Worth the wait

  • Sparkling Wines.

With New Year's Eve just days away, Wine Country is in a bubbly state of mind. Sparkling-wine-lovers are preparing to uncork a frothy surf of bubbles.

Melissa Stackhouse is just as excited when it comes to sparklers. The vice president of winemaking at J Vineyards & Winery in Healdsburg said being new to the world of bubbles has give her a behind-the-scenes appreciation for it.

"My interest in sparkling wines has intensified by producing it," she said. "It's very festive ... I doubt you'd ever open a bottle of sparkling wine and be sad."

Sparkling wine, Stackhouse said, is a curiosity, a bit like unwrapping a package.

"Nuances reveal themselves," she said, "each time you taste a glass and possibly a second."

Stackhouse produced pinot noir for a decade at La Crema winery in Windsor before she entered the world of sparkling wine. She joined J Vineyards in 2011, but the first bottle of sparkling wine that she has her fingerprints on is the J Vineyards Cuvee 20, just released for the holidays.

She said she pushed for a crisper version of the sparkler, opting to lower the "dosage" or liquid sweetener, blended from sugar and either wine or water.

At 4 stars, the Cuvee 20 wasn't the highest rated of The Press Democrat flight, but it won our wine-of-the-week contest because it's a great value at $28. It's elegant, with a creamy texture and refreshing acidity, and tasty notes of lemon, herbs and mineral.

"It was just on the outskirts of being too sweet for me," she said, thinking back to the dosage trials last April.

To navigate her way through the world of sparkling wine, with its "vexing" procedures and new lingo, Stackhouse said she "held on to Scott (Anderson's) coattails all harvest long."

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