End-of-year gatherings and get togethers are good excuses for stocking up on bubbles, both foreign and domestic. Dozens of new releases from Napa and Sonoma-based producers—many of whom are pioneers who devoted themselves to sparkling wine production—prove that there are choices beyond Old World options.
Schramsberg in Calistoga owes its present-day success to the visionary risk-taking of Jack and Jamie Davies, who bought the historic property in 1965 with the express aim of making world-class traditional method sparkling wine from California grapes. The winery continues to refine its grape sourcing and is making vineyard-designated and vintage-dated wines that impress. That includes the 2016 Hyde Vineyards Blanc de Blancs from the coveted Carneros site. Like so many of the non-sparkling Chardonnays that come off of that property, the sparkling version is focused and linear, with deep, rich stone-fruit flavors.
Iron Horse Vineyards in the Green Valley AVA, a sub-appellation of the Russian River Valley, has been owned by the Sterling family since 1976 and makes estate-grown bubbles that get better and better each year. A slew of 2017 vintage cuvées prove this point, offering diversity in style and outstanding value.
These are radiant and well-made wines that show a true understanding of site and the pillowy texture that is commonly found from wines grown on Gold Ridge soil, which Iron Horse’s 160-acre vineyard has in abundance.
A devotion to precision viticulture across those acres takes form in the glass. New Iron Horse Winemaker Sofian Himeur joined Winemaker Emeritus David Munksgard in 2020. Himeur is the grandson of New Mexico based Gruet Winery Founder Gilbert Gruet.
Sparkling wine producers in Napa and Sonoma are aiming ever higher to both farm and source from the right sites to make sparklers of great finesse and complexity. The dividends are in the glass.
Breathless NV Late Disgorged Brut Méthode Champenoise (Sonoma County); $69. With ripe aromas of stone fruit on the nose, this brut shows a rich, layered style… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW
Chandon NV Etoile Brut (Carneros); $50. This is a crowd-pleasing, food-friendly sparkler made from a majority of Chardonnay… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW
Cuvaison 2017 Brut Rosé (Los Carneros); $50. A lovely, bubbly blend of 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay, this wine offers steely layers of strawberry, peach and Meyer lemon… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW
Davis Family 2017 Rosé de Noir (Russian River Valley); $55. Made entirely from Pinot Noir and then enduring three years en triage, this is a crowd-pleasing, satisfyingly interesting and complex wine… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW
Domaine Carneros 2015 Le Rêve Brut Rosé (Carneros); $140. Entirely estate grown, this combines 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay into a complex and persistently bright… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW
Inman Family 2018 Brut Rosé (Russian River Valley); $68. This sparkling wine is fun and full of finesse, with crisp layers of strawberry, peach and Meyer lemon… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW
Iron Horse 2017 Classic Vintage Brut Estate Bottled Sparkling Wine (Green Valley); $48. Made from 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay, this stunning sparkler offers layers of stone fruit, hazelnut liqueur and marzipan… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW
J Vineyards & Winery 2015 Brut Rosé (Russian River Valley); $65. Given plenty of time to age and coalesce, this impressive sparkler combines 59% Pinot Noir with 33% Chardonnay and 8% Pinot Meunier… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW
Rack & Riddle NV Blanc de Noirs (Sonoma County); $22. With a dry entry, this wine presents as rich in stone and tropical fruit on the midpalate, pleasing to fans of a fruitier style… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW
Schramsberg 2016 Blanc de Blancs (Green Valley); $95. From stellar vineyard sites such as Keefer, Dutton and Hawk Hill, this Chardonnay sparkler starts out subdued and sleek… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW