It’s almost time to toast a new year. Or, perhaps, an opportunity to have a few drinks to ease yourself out of a difficult year.
The Incline’s Holiday Sweets and Spirits guide has focused on giving you the crème de la crème of Pittsburgh’s seasonal treats from locally produced liquors and beers to cookies and chocolate-covered pretzels.
But, that poses a problem for one holiday staple: champagne.
You can’t drink champagne that’s made in Pittsburgh … Because champagne can’t be made in Pittsburgh by definition. (For those who like to sip on their bubbly and not study it, in simple terms, champagne is called champagne because it comes from Champagne region of France and is produced following very specific guidelines.)
So, if you’re wanting to keep it entirely 412 while you ring in 2017, you will have to make some concessions. There isn’t a local Dom Perignon, per say, but there is no shortage of options to put something locally-made into your flutes.
Pittsburgh Winery’s White3 Blend
The first offering comes by way of Pittsburgh Winery in the Strip District. Called the White3 (white cubed), but known as the winery’s white blend, it’s a mix dry riesling and chardonnay with just a bit of sauvignon blanc.
It isn’t a bubbly, but it’ll have you feeling that way.
Tim Gaber, winemaker and owner of Pittsburgh Winery, says the White3 has broad appeal and finds it popular with visitors to the winery, even those that claim not to like white wine beforehand. He describes the White3 as “just off dry, with a little bit of sweetness — very approachable.” It pairs well with just about any sweet dessert.
The winery imports their grapes from California, but their wines are produced and barreled in Strip District.
Arsenal Cider House & Wine Cellar’s Picket Bone Dry Hard Cider
Since we’re on champagne alternatives, why not include something that falls a little farther from the tree? Shameless apple tree pun aside, ditching the traditional champagne for cider isn’t unheard of at New Year’s Eve or weddings to accommodate guests that can’t partake in alcohol.
To be very clear, Arsenal Cider House in Lawrenceville offers delicious hard apple cider. If you choose to toast with one of their hard ciders, you’re only shedding a few points of ABV.
The Cider House offerings have varying levels of sweetness and texture. If you’re not looking to stray too far away from champagne, your stockpile of daily rations should include the Picket Bone Dry Hard Cider.
Celine Roberts at City Paper described it as “delicious, dry while maintaining a touch of effervescence, almost like champagne. The flavor of the apples really shines through. If you love cider but cringe at the sugary stuff in bottles, this will quickly become a favorite.”
Narcisi Winery’s chardonnay
This last offering comes from a bit further from the heart of Downtown, but not by too, too much! Just about half-hour’s drive away lives the La Casa Narcisi Winery in Gibsonia.
Narcisi grows, harvests and produces their own wine grapes. For your New Year’s Eve party, try their chardonnay. On its site, the wine is described as: “A brief and soft oak aging period makes our Chardonnay very crisp, easy to drink, with light mineral tones, aromas of ripe apple, apricot, and the traditional Chardonnay buttery finish.”
You may not be popping the cork, but a visit to the vineyard is sure to impress. At the very least, it gives you something to talk about other than “I waited in line at the liquor store for an hour!”
Cheers to you, 2017.