Monday, March 26, 2007

Brunch and Bubbles: the NV Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut

I adore Sunday brunches. Especially in LA, when it is the only time of the week you can set a time for a meal and actually have people from all over the city reach your house on time. That's because late Sunday morning is the only time of the week when the traffic jams occur outside dim sum restaurants and not on the freeways.

Mostly, though, I love brunches because time seems to move more slowly during the hours of 11 and 3 on Sundays. The light seems more golden. The flowers smell sweeter. And friends who make you laugh under most circumstances can make you hilarious for no good reason at all.

When I think brunch, I nearly always think "bubbles" right after. Sparkling wines, with their bright acidity and low alcohol, are perfect sippers for this occasion. And they can be cut with a variety of fruit juices and purees--raspberry, peach, orange, pink grapefruit--if you want to prolong the pleasure and cut the alcohol even further. But of course you don't want to pull out a vintage French champagne at a casual, friendly brunch. Save that for the big celebrations.

Instead, opt for a budget-friendly California sparkler, like the NV Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut ($14.99, Trader Joe's). Schramsberg was founded in 1862 by Jacob Schram, a German immigrant with a viticultural background. The winery fell into disuse and dereliction, and was rescued by Jack and Jamie Davies in 1965 who saw the enormous potential in the vineyard site and the caves that peppered the hillside. Their son, Hugh, now runs the place and makes a full line of sparkling wines. The Mirabelle Brut is made from a blend of chardonnay and pinot noir grapes from Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino. The juice is divided, some is aged, and then they are blended from many vintages until they achieve the Schramsberg house style.

The NV Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut was a very good QPR sparkler with a great deal of complexity for the price. It had a pale, buffed straw color and a nice, biscuity aroma that mixed with some hints of lemon. Citrusy, nutty, and toasty flavors enhanced the warmth of the afternoon, the soft spring air, and the companionship of good friends. It managed to be soft and refreshing, with its acidity and toast kept in nice balance and a soft, smooth bead/bubble adding to the pleasure that this wine gave.

We had the wine with an egg tart made with carmelized red onions, goat cheese, and pancetta from a great cookbook called California Home Cooking that makes the most of the local produce and foods from the great state of CA. Written by Michele Anna Jordan, author of the popular Cook's Tour of Sonoma, the recipe I used is not online, but some of her other wonderful recipes are and can be found by clicking here. With it we had a trio of salads pulled from Jamie Oliver and the Barefoot Contessa including smashed tomatoes and olives, pea and pesto, and a grilled zucchini salad with mint and basil. The meal tasted like a spring Sunday, and was the perfect companion to the sparkling wine.

If you haven't thrown a brunch lately, pick an upcoming Sunday, get some friends together, buy a few bottles of affordable bubbly, and settle in for a wonderful and relaxing afternoon. And don't forget to toast spring while you're at it.


farley said...

Oh, Dr.Debs, it sounds so lovely. I hate that I work every Sunday. Therefore, I'll just live vicariously.

Dr. Debs said...

Farley, not only do you work, you bring much enjoyment to others! Doubly unfair, but extremely good for karma points. One of these days we'll have to kidnap you from the tasting room and force you to drink sparkling wine... :)

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