Ring in the New Year with The Landscaper’s Favorite Sparkling Wine

Ring in the New Year with The Landscaper’s Favorite Sparkling Wine

Friday Favorites: January 1, 2021

My blog’s namesake comes from my father, a retired landscape designer, winemaker/expert, and all-around terrific guy.  Over the years Bill has hosted wine tastings, researched wine varietals, and took us on many, well-planned wine trips. He even made 60 bottles of wine for our wedding (they were delicious, and gone by 7pm).  

For my New Years Day #FridayFavorites I asked him to select his favorite celebratory wine. In true Bill fashion, he went above and beyond: telling us about the nuances and history of his selection, as well as providing some thoughtful pairings. So, without further ado, I invite you to pour yourself something tasty, settle in and learn from the master:

By the time you read this, New Year’s Eve will be gone, but most people didn’t go anywhere anyway. Nevertheless, pick a time soon to celebrate the passing of 2020…good riddance!

As the landscaper’s daughter’s father, I guess that makes me The Landscaper. Not just any landscaper though, but one whose lifelong hobby has been wine. I thank my dad for that, as he instilled in me a love of food, wine, and travel. My daughters caught the same bug.

Bill in 1971 at the San Francisco Hotel
Bill’s father Bob sampling wine in Portugal in 1965

Celebrate with…

Any sparkling wine makes an occasion more festive, but I really like to know about who made it, and where it came from. Today I am suggesting a great sparkling wine from New Mexico, yes the state next to Arizona.

In 1984 Gruet Vineyards started making ‘Methode Champenoise’ sparkling wines from roots that were brought from France, and planted in southern New Mexico. These roots came from Gilbert Gruet’s home vineyard in Bethon, France.

After 25 years they are still making great sparkling wines (don’t call them Champagne, as that name can only used if made in that specific area of France).

From their website- “Bone dry soils, very high elevations, a dramatic day-to-night temperature swing for great acidity, and a history of monastic wine making dating back more than 400 years make this a special area.”

Enjoy one of their sparklers made with mostly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, usually costing in the range of $15-$18 dollars a bottle. That’s a great bargain compared to the French products, and you can amaze your friends when you tell them of your special find from New Mexico. 

As I was researching people’s opinions on what was good to eat with sparkling wines, one writer said it would be easier to make a list of foods that didn’t work. Sparkling wines are very versatile.

The hardest part was in rejecting the more complicated recipes like asparagus and avocado salad, linguine with clams and fennel, and pear crisps with candied ginger. All might be really delicious but I wanted to select foods a little more basic, like…

Crispy fried chicken. One writer raved about this combo. The bright acidity of the wine cuts through the grease and  cleanses your palate with every bite. Go to any grocery deli and pick up a couple of pieces, and you have a great start.

How about nuts – almonds seem to be the choice here, but actually any salty snack is encouraged. Let’s be extravagant here and choose a fancy potato chip.

For cheeses let’s try Wisconsin Muenster, baby swiss, or Alpine type cheeses. Burnett Dairy makes a great gruyere/cheddar that fits that perfectly.

Pairing choices
Croque Monsieur from Christmas

Let’s use those cheeses in a decadent grilled cheese sandwich (I made this croque monsieur at Christmas), but please don’t  make it with Kraft singles… or make your own mac and cheese, the ultimate comfort food. There are dozens of recipes to try, but attached here is a link to one I like.

How about berries, especially strawberries- anyone seen Pretty Woman? 

Don’t forget about meats like good Wisconsin summer sausage (we love the Northwoods Summer Sausage from Louie’s in Cumberland), Italian prosciutto, or my favorite from the whole research: corn dogs with Dijon mustard!

The foods to avoid seem to be those with heavy red tomato sauces as the acidity tends to counteract the flavors of the sparkling wines.

In summary, get creative and enjoy your wine with many of the great foods we have right here in the St Croix Valley. 

Bon Appetit and Happy 2021,