Thursday, January 22, 2009
If you love champagne, you've probably sipped your share of Moet et Chandon's White Star. With its crisp, slightly sweet flavor, it's been the top-selling champagne in the U.S. for years.
Now's the time to go stock up on your favorite fizz because Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton recently decided to replace White Star with a new blend they're calling Imperial. The new Imperial, which isn't quite as sweet as White Star, is already showing up at bars and stores across the country.
It might seem strange to tamper with such a successful brand, but it does help clarify the Moet range; now in order of dry to sweet it's Brut Imperial, Imperial and Nectar Imperial.
I tasted Imperial last week at Apotheke in NYC; the head of the magnum has been sabered, but sadly I missed that part. I liked it - perhaps a little too much - I decided the next morning.
Trying to decide what kind of bubbly to drink with my personal celebration of Barack H. Obama's inauguration, I was immediately drawn to two American sparkling wines.
Though there’s lots of fizz made in the U.S., there are only two that were founded by cosmopolitan Americans who believed in the potential to create world class sparkling wine in California: Schramsberg and Iron Horse. Both are are family-owned, both wineries are in Northern California and both make fine methode champenoise sparkling wine from chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes. And both have been poured by American presidents on important state occasions.
Iron Horse Vineyards is in Sebastopol in Sonoma County, surrounded by forests and beautiful meadows. Founded in 1976 by Barry and Audrey Sterling in 1976, it’s headed by their vivavious daughter Joy. The sparkling wines have a very lean and crisp quality reflecting the cool Green Valley climate. Their wines including the Wedding Cuvee and Russian Cuvee have been served by four consecutive presidents since the 80s including at the Reagan-Gorbachev Summit that led to the end of the Cold War.
Schramsberg Vineyards is in Calistoga headquartered in a Victorian home on the top of a wooded hill. Founded in 1965 by Jack and Jamie Davies, the winery makes a range of sparkling wines. Their wines -- especially the J. Schram tete de cuvee -- offer fruitiness balanced by nutty and toasty flavors often found in vintage champagne. G.W. Bush served Schramsberg Cremant Demi Sec for Mexican President Vicente Fox and Reagan poured their Blanc de Blancs for British PM Margaret Thatcher.
I think Barack Obama strikes me as more of Schramsberg drinker; while the fashionable and adventurous Michele Obama might prefer Iron Horse. We'll have to wait and see which they'll choose for upcoming state dinners.