Sparkling Wine


There’s Prosecco, and then there’s the — don’t try to say this all in one breath — Maschio dei Cavalieri Rive di Colbertaldo 2014, cavalieriValdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, made from 100 percent glera grapes, though Italian wine regulations allow for up to 15 percent other grapes in a blend. It is not fashioned in the traditional Champagne method of second fermentation in the bottle, most Proseccos being made in the Charmat process of second fermentation in tank. Maschio dei Cavalieri tells us, however, that they accomplish the alcoholic and carbon dioxide fermentation simultaneously. OK. The Maschio dei Cavalieri Rive di Colbertaldo 2014 displays a pale straw yellow hue and a fervent rush of refined bubbles; this is a fresh and clean sparkling wine, offering gentle aromas of jasmine, green apple and pear, lime and lemongrass, smoke and steel. It’s crisp and lively on the palate, bringing in flavors of roasted lemon and melon, while at the core a cloud-like tenderness of texture prevails. Quite dry and more invigorating as the moments pass, this sparkling wine concludes with a fairly austere flinty finish. 11.5 percent alcohol. While the 2014 is now two years old, I recommend it for the sense of burnish and nuance that it reveals; drink through 2017. Excellent. About $20, representing Great Value.

Imported by Cru Artisan Wines, Old Brookville, N.Y., a division of Banfi Vintners. A sample for review.

Frank Family Vineyards, owned by Rich Frank, former president of Disney Studios, and his wife Leslie, produces a wide range of still wines bub_res_champ— cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot noir, zinfandel, chardonnay and such — which lean toward the side of power and dynamics, and a handful of sparkling wines, always among my favorites from California’s growing roster of wineries that make sparkling wines. FFV now releases its first reserve effort in sparkling wine, the Frank Family Lady Edythe Reserve Brut 2010, carrying a Carneros-Napa Valley designation. It’s a blend of 52 percent chardonnay and 48 percent pinot noir, aged in bottle on the yeast for almost five years before disgorgement. The color is a medium gold that shimmers with the tempestuous upward flow of tiny bubbles; aromas of toasted brioche, lightly buttered cinnamon toast, roasted lemon and spiced pear are enlivened by notes of quince, hazelnuts and almond skin and hints of toffee and limestone, this array all beautifully balanced and harmonious. While quite dry, Lady Edythe 2010 is zesty and energetic on the palate, matching, to a degree, the power evinced in FFV’s still wines, though feeling finely-etched and detailed with its undertow of chiseled flint and chalk, its sense of transparency and filigree. Still, the somewhat theatrical finish brings a bracing tide of marsh-grass and seashell salinity. 12 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2018 to 2020. Winemaker was Todd Graff. Excellent. About $110.

A sample for review.

Gloria Ferrer is owned by Freixenet, the Spanish company that introduced us to cava decades ago in the deep recesses of our gf-bt-bdb-nv-1flaming youth. Centered in the Carneros region of California, Gloria Ferrer produces a consistently well-made range of non-vintage and vintage sparkling wines that reflect careful methods in vineyard and winery. Our selection for the Second Day of Christmas is the Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs, a non-vintage 100 percent chardonnay sparking wine that carries a Carneros designation and was fashioned in the Champagne style of second fermentation in the bottle. The color is pale straw-gold, enlivened by a steady but not heedlessly frothing stream of tiny bubbles; this is exceedingly fresh, clean and crisp, endowed with notes of green apples and spiced pears, quince jam and crystallized ginger, with hints of lightly buttered cinnamon toast and seashell salinity. Lip-smacking acidity and an etched limestone element cut through a fairly lush pear compote character, creating a pleasing sense of tension and poise. 12.5 percent alcohol. A super attractive sparkler. Very Good+. Prices are all over the retail map for this wine, look for $18 to $22.

A sample for review.

Our travelogue of sparkling wine begins on Christmas Day in Austria’s Burgenland region, specifically the Neusiedersee production area. The szigetiSzigeti Pinot Noir Rosé Brut 2012 was made on an estate founded in 1990 by brothers Peter and Norbert Szigeti, the latter being the winemaker. This is 100 percent pinot noir, aged 12 months in the bottle on the spent yeast cells after the second fermentation, you know, where the bubbles are born. In other words, the Szigeti Pinot Noir Rosé Brut 2012 was fashioned in the traditional Champagne method. The color is an entrancing copper-salmon with a tarnished silver overlay, and the bubbles are gentle but persistent swirling flecks. Aromas of fresh strawberries and raspberries leap from the glass and are highlighted by notes of orange rind, cloves and apple skin; hints of red cherries and limestone emerge on the palate, propelled by lively acidity, while the mineral element burgeons through the still delicate, finely-knit finish. 12 percent alcohol. A delightful quaff that we drank as aperitif over several evenings. It could go another year. Very Good+. About $25.

Imported by Winebow Group, New York. A sample for review. The label illustrated isn’t exactly correct, but it’s close.

Here’s a delightful sparkling wine from Germany’s Rheingau region, produced by the Barth family in the traditional Champagne method of barth-sektkollektion-riesling-brutsecond fermentation in the bottle. The enterprise, established in 1948, makes a full range of still and sparkling wines, the latter of which are all estate-grown and produced. The Barth Brut Riesling Sekt, non-vintage, is 100 percent varietal and spent two years in the bottle resting on the lees of spent yeast cells. The color is medium gold, highlighted by a steady upward stream of tiny golden bubbles. The bouquet, well, the bouquet smells like a melange of everything we love about apples — fresh-cut Granny Smiths, spiced and baked apples, apple cider and a touch of slightly astringent red apple skin, all abetted by notes of pears and peaches, heather and honeysuckle. This sparkler is lively and effervescent on the palate, and though there’s something a bit honeyed about its richness, like candied quince and crystallized ginger, it’s quite dry and enters the finish with an element of fleet spareness. Not your usual sparkling wine. 12 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $28.

Imported by Truly Fine Wines Inc., San Diego, Calif. A sample for review.

If readers live in the New York area or perhaps in New England generally, they should look for lenzthe Lenz Winery Cuvee 2012, from an estate founded in 1978 in the North Fork of Long Island. (That’s the AVA.) Made from 100 percent pinot noir grapes, hence technically a blanc de noirs, this well-made sparkling wine offers a pale gold hue shimmering with an energetic fountain of tiny glinting bubbles; notes of roasted lemons and spiced pears, quince and ginger are lent pertness by lively acidity and a scintillating seashell-limestone element; these contribute a bit of bracing salinity to the finish. Touched with slightly yeasty brioche, but clean, fresh and vivid, this sparkler is quite dry though tasty with hints of lemon balm and willow, smoke and steel, ultimately delicate and elegant. 12 percent alcohol. Winemaker was Eric Fry. Drink now through 2018 to ’20. Excellent. About $40.

A sample for review.

As we head into the biggest sparkling wine season of the year, I’ll remind My Readers from time to time about Champagnes and other albrechtsparkling products worthy of consideration. An annual treat for us is the Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rose from the venerable estate of Lucien Albrecht, established in 1425, among the oldest family-owned wineries in Europe and still in the hands of the founding family. This non-vintage — i.e., multi-vintage — sparkling wine is made from 100 percent pinot noir grapes in the Champagne method of second fermentation in the bottle; this one spends 14 to 16 months in the bottle on the lees before being disgorged and resealed. The color is a lovely ruddy copper-salmon hue, highlighted by a surging fountain of tiny glittering bubbles; aromas of fresh raspberries and lime peel, blood orange and orange blossom are infused by notes of heather, spiced tea and limestone. Bright, brisk acidity lends this an almost tart character, though it flows on the palate with a full, round quality; the whole effect is delicate, elegant and steely, concluding in a slightly austere, saline, mineral-laced finish. Pure delight, with real style and a racy nature. 12 percent alcohol. Winemaker was Jerome Keller. Excellent. About $22, representing Good Value.

Pasternak Imports, Harrison, N.Y. A sample for review.

As you make your celebratory imbibing plans for the holiday season that runs from Thanksgiving to Epiphany — and happens to include my birthday — don’t forget Schramberg Vineyards, a Napa Valley-based producer of sparkling wines that has been around for 50 years and might be in danger of flying under the radar of all the other sparkling wine makers in California that emerged after its pioneering efforts. I rated three of these recent releases Excellent and one Very Good+, a better than decent outcome. In fact, I enjoyed these wines immensely and heartily recommend them for your Yuletide revels. Samples for review.
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schram-b-de-b
The Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs 2013, North Coast, is 100 percent chardonnay, a blend of grapes from Napa County (63 percent), Sonoma (30 percent), Mendocino (4 percent) and Marin (3 percent), hence the North Coast designation. A blanc de blancs is the first sparkling wine that the producer made, in 1965, and the touch remains deft and fluent. The color is very pale gold, and the tiny, glinting bubbles are exuberantly effervescent; beautifully layered aromas of roasted lemon, lemon balm, spiced pear and toasted and lightly buttered brioche are twined with acacia blossom and almond skin. A few moments in the glass bring up a bright edge of flint and chalk bolstered by vivid acidity, both elements lending this sparkling wine tremendous verve and appeal, while notes of slightly candied quince and ginger round out the citrus-stone fruit flavor profile. 12.7 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 to ’23. Excellent. About $39.
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schram-b-de-n
The opposite of blanc de blancs — “white from white” — is blanc de noirs — “white from black” — through the Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs 2012, North Coast, blends 12 percent chardonnay with the balance of pinot noir. Counties of origin are Sonoma (44 percent), Mendocino (33 percent), Napa (19 percent) and Marin (4 percent). The color is very pale gold, enlivened by a surging flurry of tiny bubbles; this is pure lemon in all its aspects, married to fresh bread, cloves, ginger and quince, with a dry scent like dusty heather and a deep bell-note of currant. It’s a high-toned and elegant sparkling wine, vibrant with energy, full-bodied, almost lush except for the rigor of prominent limestone-flint minerality and a seam of resonant acidity. 12.7 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $41.
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schram-rose
The Schramsberg Brut Rosé 2013, North Coast, is composed of 61 percent pinot noir and 39 percent chardonnay. The county make-up is 41 percent Sonoma, 26 percent Mendocino, 25 percent Napa and 8 percent Marin. The ravishing color is pale copper salmon, with abundant bubbles swirling upward; aromas of macerated strawberries and raspberries open to notes of dried red currants, lime peel, melon and sour cherry, with follow-up hints of cloves and orange rind. You might think that this sparkling wine is all about sensual appeal, which it obviously does not lack, but there’s real structure, too, with elements of chiseled limestone and chalk minerality borne by chiming acidity; it flows across the palate with crisp vitality. 13 percent alcohol. Now through 2019 through ’23. Excellent. About $44.
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shrams-cremant
The Schramsberg Crémant Demi-Sec 2012, Napa Valley — a departure from the winery’s usual North Coast designation — is a blend of 74 percent flora grapes, 16 percent pinot noir and 10 percent chardonnay. Flora is a crossing of gewürztraminer and semillon, created in 1938 by Harold P. Olmo (1909-2006), a professor of viticulture at University of California, Davis, who pioneered the crossing of vinifera grapes for warm climate regions; among his other creations are ruby cabernet and symphony. To 85 percent Napa Valley grapes, this sparkling wines adds 10 percent from Sonoma and 5 percent from Mendocino; that 85 percent allows the Napa Valley designation. The color is pale straw-yellow; the bubbles are tiny but gentle, a stream but not a froth. Scents of green apple, peach and apricot are delicately floral and lead to a sweet entry — in fact sweeter than I thought it would be. This sparkling wine offers elegance in body and texture, a lively impression from clean acidity and flint-limestone minerality for background and a touch of dryness from mid-palate through the finish. 13.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2020 or ’22. At 2,387 cases, this product has the smallest production of this quartet. Very Good+. About $40.
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The wine aged ……… The color is pale straw-yellow

We are inching our way toward the most festive season of the year, a hectic, expensive, exhausting and frequently joyful stretch that encompasses Thanksgiving, My Birthday, Christmas, bottle-etoile-roseNew Year and Twelfth Night. Call it Yuletide 2.0. To slide into the proper spirit, I offer as Wine of the Day, No. 201, the Domaine Chandon Étoile Rosé, a non-vintage sparkling wine from the company that’s pretty much the grand-daddy of sparkling wine in California. By “non-vintage,” the common parlance, I really mean “multiple-vintage,” since this product and virtually all non-vintage Champagnes and sparkling wines contain wine from the current year as well as reserve wines from previous years, the point being to lend depth and character to the product from wines that have aged for several years. Now Chandon is surprisingly reticent about information for this sparkler and others I received recently. I can tell you, for example, that the grapes for the Domaine Chandon Étoile Rosé were grown in the cool Carneros region of Napa and Sonoma counties and that the blend includes chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, but not in what proportion. I can tell you that the sparkling wine rested on the lees in the bottle for “at least three years,” but I cannot be more specific. I can also tell you that the Domaine Chandon Etoile Rose is beguiling and irresistible. The color is ruddy salmon-copper, animated by a steady frothing stream of tiny bubbles. A cool rush of orange rind and strawberry compote is twined with smoke and seashell-like salinity with hints of cloves and lightly toasted brioche. This is lively on the palate, even sprightly and balletic, yet it delivers depths of limestone and chalk minerality, as well as flavors of roasted lemons, spiced pears and a hint of red currant. 13 percent alcohol. A very attractive and enticing brut rose. Excellent. About $50.

A sample for review.

Here’s a refreshing way to end the week or start it, depending on your point of view of Sunday’s boscofunction. The Bosco di Gica Brut, Valdobbiandene Prosecco Superiore, from the almost century-old Adriano Adami estate, adds some three to five percent chardonnay to its regulation glera grape, the one we used to call the prosecco grape but no longer. (How often in the dim past did I write “Prosecco is the name of the grape and the product”?) The grapes were grown on steep terraced hillsides of fairly shallow soil, the vineyards generally facing south; this is north of Venice. Prosecco is made, of course, not in the “Champagne method” of second fermentation in the bottle but in the Charmat process in which the second fermentation that produces the bubbles, occurs in steel pressure tanks. Whatever the method, the Bosco di Gica Brut is indeed a superior Prosecco, offering a very pale gold hue and a steady stream of glinting bubbles that’s more a persistent fizz than a propulsive froth; still, it’s quite pretty. Aromas of apples and pears, acacia and almond blossom develop hints of lime peel and almond skin; on the palate, this sparkler is delicate, pert and lively, a tickle for the tongue, made intriguing by its briny seashell minerality and pleasing for its deft balance and integration. 11 percent alcohol. Drink up and enjoy. Excellent. About $18.

Imported by Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Calif. A sample for review.

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