The Ultimate Wine Themed Brunch

What started out as a good excuse to visit our chef friend Joe Richie at Goldfinch Tavern in Seattle, WA, turned into an outstanding recipe for a Mother’s Day Brunch–complete with the perfect wine cocktail.

Orange Ricotta Bread Pudding with Strawberry-Rosé Crémant Sauce

Brioche Ricotta Bread Pudding Recipe by Joe-Ritchie
Chef Joe Ritchie’s Orange Ricotta Bread Pudding with Strawberry Crémant Sauce. Not too sweet–just perfect!

The goal was to use a sparkling wine (Crémant d’Alsace) as the highlight of both the dish and the drink, and it turned out better than we ever imagined. For those of you who are not that confident in the kitchen, don’t worry. You’ll find Joe’s bread pudding delightfully easy to make.

Crémant d'Alsace Wine Illustration

The Wine Choice

Crémant d’Alsace wines are vinified using the traditional method, with secondary fermentation taking place in the bottle (like Champagne). We chose a rosé Crémant from Alsace, made with 100% Pinot Noir grapes, but feel free to substitute your (or your mom’s) favorite bubbly.

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Watch the video here to get a complete rundown.

Orange Ricotta Bread Pudding

This bread pudding uses brioche bread and ricotta cheese, along with a subtle hint of coriander and cinnamon to take it to the next level. Since I didn’t make the recipe, I can honestly say it’s out-of-control good!

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
  • 12 oz loaf of brioche bread, cut into 1″ cubes
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup crème fraîche
  • 16 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 whole eggs + 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp grated orange zest
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground toasted coriander

Brioche bread and ricotta bread pudding with cinnamon and coriander
The finished bread pudding, ready to the plated and drizzled with sauce.

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325°F and coat a 1 ½ quart baking dish with 1 Tbs of the melted butter. Place the cubed brioche in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining melted butter and milk. Add the ricotta, sugar, eggs, crème fraîche, orange zest and vanilla. Pour the liquid ricotta mixture over the bread cubes and mix quickly and gently. Add to baking dish. Sprinkle the pudding with the cinnamon, coriander and sugar. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a water bath for 1 hour. Let cool for at least 20 min.

While you wait for your pudding to be ready, you can prepare the Strawberry-Rosé Crémant Sauce


Strawberry-Rosé Crémant Sauce

Ingredients and recipe for Chef Joe Ritchie's Orange Ricotta Bread Pudding with Strawberry Rosé Crémant Sauce
A few simple ingredients make this delicious sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb fresh strawberries, cut lengthwise into quarters
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp grated orange zest
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • ½ cup Rosé Crémant or another sparkling rosé

Image
The Rosé Crémant- strawberry mixture after it’s been cooked down on the stove top.

Directions:

Heat the wine in a medium sized saucepan to remove some of the alcohol. Add the sugar, strawberries, orange zest, and lemon juice. Stir gently and allow the mixture to cook for about 5 or so minutes and cool for about 10 minutes so that it thickens. The sauce will more watery than syrup when it’s ready, so don’t be worried if this is the consistency you get!


Pink Mimosa

Since you’ll have nearly a whole bottle of Crémant leftover from this recipe, you can use it for a breakfast-friendly wine cocktail. Ruby red or pink grapefruit juice and rosé Crémant make the base for this refreshing mimosa.

Image
Getting ready to become a Ruby Pink Mimosa

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp sugar (optional)
  • ½ oz lemon juice
  • Ruby red (or pink) grapefruit juice
  • Rosé Crémant or another sparkling rosé

Build the Cocktail:

Put a teaspoon of sugar in the bottom of a flute and add lemon juice to glass. Fill each flute ⅔ of the way with the Rosé Crémant and top with the ruby red grapefruit juice. Garnish with a lemon twist and enjoy.

Joe Richie shows Madeline Puckette how to make bread pudding

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All About Crémant Wine

Crémant is a group of sparkling wines made with the same technique as Champagne, but from outside the Champagne region. This article details the nine different Crémant wines of France and Luxembourg.

Do you have, “Champagne taste on a beer budget?”

There is a group of sparkling wines that will satisfy your desire for high quality bubbly. Crémant employs labor-intensive secondary bottle fermentation as does Champagne. There are a wide variety of styles to choose from, as Crémant is made in eight different appellations throughout France (and can also be found in neighboring Luxembourg).

Cremant wines of France Illustrated wine map by Wine Folly

A Great Alternative to Champagne

Crémant regulations are only slightly less stringent than those in Champagne. The quality found in these wines comes in part from France’s rigorous wine laws. Although regional rules can vary, all Crémant wines must adhere to requirements such as manual harvesting of grapes, whole bunch pressing with limited must extraction (100 liters of juice from 150 kg grapes–think of it like extra virgin olive oil), and a minimum of nine months lees aging.

Here are the details on Crémant wines so you can find what you like:

Crémant d'Alsace Wine Illustration

Crémant d’Alsace

  • White: Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir
  • Rosé: 100% Pinot Noir required for rosé

The picturesque region of Alsace is nestled in the foothills of the Vosges Mountains of Northeast France. More than 50% of all French Crémant is made in here.

Grapes ripen well in Alsace, thanks to the dry, sunny climate made possible by the adjacent mountain shelter. The soils are a true mosaic, resulting from alluvial fans, and can support a large array of grape varieties. Crémant de Alsace may be single varietal (and labeled as such), but most are, in fact, a blend, using Pinot Blanc as the base.


Crémant de Bourgogne wine illustration by Wine Folly

Crémant de Bourgogne

  • White: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with occasional use of Gamay, Pinot Blanc, Sacy, Pinot Gris, Aligoté, and/or Melon de Bourgogne
  • Rosé: Pinot Noir and sometimes Gamay

Burgundy is just south of Champagne and is most applauded for its still versions of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir-based wines. Crémant de Bourgogne production occurs mainly in the northern area of Auxerre (Chablis), or further south in Rully (Côte Chalonnaise).

Crémant here can range from the fresh and crisp northern styles, to rounder and fuller wines from southern Burgundy, where grapes can achieve a greater ripeness. Made using the traditional method, most often with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir dominating, Crémant de Bourgogne shares similarities to its more expensive and famous Champagne neighbors. With shorter aging requirements, though, these wines can be less complex.

Crémant de Bourgogne Label Tips

If you’re looking for great quality, here are two terms to seek out on a bottle of Crémant de Bourgogne:

  • Eminent: Minimum of 24 months on the lees
  • Grand Eminent: Minimum 36 months on the lees, only Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (with a maximum of 20% Gamay for rosés) permitted, minimum 10% alcohol, brut or drier in style/dosage

Crémant de Limoux Wine Illustration by Wine Folly

Crémant de Limoux

  • White and Rosé: Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Mauzac (locally called Blanquette), Pinot Noir

Limoux, France (Languedoc-Roussillon) is located in the cooler, high foothills of the Pyrenean Mountains of southern France.

Crémant de Limoux is most often made from Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. Mauzac and Pinot Noir are used as blending grapes. This region has a long history of sparkling wine production. Blanquette Méthode Ancestrale and Blanquette de Limoux are two traditional sparklers made predominantly from Mauzac. The former uniquely undergoes finishing of the first fermentation in the bottle itself, without any allowed dosage or disgorgement of the spent yeast cells.

Who Was the First To Make Sparkling Wine?

It has been elegantly debated with a great deal of historic rigor that Limoux – not Champagne – was the first region in France to produce sparkling wine. That said, if you ask an English person who invented bubbly, they’ll tell you, with equally convincing fervor, that is was them. If you ask us, we say “Thank you!” and “Salut!” to all three!


Crémant de Limoux wine illustration by Wine Folly

Crémant de Loire

  • Primary Grapes: Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir
  • Others: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Arbois, Pineau d’Aunis, Grolleau, Grolleau Gris

Crémant de Loire is made in the Anjou-Saumur and Touraine regions of the lush Loire Valley.

The predominant use of Chenin Blanc lends these high quality wines unique flavors of lemon, quince, pear, honey, and chamomile. Although many grapes are allowed in Crémant production here, the star of the Central Vineyards of the Loire, Sauvignon Blanc, is not. If you want to try a Sauvignon Blanc-based Crémant, you’ll have to look to Bordeaux, the only appellation that permits its use in the mix.


Cremant wines of France, Bordeaux, Jura, Savoie and Die Illustration by Wine Folly

Other Crémant Crémant du Jura, Crémant de Savoie, Crémant de Die, and Crémant de Bordeaux

  • Crémant de Bordeaux: Primarily Merlot along with Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Malbec, and Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and/or Muscadelle
  • Crémant du Jura: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Poulsard, Savagnin, Pinot Gris, Poulsard, Trousseau
  • Crémant de Savoie Jacquère, Altesse, Chardonnay, Chasselas, Aligoté
  • Crémant de Die Primarily Clairette, possibly with some Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains and/or Aligoté

The large variety of approved grapes can produce unique expressions of Crémant in these regions. At times, strong variations in style can make it difficult to pin down a regional identity. In areas like Bordeaux, these wines are often overshadowed by the famous still red, white, and sweet white wines of the region. Crémant production from these appellations can be harder to find in export markets, but are certainly worth a sip if you do.

Crémant de Luxembourg

Luxembourg is the only country outside of France where the term “Crémant” can be legally used. It’s made from grapes grown in the Moselle district under the Moselle Luxembourgeoise Appellation. Common varietals used include Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Rivaner (Müller Thurgau), Elbling, Auxerrois, Pinot Noir (for rosé), and Chardonnay.


Sources
Karen MacNeil. The Wine Bible. New York: Workman, 2015. Print.
Crémant – jancisrobinson.com

Crémant de Bourgogne – cremantdebourgogne.com
Crémant d’Alsace – cremantdalsace.com 

Crémant du Jura – jurawine.com
New Crémant de Borgogne Ranking – newcremantdeborgogneranking


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The Oregon Wines You’ve Never Heard Of

Often when thinking of a specific wine region, certain grape varieties come to mind. Napa Valley? Cabernet Sauvignon. Oregon? Pinot Noir, of course. These wine region stereotypes aren’t bad. In fact, they help wine regions grow. But for a small segment of winemakers in these places, the norm is not enough. Uncovering lesser known wines widely grown in certain areas tells a very different story about what’s happening in that region.

Naturally, as the popularity of these grape varieties is less, finding out about the wines they produce is a bit more challenging. They’re rarely rated, and many of them do not reveal the locality where they are made. Wine Geek or not, in order to grasp the greatness of these wine varieties, you need to be in the know, or talk to someone who is.

This is exactly what we did when we asked Carrie Wynkoop to tell us about what’s happening in Oregon that’s anything but Pinot. Her expertise comes from running an Oregon-only wine club (Cellar 503) since 2014. Here’s what she had to say:


“Ever heard of Arneis or Melon de Bourgogne or Baco Noir?”

These are intriguing wines being made in small batches in Oregon by wonderfully obsessed winemakers dedicated to bringing unusual varietal wines to the table. Here are six varieties that show a very different side of Oregon wine.

Oregon Arneis Cana's Feast Wine

Arneis

Arneis is a white variety that is known for producing light-bodied white wines with clean, crisp notes of pear, almonds, and citrus. This wine is scarcely known outside of the Piedmont region of Northern Italy. Lucky for you, Bill and Cathy Redman of Redman Vineyards are not afraid of the rascally nature of Arneis.

The folks at Redman make a little Arneis themselves but they sell most of their fruit to two of our favorite producers. Anne Hubatch at Helioterra Wines makes her Arneis as a lively wine with aromas of jasmine and orange blossoms and a juicy palate that offers lemon custard pie, kiwi, and papaya.

Patrick Taylor at Cana’s Feast makes his in a decidedly unusual style by barrel fermenting it. You’ll get aromas and flavors of toasted almonds, honey, ripe pear, and nutmeg. You’ll also find a wonderful creamy and soft texture resulting from the barrel aging and the aging on the lees.

Oregon Melon de Bourgogne white wine

Melon de Bourgogne

Melon de Bourgogne is grown primarily in the Loire Valley region of France and is the primary grape in the French regional wine Muscadet. It’s very rare on this side of the Atlantic – where those in the know just call it “Melon” – and grows in Oregon, Bainbridge Island, WA, and in Ontario, BC. In Oregon, it has a somewhat glum history. In the 1980s, quite a bit of Melon was planted here; but all mislabeled as Pinot Blanc. Once this was discovered, much of the Melon vineyards were torn out and replanted with actual Pinot Blanc. What little is left has quite a cult following here in Oregon, perhaps because it’s one of the best wines to pair with seafood.

Chris Berg at Roots Wine Company makes an outstanding Melon, delivering soft citrus, peaches, and nectarines – and its creaminess and minerality give it the strength to stand up to grilled shrimp, fresh oysters, or carpaccio.

And not too far away, John Grochau of Grochau Cellars makes his Melon with an initial aroma of citrus and crushed stone, followed by a crisp and bright taste of green apple and herbs. As a former sommelier at Portland’s famed Higgins Restaurant, John Grochau always wants his wines to stand up nicely to food – which means bright acid to create structure and open your palate.

Oregon Grenache Blanc Wines

Grenache Blanc

Grenache Blanc is a white wine grape found in the Rhône region of France and in Northern Spain. Rarely found alone, it’s traditionally blended with Roussanne, Marsanne, and Viognier. Grenache Blanc is a full-bodied white wine that can have intense flavors, higher alcohol content, and a plush style.

But Herb Quady of Quady North in Southern Oregon is always one to buck tradition. His Grenache Blanc is almost as clear as water. This crisp, light wine leads with aromas of peach and apple before proceeding to flavors of pear and lychee. Pair it with soft white cheeses, smoked salmon, and light fare –it might be the perfect thing for brunch on a lazy Sunday morning.

Joe Swick of Swick Wines also has a fabulous Grenache Blanc that is a little more on the traditional side. There are aromas of peach, apple, wet stone, as well as an underlying spiciness. It has mouth-watering acidity and a lovely texture that make this a wonderful food wine.

Oregon Baco Noir

Baco Noir

In the late 1800s, an infestation of the phylloxera bug wiped out Europe’s vineyards. Hard-pressed to restore wine production, vineyard managers cross-bred vines with native American vine species. One botanist, François Baco, managed to produce a hit – Baco Noir – a crossbreed of Folle Blanche (a white grape used in Cognac) and an unknown American vine.

Grown in cold-weather climates throughout the Midwest, New York, and Canada, Baco Noir was first brought to Oregon by Frenchman-turned-Oregonian Phillipe Girardet.

The Girardet Baco Noir is a dense, multi-layered red wine with a deep garnet color and flavors of cassis, blueberry, and plum that mingle with silky elements of spice and mocha. A long, lingering finish with smooth tannins and bright acidity keeps the taste light on the palate.

Oregon Tannat

Tannat

Tannat is a rare grape that comes from southwestern France, in the foothills of the Pyrenees. It’s also found in wines from Uruguay, transplanted by Basque farmers in the 1870s. Even today, it’s very rare in the United States – accounting for less than 0.1% of all wine produced. Tannat is known for its exceptionally high antioxidants and subsequently, high tannins – the Seattle Times recently called it “the tannic monster” (as a compliment!). For this reason, Tannat is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to make the tannins more approachable.

Seven of Hearts winery makes a glorious, full-bodied and supple Tannat with lots of intense, ripe, dark fruit and notes of chocolate from the Rattlesnake Road vineyard on the Oregon side of the Columbia Valley.

Our friends in Southern Oregon, Troon Vineyard, also make a very popular Tannat. While still tannic, the granite soils naturally help round out Tannat’s famously robust tannins producing a wine with a rounder tannic structure than Tannat produced in France. This is a wine that develops finesse and deep warmth of aromatics and flavors.
Oregon Cabernet Franc Wine

Cabernet Franc

Like the viola in a string quartet alongside a violin, a cello, and a bass, the red Cabernet Franc is rarely heard from alone. It is traditionally grown in the Bordeaux region in France and used as a blending grape to soften Cabernet Sauvignon and provide complexity to Merlot. It’s a treat to taste unadulterated Cabernet Franc and even more rare to find it here in Oregon.

Corey Schuster from Jackalope Wine Cellars has made a name for himself with his Cabernet Franc. The grapes are from the renowned Quady North vineyard in Southern Oregon. The area’s warm, dry weather creates very ripe fruit which imparts a rich, fruity character in the wine. This Jackalope displays the vegetal, green bell pepper and herbaceous flavors common in Cab Franc, while also shining with red fruits, spices, and a little pepper.

Leah Jorgensen Cellars has also come to be known for her Cabernet Franc – both the traditional red wine and a fabulously unusual white wine as well. As far as anyone knows, Leah is the first person to ever make a white wine from Cabernet Franc! It has delicate aromas of apricots, golden raspberries, and Meyer lemon, while the palate reveals herbal notes of tarragon, paired with hazelnut and holiday baking spices, rounding out this lovely and complex white wine from red grapes.


Drink Outside The Box

There is nothing quite like a well-crafted Pinot Noir that reflects the special terroir we have here in Oregon. Earthy, spicy, light bodied, and full of character, these are the reasons why this grape has captured the hearts and minds of Oregon winemakers and wine lovers alike. That said, alongside these well-known Pinot Noir wines, there are a plethora of unusual and extraordinary wines being crafted all over Oregon worth tasting and exploring. Hopefully, my passion for Oregon’s wines has inspired you to drink outside the box.

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