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Sparkling Wines and Savory Bites for a New Year's Celebration

Easy, tasty recipes and 16 suggested Champagnes and sparkling wines to help ring in 2011

Laurie Woolever
Posted: December 20, 2010

Another year has come and gone, and it will soon be New Year's Eve, where sparkling wine and substantial food in bite-sized portions will help you usher out the old and welcome in the new in perfect style. The following hors d'oeuvres recipes, both twists on some of our favorite hot appetizers, will make fine matches with any of the recently rated Champagnes and sparkling wines listed below. Here's to a great 2011!

Smoky Artichoke Dip

Adding pimenton, the spicy paprika from Spain, to this beloved hot dip gives it an elegant smoky flavor without adding the kind of heat that would overpower the wine. Chopping the artichokes into very small pieces makes it easier to create one-bite appetizers.

• 2 9-ounce packages artichoke hearts, thawed, or about 1 pound marinated artichokes, rinsed, drained and patted dry with paper towels
• 3 tablespoons best-quality extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
• 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
• 2 teaspoons pimenton (smoked Spanish paprika, available in specialty stores; may substitute 1 teaspoon paprika and 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or chile powder)
• 1 teaspoon celery seed
• 1/2 cup mayonnaise
• 1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
• 1 cup grated pecorino cheese
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Finely chop the artichoke hearts, or pulse for about 15 seconds in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 425° F.

3. In a sauté pan, warm 2 tablespoons of the oil and stir in the onion and garlic. Cook over medium-low heat until soft and fragrant but not browned. Stir in the pimenton and celery seed and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir into the bowl with the artichokes. Fold in the mayonnaise and cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste, bearing in mind that the pecorino is already quite salty.

4. Turn the mixture into a baking dish, drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of oil, and bake for about 25 minutes, until bubbling and slightly crusty on top. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes. Serve with crackers, on grilled baguette slices, or spooned or piped into mini pastry tart shells that have been baked and allowed to cool. Makes about 3 cups.

Angels and Devils on Horseback

This classic British appetizer duo is named for the edges of the bacon, which resemble "wings." Marinating the oysters adds a layer of flavor, and substituting cream cheese for the traditional blue cheese stuffing ensures a solid wine match.

• 2 dozen small oysters, shucked (the "angels")
• 1/3 cup Champagne vinegar
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
• 2 dozen pitted dates or prunes, plumped in warm water for about 15 minutes and drained (the "devils")
• 2 ounces cream cheese, softened
• 24 strips bacon or pancetta
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Equipment
• 48 toothpicks or disposable wooden skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes before cooking

1. In a small, non-reactive bowl, combine the oysters, vinegar, oil and garlic and toss gently to combine.

2. Using a small spoon or pastry piping bag, fill each date or prune with cream cheese. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

3. In a large sauté pan, working in batches if necessary, cook the bacon until it is about halfway cooked but not crisp—it must remain flexible to be wrapped around the oysters and dried fruits. Remove the bacon from the pan and allow to drain on paper towels. Cut each slice of bacon crosswise into two equal-sized strips.

4. Heat the broiler or heat the oven to 500° F. Remove the oysters from the marinade and pat dry. Season them with salt and pepper. Wrap each oyster in one half strip of bacon and secure with a toothpick or skewer. Wrap each date or prune in one half strip of bacon, making sure to cover the hole, and secure with a toothpick or skewer.

5. Arrange the bacon-wrapped oysters and dates on parchment or foil-lined baking sheets and broil or roast for about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, turn each piece over and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes, until bacon is crisp on all sides. Serve hot. Makes 48 pieces.

Note: The following list is a selection of wines from recently rated releases.

CHAMPAGNE

CHARLES ELLNER Brut Champagne Réserve NV Score: 92 | $45
A baked apple pie flavor—with all the ripe apple, pastry crust, nutmeg, anise and cinnamon notes—runs through this well-meshed Champagne, which is enlivened by fresh, almost lightly chalky acidity and good cut overall, with a smoky finish. Drink now through 2016. 20,000 cases made. —A.N.

LALLIER Brut Champagne Grande Réserve NV Score: 92 | $55
This is rich, with a viscosity buoying its honey, toast, peach and nascent coffee flavors. The vibrant structure keeps it all balanced and drives the lingering finish. Drink now through 2014. 20,000 cases made. —B.S.

DUVAL-LEROY Brut Champagne NV Score: 91 | $45
There's a creamy edge to the quince, biscuit, honey and ginger flavors in this well-cut Champagne, which help to balance the firm acidity. Vibrant and expressive, with a zesty finish. Drink now through 2014. 40,000 cases made. —A.N.

AYALA Brut Champagne Majeur NV Score: 90 | $40
A creamy, opulent style, offering honey, apple tart and grapefruit notes, with hints of roasted nut and coffee. This has the structure to stay persistent and fresh, with a crisp, chalky finish. Drink now. 41,665 cases made. —B.S.

ANDRÉ CLOUET Brut Champagne Grande Réserve NV Score: 89 | $49
Fresh, citrusy acidity winds through this wine, enlivening the biscuit, blackberry and blossom notes and driving the spicy intensity through to the tangy finish. Drink now. 10,000 cases made. —A.N.

GARDET Brut Champagne Pol Gardere NV Score: 88 | $28
Well-defined, with chalky acidity and flavors of gingersnap, fresh orange zest and spring blossoms. Modest finish. Drink now. 6,500 cases made. —A.N.

OTHER SPARKLING WINES

MUMM NAPA Brut Napa Valley Prestige NV Score: 90 | $20
Crisp and elegantly styled, with floral apple and yeasty spice aromas that lead to layered flavors of baked pear, citrus and creamy vanilla. Drink now. 125,000 cases made. —T.F.

ROEDERER ESTATE Brut Anderson Valley NV Score: 89 | $23
Crisp and refreshingly minerally, offering tart Gala apple and lemon aromas and focused flavors of yeasty citrus and anise. A hint of cherry lingers on the finish. Drink now through 2013. 80,000 cases made. —T.F.

DOMAINE CHANDON Brut California Classic NV Score: 88 | $22
Crisp and lively, with apple and spicy anise aromas and citrus, kiwifruit and vanilla flavors. Drink now. 350,000 cases made. —T.F.

GLORIA FERRER Brut Sonoma County Sonoma NV Score: 88 | $20
This bubbly bursts with fresh apple and citrus fruit and lively spicy lemon, tart pear and anise flavors that finish with a clean note. Drink now. 52,669 cases made. —T.F.

J Cuvée 20 Russian River Valley NV Score: 88 | $20
Vibrant and fresh, with floral apple and anise aromas and crisp yet creamy pear and spicy yeast flavors. Drink now. 22,800 cases made. —T.F.

SCHARFFENBERGER Brut Mendocino County NV Score: 88 | $19
Crisp and light on its feet, with fresh and creamy citrus and raspberry aromas and supple tropical fruit and anise flavors that finish with a note of minerality. Drink now. 25,000 cases made. —T.F.

DOMAINE STE. MICHELLE Brut Columbia Valley NV Score: 87 | $12
Bright and lively, featuring delicate apple and floral aromas and flavors that echo nicely against fine bubbles. Drink now. 191,540 cases made. —H.S.

MIONETTO Extra Dry Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore NV Score: 87 | $16
This balanced, creamy version offers rich flavors of baked apple, pastry, lemon curd and toast, with a modest, frothy finish. Drink now. 64,000 cases made. —A.N.

KORBEL Extra Dry California NV Score: 86 | $12
Crisp and succulent, with lemon sorbet aromas leading to slightly sweet vanilla, apricot and spice notes. Drink now. 235,000 cases made. —T.F.

JAUME SERRA Extra Dry Cava Cristalino NV Score: 85 | $10
This light-bodied cava finds balance between its citrusy acidity and honeyed flavors of ripe pear, pastry and kumquat. Creamy and well-textured, with a juicy finish. Drink now. Tasted twice, with consistent notes. 50,000 cases made. —A.N.

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