I was lucky enough to get a sneak peak of A YEAR IN CHAMPAGNE last weekend and enjoyed the film immensely! Both film and wine buffs will appreciate the behind the scenes peek at the storied wine region.
Viewers are granted both a bird’s eye view of the vines, as well as a look inside the 600 mile labyrinth of Champagne caves undulating underground the tiny but mighty wine region.
The film follows 6 Champagne Houses, each illustrating a different aspect of the business and history of Champagne. I was particularly smitten with the smaller, grower Champagne houses. The Diebolt-Vallois clan stole my heart with their wit, whimsy, dedication and hard work, while the 80 year old patriarch of Saint-Chamant showed each bottle being hand-turned.
Bollinger and Gosset, who have helped shaped much of the branding and identity of Champagne, also make appearances, lending balance and juxtaposition to the grower lifestyle.
The film is full of passion, charm, history, and is sure to leave you thirsty for your favorite bubbly!
There are two screenings for A Year in Champagne in the DC area starting tomorrow, each accompanied by Champagne tastings.
Although Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and I expect many will be gorging themselves on wine and chocolate (for pairing tips, check out this post from last year!), I thought I’d return from my writing sabbatical with a bit about where I’ve been and what I’ve been tasting lately!
I recently visited one of my oldest and dearest friends in Dallas, Texas to meet her new baby. And because I haven’t had much Texas juice before I knew we had to visit a winery while I was there! At the suggestion of Dallas Wine Chick and Texas Wineaux we headed to nearby Grapevine, TX to check out Messina Hof‘s urban winery- one of the oldest and most award winning wineries in Texas.
One thing I was shocked by in Texas was how much of the juice wasn’t actually from Texas. It was disappointing to see so many grapes being sourced from Lodi, California. Not so with Messina Hof. They grow their own grapes on their property in Texas Hill Country a few hours away, and so I was able to get an authentic taste of what Texas wine is all about.
Besides the cozy, western feel of the urban winery, they offer wine on tap, which is fermented on site in the small production facility! Customers can even fill up growlers of their favorite wines!
We were given a tour of the property by Manager, Nathan DeWitt, and Sommelier, Mark Rettig, before going through a tasting of their wines.
I was particular impressed with the Blanc de Bois- a new to me wine that was cultivated in the 1970s at the University of Florida. It had incredible aromatics with a bit of petrol and slate on the nose, mouthwatering acid, and notes of key lime and grapefruit on the palate. In some ways it reminded me of a dry riesling and was extremely food friendly. Several of us left the winery with a bottle to enjoy later!
The GSM was another stand out. This Rhone blend (50% Syrah, 41% Mourvedre and 9% Grenache) was easy drinking with plenty of nuance. The medium bodied wine boasted notes of cigar box, blackberry and spicy floral notes- I was reminded of the nasturtiums growing in my childhood home’s garden.
Tasting Barrel samples in the production room
After visiting another (disappointing) winery down the street, we decided to head back to Messina Hof to finish the day on a high note relaxing in their lounge with a glass of wine. This southerner appreciated the sense of warmth and hospitality, along with the distinct focus on wine education during the tasting.
If you find yourself near Dallas, I highly recommend a stop by Messina Hof in Grapevine. Tastings are $10 for 5 wine tokens (a few of the reserve wines take 2 tokens.)
The huge variety available will give you a great idea of what’s possible in Texas wine with something sure to please most any palate. If you’re not sure what to taste just ask the friendly staff for their favorites!
Have you tried Texas wine?
I get asked a lot about various wine gadgets, but truth be told, I like to keep things pretty simple. Great stemware is nice and I’m more than partial to my favorite corkscrew, but one thing that I notice wine drinkers not doing enough of: decanting their wines.
In addition to aerating wines that need a bit more time to open up, decanters are also ideal for older and unfiltered wines that may have accumulated a bit of sediment. Plus, they take a regular wine experience from everyday to festive in a flash!
As we move into the colder months, people tend to drink bigger, bolder reds. Often, these are the most prime candidates for decanting. And while decanters CAN be pricey, they needn’t be! Check out some of my favorite elegant decanters that won’t break the bank- all are under $40!
Do you decant your wines?
An ounce of prevention goes a long way to alleviating hangovers. Remember to stay hydrated with water and never drink on an empty stomach!
But, if you happen to be in a bad way, here are 5 tips that can help get you back on your feet:
My favorites are Blue Gatorade (yes, it has to be blue for me) and Vitamin Water- the kind with Vitamin B. Both are great options for getting fluid and electrolytes back into your system.
Vitamin B affect how your liver metabolizes toxins and also has a major impact on your energy levels. Check out why Vitamin B can help here!
Advil or Aspirin
Never take Tylenol with alcohol! It is horrible for your liver and can do long term damage. Stick to Advil, Ibuprofin or Aspirin to relieve that headache.
Certain studies have shown that the protein and other compounds in eggs can help alleviate a hangover. I like to pair mine with an everything bagel. Not scientific, just a preference;) Check out these other food “remedies” from around the globe! Pickle juice, anyone?
Blowfish for Hangovers*
This little gem can be purchased CVS, Amazon, or your local pharmacy. It’s an Alka-Seltzer like fizzy tablet that dissolves in water containing aspirin and caffeine. Advil can be rough on your stomach, but the bubbles help settle your stomach, while the aspirin takes care of your headache and the caffeine attacks the general malaise. It’s the only “hangover cure” I’ve ever tried that even remotely works. I can also see it being a good solution when you wake up not so feeling great in general. Check them out here.
*Disclaimer: I received a free sample of this product, but the views expressed are entirely my own.
Do you have any preferred hangover “cures”?
I think we can all agree most bubbly is essentially just “varying levels of delicious,” as my wino friend, Trevor, put it.
Tis the season…for drinking Champagne in front of the fire!
However, there are always choices when it comes to spending your hard earned cash. All too often I see people drinking big, corporate mass-produced wines that are the same price as better, lesser known bottles.
Check out my suggestions below if you want to branch out of your bubbly rut!
If you want to spend…
Steer clear of your grocery store’s Korbel display. It’s tired and mass produced. I saw three TV ads for the brand last night alone! (That’s what you’re paying for, by the way!) Check out a local wine shop for a small production cava or prosecco. I like Dibon Cava for a nice change of pace in the budget bubbly range.
Jansz is an Australian sparkling wine from Tasmania-it’s an outstanding value from a tiny but mighty sparkling wine region!
Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs is another favorite from California. Although this is a large producer and widely available they don’t skimp on quality!
Bohigas Semi-Sec Cava is a great bet for those who like their bubbly with just a touch of sweetness.
I’d be remiss not to include a Virginia option, and Thibaut-Janisson is it! Try their FIZZ for $20 or the Blanc de Blanc for $30. The latter was served at a White House State Dinner!
This is the sweet spot for most entry level Champagnes, and while the ubiquitous orange label of Veuve Cliquot seems to be EVERYWHERE, that doesn’t mean it’s the best for the money.
I adore André Clouet Brut Rosé, Pol Roger, Laurent Perrier, and a recent favorite, Aubry. See past the orange label and advertising! Remember, you want a winemaker who puts their money where YOUR mouth is, not into pricey advertising campaigns.
Dom Perignon has the big name, but ask any wino their preference and you’ll get a resounding preference for Krug. If you’re spending big, it’s the only way to go!
Finally, remember to check your local wine store. They are sure to have great options from smaller Champagne houses that offer outstanding value (that’s how I found my latest love, Aubry!).
What’s your favorite Champagne or Sparkling Wine?