It’s Valentines’ Day and time to clink and drink some bubbly with the one you love. Besides being delicious, sparkling wines seem to make every occasion festive. For the record, only sparkling wines produced in the Champagne region of France are legally allowed to be called “Champagne,” but for now I'll be focusing on the numerous fantastic sparkling wines produced right here in Northern California. We're lucky, not only can we drink wonderful California bubblies at reasonable prices, but we can visit these fine wineries to sample the wines onsite. Enclosed below are some fine sparklers to sample with most available at major retail locations.
Sonoma County’s Gloria Ferrer produces some excellent wine and in fact, their 2006 Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs Carneros just won the best sparkling wine in America at the recent 2012 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. (I was one of the judges.) It’s a creamy, smooth and tasty sparkler at a great price. Schramsberg’s luscious Blanc de Blancs (100% Chardonnay) exhibits beautiful fl avors of green apple and pear, with slight nuttiness, and goes down clean as a mountain stream. It’s certainly one of California’s best. On the other hand, Schramsberg’s Blanc de Noirs is a complex, medium-bodied sparkling wine. Made primarily from Pinot Noir grapes, this rich and delicious wine is more masculine than most.
Healdsburg’s J Vineyard & Winery’s Vintage Brut LD is an intriguing blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes exhibiting lovely citrusy notes and tiny bubbles. J’s Rose sparkler now comes packaged in a sleek clear bottle, showing off its feminine strawberry, orange and cherry notes. Domaine Chandon’s engaging Etoile off ers lemon zest tartness with crisp bubbles and fine finish. Mendocino County’ graceful Roederer Estate Brut is a medium bodied, supple, elegant wine worth twice the price. One of my faves is the crisp, straw colored Mumm Napa Valley DVX. Its toasty fl avors arrive on the palate in perfect balance and leave with a smile and lingering finish. Domaine Carneros’s Le Rêve Rose is an award winning, extraordinary, expensive wine worthy of a special occasion.
Madame Lilly Bollinger, heiress to the French Bollinger Champagne company, famously said, “I only drink champagne when I'm happy, and when I'm sad. Sometimes I drink it when I'm alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifl e with it if I am not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it—unless I'm thirsty.” Such good advice applies to California sparklers too. Ladies and gentlemen, those bubbles are waiting.
Domaine Carneros: A Frenchstyled Chateau overlooking Napa’s Carneros region. Sample the Le Rêve! domainecarneros.com.
Domaine Chandon: This Yountville winery includes a Michelin-starred restaurant. A classic place to enjoy delicious bubblies. chandon.com.
Gloria Ferrer: A popular spot on the Sonoma side of Carneros, a Spanish-styled winery on Highway 121 with many products to sample. gloriaferrer.com.
J Vineyard & Winery: A Russian River AVA urban-inspired locale to taste a fine array of sparkling wines. Check out The Bubble Room. jwine.com.
Mumm Napa Valley: On Silverado Trail with spectacular views, one of the most pleasurable tasting experiences anywhere, dog-friendly patio. mummnapa.com.
Roederer Estate: In Mendocino’s Anderson Valley, an understated yet lovely stop along Highway 128. Magnificent wines, knowledgeable staff. roedererestate.com.
Schramsberg: This venerable winery located off of Highway 29 in Calistoga is a must visit. 120 year old hand-dug caves, superb wines. schramsberg.com.