This past week, I conducted another Blind Tasting at our humble little abode here in Houston, to which I invited other wine writers from the area. This month was the Fifth Annual World’s Largest Blind Tasting of American Sparkling Wine, which featured 49 (I really wanted to get to fifty, but alas…) sparkling wines from four states (care to guess which four?).
As with years past, we first removed all the corks and foil from the bottles and then inserted them into bags. Then, those who didn’t bag the wines then randomly numbered the hidden bottles. This way, while we knew what wines were in the tasting, there was no way to identify the order in which we tasted the wines.
We tasted four wines at a time, taking notes on each wine, and focusing on general impressions and preferences.
Here, in the order that they were tasted, are the first 15 wines. I will publish the remaining 14 tasting notes for the Brut wines, then the 20 rosés, along with my list of top wines from the tasting, over the next couple of days.
2017 Brooks Sparkling Riesling, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $55. Straw close to golden with a faint sparkle. A great nose which is quite yeasty with some peach and a hint of petrol. Well balanced and just a bit sweet on the mid-palate. Not quite extra dry, but close. Good fruit and balance. Pretty sure this is a Riesling. Excellent. 92 Points.
NV Mumm Napa Blanc de Blancs, Napa Valley, CA: Retail $24. 90% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Gris. Pale straw color with a shy nose. Some yeastiness and a hint of fruit. Quite dry and mineral on the palate with reserved fruit and a bit of salinity. Very nice. Excellent. 90 Points.
2018 Domaine Carneros Brut, CA: Retail $35. 53% Pinot Noir, 44% Chardonnay, 3% Pinot Gris. Pale straw in color with plenty of citrus on the nose (more lime than lemon). The fruit is a bit shy on the palate, but quite tart, with really good acidity and a lengthy finish. Excellent. 91 Points.
NV Scharffenberger Brut Excellence, Mendocino County, CA: Retail $23. 60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir. Straw to almost golden in color and quite biscuity on the nose. The palate for me is close to gangbusters with great fruit, that autolytic (yeasty) component that I really seek out, and a lengthy finish. Outstanding. 95 Points.
2019 Brooks Muscat Terue, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $35. 92% Orange Muscat, 8% Early Muscat. Straw to a bit golden in color with a really aromatic nose of tree fruit and orange blossom. I’m pretty sure this has to be the Muscat. The palate is quite fruity but completely dry. And awesome. This is unlike most sparklers, a daring varietal choice for sparkling wine, and that is not a bad thing. Excellent. 92 Points.
2015 Roederer Estate L’Ermitage Brut, Mendocino County, CA: Retail $68. 52% Chardonnay, 48% Pinot Noir. Pale straw color in the glass with a lovely nose of lemon rind and tree fruit. Nice fruit on the palate as well along with great acidity, some salinity, and minerality. Very nice. Excellent. 92 Points.
NV Gruet Winery Brut, New Mexico: Retail $15. 75% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir. Quite light, nearly colorless in the glass. Not much coming from the nose either, and quite dry, on the verge of austere on the palate. Very Good. 88 Points.
2016 Brooks Sparkling Riesling, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $55. 100% Riesling. Straw to yellow in color. Peach and pear a go-go on the nose with a hint of petrol. Great fruit and wonderful balance, the finish is killer. Very nice. Outstanding. 93 Points.
NV Korbel Brut California Champagne, CA: Retail $14. Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, French Colombard, Pinot Noir. Pale straw with a nice sparkle. Quite shy with a hint of lemon. The palate is much fruitier, with nice citrus, a hint of sweetness, but it all works. Excellent. 90 Points.
2019 Stephen Ross Pinot Noir Blanc de Noir, San Luis Obispo County, CA: Retail $55. 100% (?) Pinot Noir. Pale straw in color with lovely bubbles and hints of croissant. Nice. Lovely on the palate with nice acidity and balance. A little lacking in fruit, but this is very nice. Excellent. 91 Points.
2013 Left Coast Estate Blanc de Noir Sparkling, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $55. 100% Pinot Noir. Pale straw color with an odd nose, a bit briny, close to pickle juice. Unfortunately, the palate is not much better. Really tart with that odd flavor matching the nose. I have had this wine a few times now, and the first few were Very Good to Excellent. Something is off with this bottle. Unrated.
NV Domaine Chandon Brut, California: Retail $26. 73% Chardonnay, 26% Pinot Noir, 1% Pinot Meunier. Quite pale with another odd nose, almost like a hair dryer hair thing going on. The palate is ten times better, though, with great fruit, acid, and balance. Very Good. 89 Points.
2018 Elk Cove Vineyards Brut Mount Richmond, Yamhill-Carlton, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $70. 56% Pinot Noir, 44% Chardonnay. Straw to yellow with a fervent sparkle. A shy nose with some interesting notes of really tart lemon and lychee. The palate is tart, fruity, and lengthy. Nice. Excellent. 90 Points.
2018 Elk Cove Vineyards Blanc de Blancs Goodrich Vineyard, Yamhill-Carlton, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $70. 100% Chardonnay. Pale straw with a lovely nose of peach, lemon, and some croissant. The palate leans toward austere, though, with nice acidity and a flinty aspect. Excellent. 90 Points.
2019 Sokol Blosser Bluebird Cuveé, Oregon: Retail $32. “A proprietary assemblage of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, Muscat.” 100% Willamette Valley. Pale straw with mostly green apple on the nose. Fantastic on the palate with really tart fruit, a nice balance, and a lengthy finish. Yum. Excellent. 92 Points.