I spent so much time drinking Champagne and sparkling wine this past holiday season, I didn't have a chance to write about it. Here are some favorites, along with culinary discoveries to inspire the last days of winter:
Champagne Taste: There's nothing like France's real McCoy. I recommend drinking it whenever possible for health and well-being.
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Ross' choice"The Proposition" Sparkling Rose
Hesketh Wine Co.
• Suggested retail and availability: &36;14.99 at wine and liquor shops and specialty stores (distributed by Vintage, Des Plaines)
If there's a vinous equivalent of the time-tested Valentine's Day advice "candy is dandy but liquor is quicker," this lush sparkler is it. Sweet and rich, like strawberries topped with cream, this blend of Chardonnay, Semillon and Shiraz has a surprisingly dry finish and plenty of complexity to spark conversation and nonverbal communication. Serve with your favorite moderately sweet dessert or as a dessert in itself.
Laurent Perrier Brut "LP" Non-Vintage ($35.99) Creamy mouth-feel with fine bead (bubbles) that glide expansive flavors of yellow apple and brioche across the palate, finishing with Champagne's classic minerality and acid grip. An excellent aperitif and complement to creamy cheese (triple creme Brie), smoked salmon, or smoked salmon and triple creme; sexy-sexy-sexy with crab.
Comte A. de Dampierre "Family Reserve" 2000 ($129) Opulent, with folds of truffle, dried fruit and savory flavors and powerful finish. Serve with richly flavored but medium-bodied dishes such as lobster Thermidor or wild mushroom risotto. I had a glass with chicken salad and it was the best chicken salad I ever had! Look also for the non-vintage
"Grand Cuvee" Brut ($39) Cava pocketbook: Spain continues to offer the best-value bubbles.
Segura Viudas Brut "Reserva" ($7.99) If you save bubbly for special occasions, then every day can be a special occasion with this exceptional value. Generous texture and apple-citrus-mineral flavors to pair with casual meals and endless tapas.
Don't discount rose: Depending on body and dryness, roses can serve as red wine to complement a wide range of dishes. Check with your retailer/sommelier for recommendations or ask for:
Schramsberg Brut Rose ($40) Widely hailed as America's finest sparkling producer, Schramsberg offers a full-fleshed, dry-ish rose, with bright, red berry fruit and sink-your-teeth-into texture, which I enjoyed with lamb country pate and grilled hanger steak and can dream about with barbecued ribs in the backyard.
Sweeter for the sweets: Choose sweet styles such as Moscato d'Asti and Ross's Choice for chocolate-dipped strawberries, angel food cake, cannoli and other sweet delights of personal or culinary nature.
• Advanced Sommelier and Certified Wine Educator Mary Ross writes Good Wine. Write her at email@example.com.