Those who have been following this year’s developments in the wine world will know that it’s been a tough year for Champagne. A loss of a bid to attain UNESCO World Heritage status (alongside Burgundy) at the beginning of the year was followed by devastating hailstorms, heavy rains and flooding that in some areas destroyed up to 50% of yields. Further disaster struck when a truck in Connecticut transporting Champagne from Veuve Cliquot crashed on a motorway, destroying hundreds of cases of premium bubbly.
Then, to add insult to injury, worldwide interest in Champagne has continued on its steady decline and reports indicate that even the French, the worlds’ largest consumer of Champagne, are drinking somewhere between 4-7% less.
The numerous difficulties impacting global interest Champagne are due in large part to the rise of cheaper sparkling alternatives made outside the region. Spanish Cava, Italian Prosecco and even Cremant made from other regions of France are all making their mark in the world of sparkling yet it is California sparkling wines that are the true shining stars this year. With warmer temperatures than the notoriously cold climate of Champagne, California sparklings can consistently offer riper fruit flavors while maintaining low alcohol levels and high acidic structures, making these wines ideal for a variety of food pairings.
More sparkling wine is consumed during the holidays than during any other time of year and an estimated 90 million bottles will be opened this New Year’s Eve in the US alone. So this Tuesday, when the clock strikes midnight, why not grab a bottle of bubbly made right here in our lovely state! And in case you need help choosing which sparkling wine to enjoy, here’s a list of some absolute stunners.
Top Ten Californian Sparkling Wine Houses:
These reputable wineries focus on making consistently elegant yet reasonably priced sparklings.
1- Schramsberg – Calistoga, CA
2- Domaine Carneros – Napa, CA
3- Scharffenberger – Anderson Valley, CA
4- Roederer – Anderson Valley, CA
5- Iron Horse Vineyards – Sonoma, CA
6- Flying Goat – Sta. Rita Hills, CA
7- Domaine Chandon – Yountville, CA
8-Gloria Ferrer – Carneros, CA
9- Piper Sonoma – Sonoma, CA
10- Mumm Napa – Napa, CA
Some Hidden Gems:
This list includes a selection of extremely rare and limited offerings made by high-quality California producers who generally focus on still wines. All were made in the traditional Champenoise method.
1- Clos Pepe Estate 2010 Brut Rose Sparkling Wine- Sta. Rita Hills, CA
Hand harvested, hand disgorged, hand bottled. 100% hillside Pinot Noir. Bone-dry and extremely complex. Notes of apple and cherry with a defined minerality. Only 38 Cases Produced.
2- Derby 2007 Sparkling Pinot Noir – Edna Valley, CA
Whole cluster. Displaying crisp flavors of grapefruit and raspberries while maintaining a refined, softness on the palate.
3- Sea Smoke Sea Spray Sparkling Wine – Sta. Rita Hills, CA
Estate grown Pinot Noir grapes. Yeasty notes of cranberry and lavender with an elegant, lengthy finish.
4- Frank Family 2008 Blanc de Noirs – Napa Valley, CA
Aromas of red berries and ripe peaches. Creamy, yeasty textures with a strong layered acidity.
5- Brewer Clifton 2011 Sparkling Chardonnay, 3D Vineyard – Sta. Rita Hills, CA
Only the second vintage produced. Hand disgorged. Offers fresh fruit flavors of apple and pear with hints of lime.