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Dazzling Sparkling Wines

for Any Occasion

By W. Peter Hoyne

While it may seem a bit unusual to be in a celebratory mood this New Year’s given the pandemic, there is much to celebrate with the passing of 2020. As this year of challenges comes to a close, there is a vision of more prosperous times ahead with vaccines on the horizon and an eventual easing of restrictions. We have embraced spending more time dining in at home while sharing a special closeness with our family. What we are looking for is some sparkle in our lives and there is a plethora of wine buying choices from Champagne, Prosecco, Cavas and other bubbly.

Worldwide consumption of sparkling wine during Covid-19 has shifted from restaurants and the hospitality sector to the individual residence. Nielsen data has shown that there was an increased demand in off-premise sales for sparkling wines during the summer months (Memorial Day through Labor day) of 2020. Sparkling wine sales outdistanced table wines, increasing 33.3% relative to the same period last year. Wine consumption remains the strongest among Boomers, followed by Gen X and then Millennials. While Prosecco was up 34.4% in summer, champagne sales skyrocketed 65.1% with the luxury category making the largest gains. Online shopping has made wine buying more accessible and social media has created a wine culture that is now more approachable.

Although some Champagne and sparkling wines can be a bit pricy, there is an ample supply of affordable bubbly that can easily fit into the weekly budget. Look outside of the Champagne region of France to other parts of the world for distinguished options. Spain is well recognized for their effervescent Cavas originating from the Penedes region of Catalonia near Barcelona. Some of the finest Prosecco hails from the vineyards in the hills of Cartizze in Valdobbiadene in the Veneto region of northern Italy. Germany has their Sekt while even England has entered the market with their own rendition of British bubbles. Quality-driven sparklers from Willamette Valley in Oregon, Anderson Valley, Russian River Valley in Sonoma, Napa and Carneros all have a range of gratifying solutions. With cooking and dining in at home becoming the new norm, more economical sparkling wines can offer a celebratory experience at the daily dinner table. Perhaps, these effervescent indulgences will be a welcome substitute for our craft cocktail, IPA or favorite red.

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2013 Roederer Estate Brut L’Ermitage Anderson Valley:

Debuting in 1989, L’Ermitage, Roderer Estate’s special Tete de Cuvee’ is a sparkling wine made only in exceptional years from a selection of the best estate grown grapes. The 2013 is 52% Chardonnay and 48% Pinot Noir, with 4% of barrel-aged reserve wine from the 2011 vintage. 

The color is beautiful light-yellow tones that crystalize in the glass.  The nose opens with brioche and apple, that interwindes with toasted almonds, honey, crushed rocks and slightly flinty.  The palate is medium bodied and layered with texture showing mouthwatering flavors, creaminess, and earthy notes.  It shows a slight mature edge that reveals a sense of elegance that compares to the classic vintages of champagne. The bright acidity has enough energy to take this beautifully made sparkler from Anderson Valley to a long and silky finish.  I would pair this sparkler with a variety of shellfish.  This is a serious and very satisfying Brut!

Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley:

The current release of the NV Estate Brut is mostly made from the fruit of the 2015 vintage, a blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir.  The aromas show a purity of sliced apple, pear, lemon zest, a hint of red fruit and notes of stone and toasted almonds.  I absolutely love the creamy texture that is a signature of this classic Roederer Brut from Anderson Valley.  The flavors are always clean and never lack depth and finishes with refreshing acidity and wanting of another sip.  This is my go-to sparkler all year round and always a favorite in small gatherings of friends and family.  And bonus!!! It is an amazing value!

By Perry Miroballi

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J Brut Rose´: J Winery was founded in 1986 by Judy Jordan in Russian River Valley. It’s bright peach skin color reveals aromas of baked apples with fresh brioche aromas. This sparkling has a persistent mousse with generous layers of framboise and Morello Cherries with enough freshness and minerality to keep it vibrant through the finish. This wine remains finely tuned and well knit. Winemaking is under the guidance of Nicole Hitchcock. J Winery continues to excel in crafting premium sparkling wine across their deep portfolio. They are  a true value, considering the level of quality in each bottling.

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Jose´ Ferrer and his wife Gloria traveled from their native home of Barcelona, Spain settling in Carneros, California. Jose´ used his winemaking experience in Spain to platform his Carneros sparkling wines. The cool growing conditions near San Pablo Bay would provide the ideal climate  for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir while maintaining a freshness in the wines. 

2017 Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blanc: Bursting with notes of fresh baked Granny Smith apples and orange rind behind hints of brioche. The bubbles remain lively and persist for minutes.

Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut: The majority of this sparkling wine is Pinot Noir. There are freshly crushed apples and lightly spiced pears that make a welcoming statement.

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An iconic sparkling wine that has carved out a niche in the history books - affectionately dubbed the “President’s Choice”, the Brut NV was served at both Nelson Mandela’s inauguration and to celebrate Barack Obama’s presidential nomination. Sourced from estate parcels and vineyards across the Western Cape of South Africa. This sparkling gets 15-18 months of yeast contact before being disgorged.

Graham Beck Brut: It is sourced from 51% Chardonnay 49% Pinot Noir  Pale, delicate  and refreshing  with a touch of vanilla cream with citrus accents. Notes of pear and crisp apple. Delicate and fresh. Straightforward in its approach and balance.

Graham Beck Brut Rose´: 66% Pinot Noir and 34% Chardonnay. Pale peach with hints of yeast and nuts. There are fresh berries, plums and red currant accents that lead to a  lively finish.

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Segura Viudas Estate, Torrelavit, Spain

The Segura Viudas Estate in Sant Sadurni is in D.O. Penedes which is considered one of the most important centers of Mediterranean wine culture.  The area has a history of being known as one of Spain’s best producing wine regions.  The regional terroir includes indigenous white varieties of Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Parellada are used to create Segura Viudas Cavas. 

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Heredad:

This straw colored sparkling wine opens with aromas of brioche, honey, floral, lemon peel and slightly herbal.  The palate has a freshness of cut apples, touches of smoke that intertwines wonderfully with vanilla, lemon-lime and minerality that sails through the mid palate and is persistent all the way through to the finish.  A holiday worthy Cava that delivers the richness that you would normally expect from a tete de cuvee’ but does it in a beautifully trimmed silver bottle!  This Cava will pair perfectly with roast chicken but has the body to stand up to meaty dishes like veal Bolognese.  Excelente!   

By Perry Miroballi

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2015 Frank Family Brut Rose´, Napa Valley: Rich Frank established his early reputation on high caliber Cabernet Sauvignon and expertly crafted Chardonnay, before setting his sites on sparkling wine. Tenured winemaker Todd Graff who has been with Frank Family Winery since 2003 crafts five sparkling wines using the traditional French method champenoise style. This 100% sparkling Pinot Noir is sourced from select vineyards in Carneros. Orange-pinkish in color, this sparkler  opens with an essence of warm toast followed with generous notes of  wild strawberry, stone peach and creamy red citrus. Within there is a hint of minerality that balances with the fruit before ending with a fresh, long finish.

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The Bisol’s family history in cultivating grapes dates back to 1542. As a 21st generation family member and CEO Gianluca Bisol is passionate about being a specialist in the production of Prosecco. He is referred to as a “pioneer of Prosecco,” having initiated experimentation and innovative techniques in crafting some of Veneto’s highest quality Prosecco Superiore. This vision has been handed down from generation to generation.

Of all his achievements with Prosecco, Gianluca is most proud of his Private Line of Prosecco, produced from 7.5 acres of vineyards atop the noble hill of Cartizze.  This small enclave of vineyards is the most prized location in the entire region and is at the top of Prosecco’s Pyramid of Quality. The high-end quality of Bisol Proseccos will make you embrace this brand as part of your daily routine.

Bisol ‘Crede’ Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG: Grown in rich clay-laden soils with a base of maritime sediment. This sparkling is laden with green apple skins and orange citrus. It is more dry and complex, with a delicate mineral-chalky expression that is inviting.

Bisol Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze DOCG: This sparkling is 100% Glera grapes sourced from the sandy and chalky soils on the coveted hill of Cartizze.  With a full exposure to sunlight, this pale yellow wine showcases tropical fruits of Mango and Guava along with a creaminess and a suggestion of delicate cotton candy sweetness. It stays fresh and vibrant through the finish.

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Iron Horse is one of Sonoma County’s most beautiful estates. The founding partners, Audrey and Berry Sterling purchased the 300 acres property of gently rolling hills in 1976.  The vineyards located in Green Valley are mostly planted with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  Iron Horse is renowned for its Sparkling Wines, which have been served at the White House for six consecutive presidential administrations. 

2016 Iron Horse Classic Vintage Brut Green Valley, Russian River:

The color shows sparking pale yellow.  This beautifully crafted Russian River Sparkling Wine opens with attractive aromas of baked apple, nutty and hints of Mandarin orange.  The flavors expose red apple, orange peel, toasty nuances, with hazelnut and nutmeg.  This wine has a gentle mouthfeel, but also shows depth, richness and acidity that will pair well with smoke salmoned and toast, classic roast chicken and golden potatoes with green beans and almonds.  By Perry Miroballi