Williams-Sonoma Test Kitchen is the Perfect Place to Teach Champagne Sabering

For a Facebook Live event with Williams-Sonoma last week, Mark Oldman teaches Amanda Haas, Williams-Sonoma’s Director of Culinary, how to saber a bottle of champagne like a total pro. Located at the Williams-Sonoma test kitchen in Northern California, the beautiful space offered the perfect setting for a little saber-training session.  You’ve got to see the video to believe it – Amanda is a natural!

Missed the Live video? You can still get your wine questions answered by leaving a comment!

Williams-Sonoma sabering wine mark oldman

Prosecco and Champagne’s Other Bubbly Stunt Double

Cava is Champagne's Alter-EgoJust as Hollywood stars have doubles, so does Champagne. And one of the best bubbly stunt doubles is Spanish Cava.

The less expensive Spanish sparkler is a delicious alternative to France’s hero. Look for the coal-black bottle at your liquor store or supermarket, with labels expounding names like the ubiquitous Freixenet (Fresh-shun-NETT) Cordon Negro Cava, Cristalino Brut, Paul Cheneau, Brut Blanc de Blancs, Sumarocca Brut Reserva, Segura Viudas Aria Brut.

Cava, the Spanish name for sparkling wine, delivers bubbles at less than half the price of French Champagne. Though it’s made in the traditional bottle-fermentation method like Champagne (and finer American sparklers), it spends less time aging on its lees (i.e., dead yeast cells) than Champagne, which gives it less of a yeasty, baked-bread bouquet and more minerals, earth, and mushrooms. The use of lesser-known Spanish grapes helps keep prices down, but not quality.

Cava is a truly unique experience, just as stylish and celebratory as Champagne and Prosecco. Think of it as the mysterious cousin from out of town–the femme fatale of sparklers.  Many are under $10. For an affordable gift with serious bling-bling, track down Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad ($20), a hand-blown bottle tricked out with a silvery metal crest and coaster. Salud!

For a full list of alternatives to Champagne, check out my latest book,How to Drink Like a Billionaire (Regan Arts), and remember to drink bravely, drink richly, and #DrinkLikeABillionaire.

You’ve Been Opening Champagne the Wrong Way…Forever

adobe-spark-3What is it about opening a bottle of bubbly that channels the savage beast? Some see a mini howitzer in every Champagne bottle, forever aiming the cork at the nearest chandelier. Others want to shake and spray their bottles without any thought to wasting this golden elixir. It’s time to mute the mayhem and open bubbly with the safety and style that this supernal beverage deserves. Follow my six steps to siphoning that cork from the bottle without losing one fermented drop.

  1. CHILL – Coldness minimizes the pressure in the bottle so make sure it’s super cold.
  2. PROTECT – Always point the bottle in a safe direction and keep a thumb over it during the entire opening process.
  3. STRIP – Peel the foil and unwrap the wire cage covering the cork, sliding it off with your thumb still at the ready.
  4. COVER – Slip a towel or cloth napkin over the bottle’s neck. This will help you grip the cork and catch it in the event of a premature eruption.
  5. TURN – Holding the bottle at a slight angle, grip the cork firmly through the towel. Then, with your other hand, turn the base of the bottle slowly in one direction.
  6. PUFF – Your cork will “puff” open, preventing spillage and any midnight trips to the emergency room.

Now that you’re equipped with a foolproof method for popping a celebratory bottle, check out my latest book and find alternatives to Champagne for your next occasion in How to Drink Like a Billionaire (Regan Arts).

Secrets (and Key Wines) For a Smash Hit Oscars Party

Austin FOOD & WINE Festival Q&A with Mark

Are you just as excited as we are to see which films take home Oscar gold during tomororw’s Academy Awards? Maybe you’ve planned a party with friends to celebrate the cinematic evening? No matter your viewing preference, we’ve recruited wine expert Mark Oldman to share his 2013 Academy Awards Wine Guide. What does that mean? He compares each of his top picks for Best Picture to a certain wine and points you in the direction of a specific bottle.

So, whether you’re rooting for a certain film or just looking to set the stage for your get-together, sit back and enjoy Mark Oldman’s drinkable guide to the Oscars. And because who doesn’t enjoy a delicious appetizer alongside their red, white or bubbly — he shares an hors d’oeuvre secret that’s sure to impress any guest.

AFWF: You have an admitted interest in how wines have played a role in notable movies throughout history. With that in mind – and given the fact that it’s Oscar Week – how would you compare your favorite films nominated for Best Picture to certain wines?

 

Argo: Champagne

This Affleckian flick deserves association with Champagne for its depiction of international intrigue leavened with displays of over-the-top, Hollywood-style glamour— a combination that Champagne and its attendant lifestyle have long manifested. Note that it is only when the characters have departed Iranian airspace – and the flight attendants then announce that alcohol consumption is no longer illegal – that they are truly safe andproceed to pop a celebratory bottle of Moët.

Recommended: Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial NV ($38)

 

Django Unchained: Shiraz from Australia

Like Quentin Tarantino’s latest, Australian Shiraz arrives on the scene with guns-a-blaze, exciting and extravagant in its richness and range of plum-and-mocha-inflected flavors.

Recommended: Paringa Shiraz 2010 ($10)

 

Lincoln: Cabernet Sauvignon from California

Like the 16th U.S. President himself, classic versions of this wine show depth (typically black currants, smoky oak, and moderate tannins), history (being California’s longstanding showpiece red), dignity, and complexity.

Recommended: Beringer Knights Valley 2009 ($30)

 

Silver Linings Playbook: Dolcetto d’Alba from Italy

Like this edgy-but-charming Bradley Cooper tour de force, good versions of Dolcetto (a tangy, medium-bodied red) can be a bit bitter upfront but ultimately finish with lip-smacking exuberance.  

Recommended: Ceretto Dolcetto d’Alba Rossana 2010 ($28)

 

 

Beasts of the Southern Wild: Wine from Red Hook Winery

With this movie depiction’s of a tiny hero desperate to save her ill father and sinking home, we find parallels in the brave plight of Brooklyn’s Red Hook Winery, which was pummeled by Hurricane Sandy and has been fighting to recover ever since. 

Recommended: Any bottle listed here.

  

Amour: That Special Bottle You Haven’t Opened Yet

As the film reminds us how love can be tested and how beauty can fade before our eyes, we must apply these lessons to our own lives and open that special bottle now. You and I have already waited too long.

Recommended: Any special occasional bottle you have on hand.

 

AFWF: Given your “unpretentious over-delivery of pleasure” approach to at-home entertaining, what would be your key ingredient to an at-home Oscars soiree?

My English friends Sarah and Marcus Oliver have mastered the art of the Oscar party, and one secret of their success is that they ask people to dress up. Having everyone gathered in red carpet garb creates ebullience in the room and adds to the vicarious pleasure of the evening.

To keep things from getting too formal, however, they offset all of the fancy dress with the most humble, toothsome treats that you’ve ever laid your lips to: crispy, glazed English mini-sausages. These links are so coveted by guests that the party’s invitation now carries the assurance: “Yes, there will be mini-sausages.” In a recent email exchange, I persuaded Sarah to reveal more about how she and Marcus prepare these luscious logs of love:

secrets

  1. If possible, use the fresh sausage called chipolata; it can be sourced from the British grocery store Myers of Keswick
  2. Roll the meat so that each sausage is just about an inch in length
  3. Glaze each link with a mixture of honey and mustard
  4. Broil the sausages they are “really brown and sticky”
  5. Serve with a good Prosecco

AFWF: Are you especially rooting for any contender (in any category) in particular?

For me, Zero Dark Thirty was unforgettably arresting, sending me into the night with surging adrenaline and in desperate need of a Blackhawk to board. I found Jessica Chastain’s portrayal of the relentlessly driven Maya particularly memorable. The moment Maya tells the CIA Director, “ I’m the motherf—– that found this place, sir,” Chastain won my vote for Best Actress.

AFWF: Lastly, what can Festival-goers expect to learn from your “Cinema Vino: Wines from the Movies” demo at the 2013 AFWF?

Like with all of my appearances, I aim to make this demo uncommonly illuminating and humorous – and, as an editor at Food & Wine magazine once described of my seminars,“like one big party.”

Wine and Wheels on Valentine’s Day

valentine's dayReprint of a Q&A with Mark about lovable wines for Valentine’s Day and his beloved “El Tigre.”

Q: What is the perfect Valentine’s Day wine?
Mark: For those willing to endure its vertiginous pricing and notorious inconsistency, the answer, unequivocally, is red Burgundy from France. It has a splendidly shimmery glow, a kind of ruby translucence that is a world away from midnight dark wines like Zinfandel and Syrah. The best examples have an intoxicating fragrance of berries and rose petals as well as a satiny coating that seems to leave a talcum trail across your palate. They often show an underlying hint of earthiness — think mushrooms or forest floor or autumn leave piles — a kind of primal sexiness that stands it apart from any other wine, especially on Valentine’s Day. You’ll earn extra points if you secure a bottle from the Burgundian village of Chambolle-Musigny and the perfectly-named but hard-to-find “Les Amoureuses,” i.e., “The Lovers,” premier cru vineyard.

For love on a budget, go with a cru Beaujolais, which is a slightly more serious cousin of the more familiar Beaujolais Nouveau. You’ll say it all with a “St. Amour,” the northernmost of the cru Beaujolais villages. Like most wine from Beaujolais, it is irresistibly light and fruity and costs less than $15 a bottle.   Excellent producers include Georges Dubeouf, Marcel Lapierre, Mommessin, Château de la Chaise, Jean Folliardand Michael Tête. Perfect for

Q: Tell us about your television show.
M: I’m a judge on PBS’s The Winemakers, which features 12 folks competing to have their own wine label. It’s compelling television; you’d be surprised at how intensely people yearn to break into the wine industry. We filmed the first season in California’s beautiful Paso Robles wine country and will soon be shooting the new season in France’s Rhone Valley. You can check out clips of the show at: www.TheWinemakers.tv.

Q: Word on the street is that you have a muscle car – do tell.
M: Ah, you mean “El Tigre,” which is one of 500 “Grabber Orange,” 400-horsepower street-legal racecars made by Saleen, a boutique manufacturer-modifier of high-performance Mustangs. In power, color, and form, the car pays homage to race legend Parnelli Jones’ 1970 Boss 302 Mustang, which ruled the SCCA Trans Am Series in the early seventies.

Q: So the car has a 70’s feel?
M: Undeniably. It’d be right at home in Starsky and Hutch or a Beastie Boys video. It comes complete with a “shaker scoop,” a cannon-like pipe protruding through its hood and “window louvers,” which look like black venetian blinds screwed into the back window. Besides giving the car an exquisitely menacing, Stegosaurian rear, I haven’t figured out a purpose for the louvers beyond making would-be tailgaters imagine that the driver is a once and future felon.

Q: What is it like having a muscle car in Manhattan?
M: In a city of solemn sedans and generic SUV’s, El Tigre is a mobile joy machine, a retro representation of West Coast tire-burning culture. Unlike your typical animosity-generating exotic car, I get the sense that El Tigre engenders goodwill in those it rumbles past. It has a certain democratic appeal: cops smile, street hustlers wink approvingly, and buttoned-up business types get Matchbox flashbacks. European tourists often stalk it with their camera phones, as they seem to take special pleasure in its unapologetic Americanness.

Q: Are people surprised to learn that a wine expert has such a car?
M: Often they are, and I like that. Life, like wine, is most interesting when it embraces the complex. The ability to experience many dimensions, some them pleasantly unexpected or seemingly contradictory, can be greatly satisfying.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day, and remember to drink bravely!