Archive for December, 2011

Champagne & Sparkling Wine

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

As that special time of year has rolled around, we celebrated our last class of 2011 with the delightful bubbly wines of the world.  A particularly amusing class session led by our very own James Beard Award-Winning author Jordan Mackay, our class certainly ended the year with a bang as we explored the sparkling wines of Champagne, Prosecco, Cava, and California.

In spite of the class’s anticipation for all of the sparkling wines to be tasted, Jordan started the class by offering fine points on the Champagne region and explained why there is valid reasoning behind the laws against calling sparkling wines from anywhere else “Champagne.”  Along that topic, he proceeded to teach the class about other important sparkling production areas such as Cava, Prosecco, and even some here in the US.  With that being said, Jordan described in ample detail the differences between traditional method and tank method produced sparkling wines.

Before diving headfirst into the wines, Jordan also dedicated a few extra minutes to discuss the rising significance of small grower Champagne.  Sharing his utter fondness for these small producers, he went on to illustrate his opinions on how they are currently changing the game for the big Champagne houses.  And after an incredibly informative, yet ultimately entertaining, class we moved on to the wines!

My Top Pick for the Night?

Deutz Brut Classic NV

A blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, this wine marvelously starts the nose off with the hints of a salted caramel apple.  On the palate, this wine expresses fresh green apple, buttery toast, and an enjoyable macadamia nut finish that lingers for several moments after tasting the wine.  Priced at $34, this wine is definitely worth a “cheers”!

Thank you to Jordan and Brian for a great class and an amazing end to 2011.  We hope to see you all back here for class in January!

-Julie Albin

Wine List

  1. Nino Franco Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore
  2. Segura Viudas Aria Estate Brut NV Cava
  3. Louis Boillot Perle Rare Cremant de Bourgogne 2006
  4. Schramsberg Brut Blanc de Blancs 2007
  5. Louis Roederer Blanc de Blancs 2004
  6. Deutz Brut Classic NV
  7. Vilmart Cuvee Creation Champagne 2000
  8. Pierre Peters Les Chetillons Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru 2004
  9. Marc Hebrart Brut Rose Premier Cru NV
  10. Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose

New World vs. Old World Wines

Monday, December 5th, 2011

The topic of New World vs. Old World wines is an infamous and ongoing debate that is disputed all around the world.  On Tuesday evening here at the SF Wine Center, James Beard Award-Winning Author Jordan Mackay led the class as we explored the many facets of this ever so popular subject of the wine industry.

Jordan began by briefing the class on what exactly New World and Old World mean.  Old World refers to wines that are produced in Europe, while New World refers to wines produced outside of the European continent.  This branding can become tricky with certain countries like Israel because their wine industries are technically far older than that of Europe, but stylistically these wines are classified as New World.

After presenting the class with a basic outline of these two categories, Jordan went on to describe more in depth what the differences between New World and Old World wines are.  The most significant difference is the ways in which the wines are produced.  With each Old World country, the government heavily regulates what can be produced, where, and how.  The governments also regulate the quality of the wines, each country having their own classification system in order to guarantee the production and quality level.  New World countries are given far more freedom to produce what they want and how they want.  In addition to regulatory differences, Old World countries typically have noticeably cooler climates and particular types of terroir that most New World countries don’t have.

As Jordan led the class through this classic debate, we blindly tasted and compared wines of the Old World and the New World.  Jordan explained the certain characteristics to look for that could help the class evaluate which wines are of Old World and which are of New World.  We took note of certain aspects such as Old World wines classically having higher acidity and New World wines typically showing higher levels of fruitiness and alcohol.  Although certain qualities can be successful determinants of New World and Old World wines, it is important to remember that not all wines are created the same and there are many exceptions to the rule.  This concept was most certainly recognized in some of the wines tasted tonight.

My Top Pick for the Night?

Sbragia Gino’s Vineyard Dry Creek Zinfandel 2007 – Sonoma County, CA

This blend of Zinfandel with 10% Carignan and 5% Petite Syrah was a wonderful wine with notes of fresh red cherry, raspberry, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  The French oak added a slight nuttiness to the wine without overpowering it.  This wine has nice acidity, rich tannin, and a prolonged finish that allows your palate to fully indulge in every characteristic and quality of the wine.

Thank you to Jordan and Brian for another fun and informative class!

Wine List:

  1. Ken Forrester Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc 2009 – Stellenbosch, South Africa
  2. Vigneau-Chevreau Cuvee Silex Vourvray 2009 – Loire Valley, France
  3. Petaluma Hanlin Hill Vineyard Riesling 2008 – Clare Valley, Australia
  4. Dr Loosen Riesling Kabinett Blue Slate 2009 – Mosel Valley, Germany
  5. Paul Pernot Les Noizons Pommard 1999 – Cote de Beaune, Burgundy, France
  6. Calera Mt. Harlan Mills Vineyard Pinot Noir 1999 – Mt. Harlan, Central Coast, CA
  7. Tomaresca Torcicoda Primitivo Salento 2008 – Puglia, Italy
  8. Sbragia Gino’s Vineyard Dry Creek Zinfandel 2007 – Sonoma County, CA