It’s Tuesday! Time to celebrate. On any day, I will grab a bottle of bubbly to celebrate friendship, success stories, or just because. Something about sparkling wine makes any gathering festive. So, of course, Valentine’s Day deserves a sparkling cocktail!
Some of us — me, especially — think of Champagne as essential for any celebration. Of course, Champagne is a specific designation that applies only to sparkling wines made in a specific region in France with grapes sourced only from that region. Any other bubbly wines are called sparkling wine. For now, I’ll refer to all versions of sparkling wine as “bubbly.”
Most everyone knows the pleasure of a mimosa at brunch, which usually contains bubbly and orange juice. However, bubbly is much more versatile than using it only for traditional mimosas, and the adventurous are discovering they can mix sparkling wine with all kinds of fruit juices, including mango, cherry, cranberry, and apple.
If I want to test a bartender’s knowledge and a bar’s service, I will order a classic sparkling wine cocktail. It’s a simple drink, but requires a knowledge of the recipe, which includes sugar cubes and Angostura bitters. The fact that the bar serves single servings of sparkling wine and keeps sugar cubes on hand suggests an interest in artisan cocktails. I’ve found most bartenders know the recipe and can craft it if they have the ingredients on hand.
Bubbly can be an apéritif or a dessert — and can even accompany a meal such as lobster or a creamy pasta or risotto. Bubbly goes great with salty snacks — potato chips and sparkling wine, anyone? Sparkling wine can be combined with a wide range of fruit juices, liqueurs, and other alcohols, such as gin in a French 75.
It’s no surprise this gardener adores all things floral and herbal, so my favorite sparkling wine cocktails reflect this passion. Sparkling wine blends well with a touch of rose water or orange blossom water. Make lemon verbena, lavender, rosemary, or thyme simple syrup to add to your bubbly and impart a touch of the garden to a special occasion.
New Mexico has many excellent choices in local bubbly, including Gruet and Lescombes. If we go further afield, we discover bubbly wines from Italy (Prosecco) and Spain (Cava), and many other countries. Bubbly may be pale white to deeply pink, depending on the grapes and the process — or the additions.
Gruet is known for its brut sparkling wine, which is a blend of chardonnay with pinot noir. The family-owned Gruet Winery specializes in méthode champenoise sparkling wines. They create bubbly and a small collection of still wines, influenced by their French roots. Gruet Winery has achieved national acclaim and remains a favorite of top sommeliers.
Gruet has tasting rooms in Albuquerque and Santa Fe and produces a half dozen sparkling wines. Look for their Grand Blanc de Noirs, Blanc de Blancs, Gilbert Gruet Grande Reserve, Demi Sec, Rosé, and the ever-popular Brut.
The founders of D.H. Lescombes Winery and Bistro and Gruet Winery and Tasting Room were aware of New Mexico’s potential for winemaking, which dates back centuries.
The Lescombes family has been crafting wines, including St. Clair wine, in the Mimbres Valley of New Mexico for more than two decades. They have adopted a modern approach to bubbly, including lines of bottled mimosas, sweet bubbly wines, and other trendy products. I have been partial to their Imperial Kir sparkling wine, which has a touch of raspberry that imparts a lovely pink color and a touch of berry flavor. They also produce a line of sweet sparkling wine called Mimbres Bubbly in red, pink, and white.
The D.H. Lescombes Winery and Bistro is located at 1720 Avenida de Mesilla in Las Cruces. The bistro offers wine tastings and a variety of dishes created to pair with the New Mexico wines served in the dining room or on the patio. Their Deming tasting room is located at 7075 Hwy 549 SE.
These New Mexico-produced sparkling wines are available locally at their wineries, as well as at Toucan Market and most wine departments in grocery stores, drug stores, and membership clubs in this area.
For those who want to go out to celebrate Valentine’s Day or any other occasion, we have several local places with bubbly and bubbly cocktails on the menu. Most local fine dining locations, such as Double Eagle’s Imperial Bar, will have at least a few sparkling wines included on their wine lists. The Imperial Bar also makes sparkling wine cocktails and similar cocktails on request and has a wide range of French Champagne (see sidebar). NM Vintage Wines, Beers & Cigars sells Gruet sparkling wines and D.H. Lescombes Imperial Kir to take home or drink on site. Willow + Blaine serves several bubbly cocktails, too.
Always ready to try something new — or even a simple glass of sparkling wine — I peruse the cocktail menu in a restaurant, bistro, or bar to determine if they serve sparkling wine or sparkling wine cocktails — especially by the glass. If you are alert, you may discover other restaurants and bars in our area also serve these delicious drinks.
Whether at home or out, for a special occasion or every day, sparkling wine adds a festive note to time spent together with those who bring joy to our lives.
Valentine Cocktail Recipe
In the spirit of the holiday, I recommend a simple cocktail that has the essence of roses and the joyful bubbles of sparkling wine.
Since roses are a romantic theme of Valentine’s Day, take your celebration one step further by adding rose scent and flavor to your bubbly. With just two ingredients, this is an easy cocktail to create at any time of year. Add a trace of rose water to an elegant Champagne flute and top with a brut sparkling wine for a romantic cocktail. If you want to dress it up even further, float food-quality dried rose petals in the glass.
1/8 teaspoon food-quality rose water per cocktail
1 bottle brut-style sparkling wine
Measure rose water into Champagne flutes. Fill flutes with sparkling wine. Inhale the aroma and sip.
Celebrate at Double Eagle’s Imperial Bar
Written and photography by Cheryl Fallstead
A quick phone call to Charles Ritter, the bar manager at the historic Double Eagle, to confirm they offer French Champagne turned into quite a bubbly adventure! It turns out he had just purchased more sparkling wines to restock after a busy Thanksgiving, plus visits by Hollywood film crews in the area to film a succession of movies.
It seems that Hollywood actors, at least the ones who visited the Double Eagle in November, enjoy a good glass of Champagne. Bruce Willis, Charles reports, toasted Southern New Mexico with a flute of some of the good stuff, then generously poured it into the glasses of other diners in the room.
“I sold out of 22 bottles of French Champagne in eight days!” Charles exclaimed. Along with Bruce Willis, actors Mel Gibson, Anthony Michael Hall, Ryan Phillippe, and Ving Rhames, plus a Netflix director, and many members of their crews found their way to one of the Mesilla Valley’s most popular restaurants. One actor even asked them to deliver meals to his hotel room!
Besides the fun of having unexpected visits by Hollywood actors, the clearing out of the existing stock of Champagne allowed Charles to make some new purchases. His extensive list of Champagne now includes G.H. Mumm’s Grand Cordon Brut, Louis Roederer’s Brut Rosé vintage 2014, Veuve Clicquot’s Gold Label vintage 2012, and at the top of the price range, a $250 bottle of Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque Brut.
They also have a tempting selection of American sparkling wines, including Gruet from New Mexico, plus Italian Moscato and Prosecco, and Spanish Brut Cava.
Charles and the Double Eagle’s Imperial Bar are ready for people to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, promotions, Valentine’s Day, or any special day. And, he says, “They want to celebrate with bubbles.”
Written by Jackye Meinecke
Photos by Olivia Belcher and courtesy D.H. Lescombes Winery
Originally published in Neighbors magazine.
Posted by LasCruces.com