Whether you want to toast the season or ring in the new year, at some point, you'll probably pop a cork in the next few days. I'm no expert but I do know what I like. And what I like lately is pink. When it comes to sparkling wines or beautiful Champagne, I have quite a passion for pink. Not all of my selections are Rose' but quite a few are. Don't let this scare you. These are as delicious as they are beautiful. I know just how intimidating buying anything bubbly can be. With that in mind, here are my top picks for champagne and sparkling wines.

Champagne and Sparkling Wine Buying Guide

Most are affordable, some are a little pricey.... let your budget and your menu be your guide. Cheers! Happy New Year!


A. Margaine NV Rose’ Brut Champagne: (Non-Vintage) One of my favorites, but perhaps not so easy to find since only 600 or so cases were produced. A very delicious and extremely high quality Rose’. About $49. If you cannot find this one, anything they produce will make you very happy.

Champagne Aubry Brut Premier Cru Jouy-Les-Reims: This is my go-to when I want something special. Perfect for a toast or aperitif. Hint of apple and cocoa. Was delicious with chocolate. Let it warm slightly, don’t serve it too chilled. About $39 and well worth it.

Bailly Lapierre Rose’ Brut Cremant de Bourgogne: Sparkling wines made in the Burgundy region most closely resemble Champagne but can be a much better value. This one is no exception. Made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, this fresh, light-bodied dry sparkling wine with a little hint of strawberry is festive and fun. About $17.


Scharffenberger Mendocino County Brut Made in the traditional Champagne method in California, this bubbly has a slight flavor of vanilla and perhaps a little taste of toast or baked bread and pairs perfectly with rich creamy cheese, and fresh fruits. Made of approximately two-thirds Chardonnay and one-third Pinot Noir. About $24.

Gruet Rose’ Brut: Very cherry or berry in flavor and in color. This rose’ sparkling wine is perfect for brunch or lunch, but it is also a nice opening act for a dinner party or celebration. Gruet is bottled in Albuquerque, New Mexico which is very surprising and so is this wine. Very delicious and affordable at about $16.

Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rose’: Delicious with pizza, pasta, grilled salmon and BBQ chicken, this versatile blush pink sparkling wine is perfect for paring with food on a warm summer evening. Serve it well chilled. About $20.

Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs (any vintage is good. I’ve had the 2005 and 2007) This chardonnay based brut (dry) sparkling wine was famously used by President Nixon at the “Toast to Peace” in Beijing, China. Dry and crisp with the noticeable flavors of green apple, lemon, and pineapple. Perfect with shellfish- oysters in particular. Also good with Gouda or other hard cheese. About $36


Casteller Cava Brut: From the Iberia region of Spain, this Cava, or Spanish sparkling wine is fresh and crisp; it is best to drink it well chilled. You’ll taste a hint of strawberry so it is perfect to blend with juice for a Mimosa and wonderful with Manchego or other Spanish cheese. Very drinkable, very affordable. About $12.

Freixenet Brut de Noirs: This Cava is just perfect if you only want to serve one type of sparkling wine for a large party. It’s very affordable, completely drinkable, and has a beautiful salmon-pink color and subtle vanilla aroma. A great bargain at $10.


NV Mionetto “Luxury Collection” Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore: Crisp apple notes and soft pear undertones make this Prosecco one you can serve with just about anything. Easy to find and very well priced at $19 per bottle. Food & Wine's Ray Isle had this one on his 2014 list of favorite sparkling wines so you can bank on it.

Pizzolato Fields Prosecco Brut: I love Prosecco and have rarely tried one I did not like. This one is from Whole Foods, so I know you can find it. It’s from the Veneto region of Italy from 100% certified organic grapes. You’ll taste some light, fruity flavors of peach, maybe lemon along with a little honey. This is nice for a late, lazy afternoon, as an aperitif, or with brunch mixed with any fruit juice. Refreshing, not overly sweet, and a bargain at $12.


Reginato CJR Celestina Rose of Malbec: I fell in love with Argentina many years ago but have never really cared much for the sparkling wines… until this one. Made in Mendoza, the wine making region of Argentina, this sparkling Malbec is almost cherry in color and taste. It’s dry but fresh and totally delicious. I found it at Central Market in Dallas but it may be difficult to find. Grab a case if you do. About $18.

The very best way to buy sparkling wine or Champagne is to try them at a tasting and make notes about what you liked so you can reference them later. I was lucky enough to attend a tasting with Ray Isle from Food & Wine magazine where we sampled about 20 different wines in an afternoon. Local wine stores, Whole Foods, culinary schools, and cooking events will often have tastings hosted by experts. Look for the events in the paper or search online. It's a fun time- a great way to spend the afternoon.

One of my favorite ways to serve bubbles is to set up a tasting table with an assortment of fruit, cheese, and crackers. Let guests graze and sample and ask them to write down their tasting notes on a card for each bottle sampled. After an hour or so, read the winemaker notes and compare to the guests' comments.


This Slow-Roasted Pork recipe is one of my favorite recipes for entertaining because you can do so much with it. You can serve it over creamy, cheesy grits or put it into tortillas with a squeeze of lime to make street tacos. Best of all, you can make it ahead and it is super inexpensive to feed a big crowd. Get my party plan for a DIY Taco Bar where guests have a variety of condiments and serve themselves. Set it and forget it... nothing easier for game day, tailgating, a Super Bowl party, or New Year's Day.

My Slow-Roasted Chipotle Pork is one of the most delicious and easiest recipes I have to feed a big crowd. You can also cook it in your slow cooker but I usually put mine in my cast-iron Dutch oven. (Photos by Arden Photography)

PREP TIME: 1 hour     COOK TIME: 3 1/2-4 hours depending on size



 1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt

1 ½  tablespoons chipotle powder  **

1 pork shoulder roast (Boston Butt) about 3-1/2 -4 pounds

2 dozen small corn tortillas***

2 limes, cut into wedges

1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro, optional


Before you plan to cook the pork, take it out of the refrigerator for 15 minutes. In a small bowl, mix together kosher salt and chipotle powder and rub in into the pork, being sure to cover the entire surface of the meat with the mixture. Put the pork in heavy covered cooker, Dutch oven, or roasting pan. Allow it to sit for one hour before you put it in the oven.  

 Place in the oven. Turn the heat to 275 degrees.  Cook until the port falls apart when you press it with the back of a fork—approximately 3-1/2 to 4 hours or about an hour per pound.  Remove it from the oven and let it rest covered for 15 minutes. (Of course, you can also cook this in your Crock-Pot or slow cooker,)

For the tortillas: Heat the tortillas on a medium-hot griddle, turning them frequently, until they are warmed through and soft (or heat them in the microwave covered with a damp paper towel).  Wrap them in a towel and place in a basket.  Transfer the pork to a large serving platter and use tongs or two forks to shred into chunks.  Add the lime wedges to the platter, place the cilantro in a small serving bowl and serve immediately, with the warm tortillas on the side.

To fill the tortillas, double them up so they don’t tear apart; place one on top of another on a plate, spoon some of the pork on top, squeeze a little lime juice over the pork, sprinkle some cilantro on top and fold in half.

 ** McCormick brand chipotle powder is what I use.  If you can’t find the powder, look for the whole dried chilies and grind them.  If you can’t find that, use the canned chipotles in adobo sauce and puree them in a blender.

 *** Tip: Get fresh, homemade tortillas at a favorite restaurant! Cheaper and better!


Print Friendly and PDF


August 10th is National S'mores Day... and in celebration of that summertime treat, here are a few of my favorite ways to enjoy them and you won't even need to build a fire for some of these versions!

Create a S'mores Bar for a party, wedding, or simple backyard fun...

Create a S'mores Bar for a party, wedding, or simple backyard fun...

Make Indoor S'mores for any occasion: family game night, movie night, or an overnight party for the kids. They keep well once cooled and wrapped and make a great gift.

Make Indoor S'mores for any occasion: family game night, movie night, or an overnight party for the kids. They keep well once cooled and wrapped and make a great gift.


Why wait for a campfire or fire for that matter to make up a batch of S'mores? I have perfected Indoor S'mores and I could not wait to share them with you! Perfect for a party or even just a night in front of the tv, make some of these up for the best-ever comfort food treat. They don't go soggy so you can make them for a picnic or take them to a party as long as you keep them in a cool spot. Make some up and let me know what you think!


1 box of Graham crackers

1 bag of mini-marshmallows

Nutella Chocolate Hazelnut spread

Fill up sheet pans with Graham crackers. Spread each with a thin layer of Nutella. Put 6-7 mini marshmallows on top of each. Put under the broiler for about 2 minutes. Watch to make sure they get golden brown. Take them out and let them cool slightly. Make sandwiches by pressing two together. Eat right that moment or let them cool completely and wrap each with plastic wrap. Keep cool until serving time but do not chill them in the fridge or the cracker will get soggy.


Fudgey-Choco Pops recipe below*

20 mini-marshmallows

1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs

Small plastic or paper cups

Popsicle sticks

In the bottom of a plastic cup, put a small amount of the graham cracker crumbs, about 1 teaspoon for each cup. Add about 1-2 tablespoons of the chocolate mixture and 4 marshmallows, top with another  teaspoon of the chocolate and use a spoon to press the chocolate into the marshmallows. Tap the cup on the counter to make a dense layer. Continue layers as necessary to fill the cup, leaving 1/4" at the top. Allow to set up for at least 30 minutes and add a popsicle stick to each cup. Allow to freeze for at least 4 hours.

These S'mores Popsicles are very simple to make and taste just like their namesake!

These S'mores Popsicles are very simple to make and taste just like their namesake!


1 cup water

2.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped ( you can sub cocoa- just add 1 tablespoon butter if you do)

1/3 cup sugar

pinch salt

1/3 cup milk (use whole or 2%)

1 T. heavy cream (or you can use half and half)

1/2 t. vanilla

1/8 t. instant coffee (or you can use leftover strong coffee)

Put the chopped chocolate, sugar, and salt in a saucepan over low heat. Whisk in the water, a little at a time as the chocolate melts and the sugar dissolves. Once the chocolate has completely melted, remove from heat. Whisk in the coffee, vanilla, milk, and cream. Chill and cool completely.

And if you want to build a campfire, offer your guests lots of options with my S'MORES BAR!

Simple and delicious... make a S'mores bar for your next get-together so guests can create their own special dessert!

Simple and delicious... make a S'mores bar for your next get-together so guests can create their own special dessert!