Sparkler Pairings for Your Next Holiday Soiree

Experts give tips on sparkling wine and food pairings for your next party.

With the holidays just around the corner, hosts are already thinking: What kinds of food do I serve with the bubbly? It’s a perennial question that arises shortly before Thanksgiving and lasts until after New Year’s Eve. That’s why WE enlisted three experts for advice about sparkler pairings: Joy Sterling, proprietor of Iron Horse Vineyards (Green Valley of the Russian River Valley), Hugh Davies, proprietor of Schramsberg Vineyards (Napa Valley) and Xavier Barlier, senior vice president of Roederer Estate (Anderson Valley). Here are their ultimate sparkler and food pairing fantasies, plus their thoughts on ageability of the wine: 

Joy Sterling
Wine: Iron Horse 2005 Blanc de Blancs (91 points, $45)
Pairing: “This 100% Chardonnay is phenomenal with oysters, smoked salmon or crab—Dungeness, here in California, or Florida stone crab. In Maryland, crab cakes. Anything with mushrooms will be fantastic, as would anything with walnut bread or toast as the base. Another thing I’m working on is putting together a feast of sustainable fishes including oysters, salmon, tilapia, tuna, crab, sea bass, halibut, mackerel, mahi-mahi. With a Blanc de Blancs, they will be fantastic.
Ageability: “This will continue to evolve in weight and complexity for two years. From that point forward, I’d want to know you’re keeping it at a uniform temperature, and if so, a good five years. My experience with older Champagne, say 30 or 40-years-old, was French, and while they’re interesting, they’re not to my taste.”

Xavier Barlier
Wine: Roederer Estate 2003 L’Ermitage Brut Rosé (94 points, $70)
Pairing: “This is our prestige cuvée, and it’s not made every year. The 2003 is 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay. For food pairing, I say, be adventurous! Try ethnic food such as Asian, Chinese, Japanese and Thai. Sushi is a given. Everything is basically an open world for California sparkling wine, except perhaps beef, where I would go for a Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.”
Ageability: “The good news is you have instant gratification. But as far as these prestige cuvées go, you can make it to 5, 10, 15, 20 years with no problem. They keep evolving and developing new flavors, if they’re stored properly.”

Hugh Davies
Wine: Schramsberg 2003 J. Schram (94 points, $100)
Pairing: “This blend is 85% Chardonnay, mainly from Carneros, and 15% Pinot Noir, mainly from Anderson Valley. With a Chardonnay-based wine like this, you think of oysters on the half shell. But with the Pinot Noir, and being 40% barrel–fermented, it’s relatively richer than a Blanc de Blancs, so it would be beautiful with mushroom risotto. Caviar is getting a little expensive, but this is a good sparkling wine for it, maybe with a touch of crème fraîche. It’s fun to dabble, so orchestrate a concoction of your own. And there’s always crab, but if you’re looking at birds—goose, turkey—this is worthy of the holiday table.”
Ageability: “I’d be very disappointed if 20 or 30 years from now, people didn’t drink this and say, ‘Wow. This is great!”

Published on November 18, 2010