I love a crackle in my flute on a warm, sunny day. Crisp and refreshing, Champagne or if it’s from California, sparkling wine, can cleanse away the trials of a long week.
Pair with some robust cheeses or a cold plate of fresh, raw oysters, and you have a marked measure of success, right there in front of you.
To be called Champagne, the grapes have to come from the Champagne region in France. Sparkling wine produced outside of Champagne is referred to as sparkling wine. There is a loophole in a 100 year law that a few, such as, Korbel and Andre’ snuck themselves in and under that allows them to call themselves, Champagne.
The first evidence of Champagne-making in France dates back to about 1700. However, the mother of all Champagne-making or method champenoise is the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, where we find the oldest archaeological evidence in the historical record, some 3000 years before the French.
The French will tell you they invented it and, although it is the finest sparkling wine in the world, they did not. As the U.S. industry is still a bit young, more winemakers are daring to jump into the secondary fermentation process and put the time and money into what it takes to create this very special libation.
In the Petaluma GAP, we have ideal conditions for producing the perfect fruit to take through the method champenoise. In most vineyards in the Petaluma GAP, we have just enough warming for the ripening of the fruit. As I’ve mentioned many times before, cool climate with cooling nights leads to longer maturation on the vine.
It gets very cool here often, however, it warms just enough to make it work. Grapes grown here are nuanced in dimension, creating wines deep in flavor that are giving the French a run for their money.
Began with just two planted acres in 1990, Point Reyes Vineyards is a local, coastal gem that is producing world-class sparkling wine. Firm, with crisp bubbles, this wine exudes crisp young pear and orchard fruit notes with a touch of cool climate-inspired floral bouquet.
Everything is built into this wine for longevity — the acid, the alcohol, the low sugar. You can lay this baby down for many years. It pairs splendidly with some of the incredible hard cheeses locally produced or some firm, fresh-picked, hard, red strawberries.
Another Petaluma GAP sparkling wine is the Keller Estate Brut Sparkling. Made in the traditional method champenoise, this bubbly is laden with incredible minerality. With only 300 cases made per batch, this is a very limited and special selection. At 80 percent pinot noir and 20 percent chardonnay, this hillside fruit gem pairs splendidly with shellfish, a foamy cake dessert or alone in that most sacred of drinking grounds, the back porch.
For something new and different, I have to say I was blown away by what has become a very hot item around town. Heidrun Meadery, my beekeeping heroes, produces what is one of the most delicious sparkling wines I’ve ever had. Yes, it is sparkling and, yes, it is made from honey.
What is so special is that it is made from honey from bees that are farming on a specific flower from a specific crop. This gives each sparkling wine its own specific flavor. They range from their Point Reyes Wildflower to California Orange Blossum to, even, avocado, and they are all delicious. I pair these with hard cheese or some spicy Thai food — outstanding!