There’s never a better time for bubbles than now. This celebratory sip shouldn’t be reserved for big days.
While Champagne is strictly produced in France in a protected region, many sparkling wines around the world utilize the same production methods, delivering an unparalleled experience while celebrating the local bounty.
In California there are a number of producers dedicated to delivering a truly gratifying experience. Mèthode Champenoise otherwise known as method traditionale is an art form that differs from other sparkling wines. The main difference between Mèthode Champenoise and other techniques like Charmat (utilized for Prosecco for instance) is the second fermentation in bottle that produces the fine bubbles called perlage.
While the birth of sparkling wine dates back nearly 300 years, California sparkling wine is a few decades old. One cannot talk about California sparkling wine without mentioning one of the pioneers, Hans Kornell who enjoyed a prolific period in the late 1950s and leading into the 1960s.
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Since then the category has come a long way with producers like Schramsberg coming into the picture in the mid-1960s with their Blanc de Blancs garnering global attention.
These high-quality sparkling wines sparked curiosity in the Champagne world and catapulted a handful of well-established producers to scope out the landscape and start operations in Northern California in the following decades.
Among the icons that anchored here and created a legacy, the list includes Louis Roderer, establishing Roederer Estate in Anderson Valley in 1982, Moët & Chandon, which in 1986 began producing Domaine Chandon and Champagne Taittinger, who started Domaine Carneros in 1987 in the Napa Valley.
Sparkling wine production has grown tremendously in popularity in the last years, inspiring a number of still wine producers to venture into a bubbly world with the help of inspiring winemakers like Keith Hock helping brands like ZD Wines and Poe to craft excellent examples.
Here a recap of some of my favorite California Sparkling wines enjoyed during the last few months, many shared by Stephen Goldberg in a recent tasting.
NV Paula Kornell Brut, California ($22). 80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir. This is the inaugural release from Paula Kornell, who pays homage to her father’s legacy, Hans Kornell, and celebrates her deep roots. Her wines are a real reflection of her personality and larger than life charisma. This is, without a doubt, bottled California sunshine with a lively festival of peaches and apricot balanced with a zesty lime acidity making it irresistible.
2017 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs, North Coast ($41). 100% Chardonnay. An icon that evokes many incredible memories, this wine consistently delivers a rich and luxurious experience full of marzipan, crisp Asian pear, and Meyer lemon that lives on forever.
NV ZD Wines 50th Anniversary Reserve Cuvée, Napa Valley ($90) 100% Pinot Noir. A worthy 50-year celebration wine produced with all care and attention to detail delivering a muscular and flavorful ride. This is a generous hug of layers of freshly baked phyllo dough, almond paste, and baked golden apple with holiday spice.
2015 Poe Sparkling Rosé Sonoma County ($42) 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Pinot Meunier. From Samantha Sheehan’s collection, this is a mouthwatering parade full of bright red fruit, dried rose petals, and baking spice tied in balanced zippy acidity, creating an elevated experience. Along with her vermouth collection and still wines she manages to hit it out of the park every time.
2016 Brick & Mortar Block House Vineyard Brut Rosé, Napa Valley ($45) 100% Pinot Noir. Power duo Alexis and Matt Ianconis crafted this fleshy and seductive with power and finesse driven by a freshly baked cherry pie with hints of rhubarb and hibiscus wrapped in exotic spices and cleansing acidity, a true gem.
2015 Frank Family Vineyards Brut Rosè Carneros, Napa Valley ($55). 90% Pinot Noir, 10% Chardonnay. Rich and Leslie Frank continue to carry the flag high from this estate that used to belong to Hans Kornell. Their sparkling wines are always plush and elegant and this is no exception. Gifted with a field of summer strawberry fields on the nose and wrapped in layers of orange peel and dried herbs.
2013 Roederer Estate L’Ermitage Brut, Anderson Valley ($55) 52% Chardonnay, 48% Pinot Noir. A serious wine with wisdom and tension gifted with high energy and finesse. A scrumptious nougat nose braided with a deep crisp green apple mid-palate and a racy finish.
2015 Domaine Carneros Estate Brut Cuvée, Carneros ($36). 53% Chardonnay, 47% Pinot Noir. A fun and rewarding rollercoaster of aromas and flavors led by fresh-cut Anjou pear, a kiss of green guava, and a blanket of savory herbs making it an ideal wine to pair with a number of dishes from burgers to cheese plates. Sassy and playful.
Sparkling wine is an all year round pleasure not only reserved for the holidays. Cheers to many things we celebrate during this interestingly challenging year. Until next time!
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