Booze School – Champagne

C is for Champagne! 

All year long, Yelp KC (with the help of The LAB) has been hosting Booze School around Kansas City, each class focusing on a different type of liquor. The purpose is to provide a base level of information in a setting where people can feel safe to ask questions and learn about different liquors, wine, and beer.  

 The champagne class at Ca Va in Westport was so popular that it sold out in minutes. Luckily, Yelp opened a second class, held on September 7. Justin Norcross, who co-owns the champagne bar with chef Howard Hanna, ran the class beginning with an explanation of the three grades of champagne (or rather, sparkling wines): Pinot Noir, Pinot Meuniere, and Chardonnay.

Glass: #1
Located: New Mexico
Traits: light salmon color, toasty brioche note, apricot, citrus, fruit, and becomes bolder as it warms. 
Unlike with wine, smelling doesn’t play into the flavor of champagne. Champagne should be opened while cold (47* – 52*F) and tasted, and then should be tasted as it warms in order to enjoy all the flavors. 

The secret to opening a champagne bottle is that it should sound like a French woman passing gas, the underlying joke being that no one has ever heard a French woman pass gas, and if you do hear the bottle pop, you turn the other cheek. 

If a bottle of champagne gets away from you and starts bubbling over, tilt the bottle to a 45* angle to create an air pocket. This will cause the liquid to run down the bottle and not all over guests. 

Glass #2 – Spanish Cava
From: Avinyo
Located: Spain 
History: The family that made this champagne started out making cheap, poor-quality product with terrible grapes just to make a dollar while they saved the best wines and grapes for themselves. Eventually, someone pointed out that they had the ability to make a great sparkling wine and convinced them to start selling a real product. 

Justin and his staff are knowledgeable and passionate about sparkling wines and champagnes. Ca Va has a casual and laid-back vibe that makes the drinker feel comfortable and yet upscale at the same time. With a wide variety of bubbly and a French – inspired menu, its a small but genuine gem. 

While Chef Howard Hanna was working as a line cook in Paris, it was common for his bosses to ask “Ca va?” – an informal question equivalent to “How’s it going?” The appropriate response being “Ca va.” or, “It goes.”  With Hanna’s continued success here in Kansas City (owner and chef at The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange, along with co-owning, having a hand in, and influencing many Kansas City area restaurants), Justin explained that “it goes” – or rather, things are going well, which influenced the name of this gorgeous champagne bar.

Glass: #3 – Sparkling Rose
Located: California
Traits: Very salmon in color (as opposed to a bright pink), fruit-foward, peachy, strawberry, and cranberry notes. Typically when champagne is made, the skin of the grape is peeled off, but if you leave the grape leaves on the vine, it develops the rose color. 
Glass: #4 – Cremant de Limoux
From: Domaine Collin
Located: Southern France
Traits: Worked with Louis Roederer for a long time. In Le Mieu the temperature doesn’t get as hot, so the grapes that grow there are tight, crisp, citrusy, and dry, making an ideal sparkling wine for hot weather. 

Glass: #5 – Champagne
From: Champagne, France
Traits: 100% chardonnay grapes that make a beautiful champagne (Justin’s favorite). 
We tried the true champagne outside on Ca Va’s bricked patio while Justin demonstrated the saber parlor trick. The class of 20 (including Mayor Sly James), left with a much stronger understanding of both the traits and the making and producing of both sparkling wines and champagnes. Justin and his wife were wonderful hosts – if you’re looking for somewhere to get away and grab a glass of bubbly and a cheese platter, look no further than Westport. 

Want to learn an easy and impressive party trick? Here’s Justin’s brief lesson on how to sabre a champagne bottle: 

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