Biltmore Estate Blanc de Blancs
Biltmore Estate Blanc de Blancs

Biltmore Estate Blanc de Blancs Methode Champenoise Brut 2006
Cost: $25

Biltmore Blanc de Noirs with turkey
Biltmore Blanc de Noirs with turkey

Nothing gets me in a festive, holiday mood faster than a good sparkling wine. And this is a very good sparkling wine, a party in a bottle. Only wine made in the Champagne region of France can be called Champagne, but Biltmore sparklers are made the French way. They hold their own with the best.

This is an interesting wine. The grapes are 100 percent Chardonnay, but they are grown in California’s Russian River Valley. Biltmore has other sparkling wines made with North Carolina grapes. They currently offer six sparkling wines, including a Blanc de Noir (with a pink tinge) that has always been a favorite of mine.

The wine is crisp, with high acidity. It has a spicy aroma with strawberry and lemon tastes. The finish is clean and tart. The pretty pale yellow color shows off the tiny bubbles. It’s made in the traditional Champagne way, with a secondary fermentation in the bottle. The wine spends 18-24 months in the bottle before disgorging and final corking.

This is a brut, which means it is slightly drier than sec sparkling wines. Serve it chilled, about 40-45 degrees.

Winery: Vines were planted in the mountains of Asheville, N.C. in 1971, and the winery opened in the Biltmore Estate in1985. The winery is housed in the estate’s former dairy barn, designed by Richard Morris Hunt, the architect of Biltmore House. It’s a beautiful building, easily seen on a self-guiding tour. Activities throughout the year include barrel tastings, cooking demonstrations, food and wine pairings and jazz and blues performances. The next time you visit Biltmore House, make sure to spend some time at the winery. It’s a fun, interesting place.

The winery’s French winemaker produces about 15 varieties of wine each year, totaling about 120,000 cases.

Turkey ready to serve.
Turkey ready to serve.

Goes with: We had it with our Thanksgiving turkey. There couldn’t be a better match. It covered all the complex tastes of a holiday meal: turkey, dressing, dumplings and sauerkraut, cranberry relish, mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetables and dessert. The nice thing about a sparkling wine at a holiday meal is you can use it for Mimosas the next morning, if you use a good Champagne stopper. I also had the wine with tacos and nachos, and it was a nice soothing alternative to the hot spices. It would be good with other spicy dishes, such as crawfish etouffee, or fish, oysters and soft cheeses.

Dry sparkling wines like this one go well with almost any food. I’m always surprised at how many people don’t include sparkling wines in their regular drinking habits. They think Champagne is only for special occasions. The truth is, any time you pop open a bottle of sparkling wine, it becomes a special occasion.The Biltmore Blanc de Blancs will put a smile on your face.

Turkey recipe: My pal Dan shared his recipe for beer butt turkey, so I thought I’d share my recipe for our holiday bird, which was very tasty. I’ve made turkey many different ways, including deep fried turkey, and this year’s was the best I can remember. You start out brining the turkey overnight. For the brine use about a gallon of water, a couple of quarts of vegetable stock, a handful of black peppercorns, a cup of kosher salt, 2 teaspoons of candied ginger, enough allspice berries to fill the palm of your hand, one apple sliced, one onion sliced, one cinnamon stick.

I line a large cooler with a big trash bag, put the turkey in the bag and fill the bag with the brine. Add more water if you need to. I close the bag, fill the cooler with ice and leave it all in the garage overnight. The next morning I took the turkey out of the brine, wiped it dry with paper towels and stuffed it with stuffing my mom used to make: crushed saltine crumbs, chopped celery, chopped green onions, chopped Italian parsley, two eggs, cracked pepper and water. I can never get enough of that stuffing.

This year I put the bird in a plastic cooking bag (dust the inside of the bag with flour first), cut a few slits in the top of the bag, tied it up and popped it in the oven. I cooked it at 500 degrees for 30 minutes and then at 350 degrees. My 16-pound turkey was done in about 3 1/2 hours. I was amazed at how well it turned out, nicely browned on top, moist and juicy inside, and no uncooked parts of the turkey.

I think it helped to start with a fresh turkey from the New York Butcher Shop. The brine also helped. We did that last year and the turkey was moist. The whole combination was a winner, and if I can remember it next year, we’ll do it the same way.

Turkey in cooking bag
Turkey in cooking bag
Thanksgiving dinner: turkey, stuffing, dumplings, saurkraut, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry relish, sugar snap peas, raw veggies, pickles, olives and more
Thanksgiving dinner: turkey, stuffing, dumplings, saurkraut, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry relish, sugar snap peas, raw veggies, pickles, olives and more
Pat and Michael with hats from their holiday poppers
Pat and Michael with hats from their holiday poppers

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