As much as I hate to admit it, it is sparkling wine season once again. It starts right around Thanksgiving and continues on through New Year’s Eve. In fact, by most accounts, roughly 30-40% of all sparking wine sold in the U.S. is sold during this 5-6 week period.
The reason I “hate to admit it” is rather simple—I think sparkling wine is the most versatile style of wine and people should be consuming it all year-long (I certainly try to lead by example here—we have 2-3 bottles of the bubbles every week on average). I have long resisted writing yet another “Sparkling Wine Post” that are ubiquitous this time of year, but last year I finally caved and joined the masses.
One answer is that I am weak of character and easily swayed by the vagaries of public opinion.
Another answer is that producers of sparkling wine tend to send out samples this time of year with the expectation that you post about the wine sometime before the holidays.
That one does not make me look all that better, come to think of it…
Regardless, I invited a few members of my cycling team to meet up at a local restaurant to taste through the nine bottles of sparkling wine that I had accrued as we tasted some of the restaurant’s appetizers.
I had a few goals in opting to sample these wines this way: 1. Nine bottles of wine is a bunch to go through on your own and since I am loath to pour wine down the drain, I enlisted some help. 2. I wanted to highlight that sparkling wine is a fantastic meal accompaniment—it should not be viewed strictly as a celebratory drink or as an apéritif. 3. I wanted to expose a few people to the restaurant in question, Fare.
[Full disclosure: I have been helping Fare revamp their wine program for the past few months and may host additional tastings there, but I am not getting paid either for my help or this post.]
A quick note on the restaurant: Fare opened a few years ago and we were excited to have another restaurant option in the neighborhood. We went right after it opened (and again about a year later), and, well, the whole experience was fair–the food and the service were slightly above average–it was fair. I have been several times now in the last few months and I can safely say that they have turned it around, and the food and service are both very good and I now recommend it without hesitation.
On to the wines. All of the following I received as samples for review. I served them blind to the tasting attendees who took notes and scored the wines as well.
2007 Ferrari Perlé Trento DOC: Italy. Retail $35. 100% Chardonnay. Some stone fruit on the nose, along with some lemon, but there was also a slight sulfur component that blew off after a bit of time in the glass. Nicely balanced acidity leads to a lingering nutty finish. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
N.V. Freixenet Cordon Rosado Cava: Spain. Retail $12. Initially very tight—not much in the way of bouquet, but eventually coaxed some red berry fruit out. On the palate, quite fruity, with cherry and strawberry coming through. This would be fantastic with a hearty meal. The other tasters really liked this wine, and so did I, particularly for the price. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
NV J Vineyards & Winery Cuvée 20 Sonoma County: U.S. Retail $28. Once this was poured, almost all took immediate notice. Creamy and yeasty on the nose with baked bread and apricots dominant. Spry and elegant on the palate, this was the wine of the night for most of those in attendance. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
NV J Vineyards & Winery Brut Rosé Russian River Valley: U.S. Retail $38. 66% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay, 1% Pinot Meunier. We tasted the J rosé several bottles after the Cuvée 20, but this wine caused most in attendance to “ooh” and “aah” as well. Brioche and strawberry in abundance followed by the most impressive finish of the night. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
N.V. Laetitia Brut Cuvée: Retail $25. 53% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay & 17% Pinot Blanc. The nose of this wine was all freshly baked bread with a side of cantaloupe. Lemon tart on the palate with a lively sparkle and a hint of pear. Another fabulous domestic sparkling wine. Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
N.V. Mumm Napa Brut Reserve Rosé: Retail $38. 66% Pinot Noir, 34% Chardonnay. I was perhaps most looking forward to this wine as I was once a long time member of the wine club. It did not disappoint: A strawberry and rhubarb nose lead to strawberry muffin on the palate as the yeasty aspect really came through. Lovely, lingering finish. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
Segura Viudas Brut Cava: Retail $10. Blend of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo. Another wine that is tough to beat given the price. Almonds and a bit of grapefruit with a touch of sweetness lead to a very good finish. $10? No brainer here. Very Good. 86-88 Points.
Voveti Prosecco: Retail $12. 100% Prosecco (Glera). I was surprised by how closed up this wine was initially. Even after a couple of minutes in the glass, virtually no nose. After it warmed a bit, there was a floral aspect followed by a distinct creaminess. Very active mousse. Good to Very Good. 85-87 Points.
There were three other wines that I would like to include in this review of sparkling wines. Unfortunately, I received them the after the above tasting, and so I tasted them without the help of my cycling buddies, but they are some of my favorite domestic sparklers and should be on everyone’s radar:
Breathless Brut: Retail $25. A blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, aged 12 months on the lees. A nice gold color in the glass with an impressive sparkle. Pear and peach with a bit of nuttiness on the nose with great balance on the palate. I could drink this for a very long time. Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
Breathless Brut Rosé: Retail $32. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, aged 18 months. A toasted almond and strawberry nose, very creamy on the palate with red berries and a refreshing tartness on the finish. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
Breathless Blanc de Noirs: Retail $30. 100% Pinot Noir, aged 30 months on the lees. I knew the first time that I tasted this wine over the summer that this would be dangerous. I am a sucker for a good Blanc de Noirs, and this is a great Blanc de Noirs. Yeah, I said great. Great body and depth, this would be fantastic with nearly any meal. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.