California Sparklers

Santé
The Magazine for Restaurant Professionals
Holiday 1997
Pages 61-64

California Sparklers

Twice while I worked for Santé, I was asked to do all the tasting and write-ups of tasting notes, for articles written by other writers, in this case Gerald Boyd. I remember it seemed odd both times that the author wasn’t tasting the wines they were referencing in the article, but hey, I got to taste lots of wines.


Reviewer’s Choice

Gloria Ferrer / 1988 Brut, Carneros / Carneros Cuvée Late Disgorged
60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay
Strawberries and spice in an elegant and complex mix, with touches of yeast and oak, Delicious with any lighter meal or just on its own.

Iron Horse / 1990 Blanc de Blancs L.D., Sonoma County, Green Valley
100% Chardonnay
Delicious, full-bodied style with lots of mineral flavors and good acidity to balance. This wine could be drunk throughout almost any meal.

Schrambsberg Vineyards / 1990 Brut, Napa Valley / J. Schram
Chardonnay and Pinot Noir
Toasty, earthy and full, complex flavors make this the outstanding wine of the tasting. Perfect on its own or with any hearty meal.



MODERATE

NON-VINTAGE

Codorníu Napa / Brut, Napa Valley
50% Pinot Noir, 50% Chardonnay
Dry, yeasty and toasty notes, with a good base of citrus fruit and fairly high acidity. An excellent choice with fish dishes and salads. [Canandaigua Wine Co., 716-393-3463, $135/case]

Culbertson / Brut, California
45% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Blanc, 15% Pinot Noir
Bone dry, beautiful color and very minerally. A definite recommendation for people who “don’t like fruity”when it comes to sparklers. [Thornton Winery, 909-699-0099, $99/case]

Korbel / Brut, California
Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, French Colombard, Chenin Blanc
Perfect for someone who wants a fruity sparkler. Tastes just like the canned fruit cocktail that I remember from childhood. [Brown-Forman Beverages Worldwide, 502-585-1100, $122/case]

Korbel / Chardonnay, California
75% Chardonnay, other varietals
Much like the Brut from the same producer. Reminds me of fruit cocktail, and it is less dry than the Brut. [Brown-Forman Beverages Worldwide, 502-585-1100, $141/case]

Mirabelle / Brut, North Coast
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
Creamy vanilla character that goes down smooth. With a touch of sweetness in the finish, this is a perfect partner to roasted or grilled foods. [Wilson Daniels, Ltd., 707-963-8566, $112/case]

Mumm Cuvée Napa / Brut, Napa Valley / Brut Prestige
60% Pinot Noir, 34% Chardonnay, 4% Pinot Meunier, 2% Pinot Gris
Fruity, slightly off-dry, with a strong mineral component. A nice choice with fresh cheeses and dessert. [Seagram Chateau & Estate Wines Co., 415-378-3800, $144/case]

Mumm Cuvée Napa / Blanc de Blancs, Napa Valley
70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Gris
A tasty blend of minerals, fruit and a hint of marshmallow fluff. This slightly off-dry sparkler is a good choice with fruit dishes and desseert. [Seagram Chateau & Estate Wines Co., 415-378-3800, $112/case]

Mumm Cuvée Napa / Blanc de Noirs, Napa Valley
85% Pinot Noir, 15% Chardonnay
A beautiful shade of pink. Crisp, apple fruit and a dry minerally finish make this a delight on its own or with fish and lighter poultry. [Seagram Chateau & Estate Wines Co., 415-378-3800, $144/case]

Piper Sonoma / Brut, Sonoma County / Select Cuvée
75% Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Meunier
Dry and fruity, with lots of apple and apple peel flavors; a bit on the “foamy” side. An especially good choice with pork or veal in lighter sauces. [Rémy Amerique, 212-399-4200, $143/case]

Wente / Brut Reserve, Arroyo Seco, Monterey
59.8% Pinot Noir, 28.6% Chardonnay, 11.6% Pinot Blanc
Pale, slightly off-dry, peaches and cream on the tongue. It needs food, preferably something on the lighter side. [Wente Vineyards, 510-447-3603, $124/case]

VINTAGE

Handley / 1992 Brut, Anderson Valley
62% Pinot Noir, 38% Chardonnay
Dry and smooth with a mineral component. The dominant flavor note is one of marshmallow. Serve with light fish or white meat dishes. [Handley Cellars, 800-733-3151, $144/case]

Jepson / 1992 Blanc de Blanc, Mendocino County / Burnee Hill Vineyard
100% Chardonnay
Pears and light spice lace this delicate, creamy sparkler. A natural partner with veal or pork. [Jepson, 707-468-8936, $140/case]

Mirassou / 1991 Brut Reserve, Monterey County / Fifth Generation Cuvée
51% Pinot Noir, 27% Chardonnay, 22% Pinot Blanc
Citrus peel and a fair amount of oak clash a bit in this one. My bet is it needs some time to come together and develop. [Mirassou Sales Co., 408-274-4000, $135/case]

Mirassou / 1992 Brut Blanc de Noirs, Monterey County / Fifth Generation Cuvée
100% Pinot Noir
Fruity and medium-bodied with a nice dose of yeast and oak flavors. Will pair well with roasted meats. [Mirassou Sales Co., 408-274-4000, $135/case]

PRESTIGE

NON-VINTAGE

Chandon / Napa & Sonoma Counties / Brut Cuvée 194
59% Pinot Noir, 23% Chardonnay, 11% Pinot Blanc, 7% Pinot Meunier
Bright lemony fruit, high acidity and lots of bubbles make this a good partner to pair with cream sauces and lighter meats. [Domain Chandon, 707-944-8844, $162/case]

Chandon / Brut, Napa County / Réserve Cuvée 491
66% Pinot Noir, 21% Chardonnay, 7% Pinot Blanc, 6% Pinot Meunier
Creamy smooth, with a good dose of orchard fruits and spice. There is a nice complexity that will work well with a variety of cuisines. [Domain Chandon, 707-944-8844, $190/case]

Gloria Ferrer / Blanc de Noirs, Carneros
92% Pinot Noir, 8% Chardonnay
Bone-dry, strawberries and cream and a beautiful, pale pink color. A delicate, delicious wine wthat goes perfectly with an appetizer course. [Freixenet USA, Inc., 707-996-4981, $155/case]

Gloria Ferrer / Brut, Sonoma County
80-90% Pinot Noir, 10-20% Chardonnay
Dry, reminiscent of winter pears with just a touch of herbal qualities. A perfect partner with pork or veal. [Freixenet USA, Inc., 707-996-4981, $155/case]

Roederer Estate / Brut, Anderson Valley
Chardonnay and Pinot Noir
Orange peel, spice and lots of flavor make this a delicious coupling with Asian cuisines and spicy foods. [Maisons Marques & Domaines, 510-286-2000, $177/case]

Scharffenberger / Brut, Mendocino County
67% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay
Orange blossoms and citrus fruit really stand out in this dry sparkler. Something about it called for cold shellfish. [Clicquot, Inc., 212-888-7575, $160/case]

VINTAGE

S. Anderson / 1992 Brut, Napa Valley
60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay
Something in this reminds me of black cherry Jello or soda. Still, it is dry and rich and a good choice with roasted meats. [S. Anderson Vineayrd, 707-944-8642, $180/case]

Domaine Carneros / 1991 Blanc de Blancs, Carneros
100% Chardonnay
Yeasty, almost bread-like notes with good apple fruit. A well-balanced wine that calls out for poultry, veal or pork. [Kobrand Corp., 212-490-9300, $240/case]

Domaine Carneros / 1992 Brut, Carneros
61% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay, 3% Pinot Meunier, 1% Pinot Blanc
Though dry, there is a sense of sweetness with flavors of pears and vanilla cream that carry on through a long finish. Perfect with pork or chicken. [Kobrand Corp., 212-490-9300, $180/case]

Gloria Ferrer / 1988 Brut, Carneros / Carneros Cuvée, Late Disgorged
60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay
Strawberries and spice in an elegant and complex mix with touches of yeast and oak. Delicious with any lighter meal or just on its own. [Freixenet USA, Inc., 707-996-4981, $220/case]

Gloria Ferrer / 1989 Brut, Carneros / Royal Cuvée
67% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay
A nice earthiness in a creamy, complex wine with lots of depth and fruit flavor. A great choice with bigger dishes like red meat. [Freixenet USA, Inc., 707-996-4981, $166/case]

Iron Horse / 1990 Blanc de Blancs L.D., Sonoma County, Green Valley
100% Chardonnay
Delicious, full-bodied style with lots of mineral flavors and good acidity to balance. This wine could be drunk throughout almost any meal. [Iron Horse Vineyards, 707-887-1507, $372/case]

Iron Horse / 1992 Brut, Sonoma County, Green Valley
70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay
Like biting into a fresh, crisp apple, this one is full of fruit flavor and has nice depth. It needs a little time to come together. [Iron Horse Vineyards, 707-887-1507, $192/case]

Iron Horse / 1994 Brut, Sonoma County, Green Valley / Wedding Cuvée
100% Pinot Noir
A beautiful brassy color. Elegant, with pear and apple fruit and a touch of spice. Needs a bit of time to develop, but will be outstanding. [Iron Horse Vineyards, 707-887-1507, $208/case]

J (Jordan) / 1993 Brut, Sonoma County
52% Chardonnay, 47% Pinot Noir, 1% Pinot Meunier
Applesauce with just a touch of spice and oak makes this flavorful and popular sparkler a great choice with most foods. [J. Wine Company, 707-431-5400, $232/case]

Kristone / 1992 Blanc de Blancs, Santa Maria Valley & Monterey County
70% Chardonnay (Santa Maria Valley), 30% Pinot Blanc (Monterey)
Oak, coconut and toast all dominate this full-bodied, creamy smooth entry. The style says red meat – and lots of it. [Artisans & Estates, 707-544-4000, $480/case]

Kristone / 1992 Blanc de Noirs, Santa Maria Valley & Monterey County
95% Pinot Noir (Santa Maria Valley), 5% Pinot Blanc (Monterey)
Floral, yeasty, oakey and buttery. A big, full-bodied California-style sparkler that will be best paired with strongly flavored meats. [Artisans & Estates, 707-544-4000, $480/case]

Roederer Estate / 1991 Brut, Anderson Valley / L’Ermitage
55.5% Chardonnay, 45.5% Pinot Noir
Creamy smooth, full-bodied, complex flavors of oak, vanilla and tropical fruit. Perfect on its own or with poultry, veal or pork. [Maisons, Marques & Domaines, 510-286-2000, $318/case]

Scharffenberger / 1991 Blanc de Blancs, Mendocino County
100% Chardonnay
Delicious, toasty, yeasty notes, with a solid backbone of citrus fruit. This would be a great pairing with roasted poultry. [Clicquot, Inc., 212-888-7575, $180/case]

Scharffenberger / 1992 Brut Rosé, Mendocino County
85% Pinot Noir, 12% Chardonnay, 3% still Pinot Noir
Dry, bright strawberry and raspberry fruit with plenty of flavor. A great choice with lighter meals and salads. [Clicquot, Inc., 212-888-7575, $180/case]

Schug / 1995 Brut, Carneros / Rouge de Noir
100% Pinot Noir
Brilliant ruby color and bright cherry fruit, wiht a dry, spicy finish, make this an unusual and delicious wine to accompany grilled foods. [Schug Carneros Estate Winery, 800-966-9365, $175/case]

Schrambsberg Vineyards / 1990 Brut, Napa Valley / J. Schram
Chardonnay and Pinot Noir
Toasty, earthy and full, complex flavors make this the outstanding wine of the tasting. Perfect on its own or with any hearty meal. [Schramsberg Vineyards Co., 707-942-4558, $408/case]

Thornton / 1985 Blanc de Blanc, California
60% Pinot Blanc, 20% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir
Earthy, yeasty and rich with good fruit and acidity. This is the kind of sparkler that I like to drink on its own. [Thornton Winery, 909-699-0099, $200/case]


Santé is a glossy format trade magazine for restaurant wine buyers and educators. I wrote as a freelancer for them on and off from the first issue in November 1996 until November 2002 when they decided to stop using freelance writers.

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