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Dec 01

Palate Press: Champagne Wishes!

I’m currently the featured story on Palate Press. It’s a little article I whipped up about Champagne – some differences between the big houses and, my personal favorite, grower Champagnes. I also interviewed a few local retailers, including Ryan from Buttermilk’s Cork-n-Bottle and Jen from Kenwood’s Microwines.


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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Michelle at 10:22 am in Knowledge, Life | Permalink | Comments (1)
Oct 26

Sparkling Wine with Dinner

Tomorrow night, the Dilly Cafe (Dilly Deli) in Mariemont is hosting a wine dinner with sparkling wine vintners Domain Chandon. At last check, there were still about 8 seats left and at $65, the price is pretty reasonable.

Now, I’d be perfectly happy to only drink sparkling wine (including champagne, prosecco, cava, and others) for the rest of my life. It is my favorite type of wine, closely followed by pinot noir. But to get you in the mood for a sparkling wine dinner, I thought I’d talk a little about a seminar we took in Disney, with Moët & Chandon, Domaine Chandon’s parent company. Moët & Chandon, based in France, makes champagne. Domaine Chandon, in Napa, makes sparkling wine using the traditional champagne method. Only sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France can actually be called “champagne.” For our purposes, I’m just going to go with “bubbly.”

Our instructor was Seth Box, Director of Education for Moët & Chandon USA. One of the first things he did was to preemptively correct the class’s pronunciation. Despite the fact that folks everywhere pronounce it Mo-AY and Chandon, it’s actually Mo-ETT. That, folks, is what those two little dots mean over the e.

image from farm3.static.flickr.com
Champagne, and sparkling wine in the champagne method, can be made from three grapes: Pinot Noir gives the wine backbone and structure, Chardonnay lends elegance, and the Pinot Meunier picks up the slack as a workhorse grape. I find this interesting, as I really enjoy Pinot Meunier on its own. In fact, I think Domain Chandon might make one of the few Pinot Meunier-only wines available on our retail shelves.

Seth pretty much told us to just enjoy our samples while he talked
about Moët & Chandon and bubbly in general. I thought I’d touch on
some of the more interesting points he shared before I dive into our
review of the wines.

  • Why are bubbly hangovers so bad? It’s for one of two reasons: either you drank too much, in which case you probably earned your hangover, or your drank bad bubby. No kidding folks. Drink too many bottles of $5 Andre and you’re going to feel it for a reason. According to Seth, the cheaper bubblies are suffering from poor workmanship. The grapes are squeezed too hard, releasing histamines into the wine. The histamines are then fermented. It’s a sign. Drink. Better. Wine.
  • Store your bubbly upright. Kevin and I keep ours upright in our pantry, where it’s dark and there’s no vibration. But don’t store it too long. Seth commented that “It’s a British thing to sit on wine until you’re almost dead.” Most non vintage bubblies have aged at the winery and are ready to drink now.
  • There are ~250 million bubbles in a bottle of champagne. That’s a lot of bubbles folks. The cork can come out of the bottle at up to 65 miles per hour, due to the pressure built up behind the cork.

image from farm3.static.flickr.com On to the wines. We tried three, all Moët & Chandon Non-Vintage. I enjoyed all three, but definitely preferred the second glass.

Rosé (Brut): According to Seth, this pink wine was the best of our three for food pairing, because the contact with the red grape skins (thus the pink) lends a little bit of tannins to the wine. This wine had some strawberries, light cherries, and a good texture.

Michelle: Kevin

Imperial (Extra Dry): You might know this wine as White Star. Until recently, it was known world-over as Imperial, except in the US. They changed the name domestically so that you could order your favorite sparkler by the same name, no matter where you land. I’ve always been a fan of White Star, er, Imperial. It has more of the dry, bread-y flavors I prefer in a good bubbly, and it’s not very sweet.

Michelle & Kevin:

Nectar Imperial (Demi-Sec): This was by far the sweetest. I’m not a huge fan of sweet bubbly, so this one was my least favorite. I made a very unscientific observations at the Dessert & Champagne booth, however. I noticed this wine was being poured more frequently than the other bubblies and that it was almost always chosen by women. Seth noted that this wine pairs well with strong cheeses, such as cheddar, gouda, and chevre.

Michelle & Kevin:

image from farm3.static.flickr.com
The Dilly Cafe dinner (full menu) on Tuesday begins with a reception at 6:30 pm and dinner at 7 pm. Again, it’s a Domain Chandon wine dinner, which is located in Napa and owned by Moët & Chandon. In fact, Domaine Chandon has a special place in my heart as the first winery I ever visited in Napa, back in 2004. There was no doubt in my mind that we were going to begin that trip with some sparkling wine. I recommend you give Domaine Chandon a try as well. You can RSVP by calling 513.561.5233.

image from farm3.static.flickr.com

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Posted by Michelle at 8:38 am in Dinner and Drinks, Disney, Knowledge, Wine Notes | Permalink | Comments (2)
Oct 05

Mad Men Mondays: Asti Spumante & Moscato d’Asti

Last night our favorite couple took a whirlwind trip to Rome during a hot summer at home. When Betty first arrives at her table, looking all Audrey Hepburn, she orders (in fluent Italian), a glass of Asti Spumante.

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The first thing into my head is the jingle from when I was a little girl: "Martini & Rossi Asti Spumante, a celebration in a glass." I searched all over The Internets and could not find that ad anywhere (although I was highly amused by a few Angie Dickinson, Burt Bacharach, and Jaclyn Smith Martini & Rossi ads). I did find one with the right attitude though:

Are you done laughing now? I laugh nonstop every time I watch it. And don't you just want to break into the jingle there at the end?

Thanks to years of ads like the one you just watched, Asti Spumante gets a pretty bad rap, and in fact, most of it is mass produced. Betty should have ordered a Moscato d'Asti.

Both Asti Spumante and Moscato d'Asti are made from the Moscato Bianco grape and come from an area to the south of the town of Asti in Piedmont, Italy. How is Moscato d'Asti different? Well, aside from smaller production, Moscato d'Asti is lighter, more fizzy than bubbly.  

Additionally, the production process is different. After all, there's more fizz than foam in a Moscato d'Asti. When making our moscato of choice, the winemakers stop the fermentation earlier than they do with a Spumante. The result? Less sugar is consumed by the yeast, so you get a sweeter, low alcohol wine.

A Moscato d'Asti is a drink-now sort of wine, tasting fresh and easy. It's a perfect light summer drink, for instance. And of course, perfect if you're in Rome in August.

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Posted by Michelle at 2:56 pm in Knowledge, Mad Men Monday | Permalink | Comments (1)
Sep 28

Adventures at BlogHer Food

Now that I'm awake and recovering from my redeye flight, I want to give you a quick rundown of my weekend at BlogHer Food in San Francisco.For those of you who remember my BlogHer '09 posts from July, you might be surprised I so willingly attended. I was surprised myself, but curiosity got the better of me, and I'm glad it did.

Continuing the motif, I was also surprised that I enjoyed myself so thoroughly. I had intended on staying through my session, which was before lunch, and then heading out to explore San Francisco. I ended up remaining at the conference for the entire day. I found the sessions, while geared towards recipe-oriented food bloggers, were still relevant for review and wine blogs as well. The whole attitude of the day was different from what I expected, and I was thrilled. It was the perfect size (I believe it was around 300 people) and the programming struck just the right note.


My panel focused on blogging best practices. Not only was I on a panel with an impressive group of women, we actually talked about blogging. (My panel included two cookbooks authors, Elana and Lauren, as well as Kalyn from Kalyn's Kitchen, with moderating by Alanna Kellogg.) It was refreshing. I also attended a session on photography basics, as well as a fantastic session on protecting your work and copyright. I learned something in every session I attended. I'm a terrible conference attendee, and often my attention easily wanders, so BlogHer Food's programming impressed me.

In fact, the only complaint I heard from anyone (myself included) was about the lunch. It was a hyper Rocco diSpirito and Bertolli. Yep, they served a bunch of food bloggers thawed Bertolli. When the people at the table are complaining that the ravioli alfredo was more reminiscent of biscuits and gravy, you know there's a problem. Wine was provided by St. Supery.


Perhaps it was because we were all coalescing around a common topic – the love of food and wine – but I found the entire environment to be a lot more friendly than my previous BlogHer experiences. I hunted down folks I knew, people I hadn't seen in a long time, and even met several impressive authors who were more than friendly. I gladly attended a party in the evening, looking forward to seeing some people again. I discovered that food bloggers are food bloggers, no matter their genre. Recipe bloggers were interested in hearing from review bloggers (and wine bloggers!) and I was interested to talk to the recipe folks. It was just such a different experience – for me – than the larger BlogHer conference I attended in July.

Finally, while there was swag, it was both excellent and controlled. I
believe there were only five sponsors in the expo/demo area (Healthy
Choice, Campbell's, Pur, Cuisinart, and Pillsbury) as well as the
Bertolli lunch and the California Milk-sponsored breakfast. The organization
even set up an easy and obvious area to donate unwanted foodstuffs from
the goodie bags to a local shelter.

Even if I don't speak next year, I'll gladly return to BlogHer Food.
Among other things, it was just great to be in a room with other people
who all whip out their cameras to take a photo of their food.
Camaraderie wins every time.

Update: Live blogging sessions have been posted.

Note: This post is cross-posted for the most part at technology blog bub.blicio.us.

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Posted by Michelle at 3:37 pm in Knowledge, Special Events, Travel | Permalink | Comments (9)
Aug 04

The Night They Invented Champagne

Once upon a time, a monk named Dom Pérignon was making wine and couldn't get rid of the bubbles. After tasting his accidental creation, he exclaimed, "Come quickly! I am drinking the stars!"

Or so the story goes. Wired Magazine points out that this fortuitous accident was supposed to have happened exactly 316 years ago today. On Aug 4, 1693, Dom Pérignon invented champagne.

Except he didn't. The story is most likely the result of some brilliant marketing campaigns throughout the years, including the "drinking the stars" line, which dates back to an advertisement in the 1800s.

In reality, Dom Pérignon was a Benedictine monk who entered the order at the age of 19. He resided  at the Abbey of Hautvillers near the town of Épernay (within Champagne, France), where he served as cellarmaster. He was charged by his superiors to get rid of the bubbles in the wine, but was unable to do so. Instead he made great advances in perfecting the method of champagne creation.

Champagne undergoes two fermentations. After the first, traditional fermentation and bottling, yeast and a bit of rock sugar are added to the bottle. The bottle, now sealed with a cap, ages for a minimum of 1.5 years. Once the bottle has reached maturity, remuage occurs. During remuage, the bottles are slowly turned almost upside down so that the residual yeast ends up in the neck of the bottle. The bottle necks are then quick-frozen and the cap removed. The pressure in the bottle forces out the ice containing the residue and the bottle is quickly corked to maintain the carbon dioxide. Several houses will add a dosage (sugar syrup) at this point to maintain the level of liquid within the bottle. 
The bottles are corked and caged, and often aged for a few months to many years before they are released to the market.

Back in Dom Pérignon's day, cellars would lose around 20% of their wine to exploding bottles, as the pressure from the bubbles would be just too much. It was Dom Pérignon's advancements that helped bring about the champagne we know today.

I love that champagne is such a wonderful beverage, inspiring myths about its creation and songs about its invention. So happy mythical birthday, champagne. You wear 300+ well.

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Posted by Michelle at 8:00 am in History, Knowledge, Marketing | Permalink | Comments (2)

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