Monday, October 31, 2016

No Tricks, Only Treats

Disclosure: I received these bottles of Port as samples for review.

Happy Halloween to everyone out there! Last night I had a few friends over to carve pumpkins, share a meal, and try out some Port cocktails. When I received these samples, I knew that I wanted to do something different instead of standard tasting notes. It is the Fall season (though I’m in LA and it’s about 80 degrees out) and Port cocktails felt appropriate for All Hallows Eve!

Halloween is one of my favorite Holidays, so why not turn my blog R&D into a little event...I am an event producer and all.

Recipe for a party:

1. Invite a few close friends over. There were six of us in total.

Gratuitous Black Cat Shot

2. Craft three Port cocktails.
I am not a mixologist, so I decided to use tried and true recipes I found online HERE.  I made small adjustments, as I did not have 100% of the ingredients on hand.

Recipe 1: Port Julep. At the bottom of a glass you dissolve 1.5 tbsp of superfine sugar with 0.5 oz of water. Then add 6-7 mint leaves and muddle. Add 1 oz tawny Port, 1 oz VSOP Armagnac (I used Cognac, as I had it on hand), and 1 oz rum. Pour back and forth between two glasses a few times. Add more ice to top off glass and garnish with a mint leaf.

Port Julep

Recipe 2: Bar Drake Manhattan. Combine 2.25 oz bourbon, 1 oz ruby Port, and a bar spoon of maple syrup. Pour back and forth between two glasses a few times, add a dash of bitters, stir, and pour into glass. Garnish with a burnt orange peel.

Bar Drake Manhattan

Recipe 3: Saint Valentine. Into a cocktail shaker add ice, 1.5 oz white rum, 0.5 oz ruby Port, 0.5 oz Grand Marnier, and 0.5 oz lime juice. Strain into a chilled glass and garnish with a lime wedge.  Surprisingly, this one reminded some of us of a Cosmopolitan.

3. Whip up a Fall-friendly dinner to accompany the cocktails. I landed on a hearty vegetarian goulash. The gravy was made with 4 kinds of mushrooms, onion, celery, and garlic, with the base coming from vegetable stock, red wine, and port wine. Over egg noodles, this was a perfect fall dinner.

4. The results! I crafted all 3 cocktails and asked everyone to put in a vote for their favorite cocktail. Believe it or not, it was an even split. Two voted for the julep, two for the Manhattan, and two for the Saint Valentine.  Overall, everyone (including myself) was pleasantly surprised at how well the Ports worked with the different cocktails.  

What the heck is Port?

Port is a fortified wine made in Portugal. There are many different grape varietals allowed in Port production. With Port, the fermentation process is interrupted before all of the sugar converts into alcohol. So what you end up with is a slightly lower alcohol wine with residual sugar (aka a sweet wine). As with any fortified wine, a distilled spirit (at a very high ABV) is added. This spirit addition raises the alcohol level of the wine. In the end you have a fortified wine that is sweeter than normal wine and with a higher alcohol level. There are many different styles of Port including: ruby, tawny, white, rose, reserve, LBV, crusted, vintage, single quinta vintage, etc. Today we are sampling three different Ports of varying styles.

Graham’s 10 Year Tawny Port 20% ABV $36 SRP

Tawny Port is a Port that has been aged in wood and takes on the tawny hue. The grapes used are also less ripe grapes from cooler climate vineyards, which contribute to the wines lighter color as well. Aged tawnies are generally made from higher quality wines. This wine was bottled in 2014 and in general, aged tawnies can deteriorate if spent too long in the bottle. This wine will have a shelf life of 2-4 months after opening. Good chilled. This tawny port carries notes of nuts, honey, and figs. It is quite complex and was my favorite of the three.

Cockburn’s Special Reserve Port 19.5% ABV $18 SRP

This is a premium ruby-style Port. Ruby Port is aged in bulk and bottled young to retain the ruby color and youthful primary fruit aromas. A “special reserve” which is a premium ruby, is a wine with more color and depth. With this particular bottle, the wine spent extra time in oak casks (4-5 years total) and retains a luscious red cherry flavor. This bottle will keep about 6 weeks after opening. The nose on this wine is youthful with strong fruit concentration that you would expect with a ruby. Lots of red fruit on the nose and palate (cherry, strawberry, and plum).

Dow’s 2011 Late Bottled Vintage Port 20% ABV $24 SRP

Vintage Port is made only in the finest years and from the best vineyards. It is a wine from a single year and bottled between the fourth and sixth years after harvest. Unfortunately the LBV I received was corked, so I will not review this bottle.

After the tasting, I made everyone their own cocktail based off of their votes. We then enjoyed some of the Port neat with a hunk of pungent blue cheese…..DELICIOUS! 

How will you be spending your Halloween tonight?

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

What's the Plan for Unit 3?

To recap, in July of 2015 I started the WSET Level 4 Diploma, the stepping stone to the Master of Wine program. There are six units in order to receive your Diploma certificate. I passed five of the units in the last year and only have one left! But it’s a big one.

Unit 3 of the WSET Diploma is entitled "Light Wines of the World" and the exam is on June 14, 2017.  This unit covers pretty much all wine except for sparkling and fortified wines and is not for the faint of heart.  We can be tested on still wines from any of the following countries: France, Germany, England, Wales, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria, South Africa, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, India, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, the US, Mexico, Canada, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. I know….it’s like a sick joke.

Elements of the exam can include: key factors affecting production (microclimates,, soils, varietals, viticulture, vinification, maturation, finishing, and vintage variations), trade and legal structures, producers, and markets.

How does WSET prepare you for this exam? They provide 10 classroom days with a focus on the aforementioned regions. These include: lectures, discussions, guest speakers, and tastings. Our preliminary schedule is laid out below:

October 23 Bordeaux and SW France

November 6 Burgundy and Beaujolais

November 13 Southern Rhone, Languedoc, Roussillon, Provence

November 20 Alsace and Germany

January 15 Northern Rhone, Loire, Jura

February 15 TBD

February 26 TBD

March 12 TBD

March 26 TBD

April Date TBD

The exam is broken up into two sections: tasting and theory. The good thing is that each section is graded separately. You only have to retake the section you fail.


We will be given 12 wines to blind taste. They are divided into four flights of three. We’ll do two of the flights (in an hour), take a short break, and then move to the last two flights (for another hour). For two of the flights we will be asked to identify a common link. That could be: grape variety, region, or production method. There is almost always a flight in which we have wines of a similar style with different quality levels. We need to identify the wines and evaluate quality levels. There is also a mixed bag flight, in which all the wines are unrelated.


For this portion, we will have five questions to be answered in 3 hours. Questions will be a mix of short-form, open-response, and essay questions.

A short-form question typically offers you a choice of six topics to write about. You will be expected to write answers on five of these. For example:

With reference to the wines of the Loire, write about FIVE of the following:

Rose d’Anjou
Cabernet Franc
Soils in Touraine
Fungal diseases

Open-response questions require a fuller response in answer to a specific question, rather than simply stating facts about a given topic. For example:

Explain how grape growing and winemaking determine the style of the following wines:

Beaujolais Nouveau
Old Vine Barossa Valley Shiraz

The essay question requires an even fuller answer and requires you to offer personal commentary on a particular topic. According to WSET: this is an opportunity to not just demonstrate your knowledge of the subject, but also weigh up both sides of an argument and present an informed conclusion. For example:

Discuss the progress that has been made in Sicily in moving from bulk wine production to making quality wines with distinct varietal and geographical character.

The Unit 3 exams are offered in January and June worldwide. The January exams historically have a lower pass rate, as your intense study time coincides with the holidays, which I presume can be challenging. For the June exams over the last 6 years, the worldwide pass rate for the tasting has been 75.7% and the pass rate for the theory has been 45.8%.

How much study time does this all entail? The WSET suggests a total of 300 hours of study time for this unit. Yes, I said 300 hours. Let’s break that down. The first class was Sunday October 23. Starting the following week, that leaves 33 weeks before the exam on Wednesday June 14. Overall, we’re looking at about 10 hours per week of study time. Many Diploma grads I have spoken to suggest studying full-time at least 2 weeks before the exam, with some suggesting a month of full-time studying. As you can imagine, not many people have the luxury of taking that much time off.

Tasting Study Strategy

As you read above, pass rates for the tasting are higher than for the theory. Yet when you talk to any non-WSET(er), they always get tripped up on how hard it would be to blind taste 12 wines. We do a significant amount of tastings in class, corresponding to the region we’re studying that day. Yesterday, for example in our discussion of Bordeaux and SW France, we tried 9 wines. In addition to the class tastings, about 10 of us are forming a tasting group outside of class. The goal is to meet monthly and taste by varietal. Luckily our instructor works at the wine shop where we take our class. She prepares the wines for us, arranges them in flights of three, and brown bags/numbers all of them. We then split the cost of the wines and do the tastings in timed exam-style conditions.

Theory Study Strategy

Theory is a tough one to tackle because we don’t have a textbook per se. We have a study guide that lists all the different things we need to know, but it is up to us to go out and find that information in books or online. I decided to spearhead a theory study group, as the amount of information to learn for this section is unbelievable. We formed a small group of 6, and the group will have two functions. First, we are going to meet monthly (will be more frequently as we get closer) and split up the subject matter to teach each other in our small group setting. We will each provide a handout for our presentation and bring a wine sample that is representative of the region we discuss. We’ll each take about 15 minutes to present our section and spend about 10 minutes in discussion with the group. The second function is to practice timed writing in exam-style conditions. After speaking to many Diploma grads, they all stressed the importance of doing this. Getting used to spending 30 minutes tackling an exam question, skeleton outlining your answer, and then spending the rest of the time writing is important, and we have be be able to do this for 6 questions over a 3-hour period.  There is no time for brain fog, hand cramps, writers block, etc. The goal is that when we walk into the theory exam, we are prepared and used to writing that much in that short of time.  We will integrate timed writing into our group time starting in early 2017. Also, in approximately May, we want to hold a full mock theory exam.  We will have the questions typed up and spend 3-hours with each other like we will do with our exam on June 14.

That’s all for now. Have you attempted (or passed!) any wine certification programs? If so, tell me about them here!

Wish me luck everyone…..I need it!

Friday, October 21, 2016

16 Ways to be a Wine Festival Pro!

Wine festivals have become ubiquitous around the United States. I live in Los Angeles and there seems to be a different festival every other weekend. Most are in the $50-$75 price range and tout anywhere from 20 to over 100 wineries participating. If each winery pours 2 wines, you’re looking at anywhere from 40 to 200 wines. Mama mia! How do you handle this?  Here are 16 tips and tricks to be a Wine Festival Pro and stand out from the crowd!

Before the Festival

1.  Go online and see who is pouring. Any standouts? Or anything that sounds interesting to you? Be sure to list them in the “Notes” section of your phone, so you can pull them up when you arrive.

2.  Workout or do something active today. This won’t help in your wine tasting skills or help you sprint faster to the wine tasting finish line. But in my opinion, if you get a workout in, the chances of you over imbibing go down. Take care of your body before and after wine tasting and your body will thank you.

3.  Eat a substantial lunch that will line your tummy with a good base for wine tasting.

4.  Have a few handy items with you: a small bottle of water (festivals usually have this, but it’s nice to have one right in your bag), breath mints (your breath will get funky after hours of tasting, it’s science), antacids (wine can cause indigestion), and a pen (to take notes in the program).

5.  Arrive at the festival at or just before it opens to the public! As a trade/press professional, I have been to countless wine festivals. Festivals both open to the public or just open to the trade. Guess what, they all get more and more crowded as the day goes by. And in my opinion, an overly crowded wine festival is a waste of time. No one wants to wait in a line 5 deep to get a 1 oz pour. No one.

During the Festival

6.  Get a program. Most, though not all, wine festivals have a program that lists all the wineries participating, and might even leave some room for tasting notes, which is AWESOME!  Take a look at the notes on your phone, and circle those you want to visit.

7.  Do a lap first, then commit! If you got there early or just when the gates open, this should be breeze. I like to take a lap first and see if there’s anything I’m missing. Anything shiny and sparkly that looks too good to miss?

8.  Drink progressively. For God’s sake, don’t just walk through the tables and aimlessly do tastes of whites and reds in any order! Start with bubbly, then to whites, then reds, and then dessert wines. TRUST ME. You will get palate fatigue...It’s bound to happen….even to the professionals. Drinking progressively will mitigate that a bit.

9.  WATER. I repeat. WATER. There is no such thing as too much water.

10.  Spit!! And I really mean this. If you go to a wine festival and drink all of the pours, you’re sure to be “the drunk one” and will most certainly feel terrible that evening with an “overhang” (an overhang is a word I created in college. It’s when you already have a hangover before you even go to bed). And you’ll surely be hungover the next day. I used to (in my early 20s) have a motto “no wine left behind” and I can safely say that I retract that statement. Leave a lot behind….please! Maybe taste through some whites first (be sure to spit), then revisit a small handful of your favs (you can drink these). I usually limit myself to 10 whites and 10 reds. After that, my tongue has no idea what’s going on.

11.  Ask questions. Even if you don’t know a lot about wine. Some fun ideas: ask 5 different winemakers/winery reps what they love about the wine they’re pouring. Or ask them to tell you one interesting thing about the wine they are pouring. You might find out some cool stuff!

12.  Eat something (if they offer it). This will break up the afternoon and be a nice palate cleanser. It also ensures your tummy doesn’t get empty and get sour from all the wine.

13.  Step aside immediately after you get served. This is a big one. When you walk up to the table, you’ll get a pour, then immediately step to the side. Even if you’re having a conversation with the pourer. A small step or two to the side does wonders. It allows the pourer to continue chatting with you, yet still be able to pour to the next guest. When you’re the “next guest” at one of the tables, you’ll greatly appreciate it!

Amid all of these “how to’s” be sure to take pictures, take notes, or whatever strikes your fancy. Bottom line is to have fun!

After the Festival

14.  Depending on what time you are done, have another meal. This one doesn’t have to be as carb heavy as the “before” meal. A good mix of protein and carbs should be fine.

15.  WATER. Yup, you’ll still be dehydrated. Drink up!

16.  Feeling any tinge of a headache? Take some headache medicine just in case to nip it in the bud.

If you follow these tips and tricks, you will enjoy your wine festival day MUCH more than the next guy! You’ll have had a great time and woken up without a hangover. Mission accomplished!

Don’t forget to upload all of your fun pics and relish in the fun wine tasting day you had with good friends! I have a bumper sticker on my car that says: the meaning of life is to live it! A wine festival is DEFINITELY living the life!

I recently went to the Bubblyfest sparkling wine festival in Pismo Beach. I brought this little gadget with me and got props on it ALL weekend. It is a necklace you wear to hold your wine glass.

It makes sense for me when I am attending wine events as trade/press, because I am usually busy taking notes, taking pictures, and posting on social media. This allows the wine glass to be hands free to allow me to do everything I need to do. Click HERE to see the Amazon link where I purchased this for $8. Great buy!

What wine festivals will you be attending before the end of the year?  

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Bubblyfest by the Sea 2016

A special thanks to Create Promotions for granting me a Weekend VIP pass in exchange for coverage of Bubblyfest By the Sea 2016. I had a wonderful time up in Pismo/Avila Beach soaking up the sun and bubbles!

Being an Angeleno, I drive up the coast frequently for short trips to Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Sonoma, etc. For ease I usually head up the I-5N, as the route is more direct and generally faster than taking the coastal trip up the 101N. However, Pismo Beach is (obviously) right on the coast, so the 101 coastal journey is your best bet. And what a lovely drive it was. I hit no traffic (shocker, I know), and arrived in a little less than 3 hours. If you haven’t driven up the California coast, I highly recommend it. The endless ocean views with the sun gleaming on the water is awe-inspiring.

I rented a studio from AirBnB that was one block from the beach in a little area called Shell Beach. I had my own “apartment”, an outside sitting area, and even a friendly dog named Jackson! Below is a recap of the Bubblyfest events I attended.


Winemaker Seminar Series presented by San Francisco Wine School 

This session was led by David Glancy MS, founder of the San Francisco Wine School. The class was held in the stunning “Beach House” at the Avila Beach Golf Resort. All the windows were thrown open and we enjoyed the sounds of the waves crashing and a nice ocean breeze. It was an intimate class of about 12-15 of us, and David was enjoyable and full of knowledge; my favorite combination in wine education! We learned the history of sparkling wine in Europe, the difference between a grower Champagne and one in which grapes are purchased, and the evolution of the sparkling wine market throughout the world. He recounted a story of eating empanadas and drinking a sparkling Bonarda in Argentina as one of his favorite drinking stories. Damn, I’d love to get my hands on a sparkling Bonarda! David was then joined by a panel of 3 California wineries who produce sparkling wine. Jim Shumate of Pomar Junction in Paso Robles was the first speaker. Their sparkling is made by Rack & Riddle. We were then joined by Neil Roberts, viticulturist at Clavo Cellars in Paso Robles/Templeton. Neil manages 30+ vineyards in San Luis Obispo and Monterey. Lastly, we had Clarissa Nagy of Riverbench in Santa Barbara County’s Santa Maria Valley. She became winemaker in 2012 and in 2014 produced their first 100% estate bottling! Clarissa shared the fun fact that there are over 40 sparkling wine producers in Santa Barbara County alone! During this seminar, we enjoyed wines from: Le Grand Courtage, Pierre Sparr, Bouvet, JCB, Gosset, Taittinger, Gremillet, Riverbench, Pomar Junction, and Clavo Cellars.

Tasting Mats

Jim Shumate of Pomar Junction

Corks & Cocktails

The thing about being a wine student and blogger is that I taste a lot of wine. But, surprisingly, I do not drink a lot of wine. Most of my encounters with wine are in class, in a tasting group, or at a wine event in which I am attending as press/trade. In those cases I have to protect my palate to be able to taste a lot of wine in a short amount of time.  But the Corks & Cocktails event was a different animal. This was Bubblyfest’s Gatsby-inspired cocktail party with live music, free-flowing bubbles, nibbles, and other fun surprises. Guests were encouraged to dress up, have fun, and enjoy the incredible ocean views that this town has no shortage of. I made the decision to Uber and really enjoy this party...and I’m glad I did! Instead of just talking about it, here is a pictorial recap of the evening!

That view though

Musical delights by the Tipsy Gypsies

Nibbles + Sunset = BLISS

One of my fav pours that night: Hillersden Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc

Gratuitous coupe selfie!

Their take on an old-fashioned (which included bubbly!)

Raspberry flavored cotton candy (by Haute Sugar Co) + Alma Rosa Brut Rose

Music, dancing, and bubbles

On Saturday I woke up early, got some work done, and walked to the local coffee shop a block away. Here I grabbed a homemade cinnamon roll (!) and a cappuccino and headed to the beach. The morning sun and waters were absolutely gorgeous. Oh, and oodles of puppy porn to satisfy your morning appetite!

Grand Tasting

The Grand Tasting is the largest event at Bubblyfest. Over 60 wineries poured selections from their sparkling collections. What I liked about the event is that it was outside with PLENTY of space. A lot of these big tasting events can be indoors in way too crowded rooms. Also, all the vendors were tented, which made the event more comfortable for everyone to enjoy. Highlights are below!

J Winery Brut 2009 Vintage

Myers Deovlet Blanc de Blanc Extra Brut

Derby Blanc de Noirs

Riedel Masterclass Glass Seminar

This was a unique and fascinating wine glass tasting, conducted by Riedel Ambassador Susan Dubrow. Susan masterfully demonstrated the relationship between the shape of a glass and our perception and enjoyment of wines. We had 4 different glasses in front of us: a New World Pinot glass, a Chardonnay glass, a Champagne glass, and a Champagne flute. We also had some wine pours in front of us in plastic cups: an oaked Chardonnay, an Oregon Pinot, and a Champagne. Lastly, we had different flavors of Lindt chocolates in front of each glass. The seminar involved tasting the various wines out of various glasses. It was CRAZY how different a wine can taste out of each glass. I’m not a big proponent of advocating for people to go out and buy millions of different glassware, but this seminar made it clear that having at least a couple different glass shapes is worthwhile. The chocolate pairings were just for fun, but oh were they delicious.

Overall, this was a VERY well executed weekend festival. Lots of pre-communication emails, educational (yet fun) seminars, a great cocktail party, and a manageable tasting event. Bravo to the entire team who helped put it all together! I will definitely be back for Bubblyfest 2017!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Bubbles, Bubbles, and More Bubbles

Photo credit: Jeremy Ball

Today I am making the drive up the coast to Avila Beach for Bubblyfest. Bubblyfest is the definitive festival for all things sparkling! In fact it is the only dedicated sparkling wine festival in the United States (that I know of!). Thank you to Create Promotions for granting me a press pass to cover the event. Stay tuned for my bubbly-related posts both before and after I attend Bubblyfest events such as: seminars, grand tastings, and even a 1920s themed cocktail reception! Also, follow me on Twitter @SOMMspirations for an up-close look at all the Bubblyfest events! Ok, back to the juice.

One of the most oft misused wine terms is “Champagne”. Similar to how the word “Kleenex” is synonymous with tissue, in our cultural lexicon, “Champagne” is synonymous with any sparkling wine. If you are drinking a wine in which the grapes were grown in the Champagne region of France, you are in fact drinking Champagne. If the grapes were grown anywhere outside of the Champagne region, then it may not be referred to as Champagne. Well then, what is it to be called? Below is a list of different types of sparkling wines. Yes, there are more than these, but I chose to highlight the most popular styles.

*Note that I referred to Jancis Robinson’s Oxford Companion to Wine for some of the technical information and definitions. I affectionately refer to this book as “The Bible”. In my religion, Jancis is the patron saint of wine. Yes, I’m Jewish, but that’s besides the point.

Types of sparkling wine:

Champagne. Oh Champagne. Where do I start? As mentioned above, sparkling wine can only be called Champagne if the grapes are grown in the Champagne region of France, which includes Montagne de Reims, Cote des Blancs, Vallee de la Marne, Cote de Sezanne, and Cote des Bar. Aside from region, there are other rules that need to be adhered to in order to call it Champagne. The grapes can only be: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Also, the bubbles in the wine need to be created by the methode champenoise. This means that the second fermentation happens in the bottle in which the wine is sold. A base wine is made and bottled with an addition of sugar and yeast (liqueur de tirage). The bottle is closed with a crown cap and the second fermentation will happen in the bottle, creating bubbles...voila! There are a few other steps, but those are the basics to get you started. See my previous post entitled “How Do Bubbles Get in Bubbly?”. Champagne is a wonderful thing. It used to be served only on celebratory occasions, but now the tides are turning. See HERE for an article that NPR came out with last week. I personally prefer to imbibe Champagne when I am in the mood to pay attention. I LOVE to savor all the notes that come with Champagne including: toastiness, yeastiness, and a leesy quality.

Photo Credit:

Cremant. It’s easier to start with what Cremant isn’t. Cremant isn’t Champagne. Cremant is the term used to describe any sparkling wine in France (outside of Champagne) that is still made in the traditional method (known as methode champenoise in Champagne). Familiar cremants include Cremant de: Bourgogne, Loire, Alsace, Jura, Limoux or Bordeaux. Grape varieties vary by region. Cremants are useful when you don’t want to spend as much on your bubbly. Many Cremants can be had for $12-$20, whereas the bulk of Champagne is over the $35-$40 mark.

Cava. Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine also made in the traditional method. Cava is predominantly made in Catalunya (though production in a few other regions is allowed). The three main grapes used are Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarel-lo, though the trend is moving towards including traditional Champagne grapes, mainly Chardonnay, much to the dismay of Cava traditionalists. Cava generally has a zesty citrus/lemon note, acidity, and a nice nuttiness. I’d describe it as a bit easier to drink than Champagne. I choose Cava when I want a less serious bubbly and when I want to save a bit of money. You can generally find Cava in the $10-$20 range.

Prosecco. Prosecco is an Italian sparkling wine made in the Veneto region. By volume, it is the most produced and consumed sparkling wine in the world. The varietal is Glera, also known as the Prosecco grape. Prosecco is made in the tank method, which means that the second fermentation (how the bubbles are created) takes place in a tank versus in a bottle. This production method is much cheaper than doing the second fermentation in the bottle. A Prosecco is going to be much fruitier than the other types of sparkling wines discussed. Prosecco is frothy, usually has some residual sugar, and has fruity and floral notes. Basically, I use Prosecco as my brunch bubbly. It’s not too serious, good with food, and goes down easy when you’re drinking at 10am! A decent Prosecco can be had for $12-$15.

Lambrusco. You might not know that you’ve had Lambrusco, but if you’ve had a chilled sparkling red wine, it probably was Lambrusco. Lambrusco is an ancient varietal grown mostly in central Italy in the Emilia-Romagna region. It is also the name of the sparkling wine made with that grape. Lambrusco was HUGE in the 70s in the US. A little brand named Riunite cornered the market and many Americans in that time period had experience with a (probably sweet) Lambrusco. Lambrusco has now grown up and it is no longer your grandma’s wine. Many producers are vinifying the wine dry or off-dry. Lambrusco has a nice food-friendly acidity, a tannic grip, and notes of berry. It pairs well with cured meats and hard cheeses. Typically, a good bottle of Lambrusco can be had for $14-$18. As a general rule, you’ll never pay more than $20 for a bottle.

Franciacorta. This one you might not have tasted, as a huge percentage of the production stays in Italy. But, if you ever get a chance to try one, I highly recommend it. Franciacorta is Italy’s answer to a high-quality sparkling wine made in the traditional method. Franciacorta is made in the Lombardia region with grapes such as: Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Gris. It usually has extensive aging on the lees (what the hell does that mean? Read HERE) and thus has a nice yeasty, toasty note as does Champagne. Prices for Franciacorta are similar to Champagne.

Sparkling Wine. Are we done yet? Almost. I’ve highlighted many types of sparkling wine from around the world. You may be thinking: what about all the bubbly made in California, or that New Zealand sparkling you tried last week? Essentially, (most) all other sparkling wine around the world is called just that: sparkling wine. No fancy name, no delimited areas, no required grapes or production methods. This includes, but is not limited to any sparkling wine made in the US, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, etc.

If you learn one thing today, it’s to learn how to order a glass of bubbly. If you’re specifically looking for say Champagne, Prosecco, or something of the like...say it! If you know that you want to drink something with effervescence, then ask if the establishment has any sparkling wine. My biggest pet peeve is if I ask if they have any sparkling wine, and they say “yeah, we have Champagne.” And pull out a Cava, or Prosecco. Or if I specifically ask for Champagne and they pull out something else. Look at it as your winely (I made that word up) duty to spread the good gospel of proper bubbly lingo!

From what I hear, there will be 70 sparkling wines available for tasting at Bubblyfest. That’s a lot of bubbles! I will definitely report back on some of my favorites. Remember to follow me on Twitter @SOMMSpirations to follow my Bubblyfest adventures! Below is an agenda of my trip:

Friday October 7

2:30pm-4:30pm Winemaker Seminar Series presented by San Francisco Wine School
Learn the origins of sparkling wine from the south of France to the south of England and eventually Champagne. Taste through Cremant and other sparkling wines from regions all around France to find out how they are different and why. Follow the evolution of global bubblies as they reached California and led to the wines of today. David Glancy will be joined by Pomar Junction, J Vineyards, and Riverbench to taste and talk about their sparklers to wrap up the session.

6pm-8pm Corks & Cocktails
Enjoy an evening under the stars, as our popular Gatsby inspired Cocktail Party returns for another jazz filled evening by the sea! Sip from 4 unique Sparkling Wine cocktails from recipes concocted by our partner Wineries, and Sparkling Wines by the glass.  Dance the night away to the gypsy jazz stylings of The Tipsy Gypsies.

Saturday October 8

11am-noon VIP Tasting
This one-hour tasting on the ocean view terrace at Avila Beach Golf Resort's Beach House will feature 4 highlighted wineries pouring 1 special bottle from their collection, not available at the Grand Tasting.

Noon-1pm Riedel Masterclass Glass Seminar
In a unique and fascinating wine glass tasting, Riedel Ambassador Susan Dubrow will demonstrate the relationship between the shape of a glass and our perception and enjoyment of wines.

Stay tuned for more from Bubblyfest!