SMACK DOWN: Champagne, Cremant, Prosecco, Franciacorta, Cava and Pet-Nat!

Line-up for 2019 blind tasting: Global Sparkling Wines. Dave the Wine Merchant

Since December sales accounts for about 33% of all sparkling wine sales, it seems a good time to explain some basic differences between the most popular types of Sparkling wine – Champagne, Cremant, Prosecco, Franciacorta, Cava, and Pet-Nat! 

To see our selection of sparkling wines, click here.

Comite Champagne - logo

Champagne: Though this is often used as the generic term for any sparkling wine, it is actually highly regulated. For a sparkling wine to be called champagne (the word is lower case when referring to the wine, upper case when referring to the region) it must come from the demarcated region due East of Paris. Other distinctive features of champagne is that the wine is made from three primary grapes – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (moon yay), a mutation of Pinot Noir. In addition, these wines must undergo their secondary fermentation in the very bottle you buy, as described in the steps, below.

This process used to be called “Method Champenoise” around the globe, but champagne producers lobbied the EU to require the term “Method Traditionelle” be used unless the wine is from the demarcated Champagne region. But the process is the same:

  1. Harvest occurs early while the grape’s natural acids are still high and sugars are low
  2. Dozens of lots of still wine are produced, not intended for consumption, these wines are quite astringent and searingly crisp!
  3. Master blenders then go to work to pull from various lots, creating the house style, intended to be consistent year after year
  4. The blended wine is bottled with some yeast and a small dose of sugar and then the bottle is capped so the CO2 from the fermentation can’t escape
  5. The resulting fermentation goes into the wine and creates the joy of the bubbles!
  6. After the yeast have consumed all the sugar, the spent yeast cells are left for years in the bottle, adding dough/bread notes and softness that offsets the astringency of the base wine
  7. When time to bottle the final product, the spent yeast cells are moved to the neck of the bottle, which is then frozen, the cap is popped off, and the force of the bubbles pushes the ice plug out leaving the remaining wine crystal clear.
  8. Finally, the bottle is topped off, and a final dose of sweetness may be added at this point before the bottle is corked, cleaned, labelled and sent out for celebrations everywhere!

Cremant de __________: This is the term applied to most French sparkling wines that originate outside Champagne and are produced using the “Methode Tradionelle” process (above). Other than the region and the allowance of additional grape varieties beyond Champagne’s traditional threesome, the wines are generally of excellent quality and value. The most common include Cremant de Bourgogne (Burgundy, using Chard and/or Pinot), Cremant de Loire (Chenin Blanc and a smattering of red grapes), Cremant de Alsace, Cremant de Savoie…

Prosseco: One of the most popular sparkling wines due to its affordable price and light fresh taste of apples and pears, Prosecco is the one sparkling wine on the global stage that does not ferment in the bottle. Instead, fermentation takes place in large tanks after the initial fermentation. Because this process can occur on an industrial scale, Prosecco is far less expensive than most global sparkling wines. There are two style, Spumante (sparkling) and Frizzante (lighlty fizzy), but the highest expression comes from the small region of Conegliano Valdobbiadenne.  The grape, formerly called “Prosecco”, was changed to Glera in 2009. Same grape, different name. Because Italy.

Franciacorta: This is Italy’s finest sparkling wine and is limited to the Province of Brescia in the beautiful Lombardy region (right), granted DOCG status in 1995. Allowable grapes number almost 20, and the dosage (final addition of sweetness) categories are the same as those of Champagne, but the Non Vintage wine can’t be released until at least 18 months in bottle, and Vintage Franciacorta for 30 months.

Cava: The majority (95%) of the cava is produced in Spain’s Penedes region in Catalonia. But there are also cava cellars in the regions of Aragón, Castilla y León, Extremadura, La Rioja, the Basque Country, Navarre and Valencia.

Typical grapes include a very different trio than those used in Champagne – Macabeo (white), Parellada (white) and Xarel-lo (also white!) – though Pinot is also allowed. The Rose version of Cava is made by bleeding off juice from red wine (Garnacha, Pinot noir, Trepat or Monastrell). Cavas must undergo secondary fermentation in the bottle, or else be designated as Sparkling Wine.

Pet-Nat: Hipster wine bars are over-flowing with Pet-Nat wines, described as the world’s trendiest sparkling wine. I find they are divisive among many wine lovers. The term is short for Petillant Naturel a sparkling wine that is fizzy, easy-drinking and intended for near-term consumption. Unlike all the wines above, you’ll find bottles of Pet-Nat are closed with a crown cap (like you’ll find on a Coke bottle). The secondary fermentation is started (yeast and sugar added to the bottle), and after several months, that bottle is sent to market without any disgorgement, dead yeast cells still in the bottle, leaving the wines hazy and flavorful. Because the wine is a natural product undergoing changes from week to week, Pet-nats seldom taste the same from bottle to bottle or month to month, and can often be a bit, um, ‘enthusiastic’ upon opening – be sure to have a towel handy and open over a sink!

Pet-nat wines can be a bit, um, enthusiastic upon opening!

Post by Dave the Wine Merchant

If My Stock Picks Were As Good As My Wine Picks…

Au Bon Climat - top 101 WineriesI just received a PR release about “The 101 Best Wineries in America” from The Daily Meal.  Of the nation’s 8,000+ U.S. wine producers, the top 101 were selected by surveys from American wine and food professionals (methodology details can be found below).  So I was pleased to see the list contained NINETEEN of the wineries I’ve introduced to my club members!  

If I had as much skill in selecting stocks I could retire and tour the vineyards of the world year-round.  Hell, I could own a couple dozen.  “Call me Mr. Foley”.  Until then, I’ll spend my day copying the top 10 wineries (below), followed by the publisher’s notes and methodology.  

Note, of the 101 top wineries, 24 do not meet my wine club’s criteria for price or production criteria.

The Top 10 Wineries in America (highlights = wineries introduced to my wine club members)

1. Ridge Vineyards — Cupertino, CaliforniaTop 101 Wineries - Copain
2. Au Bon Climat Winery — Santa Maria, California
3. Calera Wine Company — Mt. Harlan, California
4. Littorai Wines — Sebastopol, California
5. Woodward Canyon Winery — Lowden, Washington
6. Dunn Vineyards — Angwin, California
7. Heitz Cellars — St. Helena, California
8. Matthiasson Winery — Napa Valley, California
9. Sandhi Wines — Santa Barbara, CA
10. Copain Wine Cellars — Healdsburg, CA 

In addition to these three top-ten wineries, my wine club members have enjoyed discovering wines selected from 16 of the remaining award winners (listed alphabetically):

Andrew Murray Vineyards — Los Olivos, CaliforniaTop 101 Wineries - Andrew Murray
Arnot-Roberts — Healdsburg, California
Beckmen Vineyards — Los Olivos, California
Bonny Doon Vineyard — Santa Cruz, California
Caparone Winery — Paso Robles, California
Corison Winery — St. Helena, California
Foxen — Santa Maria, California
Gruet Winery — Albuquerque, New Mexico
Hanzell Vineyards — Sonoma, California
Hirsch Vineyards — Cazadero, California
Mount Eden Vineyards — Saratoga, California
Peay Vineyards — Cloverdale, CaliforniaTop 101 Wineries - Tablas Creek
Qupé — Los Olivos, California
Saxum Vineyards — Paso Robles, California
Tablas CreekCreek Vineyard — Paso Robles, California
Wind Gap Wines — Sebastopol, California 

To see the full story and list of all 101 wineries from “The Daily Meal”, click here.

For more information on my wine clubs click here and discover your next favorite!

While California remains indisputably the wine capital of the country, the number and variety of truly beautiful wines being made in America has grown exponentially in recent years: wine is now produced in all 50 states. This list is largely a reflection of that, and celebrates those wineries that are simply doing it best (many of which are quite unexpected!).


The wineries on our list were nominated by experts in the field: the wonderful sommeliers, wine writers, chefs, and restaurateurs who were kind enough to gift us with their opinions about wineries around the country. After their initial nominations, these experts returned to vote on the wines based on the three values we deemed most important: wine quality, consistency, and value. Poring over the voters’ results allowed us to shape the final list of wineries you see here.

We’ve thoroughly plumbed the rich and diverse depths of the American wine landscape, and we are proud of the following list — and of course, grateful to the experts who aided us in determining which American wineries stood out to them.” – Jess Novak, drink editor, The Daily Meal

Community Wine Review – Regale Winery, 2008 Pinot Noir, O’Neel Vyrd, Russian River Valley

Regale, 2008 Pinot Noir, O'Neel Vyrd. Russian River Valley

Now THIS is a Pinot Noir!  Kudos to this winemaker.  It is nice to know that one can still be surprised after having tried hundreds of different examples of this varietal.   This vintage is something truly extra special in the glass.  

Straight out of the gate and a couple of brisk swirls in my Riedel stem of this racy vintage and I am gushing.   Immediately, a perfume of wild funghi, strawberries, sour cherries and even a slight nose of camphor jump into my sinuses and fill my head with delight.   No time needed to open up for this horse.  

My head begins to buzz and I ‘regale’ as the first sips bring on flavors so brilliant and ethereal.  A subtle detection of eucalyptus peeks through the bright fruit flavors.  The wine is big for a pinot because of the earth like notes but not overly acidic as some Burgundy’s can be.  Very polished but not silky.   No this wine is a cross somewhere between where the smooth attributes from the Russian River Valley align with the herbal, salty-misty air of the Pacific-Sonoma coastline, but a slight touch of the Santa Maria Valley is added in there somewhere… I think that is where I pick up the notes of strawberry and mushrooms from. 

Paired with a dish of fusilli pasta mixed with roasted eggplant, roasted sun dried tomatoes in olive oil and italian herbs, sliced black olives, sauteed zucchini, sweet onion & baby portobella mushrooms, pureed tomato sauce and fresh parmesan grated cheese, the dish tastes better and harmoniously bring out the wild pinot tastes.  

The biggest compliment of all is that I damn near finished the entire bottle myself over a couple of hours and I can still type straight.  

 Why have I never heard of this winery before and when can I buy more?!  Well done Dave.  Thank you.

 Seth P. (freelance blogger for Dave the Wine Merchant) Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

[Note:  Seth Pariser is a member of the “Pinot Selections” wine club, and submitted this review independently.  Among other things, Seth consults with wine collectors in the Northeast to help them build or maximize the value of their cellars.  To contact him, just leave a request in the comment section.  Oh, and more of this wine is available here.  Dave]

June, 2010 “Collectible Selections” Wine Notes

Increasing connectivity.  The richness of online media.  And your positive feedback.  All indicate it’s time to begin an electronic archive of my wine club notes.   Club members can now access my wine notes and recipes to answer your most frequently emailed questions, such as:

Q: “What’s the deal with that wine you featured in our club months ago?  We hid it under our bed and forgot about it.  Now we need to know what it cost, what to serve it with, and how to get more of it!”

A: Easy.  From my homepage (, click the “Blog” link and select the category “wine”.  Then use the search box (look!  I’ts hanging out up there in the top left corner right now!) to find the wine you’re after.   Just type the vintage and the producer and you should find what you’re after (ex. “2006 Arcadian”).

Q: “I keep a notebook with all your notes and recipes from each shipment, but I can’t find the ones that go with (this wine). Before I pull the cork, what should I pair with it?  Is there an easy recipe for it?”

A: Another easy one!  From my homepage, click the “Recipe” link and use the search box to find my recommended pairing.

Q: I just found these great _(insert seasonal ingredient here!) at the farmer’s market!  What can I make with them and what wine should I pair with it?

A: Same as above – go to my recipe blog and use the search box to type in your ingredient, or the season, or just about anything you can think of.  Go ahead – give it a try!

Do you like this new format?  Hate it??  I look forward to your comments, below!



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My Three Collectible Selections

June, 2010 (Summary Listing)

  1. Cain Cuvee (NV6), Napa Bordeaux Blend.  $34 (member price starts at $30.60) (Buy it/Rate it Here)
  2. Lang & Reed, 2008 Cabernet Franc, Lake County. $22 (member price starts at $19.80)  (Buy it/Rate it Here)
  3. Staete Landt, 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand (Marlborough). $21.50 (member price starts at $19.35) Buy it/Rate it Here

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My First Collectible Selection

for June, 2010 (Join Here)

Cain Cuvee “NV6” Napa Valley

Buy It Here $34 (member price starts at $30.60)

A blend of Merlot, Cabernet and Cabernet Franc, this wine drinks well now, but will improve for another decade!

Some 15 years ago, I splurged on a bottle of wine from Cain Vineyard. I saved it for years, waiting for a special night to justify popping the cork on this well-aged treasure.  Being single at the time, I had visions of this wine being an irresistible instrument of seduction.  But it was eventually opened one night on my own, after a particularly difficult day at work. By then it was ten years old, and the pleasure it brought erased the day’s stress so effectively that I even called some wine-loving friend so we could marvel over the wine’s amazingness. It was even better the next night – an indication that the mountain fruit in this wine would have allowed it to improve for many more years in bottle.

Cain Vineyard produces three wines of note – Cain Five (using the five Bordeaux varietals – about $100), the Cain Concept (about $50 – $60) and the non-vintage Cain Cuvee (NV6 stands for Non-Vintage, sixth year) which is is a blend of Merlot (to provide a broad, smooth base) and mountain-side Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, which bring structure and aromatic complexity. 55% of the blend comes from the 2006 vintage, 45% from 2005. This wine will reward cellaring for another five years.

Food Pairings – This blend is more complex and softer than Napa Cabernets, this wine’s moderate alcohol and structure allows it to pair with a wide variety of foods.  But it also is delicious on its own, rewarding the curious palate with an evolving experience as the wine opens up over the course of hours.  A year-round wine, I think you’ll find it more attractive during the summer months if you serve it a bit cooler than during the winter months.

Buy It Here $34 (member price starts at $30.60)

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My Second Collectible Selection

June, 2010 “REDS ONLY” Members (Join Here)

Lang & Reed, 2008 Cabernet Franc, Lake County

Buy it Here at $22 (member prices start at $19.80)

Lang and Reed specializes in Cabernet Franc from California fruit.  Taking inspiration for the world’s best Cabernet Franc regions, their wines have one stylistic foot in Bordeaux and one in the Loire. Try one soon, you won’t be sorry!

Cabernet Franc is common in the Right Bank of Bordeaux, where it is blended with Merlot. It is also common in the Loire Valley, where it is the primary red varietal in my favorite wines from Chinon, Bourgueil and many smaller areas. But the wines of these two regions are entirely different, with those from the Right Bank being riper and more robust wines, those from the Loire being leaner and earthier.

John Skupny (Lang & Reed’s owner/Winemaker, who named the winery after their two sons) combines California’s ripe juiciness with Cabernet Franc’s natural tea-leaf characteristics. The result is a cherry-inflected red wine that seemingly pairs with almost everything.

At Left, Lang demonstrates how to get a brix sample, from shots of his recent visit to the Loire region with his charming new wife, Megan.  Back on this side of the pond, the 2008 Lang & Reed comes from four vineyards – one in the heart of Napa Valley and the other three from the northern reaches of Lake County:

1. Stanton Vineyard: Though only a small percent of the assemblage, this fruit provides the bright, crisp, cherry aroma and flavors in this wine.

2. The High Chaparral Vineyard: Located high up in the red hills of Lake County, just north of Kelseyville, it was planted to Cabernet Franc back in the 70’s. It is planted on its own roots, a true Franc de Pied, which bring deep structure and tannin to the wine.

3 & 4. Cross Springs Vineyard & La Sierra Vineyard: Both vineyards are found above the 2,000 ft elevation in the High Valley appellation of Lake County, rounding out the assemblage of this 100% Cabernet Franc wine.

By The Numbers
Varietal Composition: 100% Cabernet Franc (95% Lake County, 5% Napa Valley)
Alcohol Content: 13.9% by Volume
Total Acidity: 0.53gm/100ml, pH = 3.90
Cooperage: 9 months in 60-gallon French Oak
Production: 3,086 cases

Food Pairings – Another great summer wine, with slightly herbaceous notes that suggest pairing with vegetables, and a richness that suggest said veggies be grilled.  Less structured than its old world counterparts, with a broader appeal and a wider list of food pairing possibilities.  Still, I recommend the usual suspects – goat cheese (especially toasted on crostini), anything with mushrooms, and for those not opposed – pate!   Serve this wine around 60 – 65 degrees – so pop it in the fridge for a half hour before popping the cork!

Wine #2 – the Lang & Reed, 2008 Cabernet Franc, Lake County

Buy it Here at $22 (member prices start at $19.80)

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My Final Collectible Selection

for June, 2010 (Join Here)

Staete Landt, 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand (Marlborough)

Buy it Here $21.50 (member prices start at $19.35)

A premium Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc, and well worth the price.  Rich and herbaceous, with racy acidity and pronounced grapefruit and citrus aromas.

When the Dutch Sea Captain Abel Tasman discovered New Zealand in 1642, he named it “Staete Landt”, which roughly means “Land discovered in honor of the Dutch Republic”. Today the name lends itself very nicely to this winery, founded and run by Netherland natives (and spouses) Ruud Maasdam and Dorien Vermaas.

I met Dorien recently at a large tasting, where her wines were among my favorites. I’ve brought two of their wines into my portfolio – their Sauvignon Blanc and their Pinot Noir – both of which are classic examples of the New Zealand style and terroir.

This wine is so rich and herbaceous, I enjoy it on its own. But it varies from the typical Kiwi mold for Sauvignon Blanc – they pick separately each of this wine’s six different plots of fruit.  The fruit from the earlier picking lends the herb notes and crisp acidity (pH is a low 3.14 – grapefruit is 3.0 – 3.3!) while the later pickings bring fruit with rich tropical fruit notes.  A summer porch wine, this could easily be your appetizer course!

Food Pairings – the citrus notes suggest savory foods with cooked with citrus ingredients.  But it overpowers fruit served on its own as the wine is not sweet, and a dry wine with fruit will seem austere and quite unpleasant.  Good with acidic cheeses such as goat’s cheese, try this wine with a great with grilled cheese sandwiches (use soft bread, buttered on the outside, good melty cows milk cheese, and a bit of bacon or other crisp meat!)  Better yet, take inspiration from the menu at San Francisco’s latest gourmet ghetto restaurant, the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen.  Oysters also beckon, but they need lemon or lime juice and nothing more.  Grilled fish with citrus and capers, or chicken picatta are excellent choices, especially served with spinach wilted in a pan with lemon zest, garlic and a smidge of anchovy paste.

Wine #3 – Staete Landt, 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand (Marlborough)

Buy it Here $21.50 (member prices start at $19.35)

Pumping Iron – Why Fish & Red Wine don't mix.

05-29 Mercado (20) In this week’s edition of the ScienceNow Daily News, (full story, here) it was reported that Japanese researchers have discovered why fish and red wine so often clash.  Turns out there are minute traces of iron in some red wines, particularly those grown in soils high in certain minerals, and that these trace elements can leave you with a very unpleasant “fishy” aftertaste.  And I don’t mean the clean fish smell of the ocean, but more like the day-after fish smell of the trash bin.

The research also seems to answer why some red wines can actually compliment seafood and fish, while others make you run for the motion sickness bag.  The researchers identified an “iron threshold” of 2 miligrams per liter.  Any red wine containing more than this amount spoils the seafood pairing.

Scallops, perhaps the most notorious offender when it comes to foul red wine pairings, were used to test this theory further.  When dried scallops were soaked in wine whose iron content was below the threshold smelled fine, but those soaked in wine with iron above the critical 2 mg/L, smelled horrible.  Note, I’ve observed the same phenomenon when fresh scallops are rinsed using iron-rich water.  Now I know why!

Red Wine With FishBut I agree with Gordon Burns, the enologist who argued that the more compelling reason to avoid red wine with fish is that most red wines are big-bodied wines that over-power the lighter, delicate flavors of most seafood.  And that violates one of my key guidelines for food and wine pairing:

  1. Match high acidity in the food with high-acid wines
  2. Match sweet foods with equal or higher sweetness in the wine
  3. Pair light dishes with lighter wines, heavier dishes with heavier wines
  4. If the wine is high in fruit and alcohol, leave it on the cocktail bar when you go to the dinner table!

Others, such as Tim Hanni, M.W., suggest that simply adding a pinch of salt and a squeeze of citrus to your fish dish will make it surprisingly compatible with your red wine.  And still others, such as David Rosengarten, in his famous book (right) simply focuses on finding lighter red wines that can compliment fish and seafood prepared with red wine-friendly recipes.  Of course, his book was written in 1989, when it was easier to FIND a lighter red wine, i.e., lower in alcohol (average then was just 12.5%) and body.

By contrast, today’s contemporary styles for wine often dictate alcohol levels in excess of 14.5% along with “gobs and gobs of ripe fruit”.  If red wine with fish is your culinary preference, I’d seek the lighter reds of Burgundy, Beaujolais, Northern Italy, the Loire and other cool-weather growing areas.

Seek out such wine, and I think you’ll be finding Nemo never tasted so good.

Dave the Wine Merchant

Quote of the Day
Fish, to taste good, fish must swim three times.  First in water, then in butter, and then in wine!”  ~Old Proverb

Upside to the Downside – Wine Discounts!

depression_charts1The stock market may be killing your 401-K, and you maybe you’ll be working five years longer than you ever thought.  But today’s dismal market has an upside – there are a LOT of good wine bargains to be had! Both online and land-based wine merchants are slashing prices on wines that aren’t moving – opting for cash flow over near-term profitability.

And what wines aren’t moving today?  The higher priced wines, for the most part!  Keep an eye out for wines from Bordeaux, second-tier California cult wines, and other wines slightly out of favor at the moment (domestic Syrah for example, which managed to go the way of Merlot in rather short order!)

My advice?  Seek value in the higher price range.  This is perhaps (and hopefully!) a once in a lifetime chance to gobble up some great Bordeaux and Burgundy and second tier California cult wines at prices I hope we’ll never see again (not that I’m opposed to low prices on great wine, just not fond of the economic conditions that create them).

As for sale wines priced below $20, my advice is the same as always – there is a lot of bad wine that has found its way into this price category!  But there is also some very good wine, wine you’d love to drink on a daily basis.  To sort these gems from the sludge, I recommend avoiding discounted wine unless its offered by a merchant whose palate you trust.

wine-sale My Online Specials: Save 10$ – 33%
My business is not immune from the foibles of supply and demand.  I have wines taking up valuable storage space, and I’m now offering them at tremendous discount.  See the Online Specials section of my store for today’s latest bargains, and save 10% – 33% on slow-moving wines.  Take a look at these examples:

You’ll find many more great wines at discounted prices at my clearance sale.


Dave the Wine Merchant

Wine-Friendly Recipe: Robust Red & Goat Cheese Lamb Burgers

Bistro RalphI took my first of many wine vacations in 1988.  I was staying in what was then the small town of Healdsburg, quaintly nestled in Sonoma.  When it came time for dinner, the owners of the Camelia Inn B&B directed me  to one of the few restaurants in town back then – Bistro Ralph.  I’ve been in love with that place ever since.

I recently introduced some friends to Bistro Ralph, where we shared a leisurely lunch.  The combination of this lamb burger and the Rhone wine we selected was so memorable, it’s become one of my favorite easy meals.

This recipe originally appeared in the December, 2008 shipment to our club members.  It played chaperon to a bottle of the Tous les Jours syrah from Andrew Murray Vineyards, and that youthful wine remained well behaved under its careful tutelage.

Ingredients (serves 4 – 6)
Olive oil
1 Red onion, peeled, halved and sliced
2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 Cup Crumbled Goat cheese, or to taste
1 ½ – 2 Lbs ground lamb
2 Cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp cumin
Freshly ground black pepper and Kosher salt, to taste
4 -6 Good buns
1-2 Heads Bibb lettuce

Heat a sauté pan over medium high heat until hot, add the olive oil then the onion.  Sauté until well caramelized and dark but not crispy – 10-15 minutes.  Add the balsamic and integrate well, remove from heat and add the goat cheese. Stir to coat and melt slightly. Set aside. Can be re-heated

In a large bowl, combine minced garlic, thyme, cumin, pepper, and salt. Add the ground lamb and combine. Be careful not to over-handle the meat (and I caution those of you with dirty minds to get them out of the gutter right now) or the consistency of your burger will be mushy.

Form 4 patties, each about 3/4 inch thick. Place on a medium-high grill for 4 to 6 minutes per side, or broil or sauté for ~5 minutes per side.

Brush buns with olive oil, toast slightly, scrape once with a peeled garlic clove, and set aside.

Assembly – Place burger on bun, top with lettuce, then with onions.  Spread goat cheese on underside of top bun, pour a glass of wine, and call me if this isn’t transcendent.

Wine Pairings
For my recommended Syrah and other Rhone Varietals, click here
For Zinfandels, click here
For Pinot Noir, click here
And if your idea of the perfect red wine is Cabernet, click here

Dave the Wine Merchant

Wine of the Week: "Right to the Moon!" (Tudor's 05 Pinot, now just $33.80)

to The Moon AliceOne of these days, Alice… Pow!  Right to the moon!

Though born in 1955 – an era more tolerant of misogynistic behavior – this phrase has become part of our national parlance.  Often shortened to the softer “To the moon, Alice!“, it was how a hapless Ralph Kramden (the inspiration for the animated Fred Flinstone)  struggled to maintain an even keel with his smarter, wittier, wife.  It was acceptable, even then, because underneath all his bluster ol’ Ralphie was a lovable, big-hearted guy.

But I’ve thought about Ralph Kramden’s famous phrase every tme I heard news about the anniversary of Apollo 11.  Monday,  July 20th, marked the 40th anniversary of NASA’s first lunar vacation.  And this week, as President Obama hosted the Apollo 11 Astronauts at our nation’s Casa Blanca, they naturally pushed him to invest in future NASA-led trips to Lunar Land, or perhaps Mars, or even an asteroid.

I’m sympathetic to such expensive but romantic explorations, having grown up in the era of the space race.  Kids on our block followed NASA’s rocket launches with a fervor and devotion now reserved for important national events such as American Idol.  Walking down the street of most suburban neighborhood in the 60’s, one would find every TV tuned to the rocket launch, bedtimes negotiated to allow youngsters to stay up as late as necessary.

rabbit earsAnd in July of 1969 I was at Camp Big Timber with a particularly ill-prepared and rowdy group of Boy Scouts.  We were gathered into the dining hall where several small black-and-white TVs had been brought in, their rabbit-ear antennae (their magical powers enhanced by strips of aluminum foil) providing a barely adequate window to the lunar surface.  Our pre-pubescent faces, lit by the bluish glow of the TV tube, watched in nervous awe as the Eagle was piloted to a new landing site, the original one proving too rocky, then set down just as the fuel gauge registered little more than fumes.

Our hair was on end and we were ready to see the moon walk!  But hopping out of the lunar lander took a bit longer than opening the door on the family car, so it seemed like hours before Neil Armstrong took his first step and uttered his famous quote.  Even though my memory of that step is blurred by rabbit-ear static and the haze of time, it is a memory I’ll take to my grave.

Miles Red1 2007-06Now I’m sounding like an old man.  And that was not my intent.  My intent was to tell you about a wine that will put you in orbit.  I have just a couple of cases of Dan Tudor’s stellar 2005 Pinot Noir from Santa Lucia Highlands.  The 2005 (and 2007) vintage is (are) the best for pinot noir since the famed 1986 vintage, and the Santa Lucia Highlands form Monterey County’s most renowned growing area.

Using space-age technology, this region has become known for its bigger pinots from the likes of Garys’ Vineyard and Pisoni.  So if you like your pinots lunar-sized  (and most peole do, it seems), you’ll love this wine. And the price is out of this world as well – reduced to $33.60 (which is 20% off the normal price of $42!)  until I’m sold out!  That’s the price club members normally receive on the purchase of two or more cases.

See?  It pays to be a subscriber!  Or to be more semantically correct – it saves to be a subscriber – but somehow  that just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

While supplies last!

Tudor’s 2005 Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands.  $33.80

I don’t know if our nation will ever support the expense of continued lunar exploration.  We have a number of pricey budget items that refuse to quiet down.  But if we do go back, I propose this wine as the one the astronauts should celebrate with.  And if we don’t go back, be sure to pop the cork before 2020 – this wine will be best from now through 2012.

Happy Merchant

Dave the Wine Merchnt

Quote of the Day
I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this time period will be more impressive to Mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space. And none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”  ~ President John F. Kennedy

Wine of the Week – Bonneau Wines, 2005 Zinfandel, Shenandoah Valley ($22)

06Zin-bottleWine of the Week!

Bonneau Wines, 2005 Zinfandel, Shenandoah Valley
$22/Bottle or $238/case (10% case discount)
Member Price = $19.80/bottle or $225/case (15% discount)

This wine was included in our June shipment to members of our sampling program “Maya’s Collectible Selections”.

It hails from the warm reaches of the Shenandoah Valley (between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite) in hot Amador County. This region is home to lots of big, fruity, “Monster” Zins, whose alcohol can exceed 16%.

This wine runs counter to that stereotype. It swims upstream. Marches to a different drummer, and a number of other hackneyed expressions that don’t come immediately to my fingertips at the moment. It enjoys an elegant body and a moderate 14.1% alcohol level with hints of fresh cracked black pepper that make this versatile wine – equally pleasing at the cocktail hour or the dinner hour.

A Classic Zinfandel With Pleasant Surprises!
For one, winemaker John Bambury has crafted that rare California Zinfandel that works well with food (recipe suggestion). The wine shows a beautiful dark fruit profile topped by a filigree of red raspberries and the tell-tale Zinfandel markers – mouth-watering wafts of dark licorice and fresh ground pepper.

From an old historic Sonoma family, this wine reminds me of the Zins I fell in love with in the 80’s. Pop the cork and drink a piece of history!

Just 420 cases produced.

Bonneau Wines, 2005 Zinfandel, Shenandoah Valley
$22/Bottle or $238/case (10% case discount)
Member Price = $19.80/bottle or $225/case (15% discount)

Happy MerchantCheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant

Quote of the Day
“To the sun that warmed the vineyards.
To the juice that turned to wine.
To the host who cracked the bottle,
and made it yours and mine!”

~ Unknown