% off everything they are tasting – sounds like my kind of Holiday Party!

Cheers! I’ll drink to that!

For more on the  Cellar and their HolidayTasting, please visit their site linked below this post.

The Cellar

All images thanks to the Cellar and/or stock files

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