The holidays are over, but there’s one good reason to continue enjoying sparkling wine with meals: it’s simply the most versatile wine for pairing with food due to its palate-cleansing bubbles and acidity.
A “blanc de noirs” is the French term for Champagne made from the red grape varieties, pinot noir and pinot meunier. This blanc de noirs veers slightly from this traditional combination by including 92 percent pinot noir and 8 percent chardonnay. In California, sparkling wine producers have adopted the French names for the various types of Champagnes, although the word “Champagne” cannot be used on the labels. The French term, méthode champenoise (May-TOAD shamh-peh-NWAZ) can appear on American sparkling wine labels if the wines are produced by this more laborious and expensive process that results in superior quality.
Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards has made Carneros sparkling wine by the méthode champenoise process since 1982. It was the first sparkling wine house in Sonoma Carneros and the first to plant Champagne clones there. Having won more than 400 gold medals and 30 outstanding ratings of 90+ points in the last five years, this is a consistently reliable producer of reasonably priced sparkling wine.
This wine has a delicate salmon color in the glass, with tiny bubbles. The bright strawberry and cherry aromas are echoed in the mouth, with added notes of citrus and vanilla. Slightly creamy, and bone-dry on the palate, the wine finishes with zippy, mouthwatering acidity.
Although this blanc de noirs is a superior all-around food wine, it is particularly suitable for spicy and salty foods found in Southwestern, Mexican, and Asian cuisines, and foods you would enjoy with pinot noir, such as salmon or roast pork. Look to triple-aged gouda or hard-aged cheeses, with persimmons and hazelnuts, for the cheese course.
A valuable hint: to chill a bottle of sparkling wine, put it into the refrigerator for an hour or into an ice-filled bucket of water for 20 minutes. Do not put it in the freezer unless you set a timer, otherwise it could freeze and explode!