WBW #74: Get Your Sparkle On!

After January’s “Spark” Wine Blogging Wednesday #73 comes a “sparkling” wine prompt just in time for Valentine’s Day write-ups. Hosted by Wine Cast aka Tim Elliot, he instructs participants to “pick a sparkling wine from any appellation, made from any grape but make sure it sells for $25 or less a bottle (€20, £16). This should open up a lot of interesting selections, from Crémant de Bourgogne, to Cava, to California & New Mexico sparkling, sparkling Shiraz, to even well chosen grower Champagne. Just post your notes by February 15th and ping me @winecast on Twitter or email me with your link at winecast (at) gmail (dot) com.”

I’ll toast to that! But there is so much more to sparkling wine than a wedding toast or Valentine’s ritual. I’d love to see the day where sparkling wines are as common a beverage with a party as beer!

These days, you can find a wide range of prices for sparkling wines just about anywhere, but it does seem like there’s been an explosion of quality sparklers for under $25–especially if you shop the sales, you can find some super wonderful wines that fit into any budget.

This has been a great few months for me for discovering and tasting sparkling wines: I hosted Champagne Day event in October, attended a big sparkling wine tasting at the Cave in Ventura, then had a big birthday celebration in January with more bubbly! Some of the highlights were beyond the price point of this prompt, however, (Sigh…can you say Bollinger?) so I will save that conversation for another time, AND I want to focus not so much on sparklers to toast with or for special occasions but those to enjoy with a meal.

One of our favorite easy quick satisfying dinners is clams sauteed in white wine, butter, and garlic. We can get fresh clams easily from the Jolly Oyster’s stand at the Ventura State Beach–so we do! But there are a number of frozen clam dinners out there or you can buy tinned clams. These options don’t compare with the fresh one but are still yummy and delightfully simple. We usually serve them over pasta but rice is good too.

I’ve paired this meal with a number of different wines but for Wine Blogging Wednesday #74, Continue reading

Bella Victorian Lunch: A Winner at Ventura County’s Valentine n Wine Weekend 2012

Last year my sweetie and I had a great time visiting various wineries in Ventura County on the weekend prior to Valentine’s Day during a “passport” weekend called Valentine n Wine sponsored by the Ventura County Winery Association.

So this year, on that same pre-Valentine’s weekend, when we found ourselves at lunchtime in Camarillo passing by the Bella Victorian Bistro and Tasting Room on Ventura Blvd in Old Town, I remembered how much we  enjoyed our lunch by Chef Gael and our tasting and we decided to stop in. (As a wine blogger, our one flight of 5 one ounce wine pours was complimentary–thanks, Shannon!)

We sat outside on their sunny patio under an umbrella beside the purple petunias. Shannon provided us with excellent service, and our tasty sandwiches, one chicken pesto with chips and one lamb with a side salad, came out quickly. As I wanted photos, she graciously provided us with a wine tasting “tree” with their Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and their Grenache “Romeo” (lead pencil, masculine, rough), followed by a mostly estate grown well-balanced but blue fruit friendly Syrah and a red blend of primarily Napa cabernet sauvignon that was quite interesting with a lots of complexity, juicy cherry and plum yet balanced,  spicy, cigar box, and with a rich mouth feel.

Like the lunch and the location, the wines were all winners. The chicken-pesto pannini paired well with the chardonnay and the darkly colored pinot noir, both rich and flavorful. As much as I liked the cab, today the syrah was my favorite of the five probably because it went so well  the lamb.


If you want to join the fun this Valentine’s Day weekend, Continue reading