Another thread prompted me to think that we have not opined on the state of sparkling wine made in California in some time. I’ve had hit and miss experiences over maybe 35 years but not enough to form an opinion on who makes exceptional wine versus the just delicious or quaffable.
Many fond memories of Domaine Mumm Blanc de Noirs, and I remember a 1981 Piper Sonoma that tasted like it would last forever. Some great Gloria Ferrer and a good Domaine Carneros, maybe some Domaine Chandon in the 1980s… Recently a mixed bag at Iron Horse, some very good Ultramarine but I know there are other “experiments” out there that are worth trying. Any recommendations for an Exceptional California Sparkler? Any “vintage” wines worth aging?
Roederer estate brut is a great value. Their rose is even better. The vintage Roederer l’ermitage is worth cellaring. All of these drink very closely to champagne.
Domaine Carneros is worth a look, I’ve been impressed with their NV rose. But I bought a few bottles of their flagship La Reve and it didn’t deliver anywhere near the price point. I wrote “powerful with almond extract, pear and a mix of sweetness and acid. This wine doesn’t resemble champagne or any sparkling wine I’ve ever had.” I’d be happy to try it again from someone else’s bottle.
I listened to a podcast from (I think) the commercial manager at Roederer and they seem to be taking their Champagne AOC up a notch on the price/prestige level (collection 242 or whatnot is $50ish) and are expecting their California sparkly to be their entry level wine ($25ish).
Kind of surprising to me, but given how good Estate is, understandable. It’s our favorite among the NV local ones.
Scharffenberger is also now made by the same team, priced a few bucks lower, but not seen everywhere. It’s the old Pacific Echo brand, that has been rebranded back to its original name.
Schramsberg is great too, but generally costs as much as real NV Champagne AOC, at least in my area.
Loubud is a sparkling project by Laura Roach who is the asst. winemaker at Sanford down in Santa Rita Hills. She gets Pinot from Spear & Cebada vineyards for BdN (Cebada for rosé as well) & Chard from Sanford & Benedict. They are about $35-45/bottle on her 20% off tier for 2 cases/year - the 1 case/year is 15% off. The rosé is the largest lot at I think about 5-6 barrels. The S&B BdB is something like 144 bottles, others are sub 300.
Caraccioli makes their sparkling from their SLH Escolle Vineyard doing mostly a brut cuveé & rosé with some vintages having a 0 dosage/nature. They recently completed/moved into their own space (their old asparagus packing shed converted to a winery) so it will be interesting to see with more room how they develop the sparkling program. They have sparkling specific clone blocks in the vineyard and take a lot of the right cues from Champagne.
Ultramarine I’ve been able to score an allocation over the last 2 years or so. My experience with the bottles before getting on the list were about 5-6 years and typically thought they were pretty tightly wound but could tell the potential. At Passionfish here in Pacific Grove we were able to get a 2012 rosé for $120 off their list (they’re known for a very low markup) and it confirmed that the 2016/17s I have sitting in the cellar now I am in no rush to open.
Odonata Winery here outside of Salinas has a few interesting sparkling wines. Full disclosure, I am very good friends with Denis, but I can objectively say that I like them as we often do total blinds among other sparklings & stills. He makes a BdB from Caraccioli’s Escolle Vineyard but also sparkling out of Sangiovese (rosé), Grenache (technically a red), Riesling (SLH), Albariño & Pinot (rosé).
A random thing I tried was Paula Kornell who (I’m not sure how much of this is marketing fluff/spin) is doing method champenoise Napa Valley blanc de noirs & a California sparkling inspired by growing up around the family winery, Hanns Kornell Champagne Cellars. Interestingly enough the “blanc de noirs” is listed as 70% Pinot & 30% Chard (Carneros) with the “CA Sparkling” being the ratio flipped from “cool sites around California”. They’re not too pricy, the labels are nice (great if you’re giving it as a gift I think) & what I have had were solid in terms of taste.
Ultramarine can be outstanding, and they’re definitely age-worthy. They occasionally release late disgorged versions that are even better. They’re getting harder to source. Michael Cruse, the winemaker, also releases some nice sparklers under the Cruse Wine Company. For those, I’d drink the Valdiguié Pétillant Naturel and the St. Laurent Pétillant Naturel young. I think the BdB and BdN would last, but haven’t tried any with any significant age, so it’s a guess.
Another outstanding sparkler from Sta Rita Hills is Wenzlau Vineyard Cuvée L’Inconnu Estate Blanc de Blanc. After tasting their still wines at the vineyard over a decade ago, Cédric Bouchard encouraged them to make a sparkler. They’re bottled without dosage, and I think they will age beautifully. They can be ordered from the winery, and they’re amongst my favorite sparklers from outside Champagne.
I recently had Steorra brut which I thought was pretty good for the price. Haven’t had Rhys sparkling(perpetual reserve) but the general consensus seem to be positive toward them(not sure about the bdb, I passed the allocation on that one considering the price).