Cheers to the new year

Sparkling wines are synonymous with New Year’s Eve celebrations. I go wine tasting at least twice each year and have come across a fair amount of sparkling wines, but only a few land on my list of repeats. Instead of coming up with a recipe for New Year’s Eve, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite bubblies.

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Macaron Prosecco (BevMo, $10) I first tried this wine at a great little bubbly shop called SIGH in downtown Sonoma. I tried it as part of a flight of Proseccos, which are Italian sparkling wines — my favorite. I like Proseccos because they’re clean, unlike Cavas, a Spanish wine which tends to carry a more mineral-flavored taste. I took this one home because it was crisp and clean.

Francis Coppola Sofia Blanc de Blancs (BevMo, $13.99) I first found this in Costco’s wine section, wrapped in pink cellophane. I tend to enjoy Coppola’s wines, so I wanted to try this one. I was pleasantly surprised. Not to be confused with the Sofia Riesling, this wine is downright delicious.

Mumm Napa Blanc de Blancs (BevMo, $18.99) My aunt and uncle brought this wine to our Christmas Eve celebration this year, and I really enjoyed it. It’s a lighter wine with consistent flavor from beginning to end. It’s a drinkable wine with a finish that isn’t harsh, like some sparkling wines tend to be.

Domaine Ste. Michelle, Michelle Extra Dry ($13) Though I’m not really a fan of Chardonnay, this extra dry sparkling wine is a nice, fruity, effervescent wine. It’s 63 percent chardonnay, 19 percent pinot noir and 18 percent pinot gris. It’s not as light of a wine as the previous three I’ve listed, but it’s sweet like fresh apples.

V. Sattui Moscato (formerly Moscato Frizzante, winery only, $27) I visit V. Sattui at least twice each year. It’s a great winery to visit in St. Helena because it has something for everyone — reds, whites, dessert wines, and a couple wines unique to the winery. This Moscato is the sweetest and heaviest wine on this list, but I love that it has a bit of effervescence. For those of you looking for more of a dessert wine, you can’t go wrong with this one.

Cheers to you and a happy and healthy 2014.

Elderflower liqueur makes a lovely cocktail


This week I discovered elderflower liqueur. Over the years, I’ve seen it mentioned in cookbooks or called for in drink recipes, but I’d never picked up any to try. I decided it was time to see what all the fuss was about.

I picked up a bottle of St-Germain, a brand of elderflower liqueur, which came with a small tag that included a recipe for its signature cocktail. I figured that was a good starting point. The liqueur itself is a slightly sweet, mellow alcohol. The St-Germain Cocktail was a bit sweet and a bit fizzy, without being too strong. It was a pretty light, refreshing drink fit for a hot day. Since I enjoyed that one so much, I decided to browse the St-Germain website to see if they had any other recipes. They have a few dozen, so I chose two others to try. I settled on The Gentleman, because I have cognac in the cupboard that I use for baking, and the Traditional Elderfashioned, because I keep a bottle of whiskey and bitters on hand. The Gentleman was sweeter and richer than the St-Germain Cocktail, but was also good. The Traditional Elderfashioned was stronger than both, and I enjoyed it as well.

So far, I’m three-for-three on drinks that use elderflower liqueur. They’re listed below in order from weakest to strongest. Next I’ll have to see what I can bake with the liqueur. Cheers!

The St-Germain Cocktail

2 parts Brut Champagne or Dry Sparkling Wine
1 1/2 parts St-Germain
2 parts club soda

Stir ingredients in a tall ice-filled Collins glass, mixing completely.


The Gentleman
1 part Spanish brandy or cognac
3/4 part St-Germain
1 cube brown sugar
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Top with Brut Rosé Champagne or Brut Sparkling Wine

Cover a brown sugar cube with Angostura bitters at the bottom of a Champagne flute and add brandy and St-Germain. Top with Champagne and garnish with a lemon twist.

3elderflower081813Traditional Elderfashioned
2 parts bourbon or straight rye whiskey
1/2 part St-Germain
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Stir ingredients in an old fashioned glass, add ice and stir again. Add an orange twist.