We start our holiday excursion through Sonoma Valley by letting a few fun facts about sparkling wine bubble to the surface.
First, while Champagne has the name, other parts of the wine world are hot on the heels of our fellow French fizzy aficionados when it comes to great sparkling wines. In fact, California has been rising on the world stage for a while now. Sonoma Valley, in particular, has an abundance of bubbly houses that are giving France a run for their money. The reason why is our next Who Knew?
The two primary ingredients in all of the very best sparkling wines are none other than the two varietals that helped put Sonoma Valley on the map. Our Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are rocking the wine world. With the ideal cool climate conditions, particularly in Carneros, and a few decades mastering these finicky varietals in the vineyards, sparkling wine producers here are working with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to fruit. So, it should come as no surprise that Sonoma Valley grows, and makes, some of the best bubbly you’ll find anywhere.
This one you may already know, but sparkling wine isn’t just for holidays anymore. It never really was, and yet, the perception persists that popping a cork of sparkling wine should be reserved for New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day and maybe an anniversary or housewarming. Sure, it’s exciting and romantic and precious. But so is every moment and every day.
Which leads to our final fun fact. The truth is, sparkling wine pairs spectacularly with everything from lighter faire to salty snacks. Fresh cracked Dungeness crab is in season and crazy good with an Extra Brut. Nothing’s better than TV binging with a big bowl of parmesan seasoned popcorn and a Blanc de Noirs. You really can’t go wrong unless you wait until the next big party to pop a bottle of bubbly.
Thirsty yet? Us, too. Let’s follow the tiny bubbles trail to a few of Sonoma Valley best sparkling wines.
BUENA VISTA BLANC de NOIRS BRUT CARNEROS, 2013
Our journey starts about 160 years ago. The story of Agoston Haraszthy and his fathering of California viticulture is well known. However, the tale of his third son, Arpad, is rarely told. Arpad spent over two years in France learning the fine art of Méthode Traditionelle. Upon returning to Sonoma Valley, he became the first to introduce the classic sparkling wine technique to California.
THE WINE: This quintessential Californian sparkling wine harkens back to Arpad’s Eclipse, one of the most celebrated wines of the nineteenth century. It’s a delightful expression of Carneros Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, made in the Méthode Traditionelle. This supple wine showcases succulent aromas of honey and baked pear with hints of toasted pie crust and a touch of lime zest that balances the flavor.
THE EXPERIENCE: At Buena Vista Winery you can enjoy an enchanting flight of sparkling wines, from both California and Burgundy, in the resplendent Bubble Lounge. Hidden inside the cellars where the first Méthode-Traditionelle sparkling wine in California was produced, it’s a bit like a trip back in time – with bubbles.
Buena Vista Winery
18000 Old Winery Road, Sonoma, CA 95476
GLORIA FERRER CARNEROS CUVéE, 2005
Let’s travel a few miles and fast forward about a hundred years to the early 1980s. That’s when another prodigal son, Jose Ferrer fulfilled his father’s dream by purchasing 250 acres in the heart of Carneros, started a premium sparkling wine house, and named it after his beloved wife Gloria. Today Gloria Ferrer is one of the most awarded wineries in California. A true Pinot Noir pioneer with a vineyard-first approach and fascination with the art of blending, Gloria Ferrer wines seem to set a higher bar every vintage for the unlimited potential of California sparkling wine.
THE WINE: Gloria Ferrer makes a lot of amazing sparkling wines. But this one really is the best of the best. Sourced from the most premium fruit from their Carneros estate. Nine years en tirage with a minimum of six months on the cork, it’s an 11-year-old wine that opens remarkably fresh, rich and complex. Floral notes with Asian pear and honeyed apple lead to a lush mouthfeel with some mineral character and a hint of brioche continue on to a long crisp finish.
THE EXPERIENCE: With its inviting blend of Spanish heritage and California comfort, Gloria Ferrer has long prided itself on offering an unforgettable wine tasting experience. Then, last year, it got even better, with a transformational makeover of the tasting room and terrace areas. This is no belly-up-to-the-bar tasting room. Settle into a table overlooking the vineyards and let the staff offer you a variety of glasses or flights. Choose from six to eight different styles of sparkling wine. If you have some time, take one of their guided tours or Elevated Experiences.
Gloria Ferrer Winery & Vineyards
23555 Highway 121, Sonoma, CA 95476
SCHUG CARNEROS ROUGE de NOIRS BRUT, 2012
What can we say about Walter Schug that hasn’t already been said? An American Pinot pioneer. A Sonoma Valley legend. A world class gentleman and all around good guy, Walter Schug’s epic life odyssey took him from Germany’s Rheingau region to Julio Gallo’s California to the founding of Schug Carneros Estate in 1980. But we’re here today not only to honor Walter, who sadly passed away in October of 2015, but to get a flavor for his home estate in Germany with a sparkling Pinot Noir.
THE WINE: Like a Brut Rose only darker, this “saignée method” bubbly has vibrant berry flavors and a brilliant red color that is rarely found in a sparkling wine. The cuvee of 100% Pinot Noir gets its color and intense flavor from a 3 day cold-soak of juice and skins. The dosage is kept to a minimum to allow the vibrant flavors of Pinot Noir to shine through. Rouge de Noirs embodies the true essence of Pinot Noir.
THE EXPERIENCE: The Schug Carneros Estate is nestled in their vineyards, surrounded by rose vines, and tucked into a quiet hillside. If it sounds inviting, it is. But that doesn’t mean it’s not impressive. Off the cozy tasting room is a vista point with 360 degree views of the valley. After a few sips of Rouge de Noirs and, of course, an incredible Pinot Noir or two, grab a map and take a walking tour of the vineyards. It’s the ideal way to put an exclamation point on a great day of disgorged discoveries here in The Champagne of The West.
Schug Carneros Estate Winery
602 Bonneau Road, Sonoma, CA 95476