What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 17

La Crema's Brut Rose is the perfect sip for a romantic dinner.
La Crema’s Brut Rose is the perfect sip for a romantic dinner.

La Crema Sparkling Brut Rose

A lovely pale pink-salmon in hue, the La Crema Sparkling Brut Rose Russian River Valley ($45) epitomizes Valentine’s Day in a glass.

Girly yet sophisticated, it fairly bursts with bright strawberries and raspberries with just a twinge of ginger on the finish. Crisp and zingy with plenty of acidity, it’s a blend of 65 percent Pinot Noir and 35 percent Chardonnay.

This nonvintage sparkling wine, of which I received a sample, is right at home, be it at a romantic holiday dinner or a casual backyard get-together. It’s sure to make any occasion feel that much more festive.

It’s available on the La Crema site, Safeway, and Marketview Liquor.

Cheers: Did you know that La Crema was founded in 1979 in Sonoma County, when most wineries in California were focusing on Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, and turning a blind eye to Pinot Noir? It took the late-great winemaker Jess Jackson and his wife Barbara Banke, founders of Kendall-Jackson Winery, to shine a spotlight on Burgundian-style Pinot Noir with a cool climate, single-vineyard focus with their La Crema wines.

Lagunitas Hoppy Refresher

What has hops, brewer’s yeast, but no alcohol? And isn’t beer or even non-alcoholic beer?

Meet Lagunitas Hoppy Refresher by the clever folks at that legendary Petaluma brewing company.

This uncanny, clear beverage pours with a thick foamy head just like beer, as I found when trying sample bottles. But it doesn’t try to mimic the taste of beer whatsoever.

It's made with hops, but isn't beer at all.
It’s made with hops, but isn’t beer at all.

Instead, it is its own thing — akin to sparkling water in texture and weight on the palate. It’s quenching and refreshingly dry, with a moderate hoppy bitterness on the finish and unexpected bursts of mango, orange and grapefruit on the palate.

The R&D team at Lagunitas put their “hop chops” to work over a year’s worth of experimentation to come up with this distinctive beverage that has zero calories, fat, sodium, carbohydrates, and gluten.

A pack of four 12-ounce bottles ($6.99) is available at Safeway, Whole Foods, BevMo!, and Total Wine & More.

Cheers: I’ll admit that while I’ve tried quite a few non-alcoholic beers and wines, I wouldn’t go out of my way for them, as I’ve found so many just lacking in flavor, complexity, and body. However, I’d actually buy the Hoppy Refresher on my own. Honestly, I was shocked at how much I liked this sip that’s just plain delicious in its very own way.

Decoy Brut Cuvee

From the Napa Valley’s Duckhorn Vineyards comes Decoy wines (but of course!) with its debut Brut Cuvee Sparkling Wine with an eye-catching duck decoy on the label.

A blend of 49 percent Pinot Noir, 47 percent Chardonnay, and 4 percent Pinot Meunier, it’s crafted in the traditional methode champenoise way.

This spritely bubbly, of which I received a sample, offers up brioche, baked apple, lemon, and orange on the taste buds along with a slight metallic note. With a 90-point score from Wine Spectator and Wine.com’s Wilfred Wong, this $25 bottle offers up a great way to enjoy a quality sparkling wine at a relatively modest price.

Find it on the Decoy site, Wine.com, and Total Wine & More.

Cheers: The label’s decoy duck is based on one carved by the late Richard Janson during the 1930s, whose handmade decoys are revered in North America. The Richard “Fresh Air” Janson Bridge, which crosses Sonoma Creek on Highway 37, was named for him, too. He earned his nickname because of his love for sleeping outdoors on the deck of fishing boats in Alaska, no matter how harsh the weather.

More: What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 14

And: What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 15

And: What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 16

And: What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 18

And: What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 19

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