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Touch of sweetness key for J Vineyards winemaker

A kiss of sweetness. That's what Melissa Stackhouse strives for in a brut.

Stackhouse is the winemaker behind our wine-of-the-week winner — the J Vineyards, NV Cuvee 20 Brut, a steal at $28.

"The wine has just a kiss of sweetness that provides a perfect weight in the mouth, and acts as a bridge to a crisp and minerally finish," Stackhouse said.

Stackhouse made a pitch for a crisper bubbly during a series of tastings in April of 2012.

"I wanted to make sure that the sweetness in the Cuvee 20 wasn't an elbow that was poking out, that it was balanced, elegant, expressive of our style. I felt that a couple of previous vintages of Cuvee 20 were veering off into a sweeter style, and I wanted to tone that down a bit."

Adding a touch of sweetness, known as dosage, is the final step in producing sparkling wine and it happens at the time when the bottle, which has been hibernating for two to seven years, goes through "disgorging." This is when the yeast cells are frozen in the neck of the bottle and removed from the wine.

"Deciding the right dosage is the final touch on a wine that has been aging for years," Stackhouse said. "It's crucial to find the dosage level that showcases, if not amplifies, the nuances in sparkling wine."

<b>Scouting for the tastiest sparkling wines $26 and up</b>

Wine writer Peg Melnik had a blind tasting this week of sparklers, the cr?e de la cr?e of California bubbly, and it's not surprising there were plenty of high scores. Our wine-of-the-week winner is a tasty bubbly and one that won't throw you over the fiscal cliff — the J Vineyards, NV Cuvee 20 Brut, a steal at $28.

TOP PICK: J Vineyards


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