THIS WEEK’S BLIND TASTING
Bubbly $26 & Up
Schramsberg, 2013 North Coast, Blanc de Noirs Sparkling Wine, 12.7% alcohol, $42. ★★★★
This is an exceptional sparkler that’s complex with a range of flavors –– a steal for the price. It has yeasty aromas with a hint of caramel, and on the palate, there’s pear, melon and brioche. It has a round texture, with an underpinning of crisp acid to buoy the flavors. Nice mousse, with pinpoint bubbles. A standout.
Domain Carneros, 2012 Carneros Ultra Brut Sparkling Wine, 12%, $44. ★★★★: This is an elegant sparkler, crisp and dry. Lovely aromas and flavors of jasmine, green apple and lemon curd. It has bright acid, and tiny pinpoint bubbles. Pretty.
L’Ermitage, 2011 Anderson Valley Brut Sparkling Wine, 12%, $48. ★★★★: This is a striking sparkler with pitch perfect balance. It has gorgeous nutty, yeasty aromas and on the palate notes of pear, lemon curd and hazelnut. Crisp finish. Nice mousse.
Iron Horse, 2013 Wedding Cuvee, Green Valley of Russian River Valley Sparkling Wine, 13.5%, $44. ★★★★: A classic sparkler, nice and dry, with great structure. Lovely aromas of brioche, with notes of green apple and mineral on the palate. Supple texture. Tiny pinpoint bubbles. Impressive.
Benovia, 2012 Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine, 12%, $50. ★★★★: This impressive new label is well-crafted and complex with layered aromas –– petroleum, brioche and apple ––even before you take a sip. The rich, yet balanced flavors follow through to the palate. Creamy texture. Nice mousse. Striking.
Gloria Ferrer, 2006 Carneros Cuvee, Carneros Sparkling Wine, 12.5%, $80. ★★★★: This sparkler has spent nearly a decade aging in the bottle so it’s not surprising it’s complex. It has layered flavors of brioche, black cherry, Meyer lemon and ginger. The cuvee is balanced, with bright acid, and it has a nice mousse. Top rate.
Flaunt, N.V. Sonoma County Brut Sparkling Wine, 12.5%, $85. ★★★1/2: This exciting new label is layered with notes of green apple, mineral and toast. Flaunt is rich, with a touch of toffee on the finish, but it’s kept in check with bright acid. Nice mousse. Lovely.
Inman, 2014 Whole Buncha Bubbles, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, Blanc de Noir Sparkling Wine, 12%, $68. ★★★1/2: This fun-loving, spirited label plays to the millennials and it has a delightful range of flavors –– raspberry, green apple and mineral. It’s a serious layered sparkler, with gorgeous yeasty aromas.
Frank Family Vineyards, 2013 Carneros, Napa Valley Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine, 12%, $55. ★★★1/2: This bubbly has a creamy texture and rich flavors of brioche and creme brulee. But it also has bright notes of lemon and green apple, keeping its balance spot on. Smart.
Mumm Napa, 2012 Napa, Blanc de Blancs Reserve Sparkling Wine, 12.5%, $44. ★★★1/2: This is a bright and lively sparkler, refreshing with notes of Meyer Lemon, green apple and mineral. It all rides on crisp acid and has a citrusy finish. Lovely.
J, 2011 Russian River Valley Sparkling Wine, 12.5%, $60. ★★★1/2: Pretty aromas of yeast and green apple follow through to the palate, with notes of brioche, pear and lemon in the mix. Finishes crisp. Solid.
Peg Melnik’s Tasting Room blog
The true champagne?
“So much hype is given to sparkling wines from Champagne, France, the often referred to ‘true champagne.’” said Hugh Davies, vintner of Schramsberg. “I don’t want to take anything away from champagne. But without question, we’re making bubbles in our North Coast world that rival the finest made there.”
Davies has a point.
The vintner is behind our wine of the week winner: Schramsberg, 2013 North Coast, Blanc de Noirs Sparkling Wine at $42.
This is an exceptional sparkler that’s complex with a range of flavors. It has yeasty aromas with a hint of caramel, and on the palate, there’s pear, melon and brioche. It has a round texture, with an underpinning of crisp acid to buoy the flavors. The blanc de noirs has a nice mousse, with pinpoint bubbles.
“I truly feel that we’ve made tremendous progress at Schramsberg and in our California wine industry as a whole,” Davies said. “It’s exciting and gratifying to taste the quality that we’ve collectively crafted from our Carneros, Sonoma Coast and Anderson Valley vineyards,” Davies said.
The vintner, 52, grew up on his family-owned property and has spent the majority of his life at Schramsberg.
“It is hard to believe that I’m now the senior member of the winemaking team, having started as a cellar rat thirty-plus years ago,” he said. “A good 25 percent of my time is presently spent in the vineyards, in tastings and managing wine production.”
Davies has a Master’s in Food Science/Enology from UC Davis.
“While considering options ‘where the grass might have been greener,’ I concluded at the age of 25 that winemaking was likely going to be the best bet for me,” Davies said. “I haven’t second-guessed the decision since starting the program at Davis all those years ago. Life is good.”