Tag Archives: sparkling wine

Wine Wednesday: Magic Bubbles

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Happy Wine Wednesday!

Here’s a fun little bubbly treat I had at The Bottle Room in Green Bay:

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Take cotton candy and pour some Prosecco or other sparkling wine over the top. Fun and tasty! If you want to try it with kids, I’m sure you could use club soda or something acidic like grapefruit juice.

Enjoy!

Cheers~
Carrie

Champagne Bars

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Happy Wine Wednesday!

Boy, do I have a lot to catch up on after our vacation to Saint Augustine, Florida, the oldest U.S. city. I’ve got so many things to share!

But for now… Let’s talk about Champagne Bars. Remember about a year and a half ago when we stopped in Chicago on our way to Ireland and Rob had the best fries of his life at Pops for Champagne? It was a Champagne bar he was reluctant to try, but conceded because it was my birthday.

Well, hallelujah!

Minneapolis finally has it’s first Champagne Bar! And you know how I love the bubbly.

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Tonight, I’ve decided that we are going to attempt to sip and dine at the Relevé Champagne Lounge pre-Pentatonix concert. (The menu is small, but appropriate.) I have no idea how busy it will be and they are not currently taking reservations. But there are plenty of spots downtown to seek out if we can’t get a seat.

Have you ever been to a Champagne Bar or Lounge?

If so, what did you like best about it?

Cheers~
Carrie

10 Tips for Tasting in Temecula Wine Country

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There’s a reason that you’ve probably heard of Napa and Sonoma, but haven’t heard of Temecula Wine Country. Some of the wines in Temecula are decidedly… meh. But there are some really great ones, too!

The trick is to find them.

Because of that, we decided to offer you some tips to make the most of your experience should you go to Temecula one day. And you should! Temecula is a worthy destination. In fact, we will probably return. One of the things that surprised me most {but now makes sense} is the almost desert-like Old Southwest feel. But that’s for a post later this week…

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10 Tips for Tasting Wine in Temecula

(In no particular order.)

1) Get recommendations from the locals.

There are 40+ wineries in Temecula. We weren’t expecting that. In addition, my trips to Sonoma and Napa were all-expense-paid by The Traveling Vineyard. I was spoiled. I didn’t have to worry about transportation. I didn’t have to plan my meals. I didn’t have to choose wineries. We went to the little, boutique ones that supplied the wines for our tastings.

A friend gave me a list of her favorite wineries and ones we should skip. I was still overwhelmed. I just wished that there was a list somewhere of all of the wineries and vineyards in Temecula with a note next to each indicating what it is known for or makes it unique. Okay, so you can get historical and other info here, but the information doesn’t help me decide which vineyards I’d like best.

So when we were out to dinner our first night in Tememcula, we asked for recommendations. The truth is, you’ll get differing opinions. Which, at first, confused me even more.

“What kind of wines do you like?” asked the owner of a restaurant in Old Town.

“We tend to like big Cabs and Zins,” Rob told him.

This question, I learned, was key. He could recommend wineries that suited our tastes! At first, while I appreciated his suggestions, I wondered if he was just giving us names of those people who were his friends and telling us to steer clear of people he didn’t like. {Truth be told, he was spot on with his recommendations!}

In the end, we knew that we still couldn’t do all of the wineries recommended. So we narrowed them down by making sure to hit the ones that more than one person notes or the ones whose descriptions sounded good based on what we liked. Then we planned a route.

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2) Plan a route: Start with the winery furthest from you and make your way back.

After you’ve determined which wineries to hit, make a plan. We were staying at the South Coast Winery. We planned our day so that if we couldn’t hit all of those we wanted to, we could finish up with the ones closest to our home base the next day. I originally planned two days for tasting, but was concerned that we’d get “wined out.”

Therefore, it’s important to do the tastings that you don’t want to miss the first day.

Most wineries are open 11am – 5pm. (A few open at 10am, and a few close at 4pm or 6pm.) Make sure you take that into consideration when planning your route, too.

You can find a map of Temecula wineries here.

3) For a more personal experience and/or better service, go during mid-week or during off-season.

We arrived in the late afternoon on a Monday and did the bulk of our tasting on a Tuesday. We’re also told that October tends to be a bit slower. Win-win for us! We had a lot of personal attention. Some of these tasting rooms were huge! I can’t imagine them completely full on the weekends. How would you even get to taste or learn anything?

When we tasted, there were usually five people or less in the tasting rooms when we were there. Rob hates crowds so I was thanking my lucky stars that things worked out this way.

On some occasions, we were the only ones in the tasting room. On others, even it was busy, we always got a spot at the bar and could ask questions about the wines. As much as I like to think I know about wine, I learned a thing or two!

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A Sparkling Sangria from Wilson Creek

Also, some wineries only offer certain wines in their restaurant that are limited and not usually available for tasting. If they have some leftover from the weekend on a Monday or Tuesday, you may get to try them!

4) Plan to visit only four to six wineries a day. (NOT 8!)

This is why, with 40+ wineries and maybe only a day or two in Temecula, you need to pick wineries that suit your tastes!

We had planned to hit about six wineries that Tuesday and had a couple extra on our list in case we had more time.

We did eight.

This was TOO many.

I’d like to think that palate fatigue was the reason I had trouble differentiating or appreciating the wines at the end, but I will admit it probably had something to do with having too much to drink.

In the same respect, it goes without saying, you need to decide who is going to drive. {Unless you go on a tour where that is provided for you.} Rob was designated that day. {My turn was the following day!} So he tasted a lot less. {The next tip explains how.} And we actually parked and walked from our resort to the 8th winery because it was right next door.

5) Split your Tasting.

This was one of the best things we did. We knew that we couldn’t taste all day long and still have one of us drive, so we *hoped* it would be okay if they let us split a tasting. Besides most tastings were $15 for six tastes. That could really add up at the end of the day for the two of us! {Six wineries for two people would have meant about $180!}

We were so happy that at our first tasting that the wine rep asked us if we preferred to share a tasting or if we wanted our own. All of the other wineries followed suit and had no problem with it. It seemed common and even the norm! Whew! We also found that each taste was about four good sips, so it was perfect for us.

Tastings generally cost $10 – $15 and offer four to six tastes. At each winery, you receive a card with a space for your server to write down each of your tastes {so they know how many you have remaining} or you’ll receive tickets to redeem tastes, like this:

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6) Not comfortable splitting? Find two-for-ones.

Okay, so I get that you might not what to split your tasting with someone who’s not your S.O. Or maybe you are going with a group of girlfriends and you just met Suzy yesterday. Or Jane tends to be a drinker, so you’re worried that you’ll only get half of a sip. To make it more affordable, see if you can find some two-for-one coupons/cards. That’s what this “Ladies-in-Hats” bachelorette party from Alaska did before they went off to enjoy the view.

I found a two-for-one coupon before our trip online and printed it off of the winery’s website. I was so proud until Rob pointed out that the expiration was June 30th. Oh. They really need to update that. I forgot about it until…

We stopped in at Danza del Sol. We were the only ones there! The wine rep asked us if we had a two-for-one deal. Rob said, “Uh, no. How would we get one of those?!” I think he was hoping he’d offer the two-for-one anyway.

But he said, “Well next time, just go to the Wine Grower’s Association website.” {You enter your email to have deals sent to you.} “Wait! I might have a couple of them for you.” He gave us two-for-one coupons to three other wineries! SCORE!

Another benefit of two-for-ones is that even if you are tasting with your S.O., there are often too many wines to choose from on the list. If each of you gets different wines, you each get try twice as many! Some wine reps liked to showcase the wines side-by-side. For example, a zinfandel from this year or that or with grapes from an entire vineyard vs. a block or a wine aged/fermented in French vs. American oak.

Because we were staying at the South Coast Winery {more on that next Wine Wednesday!} we received a “Passport” that included a BOGO Wine Tasting as well.

7) Talk with your server/wine rep/bartender.

We were lucky enough that it wasn’t too busy that we could really talk with and ask questions of the people pouring the wines. But even if you do come when it is busy, they are there to serve you. They may be busy pouring like crazy, but if you want to get the most of your experience, you need to determine which wines you really want to try either because a) It’s a wine you’ve never had before and it sounds interesting or b) you might want to buy it.

First, look at the menu. What looks good to you? In what do they seem to specialize?

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This Callaway menu is one of the smaller ones of the bunch and was one of our least favorite wineries, but you get the point.

Then, tell them what you like, but be open-minded.

If you say, “I only drink Cabs,” then you aren’t going to be impressed every place you go. Cabs might not be their specialty.

I often said, “We tend to drink big reds at home. But what are your specialties? What are you known for? What do you have that might surprise us?” I know that from doing in-home wine tastings that sometimes what you think you will like is different than what you will that day! The dry Riesling at Miramonte was exceptional. I adored the dry sparkling wines and ports at both the South Coast Winery and Wilson Creek. The Petit Verdots and Mourvèdres at many of the wineries like Danza del Sol were some of the best.

The wine rep will steer you in the right direction if you give them the right information. Show your interest. Show your passion. If it’s slow enough, they may even give you extra tastes or special pours. 😉

We went to one winery where I swear a 22-year-old version of Justin Timberlake took us through every red on their menu. We only paid for five tastes there. But he was so excited that we liked reds and that he’d be talking with people who appreciated the same styles of wines that he did that he wanted us to experience them all. It was fantastic!

And don’t forget to tip! A couple of bucks is fine. We liked to tip mid-way through the tasting. If we really liked the wines and were hoping for specialty pours, we’d even throw in a fiver.

8) Plan a lunch in between & drink water deliberately.

We had a tentative lunch planned. We did pick up some groceries when we came into town the night before. So my  breakfast consisted of a small portion of the grapes and cheese with the bread in this picture:

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Our intention was to stop and eat at one of the wineries that offered food. But it didn’t happen. By the time we were hungry, we weren’t too impressed with the winery that had a restaurant (Callaway), that we skipped it entirely. That wasn’t such a good idea.

Wineries do offer tap water. But it is usually in a location across the room. You need to make the effort to go there and get yourself a glass. Or keep a filled water bottle in your car and force yourself to drink X amount after each tasting.

9) Join a Wine Club or two!

To relive your Temecula Wine Country experience while you are back at home, join a wine club. How do you choose? There were a few wineries where we found a wine we really loved, but we weren’t so keen on the other ones we tasted. Then there were wineries were we liked all of the wines.

That is the club to join.

They usually offer many types of clubs, so you can do reds, whites, mixed, sweets or bubbly. There’s something for all tastes. We ended up joining the South Coast Reds Wine Club. The other club we considered was Danza del Sol. If you sign up on the spot, you can take your wines home with you and get your next shipment delivered. {Just be sure to pack your wines carefully in your checked luggage!} If you want to decide later, just make sure your wine reps info is on the order form, so that they get the credit. Most of the clubs are shipped quarterly, not monthly. So that helped us decide that the cost was worth it.

10) STOP… and smell the roses grapes!

Don’t rush. Enjoy the views, like those hat ladies did…

…and the art, too.

Or just take time to pet the vineyard dog!

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So I know you want to know… Where did we go?

On that gorgeous Tuesday, we visited the following wineries in this exact order:

  • Leoness – great Zins, tried an excellent Cab Franc, beautiful view
  • Danza del Sol – great reds, loved nearly all of the wines we tried!
  • Wilson Creek – known for their Almond Champagne. We liked their dry bubblies and ports!
  • Miramonte – beautiful views!
  • Callaway – only because we had a 2-for-1
  • Lorimar – excellent reds, known for music on the weekends!
  • Wiens
  • Ponte

The next morning, we visited the winery at our resort at South Coast after breakfast.

Our favorites (in no particular order):

  • South Coast
  • Danza del Sol
  • Lorimar

Ones we would definitely SKIP or advise to skip next time:

  • Callaway
  • Wiens
  • Ponte

The only other one we were recommended, but didn’t do was Briar Rose. They require reservations for their tastings. I thought this meant that they were more formal and elite and perhaps more expensive. But it sounds like it means that they just have a smaller tasting room. We had intended to make reservations and go on day two, but we were all wined out.

Overall, we loved tasting in Temecula. Although there are several wine regions we want to visit, we do hope to return one day. We might fly into San Diego next time, though, just for a change!

Have you ever done wine tasting like this?

If so, list your favorite thing and your number one tip!

Cheers~
Carrie

Sparkling Wine Cocktails for New Year’s Eve

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Ahhh… The Bubbly. It makes every occasion more special. This Wine Wednesday, I’m offering up a few sparkling wine cocktails for the New Year! This will liven up your usual bubbly toast and offer some alternatives to those who don’t normally enjoy a dry bubbly.

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Remember, all Champagne must come from the Champagne region of France to be called such. However, it can be expensive. In all of the cocktail recipes below, feel free to substitute any sparkling white wine, as long as it is dry. {We’ll have a more in-depth lesson Champagne vs. Sparkling Wine at a later date.}

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KIR ROYALE

  • 1 part crème de cassis
  • 5 parts Champagne

Pour crème de cassis in a glass, gently pour Champagne on top.

Optional: Add a twist of lemon zest for garnish.

Variation: Substitute raspberry Chambord for the cassis.

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BLACK VELVET

  • 1 part Guinness (or other stout), slightly chilled
  • 1 part Champagne

Pour the Stout into a half-pint glass or flute. Carefully add the Champagne on top. When you sip, the heavier stout will slip under the wine, so you’ll enjoy a taste of both!

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POINSETTIA

Variation 1:

  • 1 oz Triple Sec
  • 4 oz Champagne
  • Splash of cranberry juice

Variation 2:

  • 1 oz cranberry juice (choose a brand with no sugar added)
  • 1 tbsp Grand Marnier
  • 4 oz Champagne

Add the cranberry juice and Triple Sec or Grand Marnier to a flute and top with Champagne.

Optional: Garnish with an orange slice or drop in a few frozen cranberries for fun.

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BELLINI

  • Splash of peach juice or peaches in simple syrup
  • 4 oz Champagne

Add the peach juice or peaches in simple syrup to the flute. Top with Champagne.

Optional: Garnish with a fresh peach slice.

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BERRY SPARKLER

  • Frozen strawberries or raspberries
  • 4 oz Champagne

Fill the bottom of the flute with frozen strawberries or raspberries. Top with Champagne.

Optional: Coat the frozen strawberries with sugar first and let sit for a while. Garnish with a ripe, fresh strawberry.

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NELSON’S BLOOD

  • 1 oz Ruby Red Port
  • 4 oz Champagne

Pour the port into a flute, then add the Champagne.

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FRENCH 75

  • ½ oz gin
  • ¼ oz lemon juice
  • 4 oz Champagne

Shake the gin and lemon juice with cracked ice; strain into a flute and top with Champagne.

Optional Variations: Add an orange slice for garnish, vary the amounts of the ingredients, add a bit or powdered sugar or a splash of Cointreau.

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CHAMPAGNE SUNSHINE/SUNSET

  • 2 oz orange juice
  • Splash crème de cassis (sunshine) or 1 oz grenadine (sunset)
  • 2 oz Champagne

Add the orange juice and cassis or grenadine to a flute. Top with Champagne.

Optional: Plop in a Maraschino Cherry.

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The two that I have not yet had are the Black Velvet and the Nelson’s Blood. I’m looking forward to trying them this New Year’s Eve!  Please give one or more of these a shot and come back to let me know your favorites.

What are your plans for New Year’s Eve?

Do you celebrate with any traditions?

Cheers~
Carrie

Sparkling Beaujolais… & Giveaway Winners!

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I do get the majority of my wine from The Traveling Vineyard. These boutique wines can’t be found in stores and are often 25-50% less than wines of the same quality. I’ve been spoiled; so it’s hard to find something as good at the same price point. {Plus, I’m helpin’ out the little guy. Love those small vineyards!} However, when a local wine shop had a sale on Sparkling Beaujolais, I had to jump on it. I just love me some bubbly and I didn’t know that Sparkling Beaujolais even existed!

First, a little lesson…

Let’s pronounce it correctly: BO-ZHO-LAY. It surprises me every time I hear someone talking about  BOO-jolais. Really? You would pronounce beau that way? C’mon, you know that word. If you pronounce beau like beau and not boo, you’ve got it. Congratulations! You are no longer drinking BOO-jolais! {Sorry, just a little pet peeve of mine.}

Beaujolais is a light, fruity red wine produced in the Beaujolais region of France. It is a made from the Gamay grape. Beaujolais Nouveau is released every November and should generally be consumed within six months to a year. They are meant to be drunk young and are simple, easy-drinking wines.

However, there are Beaujolais wines produced with depth and character. These wines can even benefit from some time in the bottle. However, that is not what we’re talking about here. Not at all. I knew that the Sparkling Beaujolais I purchased would be a simple, easy-drinking, quaffing wine, but with that bit of bubbly that I love so much…

Mommessin Gamay Fizz – a sparkling Beaujolais

I expected the wine to be pink, even though it’s made with red grapes. I don’t know why I was expecting a rosé. Maybe because Gamay is a thin-skinned grape? Maybe because many true Champagnes are made partially with Pinot Noir, also a thin-skinned grape.

But look at that gorgeous red deep purple color!

Because I like my bubbly with spicy food {the effervescence cleanses the palate with each sip}, we paired it with a Cajun sausage pasta that I made. {Yes, I do cook, not just eat out!}

Sparkling Beaujolais with Cajun Sausage Pasta

But the pairing didn’t work. The wine tasted like bubbly grape juice.

I know. Wine is made from grapes.

However, wine does not taste like grape juice. You know, the sweet concord stuff? Yes, that is what this tasted like.

Disappointment.

I know that at only 9% alcohol, I shouldn’t have expected much {most wines are between 11 – 15%}.

Still, The Traveling Vineyard‘s Fissata is only 5.5% alcohol and tastes much better.

Fissata Italian “red” Bubbly {darker than a rosé, but not as red as the Sparkling Beaujolais}

While I prefer drier wines, the Fissata is sweet, so I don’t drink it very often. However, I’ve always appreciated it for what it is. And it does nottaste like sparkling grape juice. It’s got character. I’d much rather offer the Fissata to guests. {It doesn’t hurt that it has such a cute label, either!} Unfortunately, the Fissata is unavailable until this fall. Luckily, I still have a bottle on hand for any sweet wine-drinking friends who may pop in…

Furthermore, I tweeted about the Sparkling Beaujolais the night that I opened it. My cousin tweeted back: “French Lambrusco?” Honestly, it’s been so long since I’ve had Lambrusco, that I can’t really compare. Actually, I think the Sparkling Beaujolais was much sweeter than Lambrusco, but also much more bubbly. Think Grape Juice + Sprite. Hey, I could make that myself. Better yet, I’d make Sangria instead.

What wine have you had that surprised you? (Good or Bad?)

And don’t worry. I didn’t forget! Lastly, the winners of the Wine Accessory Package Giveaway are:

Corkscrew, Set of 3 Acrylic Pourers, Stainless Steel Foil Cutter, and Crystal Cleansing Cloth

Mer and Kat!

Ladies, email me with your shipping information at Uncommon Wine at yahoo.  Thanks to all those who participated in the giveaway!

Cheers~
Carrie

Bubbly – A Beverage or a Characteristic?

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How about a little bit of both?

This post has been in the works! It’s all about the…

Bubbly

Here are some definitions of the word that I found:

1. Full of or producing bubbles: a bubbly drink; a bubbly soap. – uh really?
2. Resembling bubbles: big, bubbly clouds. – even more obvious!
3. Full of high spirits; effervescent: bright, bubbly children. – true dat!
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Informal
4. Champagne – I will get to this in a minute…
5. lively; animated; excited a bubbly personality – Now that’s what I was looking for!
6. full of, producing, or characterized by bubbles – uh… duh… but I guess they need to do this…
7. lively; effervescent; enthusiastic: the bubbly spirit of those early movie musicals – that about sums it up!
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There’s something about a little bit of bubbly… One little glass of sparkling wine can:
  • make you feel special
  • make you stand a little taller
  • make a gal feel a little sexier
  • make any occasion more special

There’s something about those light, airy bubbles that lifts our spirits and makes us feel more alive. While Champagne is sadly offered at only the most special of events, consider this: If you offer a little bubbly on any occasion, you will elevate it to that next level. The event or celebration will become more festive, more distinguished, more memorable. But never stuffy. How can you do anything but smile with a flute of that nectar of the gods (or winemakers) in your hand?

Personally, I do love me some bubbly; however, my husband is not a fan, so we never have it at home. If I’m going to indulge in it, it has to be with girlfriends other friends {sorry, Jared!}.  Or it has to be at a place that serves it by the glass. Luckily I’ve been finding more places that do that and have recently enjoyed it here and here. It’s also great in cocktails such as I’ve found here and here and here.

On the day of my first 5k, I had scheduled a Wine Tasting to attend conduct that evening. Oh how I love my job! I told Rob that upon my return, I’d be ready to open a bottle of wine. {Naturally. I mean, I had been laying off of it the days leading up to the race. It was time to celebrate!}

He said, “Okay. So what would you like?”

“Some bubbly to celebrate!” I exclaimed.

“But we don’t have any.”

“We do! We do! There is a bottle in the fridge… I just haven’t find anyone to drink it with me!”

Little did I know that when I returned that evening, this would be waiting for me:

Moet & Chandon Imperial Champagne

What a surprise!

The funny thing is, he had it planned all along! He knew that he wanted to do something special the night of my first 5k… and that I’d been begging him to enjoy some Champagne with me. So instead of popping the bottle of bubbly in the fridge, he went out and got REAL Champagne {it must be from the Champagne region of France and adhere to rigorous standards to be considered such}, rather than just some “bubbly”.

Too bad I only got a picture of the empty bottle above. I was just too excited and swept off my feet to even think of taking a picture of the candles, music and bottle of Champagne chillin’ in a bucket for me when I got home. I don’t know if a picture would convey the mood anyway. I was smiling from ear-to-ear. After the initial surprise, we put the scene on pause to go out and get a quick bite to eat while the Champagne finished chilling. 🙂

When we got back, Rob opened the bottle. The bubbles were effervescent, climbed the glass quickly and were smaller and more numerous than I could remember that I’d had in a long time. And get this…

ROB LOVED IT!

“This is the best Champagne I’ve ever had!” he exclaimed.

Maybe he was just swayed by the ambiance… the lack of sports in the background, the cell phones silented and the computers unplugged. Mood can change everything. Champagne has a part in that! Or maybe… he just has expensive taste…

Do you see what I mean? A little bubbly can make any occasion more special. While I prefer the drier stuff, checkout the Fissata, a sweet effervescent Italian bubbly that pleases nearly everyone. It’s sweet, but not cloyingly so because the bubbles cleanse the palate with each sip. This wine will only be available through June 15th, as it’s too delicate to ship in summer heat:

Fissata Rosa Condole Mosto Parzialmente Fermentato da Uve Rosso, Italy

From the Italian, “to be fixated upon something”, our Fissata is a wine that conveys the feeling when you discover something new and want to share your passion for it with everyone you know. It’s fizzy, fruity, and fantastic — perfect on its own or with a decadent dessert.

What do you like best about Sparkling Wine?

Cheers~
Carrie