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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2022-06-08




This article shared 2488 times since Wed Sep 17, 2003
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Dear Dr. Wine:

I'd like to get your general opinion of sparkling wines as a whole, and specifically those from California. What are the trends or hot issues? What do you see as the top three brands?

W. L., Edgewater

Dear W.L.:

California sparkling wines have never been better. For instance, Schramsberg, the grande dame of California sparkling wines but a winery that for decades rested on its laurels, now uses grapes from exclusively cool districts to produce some stunning, delicious bubbles.

And there you have a main trend: California sparkling-wine producers realize they can only make wines comparable to French Champagne —still the benchmark—if they source grapes from cool growing areas such as Anderson Valley or Carneros.

If I had to pick the top three California sparkling wine producers, I'd say (in no particular order) Schramsberg, Domaine Carneros and Roederer Estate.

The latter two companies are French-owned and benefit from the enormous resources of their home firms. In each case, the top-of-the-line bottling of each house is comparable to—and sometimes better than—a true French Champagne. Those wines would be Schramsberg's J. Schram ($75), Roederer Estate's L'Hermitage ($40) and Domaine Carneros' Le Reve ($50)

Dear Dr. Wine:

Why don't they fill the glass all the way up at restaurants?

M.E., Chicago

Dear M.E.:

Not because they're cheap. Wine glasses are filled one-half or two-thirds full for a reason: to allow the bouquet or aromas from the wine to gather in the bowl of the glass so that you can sniff and enjoy them.

The space allows you to twirl the wine a bit to release these delicious smells.

Dear Dr. Wine:

When's the best time to visit the vineyards and wineries of Tuscany? Do the wineries have tasting rooms like in Napa Valley?

—C.P., Chicago

Dear C.P.:

The best time to go anywhere is when there are fewer other people in that same place. Visiting Tuscan wineries in September, October and May beats most other months. The weather is cool then, and it's low season for fellow visitors.

Some, but by no means all, Tuscan wineries offer tours and tastings, especially for interested consumers. Of course, you should call ahead, especially if you're in the market for an English-speaking tour guide.

A good Web site for information on touring the Chianti district in Tuscany is

One piece of good advice for an American: do not, under any circumstance, think that you can interrupt the Italian lunch 'hour,' which runs from just before noon (give or take an hour) to 2 p.m. (give or take an hour).

It's always better to sample wines in the morning anyway.

Dear Dr. Wine:

Sometimes I order a nice red wine at a restaurant and it arrives above room temperature, even a touch warm. What should I do?

C.M., Chicago

Dear C.M.:

In wine service, the most frequent and annoying failing of restaurants is serving wine too warm. (Anything above 70 degrees is too warm and, ideally, reds should be served at 65 degrees.) For a few hundred dollars, any restaurant that goes through a couple of cases of red wine a night could buy a small wine refrigeration system to avoid that.

But what to do when your bottle arrives warm to the touch?

Ask the server for a bucket of ice with some water in it. Plunge your bottle there for two (maybe three) minutes, no more. Gently agitate the now-cooled wine to even out the temperature and that should do it.

If the restaurant balks at your request, remind them that you're the customer. I once saw a gentleman from a state south of here who, wanting to show off his money, ordered a bottle of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild (at the time about $150), stuck it in an ice bath—and kept it there throughout his meal of oysters and steak.

When he left, about a third of the bottle remained. I lunged for it—and was beat out by his waiter.


See the front page, left side directory of for Dining Out listings.

This article shared 2488 times since Wed Sep 17, 2003
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