Canned Sparkling Wine: Good for Cocktails, Not For Wine Snobs

Very recently, I was introduced to something that should make my wine sensibilities cringe: canned sparkling wine. From producer Francis Ford Coppola Winery, and named after Coppola’s daughter Sofia, comes the Sofia Mini sparkling wine, available in four 187 ml cans (adding up to one 750ml bottle total). As if the little pink cans weren’t enough, each one also comes with a little pink straw attached to the outside of the can with cellophane, creating an experience that seems more fit for a hyper-trendy bar or a kindergarten snack-time than any situation where sparkling wine would be called for. Of course, the wine is also available in traditional 750ml glass bottles, but if you’re going Sofia, you might as well go all in, right?

The real reason I am calling attention to this wine is because of the convenience that these cans serve in the manner of creating cocktails. If you have a recipe that calls for just one ounce of sparkling wine, and you’ve only got 2 people to serve, opening a full 750ml bottle is righteous overkill. Heck, even opening a half-bottle might be a little much for such a small amount required.  There are approximately 6 ounces of wine in each of these miniature cans, breaking down into very handy amounts for most sparkling wine cocktails.

But how does the wine itself taste? After all, having wine available in such handy portions doesn’t mean much if the wine is undrinkable.

To be honest, it’s not bad. It’s a little sweet and exceptionally fruity, but it’s got an okay bite to it. It’s a blanc de blancs, comprised of 82% Pinot Blanc, 10% Riesling, and 8% Muscat. It’s mostly fruit, but very lightly floral, with orchard fruits and flowers creating a fairly pleasant flavor and giving the it the nose of a countryside in spring.

Sofia is definitely geared towards simpler palates, with little complexity other than a layer of citrus that comes forward on the finish. For a cocktail such as a Bellini or mimosa, you can’t go wrong. It’s definitely not going to replace the Cava or Champagne in your life, so don’t expect miracles from it. For a $12 to $15 bottle of California sparkling, however, it’ll serve its purpose.

The lesson here? If you’re serving the wine to someone not of the most open mind, go ahead and pour the glass before you serve it to him/her. Unless their palate demands only the driest sparkling wines, chances are, though they won’t be blown away by it, they’ll be satisfied.

But having this knowledge is useless unless you’ve got a cocktail to try it in. Might I suggest the Champagne Julep? It’s a unique experience, and one heck of a delicious drink for sipping outside.

2 sprigs fresh mint

1 sugar cube

sparkling wine of your choice

splash of bourbon

Place the mint sprigs and sugar cube at the bottom of a high-ball glass. Add ice cubes. Pour the champagne slowly, stirring the entire time, leaving room for the bourbon. Add a splash of bourbon and stir one last time.

Continuing the Conservancy Tour: Concannon Petite Sirah

It’s been awhile since we’ve shared some music here, hasn’t it? I shared this band recently on Twitter on my personal account, but I didn’t link to a full song by them. They’re called Glacier Hiking, a straight-up mellow rock side project by adult pop artist Tommy Walters, frontman for the band Abandoned Pools. They’ve only released a 5-song EP in their history, but if you want more in this style, definitely check out Abandoned Pools as well.

Concannon 2008 Conservancy Petite Sirah

2008 Concannon Conservancy Petite SirahThe wine’s color is the most striking aspect, a deep, inky reddish purple, not quite as much purple as you’d typically expect from a Petite Sirah.

The nose hits you first with its alcohol heat, a bit strong but not noxious. The more subtler notes on the nose are very juicy, dark fruits, blueberry and blackberry, and there’s even a hint of coffee there.

The mouth feel of the wine doesn’t really impress, more watery than round. The flavors are a bit woody and green as well, with blackberry and milk chocolate as the prominent notes. The chocolate smacks of a certain oakiness as well, but it doesn’t feel saturated with the oak flavor overall. I might not have minded a little more oak in this wine just to round it out a bit… The finish is short, chocolately, with a touch of graphite.

This wine is emblematic of what might not go right for a Petite Sirah. The tannins are lacking, both in strength and fullness, the acidity a bit too high even for a Petitie Sirah, and the flavors very subdued. It’s far from the juicy fruit-bomb you’d expect from this grape in California, with more delicate flavors and an astringency delivered from the imbalance in acidity and tannins.

It’s difficult to get Petite Sirah just right at this price point, but there are still a few better options out there at this price point for this style of grape. 4/10

This wine was provided as an industry sample with the intent to review.

On Second Thought

The wine’s still got a good base structure from the alcohol and acidity, it just needs some extra flavor. After I finished my tasting, I used half of the bottle to create a mulled wine. I set up my crock pot and poured the wine in, then cut it with about 5 more ounces of water. I tossed in a pack of mulling spices and about a half of a third of a cup of brown sugar, let it heat on medium heat for about 1 hour, and had an absolutely delicious experience for the evening. I imagine you could also do a good sangria with this one.

The Wine: Conservancy Petite Sirah

Producer: Concannon Vineyards

Vintage: 2008

Region: Livermore Valley, California, US

Varieties: 100% Petite Sirah

Alcohol: 13.5%

Price: $12

Music Monday: A Diet of Blues and Pinot Noir

The Music

This weekend, I hosted a dinner party for a few close friends. The meal we’ll get to later. The music, however, was a mix of two blues-influenced bands, The Black Keys and Minus the Bear, and two jazz- and funk-influenced hip-hop artists, Ohmega Watts and Othello. I wanted something energetic that wouldn’t be annoying playing quietly in the background, and these bands fit the bill. The Black Keys features an incredibly talented blues-trained guitarist and vocalist in Dan Auerbach and an equally talented blues-trained drummer and producer in Patrick Carney. They are especially notable for their lo-fi recording style, using very basic equipment and minimal production. It gives their music a garage-rock kind of edge that really suits Dan’s guitar and voice.

2008 Hamilton-Stevens Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

2008 Hamilton Stevens Russian River Valley Pinot NoirThe wine was a bright, deep red with just a splash of purple in the mix. It threw off some pretty appetizing hues as it swirled in the decanter.

The nose was rich, juicy and very aromatic. I served it in a decanter, mostly for aesthetics, and every swirl released rich dark fruits, spice, and chocolate scents into the air. The flavor was exactly what you’d expect from a California Pinot Noir. It gave a light plum and strawberry fruit attack matched with a fairly intense acidity, a decent amount of earthiness and spice, and an aggressive cinnamon-spice finish. Great balance, with an alcohol level of 14.5% matched with a very full flavor.

It paired very well with stuffed pork chops, though there was just a bit of alcohol heat on the finish. If the pork had been prepared with similar spices (ground rosemary, thyme, dried garlic, sea salt, and just a pinch of celery seed) and without the added salt and savory seasoning of the stuffing, I think it would have been a fantastic pairing. The mushroom cream sauce that was baked over the whole thing worked with the wine very well.

We also paired it with a tray of chocolate bits for dessert. While the milk chocolate was an okay pairing, the dark chocolate really brought out the best of this wine. With the chocolate, an intense earthiness developed, giving off rich flavors of mushrooms and earth that came forward with the spices and fruits of the wine. It was so good that I opted for another glass of the Pinot for dessert rather than the port that I’d served with the chocolate.

This wine is a phenomenal value, certainly a higher quality than the $10 price tag would suggest. 8/10

For another take on this wine, check out the review from Jason’s Wine Blog.

The Wine: Pinot Noir

Producer: Hamilton-Stevens

Vintage: 2008

Region: Russian River Valley, California, US

Varieties: 100% Pinot Noir

Alcohol: 14.5%

Price: $10

Music Monday: Chardonnay and New Jersey Punk

Every Monday, I’m bringing you what I sipped on over the weekend as well as what I listened to to enhance the experience.

The Music

This weekend, I reconnected with my college days with the band Hidden in Plain View. Yes, I was one for the weepy pop-punk brand of emotional bloodletting, and in some cases, I still am. Not exactly a world-beater in talent or popularity, they’re still a lot of fun for singing along to at an unnecessarily high volume in the car, screechingly-nasal falsetto highly recommended.

I can only imagine how much fun it would be to be their drummer… nothing fancy in his work, nothing intricate, just a straight-up 4/4 hard rock with ample room for fills. He really does drive the band; as often as they cut to him on chorus transitions just in time for a drumstick flourish or crash cymbal roll, his energy necessarily has to be infectious.

The Wine

2008 Concannon Conservancy ChardonnayThe wine for the weekend was a stalwart classic, the California-style Chardonnay. From Concannon Winery’s Conservancy vineyards in the Livermore Valley, the 2008 Conservancy Chardonnay brings every classic characteristic of the California Chardonnay with an ecological benefit: the vineyards were planted to protect land from urban development, and the production of wine is just an added bonus.

The wine has all the traditional notes on its nose: palpable oak, a touch of toast, a hint of butter, a good dose of vanilla, and just a bit of apple and lemon untouched by oak. The flavors match, with just a hint of citrus and tropical fruits that manage to overcome a significant oaking in French and American oak barrels.

Though the wine underwent malolactic fermentation and oak aging, the mouthfeel is not as round as you would expect, as the acidity is a little off. The alcohol, however, provides ample structure at 13.5% without bringing the heat.

Overall, I’d say it’s a serviceable Chardonnay, subtle enough to avoid becoming one of the many over-oaked monstrosities that originate in California, and at $15, it’s not going to put a hurt on your wallet to give it a try. 5/10.

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