T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like…2004 Korbel Le Premier

This week’s sparkling wine is a Korbel’s “ultimate reserve champagne”, from the 2004 vintage.  Korbel, which sells the largest volume of sparkling wine (over 1 million cases) produced using the Méthode Traditionnellemakes a very modest 1400 cases of this “prestige” cuveé.  It’s unusual to see a vintage sparkler at this price point.  So what’s the difference between “vintage” and “non vintage” sparklers?  Non vintage, often-abbreviated “NV” is most common type of sparkler produced. It is made with grapes from different years, the goal being to produce sparkler that always tastes the same regardless of the quality of the grapes, which can fluctuate from year to year depending on weather conditions, etc. On the other hand, a vintage sparkler is made from grapes from only one year, because that was a great “vintage”, or great year for the grapes (i.e., growing conditions deemed exceptional by the winemaker).  2004 was such a year for Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the source of grapes for this sparkler.  Also, producing a “vintage” sparkler lends prestige to the wine since ostensibly it’s made from the very best grapes.

Photo courtesy of Korbel - Korbel Le Premier

2004 Korbel Le Premier

Region: California;Sonoma; Russian River Valley

Varietal(s) – 60% Chardonnay/40% Pinot Noir

Dosage – 0.75%

$25, 12.4% abv

Production method: Méthode Traditionnelle; Aged 4.5 years sur lie.  A portion of the wine aged 7 months in older french oak barrels. 

My tasting notes follow:

Appearance: Gold tinged straw color.

Aromas: Toast, green apples, with faint floral notes.

Body:  Creamy mousse with smallish, persistent bead of bubbles. On the palate – creamy, medium bodied, dry, and fresh tasting, with good acidity. 

Taste: Apples, tart cherries with touch of bittersweet orange flavor on the back palate.

Finish: Medium

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food. We enjoyed this with a variety of sushi. This one would be enjoyable both as an aperitif, and with food.  It would pair well with a pasta with a nutty cream sauce, or pasta primavera with a bunch of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Korbel put more effort into this cuvee and it shows. This is a surprisingly good  and good value in terms of a domestic “vintage” sparkling wine. It’s not a great buy at $25, but I like it – 87pts