A couple of weeks ago, I conducted another Blind Tasting at our humble little abode here in Houston, to which I invited several other local writers to help me go through the 49 bottles of domestic sparkling wine.
All of the blind tastings (now sixteen in total–I also conduct blind tastings of American rosé in the Spring and American Pinot Noir in the Fall) have produced some surprises, which is, quite frankly, why tasting blind from time to time is healthy. It is often too easy to be influenced by price, producer, or PR firm when tasting non-blind, and it is also good to “re-center” one’s palate in a way—to focus only on what is in the glass.
This was the fifth tasting of American Sparkling Wine and while last year there were 45 corks to pop, this year it ballooned all the way up to 49 wines ranging from $12 up to $125. 20 of the 49 were rosé, and all were produced using the “traditional method” (the same method used in Champagne where the secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle).
We first removed all the corks and foil from the bottles and then inserted them into bags. Then, after we had all left the room, my wife randomly numbered the bagged wines. This way, while I knew what wines were in the tasting, there was no way to identify the order in which we tasted the wines.
Here, in the order that they were tasted, are the last 14 of the Brut (i.e., non-rosé) wines. I will publish the remaining 20 tasting notes from the rosés, along with my list of top wines from the tasting, Friday and Monday.
NV Gloria Ferrer Brut Sonoma County, CA: Retail $20. 85% Pinot Noir, 15% Chardonnay. Pale straw in color with tiny bubbles and a somewhat “dirty” (i.e., flinty) lemon nose. Quite nice on the palate with plenty of fruit and tartness. Nice. Excellent. 91 Points.
2011 Gloria Ferrer Carneros Cuvée, Carneros, CA: Retail $82. 55% Pinot Noir, 45% Chardonnay. 8 years on lees. Straw in color in the glass with peach and a touch of apple. Quite lovely on the palate. Whoa. In fact. Some fruit but oodles of complexity and length. Really, really nice. I am guessing some age here? Outstanding. 95 Points.
NV Mumm Napa Brut Prestige, Napa Valley, CA: Retail $24. 45% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir, 10% Pinot Gris & Pinot Meunier. Straw color with lovely apple: Golden Delicious and a touch of Granny Smith. The palate is a bit austere initially, but the fruit comes in on the mid-palate and lasts to the lengthy finish. Nice. Excellent. 92 Points.
2015 Domaine Carneros Le Rêve, Carneros, CA: Retail $125. 100% Chardonnay. Light straw in the glass with a delicate sparkle and a citrusy lemon-lime mix that is compelling. The palate is fruity, balanced, and quite nice. A very well-done domestic sparkler. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2018 Korbel Natural Méthode Champenoise, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $16. 65% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay. Medium straw in color wth almost an apple cider aspect on the nose. That carries on to the palate. Not offensive by any means, but certainly a “ripe” vibe going on here. Very Good. 87 Points.
NV Pine Ridge Vineyards Chenin Blanc – Viognier, California: Retail $18. 96% Chenin Blanc, 4% Viognier. Quite citrusy in a really pale straw wine with green apple and peach. A lot of fruit going on. The palate? Whoa. Sure, really fruity, and just a hint of sweetness, but this is really balanced and just delicious. Outstanding. 93 Points.
NV Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs, Carneros, CA: Retail $25. 100% Chardonnay. Pale straw color with a nose that is quite shy, a bit of citrus? Maybe? Tart and mineral on the palate, but the fruit is initially a bit hard to find. On second taste, the wine came to life with lovely fruit, great acidity, good balance, and a lengthy finish. Excellent. 92 Points.
2020 Boundary Breaks Vineyard Riesling Bubbly Dry No.356, Finger Lakes, NY: Retail $20. Under screw cap. 100% Riesling. Straw to yellow in color with some petrol notes (giving away its variety) on the nose along with granny smith. Wonderful palate, really acidic but enough sweetness to calm it down. Excellent. 93
2016 Domaine Carneros Brut Late Disgorged, Carneros, CA: Retail $58. 57% Chardonnay, 43% Pinot Noir. Closer to yellow than straw in color, and quite biscuity and yeasty on the nose. Holy cow. Rich, layered, tart fruit of tangerine on the palate with a lengthy finish. Really nicely done. Outstanding. 93 Points.
NV Korbel Blanc de Noirs – Methode Champenoise: Retail $13. Pinot Noir, Gamay, Zinfandel, Sangiovese. Almost a rosé in color with a lovely nose of strawberry and yeast. Really fruity on the palate with what seems like a touch of sweetness, but it works, at least for me. Excellent. 91 Points.
2012 Gloria Ferrer Carneros Cuvée, Carneros, CA: Retail $88. 54% Pinot Noir, 46% Chardonnay. Straw to yellow in color with apple and pear coming through as well as a decided mineral note on the nose. The palate is driven by acidity, with good fruit and the slightest touch of sweetness to balance out the considerable tartness. Whoa. Really fantastic. Outstanding. 94 Points.
2019 Laetitia Winery Brut Coquard, Arroyo Grande Valley, CA: Retail $47. No clue about the varietal composition here. Oddly, a bit of earth on the nose with some citrus and pineapple. The palate as well is almost earthy with good fruit and a really killer finish. Whoa. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2017 Flaunt Wine Company, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $48. 58% Pinot Noir, 42% Chardonnay. Straw to yellow in color with the nose? Whoa. Yeasty, complex, holy cow. As scrumptious as the nose was, the palate might be better. Rich, layered, complex, yeasty. Holy cow. Outstanding Plus. 96 Points.
NV Roederer Estate Brut, Anderson Valley, CA: Retail $28. 60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir. Pale straw in color with a fine sparkle and another fabulous nose. Rich and layered and quite biscuity. Luckily, the palate is also fantastic, quite tart with tons of lemon. Yum. Outstanding. 93 Points.