A Toast to Champagne and Sparkling Wines

In December, we travel across the ocean to discuss one of nature’s gifts, Champagne! Champagne is a wine region in France, so only wines from this area may be properly called Champagne. Any “champagne” produced outside this region in France should be referred to as Sparkling Wine.

No other beverage in the world symbolizes a celebration better than Champagne/Sparkling wine. These beverages help usher in the New Year as well as weddings, birthdays, promotions and any other special occasions. This time of year is when approximately 80 percent of this beverage is consumed. At holiday parties, my catering company likes to set up a sparkling station near the front door, greeting guests with a festive glass of bubbly.

Wine speak

The Champagne region in France is located about 90 miles northeast of Paris. In the late 17th century, French Champagnes were formally recognized as a new style of wine. Champagne’s unique effervescence came about due to the cooler climate of northern France. Grapes from this region generally had not fully ripened nor totally fermented in the Fall when wines are traditionally placed in barrels. Over the winter, the champagne was dormant, then began fermenting once again in the Spring. This led to a fizzy beverage that was cloudy, due to the spent yeast floating in the barrels. At the time, this was considered an inferior product.

The French in the Champagne region created a new process to clarify their beverage. Instead of traditional barrel aging and storage, champagne was the first wine to be stored and aged in individual bottles with corks. This new process, Methode Champenois, (still in use today) involves inverting the bottles in racks and gently turning the bottles (riddling), to help the yeast collect in the neck of the bottle.

Next, the neck of the bottle is submerged in a brine solution that freezes the yeast section. The bottle is popped to expel the plug of yeast (disgorgement), resulting in a clear beverage. The champagne is then topped off with still (non-fermented) wine held in reserve for this purpose. A small amount of yeast and sugar are added to the bottle, then corked. This starts the second fermentation process. As the yeast consumes the sugar, a small amount of alcohol is created, as well as carbon dioxide. This allows the bottle to regain its fizz.

Today there are about 100 Champagne Houses in the Champagne region that are supplied with grapes or grape juice from over 15,000 local growers. Given the cooler climate, faster ripening grape varietals are used exclusively in this region; Chardonnay (used exclusively in Blanc de Blancs), Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (used with Chardonnay in Blanc de Noirs and Roses). There are three different methods to produce Champagne; the traditional Methode Champenois where wines ferment in individual bottles, the Charmat Process where wines are fermented in large steel vats and, third, the Artificial Carbonation process where wine is injected with carbon dioxide – which is the most inexpensive approach (and can lead to headaches). Quality Champagnes cost more due to the winery’s use of higher quality grapes, the blending of aged, still wines and the cost of storing the bottled Champagne for years before release.

There are three different styles of Champagne or Sparkling wines, ranging from light to medium to full body (based on the amount of time the yeast is left in contact with the wine). Also, sparkling wine’s sweetness levels ranges from Brut (dry) to Extra Dry (semi-sweet) to Doux (sweet).

Food and wine pairings

As discussed, the holidays are when the majority of Sparkling wines are consumed. They tend to be food friendly due to their higher acidity levels. This refreshing beverage is an ideal aperitif (lighter style is best) or can be used throughout a meal (heavier, more yeasty styles). They tend to match well with spicy and salty dishes. When served as an aperitif, my catering company tends to pair the lighter style Sparklings with sushi, smoked salmon canap├ęs, garlicky shrimp crostini, spicy chicken sate and grilled ahi tuna skewers with a wasabi aioli. They also pair well with goat cheese and semi-soft white cheeses that offer mild flavors.

Sparkling wines have been a house favorite for years. Personal favorites from California that I recommend include Schramsberg and Domaine Carneros, which we just visited this past October. On the French side, a smaller House that is receiving great accolades is Charles Ellner, whose Brut Champagne Seduction ($65) and Brut Reserve ($40) offer tremendous value for the money. Included in the following are suggestions from local merchants of Champagnes and Sparkling wines and their retail prices, which may vary:

Picks

$10 range

Pierre Delize Non-Vintage (NV) Blanc de Blancs – France – $7

Domaine Ste. Michelle (NV) Brut Columbia Valley – Washington State – $12

Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut Nature – Spanish Sparkler – $10

Rotari Brut – Italian Sparkling (not from the Asti region) – $12

Daniel Pardiac Brut Blanc de Blancs – France – $12

$25 – 40 ranges

Roederer Estate (NV) Brut – Anderson Valley, CA – $22

Domaine Carneros Brut Carneros – Napa Valley, CA – $25

Schramsberg Brut Blanc de Noir – Napa/Sonoma Counties, CA – $30

Joseph Perrier Brut – France – $26

Bollinger NV Brut – France – $40

Charles Ellner Brut Reserve – France – $40

Bob Kovacs of The Wine Seller in Geneva reminded me of Winston Churchill’s famous quote, “Champagne, in defeat you need it – in victory you deserve it!”

Happy Holidays and Cheers!

WordPress for Your Travel Portal

The travel and leisure industry is seeing extraordinary growth. Some cater services like travel for business purposes, while some provide romantic travel packages to exotic places around the world. Whatever may be the reason; this is the ideal time to think about starting a travel portal. If you are a web developer and have kept track of the growth of Internet, you must have realized by now the power it has and the opportunity it offers. Thinking what technology to use? Go for WordPress development as there is nothing easier and better in the market today.

WordPress will streamline your development as web development of a travel portal is not a very easy task especially for newcomers. It is web based application that helps you build a website even when you do not have the technical know-how such as HTML coding. With the thousands of plug-ins, templates, themes and other features to choose from, WordPress offers an excellent opportunity to develop your dream travel portal.

As more and more people are traveling, the opportunities of online booking has increased manifold. There are many services that a travel website can provide. Custom WordPress development of these sites is the key to success for such traffic-generating websites. With so many offshore development centres extending their services for web development, you can always get in touch with them to help you build a dynamic, user-friendly travel portal. Using WordPress will make the work easy for you as well as the companies to whom you are outsourcing your work. Another benefit of outsourcing is cost reduction, as WordPress will already provide the basic foundation and the web developers will only need to mould it to your liking. India is a very good market where you can outsource your work as the people here have the technical know how and are up-to-date with the latest developments.

Benefits of Using WordPress for Travel Portal

  • You have a galore of themes to choose from WordPress to make your WordPress travel website look attractive. It is very important that the home page is informative as well as pleasing to the eyes. You can choose a theme that meets both these requirements.
  • Having appropriate pictures of the various travel destinations adds the extra sparkle to your website. WordPress has plug-ins with which you can manage picture galleries effortlessly.
  • A very important feature of a travel portal is e-commerce. Money transactions have to be secured and you have to ensure that you integrate it properly. WordPress here will be a great help.
  • If you see that the design that you and the offshore development center chose is not making the right impression on the users, with WordPress you can change the look quickly and at lesser cost.
  • For the benefit of Search Engine Optimization, you need to have a unique and east-to-remember URL. WordPress lets you customize the URL.

Senior Group Travel Tours in Wine Country

In the rolling hills of Northern California, Napa Valley is picturesque, making it a prime vacation destination. During the fall, the mountainous terrain is covered with various hues of yellow, orange, and red-the perfect autumn setting. For food and wine lovers alike, Napa Valley, the food and wine capital of America, has the best of both to offer. From countless restaurants and bed and breakfasts set between wineries and vineyards is the perfect setting for a senior trip.

One convenient way to enjoy the best of Napa is taking a wine tour. There are many companies that offer discounted senior group tasting tours. The specifications for the tours vary by company; most, however, stop at five wineries by way of private car, bus, or limousine. Routes often vary-some tours begin with a ferry ride from San Francisco while others begin in Sonoma Valley. Public and private tours are both widely offered for senior tours. Private tours have the advantage of being customized. This may be appealing to those who are making return trips to this senior travel destination.

Another tour offered in Napa Valley is the wine train. This train offers a unique experience to visitors who are able to eat either gourmet lunch or dinner accompanied by fabulous wine while touring wine country.

If tours are not your style and you’d rather take a leisurely customized visit to Napa I have included some of the top rated wineries.

The Kuleto Estate Winery

This secluded estate winery founded in 1992 by restaurateur Pat Kuleto offers tours by reservation only. Tours are led by wine educators that feature current wine releases with cheese pairings. This vineyard is respected for its exclusivity as well as its highly rated wines.

The Beaulieu Vineyard

This century old vineyard has a legacy of benchmark wines. Known for its years of innovation in the wine making process, Beaulieu was responsible for the oak barrel aging process. This traditional vineyard is a must see. Visitor offerings include a variety of tours and tastings fitting every budget. A group may reserve a room or table and select the type of tasting experience they would like to experience, from cabernet tasting to a retrospective reserve tasting.

Domaine Chandon

Primarily known for its sparkling wines, champagne, and restaurant, Domaine Chandon offers many tour and tasting options as well as a package in cooperation with the Hilton and the wine train. Chandon offers many events throughout the year as well. Planning a visit here to taste the sparkling rose Chandon is a necessity.

Joseph Phelps Vineyards

Founded in the 1970s, the Joseph Phelps Vineyard has already produced 30 vintages receiving ratings over 90. This winery is known for its seclusion and attention to detail and intimacy in the wine making process. Many tour and tasting options are available.

The Robert Mondavi Winery

For those seeking to tour a larger more widely known winery, the Robert Mondavi estate fits the bill. This winery offers several art collections ranging from sculptor to painting collections as well as several exhibits. The Mondavi estate is also a popular event location. Tours and tastings range from wine education to food and wine tours.

There are many wineries and restaurants of interest in the Napa and Sonoma Valley areas. To plan a vacation that you can truly enjoy, be sure to do plenty of research! Look up your favorite type of wine and wineries in the area that are known for its production. Visits to Napa can be very leisurely making it a great destination for seniors who can take their time to relax, eat good food, and drink great wine.