New Year’s Eve Sparkling Selections for Every Budget!

Just to clarify for those that are still confused,  sparkling wine can only be called Champagne when it comes from the Champagne region of France. The 3 grapes that can be used to make Champagne are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. I know what you’re thinking…how can Pinot Noir be in Champagne when it doesn’t look red? Not to bore you with the full explanation, but it is only the skin of  the grape that gives wine it’s color. So for Champagnes that appear all white, they may still have some Pinot Noir in there but the juice does not come in contact with the skins at all. For Rose Champagne they may have them soak together for a short amount of time giving it that pinkish hue (Seinfeld reference anyone?)

While Champagne is the most well known, and revered, of all sparkling wine it also tends to be the most expensive. So if you can roll like that, God bless ya!  But there are plenty of value sparkling selections out there that are quite reasonable and damn tasty.

Each region has their own spin on sparkling…Spain has Cava, Italy has Prosecco,  France has Cremants (outside of Champagne) and the US has their own bubbly contingency as well. Each region will use the grapes that thrive in that specific region giving these sparkling wines their own personality.  Below are a handful of my favorites from the $10 to $100 range to help you ring in the New Year!


Korbel Brut or Brut Rose, CA

Both wines usually score in the high 80s and are super value options. They use a variety of different white grapes for the Brut and Pinot Noir & Gamay for the Rose. Both are no brainers under $15

La Marca Prosecco, Veneto

Nice apple and citrus flavors, dry with lots of mineral character.


Gloria Ferrer Brut, Sonoma

Like the Korbel, this tastes much better than the under $20 price tag. Delicate and creamy with clean apple fruit and hints of yeast. The Rose is killer too.

Domaine Carneros (Taitinger) Brut Rose “Cuvee de la Pampadour” , Napa Valley

Lots of floral and citrus notes surround the black cherry and fruit core. Really high end Champagne feel for half the price of most.


Piper-Heidsieck Brut Cuvee, Champagne

This is my go to Champagne as it suits my palate just right. On the dry side with a beautiful combo of apple, citrus and hints of that yeasty character…lovely for around $35-40.

Schramsberg J. Schram 2005, North Coast, CA

This is as close to a vintage Champagne as you can taste outside of that region…but you’re gonna pay for it. At around $100, this is a serious baller Sparkling selection that always fetches 95+ ratings. But if you prefer California fruit over the French stuff and want that premium Champagne experience,  then this is your move!

Wishing you and yours a very Happy and Healthy 2013!!


Some New and Improved Christmas Wine Pairings…

I was going to do a whole new post about the pairings for the Seven Fishes Christmas Eve feast, but after reviewing my post from last year I think it would be pretty repetitive. So instead I updated that post to reflect some of my current favorite wine selections; the description of the meal and overall wine pairing thoughts are both below.

The one thing I wanted to add to this year’s post in the wake of the tragic and unthinkable events that have transpired in Newtown, CT over the last week is this: drink in the moment. Make sure you are serving something that makes you feel good,  and as my son says “is tasty in your mouth” (he says that about food…not wine!). You never know what tomorrow may bring, so if you have some special wines you were saving  for the right occasion…why not make it this Christmas. Remember, great wines pair well with just about everything!

The traditional fishes that are served in the Feast are Calamari, Scungilli, Baccala, Shrimp, Clams, Mussels and some type of big fish (usually a snapper, sea trout, tuna or large shellfish like lobster or crab). However over the years the rules on what fish to serve have really loosened up, so these are by no means set in stone. What’s really fun about this meal is the fish can be prepared in so many different ways that it leaves your wine options wide open.

Most of our dishes are prepared in a red marinara sauce (even the lobster tails and crab legs!) so I usually load up on reds for the main course, with some whites for the apps. But I know many families do the complete opposite and use a lot of white wine and cream sauces that lend themselves to a night of whites. Although if there are any traditional kinda guys attending your Christmas Eve dinner, I would highly recommend having some reds on hand…otherwise you may be sleeping with the seven fishes!


Brancott Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (under $10!)

Crisp, refreshing…full of grapefruit and citrus. Crazy value

Saint-Veran 2009 Moulin du Pont, Vins Auvigue ($15-20)

100% Chard -Apple and pear with some lemon zest… minimal oak, lovely.

Treana White 2010  Central Coast, California ($20-25)

Blend of Rhone white varietals… floral and citrus aromas with stone fruit (pear and pineapple) on the palate. Great aging wine as well so if you find any older vintages jump all over it!


Toscolo 2011 Chianti DOCG ($10-12)

Possibly the best Chianti for the price, drinks more like a Classico

Villa Mt. Eden 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($15-20)

Classic Napa Cab…steal under $20! Cassis, black cherry, vanilla and smoke.

BV BeauRouge 2009 Red Blend, Napa Valley ($25-30)

A really fun blend of Merlot, Cab, Zin, Syrah and a handful of other grapes. Lots of acidity balanced with firm tannins and dark Napa fruits… goodness.

My Top Christmas Eve Wine!

Chianti Classico Riserva 2007 Marchese Antinori ($40)

Dark red cherry and berry with licorice and floral notes. Silky smooth finishing long and strong… perfect pairing for the Christmas Eve Fish Feast!

Wishing you all a healthy and Merry Christmas… and as we are all enjoying time with our loved ones, let’s all be sure to send some thoughts, prayers and positive energy towards those families that need it the most.