Archive for Sparkling

We continually search to find really “good”, interesting wines from along the Mediterranean basin and from afar to bring home to offer our valued guests. Here is a taste of four sparkling wines it has taken some time to gather. While Champagne is still “King of the Hill” in the bubbly category, there are some interesting, unique & completely refreshing sparkling wines to experience. Each of these provides a very different slant of bubbly can be. Each brings a smile to the face, when reminiscing of my first taste/encounter. And, I feel they deserve a “voice”. I hope you take advantage of this opportunity.

Lokelani Brut Rose–Here is a wonderfully, light, tasty, completely refreshing sparkling wine from Maui Winery. I have so much respect for Paula Hegele, the proprietor/visionary. Despite seemingly insurmountable challenge after challenge, she has stayed the course for 43 years of grit, determination and complete passion. Imagine, for instance, NO dormancy for the vines, no “sleeping/rejuvenation” (imagine you never sleeping?). Imagine being in tropical climate where there are diseases, pests, etc that no one would know how to treat? Paula persevered through it AND with the charming, ulifting, genuine smile and twinkle in her eye. She deserves our support. A toast to Paula!


Birichino Cinsault “Pet Nat”fizzy & so tasty & refreshing”.  You start off with really interesting Cinsault grapes, in this case from the iconic Bechthold vineyard out in Lodi, which was planted in 1886!!!! Most is used to produce their Old Vine Cinsault bottling. The leftover and the saignee is used to this orange-brown tinged Petulant Naturel—“Pet Nat”, using the Old World’s Ancestrale Methode”, capped thus trapping the CO2 in solution. Yes, a completely different take of what fizzy wine can be.


Lambert de Seyssel “Petite Royal”–One of the historic, iconic sparkling wines of France—located in Savoie of eastern France. This estate was bought back and is being resurrected since 2008. 70% Molette and 30% Altesse which are two indigenous grape varieties of the area grown in clay-limestone. The sparkling wines of Seyssel indulge in the same méthode traditionnelle production techniques used for Champagne. This cuvee is two years sur latte and an additional ten months on the lees. Pure, minerally, wonderfully refreshing AND a completely different slant on what sparkling wine can be.


Wolfberger Cremant d’Alsace Rose–Now, here is something one doesn’t run across too often here in Hawaii—a sparkling wine from Alsace, France. Back in the 1990’s in my former life as a wine distributor, we used to bring in the Wolfberger because of its breathtaking purity, its silky, though uplifting texture and its true deliciousness. Well, here is their Cremant d’Alsace Rose—100% Pinot Noir–done in the same méthode traditionnelle production techniques used for Champagne (15 months on the lees). Yet, another different perspective in what sparkling wines can be!

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Interesting Sparkling Wine

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While Champagne is the traditional bubbly most will look to pop, we think there is a growing opportunity to try sparkling wines from “other” wine growing regions, ones that are more affordable in price. The really good ones are somewhat hard to find, but they are certainly worth the effort when you take your first sip. Here are four such wines, each really good in their own right and I suggest you jump on the bandwagon now & beat the crowds, the inevitable long wait lists and escalating prices.

Gregoletto Prosecco “Sui Lieviti”True, authentic, artisan Prosecco, unlike the more generic, commercial minded, mass produced versions more commonly found in the market.  In fact, every bottle may taste different—vino vivente—living wine. Yes, this is your chance to sample the real stuff! The family can be traced back to the late 1600’s/early 1700’s.   “All of the family’s work from the vines to the bottling is done by hand—artisinally, carefully, and patiently—based on oral traditions passed down over the centuries. Many of their secrets are closely guarded. The sui lieviti bottlings represent the history of this region before the Champagne method was invented. Secondary fermentation takes place in bottle slowly and a fine sediment forms in the bottom of the bottle”.   Former “SLO Foods Winemaker of the Year”.

Scammacca del Murgo Brut Rosé “Metodo Classico”  (Sicily)100% Nerello Mascalese grown on Mount Etna & its volcanic soils.  Primary fermentation in stainless, secondary fermentation in bottle.  Aged on fine lees in bottle for 3 years.  Dosage—5 g/l.

Nicole Chanrion Brut “Effervescence”Nicole Chanrion is a true vigneron, in every sense of the meaning, think of the difference between a samurai and a swordsman from their perspective.  She is total hands on and lives it, not only talks about it.  Her Beaujolais red wines are standout and iconic because of their quality, personal touch and soulfulness.  Every now and then she produces this wine—100% Gamay Noir (a proven descendent of Pinot Noir) from 50 year old vines, grown in schist and porphyry soils, vinified methode champenoise in stainless steel, 18 months on the lees, hand riddled two times a day and bottled with only 3g/l dosage.  Yes, it is definitely one worth checking out!

Raventos I Blanc Brut Rosé “De Nit”This is as good as Spanish Cava gets and is thankfully a very different take on what sparkling wine can be. This family has owned their vineyards since 1497.  Yes, you read that right, 1497, just 5 years after Christopher Columbus set out to find America!  Located in the Anoia River Valley, biodynamically farmed– 48% Xarel-lo, 32% Parrellada, 15% Macabeu & 5% of still Mourvedre—18 months on the lees.

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A Different Slant on Bubbly

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‘Tis the season for bubbly. Here is your chance to taste four very special, unique wines, yes, a completely different slant of what bubbly can be! This certainly proved to be an eye opener for many. 

Airole Lambrusco “Marcello”–We start this tasting with a sparkling (fizzy) red wine—100% Lambrusco Maestri, grown at 750 to 1000 feet in elevation overlooking the Po Valley in Emilia Romagna. Tasty, brimming with vitality, delicious, exuberant fruit & a wonderfully refreshing fizz.  This is a wine to enjoy.  Something to refresh.  Something to quench the thirst on an especially warm day.  Served well chilled, we also think this is a terrific choice with an assortment of salumi & cheese.   (By the way, this one of the most highly acclaimed Lambrusco—International Wine Challenge—2016 Gold Medal/ 2011 Best Sparkling Red Wine; 2011 VinItaly—Grand Gold Medal just to name a few). 

Gregoletto Prosecco “Sui Lieviti” (Italy)The category of Italian Prosecco now is one of the top wine imports into the U.S., & they range in price from $7.99 to $22 a bottle.  How does the average wine buyer know which one to buy?  Well, here is one that will set the bar for you on what true Italian Prosecco can be!  Gregoletto was in fact selected as SLO Foods—“Winery of the Year”. This avant garde winery ages their wines on lees for more complexity and bottle as such. A completely different perspective on what Italian Prosecco can be! The sui lieviti bottlings represent the history of this region before the Champagne method was invented. The secondary fermentation continues in bottle over an indeterminable amount of time, in fact each bottle is slightly different. Vino vivente! Living wine!” 

Ruggeri Prosecco Vecchie Viti(Italy)–As the category of Italian Prosecco continues to grow, I am sure we will see the concept of SUPER Prosecco also grow, both in production & in popularity too.  Perhaps some produced by method champenoise, perhaps some fermented or aged in French barrique barrels, certainly old vine cuvees or perhaps some incorporating a dollop of Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco or even Pinot Noir.  The question then would be, will it still be typical of Italian Prosecco?  Just so you have a starting point to compare others to, here is a standout Prosecco produced from a smattering of 80 to 100 year old vines! 90% Prosecco, 6% Verdiso, 2% Blanchetta & 2% Perere and six months on the lees for complexity. We will delighted to see how refined & airy this cuvee is, with sublime vinosity & tiny, flirtatious bubbles.  

Raventós I Blanc Brut Rose “De Nit” (Spain)If you are looking for a sparkling wine, but cannot afford the prices of Champagne, here is one to consider.  Yup.  Sparkling from Spain!  In fact, in my opinion one of the very best houses!  This family has been farming their land for twenty one generations! The vineyards are rich in fossilized marine soils and the grape growing (mostly Xarel-lo with some Monastrell blended in) and precise, detailed winemaking.  Bravo!  PLUS, it is uniquely still AND thankfully Spanish.


A Quartet of Grower Champagne

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Our New Year’s Eve winetasting in VINO, included 3 top echelon “grower” Champagne. aa1 (A friend brought the 4th, just to share).  The recoltant manipulant (grower) category of Champagne seems to be really catching on & growing across the country.  Here are 3 certainly worth checking out!

b16Jean Milan Blanc de Blancs “Grand Cru” 

100% Chardonnay from the Grand Cru Village of Oger.  Surprisingly powerful,  penetrating!

Vilmart Grand Cellier “Premier Cru”  b17

80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir, actually from a single parcel in Rilly la-Montagne.  No ML, 10 months in OLD barrels.  50 months sur latte.  One of the true standout “grower” Champagnes.



Jacques Selosse Blanc de Blancs Initial “Grand Cru”

Jacques Selosse Blanc de Blancs Exquise “Grand Cru”
100% Chardonnay from the villages of Avize, Cramant & Oger.  Typically for the Initial bottling Selosse uses the lower slope vines of the 3 villages AND blends 3 different vintages.  Then for the Exquise bottling, he will add a little more dosage , so there is a hint of sweetness (typically around 24 grams per liter).  On this night the Initial tasted stark, pure & minerally (to the point of being more Burgundy-like than Champagne like).  It was exciting tasting the Exquise, which I do not think is imported into the U.S. or perhaps in  very minute quantities, side by side.  It gives one a very different perspective.

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Sparkling Wine Tasting 09-12-13

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Yes, we did another sparkling wine tasting in VINO tonight.  As is often the case….the goal was simply to show yet another dimension to the world of wines.

11cPunta Crena Mataossu Spumante Brut  grown on the steep, rocky hillsides of Liguria, undergoes ML & secondary fermentation & aged on the lees for 10 months.  This grape is grown by only 1 family in 1 village.  11b


Raventos I Blanc Brut Rose “De Nit” FOUR indigenous Spanish grape varieties  (xarello, parellada, macabeo & monastrell) grown in imestone influenced soils. Methode Champenoise. This family has been doing this for 19 generations!!!!!



11aLambert de Seyssel “Royal Seyssel”  a VERY unique bubbly from the Savoie region (limestone-clay soils), at higher elevation.  Typically 50% each of Molette & Altesse grape varieties, 3 to 4 years on the less & done method tradionelle, just as they would in Champagne. Many believe this region was one of the first to produce bubblies this way….even before Champagne itself.   “L’Altesse is the historic grape of the area for sparkling wines, and it has existed here since 1393. Its name translates to ‘Highness,’ which I guess makes sense in a place like Savoie. Wines from Altesse are remarkable for their aromatic finesse, elegance, and great aging potential. A second grape called Molette is what they consider the key to Royal Seyssel’s success. It is a native Savoie variety, descended from Gouais, with small compact clusters and tiny berries of golden yellow and remarkable acidity. They are a perfect combo for a vin Clair.”  11

Veuve Fourny Brut  “Grande Reserve”  70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir…Premier Cru… 2 ½ years ageing, 30% in Burgundy barrels.  This family owned House looks for elegance, purity & fine-ness.

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An article from Winophilia 12-31-12

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More Grower Champagnes

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Yes, tonight we did yet another tasting of Grower Champagnes.  Just so we are clear….Recoltant Manipulant Champagnes are NOT necessarily better because they are small, or farm their own grapes or make their own wine.  In the finest cases it is an issue more about artisanal & hand crafted.  On this night we tasted several.

J. Lasalle Brut “Preference”

from Chigny-les-Roses…60% Pinot Meunier, 20% each Pinot Noir & Chardonnay, all Premier Cru.

 Although I am not a huge fan of Pinot Meunier, (& in this case it actually muted the ethereal-ness I love about Champagne somewhat), this wine is nonetheless sheer, very pretty & lovely with tiny bubbles.





Camiles Saves “Carte Blanches”

This cuvee is 75% Grand Cru Pinot Noir (Bouzy, Ambonnay & Tour-sur-Marne) & 25% Premier Cru Chardonnay (Tauxieres).  For my palate, Camilles Saves can be hit or miss.  On this night, however, it was a very popular choice for many of the tasters.  It undoubtedly showed breed & class coupled with a fine bead & a long finish.

Coquilletes Blanc de Noirs “Les Clefs”




100% Grand Cru Pinot Noir from Ay.   This Grand Cru Grower Champagne showed breed, depth & character & was another popular choice by the tasters.





Varnier Fanniere Brut Zero “Grand Cru”

100% Chardonnay from Avize with NO dosage added.  It is a wine about the purity & transparency of their Grand Cru terroir.

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Older Dom Perignon

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Out of the gates, the 1988 was lighter in color, much more refined, precise & high toned.  In comparison, it took the 1982 some air time to really start opening up & show its stuff.  It eventually & really proved to become quite a remarkable glass of Champagne–nutty, toasty, much more lush, deep, harmonious & interesting.

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Last Night’s Champagne tasting @ VINO

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It is always a real hoot & actually quite the learning experience when you get a bunch of real wine fanatics together to do a themed wine tasting.  Well….last night was the night….at VINO….& Champagne was the theme.

Everyone graciously brought a bottle or two to share & the tasting was quite comprehensive that’s for sure.

We first did a tasting of 3 Blanc de Blancs just to set the mood.

The Varnier Fanniere NV set the toned.  Based in Avize, this 100% Grand Cru Chardonnay was incredibly lively, full of finesse, pedigree with terrific balance & lots of vibrant minerality.  The Veuve Fourny is located in Vertus, just south of the Cote de Blancs   What an absolutely lovely Premier Cru Champagne with a captivating mouthfeel, which must be from extended lees contact & stirring.  I would certainly buy another bottle!  Batting last in this formidable line-up was the Jacques Selosse “Initial”, a very striking, wild yeast fermented, low dosage aristocrat, produced from Avize, Cramant & Oger (Grand Cru) grapes.

After these bottles there was a flurry of bottles popping & of course in no particular order…..but here is how I remember it.

The J. Lasalle “Angeline” is 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay from their estate vineyard in Chigny-les-Roses.  The wine is aged on the lees for at least 5 years, which is so surprising, considering how refined, & truly finesseful it really is.  Quite impressive to say the least.  Pierre Peters is also a real favorite of ours.  Their grapes come from Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oger, Cramant & Avize (all Grand Cru) & their resulting wines are absolutely riveting, full of life & vigor, pure & scintillating.  The Varnier Fanniere Brut Rose is 90% Chardonnay with 10% still Pinot Noir added, all Grand Cru.  We found the wine to have a surprisingly lively, charming personality.

The Philipponnat Brut Rose “Reserve” was a very pretty, refined, refreshing break from all of the previous cerebral wines in the line-up.  It is a style you can drink easily & often.

The Gonet Medeville Brut “Tradition” is 70% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir & 5% Pinot Meunier from their various vineyards in Bisseuil, Trepail, Mareuil-sur Ay & Les Mesnil sur Oger.


VINO regulars well know that the J Lasalle Brut Rose is my wife’s favorite Champagne because of its sheer finesse, divine pedigree, amazing ethereal-ness & its tiny, delicate bubbles.  The Paul Bara Brut “Reserve” is another favorite “grower” Champagne of ours.  The grapes come from Bouzy, 80% Pinot Noir & 20% Chardonnay & epitomizes what a Grand Cru, “grower” Champagne should be about….class & pedigree without foo-foo-ness……amazing depth, layering & great texture.  Well worth seeking out!


The final wine of the night (at least that I know of….Jose Dhondt (but I do) NV….produced from 15 Grand Cru acres in Oger, resulting in intensely stony, minerally Blanc de Blancs.

Interestingly, the day before we were able to taste another standout Champagne–

….from Vilmart….80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir from Rilly & Villers-Allerand, barrel fermented in Burgundian barriques & then aged in large oak & barriques.  It is also quite the showstopper!



Categories : Sparkling, Wine
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(photo–by Rick Lilley)

Last night was a real fun get together with some of our restaurant teammates to discuss & taste some interesting sparkling wines from around the world. Hopefully participants walked away with some further insight & information on the category.

The 3 most commonly used ways to produce sparkling wine–

1) Carbonation. Yup, that’s right….just stick in the hose and turn on the C02. While the process is certainly more complicated than that, it is about carbonating a beverage.  Usually this means larger bubbles which dissipate quicker in the resulting wine.

2)  Bulk or Charmat method.  Working in a restaurant, we see sparkling wines more frequently using this method of production where the wine undergoes a secondary fermentation under pressure in large stainless steel tanks.

3)  Methode Champenoise.  The wine usually undergoes extended lees contact & secondary fermentation in a bottle.

As I mentioned to the gang last night although the “methode Champenoise” is deemed as producing more “serious”, often quite complex wine by most wine aficionados,  I don’t think it necessarily makes for better wines.

As is the case with all wines, when, what & how to consume/ enjoy a wine is affected by many different considerations….such as the weather, the temperature, who you’re with, for what occassion, etc, etc.  On a scorching, hot, humid day, I would much rather gulp a glass of ice cold Italian Moscato d’Asti or a well chilled Cremant de Loire (which are both normally produced using the Charmat process)  than a Grand Cru Champagne, which has been on the lees for 8 years.  They would be much lighter, ethereal, delicious & thirst-quenching….PLUS are at least 1/4 of the cost of the Grand Cru.  Just one person’s perspective.

We therefore divided the 8 wines into 2 categories–easy drinking & those considered more serious drinking.

We started off with the–

Ruggeri Prosecco “Gold Label”

We had originally searched out Ruggeri’s Prosecco back in 2003 when we were looking to open our VINO concept.  Why?  Because it really is so light, refreshing & wonderfully delicious.  I have in fact yet to find a suitable potential replacement, especially in the delicious department.  The grapes come from steep, rocky rolling hills of Valdobbiadene up in northeast Italy…& is produced using the Charmat process.  Hard to beat!

Roederer Estate Brut

This French Champagne firm decided to expand their operation to the U.S. & finally settled in  California’s Anderson Valley in 1982.  If you don’t know the Anderson Valley….it is part of Mendocino & is roughly an 1 1/2 hour drive north of Sonoma.  The area is currently really bustling with new plantings & wine activity as more & more people realize the vast potential this valley has for producing top caliber Chardonnay & Pinot Noir.  So… you have wonderfully cool growing conditions & French winemaking expertise….& that is what has made this winery standout.  They use only their estate grown Pinot & Chardonnay in production to better control quality….then age the wine for at least 2 years, in addition to blending in some reserve wine.  The wine typically is toasty on the nose & somewhat creamy on the palate.

Baumard Cremant de Loire

is the very kind of bubbly to sip well chilled on a super hot Summer day.  This is Chenin Blanc grown in mainly limestone soils in France’s Loire Valley.  it is these soils which help foster the wine’s delightful minerally, ethereal edge which buttresses the wine’s refreshing personality.  This wine also works well with shellfish dishes using shrimp, lobster & crab.

Raventos I Blanc L’Hereu Reserva Brut

A stellar example of the vast potential Spain has for producing interesting, incredibly food friendly, completely refreshing sparking wines.  This cuvee is produced from THREE indigenous Spanish grape varieties–Xarel-lo, Parellada & Macabeo….grown in limestone & produced via the methode Champenoise.  This family has been doing this for 19 generations!!!  You will be amazed at how fresh, vibrant, ethereal & lemony it is….like a laser beam.

Simmonet Febvre Cremant de Bourgogne

is a sparkling produced from Chardonnay grapes grown in the Burgundy appellation.  We chose to show this particular one because it hails from Chablis which interestingly has similar soils & cold, northerly growing condition as found in Champagne.  The added bonus is at 1/4th the cost.  How can one not absolutely love the purity, vitality, remarkable lightness of this wine!

Jose Dhondt Blanc de Blancs “Grand Cru”

We then moved on to French Champagne, and specifically “grower” Champagne.  In case you are not familiar with the “grower” category (RM), the stipulations include, owning you rown vineyards & making your wine   While that is not necessarily a determinate of quality, it certainly says something about being artisanal & hand crafted.  This cuvee is 100% Chardonnay from Oger & is therefore Grand Cru…..pure, riveting, elegant & classy.

Paul Bara Brut “Grand Cru”

It seems only right to end the tasting with one of our all time favorites.  Yes, another “grower” Champagne (way before that was fashionable)  from Bouzy…totally artisanal & handcrafted….80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay….all Grand Cru ….this is the way it should be.  I am glad somethings never change.


Categories : Sparkling, Wine
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