Episode 23: Alan Tardi, U.S. Ambassador to Prosecco Superiore

Alan Tardi

It’s all about bubbles on this edition of Crystal Palate’s Wine Country.  Our special guest this week is Alan Tardi the U.S. Ambassador for Prosecco and author of Champagne, Uncorked.

Alan is also the author of Romancing the Vine, Life, Love & Transformation in the Vineyards of Barolo and he is a regular contributor for the NYT, Wine Spectator and Decanter just to name a few of his many accolades and has also worked as a chef, sommelier and consultant for many restaurants in NYC and Italy.

While Prosecco is one of the most popular sparkling wines in the marketplace, it’s easy going with lots of luscious fruit and crisp acidity, but it’s often misunderstood and doesn’t quite get the respect it deserves especially for the higher-end single vineyard selections.

On the program, we are going to take a deep dive into Prosecco region of Italy, the grape, the regions and the extraordinary value from this part of the world, plus we’ll talk about the primary difference between Prosecco & Champagne.

2001 Giulio Ferrari Riserva

I have the great pleasure of participating in Protocol Wine Studio’s  #winestudio twitter program this month featuring the iconic sparkling wines of Ferrari. This week, it’s all about exploring the 2001 Giulio Ferrari Riserva.

When I looked at the intriguing tasting notes on the Ferrari website for the 2001 vintage, I couldn’t wait to pop the cork and indulge in a great glass of bubbly. The notes of balsam and white chocolate was all the inspiration I needed to dust off my mixer and make my decadently delicious rosemary, pistachio, white chocolate chip cookies with orange zest in an attempt to create an innovate and fun pairing.

Many people wouldn’t dare to pair a serious sparkling with a mere mortal cookie, but I took the plunge. This, my friends, is pure nirvana for your palate!

Here was my initial impression after my first bite of the sweet and savory cookie.

The first sip was filled with beautiful orange blossom, zesty citrus and oolong tea notes quickly followed by a crescendo of white chocolate and marzipan with toasted almonds mid-palate and a burst of rosemary with a honeyed creamy finish.

This was harmonious and a must try pairing!

Tasting Notes: 2001 Giulio Ferrari Riserva 

This wine has great structure and serious charm. Aromas of honeysuckle, orange blossom, citrus zest, candied ginger, cardamom, marzipan & a touch of herbs and toasted hazelnuts dance in your glass.

The palate is creamy and refined with notes of dried golden delicious apples, tropical fruit, poundcake and citrus zest followed by oolong spice and a long lingering finish.

Recipe: Rosemary, Pistachio, White Chocolate
Chip Cookies


2 1/4 cups organic all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda, 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar & 3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. orange blossom honey
2 large eggs
1 tbsp. orange zest
2 tsp. fresh rosemary (muddled in a mortar & pestle)
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup dry roasted pistachios


PREHEAT oven to 375° F. COMBINE flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add orange zest. Add orange blossom honey in a continuous stream while mixing on low. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Add the Rosemary from the mortar & pestle. Mix well. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto parchment paper & baking sheets. BAKE for 7 to 9 minutes or until golden brown. This is a modified recipe from Epicurious.com.

Chinese Food & Wine Pairings

Chinese food is perhaps one of the trickiest types of cuisine to pair with wine, but there are a few tried-and-true options that won’t disappoint. Chinese food covers the entire spectrum of flavors, from sweet and sour chicken to the slightly spicy General Tso’s chicken all the way to spicy Hunan beef with lots of dried chilis.

Since Chinese food is meant for sharing, there’s a very good chance you may have all of those flavors on your plate at the same time, which can greatly impact the wine in your glass. My top choice for versatility is an off-dry Riesling. The mouthwatering acidity is perfect with all the oil used in Chinese cooking and the lower alcohol in Riesling won’t exacerbate the spice in those hot dishes. In fact, it will provide a nice cooling agent for your palate.  A Gewurtztraminer can also work quite well with mild spices. Now, I know what you’re probably thinking – Riesling and beef? Yes, it can work quite well together, because we are taking all of the other flavors into considerations with this pairing.

A dry to off-dry rosé comes in next on my list for Chinese food pairings. The vibrant fruit flavors and refreshing acidity are a great bridge wine that works quite well with a myriad of flavors and foods. It has kind of a laid-back personality and won’t compete for top billing against your meal. Try the Von Buhl Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir) Rosé (SRP: $18) out of Germany. Von Buhl also makes an excellent Sekt (sparkling Riesling), which brings me to my next choice – sparkling wine.

A great sparkling wine with a touch of residual sugar like a German Sekt or Vouvray Demi-Sec from the Loire Valley of France are simply perfect. The saltiness in the cuisine brings out the fruit notes in the wine and the bubbles act as an intermezzo of sorts, gently cleansing your palate in between bites.

Recommended Producers (Everyday Rieslings)

High-Def Riesling, Mosel, Germany (SRP: $12)
Dr. Loosen “Dr. L” Riesling, Mosel, Germany (SRP: $13)
Kung Fu Girl Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, USA (SRP: $14)

Super Bowl Pairings

Beer may be the beverage of choice for the big game, but wine can add another dimension to all of those culinary treats.

To create some exciting Super Bowl pairings, keep things simple and budget friendly by sticking to three options. A dry sparkling, an off-dry white and a fruit forward full-bodied red will provide the perfect pairings for many common Super Bowl snacks.

One of my all time favorite pairings with fried food is sparkling wine. The bright acidity and bubbles provide the perfect foil for salty treats.  An off-dry white like a Riesling will cover the spectrum of seafood and spicy dishes and a hearty fruit forward red wine like a Zinfandel will work magic when paired with meaty, savory dishes.

Since this weekend is all about American football, here are a few patriotic wines (under $25) to have on hand for the big game that will pair perfectly with everything on your game day table!

SPARKLINGRecommended Producers: Gruet Brut Blanc de Blanc, Roederer Estate Brut & Gloria Ferrer Brut Blanc

  • Hot Wings w/Blue Cheese (Super spicy wings call for a sweeter sparkling)
  • Chips & Dip
  • Assorted Cheeses
  • Charcuterie
  • Potato Skins
  • Deviled Eggs
  • Popcorn


RIESLING – Recommended Producers: Eroica, Kung Fu Girl & Chateau Ste. Michelle

  • Shrimp
  • Nachos
  • Seven Layer Dip
  • Vinegar Based BBQ
  • Ham & Pineapple Pizza
  • Guacamole
  • Fruit Salads
  • Chicken Satay 


ZINFANDELRecommended Producers: Federalist, Sobon Estates & Hendry “HRW”

  • Meat Lovers Pizza
  • Burgers
  • Ribs
  • Short Rib Sliders
  • Roast Beef Sandwiches
  • Smoked Mozzarella stuffed Meatballs

It’s All About the Bubbles

It’s time to break out the bubbly! This is the time everyone dusts off their champagne flutes & coupes and pops open a cork or two to celebrate the season.While sparkling wine should certainly be a staple at any holiday party, I would encourage you to keep the corks popping all year long and discover some amazing pairings that will leave you wondering why you didn’t always have a bottle of bubbly on hand.

One of my favorite things about sparkling wine is how versatile it is with a wide range of foods which makes it the ultimate wine to have on hand for your next gathering.

I love to add a little bit of class to bar food. Everything from wings to chips to charcuterie has a perfect sparkling pairing. I love the way a great glass of bubbles acts like a squeeqee and cleanses the palate in between bites. It’s one of life’s simple pleasures.

Here you will find a few tips and a shopping guide to help take the mystery out of selecting that perfect bottle for your next celebration.

Let’s begin with the dryness scale for sparkling wine.  This will help you make a more educated decision and pick something that’s best suited for your palate.
Extra Brut/Grand Brut/Brut Zero – This label is going to be the driest end of the spectrum.  Typically these bone dry sparklings are best paired with food because of the bright acidity.  The following go in order from the next driest to the very sweetest:
  • Brut
  • Extra Dry
  • Dry
  • Sec
  • Demi-Sec
  • Doux
If you are new to sparkling wines, go for an extra dry. If you like your wine a little sweeter, go with a Demi-Sec. For a
great Demi-Sec pairing, grab a baguette, slice it about 1/4 inch thick, add gorgonzola, prosciutto and fig spread and voila you have an instant crowd pleaser!
Here are some great bubbles for every price point. Cheers!
Inexpensive: (Under $20)
  • Deligeroy Cremant de Loire Brut, Loire Valley, France – $12 
  • Montelliana Prosecco, DOC, Veneto, Italy – $12
  • Gruet Demi-Sec, Albuquerque, New Mexico – $16
  • Allimant Laugner Cremant d’Alsace Rose, Alsace, France – $18
  • Rosa Regale Brachetto d’Acqui, Piedmont, Italy – $20 (Perfect w/chocolate) 
  • Segura Viudas Cava, Brut Reserva Heredad, Spain – $20
  • Thibaut-Jannison, Blanc de Chardonnay, Charlottesville, Virginia – $20
Mid-Price: ($21-$40)
  • Trump Blanc de Blanc, Monticello, Virginia – $25 
  • J Brut Rose, Sonoma, California – $32
  • Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs, Napa, California – $38
  • Perrier Jouet, Grand Brut, Champagne, France  – $38
Premium: ($41-$60)
  • Nicolas Feuillatte Brut, Champagne, France 
  • Schramsberg Brut Rose, Napa, California – $42
  • Moet & Chandon Rose Imperial $48 
  • Bollinger Brut, Special Cuvee, Champagne, France – $60 
Veuve RoseSplurge ($60-100)
  • 2004 Laurent-Perrier Brut Millésimé Champagne, France – $60 
  • Veuve Clicquot “Ponsardin” Brut Rose $65
  • Pommery Brut, NV, Champagne, France – $70
Grand DameWhen you’re looking for the something over the top! ($100 & Over)
  • 1998, Veuve Cliquot, Le Grand Dame -$130
  • Dom Perignon, NV, Champagne, France – $135
  • 2005, Roederer Cristal, Champagne, France – $200



Sparkling & Rosés for Mother’s Day

Still searching for a great gift for Mom? Why not a beautiful bottle of bubbly for Mother’s Day brunch?  Or how about a sparkling rosé instead of that same bouquet of roses year after year!

After all flowers die, but sharing a great bottle with mom is an experience you’ll both remember. Here’s my top 5 sparkling wine suggestions for Mother’s Day. Another tip, buy a metallic sharpie and sign the bottle to create a keepsake for your mom to treasure.

Premium ($50-$75) 

Moet & Chandon Rosé Imperial

Veuve Cliquot Rosé

Something Special ($30-$50) 

Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut

2010 Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé

2010 Schramsberg Brut Rosé