Well it’s Saturday and I am ready for another wine tasting at Ralphs tonight 5pm to 8pm. Tonight, we’ll be tasting Sparkling wines of California. This is not the same as Champagne due to a law the United States recognizes with France since around 1975, or so, we can’t call sparkling wine Champagne unless it comes from Champagne France. Now, many bottles can be labeled “Methode Champaniose meaning it is fermented in bottle the same as a Champagne wine. This only refers to the fermentation process to produce the finest of sparkling wines. Most bulk sparkling is fermented in stainless steel tanks and is artificially gassed with co-2 to produce carbonation. Methode Champeniose is allowed to ferment in bottle with yeast as the main ingredient creating c-o2. When yeast eats the sugar found in wine grapes in bottle it creates two things, alcohol and co-2 this process is a natural fermentation, also known as secondary fermentation. White still wine is produced and then bottled with yeast and allowed to ferment then the yeast is removed by a disgorgement of the yeast cap in the bottle. Cuvee, a mixture of wine and sugar is then filled back into the bottle. Not table sugar but fruit sugar is used. This again is fermented naturally and blends into the rest of the bottle creating that wonderful toasty yeasty aroma in the glass.
California has some excellent grape growing regions up and down the state. Starting as far north as Mendocino county and as far south as Temecula. The range of quality varies as does the soil and climate and overall “Terroir.” This word is a way to describe the surrounding physical and tangible feature of the vineyard influencing the grapes growing potential. The word is over used by wine geeks as a broad term of soil sun wind rain and mineral content found it the wine. One of those words that will get you thrown out of many cocktail parties as soon as you mention it. Tonight I will serve several selections from premier growing regions of California. I like the Carneros region of Napa and Sonoma an area south of both cities, but come together in the San Pablo Bay region of the southern most pip of the wine growing region of the bay area. Also, Alexander Valley in Sonoma produces some excellent crisp clean wines that really need more attention. Most of the French houses have taken up residency in Napa and Sonoma. LoiusRoderer, Moet Chandon, Mumms to name a few have contributed to millions of cases of sparkling wine from the region. Along with some unlikely acts like Gloria Ferrer owned by one of the oldest Families in Spain. The winery produces excellent quality sparkling or Cava style wines from premier growing areas in Sonoma. One of my favorites coming from the valley is Schramsberg in Napa, their products have been served in the Whitehouse during the Clinton Years and have graced many an evening with friends and family
Most people associate sparkling wines with celebration of special events or for an opening of a business or a christening of a sea going vessel. Theses are all good and noble uses, but to pair a sparkling wine with the right food can be something of pure magic when executed exactly. Jumbo fresh chilled shrimp and a glass of Tattinger is sublime as is a drop of Caviar and a dollop of cream fraiche on a light toast. Sushi is an excellent partner with sparkling wine as many sakies are now offering a sparkling alternative. Whatever your choice to pair with a sparkling wine is your event to discover, just be creative and charge out to explore the possibilities and remember to have fun when doing so!
See you tonight at Ralphs Downtown!
Mike The Wine Guy