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?
Pizza Vinoteca opens in Ballston tonight and after a preview event I can attest it’s a place that will get this DC gal out to the ‘burbs more often!
Although it’s decidedly casual, there’s no skimping on quality at Pizza Vinoteca. An uplit wall of wine lines the foyer before guests are greeted by an impressive open kitchen and pizza oven directly inside. A round bar dominates the open space, lending credence to the wine-centric menu. The architecture is a thoughtful indication of the consideration behind serious food and wine at prices that won’t break the bank.
Wine bottles line the entry to the casual eatery.
The restaurant serves 36 wines by the glass in an argon gas system that preserves the vino and allows for longer shelf life and a greater variety of wines offered by the glass. The best part? All wines are under $10/glass and they have some truly interesting options.
While you’ll find the expected Pinot Grigio and Chianti on the list, it also features Orange Wine, Lambrusco, and a Sparkling Nebbiolo among other esoteric wine selections that will have wine geeks excited.
Enjoying a sparkling Nebbiolo with CEO Ari Malcolm
The list offers outstanding value, pulling from regions that offer great bang for the buck while offering clients outstanding value and interesting choices. Half pours are also available for those wishing to try something new without committing to a full glass.
CEO Ari Malcolm adapted the concept from his New York outpost and said he tasted over 1,000 wines before settling on the list. The menu is meant to be both tasty and accessible, and I found it to achieve these goals.
The food is produced in a kitchen visible through glass walls that cranks out interesting and delicious pizzas among other casual fare.
While you can certainly get your pepperoni fix, there are some unexpected combinations that really won me over. The Brussels Sprout pizza was perhaps my favorite. The shaved sprouts are made zesty with a kick of lemon zest, crunchy with toasted walnuts, and creamy with Ricotta Cheese. Trust me, just order it! Another stand out was the Kale, Pesto, Andouille Sausage and Fontina Cheese option.
Prosciutto, pineapple, peppers and arugula
Pizza Vinoteca opens to the general public tonight.
Check out the menus below:
Although we’re coming up on Labor Day weekend, the weather will continue to be warm for the next month or so. Here in DC, we’re looking at a heat wave! Here’s what I’ll be drinking:
A summer favorite, this budget friendly wine from the South of France is light and intensely refreshing. It’s well-known as a great pairing for seafood and is enjoyable for casual patio sipping as well.
Bon Vivant DC’s Pick: 2011 Domaine De La Fruitière Petit M ($13)
The tangy acidity and minerality in this Muscadet will make you a convert to this oft-overlooked variety.
Although many drink rosé year round (yours truly, included!), it’s often best enjoyed during warmer months. The most popular region for this type of wine is Provence, although they are increasingly being produced in almost every wine region. They often have red fruit flavors and a bone dry finish.
Bon Vivant DC’s Pick: Montfaucon Domaine Les Gardettes Rosé ($12)
This has been one of my go to summer rosés to enjoy al fresco this summer. This rosé from the Loire Valley has a wonderful bouquet of peach blossom and raspberry.
I know this is a common recommendation on the Bon Vivant Blog, but if you’re anything like me, any excuse will do to enjoy a festive glass of bubbly! It’s refreshing, pairs well with a variety of foods, and is perfectly acceptable to drink before noon on your Monday off!
Bon Vivant DC’s Pick: Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs ($40) & Biutiful Rosé Brut Cava ($13)
In the wake of the recent earthquake, show Napa some love with this superb bottle of bubbly. I’m partial to the Blanc de Noirs, but this established bubbly house produces outstanding bubblies from a variety of grapes.
For a more budget friendly option, look to Cava from Spain- equally delicious and usually lighter on the wallet! I like Biutiful’s brut rosé. Made from 100% Garnacha, this easy drinking bubbly has lovely red fruit notes and a bone dry finish.
For those who will be grilling out this weekend, Spanish reds are a great pairing with Barbeque and other grilled meats. They are slightly spicy, fruit forward, and balanced out with an old world, earthy quality.
Bon Vivant DC’s Pick: Ladrón de Guevara ($12-$30)
A spicy Tempranillo from Rioja fits the bill! Their cosecha will set you back a mere $12, while their Reserva can run about $30. The younger the wine, the lighter and more fruit forward it will be. I generally like to drink their middle ground- Crianza, which runs about $17.
This is another classic pairing for those who will be manning the grill this Labor Day weekend. California comes through again with this fruit forward and zesty red wine. (Just steer clear of the much maligned white Zinfandel!)
Bon Vivant DC’s Pick: 2012 F. Stephen Millier Angel’s Reserve Zinfandel ($20)
This classic producer from Lodi consistently puts out quality Zinfandel with jammy fruit and a hint of smokiness that will pair great with anything char-grilled.
What are your Labor Day Weekend Plans?
Head on over to The DC Ladies wedding week to check out my picks for bubbly and champagne as we head into the thick of wedding season!
I offer my top ten picks for every budget- to satisfy mimosa makings, hostess gifts at bridal showers, or even a special bottle of Champagne for a unique (and delicious!) wedding gift that no one will be exchanging!
What’s your favorite sparkling wine or champagne?
Tasting in the Barrel room
One of the first things that strikes me at North Gate Vineyard is the sense of hospitality and warmth- something this Georgia girl often misses dearly in a time when the little things seem to mean less.
This hospitality (or lack thereof!) is the first quality I notice when scouting potential wineries for custom excursions for Bon Vivant DC clients- even before tasting the wine.
I first experienced North Gate at the intimate rehearsal dinner of some dear friends in 2012, and was delighted to experience it again as a guest on a recent tasting visit. The tasting room manager, Dave, puts everyone at ease and is quick with a smile, a story, or even an original recipe to go along with your tasting.
Dave is quick with an anecdote, or even an original recipe to go along with his favorite wines!
A case of locally sourced chocolate truffles greets you at the door- available for purchase as gifts, or a custom pairing with your wine tasting for an additional $5.
Viognier with white truffle pairing
North Gate has an overwhelming commitment to operating a “green” winery. The Leed Certified property produces all of the energy they consume, thanks to careful planning and solar panels. The materials used to build the winery are green too, right down to the beautiful bar imbedded with recycled wine bottles (pictured above).
The owners, Mark and Vicki Fedor, are at the forefront of the “green” wine making movement, stating on their website, “From the tasting room to the wine production to the vineyard, we strive to be the most environmentally friendly winery on the planet.”
Vicki told me that it’s important for she and Mark to “live off the land, to sustain us, to be respectful of the land.” They are also in touch with viticulture specialists at Cornell University who have produced the first hybrid grape varietal with the ability to be grown organically in Virginia’s notoriously difficult climate.
North Gate produces reasonably priced and quality wine- their 2011 Meritage landed a coveted spot in the Governor’s case this year at $22/bottle! This Bordeaux blend is well-balanced and easy drinking, despite being a notoriously difficult vintage for Virginia wine. I enjoyed it so much, a bottle came home with me!
2013 Governor’s Case Cup Winner
It’s the little things that go a long way at this small winery in Loudoun County- their commitment to sustainability, hospitality, sourcing local products, and even supporting community charity.
$1 from the sale of each bottle of Apple Wine goes to the local Greyhound Rescue Organization, where they adopted their own dog, Josie. Crisp and refreshing, the Apple Wine is quite similar to a hard cider, produced from locally sourced fruit. At $14 a bottle it’s a “taste good, do good” treat for animal and wine lovers, alike!
Mark and Vicki’s rescue greyhound”Josie” running through the vineyard. Photo Courtesy of Vicki Fedor.
North Gate is open Thursday through Monday, from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Their tasting fee is $7/person.
Have you visited North Gate yet? What was your favorite wine?