All Aboard the Cava Express!

Easter is coming, Easter is coming! Hurry, stock up on wine, chocolate eggs, ham, millinery and wine. And after you dust the mantle, press the table linens and polish the silver, go ahead and buy even more wine. Every good Christian, not in recovery, needs plenty of after church lubrication. Depending on the the brunch, lunch or dinner you will be giving or receiving, quantity of wine is highly variable, but for God’s sake, don’t run out. Whatever the event, remember, Jesus is the reason for yet another season, so let’s raise a glass of his finest juice. Alleluia!

I found the perfect Cava for this Eastover (Easter+Passover.) Although, the occasion of this wine’s discovery was during a lunch that followed an ominous birthday outing at Sonoma Traintown. More on that later.

A perfect day at Sonoma Traintown…requires attaching your child and their grandparents to a leash and ample booze afterwards to calm the nerves.

Cava must be made in the Denominación de Origen (DO) of Catalonia and produced in Spain via the champenoise traditional method, wherein the base cuvee is bottled with a mixture of sugar and yeast to ferment in bouteille. The typical grapes that go into a Cava are Macabeo, Xarello, Parellada but often Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc are a part of the blend.

Admittedly, Cava is a bargain.

Cava can be priced at a 1/4 of the price for Champagne and better sparkling wines. Cavas are refreshingly dry and crisp. Who can resist a burst of earth, sun and the espirito de España with their roasted pork, potatoes au gratin, rich buttery fish or as an apertivo with Marcona almonds, Manchego cheese accompanied with slices of crisp green apples and honey. Yuuuuum. Excuse me while I take a fridge break.

Ok, I’m back.


NV M. Chevallier Carte Noire Methode Traditionelle Brut Cava $6

Available at Trader Joe’s

The sparkler I have road tested for you today is a Cava I acquired at Trader Joe’s. M. Chevalier was well situated amongst the masses of value wines. Lovely, classic label, easy to find and priced just right. There was incipient potential.

Cheers to your 72nd birthday and survival of your progeny.

The occasion was my sister’s father-in-law’s 72nd birthday. We arranged a visit to Sonoma Traintown* with the raucous brood of grand kiddies and a requisite pizza party après voyage. My sister’s father-in-law, a retired DDS and self proclaimed wineaux, is now officially my drinking buddy at family gatherings. In his honor, I decided to break out the cheap stuff. M. Chevalier was the perfect libation to celebrate not only his birthday, but our aplomb at search and rescue.  After the retrieval of a grand daughter from the duck pond and the end to a frantic 15 minute search for a missing grandson (found oogling toys in the gift shop of his own volition,) it had been a lovely day without an Amber Alert, but my nerves were eviscerated. My only respite was shoving pizza in my face while drinking bottles of bubbly in a completely fenced-in back yard sans livestock and naturally or artificially occurring bodies of water. We all needed to let off some steam. And good news!  This wine made me want to sound the horn. Chooo chooooooo.

The site of the first harrowing incident, the duck pond. Although the sign states “no rock throwing” the littles interpreted that as permission to throw themselves in the pond. Crafty little buggers.

The nose was faint, but the first sip was delightful, crisp green apple, a hint of brioche, a smooth nutty finish with a lovely minerailty. Cavas can have a bitter finish, hence, they are often not at the top of my bubbly list, although their price points are in my repertoire. Nice effervescence that was great for cooling the engines and sparking vibrant family debate about historical revisionism of our childhood memories. To each his own version of that harrowing trip to the Grand Canyon. 

If the pond doesn’t claim your first born, the llamas and Sabbatic Goat will. The look on that baby’s face says “Dad, is this a  petting zoo, or a Satanic ritual. Get me the hells away from that Baphomet.


Hold on to your French braids my dear child, this is going to be a bumpy ride….specifically for your parents as your grandparents chaperoning style is rather lasisez fair. Wheeeeeeeee!

This wine was a delight and very guest worthy as the septuagenarian birthday boy loved it too. He noted it was not complex and although a rather mild wine, it still held his interest. This wine will pair as well with your Easter or Pasover feast as it paired with my peperroni pizza at the end of a ride on the “crazy train.” Music please….

Stay curious,


*Sonoma Traintown is a fabulous getaway for the family. Reasonably priced and surrounded by delicious restaurants, vineyards and gorgeous scenery. My characterization is based solely on my personal angst about visiting amusement parks with throngs of small reckless children and insouciant senior citizens. Traintown can be very crowded on weekends during high season. If you have the luxury of visiting on a weekday, it is a sheer delight. Be forewarned about visiting the gift shop with your children – you may risk embarrassing fits of extortion if you don’t make a purchase. 


A Cava, Lambrusco, Champagne & A Sparkling Wine To Ring In 2015

A vintage French postcard depicting Baby New Year disgorging a bottle of Champagne with his gums – obviously his mère forgot the saber.

I’ve had the great pleasure of visiting Champagne, France this year and witnessing the Champagne growing, making and marketing practices first hand. I admire the history, heritage and innovation of Champagne as well as the vigilance the French have instituted to protect the appellation. Champagne is my passion and I adore it like no other libation (a masterful rye Manhattan with Luxardo Maraschino cherry comes in a respectable second place.) Alas alack, my Champagne taste have led me to a sparkling wine budget. I can only run from the law and my debtors for so long; I’m tired and thirsty. In an effort to reform my ways, I have compiled this list of stunning sparklers that won’t lead you astray in the coming year. Of course, if you happen to succumb to a bottle of Cristal or a vintage Pol Roger rosé, there is no reason to despair, unless your credit card is rejected at the register.

Shall we….


Dibon Cava Brut Reserve, Penesdes, Spain $7-$12

Rating: Caseworthy – the best Cava I have ever tasted.

Why Buy: For the value, this is a delightful wine and expresses itself as well if not better than wine twice the money. Guests love this wine and comment on it’s lovely fruit essence and crisp, clean dry finish. This traditional blend of Xarel-lo, Parellada and Macabeo varietals comes from the region of Penedès, and the cellars are located in Vilafranca del Penedes about 20 Km from Sant Sadurni the capital of the region. Run by three generations of wine makers, the vineyard is in the process of becoming 100% Organic and consists of 75 hectares of trellised vines 1000 feet above the Mediterranean Sea.

Notes: This wine is very effervescent with a lovely nose of apple and grapefruit. The first sip reflects the nose accordingly with fruit, citrus and a pleasant pastry yeast. The reason this wine is so special is the dry, clean finish that is surprisingly light, no bitter aftertaste like other Cavas and for this low, low, low price point, this wine is an amazing find!

Where To Buy: Total Wine, Oliver’s MarketK&L Wine Merchants and many other locations nationwide.


Cantina Cleto Chiarli Rose Brut NV, Italy $16-$18

Rating: Guestworthy – the perfect apertivo!

Why Buy: Founded in 1860, by Cleto Chiarli, it is the oldest wine company in the Modena region in Emilia-Romagna. The great grandson, Anselmo, represents the fourth generation of wine makers who continue to produce this delicate style of Lambrusco sparkling wine in a region best known for balsamic vinegar. The wine is composed of 85% Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro 15% Pinot Nero. If you come across a bottle I hope you enjoy it as much as I did with my father. We popped the bottle on Christmas day and sipped it from mom’s fine crystal.

Notes: Nose was floral, strawberry, bubbles lively, very effervescent and the first sip had a delightful fruity, yeast commencing with a dry finish that lingered nicely with a toasted almond essence.

Where To Buy: Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant in SF and hopefully everywhere else, but if not, plead your merchant to stock it maintenant!

IMG_7239 nino-franco-rustico-prosecco

Nino Franco Prosecco Brut, Valdobbiadene, Italy $9-$15

Rating: Caseworthy – in case of emergency pop cork!

Why Buy: I would have this wine on hand for any occasion, big, small or disastrous. It comforted me through a wicked storm and if forced to remain indoors due to inclement weather, a case of this will entertain you for hours. Easy to drink, soft and accommodating to all kinds of guests and foods. Antonio Franco founded the “Cantine Franco” winery in Valdobbiadene in 1919. Valdobbiadene is located at the foot of the Prealps, in the Venetian region, and is famous for Prosecco. This winery is one of the oldest in Valdobbiadene, located in the town centre, not far from the vineyards. Antonio Franco founded it, Nino Franco expanded it and Primo Franco optimized the process throughout the years. Primo took the reigns in 1982 which was the turning point for the Nino Franco brand as he successfully began to export the wines throughout Europe, the Americas and Asia.

Notes: The nose was very light if almost non existent, but the first sip was incredibly pleasing. Classic stone fruit, peach, some pear with a light floral aroma. This dry Prosecco finished very clean and although it was very soft, not very complex, there was enough body to keep it interesting.

Where To Buy: Total Wine, Oliver’s Market and many other locations nationwide.


Veuve de Vernay, Brut Rose, France $4-$12

Rating: Buy Again – great presentation and perfect served very chilled.

Why Buy: This French sparkling wine from the Loire Valley is a blend of Cinsaut, Grenache and Syrah. This brand was created by Mr.Jean Eugène Charmat, the French scientist, who in 1907 invented the cuve close (“sealed vats”) method of producing fine sparkling wine which has since been adopted worldwide. Most sparkling wines are produced in one of two ways: Method Traditionelle wherein secondary fermentation happens in bottle, or vat fermentation which is eponymously named the Charmat method.

Notes: Color is a gorgeous salmon pink. The nose was fruity, candy apple. First sip I tasted strawberries, florals and it had a nice balanced acid and flavorful intensity. Even though it was fruit forward, it was not sweet and the finish was long and dry. Mousse was moderate but still rich. As the wine warmed, the flavors nicely became more intense but I also noticed a nutty bitterness that leaves me to recommend serving this very chilled to experience this wine at its best.

Where To Buy: Find a bottle near you on


Charles De Marques Brut, Champagne, FR $19.99

Rating: Buy Again, and again, and again, and again…

Why Buy: This is quite possibly the least expensive good Champagne available in the US. It’s a brut that is light dry and very smooth. It is a classic blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. I love this wine because it epitomizes the French methode traditionelle beautifully at the right price and with a delight that makes any occasion special. It holds up to Champagnes two or three times the price and sometimes there are no substitutes for the real thing.

Notes: The classic French Champagne profile is reflected in the nose of fruit, florals and brioche. The fist sip is crisp with notes of apricot, stone fruits and a good balance of acid and yeast. The wine finishes dry with a delicate nuttiness and minerality evident of a pleasant level of cave aged yeast.

Where To Buy: Trader Joe’s

Happy New Years to all of you – here’s to more great wine finds in 2015!

Stay curious,


Champagne, Sparkling Wine & Lady Beer – A Love Story

This is the final installment of my wine education trilogy at Blogdramedy. It is a brain dump from my illustrious visit to Champagne, France. Ahhhhh, memories, I hope you enjoy the tiny bubbles of knowlege as much as I did acquiring them. This is a trip one must make at least once in your life, if only to be the envy of all the mothers at your son’s fancy pants nursery school – ha. ha. ha. ha. In all seriousness, it was an incredible trip and one that taught me the true passion, artistry, tradition, and science that makes one of the most celebrated spirits what it has been for centuries. To this day, I marvel at how jealously guarded the brand “Champagne” has been by the region and how incredibly smart of them to be such jerks about it – seriously – they are fully entitled to the name and what it represents. Cross the line and you will be served something other than bubbles. Voila!

It was truly an expensive honor to have the credit card maxxing opportunity to enjoy what this region has to offer. I am now well prepared to get back to the business of reviewing $10+under wines people – for a long, long, long, long time! Bloody hell.
Stay curious,
The Comtesse du Cheapeaux