A Sparkling Afternoon with the Chef and the Winemaker at Ravines

The Chef and the Winemaker is a series of events hosted by Ravines Wine Cellars where winemaker Morten Hallgren and chef Scott Riesenberger create an experience of drinking incredible wine and eating amazing food. Each event has a slightly different theme. Last year, we attended a session on blending red wines, which was so enlightening about the whole process of creating red blends (check out the post!). This time, we attended a fantastic session on sparkling wine.

We started off the afternoon with a 2009 Brut Rosé. The wine had notes of strawberry cream, apricot, and toast with custard and strawberry on the palate and a nice acidity to balance the creaminess. It is made from 100% Pinot Noir and spends 6 years on the lees. While we sipped our rosé, we walked down into the winery and Morten walked us through the process of how sparkling wine is made at Ravines.

Then, we sat down at a long table and started our vertical of Ravines sparkling wine.

Tasting Through Ravines Sparkling Wine

 

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We started with the 2006 Brut, made from half Pinot Noir and half Chardonnay. It has notes of dried apples, raisined fruits, tropical fruits, pizza dough and ginger. There was a nice creamy texture on the palate, a bright acidity, and delicate bubbles.

The 2007 Brut was also made from half Pinot Noir and half Chardonnay, and has notes of jammy berries and fruit, pear, and toast. On the palate the wine was like custard with a green apple acidity.

Next was the 2008 Blanc de Blancs made from all Chardonnay. It has a nose of pear, apricot, honey, and tapioca that continues onto the palate with a nice citrusy acidity.

We finished this flight with the 2013 Sparkling Riesling, with notes of lime, nectarine, pear and mineral. It has fun bubbles that are a little bigger and a hint of sweetness. It finishes with lemongrass and tangerine.

These wines were paired with a delicious plate of food prepared by Chef Scott, including a coquette, a cauliflower puree with mushrooms, sunchoke pannacotta, a leek crepe, and a pear financier. All of the food was delicious and wonderful. Each went well with the sparkling wine, making them richer and lightening up the food.

Experimenting with Dosage

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Following our delicious tasting, we did an exercise in adding the dosage to wine.

Dosage is a mixture of sugar and wine that is added to sparkling wine just before corking. The addition of this mixture can help level out the acidity in wine, balancing them and making them more drinkable.

We were given three glasses of 2011 Brut without the dosage, and one glass that had a sugar and wine mixture. We were also given a pipette. Given the size of the glasses and pipette, we were told that one drop from the pipette would be like adding approximately 0.1 residual sugar to the wine.

Without the dosage, the 2011 Brut tasted very austere, with notes of green apple, pear and pineapple, and had a really high acidity.

It was interesting to see how little of the dosage mixture was needed to change the wine. With two drops, the acidity in the wine dropped and the green fruit notes mellowed out. With four drops, the wine was fruitier with a hint of the sweetness. At our end of the table, we agreed that the wine was delicious without any added dosage, but having a few drops really changed it.

We then learned that most of the Ravines sparkling wine has the equivalent of 6 to 15 drops in it, depending on what type it is. We couldn’t believe it since to us, the zero dosage was so good and the addition of any dosage seemed to make it so sweet. However, had we not been given the zero dosage wine, I don’t think the addition of the dosage would have seemed as sweet.

Summary

It was also fascinating to see how little sugar needed to be added to dramatically change a wine, and how variable it can be from year to year. This was a fascinating afternoon of drinking, experimenting and discussing. If you get the opportunity, definitely go to one of these. They are a fun way to learn more about wine and have some delicious wine and food.

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