Champagne: it’s what’s for brunch, lunch, and… back porch dinners.

So, after many months of confusing signals from Mother Nature, summer has arrived. Once faced with daily blustery northern winds, the heat has finally penetrated our universe, and beads of sweat begin to form on my brow just thinking about leaving the house. Let’s admit the obvious: these evenings are perfect for porch sitting and grill tending. Our Sunday mornings are born for brunches. What better to soothe my ache for a refreshing summer beverage than beautiful, vibrant, sparkling Champagne?

Commonly, we will drink Champagne at Sunday brunch, not only because the effervescent nature can soothe any morning aches, but the smooth, creamy character of these wines pair beautifully with eggs, fruit, and toast. Now the majority of vintages are made with Pinot Noir, but you can also find those fermented from Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, or blends of different grapes. The Monterey in San Antonio has various selections of bubbles, but specifically, a Premier Cru (1ER) NV Godme Pere et Fils Brut Reserve, a beautiful blend with notes of berries, lemon curd, and toast, which pairs foodgasmically with the Fried Green Tomatoes, Oysters and Eggs, or even Buttermilk Pancakes. Find it at Specs for $37.


At lunch or dinner, we frequently will start with Champagne, as the mass of appetizers will cry out from the menu, calling to us for the opportunity to plate next to a bubbling crystal glass. At L’Olivier in Montrose, recently named the best French Restaurant in Houston, country pate, lobster salad, and beef tartar have all made it to our table. And while they have an extensive and very well noted wine list, the sommelier and I covet the area of Bouzy within Champagne, so Andre Clouet Brut Silver (100% Pinot Noir) it is. A sommelier favorite, the dry personality of the style of wine also produces an earthy minerality, with citrus and green apple notes, and a crisp finish. An excellent Champagne, which you find at Specs for $42.



The humidity in South Texas can be a killer, and a nice change from the usual beer is definitely welcomed. As of late, I have been a big fan of a Champagne fermented from 100% Pinot Meunier grapes; in the past, this grape has been widely used for blending, but recently, the small black variety has been gaining recognition as having a unique flavor. Having been noted as the “unacknowledged grape”, Pinot Meunier is made to be drunk young, when the distinctive grapes are lush and soft. One of the better producers are Martine and Pascal Serveaux, hailing from the Passy-Sur-Marne region of France. The Serveaux Fils Blanc de Noirs is made exclusively from Pinot Meunier, and is harvested by the small family run winery, which only runs around 30 acres. Slightly pinkish with hints of golden color, traces of aniseed and hay, and a bouquet of redcurrants and strawberry, the wine produces a light bubbly goodness that tingles in my mouth, and is perfect for porch observed Texas sunsets, coupled with grilled salmon and asparagus. Find the Serveaux Fils Blanc de Noirs at Specs for $60.


What else can we ask for, other than a refreshing, vivacious way to celebrate our days? Let’s face it: whether you drink Champagne at brunch or dinner, inside or outside, this wine is a perfect bubbly component to summer. Cheers!

Five Wines to Try for Under $20

How many times have you scoured the grocery shelves looking for a bottle of wine to serve with dinner? What is it they say? White wine for fish and chicken, red wine for beef? Before I met the sommelier, I would buy based on the funky label or creative name. So, wines like Ménage a Trois, Sofia Coppola, Clos Pegas, and Bitch have all made it into my shopping cart. Since I have actually started drinking wine, however, I buy based on taste. There are so many different flavors cascading the aisles; it seems extraordinarily difficult to determine which would be a good value. Even if you know what varietal you want to buy, the choices seem endless. Sometimes, we need direction. The following post contains a list of five drinkable wines under $20 you can find at your local HEB (in my case, these were all located at Alon Market).


2008 Allegrini Palazzo della Torre Corvina Veronese

Veneto is a wine-producing region in the north-eastern corner of Italy, and has become increasingly more important in the last few years. In terms of style, it represents a conversion from the alpine, Germano-Slavic end of Italy to the warmer and drier Roman southern lands. The Palazzo della Torre is a blend of 70% Corvina, 25% Rodinella, and 5% Sangiovese. With blackberry and dark cherry on the nose, this medium bodied wine consists of layered fruit on the palate with a hint of earthiness. It may take a while to open up, so you may want to decant. An amazing value at $19.

Mumm Napa Brut Rose

The Carneros Valley is a wine-producing region hidden in between Napa and Sonoma. You can find several sparkling makers who follow the tradition of French Champagne vintners, blending partially press fermented wine with that of stainless steel tanks. Mumm Napa Brut Rose is a blend of 85% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay, with notes of both black cherry and strawberry. A beautiful salmon color, this sparkling pairs well with a variety of dishes; for something different, try with something spicy. $19.

2009 Mac Murray Ranch Sonoma Chardonnay

The Sonoma Coast has long been known for its cooler mornings and sunny afternoons, creating perfect conditions for the vineyards that are grown there. Now I am not one for oaky Chardonnay like the sommelier, so the Mac Murray Ranch Sonoma is the perfect compromise. Both aged and fermented in oak barrels and stainless steel tanks, the combination of styles produces a fresh vibrancy unforeseen in other wines. Orange blossom, peaches, and honey all rest on the nose, while a rich mouthfeel brings notes of lemon cream. A steal for $14.

2009 Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha

Spain is traditionally known for it’s Riojas and Tempranillos. But, if you haven’t tried Garnacha yet, you are missing out. This grape needs hot, dry conditions to grow, and the resulting wine usually contains a high alcohol content. With strong fruit forward tastes of black cherry and blackberries, this red wine is complimented with clove, incense, and Asian spice. I imagine this wine pairing well with ragout, rabbit, and other meats. An earthy wine with robust flavor, and an extraordinary deal at $11.

2010 Chain Gang Vineyards Sonoma Red Wine

Recently aware that HEB supports its own brand labels, I wanted to try one, of course, and had read about this particular wine. A very intense red blend from the Central California Coast, Chain Gang Vineyard Red has tastes of black currant, cherry, and berry, and a nose of vanilla and pepper. Smooth and silky, the wine does have a bite to it. Will pair best with steak or lamb. I recommend decanting or letting it sit uncorked for 30 minutes before drinking. $18.


While I may not keep all of these on the rack, these are just some suggestions for a few great buys from our local store; look for more to come from our somm family. Cheers!