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Gloria Ferrer ‘ Blanc de Noir’ NV

I can’t remember when I started drinking Gloria Ferrer. Gloria Ferrer was one of the first domestic sparkling wines that my friends in the industry took seriously. It was delicious and affordable and so it ended up at a lot of our parties and celebrations. Gloria became so ubiquitous that we ended up on a first name basis. Gloria was our de facto bubbly and our lives were made better because of it.

Gloria Ferrer was founded in 1982 by the Ferrer family as their primary venture into California winemaking. Owners of Freixenet, one of the big Cava producers in Spain, the family’s lifelong dream was of producing wine in the United States. The winery was named after José Ferrer’s wife, Gloria. The couple continue to run the winery together to this day.

Gloria Ferrer’s wine making mission is: To capture the full expression of the distinctive Carneros terroir in wines made to pair perfectly with food.

Gloria Ferrer ‘Blanc De Noirs’ NV is just about a perfect food wine as you can find. This is delicious and elegant sparkling wine made from Carneros Pinot Noir. Its sweet, sunny fruit and gentle precision feels properly Californian. The texture is soft and polished, lasting on a clean chamomile scent that will keep you coming back for more. “Vibrantly floral strawberry and gingerbread aromas pair with crisp red apple and spice flavors that bounce along the finish.” 90 pts Wine Spectator

Which brings me to food. This wine is delicate enough for lighter fare but has the ability to pair with Steak (Surf and Turf anyone?) The richness of the Pinot Noir makes it perfect for richer seafood dishes. Crab Ravioli, Coquilles St Jacques, Seafood Fettucine.

A lovely and elegant dish that will liven up any dinner party is Crab Bisque. It is relatively easy to make and can stretch one crab a long way. You can find Dungeness Crab from around $9.99 a pound for 1 to 2 pound crab. Paired with a Sparkling Blanc de Noir you have a perfect night.

Dungeness Crab Bisque

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large crab cooked and meat removed, shells roughly chopped

*** Mire Poix

2 onion, finely chopped

2 small carrot, finely chopped

2celery stalk, finely chopped

1 medium fennel bulb, chopped

4 cups water

3 large garlic cloves, chopped

1 bay leaf

1 cup dry white wine

¼ cup medium-grain rice

2 tablespoons tomato paste

¼ cup Pernod

Pinch of saffron threads

1 cup heavy cream

water, as needed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chives

 

  1. In a large sauce pan combine half of the mire poix and crab shells add bay leaf and garlic. Cover with water (4 cups). Simmer for 20 minutes, strain and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, fennel and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes until soft
  3. Add the stock, wine, rice, tomato paste, Pernod and saffron. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the rice and vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes.
  4. Puree the mixture in a blender until very smooth. Add cream. Thin with water if desired. Season with salt and pepper. Strain through sieve into a clean sauce pan.
  5. Return to heat and bring to a simmer.
  6. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with cooked crab and chives

Serves 8.

Stunning Bubbles Excellent for Mother’s Day

A selection of stunning bubbles excellent for the special Moms in your life this Mother’s Day 🌸🌺

Bisol Desiderio Jeio Prosecco Brut (Italy) $12.99 btl / save $7
A rich, complex Prosecco that is amazing for the price! Brilliant straw yellow color with extremely fine and lively perlage. Intense and fresh nose of citrus fruits and saline sensations. Perfect for Bellini’s in the Spring, or on its own!

Graham Beck Brut Rosé NV (South Africa) $12.99 btl / save $7
The Graham Beck Cap Classique Brut Rosé delights with a pink color and a vivid character. Fine pearls adorn the palate, notes of cherries and raspberries entice the tongue. Perfect for Spring – and beyond!

Champagne Maillart Marie Hanze Brut NV (France) $37.99 btl / save $12
90 Wine Spectator
“Steely acidity frames this austere style, but the spiced flavors of guava, fresh-cut apple, spring blossom and kumquat are sufficiently expressive and fleshy for balance. Tightly knit in texture and lightly creamy on the finish.”

Champagne: V is for Vilmart

Vilmart Champagne
I can admit to being a bit finicky and quite opinionated about Champagne. My strident feelings bubbled (hee hee) over at the uncritical stance many of my colleagues have towards Grower Champagne. (As opposed to negociants who often purchase grapes or juice to blend into their Champagne, growers own the land, harvest the grapes, and make the wine. You can tell a Grower Champagne from a negociant by looking for the tiny “RM” at the bottom of the label versus “NM”, respectively.) While most of my favorites are from growers, I felt that the discussion surrounding these Champagnes, sometimes affectionately referred to as (seriously) “Farmer Fizz”, and the larger houses seemed to cleave in an all-too tidy “us versus them” dichotomy. Just because a Champagne house is big (or owned by a large company) doesn’t mean it’s bad or that Grower Champagne is good solely based on heartstring-tugging sentimentality. Part of my stance on this issue I will admit comes from my penchant to be a contrarian, but I like to judge and recommend Champagne based on the most important criteria: taste.

But lest you think I sit around all day guzzling Fortune 500 Champagne, I must tell you about my new favorite producer. And it happens to be a grower. (“You liberal hippie!”) Tasting the Champagnes of Vilmart was a game-changer for me; they are simply the finest producer of the loveliest sparkling wines.

I’ll address the rosé first, the Cuvée Rubis. Wowzers! It’s as beautiful to look at as it is to drink. Sometimes there is a bit of hesitancy on the part of people to try rosé Champagne; but for bubbles fanatics like myself, they are often the most memorable and pleasurable. The Rubis teases out flavors of every red berry fruit you can imagine, from the sweet to the tart, with a rich finish that’s like a dollop of some yet-to-be-discovered, otherworldly creamy goodness.

The 2004 Grand Cellier d’Or is a stunner. Like Krug (which is in my mind the gold standard of Champagne; the 1996 may be the best wine period I’ve ever had), Vilmart ferments and ages the still wine in barrels before transforming it into Champagne. This process gives the wines a richness and complexity that does a gorgeous dance with Champagne’s natural acidity and liveliness. Somehow the Grand Cellier is both substantial and ethereal at the same time.

So what Champagnes are you looking forward to enjoying this holiday season?

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