Thursday, November 24, 2011

Kill Devil Hills, Sand & Bubbles

I'm one of those guys that feel that celebrations and bubbles make a brilliant friendship. Our catching up with Desirée is certainly a celebration; so, it only made sense to bring along a bottle of sparkling fun.

Desirée has long loved bringing her kids down to the Outer Banks for family vacations and one of her favourite spots is Jockey's Ridge, the tallest natural sand dune on the East Coast. The acceptance of a suggested hike on the dunes was a no brainer. We might not have taken advantage of the possibility of sandboarding or handgliding, but then none of the folks that gravitated to those activities brought along a bottle of French fizz with them - at least not that we saw.

The concept of sipping bubbly on giant sand dunes is not a new one to Boo and I. One of my favourite wine memories is popping open a bottle of Champagne to watch the sun set from the top of a giant sand dune outside the oasis town of Liwa on the edge of the Arabian Desert. The dunes weren't quite as big here, but, at the same time, the penalties aren't probably as harsh if you're caught with your wine out in the sand in North Carolina as it would be in the Muslim, non-drinking world of Abu Dhabi.

996. N.V. Louis Bouillot - Perle d'Aurore Rosé Brut (Crèmant de Bourgogne AOC - France)

Many of you will know that it's illegal to call a sparkling wine "Champagne" if the wine isn't actually made in the small French region of Champagne - even if the wine is made using the same process called méthode traditionelle. That illegal bit even goes for sparkling wines made in other parts of France. Many other world regions have tried to overcome the inability to use the "C" word by creating their own sparkling wine brand. There's "Cava" in Spain, "Prosecco" in Italy and "Crémant" in much of the rest of France.

Louis Bouillot is a new producer to me; however, the company has been making sparkling wines since 1877. They currently produce 13 different Burgundy Crémants and 2 Cuvées de France (the difference being that the grapes for the latter designation can be sourced from regions outside of Burgundy).

This Brut Rosé is a blend of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Gamay Noir, the two traditional red grapes of Burgundy. The winemakers allow a short maceration of the crushed juice on the skins to get the brilliant hue. Following that, the wine is made in the méthode traditionelle with additional ageing on the lees (or spent yeast cells produced as the wine ages) to impart a more complex and intense flavour.

In general, a really great thing about Crémant wines is that you can get Champagne quality wine at a fraction of the price. The wine was a great perk for having hiked through the sand for about a half hour or so. Sitting back in the sand, the early fruit, followed by bright acidity on the finish was a lot more refreshing than the bottled water we'd been drinking up to that point. I didn't find the mousse or degree of bubbles in the wine to be that exciting but the occasion was another one for the books.

Other than the seasonal hurricanes, sand dunes and a memorial for the Wright Brothers and their Kitty Hawk flights, the Outer Banks is maybe best known for its trademark lighthouses. We didn't have time for the hour's drive down to the largest of the lighthouses, Cape Hatteras, but the twenty minutes to the Bodie Island lighthouse seemed reasonable. Having already polished off a bottle of bubbles before noon (it is a vacation after all), it's probably just as well that we weren't able to climb the lighthouse.

We did, however, decide that a little lunch was in order and, after a bit of a nature walk through the lighthouse's surrounding marsh, we dropped in to catch crabs at Dirty Dick's. A touch on the naughty side - and totally touristy - but having some crab while visiting OBX was high on Boo's and my wish list.

A little more relaxing than traversing New Orleans or treading carefully with family, I could get use to this.

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