RuBen Permel – Act2Art – Wine Inspired Art

Crushed Grapes & Open Minds with Act2Art.com

RuBen Permel of Act2Art is an accomplished artist.  He’s actually quite the renaissance man, he is an actor and dancer, a puppeteer, a costumer, a painter, a writer, a film maker….and lucky for me, my friend.

Last year we worked together on a project called “Crushed Grapes and Open Minds”.  I had this idea of finding wine that would pair with some of RuBen’s beautiful art.  RuBen, ever the overachiever, decided he would paint a piece for each wine we chose.  We chose 5 wines and he painted a piece to pair with each.

We spent an afternoon with RuBen while he painted, actually priming a canvas for what became the signature piece for the event.

Check back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles for more on the details on our Crushed Grapes and Open Minds Event!   You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

And you can find RuBen and his gorgeous art at Act2Art or on Facebook

Sparkling wine or Champagne

In honor of #ChampagneDay…here is a little primer on Sparkling wines and Champagne that we put together as we planned our Sparkling pairing for our Crushed Grapes and Open Minds Event.

The Sparkling Wine

As we planned for our Crushed Grapes and Open Minds event we knew that we wanted to begin with a sparkling wine.  Bubbles are celebratory and a great way to get an event off to the right start.  We also knew that with our sparkling wine we would serve it in glasses rather than flutes, which would not keep the bubbles as much, but would allow guest to smell the aromas behind the wine. We looked at many different sparkling wines, and it was important to me to find something with some yeast or bread on the nose, to give us a chance to talk about how Sparkling wine is made in the traditional Champenoise method.

Quick lesson on Sparkling wine:

There are two methods of making a sparkling wine. One is the “Charmat” or “Tank” Method, the other is Methode Champenoise.

The Charmat Method

The Charmat method is a less expensive way to make a sparkling wine. The secondary fermentation (the one that causes the bubbles) is done in a large pressurized tank instead of in the bottle. Because you can only get 2-4 atmospheres of pressure in this way, the bubbles tend to be larger. Prosecco and Lambrusco are made in this way.

Methode Champenoise

Methode Champenoise or Methode Traditionnelle is more expensive because it is more labor intensive. This starts by making a base wine then adding sugar and yeast to the bottle which starts a secondary fermentation. The bottles are placed in riddling racks, which tip the bottle slightly upside down allowing the lees (the dead yeast cells) to collect in the neck of the bottle. You know that Veuve Clicquot Champagne? Well Madame Nicole Barbe Clicquot was the inspiration behind riddling racks. She hated the cloudy look of champagne, because at the time the lees would settle in the bottom of the bottle and when your poured it, it would get all cloudy (think Kombucha). So she had these racks created which would hold the bottles at a forty five degree angle with the neck down. Several times a week, workers go in and turn the bottle, in some cases giving it a small shake to make sure the lees are not caking or clinging to the glass. Then they freeze the neck of the bottle so that they can “disgorge” the plug of lees that has settled in the neck of the bottle. They then refill the empty space in the bottle often adjusting the sweetness in the process and cork and cage the wine. Because these wines do the secondary fermentation in the bottle (the big heavy champagne bottles) the pressure is higher, at 6-7 atmospheres of pressure which is what gives you those very small fine bubbles.

Popping a champagne cork!

Popping a champagne cork!

Sweetness levels in Sparkling wine

Yep, this can be confusing. Dry is not really dry. Typically in a wine, dryness is dependent on the amount of residual sugar in the finished wine. In the fermentation process, yeast eats the sugar, in the end, if it eats all the sugar you get a dryer wine, if there is sugar left over…well that is the residual sugar! In Sparkling wines dry comes in the wrong place for my brain on the sweetness scale. Here we go with our rundown of wine sweetness.

This is from Sweetest to driest:

Doux: Sweetest (this will give you over 2 teaspoons of sugar for each glass)

Demi-Sec: a little less sweet (only 1 to 2 teaspoons of sugar per glass)

Dry: Not REALLY dry (3/4 to 1 teaspoon of sugar)

Extra Dry: Well, it’s dryer than dry! (1/2 to ¾ teaspoons)

Brut: Now we are getting dryer (1/4 to ½ teaspoons of sugar)

Extra Brut: Dryer than Brut with (less than ¼ teaspoons of sugar)

Brut Nature: Okay here we go…this is the driest! (less than 1/6 teaspoon of sugar in a glass)

This is important to keep in mind, because unless you go to a great little wine shop where they are smart and knowledgeable, it is unfortunately likely that they will point you in the wrong direction on the dryness scale. (toss this info in your phone for when you go champagne shopping!)

We narrowed our choices to a California Sparkling Wine, a Cremant, and a Champagne and brought them home for a tasting.

The Finalists

3 sparkling wines

Three sparkling wines, Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut, Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne and Champagne AJ de Margerie a Bouzy

The California Sparkling wine was a Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut

I picked this one up because the description said “crisp” and “toasty”. This wine was hand-harvested Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (traditional Champagne grapes) from Sonoma County in California and specifically in the Carneros District. Carneros is the lower part of the Sonoma/Napa Region, closest to San Francisco. They have over 40 selections of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay planted on their estate. This gives them some diversity in the grapes they are harvesting to create a consistent cuvee. With sparkling wines a Cuvee is a non-vintage blend, which means multiple years can be blended together. That means a warmer vintage can be blended with a cooler vintage to make a cuvee that matches the one you put out last year. So year after year, customers can be sure that the wine will taste the same. This blend is mostly Pinot Noir, which has little skin contact so that you don’t get any pink in the wine.

Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut

Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut

Louise Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Blanc de Blanc

The nose on this said ”aromas of citrus and flowers, evolving into butter and brioche notes with age”.

So lets start with the “Blanc de Blanc” part. That indicates that it is a sparkling made from white grapes (blanc is white, so white of white). In this case it is mostly (85%) Chardonnay.

Now the “Cremant” .Cremant (“cray-mont”) is a method champenoise sparkling wine that is made outside of the Champagne region. It can be made from grapes other than the traditional Champagne grapes. It originally indicated that the wine was less fizzy or bubbly than Champagne.

Onto the “de Bourgogne” part…so the region this wine is made in is Bourgogne (Burgundy), a region known for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne

Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Blanc de Blanc

Champagne A. J. de Margerie a Bouzy Grand Cru

This wine is from the Champagne region and is 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Chardonnay. The tasting notes said “Dry, cherry, berry, toast”.

It is from the famed Bouzy is a village in the Montagne de Reims Region of Champagne where Pinot Noir is mostly grown (there you go with why it’s 90% Pinot!)

Champagne AJ de Margerie

Champagne AJ de Margerie a Bouzy

And the winner is…

So we tasted and they were all very nice, but the Champagne had the bread I was looking for on the nose. It wasn’t quite toast and brioche was not a term that I felt would resonate with people. As I continued to smell the visual of hamburger buns came to me. When I mentioned this to Michael, he immediately could smell it. We had our sparkling wine.

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The Pairings for the Party

So now we had our Sparkling wine.  Time to move forward with the pairings!  Since we wanted to “Open Minds” to the aromas and then the emotions that the aromas brought with them, we wanted to set up scent jars, to let our guests compare the scents that they might be getting in the wine with the real thing.  We also needed a food pairing, something to munch on that would spark conversation and of course the art.

The Aromas

The aroma jars with this wine were cherries, berries and hamburger buns.  As cherries were not in season, I picked up a bag of frozen cherries and defrosted them.  Our berries were blueberries, cut strawberries and blackberries.

So why do you smell berries when this is a white wine?  Well, Champagne is typically made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  They do very little skin contact so you don’t get the red color from the Pinot Noir grapes.  So the berries and cherries you smell come from the Pinot Noir as this is a 90% Pinot Noir Champagne.

And the hamburger buns…that would be the dying yeast.  The yeast is eating up the sugar in the wine making it ferment, much like what it does to make bread rise.  So you get that yeasty/bready nose, which on this wine hit me as hamburger buns.

Hamburger Buns

Hamburger Buns

The Food Pairing

Champagne can often seem pretentious, being paired with caviar and fancy things, but it’s really a beverage about celebrating..  The Champagne maker at Laetitia in San Luis Obispo says that his favorite pairing with Champagne was popcorn. So we had movie theatre popcorn and potato chips to pair.  Champagne is really the perfect pairing for food, going great with salt & fat.  Salt & fat are delicious, but the fat will coat your tongue and block up your taste buds, and the salt makes you thirsty.  The bubbles in Champagne are perfect for clearing all the fat of your tongue and quenching your thirst making every bite taste as good as the first.  So, when it doubt as to what to pair with a meal?  Go with something sparkling!

Buttered Popcorn or Potato chips are a great pairing for sparkling wines.

Buttered Popcorn or Potato chips are a great pairing for sparkling wines.

The Art Pairing

RuBen’s Painting for this wine evoked a warmth that for me brought out the bread on the nose.  The painting was bright but also warm and comforting and there was texture on the canvas evoking the texture and bubbles in the Champagne.

Champagne

RuBen’s spectacular interpretation of our Champagne – Act2Art by RuBen

What people had to say

We asked our guests for their thoughts, maybe a memory or phrase that came to mind as they smelled and tasted the wine, smelled the aroma jars, tasted the pairing and gazed upon the art.  Here were some of their thoughts…

A perfect first date.

happy – like a picnic in an apple orchard

a field with dandelions and fresh grass

early summer

A beautiful sun shower in late April, early May

movement of life

crisp pears – a cool spring afternoon

 

Of course after the Champagne it was time to move on to the Sauvignon Blanc.  Join us back here for more on that!

Note to wine geeks, I’m kinda excited about a new book coming out called “But First, Champagne: A Modern Guide to the World’s Favorite Wine”. It’s by David White (of the Terroirist the wine blog) with a forward by Ray Isle (of Food And Wine Magazine) and promises to be a perfect book for both the newbie and the longtime Champagne lover. It is available for pre-order on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/But-First-Champagne-World%C2%92s-Favorite/dp/1510711449 and will be coming out in about 8 weeks.

For more on Champagnes here is another blog post Sparkling Wine, Champagne and those tiny bubbles

Oh and for this event I perfected my method of opening Champagne bottles!  Want to look extra cool and professional opening Champagne?  Do want I did and follow Madeline Puckette’s advice!  Visit her blog Wine Folly and check out “How to Open Champagne Safely”

Check back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles for more on the details on the wines we paired with the Art and our Crushed Grapes and Open Minds Event!   You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

And you can find RuBen and his gorgeous art at Act2Art or on Facebook

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The power of Wine Aromas

Aroma Scent Jars

A few years ago we had attended an event at Cold Heaven in Santa Barbara. It was called “a Rhone Scent-ual Experience”.. You can visit the blog post and see the video here “Cold Heaven Cellars – Rhone Scent-ual Experience”.

I was amazed, not only at how wonderful it was to find these aromas from the jars in the wines, but also how excited everyone became.   People who had just met (or not even) were excitedly sharing the jars and asking what other people smelled. Inhibitions were gone and people joyfully bonded and shared the experience.

Cold Heaven Rhone Scentual Experience

Wine Event

We had done a small event after that with a friend and found again that people loved the scent jars. Putting together these aromas of things they were familiar with and then finding them in the wine glass made people so excited. I remember people speaking for weeks about the wet stones that we had with the Tablas Creek 2014 Vermentino. (check out the blog post on this party here   “Wine with friends – A California Tasting & Pairing”)

Tablas Creek Vermentino
Tablas Creek Vermentino
Cut Grass Scent Jar
Cut Grass Scent Jar

Creating Scent Jars

So I knew we wanted to do scent jars again for our “Crushed Grapes & Open Minds” Event and I did some further research on how other people do them. My go to for stuff like this is Madeline Puckett of Wine Folly and I found a great article here http://winefolly.com/tutorial/make-wine-aroma-kit-30/

I took her advice on the jars and I did find them at Cost Plus. I opted out of the small jars and went for one size larger (which were a dollar more), because they would give me more room for fresh fruit and better visuals. And I did not blend any wine into the jars, I wanted the fresh scents.

We did some shopping and some scrounging to fill the jars. The Champagne had some bread and yeast on the nose that we found reminded us of hamburger buns (I know, right?). And it was a mostly Pinot Noir based Champagne so you got berries and cherries. So our jars here were filled with hamburger buns, fresh & dried berries (I used sliced strawberries, blueberries and dried cranberries) and then cherries, which were defrosted from frozen, because they were out of season.

Hamburger Buns
Starbourgh Sav Blanc and Scent Jars

Starbourgh Sav Blanc

The Sauvignon Blanc had grapefruit, lime, lemongrass, stone fruit and grass. We did slices of the citrus, cut up the lemon grass to release it’s scent.  We chopped up a peach for the stone fruit and Michael headed with the scissors to the local park for the fresh cut grass.

Syrah & Scents
Syrah & Scents

Carhartt Syrah

The Syrah had jars with Black Berries, Allspice, dirt (we used a little potting soil here, since backyards in Vegas are not filled with very happy soil), tobacco (I found a smoke shop and got pipe tobacco, which worked but wasn’t exactly what I wanted), vanilla bean and beef jerky (for smoky meat).

Tobin James Zinfandel and Scents

Tobin James Zinfandel

The Zins had jars of earth, pepper (black & white peppercorns), fruit jam, leather (we hit the craft store, chopped it into pieces and added a little water to bring out the fragrance), and chocolate (we used a broken up dark chocolate bar)

Tokaji & Scent Jars

Tokaji

Lastly our dessert wine was a Tokaji. It was just 3 Puttonyons so on the less sweet side. We had aroma jars of dried apricots, citrus (thinly sliced lemon and lime) and a jar of honey.

You don’t have to invest in jars though, you can use wine glasses. If you are doing this with friends, it’s fun to find wines that have unexpected aromas.   We had a Magerum Rose that had Watermelon Jolly Ranchers on the nose! The important thing is to have fun with it. Which is what we did, and the people at our Crushed Grapes & Open Minds Event did.

Behind the scent jars in each of the photos you can see a bit of each of the beautiful paintings that RuBen did to pair with each wine.  More on that to come.

Check back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles for more on the details on the wines we paired with the Art and our Crushed Grapes and Open Minds Event!   You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

And you can find RuBen and his gorgeous art at Act2Art or on Facebook