Sunday, November 26, 2006

Be Your Own Sommelier

Scanning the New York Times online this evening I found this interesting article on the shortage of sommeliers across the country.

Eric Asimov writes that with the rapid growth in wine culture in the U.S., restaurants all over are having a hard time finding qualified people to serve wine. Karen MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible , recounted being served a bottle of Madeira on ice at an Atlanta restaurant. Being qualified means more than knowing the business end of a corkscrew; it also means loving serving people, not being pretentious and having an appreciation for a broad range of wines.

I took a couple things away from it: I'm energized about my own goal to become a wine educator and pursue certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Secondly, with the shortage of good wine servers in restaurants, it behooves every intelligent woman (and man) out there to do your own personal wine education. Get a group of girlfriends together and go to a wine tasting or try something new next time you go to a restaurant. Tasting lots of different styles of wine is the only way to learn what you like and what to ask for. That way, we can all be our own sommeliers!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Enjoy the Day

Aah Thanksgiving. A day off from work, a day to sleep in, a day to watch silly TV before heading out to dinner. Remember to take some time to reflect on all the gifts we have to be thankful for, like good friends, having more than enough to eat, and of course, bubbly!

A couple hours from now, I hope to be drinking some rose champagne with my dee-licious gourmet turkey dinner at Nine-Ten in La Jolla.

Joy Sterling of Iron Horse Vineyards shared this beautiful painting of the Sonoma County vineyards in winter, so I thought I'd share it with you. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Phantom of the Opera Tasting --The Rest of the Story II

SO the heat in Napa was oppressive during my Bubbly Girl's Sparkling Wine Goodwill Tour, but I suppose I can't complain about the fact that I was able to spend a week driving around and tasting sparkling wine.

But at Schramsberg, the heat yielded a cool experience: the chance to taste wine in the caves. Schramsberg is a family owned winery where Jack and Jamie Davies were pioneers as the first Californians to make traditional French-style sparkling wines in the 1960s. For me, the symbol of the winery is the beautiful Victorian home that leaps into view as you reach the end of their winding, heavily wooded driveway in Northern Napa Valley.

The house was built in the 1870s by Jacob Schram, a German immigrant who was the first person to produce wine on the property. He had Chinese workers dig out the hillside to create an extensive network of caves where he stored barrels and produced wine.

A passageway from the Schramsberg tasting room leads to the caves, where PR Director Larry Levine and Winemaker Craig Roemer met me for a tasting. As we walked deeper into the caves, past dusty riddling racks, the natural chill and humidity was like a welcoming caress. We arrived at a table holding a variety of Schramsberg wines. Candles twinkled from candelabras on either side of the table, giving the tasting a slightly spooky, Phantom of the Opera feeling.

The highlight was the chance to taste the 1998 vintage J. Schram Rose, the new pink version of the winery's top wine (aka tete de cuvee). The cool peachy pink wine smelled of fresh strawberries and a toasty sweetness that for some reason reminded me of fresh corn. I still wish I hadn't said that out loud, but that's what I smelled. It tasted crisp and rich, a perfect wine to pair with the rich flavors of seafood or pork or to drink by itself. Larry said I was the second writer to taste the wine; I would have been flattered even if I'd been the tenth because it was so well-crafted and represented so much work. Later we stopped by the labeling room, where a woman carefully smoothed labels on each bottle by hand before wrapping it in tissue.

Getting your hands on a bottle of the J Schram Rose might be tough, since they only made 800 cases and the wine will retail for about $120 a bottle.

Larry offered to send me home with one of the open bottles of wine we'd tasted that afternoon.
Guess what I chose to drink by the pool that night?